Monday, December 17, 2012

The Mentally Ill and Exceptionally Intelligent

Intelligent Crazy Killers

All of us have wondered these past few days about the 'why' of the school shooting.  Experts, politicians, law enforcement, media, and us in the public will be discussing it until another tragedy or another more interesting media created event is brought to light.  Then we will shift to it and the kids will be forgotten.  It is my belief that the core of this epidemic is mental illness.  Would any sane person shoot another in cold blood at a church, a mall, a theater, or an elementary school?  I think not.  I do not see the need for semi-automatic weapons with clips that house thirty bullets as being necessary.  That weapon is good for one thing - killing.  That, however, I leave to politicians.


I am discussing today, the relationship between high level, intelligence and mass killers.  The 'Una-Bomber, The Aurora Theater killer, possibly this kid in Connecticut, and others may give us some clue of genetic defect.  Does anyone know of any studies on this matter? Have any of you read the Blog titled, "I am Adam Lanza's Mother"?  This was written by Ms. Liza Long.  She has a thirteen year old son who has math scores off the charts.  He understands high level concepts and he is mentally ill.  She fears for her life.  When her son goes into the 'attack mode', the younger children activate the drill they practiced.  They run to the car and lock the doors.

Here is another instance of an exceptionally intelligent child who demonstrates the ability to hurt himself or others.  I have another story for you.  In the third grade, young 'Tom' (not his real name) could perform advanced algebra, understood geometry and was functioning at a freshman in college level.  He was reading at the sophomore in college level.  The gifted program he attended at school was no challenge, and there were behavior problems.  The social problems increased as he grew older.  The 'system' missed it all.  The school said the behavior was typical of some kids and they would 'keep an eye on it'.  His divorced mother had him committed to a State Mental Health Camp.  He slept outdoors in a tent, ate meals in the cafeteria, attended strict classes, and daily psychological counseling. His regimen was restricted.  He was told when to sleep, when to eat, permission was required for all phases of his life. He was in the ninth grade.

His father lived in another state and came for a series of meetings and counseling for a weekend with his son and the psychologist.  His father was told that 'Tom' was their poster child.  He was excelling in all phases of the program.  The weekend went great for both 'Tom' and his father.  It was a few weeks later he was discharged with maximum potential met.

This highly gifted, intelligent boy was placed in the accelerated classes as a sophomore.  Behavior was tense at times at home but not like it had been a year or so prior.  One day, 'Tom' stood up and walked out of class.  He walked out the door.  He walked out of the lives of his divorced parents.  He disappeared for a year.  Police reports were filed and he simply vanished.  Later the parents were to hear that he lived in a commune in another state, had lied about his age, and held a job.  The prodigal son returned married to a thirty year old woman.  He was seventeen.  Then he 'found religion'.

He appeared to settle into what appeared to be a normal life working as a plumber.  That was short-lived, as the mental illness returned with a vengeance.  He was diagnosed with apparent schizoid personality and was given medications.  He quit work and received disability.  By this time he had three children of his own.  He insisted they attend a Baptist School.  During conversations with his father he would quote scripture, tell the father he was preparing for a war against the Catholics, and admonish his father who was not 'right with the Lord'.  His wife would find him reading the Bible in the darken closet with a flashlight.  She knew he was not taking his medications.

After thirty years or more of nothing but negative stress the father hung up the telephone for the last time and disavowed his son.  The final straw was when 'Tom' said the father could no longer see his grandchildren because he drank beer.  And so it was - the grandfather cut all ties and never saw his grandchildren again.  The father refused to send any birthday cards, Christmas gifts, or answer the phone when the son would telephone.

There was no communication at all for several years.  One night the calls began at midnight.  Caller identification showed it was 'Tom'.  He called over and over - some fifteen times and the father did not answer the phone.  Then the words were spoken into the voice mail.  "I'm coming for you!  I am going to kill you!  You will not live to see tomorrow!"

