Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Call!

By Regina Pickett Garson

The last few years have been a time of intense change for me. Not exactly what I expected in the direction of my carefully plotted life. Nowhere close. A random choking incident and a month and counting of too many weeks that started to turn into months back and forth from the hospital, bedridden, living on various and sundry tubes, changed my world and everything in it. I just recently saw the third anniversary of the accident. In the last few years, a whole lot of days that turned into months, I did not honestly expect to see another day, much less the three year anniversary from the accident. It sure leaves one with a lot to think about. Reevaluating. Counting blessings. Thinking about the detours, the paths of my life.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that I still publish MagicStream. I started it in 1994–95, not sure of the exact start date, but at any rate, it’s been online right at twenty years now. It could be it is time for a celebration for that too, or something.

When I first started Magic Stream, I am not sure I knew exactly what it was supposed to be. The Internet was just starting to move into the area of what would come to be known as the World Wide Web, home pages were new back then. The way it was presented to me, the Internet was going to be a place where everyday people could publish and even compete with the big publishing companies. Looking at it from that perspective, I did a whole lot of thinking; what would I publish if I could publish anything I wanted.

Back then, to get anything published, get started as a writer, you sent submission after blind submission. Likely as not, you also collected stacks of rejection slips. Some writers seem to gloat on how many rejection slips they have collected over the years, such as that never quite appealed to me though. I wanted to publish, not just “be” a writer, I wanted to be involved in whatever and any way I could in the publishing and media industry.

One thing that stuck in my mind. At that point, back then, when I first learned of what would soon be the World Wide Web, it maybe seems insignificant now, but back then it was a very big deal and that was the fact that information wasn’t so easily available like it is today. There is a very real reason this age we live in is called the information age.

Anyway, somewhere in that time, I had been to the doc and given a diagnosis, which we all do sooner or later. That was definitely my turn, long story short, PTSD, that would be post traumatic stress disorder, and a doozey of a case, probably an understatement on the diagnosis, but that’s enough on how crazy I am. The thing is, it is treatable, not to be confused with 100% curable, but I did get help. And if I have a problem, I try to stay on top of things. Really upsets me to realize all these homeless veterans suffering from PTSD, when it really is treatable. Getting the treatment you need is another story though. Coming back from war without the support and treatment they need is another story still. Get me going on that.

Anyway, at the time, I was overwhelmed with trying to find out what was going on with me. I’d go to the doc, okay, I’d go to the shrink, and he’d go yada yada, and the next shrink would go yada yada, “Leave it to us. Don’t worry your pretty little head.” And I’d head off to the library trying to find information on what I was dealing with. If you have ever taken a nose dive, and a detour to Flashback City, tried to find your way back out and you know exactly what I mean. Somebody saying, “Trust me, don’t worry your pretty little head,” doesn’t cut it. By the way, “never trust anybody who says trust me.” You can quote me on that.

Long story short, I’d spend hours at the library and never seemed to get very far. Part of the problem really was most likely the state of mind that I was in while I was looking for the information, which wasn’t wonderful. Don’t ask me how I made it through it all, including finding my way back out of Flashback City, but I did.  

With those considerations, given the notion that I could publish anything I wanted, I thought about that time of frustration in finding information on mental health issues. And that was really only part of what I was dealing with at the time. We all have to deal with something though. Mine just happened to be the PTSD. That is a reality of life. And life does go on, but what could I do to make things better in the meantime. Make no mistake, for just about every diagnosis you can get, there is something you can do on the self-help level as well. Maybe not a cure, but there is always some little something that you can do to make yourself more comfortable, make things better and more bearable along the way.

Given the possibilities of the World Wide Web, I wanted to do something along the lines of self-help information resources, and making it easier to find everyday medical information, focus on mental health information. At the time, I did not have a clue what I was dealing with or where to start. I remembered vividly my own lapse into PTSD, the journeys through Flashback City. The hours spent in the library, never seeming to get much of anywhere. Wanting more information about what was going on with me and not being able to find it. Thinking hard about that time, when I realized the implications of what was coming with the World Wide Web, I decided that what I would like to do was publish a self-help and wellness information resource that focused mostly on mental health issues, helping people to connect and find the related information they needed, also the physical, and the spiritual, because in some kind of way, it is all related. Mind – body – spirit. You really do need it all.

