Thursday, September 29, 2016

Music as healing

Frank Sinatra was arguably the most important popular music figure of the 20th century, his only real rivals for the title being Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles.

I never liked Frank Sinatra, most especially because of his mob connections (notably chronicled by Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip).

But I've learned that music is the most evocative of the sensory stimuli, able to bring forth memories long hidden. And warts and all, Sinatra was a master musician.

In these incredibly stressful times, a nerve-wracking presidential election and much more, music can ease stress.

This video of a Sinatra classic, "It Was a Very Good Year," fascinates me. Here is Sinatra, flawed and all, singing a lovely, beautiful ballad. His facial expressions and show his personal creative process, his playfulness and joy. The conductor, Nelson Riddle, works hard to perfect the musical track.

My evoked memory: I'm nine years old, listening to a radio in my brother Robbie's room (my respected big brother). It's a winter Sunday night in 1967 and I'm waiting for the broadcast of a New York Rangers hockey game from Detroit on radio station WHN. A lot of detail, but my brain has retained this comforting image over 50 years. Sinatra's performance summons it forward.

So it would be helpful to learn about our how our brain uses memories, good and bad, and what role they play in the stress process.


Order my well-received book on stress and health:


Monday, September 19, 2016

Trump's Horror Show...

All I had to do was google Trump and horror to come up with this gem, from a lifelong Republican in deep-red Idaho.

BTW, I don't care if Hillary killed your mother, cut out her heart--and ate it. You must still vote for her.

‘Horror’ of Trump causes Republicans to break ranks

The Republican Party is the Party of Lincoln, yet most Republicans are unwilling to criticize Trump’s remarks on minorities and religious affiliation. He wanted a federal judge disqualified because of a Latino surname and would ban Muslims from entering the U.S. based on religion. Khizr Khan was right to question whether Trump has read the Constitution. Trump will quote it when supporting gun rights, but ignore it on religious freedom.

The final straw for me was his comment regarding our country’s generals. This man did everything possible to avoid the draft during Vietnam. I was in college during the first draft lottery. My number was 53, though I could not be drafted. Young men sitting in my classes one day were gone the next because of low draft numbers like mine. Their lives changed forever while mine did not because I was female. Then as now, I find the unfairness of this painful, just as his comments about Sen. John McCain were deplorable. Many of these generals served in the war that Trump avoided.

My relationship with the Republican Party has been tested over the years. I am pro-choice, voted against the marriage amendment, was willing to go into debt through GARVEE bonding to improve roads and voted against moving school funding from property taxes to sales tax. Through it all, however, I hung in, thinking there was a place in the party for someone who considers themselves a moderate. But today I feel far more comfortable with President Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” than with Trump’s demand that we build one.

His business practices made him rich, but have left those doing business with him truly in “rubble.” He discriminated against people based on race in housing that he owned. He was fined for a “charitable” donation to the Florida attorney general’s campaign while she was considering investigating Trump University for scamming students. He refuses to disclose his taxes.
This leads me to this bottom line. I didn’t leave the Republican Party ... it left me.

Kathy Skippen lives in Emmett. Her family has been in agriculture in Gem County for 113 years. She has been a Gem County commissioner and served two terms as an Idaho legislator.

Buy my book on stress and survive this disaster:


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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Close the door: Picture of a sad Trump voter

Albany, NY is a strange place for a person who grew up and lived in the New York City area.

Among my first acquaintances here was Chris P., the type of person you'd like, at first, as a big brother. He is big, outgoing, engaging, but ultimately very sad. He is someone you worry about in the end, a sad, confused man.

He's a Trump voter and he doesn't know why, except Chris is a very angry man. He likes Trump because he "says what's on his mind." "He won't take away the guns I need to protect my newborn son who nearly died at birth and took his mother with him (he constantly reminds you of this to the point where you doubt his truth telling.)

And he hates women, except of the traditional sort. He buys lock, stock, and barrel that Hillary is corrupt and will take his guns away. Period.

Sadly, Chris has had two divorces and lost two jobs because he was judged too insensitive on racial and mysogenistic insensitivity.

He wants to close the door on his house. And sulk. And never understand why he's a loser.

Learn about stress and the brain.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Emergency post: Stop the terror of Trump (and Fallon's a nimrod)

I write this blog to talk about stress and promote my new book, Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBTQ Youth.