Here was a once gifted, now mentally ill person who was on the verge of committing murder.  The father called his local police.  He called the sheriff and the police in the jurisdiction where the son lived.  He was told by authorities there was nothing they could do because of, "...his mental illness. People like this have more rights in this State than you or I," he was told.  Another department representative told the father, "The only way we get involved is if a crime is committed.  I suggest you get a gun!" 

Now intelligent, mentally ill people can be masters at quickly changing roles and behaviors.  The police did offer to go by the son's house and see if he was in a state of distress and not taking his medicines.  They called the father back after some time and said he appeared quite normal and was doing fine.  The phone calls stopped.  Oh yes, and the grandchildren - they were home schooled by the son and his wife!  How can any state in America allow the mentally ill to educate their children?

I don't know about the gun laws, but I do know the mental health laws and medical coverage should be examined.  How do I know all of this?

'Tom' was my son!

Want to help others?  Drop a line and pass on your experiences.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stress and Chaos Are My Friends

Stress and Chaos Are My Friends

Abuse From Alcoholic Parents Creates Learned Behavior

In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir, I write about the physical abuse eight year old Krame experiences from his alcoholic father.  His mother is of no help as she too is an alcoholic and and mentally ill.  In the 1950s, tranquilizers were often prescribed as the drug of choice for 'nervous breakdowns'.  Keeping a person almost lethargic was a common result.  Today, that term 'nervous breakdown' may be described as Clinical Depression.  Krame's mother had severe depression and combined with the alcoholism created an individual incapable of nurturing her children.  Krame had to fend for himself for survival.

A common trait in an alcoholic home is stress.  Children never know when they will be beaten or emotionally abused.  They live in constant fear twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  Any person living in a constant state of stress will actually find that the stress 'feels' normal.  Eventually they may not know how to behave in a 'stress-less' state.  Therein lies the paradox.  The very feeling they despise as a child becomes more comfortable for that child as he/she grows. Neurologically, what is happening is that a neural pathway has developed. This pathway is always in the brain.  It is reactivated any time there is stress for that person regardless of his/her age.

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle?  After several falls and more attempts, you achieved success.  You could ride a bike!  What happened in your brain is that you developed a neural pathway for successful bike riding.  Imagine, that you have not been on a bike for several years.  When you first attempt to ride, you might be a bit shaky and unstable.  After a few moments you will be right back riding like you did as a kid.  You reactivated the neural pathway that was laid down years before.  Emotions, reactions, and behaviors are exactly the same.

 Krame at age eight, set himself a goal of one day getting out of the house, the neighborhood, and the town never to return.  It was his method of developing a sense of control.  He wanted to control his destiny.  There was one place in the book where Krame promises himself, "Nobody will ever hurt me again."

Some 'adult survivors' from alcoholic parents  actually revert back to exactly what they wanted to run from as children.  They embrace stress and chaos because they are so familiar.  They find relationships that are destined to fail, they might seek stressful jobs, or they might become alcoholics like the parents.  Krame met his goal of running away and becoming a success.  But one must wonder, at what price?  Adult Children of Alcoholics can also become over-achievers who are relentless in their lives to never fail.  "You are a no good, dirty, son-of-a-bitch," is a phrase many of these children hear day in and day out.  Consequently, the child then begins to believe what the parent says must be true. A low self-esteem is set in concrete.  As an adult, that child then has to keep the demons away by appearing to be a success in the eyes of society.  Outsiders look at the person as being excellent at multitasking, solving problems, being in control, and stable.  In reality, that person can never allow the 'dog of defeat' attack his achilles heel and confirm what was told to him/her as a child - "You are a no good, dirty, son-of-a-bitch!"  They become successful in business, they might be senior managers, and two have become Presidents of the United States in the past forty years!

In The Shade Tree Choir, Krame is respected by his friends a the 'Great Thinker' who analyzes everything so they never get caught.  He already is an overachiever who never rests.  The reader can gather that Krame struggles with lots of inner turmoil.  Getting caught pulling pranks would be a sign of failing.  Krame would never allow that to happen.