That was the seed of Magic Stream. Other interests at the time, I had really wanted to get certified in bibliotherapy, which is the use of writing and literature for healing, started into it, but the certification is not recognized in Alabama and an unrecognized therapy certification is not worth much of a dime if you got bills to pay. So much for that, somewhere along the way though, I had written a fairy tale, by the name of “Magic Stream”; it is kind of gory when it comes to fairy tales, definitely not of the Disney sort, but the concept was people reaching out to each other for healing. None of us can honestly go it alone. So all that combined together was the start of Magic Stream.

This got long for a short little blog post about a calling. Over the years, I had a lot of ideas that came and went with the changing times of the Internet. Magic Stream was among the earliest, probably first dozen or so, self-help and wellness sites on the Internet. And being as it is still up, it is now one of the oldest continuously published, still up and running, self-help sites on the Internet. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, I’ve managed to keep it online.

There were times when I honestly thought about shutting it down, but at the end of the day, how do you build a mission and close the doors while people are standing there. When all was said and done, it really is a mission, always has been, and a mission to which I have devoted much of my life. And how do you build a mission, and close the doors while people are still coming there for help.

In my mind, and the way I’ve tried to live my life, it’s like crossing a bridge, it was a rough journey, the paths of my life, but if you look back and there is somebody behind you that all they need is a steady hand to get across, how can you not take one little moment to reach back. I always felt like in some kind of way, we should all do some little part to give back to the community as we are able. Magic Stream was my giving back. And so it continued. It was never anything grand, never the highest traffic site on the net, just a place where people went for mostly mental health and wellness information, to find what they needed to get on with their life. Sometimes teachers and counselors go there for information as well.

I never did make a lot of noise about it. There is something about mental health issues, people really aren’t into a lot of noise on that. We all have our little red wagon as they say, but blasting it all on a loud speaker is another matter. And I had no inclination toward being a professional patient. And we all know some of those. But I kept Magic Stream going, published it, maintained the site, and wrote the code. I have published a whole lot of really awesome people along the way, no way was it ever a one person project, never has been. I am really humbled at the caliber of people who have shared their writing, their own journey, and their stories on Magic Stream.

I’ve thought much at different times about where to go with it, and like others who work for a living, have often found myself severely limited in what I could realistically get done with it, especially after the accident. Talk about slow. Nonetheless, sometimes absolutely despite myself, Magic Stream is still there.

Funny thing is. I don’t know how as I got on this, what a rambling circle. I don’t generally talk a lot about Magic Stream, even to people I am around a lot. Some people have worked with me for years and never heard me say a thing about it, other than maybe passing mention of some kind of web publishing, they didn’t have a clue how I would know such. And I know I got some raised eyebrows over the years when in the middle of some meeting or something, some web issue or question would come up and I would have much feedback and people would be rolling their eyes, like where is this coming from and what does she know about the Internet, twenty some years’ worth of publishing actually.

I was never much into that part about blowing one’s horn though, could be that has been one of the big mistakes of my life. Could be I wouldn’t do that much different if I had it to do again. I’ve been building web pages since you pretty much had to write your own code, I still mostly do, old fashioned like that. Anyway, it is something I have always done on the side of whatever else I was doing. Folks who know me, and the site, also know there is a spiritual side of it all, it has always been there as well. Funny how things happen.

Lately it seems that things spiritual and ministerial have been on the brain and popping up here and there in various ways. Others have mentioned ministry related issues as well. Spiritual outreach very similar to what I have been doing with Magic Stream all these years. The mission has been open for a very long time, twenty years, and counting. It really is a mission, never was much of anything else. Could be I went about it in from a completely odd direction, bass ackards as they say, but the minute it was in my head, I knew it was right.

I went ahead with a Universal Life Church ordination. Nobody wants to get married, that I know about, but I can do it too. It is a non-denominational type ordination, although the term would seem to mean no denomination at all, from my perspective it is an inclusiveness thing. Magic Stream is very much about spiritual inclusiveness. Anyway, it is true that some people use the Universal Life Church ordination route for ceremonial purposes, to be licensed to perform weddings and such. I am not looking for a church or a congregation either, but the Magic Stream mission has had its doors open for the last twenty years. It is non-denominational in philosophy, not to be confused with lacking in spirituality or religious values. It is very much welcoming of religious diversity, especially the healing aspects. And interestingly, some of the earliest things I published were written by ministers.