Now I'm using whatever voice I have to wake people up to the threat of a Trump Presidency.

As a gay man, I've had to accommodate a lot. I have had to bow down to white straight male privilege. I've learned to be silent. To temper my comments. To miss the "soft" bigotry (and not-so "soft bigotry) of people like Trump. To be deceived by his, as has been called in the media, bullshit.

Now to anyone "on the fence" about voting for Hillary: Have you lost your minds? You should be embarrassed.

And I'm completely sick of the Dr. Oz, Jimmy Fallons, and Matt Lauers, the incompetent media people who have given Trump a pass on his racism, white supremecism, misogeny, lies and fraud. Shame on the media, shame on us for tolerating them.

So please wake up. And learn about stress and trauma such as induced by Trump by reading my book.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Trump anxiety, stress

The Washington Post writes,

To the catalogue of anxieties her patients explore during therapy — marriage, children and careers — psychologist Alison Howard is now listening to a new source of stress: the political rise of Donald Trump.

In recent days, at least two patients have invoked the Republican front-runner, including one who talked at length about being disturbed that Trump can be so divisive and popular at the same time, said Howard, who practices in the District.

What had happened to Trump during his childhood, the patient wanted to know, to make him such a “bad person”?
“He has stirred people up,” Howard said. “We’ve been told our whole lives not to say bad things about people, to not be bullies, to not ostracize people based on their skin color. We have these social mores, and he breaks all of them and he’s successful. And people are wondering how he gets away with it.”

Hand-wringing over Trump’s rapid climb, once confined to Washington’s political establishment, is now palpable among everyday Americans who are growing ever more anxious over the prospect of the billionaire reaching the White House.

With each Trump victory in the GOP primaries and caucuses, Democrats and Republicans alike are sharing their alarm with friends over dinner, with strangers over social media and, in some cases, with their therapists. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 69 percent of Americans said the idea of “President Trump” made them anxious.

For some, Trump’s diatribes against undocumented immigrants, Mexicans and Muslims evoke unpleasant flashbacks of dictators. For others, his raw-toned insults conjure memories of high school bullies.

“It’s like a hurricane is coming at us, and I don’t have any way of knowing which way to go or how to combat it,” Taylor, 27, a Democrat, said in a phone interview. “He’s extremely reactionary, and that’s what scares me the most. I feel totally powerless, and it’s horrible.”

Learn more about the stress response:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

9/11: A red Yugo, police tape, and the Hudson River

Monday, September 10, 2001 was rainy in Manhattan as I walked my way across town to catch the A train home. I had considered going upstate to meet my partner, Fred, who was training in Albany, but I decided it would be too much travel to get back the next day.

Tuesday, September 11 turned out quite the opposite, clear blue skies, bright sunshine: later known by New Yorkers as 9/11 weather.

As I retraced my route across town from 8th Ave. to my office on 5th Ave. I noticed a buzzing among people, but as I  was late, per usual, I walked briskly. At 6th Ave. I heard someone say a plane had crashed into the Empire State Building, which seemed like something an uninformed tourist would say. 

By Fifth Ave., and my office at the Dana Foundation, there it was. 

I joined a crowd looking straight down at the darkest, ugliest smoke cloud I'd ever seen. In pre-smart-phone days. there was no confirmed information. I stared a bit and moved into my office.

The TV in the office confirmed the  source of the smoke as the World Trade Towers. One woman, a friend of a friend, came in crying hysterically. We were told to get to our offices, but on a suggestive way.

I tried to work, the image from the TV numbing me. Lunch would be served, it was announced awkwardly by management, a gesture that said "We don't know what to say or do." Emails started arriving from friends and family I hadn't spoken to for months or years.

We were told to go home, as soon as we finished our catered lunch. Better yet, finish eating soon and leave. I dashed across 56th St. to the A train stop, to be frightened by the sight of ominous police tape around the stairway. I rather boldly, for me ducked under it and caught what I heard over the pa system "the last train uptown." Denial took over and I took a nap, glad to have some free time off. It might have been my last non-anxious moment in Manhattan.

hudson-river-bacteria.jpg (1280×720)

The Hudson River never looked the same once I learned the next day that one of the planes had flown  just a few hundred feet from the apartment window down on its hideous journey.