So how does an adult confront those old demons?  I say embrace, accept, and rejoice in it!  It is who you are.  It is a part of your total being!  You are one of a kind!  You are special!  All the turmoil in the past has allowed you to live to this point.  If you are at a point where you are still on the 'pity pot' and want to blame others and are upset at your parents there is one thing some folks find healthy.  Write a letter to that person who is still upsetting you.  Say anything you want in any way you chose!  Even if they are dead, you can still do this activity.  After writing, feel the paper, smell the paper, and crumple it up.  Then burn it!  Those physical acts can often relieve inner stress. 

* Allow yourself to fail at something.  Take up golf.  That will humble you quickly
* You do not have to know all the answers.
* You do not have to always be 'right'.
* There are erasers on the "Pencils of Life" for mistakes.  In the movie, City Slickers, it was called a 'do-over'.  We can all have do-overs in our lives.
* Give yourself fifteen minutes a day for quiet time.  maybe try meditating.  Take up Yoga or Tai Chi
* Learn a new hobby.  Something that requires deep concentration can be helpful.  Some examples might be painting, creating stained glass, punch needle, etc.
* Give thanks!  Thank your Higher Power.  Thank your significant other.  Thank your inner child who still needs attention.

Want to help others?  Drop a line on what you do to manage stress.  Someone reading your comments might learn something new and find relief.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Reduce Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress 

Did you ever find yourself being 'thankful' that the holiday was over?  Do you find yourself stressed with all the new activity, crammed schedules, and so many changes from your normal lifestyle?  Did you ever wonder why we try to stuff happiness into one day a year?  Did you ever feel sick after receiving your credit card bill for all those purchases you made above your budget?  If so, you are not alone.

One definition of stress is simply, Change.  When the body is put into a new change or activity there are certain results that occur.  Some of these include:
  • Blood Pressure Rises
  • Cholesterol and Fats are mobilized in the Blood Stream
  • Sugar Output is increased to fuel muscles
  • Blood Clotting time is reduced   
  • "Stress Hormones" are increased
  • Muscles become tense and tight
  • White Blood Cell count is reduced making us susceptible to infections  
  • Depression increases 
Here are some simple Stress Management Techniques you might try during the Holidays:
  •  Do Fewer Activities.  Do you really need to send Holiday cards to people you don't really know?  Do you really need to make cookies and other foods?  Do you really need to spend money on gifts for co-workers?  Is that larger tree really necessary? Do you really need to decorate the outside of the house and yard?
  • Learn to Say NO! Set a budget and stick to it.  Avoid high ticket items you really can not afford.  Don't give small gifts to co-workers and distant family, as the costs add up.  Why decorate outside?  What are you trying to say or prove?  Decline what you perceive as 'mandatory' attendance at Holiday parties - if you really don't want to be there.  Do you really need to send those cards?
  • Do something for othersA great Stress Management technique is to do something for the less fortunate.  'Giving' is what the Holiday should be about.  How about skipping that big expensive family dinner and volunteer to serve food at a homeless shelter.  Maybe, you could get permission and then go to a nursing home on Christmas Day just to sit and chat with older folks who have no family.  Maybe, you could budget an amount where you know of a deserving family and give them the cash.
Here is an introduction to my Christmas Poem I wrote many years ago and can be found in my book, Campfire Collection of Cowpoke Poetry. Soon it will be  posted on You Tube where you can see me performing it for a television show in Nashville, Tennessee.

Everyday is Christmas Out on the Range

A cowboy workin' a line camp job on a cold December day
Finished ridin' fences, spreadin' salt, and keepin' cows from goin' astray.

He melted ice on the cracklin' flame to make a pot of brew,
And sittin' on his haunches, pokin' the coals with a stick, he said, "Lord, this day's for You.

I don't have no turkey, the stuffin', and all the trim.
Just some beans and coffee. And some might think this meal slim.

