CHOOSING TO BE DISABLED.

Even if the claims that candy causes behavioral problems are anecdotal, one thing is for sure:

An American diet full of sugar is a significant cause of childhood obesity.

But it tastes so darned good.

The Centers for Disease Control report that 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 19 is obese. Aside from the psychosocial aspects of being bullied or having no date for the 8th grade dance, there are significant health risks.

Like asthma, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and, as researcher Ashleigh May says, mental health problems.

Sugar induces tolerance, meaning the more you eat the more you need to feel satisfied. What’s recommended for children’s sugar intake is a mere 6-9 teaspoons a day while what’s consumed is at least 4 times that, Halloween candy not included.

At some point, people can make choices about how their lives unfold; whether or not choices are made is harder to pull off than it is to suggest.

Most of us who are disabled, invisibly or not, wouldn’t choose disability to be part of our lives. How horrifying is it that some obese people have that option and choose otherwise.

Although she was a chunk-of-a-baby, Kathe Skinner didn’t grow up that way. A Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Coach, Kathe specializes in working with couples, especially those when invisible disability is part of the relationship mix. She and husband David reside in Colorado with their two cats, Petey and Lucy. Lucy and David could stand to pass on a second helping of kibbles.

A PRETTY BIG BUTT

Americans who don't show up in labor force statistics because they didn't keep up a regular job search.  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Graph: CNNMoney

Americans don’t show up in labor force statistics when they stop searching for a job.  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011. Graph: CNNMoney

Doing work you’re passionate about has been the imperative for years now.

This, despite the contined high unemployment rate, a rate that doesn’t even reflect people who gave up trying to find work years ago. Ironically, they’re called the “invisible unemployed” and there’s about 86 million of them.  Like the “invisibly disabled”, both are a large part of our society where the “invisible” part suggests monkeys with hands over their eyes.

That we’re supposed to be finding passion through work might explain why the U.S. birth rate in 2012 declined for the 5th year in a row.

If you’re tired, though, or queasy, or breathing with difficulty, passion may be easier to define than it might be to find.  Passion may be found in small measures.  It’s simple:  sleep, a settled body, breath.

Being invisibly unemployed or invisibly disabled are both shameful ways of being.  Many in the mainstream believe there’s nothing wrong that getting off their collective lazy asses wouldn’t fix.   That’s a pretty big butt.

Being marginalized for any reason wreaks havoc with the central core of us and not surprisingly with relationship – marital, friend network, family.

For the people marginalized in this way, hunting down passion is a luxury.  Suggesting there’s a choice about it is lofty, naive, and exclusionary.

However.

Invisible or not, it’s a mental health responsibility for each of us to somewhere find joy, pleasure, peace, passion or whatever you want to call it.  To take charge of being part of humanity; to assert to yourself your right to be.  That might or might not be through volunteer or paid employment, marriage or relationship, or the family/friend network.

Kathe Skinner is married to one of the “invisible unemployed”; she herself is (sometimes) “invisbly disabled” by multiple sclerosis.  She’s a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach on Colorado’s Front Range.  More about the two of them at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.

INVISIBLY DISABLED OR NOT, 5 GOOD REASONS TO REVAMP YOUR LIFE

659894f27914674cc2dbb0523225d056If you’re like most of us, change is uncomfortable.  That applies whether we’ve asked for the change, or not.  Change can be as small as changing your haircolor or as big a deal as moving across town or across country. Some adults mimic Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, adamantly insisting they won’t grow up. If that’s you or someone you care about, check out five good reasons it’s a good idea to view change as a relentless part of being alive:

  1. Gain Perspective:  I’ve got an old pair of glasses I wear around the house.  While I’m used to them and they’re comfy, the truth is that I’m limited in what, and how well, I see.  Not seeing clearly what’s in your life is like a horse wearing blinders.  True, you remain focused on one spot, but the trade-off is how much gets passed by.  What comes to mind is the professional focused on business success who complains, years later, about the unattended soccer games and school plays.
  2. Freshen Up:  Habit is soothing; knowing what you’re doing and how to do it takes away our fear of appearing incompetent.  What’s left out, though, are new experiences.  Meeting new people, going to new places, trying something different are examples of keeping our brains engaged.  Brain science suggests that people who remain engaged stave off the negative side-effects of aging.
  3. Grow Up:  The 60s are gone, so are the 90s.  Even if those were the best days of your life, those days don’t reflect your world as it is now.  If  time-travel was possible, seeing what lies ahead would be an interesting and fun exercise.  Many cinematic characters have been given this gift — Jimmy Stewart in the classic Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  What would you learn from a trip to the future?  And what would you have to change now in order to assure it? So what’s stopping you?
  4. Get What You Want:  Have eyes set on a certain job?  A new car?  A life partner?  When plans are made to acquire what we want, change is prominent in the mix.  For example, attracting a partner may mean you have to work on issues that are getting in the way, like trusting the opposite sex. When the burden of old thoughts is released, the domino effect of change starts in motion.  The effects include being more comfortable in your own skin, smiling more, being more positive about life.  Your changes affect everyone else in your life.  Everyone.   Amazing, huh?
  5. Keep What You Have:  When partners say, “That’s not the person I married!”, I say, “Good!”.   Aside from Bunny-Love-Sex, who would trade how the years have forged a new and different partnership?  Adding children, for example, insists on change from an “I” stance to the “we” stance of co-parenting.  All relationships insist on good communication and flexibility in order to be ready for change.  Without it, no relationships can grow,

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach working especially with couples experiencing the effects of invisible, or hidden, disability.  As a military brat, growing up changed scenery more than for most.  As a child, she remembers seeing the black and white television production of Peter Pan.  Trying to fly off her bed became a months’ long obsession.  She lives her grown-up life in Colorado with her husband David, and their two cats; in a world of change, Petey and Lucy ground them.  More about Kathe and what she does can be found at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.

THE JURY’S OUT.

I’m a fine one to talk.

“All change implies the acceptance of loss” is the line I berate my coaching and psychotherapy clients with.

Loss of function with invisible disability carries with it more than just the loss of “being able to…”  It’s how others’ attitudes might change.  Or how communication in bad hair daya relationship — married or not — is impacted.

Recently emailing with a colleague, another permutation appeared:  “All loss implies the acceptance of change.”

These days, for me, that applies even more.

Kathe Skinner is a psychotherapist and relationship coach living and working on Colorado’s Front Range.  She has been courting acceptance of the changes in her life for most of this year.  The results aren’t in.

LOVING

Love at its most true is not afraid to be hard. ~ Whitley Streiber

Love at its most true is not afraid to be hard. ~ Whitley Streiber

Married, in a relationship, or single, life is often ungovernable.

Through disability, chronic illness, divorce, break-up, deaths big and small where do we find respite from difficulty?

When can we stop being courageous?

So many of us lean on love to give us relief from life’s chattering.

If love were so one-dimensional, though, if all loving did was give us rest, would it still be lustrous?

What is easy, quantifiable, predictable soon loses our interest.

Whitley Streiber put it beautifully, “Love at its most true is not afraid to be hard.”  I agree (even if he is talking about aliens.)

Kathe Skinner is a psychotherapist and relationship coach, specializing in working with couples whose relationship is impacted by invisible disability and chronic illness.  Married to David for over 26 years, they live with kitties Petey and Lucy in the Front Range of Colorado.  Are there aliens cruising the skies over her home?  She thinks the logic is irrefutable.

PISTORIUS GUILTY OF MURDER? SAY IT ISN’T SO.

While apartheid has been legally abandoned in South Africa, it can still be a racially uneasy place.  But some questions cut across racial lines:  Is Oscar Pistorius guilty of murder?

It was a made-for-television story starring Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee running on bladed “legs” in last summer’s Olympic Games, and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a beautiful model.  Life in a luxurious gated community.  Fame, wanted or not, right up there with South Africa’s idolized soccer players, Bafana Bafana (The Boys).

Think about it – a man who by anyone’s definition is disabled participating in the Olympics, traditionally a place where only legends Pistorius blade runner
belong:  the fastest and most durable; the strongest; people who soar highest and go furthest; who combine talent with heart and passion.  Athletes with demonstrated ability to endure and transcend pain and to remain focused despite it.

Unique in the world, Olympians are the best of the nations that send them.  World-class.  And Oscar Pistorius belonged.

Even so, efforts were made five years ago to ban him from competing with the big boys because, get this, his so-called “cheetah legs” gave him an unfair advantage.

Funny that able-bodied runners would be threatened by the introduction into their midst of someone with no legs.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Legs that were replaced not by bionic ones, but by artificial ones.  Oscar didn’t flip a switch and go smokin’ down the track like some crazed stock car.  He never cruised into first place.  His swiftness wasn’t accounted for by Mercury-like wings affixed to his artificial feet.  Like every other athlete, he earned the right to run.

