Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Actor Jared Padalecki talks about mental illness: 'Always keep fighting'

Photo from Twitter
This has been one of those weeks where my anxiety has gotten the best of me. This has been a week of heart racing panic attacks, difficultly falling asleep, nearly unbareable self consciousness and probably really desperate sounding text messages to my friends (I'm sorry about that, by the way).

In the back of my mind, I know that these feelings aren't logical. But when I think to myself, "Snap out of it," I only end up feeling worse.

But, after reading an article about actor Jared Padalecki's openness about his mental health and his fans' support of him, my anxiety finally began to dissipate because I finally stopped feeling ashamed. I stopped feeling alone or like something was wrong with me. 

At Sunday's Comic Con, more than 7,000 fans showed their support of the "Supernatural" star by lighting candles.

Two months ago, Padalecki cancelled his appearances at two conventions because he was "in desperate and urgent need of my family." He tweeted to his fans, "I need all of the love I can get right now. Please please give me a few seconds of your time and write me." And his fans definitely showed him the love last weekend.

On Monday, he posted on his Facebook page, "To everybody who held a light for me, please know that I hold my light for you. Though I happened to be the one sitting on stage, I am but one small light in a sea of thousands. TOGETHER, we can and will make a difference! Keep letting your light shine. I will do the same. And, keep fighting. Always Keep Fighting."

In a March interview with Variety, Padalecki said he was diagnosed as clinically depressed while filming the third season of CW's "Supernatural."

"Maybe a lot of people don’t know this, but Season 3, we were shooting an episode, and I went back to my trailer to get changed and just kind of broke down," he said. "I was 25 years old. ... I was happy with my work, but I couldn’t figure out what it was; it doesn’t always make sense is my point. It’s not just people who can’t find a job, or can’t fit in in society that struggle with depression sometimes."

He'll probably never read this, but I wanted to say — "Your bravery to speak up about your struggles with depression have made me and thousands of others feel less alone. Thank you."

Friday, June 26, 2015

How the same-sex marriage ruling can save lives in the long run

I have chills right now.

In The Oakland Press newsroom, all eyes were glued to the TV as the historic announcement was made — that gay marriage is now legal nationwide.

"They aren't asking for much. They are asking for what you take for granted," political commentator S.E. Cupp just said on CNN. "This is not a moment in history. This is the future."

A man, with tears in his eyes, told CNN that this is something he never thought he would experience.

This is a moment I will remember forever, and I am so happy to be alive at a time where people have the right to love and to marry whoever they want, no matter the person's gender.

And I really hope that this Supreme Court decision will decrease discrimination and will teach others to be more accepting. With the suicide rate of people in the LGBT community significantly higher than that of heterosexual people, most importantly, this decision could save lives.

To tell you the truth, while attending a Catholic high school, I never thought much about the rights of gay people — because I never heard about it and, what I did hear was strictly against gay marriage.

It wasn't until I graduated that many of my fellow alumni, including one of my best friends, came out. Before this, she was very depressed and would close herself off from many people who loved her. And I never understood why — until the day she told me she was a lesbian.

That day changed my life because that was the day I finally saw what people in the LGBT community are going through and what they are fighting for. Seeing my friend hide who she was for so long, I could see the relief and happiness in her face when she was finally true to her authentic self. This was the day I joined the fight for gay marriage because I wanted her to be able to love whoever she wanted and not be judged for it.

Since then, my cousin has come out as gay and I have had the priveldge of meeting several other members of the LGBT community. And each and every one of them affirmed my belief that human beings should never be judged or discriminated against for who they love. They should have the same rights as the rest of us.

To anyone upset about this decision — who thinks the definition of marriage should be confined to a man and a woman — you must not know anyone who is gay. Because if you did, you would be able to see in their eyes that it is not a choice.

Instead of judging them, I honestly think we could learn a thing or two from our gay brothers and sisters.

Like my friend Mark Frankhouse said, "I just can't wait five years from now when statistics show how gay couples have at least a 60 percent lower divorce rate than straight couples."

As S.E. Cupp said, we take marriage for granted. Meanwhile, they have been fighting for this right for years. If straight people took a page out of their book and all fought for the person they loved instead of giving up when times get hard, this world would be a better place.