I've got You all around me & with this here Good Book, that's all I need.
And my gift to ya, Lord is a few chapters I'd like to read."

So he read aloud of Mary, Wise Men, Shepherds and such,
And when he finished he gazed into the Heavens and said, "Thank you, Lord, oh so much.

For Everyday is Christmas here upon the range,
And some some hearin' me talk like this might think I'm plum strange....

I do hope each of you has a 'stress-less' Holiday.

David 'Buffalo Bill' Nelson

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stress Management: I Need a Good Laugh

Stress Management: I Need a Good Laugh


David Nelson, PT

 I previously wrote that stress can maim and kill if left unchecked.  It is a cause of heart attack, stroke, and type II diabetes.  Stress can irritate us and conflict with our ability to function in daily life.  It can build to a point where physical and mental illnesses may develop.  I discussed some examples of how major lifestyle changes and our reaction to them can create stress.  Our minds react to what we perceive as truth not what is actual truth.

There are two personality types.  One is the easy going person who moves along at a regular daily pace, and appears to be quiet, if not shy.  This type is called the ‘B’ personality.  The other type is the fast paced person who seems to be always on the move, always thinking, and is unable to relax.  That is known as the type ‘A’ personality.  Neither is better than the other.  They just are that way.  Type ‘A’ personality might go hang gliding off a cliff while on vacation and type ‘B’ might go enjoy reading a book at the beach.  Both of these types will have stressors that effect them.

In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir two of the boys were of the Type A personality and two others were of the Type B.  The main character, Krame was physically abused on a regular basis.  His friend, Blackie was also abused.  Each of those kids lived under direct or perceived threat of a beating.  There was no time to just be a kid.  Each of these eight year olds wondered constantly when the next beating would occur.  Now imagine years of this treatment each day.  What do you suppose their internal stress levels might have been like?  One of the other characters, Rink, was Type B and he too had stress.  He had the stress of increasing his weights lifted in competing against his brothers to gain his father’s approval.  He was constantly focusing on that activity to ‘prove’ himself.

The type ‘A’ might thrive on several projects at a time while type ‘B’ enjoys one thing at a time.  We use the word ‘multitasking’ in our society almost as if it is a badge of honor. First, it is neurologically impossible for the brain to focus on more than one thing at a time.  Consequently, multitasking is impossible.  Now when someone has more than one activity they are doing at the same time we think of them as possibly having a full plate or juggling many items.  Eventually they will spill the plate or drop one of the juggling items.  That is a sign of stress that will come to both personality types.

If you say or feel, “If one more thing happens I will scream! I’m so mad I can’t see straight!” You are under stress.  If you do not have one good ‘belly laugh’ a day- you are under stress. If your sleep is interrupted by racing thoughts- you are under stress.  If you feel more tired when you wake than when you went to bed- you are under stress.  Many years ago I wrote a book titled, Stress Management: Does Anyone in Chicago Know About It. I taught classes in the Southeast United States for many years.  I also used stress management techniques with my patients for some forty years.  One thing I discovered is that many people do not realize when they are under stress.  Ask your significant other, coworkers, or friends to obtain a ‘reality check’.  You might be surprised what you hear.

Stress management is finding equilibrium within ourselves.  There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system designed for just that purpose.  One is called the sympathetic and the other the parasympathetic.  The center for these two systems is found in the brain.  An analogy is where the sympathetic system is the gas pedal in our cars and the parasympathetic is the brakes.  Equilibrium is achieved when we move slowly with a foot on each and control the movement.

When activated in a stressful situation the gas pedal (sympathetic system) is pushed to the floor.  It causes us to ‘go fast’ and the following reactions occur: Eyes become dilated, movement of food in the gut region is reduced, perspiration is increased, heart rate increases as does the vigor of  contraction and amount of blood flow, circulatory flow to our muscles is increased, bronchi (or breathing passages) in our lungs become larger to accommodate more air, the liver releases large amounts of glucose or sugar, kidneys decrease their output, mental activity increases, blood pressure rises, blood flow to kidneys and intestine is reduced, metabolism is increased by some 50%.