It is the same old Magic Stream, but going into the ministry will allow me to extend some of the resources in various off line ways, into the community, and lend the resources I have already developed and sitting there to support various other of the causes and efforts that I already believe in for the common good.

After publishing Magic Stream for all these years, I actually have significant background and self-help type resources to pull from. It is way past time for a ministerial type, more spiritually focused presence at Magic Stream. And no I am not quitting my day job, nothing much is changing on the day-to-day, just a different direction for what I have been doing all these years.

Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, over the years, I remember when various stood up in church and said that they had “been called.” Called to the ministry that is. One doesn’t however always talk about everything they do. Could be I was called the day I decided to build the Magic Stream website. However, such that it is, the non-denominational ministerial ordination route, lends me to move in a new direction with some of the Magic Stream resources, more focus on the spiritual aspects of healing, which after dealing with my own especially, I really do feel is so important. I also think is very much needed in the world today, and timely, and coincidentally in the process, I am already ordained.

My mission is the same as it has been for the last twenty years. It won’t be over night, there is however going to be a change in the spirit at Magic Stream. This is after much consideration as to how I would commemorate the twenty year mark of Magic Stream. Coincidentally, I can also perform weddings, and funerals, and various such, licensed to do everything that goes with it, which I have actually done in some capacity for many years, I just used to be the piano player. Namaste, Amen and blessings to all.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Problem With Gifted Girls -- And What About The Slow Learners?

By Regina Pickett Garson, Magic Stream

The not so recent “The Trouble with Bright Girls” By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. (Psychology Today) -- originally published in her Science of Success column -- is a good article and appears to be making the rounds again. The gist of Halvorson's study is that very bright female students take it for granted that whatever learning task is before them is going to be easy, and it frequently is for the bright ones.

However, where the problem emerges is, as they get older, when they go into situations where not everything is perhaps so easy, instead of rolling up their sleeves, they tend to shut down for lack of confidence. Instead of pulling ahead, when it appears they would be leading the so-called pack, they fall behind their peers.

The reason this does not appear to be such a problem for young male students is that they are frequently so much more difficult just to manage and learn to sit still and get through the lessons, since it doesn't so often come naturally, they probably learn more active self-control skills in the early education process. Furthermore, since the whole thing about learning to sit through school was such a task, the end result is that they learn to actively focus when they face new and challenging material and they don’t tend to give up so easily. Although this scenario is a disadvantage during the early school years, it can be a big advantage in going forward later in life.

Halvorson's article put much in perspective for me. I was not a bright kid and was pretty much what would be considered a slow learner. It is so untrendy to admit such. However, since I was also mostly considered on the gifted side when it came to music, it was an odd mix. I almost flunked the first grade because that thing called reading was completely eluding my comprehension. Then I was pretty much fluent reading music before I was fluent at reading words, as in the English language, so I am certain that influenced some things in my life, although I don’t know exactly what or how, but also could have been that at times folks do seem to think maybe I look at things different, and it could be that I do since my learning path really was different from the accepted/expected US norm.

However, where I think the whole thing turned into an advantage for me is just what they say in the article, since learning was such a struggle in my early years, I never took any single part of it for granted and my sleeves were rolled up tight when it came time to get my head around something new, always have been. Moreover, once I got it, I got it; but sometimes to this day, it can still take a minute. My advantage though is that when there is a need, I know I am going to have to take that minute to get my head around whatever the material, and I tend to do that. Nevertheless, even in my adult life, I also have the realization that slow understanding can also lead to a much deeper understanding, and that has been to my advantage many times over.

After my own struggles, it puts the struggles of others in perspective as well. Male or female, being a so-called "bright" student is not always a blessing. In addition, over the years, somewhat perplexed given my own struggles, I have been aware of my brighter peers faltering when the material got rough. I've also seen really bright guys just hang it up, a been there done that thing, nothing else to be done. That bothers me as well; I don't think this is just a female gender issue, although it seems to play out different for males and females.

I'd love to hear your comments on this one. What are your thoughts or experiences, as either a slow or a gifted learner?

Copyright 2014 Regina Pickett Garson
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jump start your creativity: Take a walk.