A few years later, Al Gore visited the city (not sure if he was running for president, again). Some residents and neighbors firmly said (in great denial) that the city had recovered; everything was fine. Gore said no. He saw the fear and anxiety in peoples' eyes. He was quite right.

Learn more about stress, trauma and anxiety here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

3 Eras of Gay Sex in 3 Minutes and Sopping up Oceans of Gay Stress

About “3 ERAS of GAY SEX in 3 Minutes”

Leo Herrera

Documenting & Creating Gay Culture
About Leo Herrera 
“Herrera’s motivation as a filmmaker is the hunt for something that has long been tamped down, hidden from the public and brought out only in dark, throbbing undergrounds. It is anti-assimilationist and has very little to do with the forces that call for mirror-image marriage laws for queers. Herrera’s quest is to find the essence of that which sets gay men apart from the straight world, and even from other queers.”The Advocate, June 2015

“His collaborations range over a global spectrum, all culminating in his effort to educate and tell the story of a bright future that we’re working so hard to create in the present, and honor those who paved the way for us in the past.”- Posture, July 2015


Leo Herrera is a Mexican NYC-based visual artist, filmmaker and GLBT advocate. His viral clips, art films and music videos have gathered over half a million views  and his advocacy work has focused on PrEP, HIV criminalization, stigma and the preservation of gay history.

“3 ERAS of GAY SEX in 3 Minutes” is Leo Herrera’s most ambitious project to date. It’s comprised of all original footage filmed in iconic gay locations, such as Julius, the Army Barracks in SF, and a gay sex dungeon in Brooklyn. Costumes were provided by Mr. S Leather in SF and the Leatherman in NYC. Leo worked closely with producer Jonathan Daniel Federico, a fellow NYC filmmaker as well as filmmaker Aron Kantor and cinematographer Nathan Lee Bush to realize his vision.
About Gay/Artist and Activist Leo Herrera
“I grew up an illegal Mexican immigrant in Republican Arizona, as far from “gay” as possible. Yet, the challenges and hopes I’ve faced as a gay man are the same as all of my peers across the world, as if homosexuality can transcend culture, geography and race. Homophobia is the same in New York City as it is in Russia, HIV and its stigma are as devastating in the South as they are in San Francisco, our sexual freedom is as reviled in America as in Uganda…and yet we are all moving forward on a global scale: our contributions to nightlife and the arts are as pronounced in Berlin as they are in Provincetown, the legalization of our unions is spanning continents, the unmistakable softness of our gestures transcends language. I don’t know if these universal similarities make homosexuality a culture, a race or a shared experience. What I do know is that they stir a deep pride in me that is almost religious.”
Learn more about stress and gay stress in my new book: Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT/Q Youth

Diabetes, depression, and stress

If you have diabetes and you have had symptoms of depression, you are not alone. That’s because people with diabetes are more likely to have depression than people without diabetes. This may be due to:

  • The strain of managing diabetes on a daily basis
  • Feeling alone and “different” from family and friends
  • Feeling out of control if you are having trouble keeping your blood sugar in your target range

Depression can make managing your diabetes more difficult

Depression can make it difficult to follow your diabetes care plan. If you are depressed, you may not have the energy to:

  • Prepare and eat healthy meals
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Take diabetes medicines
  • Check your blood sugar

Recognizing depression
Recognizing that you may have depression is the first step to getting help and feeling better. But how do you know if you are depressed? Depression is more
than just feeling blue from time to time. If you have been feeling sad or down in the dumps for several days, ask yourself if you’re also feeling any of these

  • Loss of pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
  • Eating more or less than you used to, resulting in a fast weight gain or loss
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Lack of energy
  • Nervousness
  • Feeling guilty and like you are a burden to others
  • Feeling worse in the morning than you do later in the day
  • Feeling like you want to die or take your own life

Getting help
Treatment is available for depression. The first step is to talk with your diabetes care team. Tell them how you’ve been feeling. Let them know that you think you may need help. Recovery may take a little time, but you
can feel better.

Diabetes and stress
Like depression and diabetes, stress and diabetes are linked. And once again, each may lead to the other. Stress can increase your blood sugar. When we are faced with stress, our bodies get ready to take action. This is called the fight-or-flight response. The cells of the body need sugar for energy to fight or to run away. But in people with diabetes, insulin may not be available to let this extra sugar into the cells. So it stays in the blood. Increased blood sugar levels can cause stress.