In short, the sympathetic response is greatest when we feel threatened or in a state of distress.  The key word here is ‘feel’.  If we ‘feel’ threatened, those automatic responses occur without our control.  If we stay in that state of stress on a regular basis, the body ‘thinks’ this is what you want and this is normal.  Eventually, the body will break down due to disease.  This is why stress is related to kidney dysfunction, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, colitis, and many other diseases.  These symptoms can occur in either personality type.

Managing stress is a selfish program.  The most powerful tool used to keep the sympathetic system in check is to use the word ‘No’!  Say it often and anytime you feel like your plate is full.  Stop being a martyr at home, at work, or with your community.  Do not allow your plate to be too full or to juggle too much.

Try to get one good belly laugh each day.  Laughter is a great way to counteract stress.  I used laughter daily while treating my patients.  Laughter will reduce pain.  It also lowers heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves respiration.  A recent study was reported by Italy’s University of Milano-Bicocca that alcoholic men have a loss of emotions.  Even after years of no drinking, the damage was done.  The report stated that chronic heavy drinking damages parts of the brain that are crucial to decoding others’ emotions and to processing humor, especially irony.  I can’t help but wonder if this is what leads to bar fights when drunks literally can’t take a joke.

In The Shade Tree Choir, I was the character, Krame.  For nine years of my life I lived in a world of continual physical abuse from an alcoholic father.  My mother was also an alcoholic and mentally ill.  In the 1950s one did not share anything that happened in the home.  To help me handle difficult situations I used comedy.  I was the ‘class clown’ and always felt better when I could make others laugh - even though I was saddened inside.  I used that learned skill to help me as an adult.  For over twenty years I have been performing my show, The Cowboy Comedy Show, across America.  I still find that after a program I am relaxed and upbeat because I can laugh inside while I make others laugh outside.  You can learn more of my act at

After one of my programs an elderly woman came to me and said, “Mister, that was the funniest thing I have ever seen.  You made me laugh till I leaked.  A tear rolled down my left leg!”

My hope for each of you is to ‘laugh till ya leak’.

So far in my Blogs we have covered the following Stress Management Tools:

Learn to say “No” and to control how much is on your plate
Perform deep breathing exercises
Meditation can be a great tool for calming the soul
A Treasure Map can keep you focused
Try to get one good belly laugh each day

Want to share what works for you?

Send us your comments
*Click either the ‘comment’ or ‘link to this post’
*Enter your comments
*Enter your name or hit the scroll button to remain anonymous
*Click ‘publish’

To buy The Shade Tree Choir, go to I will send you an autographed copy.

Help me to help others

If you enjoy what you find here please re-post my Blog to your social networks and tell others about my book.  Thanks!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love Thyself

Love Thyself
David Nelson

The results of physical abuse upon a child last a lifetime.  In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir the main character - Krame experiences both emotional and physical abuse from his alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother.  For those of you who have read my book, you will remember how Krame is alone in the world and promises himself he will never again be hurt.  That was the scene where his nose was pressed to the screen after another beating. 

Children who are abused feel alone and learn not to trust others.  After-all, if their own parents hurt them why would they expect any better from strangers?  They have a constant fear of abandonment. In adult life they can have difficulty with interpersonal relationships.  To others, they might appear selfish.  In reality they are still trying to survive - just like Krame in The Shade Tree Choir when he was locked away for eighteen hours.  He first tried to survive the heat, insects, and darkness.  When he was set free he then made a self promise that lasted a lifetime.  Abused children feel all they have is themselves. They have an emotional ‘wall’ of self-preservation.  Their souls are filled with chaos from years of abuse. They live a life waiting for the worst to happen.  They are filled with constant pressure, stress, and anxiety.

It was fortunate for Krame that he had a spark inside of him that showed a path for his escape.  In his case, it was his speed in track and field that later provided him a college scholarship and a way out of the deprived neighborhood. Children who are abused have a lost childhood and a stolen innocence.