By Regina Garson
A study (conducted at Stanford University) just came out proving a positive relationship between walking and creativity. It was a solid study and they did all kinds of creativity measuring tests on people before and after walking.

The study was interesting to me in that I have been both a lifelong walker and a lifelong creative. Since maybe the age of four, I would take off in the woods by myself. This did not please my parents, or the poor woman who was supposed to be taking care of/watching me. But there is no doubt I spent a lot of time walking through the woods when I was growing up and was mostly always considered pretty creative -- at various times music, art, and writing -- and which tended to vary during different phases of my life.

With the creative juices continuing to flow, you can believe I was in my element when I got older and discovered that thing they call “hiking.”

Curious though, since my choking accident, with the odd course of internal injuries, walking has not always been successful and frequently a miserable failure – to the point of curtailing its practicality. Needless to say, there hasn’t been a whole lot of hiking either, but earlier in the week, I had to go to the mall, and actually did a short mall walk swing through with no residual issues. So all is not hopeless, just taking longer than one would like on the recovery.

What makes me wonder though is, from the feedback with the various, my creativity has not suffered, or it could be it has, since some of the more recent feedback on my writing has been that it is very solid for somebody in the shape that I was in. Whatever that means. I know I have probably pushed a few edges at times in my life on the creatively. My recently released short story ebook, Journey, was not by the way recently written, but there is no doubt, I went about as far out on a creative limb as I have ever been on that one, definitely not my usual high tech or political discourse.  

Anyway, this recent study was interesting to me in consideration of the shape that I have mostly been in over the last couple of years and whether or not I was even able to do much walking. The Tai Chi has mostly continued though, so it is not like I have been completely sedentary, just that I haven’t been able to walk as I liked during much of the time since the accident and the study was specifically on walking as it relates to creativity.

In that light, I find the study extremely interesting and I don’t actually doubt it, but I also wonder about other people’s experiences who were creative types and who, for whatever reason, experienced a change in their physical ability level and whether that also affected their creative output.

For more information see:

Also, here’s a link to the study:

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Substance use by adolescents on an average day is alarming

SAMHSA Report: On an average day, 881,684 teenagers aged 12 to 17 smoked cigarettes, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).   The report also says that on average day 646,707 adolescents smoked marijuana and 457,672 drank alcohol.

To provide some perspective, the number of adolescents using marijuana on an average day could almost fill the Indianapolis Speedway (seating capacity 250,000 seats) two and a half times. 

"This data about adolescents sheds new light on how deeply substance use pervades the lives of many young people and their families," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “While other studies indicate that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of some forms of substance use among adolescents in the past decade, this report shows that far too many young people are still at risk."

The report, which highlights the substance abuse behavior and addiction treatment activities that occur among adolescents on an average day, draws on a variety of SAMHSA data sets.

The report also sheds light on how many adolescents aged 12 to 17 used illegal substances for the first time.  On an average day:
  • 7,639 drank alcohol for the first time;
  • 4,594 used an illicit drug for the first time;
  • 4,000 adolescents used marijuana for the first time;
  • 3,701 smoked cigarettes for the first time; and
  • 2,151 misused prescription pain relievers for the first time.
-->  Using data from SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), the report also analyzes how many adolescents aged 12 to 17 were receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem during an average day.  These numbers included:
  • Over 71,000 in outpatient treatment,
  • More than 9,302 in non-hospital residential treatment, and 
  • Over 1,258 in hospital inpatient treatment.  
In terms of hospital emergency department visits involving adolescents aged 12 to 17, on an average day marijuana is involved in 165 visits, alcohol is involved in 187 visits and misuse of prescription or nonprescription pain relievers is implicated in 74 visits. 

SAMHSA's National Helpline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service that people – including adolescents and their family members -- can contact when facing substance abuse and mental health issues. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information in print on substance abuse and mental health issues. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the online treatment locators at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.

The complete report contains many other facts about the scope and nature of adolescent substance abuse, treatment and treatment admissions patterns and is available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K13/CBHSQ128/sr128-typical-day-adolescents-2013.pdf. It was drawn from analyses of SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Treatment Episode Data Set, and National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, and Drug Abuse Warning Network.  