On Valentine’s Day, Oscar Pistorius is said to have murdered Reeva Steenkamp.

For me, the Pistorius story is especially tragic.

I’d probably win in Vegas betting that Oscar Pistorius never intended to be a symbol for many who are disabled.  But he was.

It was 2012, mid-summer in London, and the media couldn’t ignore the runner’s Cinderella story.  In the final heat, Pistorius ran the 400 meter against record-holder Kirani James.  Their exchange of name bibs and embrace at the end of the race was moving; it spoke of mutual respect and the honor James felt to share the track with such a determined, worthy, and ground-breaking opponent.  I’d like to think it was James’s way of giving Pistorius the keys to the clubhouse, heretofore for the able-bodied only.  Irony of ironies, James is black; Pistorius is white.

Despite this Olympic nod, the Paralympics, which followed, were not televised (not that I could find, anyway.)

Never meaning to, Pistorius put disability smack dab in the faces of people watching at home.  There’s always been an element of able-bodied gawking at the disabled; a “somewhere else but not in my neighborhood” flavor.  The South African athlete brought it home to their neighborhoods, taking it out of the invisible realm of the Paralympics to the center stage of London in the summer of 2012.

Pistorius generated pride when he won and even when he lost, and the tears that often accompany such moments.  He was a winner in a world that often deems the disabled losers.

Pistorius bore a dignity in doing his job and doing it exquisitely.

Pistorius was modest in his remarkable accomplishments.stamp, portugal, paralympic, disabled athletes, runner, disabled

Pistorius never sought the limelight; he wasn’t boastful or militant.

And maybe that’s why the emotion Pistorius generated for me, as a disabled woman working with others who are disabled, was so great.  His victory was not for any cause, although I wanted it to be.  I wanted his courage to be the stuff of film, like the young Patty Duke (herself disabled with bi-polar disorder) as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”.  Or Tommy, the pinball wizard of Pete Townshend’s rock opera.  Of politics, like President Franklin Roosevelt or U.S. Senator Max Cleland.

Heroism is rarely sought by heroes.  We make heroes because we need them to lift us from our realities.  Heroes overcome where we haven’t been able to.  They’re the youngsters still alive in our fantasies, reading comics and surmounting unfairness with a dexterity we only dream about.  I struggle as I weigh my need to flout Pistorius’s achievements as a disabled man competing in the regular world, with how I feel about the murder accusation he faces.

I’ve decided to let it rest.  The fact will always remain that Oscar Pistorius was the first double-amputee to win a gold medal in the arena of able-bodied world track.

For me, giving that kind of hope stands on its own.

k-cropped-4x6Kathe Skinner is a Relationship Coach, Certified Relationship Expert and Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado where    she conducts communication workshops for teens and parents, couples, pre-marrieds, the invisibly disabled, and the over 50 crowd.  Kathe enjoys collaborating with other professionals in order to reach more relationships affected by hidden disability.  She sits on the Executive Board of the Invisible Disabilities Association, is a regular contributor to Disability.gov., and is an ardent-and-natural-teacher-without-a-classroom.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 30 years.  More about Kathe at www.BeingHeardNow.com or at her blog, ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com.

5 WAYS TO SOOTHE VERBAL BLUNDERS

Open mouth, insert foot.  It’s the verbal version of walking through the restaurant with toilet paper on your shoe.  We’ve all  experienced the mortification of poor verbal choices.  Sometimes, embarrassing stuff just happens.  Letting those blunders happen  more often than       not, though, is a problem that goes beyond stuff that sometimes happens.  woman holds breath

In fact, as I describe on my website www.BeingHeardNow.,com, verbal pratfalls reflect how good your communication skills are overall.  Luckily, preventing verbal embarrassment is surprisingly easy.

1.  Slow Down:  I’m reminded of reading only the first part of a test question only to have it turn out that the actual question was in the part I didn’t take time to read.  Being impatient diminishes the amount of information you have at hand, which leads to uninformed or ill-informed comments. You haven’t demonstrated complete interest in someone else; you’ve taken over control of their  speech.  You’re seen as self-centered, rude, brainless and uncaring.  Men report that women talk too much, citing that as the reason they don’t listen.  Whatever the cause, look for the speaker to  shut down and become disinterested in you as a conversation partner.