All of these factors can lead to medical problems later in life.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among Adult Children of Alcoholics.  Some diseases that can arise from emotional stress include: depression, high anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, ulcers, and high risk of suicide along with high risk of alcohol or drug addiction.

Coping Techniques

As a physical therapist and a survivor of childhood physical abuse from alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother, I can offer you some coping techniques to help manage stress.  These include proper deep breathing, meditation, and a treasure map.

Finding quiet time alone and focusing on ourselves is an important stress management tool.  Drive to the woods and be alone. Sit by the bank of a river or next to a fire pit can be mesmerizing and allow us to relax.  The point is to be alone and to be near nature with all its beauty.  When you are relaxed and alone begin performing deep breathing exercises.

Correct breathing includes proper intra-oral posture. Your tongue should be on the hard palate away from the top teeth, your lips should be together, teeth not touching, and breathe in through your nose.  Inhaling through the nose allows structures called turbinates to warm and moisten the air.  Your body should be in a relaxed sitting position or even lying down.  Another position used in meditation is to touch your thumbs and index fingers together.  You are then ready to begin deep breathing.

Inhale as deeply as you can and hold your breath for six-seconds.  As you exhale blow like you are blowing through a straw.  This is called pursed lip breathing. This technique allows for better oxygen exchange in the lungs and helps to strengthen the diaphragm muscles.  It is also helpful to focus on either the bright light of the sun or the silver light of the moon while your eyes are closed.  Try to focus only on the light in your mind, and rid it of ‘outside chatter’.  It can take years to do this successfully, but any success is positive for you.

I use music designed specifically for meditation to help set my mood.  That coupled with the sounds of nature will create a sense of calm quickly for me.  Focus only on your breathing and the imaginary light of the sun or the moon.  Fifteen minutes of this daily will produce a great sense of calm.  Afterwards, I will see sharper blue skies, different shades of green that I did not see before, and have a greater sense of touch.  Each of you will have different reactions.  There are times when I feel a warmth in my body and a sense that I move slower than I did before the exercise.  All of these are positive.  I feel the problems that my mind perceived as stressors were no longer that important to me.

Many years ago I was at a party with then, Congressman, Bill Nelson from Florida.  He is now a Senator representing that State.  He was the first civilian to fly in a shuttle.  I remember him telling several of us his experience in space.  He said he looked out the window of the ship and saw the Mediterranean and surrounding nations and thought how petty his personal problems were in the grand scheme of things.  He said it changed his outlook on life.

I challenge each of you to go into your own ‘space’ and look inward to find peace in your hearts.  Just fifteen minutes a day of deep breathing may help reduce emotional turmoil and eliminate the physical effects from stress.

The time of day when the mind is the most receptive is the first five minutes after waking.  When you wake up lie there with eyes closed and fill yourself with positive thoughts.  Picture yourself in a state of happiness and calm.  Imagine giving to others during the upcoming day.  I believe what we give to others we give to ourselves.  If we give bad karma we receive bad karma.  If we give good to others we receive good in return.  That first five minutes sets the stage for the rest of the day.

The past six years has been the most stressful time of my life due to something over which I have no control.  I am using every tool in my arsenal to combat the effects from my stress.  One such tool is called a treasure map.  Twice before in my life I used this and everything I wanted to happen did indeed occur.  I am now using it for the third time.

A treasure map starts by finding quiet time as I mentioned before.  It is then I find what is most important to me and what really matters in life.  It is then I ask myself what I want to achieve or to happen. I write those items in a list.  Going on-line, I look for pictures that remind me of each item and print them.  I use a long sheet of rolled paper as my base.  The one I am using now is about three feet wide and five feet long.  I then glue each photo on the paper by priority from top to bottom.  I write one word clues by each photo and what it is I want to happen.