Also see:

National survey shows continued reduced levels of prescription drug use among young adults

Although still a problem,
adolescent drinking is going down.
SAMHSA Report: also shows continued reduced rates of alcohol use among those age 12 to 17.

The rate of past month nonmedical use of prescription drugs among young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2012 was 5.3 percent – similar to rates in 2010 and 2011, but significantly lower than the rate from 2009 (6.4 percent), according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA issued its 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report in conjunction with the 24th annual national observance of National Recovery Month.

The SAMHSA report also found that the rates of past month drinking, binge drinking and heavy drinking among underage adolescents aged 12 to 17 remained lower than their levels in 2002 and 2009. The percentage of people aged 12 and older who drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year in 2012 was 11.2 percent, significantly lower than the level in 2002 (14.2 percent) but similar to the rate in 2011 (11.1 percent).

Overall, the use of illicit drugs among Americans aged 12 and older remained stable since the last survey in 2011. The NSDUH report shows that 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users – (9.2 percent of the population 12 and older).

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2012, 7.3 percent of Americans were current users of marijuana – up from 5.8 percent in 2007. Although past month use of marijuana rose in nearly every age group between 2007 and 2012, it did drop among those aged 12 to 17 from 7.9 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2012.

In addition to marijuana, the use of heroin also rose significantly. The number of people aged 12 and older who used heroin in the past year rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012.

“These findings show that while we have made progress in preventing some aspects of substance abuse we must redouble our efforts to reduce and eliminate all forms of it throughout our nation,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “These statistics represent real people, families and communities dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse and addiction. We must strive to prevent further abuse and provide the hope of treatment and recovery to all people needing help.”

“Reducing the impact of drug use and its consequences on our Nation requires a robust public health response coupled with smart on crime strategies that protect public safety,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “For the first time in a decade, we are seeing real and significant reductions in the abuse of prescription drugs in America, proving that a more comprehensive response to our drug problem can make a real difference in making our nation healthier and safer. Expanding prevention, treatment, and support for people in recovery for substance use disorders will be our guide as we work to address other emerging challenges, including the recent uptick in heroin use shown in this survey.”

The report showed some other areas of continued improvement including a drop in the rate of past month use of tobacco products among 12 to 17 year olds – from 15.2 percent in 2002, to 8.6 percent in 2012. Similarly between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of youth aged 12 to 17 with substance dependence or abuse declined from 8.9 percent to 6.1 percent.

The 2012 report also showed that many Americans needing treatment for a substance use disorder are still not receiving specialty treatment. According to the report 23.1 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2012 and only 2.5 million (or 10.8 percent of those in need) received it in a specialized treatment setting.

NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 70,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. Because of its statistical power, it is a primary source of statistical information on the scope and nature of many substance abuse and mental health issues affecting the Nation.

*The complete survey findings are available on the SAMHSA web site at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/Index.aspx 

Also see:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Theme Songs -- Take it to the end of the line...

"Take it to the end of the line..." The Traveling Wilburys
Mostly I think having a good theme song helps you get through the day. Much of last year, I wasn't wonderfully confident I would ever see 2013. Somewhere along the way, I resolved inside, whatever time I had left, I was going to live it to the max. As the saying goes, "Take it to the end of the line." Do the best I can with what I got left. What is really important? When you hit that point, you do some thinking.

If you only had one day left, how would you spend it? It is a different state of being when you get up in the morning rushing around because in your mind, you really are not confident you will ever see another day. To me, this was not a time to weep; I have a lot I want to get done before I am gone. My sweet daughter thought it was morbid seeing me rush around trying to get things done as if I really was going to be gone tomorrow. None of us has a guarantee. To be human is to be mortal. As surely as we walk this earth, one day we will leave it. All we can do is the best we can with what we got and the time we got left. 
Thinking at least to let go of the morbidity of it all, I considered a new theme song, then I changed my mind. "Take it to the end of the line." That's it. That's mine. Whatever condition you are in, if you don't live life to the max you don't have much at all. I don't know how many times I have listened to that song, when I would feel discouraged, I would listen to it one more time to remind me, even though maybe things were not exactly the way I would like, I do have life and as long as I am living, I have choices. I reminded myself of that over and over. And then I would listen to the song again, just to remind myself one more time. 

Do you have a theme song, something you turn on and you turn up loud to get you through the day, to get you through whatever it is you have to face?