NOTE: Also, check out The Oakland Press Online Coordinator Andrew Kidd's column on the legalization of gay marriage.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How following your passion can save your life

Photo from Inocente's Facebook
I think having a passion is vital to surviving this life.

I think passion is something you do for you and no one else; something you put your soul into. It's something you love doing, something that gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and something that, while you are doing it, makes you forget about the rest of the world.

Inocente Izucar, 21, is proof that passion can directly change your life. Inocente was homeless for more than nine years, but she didn't give up her passion of art. And because of her art, she was selected as the subject for an Academy Award-winning documentary named after her.

"I think art makes me a stronger and better person because it's a way that I express my feelings. I'm not a big talker on how I feel. But ... I can definitely describe all my feelings to you on a canvas," she said in an interview with the National Endowment for the Arts.

"So it's made me stronger in the sense that I've become more confident. And art just kind of kept me away from all the bad things I could have been doing. I felt like it saved my life."

Photo from Jenn Neitzel's Instagram
I think many people, as they get older, give up on these passions. Maybe they gave up after someone made them feel like their passion was "stupid" or "unrealistic." Or maybe life got in the way — the job, the bills, the housework, the kids, etc. — and makes them forget about their passion.

Blogger Jen Neitzel says that it's essential to your happiness to make time for your passions — whether it's writing (like it is for me), art (like it is for Inocente), music, photography, cooking, inventing, playing sports, hiking, acting, or anything else you love to do.

Jen wrote, "It’s always practical to nurture and develop your passion, paid or unpaid, because it’s tapping into your authentic self and growing that part of you. ... If you become an expert from following your passion, the world opens up for you with people and new opportunities."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is anorexia? Demi Lovato describes it as a 'deadly disease'

Photo credit:
Anorexia is not a choice and it's not just a desire to be thin — it's a potentially life threatening disease.

Singer and actress Demi Lovato, who publicly battled anorexia as a pre-teen and teenager, described it best on Twitter.

"There's a wide misconception that anorexia and/or bulimia is a choice and you often hear people say things like 'Why doesn't she just start eating?' Or even 'Just stop throwing up.' It's the ignorance and lack of education on mental illnesses that continues to put mental health care on the back burner to congress even though this is an epidemic that is sweeping our nation, and causing more and more tragedy every day," she wrote.

"Starving is not a 'diet' and throwing up isn't something that only extremely thin men or women do. Eating disorders do not discriminate. Neither does any other mental illness. These are deadly diseases that are taking lives daily."

Someone with anorexia nervosa has a distorted body image and an exaggerated fear of becoming overweight or obese. Experts say the mental disorder is caused by a combination of biological, environmental and psychological factors.

According to Web MD, the risk for anorexia increases if you have a family history of an eating disorder, if you have low self-esteem, if you feel social pressures to be thin, and/or if you have depression or anxiety. Parents should be concerned if their child or teen starts worrying about his/her weight at a young age, becomes strict with a diet and/or intensifies his or her exercise routine.

For Lovato, she said she compulsively overate at a young age. At 12, when she was bullied for being "fat," that's when she stopped eating.

In an interview with Refinery 29 last month, Lovato said, other than the bullying, bipolar disorder also contributed to her anorexia. She was diagnosed with the disorder while in rehab in 2011. She said the diagnosis allowed her to get the help she needed and to figure out a treatment plan to address both her anorexia and bipolar disorders respectively.

For the last three years, she has stopped drinking alcohol and has maintained a meal and exercise plan put together by her trainer.

"I love seeing muscles rather than bone. I'm healthier than I've ever been," she said.

Lovato recently launched the campaign "Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health." Her goal is to encourage people to play an active role in their own mental healthcare and to not be ashamed to talk about their own disorders.

“Asking for help when you are struggling is a sign of strength. Using my voice has always been a part of my professional life, but that wasn’t always the case when it came to bipolar disorder. Despite the setbacks, I finally found the strength to speak up," she said.

Friday, June 12, 2015

'Life is too short:' Photojournalist Lisl Steiner offers perspective on aging

There are many people who lie about their age when they are under 21 — wanting to be the coveted age when they can purchase alcohol.