I keep mine in the bathroom as that is usually the last room I am in at night and the first one after I wake.  At night before going to bed I stare at the map for a couple minutes and then give it ‘life’ by touching each item.  I lean against it and smell the paper with my eyes closed and I picture all things on it coming true.  Then I let it go.  This is very important.  I do not question the ‘how’ I just accept that these events will occur.  There is no doubt in my mind.

Each morning for the first five minutes after awaking I lie still and thank my Higher Power for giving me life and for making me part of the Universe.  I then go into the bathroom and repeat the process of touching the map and smelling the paper while visualizing all things to happen.  Again, I let it go and do not question the ‘how’ of it all.

This gives me a sense of control, a sense of peace, and a feeling of calm.  The Shade Tree Choir is not just about abuse.  It is also about change and hope.  Krame’s father realized mistakes and when you read it you will learn how he changed and was able to manage his inner stress.

If you want to leave a comment on my page here are the steps:

Highlight ‘comments’ or ‘link to the page’
Write your comment
Click on ‘comment as’ and enter your name or anonymous
Click ‘publish’

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Alcoholism Affecting Children

In my novel, The Shade Tree Choir the main character, Krame deals with childhood stress.  His alcoholic father beats him mercilessly and the eight year old boy receives no help from his mentally ill mother who is also an alcoholic.  There is one scene where he is locked away in a dark ‘tomb’ for over eighteen hours with no food, drink, or ventilation. He is abused like this from about age eight until age seventeen.  Imagine, if you will, the amount of stress this child endures.  He could care less about childhood. His mission is to survive.

Krame learns to fend for himself and not to trust. He is able to repress feelings both of physical pain and emotional distress. When put in a constant state of stress, anxiety levels are ‘off the charts’.  Krame takes this with him into adult life.  Do you suppose he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an adult?

I will follow Krame and the other characters in The Shade Tree Choir  with my articles here.  You will learn the effects of stress and coping techniques as we progress through the novel.

Stress!  That awful word conjures up feelings of pressure, tension, frustration, and a sense of not being in control.  As a physical therapist with some thirty nine years of experience I used stress management techniques to guide my patients and also myself.

Stress is as common as low back pain in America where eight out of ten people will suffer from it at times. It can be short term or last for decades.  It can maim.  It can kill!  Take a look at our lifestyles.  Fourteen million Americans are alcoholics, there is drug abuse, child abuse, food abuse, and sex abuse.  Three major health problems are directly related to stress.  These include Type II Diabetes, Stroke and Heart Attack.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Little strokes fell great oaks’”  No matter how strong we think we are, we must listen to our bodies, and more importantly our minds.  If someone took a small axe and once a day chopped a piece of wood out of a huge oak tree, eventually that tree will fall.  Mounting stress day after day is like the axe to us where one day we could fall like the oak tree.  No matter how strong and powerful we think we are.

Daily stressors in our lives can irritate us and effect our ability to function as we would wish.  If left unaddressed these little stressors can gradually mount to the point that when we face a major lifestyle change we can become physically and mentally ill.  Some people define stress as ‘change’ from a normal routine.

Some examples of major lifestyle changes include, death of a family member, divorce, marriage, a loan of over $10,000, being fired from work, taking on a new job, and being sued in court.  How we react to these will determine our mental and physical states.

There are two types of stress.  One is the positive stress and the other is the negative.  I already mentioned a few negative stressors.  The positive ones might include being hired for a new job, working on a new project at work, trying a new golf swing, receiving a promotion, and the birth of a child.  Our bodies react the same way to these changes as the negative ones.  The results of the positive are short term.  Positive stressors help us set goals, work more efficiently, plan for the future, and appreciate what we have.  Without some stress we have no change and that leads to boredom.

We react to what is perceived as truth not what is actual fact.  Our perceptions of some things determine our feelings.  How many times have you been tired and go to bed only to become wide awake thinking negative thoughts?  Yes, me also.  That is not nice is it?  Sleep is the time to allow the body and mind to heal itself.  Without proper sleep there can be a vicious cycle that develops.  I will explain how to cope with this in coming articles.