2.  Pay Attention:  It is nothing short of insulting when the listener doesn’t appear to be listening.  The oops can be verbal or non-verbal:  eyes looking elsewhere instead of making contact with the speaker; paying attention to your own task while saying you’re listening; saying something irrelevant to the conversation.  Some of my worst oopses have come from replacing the speaker’s reality with my own. The result is that I’m left behind and the speaker knows it’s because I’ve broken a cardinal rule of good communication: I haven’t paid attention.   I cringe every time I look at a picture taken at a business function where one of the guys I’m talking to is looking around the room, not at me.  When that happens to you pay attention to how you feel; I guarantee you won’t do it to anyone else.

2.  Stop Assuming:  Unless your crystal-ball is in good working order, acknowledge you don’t know everything.   Take in what your environment is really about; those who assume don’t.  The result includes finishing other peoples” sentences, interrupting with comments that go in the wrong direction, misinterpreting what’s really being said.  Women pull out their crystal balls when they complain that their partners don’t talk to them, or even listen in the first place.  The assumption is that a partner’s thoughts, and especially feelings, are being purposely withheld.  The result can lead to a rift that is about far more than what the topic of conversation was.  Want a clue?   Look for a surprised or confused look from the speaker.

3.  When in Doubt:  People are generally uncomfortable with dead air.  If you doubt that’s true, pay attention to your comfort level when the radio or t.v. looses sound.  In fact, there is no rule that says that the air must be filled with someone always saying something.  For some of us, the tendency to chatter takes hold, resulting in poor or unconsidered statements.    When in doubt, zip it.

4.  Apologize Sincerely:  There are times when everything you’ve done has turned out wrong.  Your enthusiasm leads to interruptions, perhaps because of identifying so much with the speaker’s topic  you take over.  Other times your disinterest may show.  Or you may fail to edit yourself: what comes up, comes out.   There are so many examples, I’m sure everyone can think of a cringe-worthy moment.  Whether or not you’re responsible, tune immediately into the speaker.  Be truly sincere when you say how sorry you are you’ve caused confusion or distress.   People generally react warmly to someone who really cares how they feel.  Don’t make it long and drawn out and be light-hearted if you can.  Whatever you do, don’t put blame out there somewhere.  Accept responsibility and be sincere about it.

5.  Know Yourself:  I’m an inveterate talker because I’m so curious.  I know, too, that when I get nervous I talk too much.  Two thousand feet down in the Molly Kathleen gold mine, you couldn’t shut me up; the tour guide finally stopped acknowledging me at all and my husband pretended like he didn’t know me. When I tuned in to their non-verbal responses to me, I knew to be quiet.

Truth is that sometimes goofs happen.  Part of what makes us endearing is having flaws and being vulnerable because of them.  Pay attention to basic communication skills; you’ll benefit from not crossing the line into mean, and your oopses will be quickly forgiven.

Kathe Skinner is a Colorado Springs Relationship Coach with a sub-specialty working with couples whose relationship has been impacted by invisible disability.  She herself has MS.  Kathe and her husband, David, teach Couples Communication Classes along the Front Range of Colorado.   Personal experience makes them believers that good communication skills are necessary for a successful relationship.

TAKE IT OFF. TAKE IT ALL OFF.

No, I’m not about to scare the neighbors by walking around without my clothes; Halloween’s come and gone.What I’m talking about is taking off the mask we all wear. Usually, our masks are good to have in place:  Doesn’t make sense to “be naked” all the time.  You’d feel everything and be exposed to everything feeling you.  Nah, sometimes it’s good to keep private what’s private. Wearing a mask becomes unhealthy when that mask never comes off.   You’d always have to be made up, no bad hair days, no bags under your eyes.  No stumbling, no wincing, no limping, nothing that might give away the truth. And no tears.  Definitely no tears.

No wonder so many of us invisibly disabled folks hide out at home. Choose your mask wisely and choose wisely when you wear it.   Taking if off, taking it all off, lowers your stress response and increases feelings of well-being (remember those?).    Being “naked” is freeing — no pretending, no striving for perfection, no performing.  One good way is to mess around with Creative Expressions.    “Getting naked” is fun and goofy; it’s freeing because there’s no right or wrong.  It’s cool; just don’t take it outside…

What do you hide behind a “mask”?  Let us know!

Kathe Skinner wears lots of hats and a few masks.  She’s been a Marriage & Family Therapist for over 16 years and specializes now as a Relationship Coach working with those invisibly disabled.  She “gets naked” by writing, reading in bed at night, eating pasta, laughing at her own jokes, and watching her hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.  Visit her at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com; get to better know who she is and what she does!