After you turned 21, you may have lied about being younger — but did you ever lie again that you were OLDER than you actually were? Probably not.

But that's exactly what photojournalist Lisl Steiner does. She is 87, but she tells everyone that she's 88.

"I make myself one year older. I don't want to look younger or be younger. I like to be one year ahead," she told the media site

When asked what her greatest achievement was, she said, "To become 88."

I feel like many times, people fear aging. I think that may be one reason why people report less satisfaction in midlife and why suicide rates rise sharply among those over age 65.

But Steiner, who is known for photographing Fidel Castro, Jimmy Carter and JFK's funeral, shows that a long life should, instead, be celebrated and sought after.

"I'm not going to die before my time," said Steiner.

She's had her work featured in Life, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times. She said she is happy with what she's accomplished in her life.

Steiner, who swears like a sailor, wore bedazzled boots and posed topless for her interview, shows that age is just a number.

 When talking to the interviewer about the newfound wrinkles around her mouth, she said, "It's what I am and not what I look like. And, excuse me, but go f**k yourself if that's a consideration."

"I feel beautiful inside. I am happy to be who I am. I feel good."

I think this world would be a better place if, like Steiner, people stopped being ashamed of their age, and instead embraced it for what it is -- another year of being alive.

She said, "Don't think, 'Oh god, it's going to happen one day.' No use, it's going to happen one day. ... Life is too short."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Izabel Laxamana's suicide shows how wrong public shaming is

Photo from Twitter
Are you the parent of a teen who may be getting bad grades, partying a lot, drinking heavily and/or doing drugs?

I can tell you one thing NOT to do in this situation. Never, ever publicly shame your child.

One man took a 15-second video of his daughter, Izabel Laxamana, 13, of Tacoma, Washington.

In the video, posted on Instagram, Izabel can be seen with her hair chopped off and her black locks spread across the garage floor. The exact reason for the punishment has not been released

The man says, “The consequences of getting messed up, man, you lost all that beautiful hair. Was it worth it?” Izabel responds quietly, "No," and then her father asks, "How many times did I warn you?" Barely audible, she responds, "A lot."

Days after the video was posted, Izabel jumped off a highway overpass and died on Monday, June 1.

According to the Inquisitr, the father claims he was not the one to post the video to social media. The investigating officer says the father is not guilty of child abuse but did note that the father’s choice of discipline was poor.

Blogger Jack Cameron posted on his website, "There are those who believe that public shaming is an acceptable form of parenting. As this incident clearly shows, it’s not. It’s a form of abuse and it has consequences."

A Facebook page has been created, called Justice for Izabel. This page reminds parents, "Children's earliest and most enduring beliefs about themselves are formed at the hands of their caregivers."

Izabel had previously struggled with depression, anxiety and being bullied in school, according to her Google Plus account. Many people think that what her father did was the last straw for her. After all, parents are the ones who are supposed to protect you and support you when you are bullied — not the ones doing the bullying.

Here are some healthy ways to react to a child who makes a decision you don't agree with:

• The punishment should be done in private. The child should be aware of the punishment before the infraction. According to the website, let your children know, "The rule in our house is no chemical use. Your curfew is midnight on the weekends. If you don't follow our rules, you will have to forfeit the car keys, your phone, your XBox, etc. for 1 month."

• A punishment should be taking away something the child enjoys for a period of time, not something emotionally damaging and long-term like cutting your hair or posting a picture or video.

• Don't just punish your child, but actually talk to them. Don't just tell them not to do something but tell them why you are concerned. Addiction counselor Dick Schaefer told, "Talk about the drinking scene, talk to your kids about your concerns. Keep the lines of communication open.”

• Talk to your children about their mental health. Ask them if they are getting bullied in school. And if they are, talk to the school about this and get your child professional help. Elizabeth Osborne Fischer posted on the ‎Justice For Izabel Facebook, "There may well have been clues that Izabel was depressed or suffering from depression that could have been treated. Please educate yourself about what depression in teens can look like. Sometimes it's being 'sad,' but sometimes it's being angry or acting out in 'inappropriate' ways," she wrote. "PLEASE rule out depression or other mental illness before simply assuming that a child is 'bad' or 'should be taught a lesson.' It could very well save a life."