If you are having difficulty managing your blood sugar levels, your stress level may increase.

Check your patterns
Is stress affecting your blood sugar levels? Here’s how to find out:

Before you check your blood sugar levels, rate your current stress level on a scale of 1 to 10. Write the number down

Check your blood sugar. Write your level down

After a week or two, look for a pattern. Do high stress levels and high blood sugar levels often occur together? If they do, stress may be affecting
your blood sugar control
Learning to relax
There are several things you can do to relax and lower your stress level.

  • Physical activity. Moving your body through a wide range of motion can help you relax. Three movements to try are stretching, circling, and shaking parts of your body
  • Breathing exercises. Sit or lie down. Breathe in deeply. Then push out as much air as you can. Breathe in and out again, this time focusing on relaxing your muscles. Continue for 5 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Progressive relaxation. In this method, you tense and then relax the muscles of your body. Start with your toes and move up, one muscle group at a time,
  • to your head.
  • Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Each time you find yourself having a bad thought (like, “I’m never going to get my blood sugar into my target range”), replace it with a positive one (like, “My blood sugar may not always be in my target range, but my last two readings were really close!”)

Managing diabetes-related stress
To manage the stress that comes from living with diabetes:

Consider joining a support group.Knowing that others are going through similar experiences can help you feel less alone. You can also share ideas for coping with diabetes

Get help from your diabetes care team. If there is a part of your diabetes care plan that is stressful for you, talk with your team. It is almost always possible to make changes so that your plan will be easier for you to follow.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

JFK and stress

From Time magazine:

Vigor was the byword of the Kennedy years. After the wrinkled decorum of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy's America would feature people like him, the kind whose hair waved in the wind as they scrimmaged on the lawn at Hyannis Port, Mass. But for more than a decade now, as biographers have burrowed under the New Frontier, another J.F.K. has come into the picture. That would be the one with a multitude of serious illnesses whose life was a hidden ordeal of pills and injections, the one whose severe chronic back pain led him eventually to find relief in amphetamine shots from Max Jacobson, the celebrity physician later known as Dr. Feelgood. "I don't care if it's horse piss," Kennedy is reported to have told his disapproving brother Bobby. "It works." 

Now enter Robert Dallek, a well-known historian of the presidency, bearing another stack of evidence and more bad news. At work on a Kennedy biography, Dallek became the first scholar to examine J.F.K.'s medical records on file at the Kennedy presidential library in Boston. Somewhat to Dallek's surprise, a summation of his discoveries published in the December issue of the Atlantic Monthly has set off a firestorm. It's not news that J.F.K. was in poor health much of the time, but Dallek paints the fullest and most unnerving picture yet of a President in constant pain from degenerative bone disease and heavily medicated. It raises the obvious question of whether voters should have known more about the health of a man who Dallek says often could barely climb a flight of stairs and could not put on his own socks. Dallek describes X rays showing that some of J.F.K.'s vertebrae collapsed while he was still in his 30s. The historian also learned that J.F.K. had nine secret hospital stays during a 2 1/2-year period in the mid-1950s.

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"When I read about the hospitalizations, my eyes widened," says Dallek. "We never knew about this." Another revelation was the sheer quantity of medications Kennedy took daily during his presidency. "Steroids for his Addison's disease," 

In 1947 J.F.K., then 30, learned he had Addison's disease, a dysfunction of the adrenal glands that, among other things, regulate blood sugar and the body's response to stress. The treatment? More corticosteroids. In the years that followed, as he rose from Congressman to Senator to presidential hopeful, Kennedy denied rumors of Addison's, some of them passed along to reporters by political opponents like Lyndon Johnson. He finally admitted to it in 1960, more or less, when he issued a statement acknowledging an "adrenal deficiency." 

Learn more about stress here: 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Back to the shark tank: Gay youth in school

What are gay youth facing as they return to school. A New Hampshire teacher posed the question that has been on her mind for many years.

We take a look at what awaits gay youth in the classroom:
  • The emotions of the night before day one.
  • Learning to hide and the ensuing damage.
  • The moment of discovery...when a parent realizes a child is gay.
  • Making friends and socializing and dating, very cautiously.
  • Overcoming direct and subtle attacks on self-esteem.
  • What is minority stress and stress on steroids?
How to order Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and LGBT Youth.