You may want to purchase The Shade Tree Choir as it will help you understand what I will teach you each week. More information is on my site at

If you feel like sharing with the readers how you handle stress feel free to do so in the Comment Section of my Blog.  You just might help others and yourself as well. Should you want to contact me personally, I am available through You may also find me on other social media networks.

Remember: “Man is disturbed not by things but by the views he takes of them.”  Epictetus

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stress Management

 Howdy Folks:

Well now, here is a serious letter I took from the box down at the road this past week.  It comes from Kevin T. in Madison, Wisconsin.  I think you will see why this week’s blog will be a little more serious.

Kevin writes: “I noticed on your web page that you are a physical therapist.  I also found on the web somewhere that you know a few things about managing stress.  So here’s my question.  What can I do everyday to manage my stress? It seems some days there are not enough hours and I get pretty tense.  I can’t help but wonder about your character in The Shade Tree Choir whose name was Krame.  I’ll bet he had a lot of stress!  By the way, I bought your book and could not put it down!

Great question, Kevin T.  Yes, I did write a book about managing stress and for several years I travelled the Southeast United States helping people with my seminars.  If Trixie were here right now she would tell you to do as I say not as I do.  We all have stress in our lives.  It is how we manage those stressors that make the difference.

There are the daily stressors from life in general.  There are the major lifestyle changes like a birth, a death, or even a new job.  Then there are the inside stressors involving deep personal issues that are the most difficult to control.  These might include self-esteem, loss of happiness, depression, etc.

Regardless of which type of stress is most dominant, there are certain physiological changes that happen when we are in a state of tension or stress.  It is called the ‘flight or fight’ response that is automatic and dates back to our ancestors who lived in caves.

Some reactions include a shutdown of the digestive system, increased heart rate, increased respiration, increased muscle tension, or tightness.  Other responses will be an increased output of sugar, drop in white blood cell count, and dilation of pupils.  All of these are needed to either ‘fight’ or ‘flight’.

When we stay in this state long enough, the body ‘thinks’ this is what is normal.  As a result certain diseases are related to stress.  These include Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and bowel irritation, prone to certain infections, heart disease, and circulatory problems.

You mentioned the character Krame in The Shade Tree Choir.  The physical and mental abuse he experienced no doubt would have led him to a constant state of lifetime stress and disease.  This became a learned response for physical and emotional survival.  Many negative coping skills would be present in children who are abused.  Literature reports the reactions in children are similar to POWs who were tortured.  Years of childhood abuse can lead to PTSD, common in many war veterans.

  They learn not to trust, they can be perfectionists, there is difficulty sleeping, they may abuse drugs or alcohol, and many will have a need for chaos in their lives.  They tend to withdraw, experience high anxiety and are either clinically depressed, bi-polar, or even more severe psychiatric conditions.

Managing stress is a selfish program.  I tell folks they need to care for themselves first before anyone else.  Saying “No” is a great management tool.  Here are some other techniques you could try:

·      Find thirty minutes of time alone each day
·      Practice Deep Breathing techniques
·      The mind is most receptive immediately upon waking each morning.  Take five minutes to lie in bed and picture you in a state of calm.
·      Use a Treasure Map for long term success
·      Try to get one good ‘belly laugh’ each day. Watch a comedy for laughter.
·      Do something each day that is positive for a stranger.  Do not tell anyone else.  Keep it to yourself.
·      Physical exercise will burn off many components of stress
·      Use alcohol in moderation
·      Meditate
If you want to chat about this more you can find me on all social media networks.  Just ask and I will answer.  Good luck to you, Kevin T. and everyone else.

Last week’s Trivia Answer: Which State in the United States was the first to have cows, hogs, and horses.  Deb N. from Dubuque, Iowa was the first to guess correctly.  It was FLORIDA.

New Trivia Question:  There is a part of our body that has two halves.  Only one half works four hours at a time while the other is quiet.  Name the body part.

The Shade Tree Choir Book Trailer