• Most importantly, hug your kids. Remind them that, even if you may not agree with what they did, you will love them no matter what.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner works to lower suicide rates among transgender people

Vanity Fair
More than 50 percent of transgender youth have attempted suicide at least once by their 20th birthday, the Youth Suicide Prevention Program reports. Greta Martela, founder of Trans Lifeline, said about one transgender person has died from suicide every week so far this year.

A month ago, a Wisconsin 15-year-old killed himself a few days after announcing on Facebook that he was transgender and changing his gender to "female."

Cameron Langrell's parents told CBS News that a few years ago, he started telling them that he felt trapped in the wrong body.

His mother Jamie Olender said she believes Cameron was bullied by students in the hallways at Horlick High School and on social media. She said his grades had been slipping because of the bullying.

"He was always bullied for being feminine,” she told Journal Times. “We told him to be who you are.”

Last month, ABC News reports that Kyler Prescott, 14, of California also lost his life to suicide. Kyler was born female but told his mom at 13 that he identified as a boy.

His mother Katherine said Kyler was diagnosed with depression and said she thinks he took his life because he was "misgendered all the time."

Do these sound like people who "choose" to be this way?

With Bruce Jenner debuting as Caitlyn this week, she has brought the topic of being transgender to a national level. Caitlyn said she felt like she was a woman since she was 8 years old. And now, more than 50 years later, she is finally living as the gender she always felt she was.

Caitlyn told Vanity Fair magazine that, in an E! Network Series set to air this summer, she will be focusing on lowering the rates of suicide and attempted suicide in the transgender community.

I'm hoping that, with Caitlyn's public transformation, kids going through the same issues will feel less alone, more accepted and less likely to take their lives.

She has received so much support from the community since Monday — people calling her "beautiful" and a "hero." I'm hoping that transgender youth will see these comments people make about Caitlyn and think, "I do have a future to live for. Not everyone will judge me."

But, still, there are so many people who criticize Caitlyn and call her awful names. I'm not saying everyone needs to agree with her; everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But that doesn't mean you have to bash her and say cruel things about her. The things people say about their own fellow human beings make me sick.

The truth is, these things people say probably won't hurt Caitlyn. She probably won't even read them. Who it will hurt is other transgender people reading through the comments, feeling as if these strangers are talking about them — not Caitlyn. If you knew that someone may attempt suicide after reading your comment, would you think twice about the words you write?

Instead of tearing down fellow humans, why don't we lift them up? Why don't we give them reasons to live, instead of reasons to die?

The bullying is what makes people hide who they really are. My friend told me she found out her father was gay when she was a kid. Now, she just wishes he would have been honest from the beginning

My friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, said, "Behind ever person who pretends to not be true to themselves is a community that just wants to know the true you! Pretending to be someone you are not can leave behind friends, parents, spouses, and children who will always be happier knowing the true you."

"Honesty is respect, and you are not respecting yourself or me if you are lying about who you are. If my dad was honest with my mom, I would still have a relationship with him."

Here are some of the comments more of my friends have made following the release of Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair magazine cover, that will hopefully show people who are transgender that there are people who have your back.
  • Brittany Snyder: "There are actual transgender people kicked out of their homes, assaulted, and murdered by those who consider them disgusting. The real world needs MORE acceptance and support, it saves lives. ... Can't you just be happy for another human finally achieving happiness?" 
  • Mark Frankhouse: "She should be proud of who she is. No living being has the right to tell another person how to live as long as they aren't harming anyone and they're happy. ... You want to make a change and save somebody? Start accepting them. And be happy that the burden they've lived with has been lifted."  
  • Steve Krause: "(Caitlyn) is a strong, complex person who made this choice out of knowing himself. I think it's a testament to have one of the world's greatest athletes transition for all the public to see. I hope other people find strength through Caitlyn."   
  • Kim Davis Reynolds: "I think he's made it easier for people that struggle with gender identity issues to find acceptance. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world free of judgement and pain?"