The Woman Who Changed Her Brain by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young

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3/5 stars.
Paperback, 288 pages.
Read from November 26 to December 07, 2014.

This book was given to me as a gift and it is a book that I wouldn’t have normally picked up as I don’t have any learning disorders (that I’m aware of). However, this book is inspirational for anyone that underestimates the power of their own brains and is proof that we are more capable of rewiring our brains to change our thoughts and even behaviors.

Barbara struggled immensely for most of her life due to severe learning disabilities. She could not understand complicated conversations as she couldn’t make basic associations as well as not being able to understand basic math or reading. Additionally she is severely uncoordinated and accident prone which also relates to her learning disabilities. However, she is blessed with a remarkable memory and can retain vast amounts of information which is what helps get her through many years of school.

After 26 years of struggles Barbara comes across some work done on a brain damaged solider who has managed to partially recover from his injuries, as well as some additional information on how a brain can be changed. Through her research and schooling Barbara began to create exercises for herself in order to get the parts of her brain functioning properly. After an extensive amount of training Barbara started to notice improvements in things that use to be a massive challenge for her. Her own improvements lead her to start a school to help other learning disabled people. The book goes into detail about Barbara’s personal story and improvements as well many of her student’s personal success stories. She also goes into details with how specific learning disabilities effect people and what is going on in their brains. Unfortunately, she doesn’t go into too many specifics about the exercises that bring about these remarkable changes but I suppose she can’t reveal her program in a book or her school wouldn’t be successful. With that being said, her work is so immensely important that it really should be revealed so that more people can start applying her tactics.

Barbara shows that learning disabilities are so common and that they can cause life long devastation’s. So many of those affected think that they’re stupid but really it’s that their brains are missing specific connections and, like any muscle, just needs to be worked on.

I was so remarkably impressed with the success stories in this book. It makes me believe that I am capable of accomplishing anything in terms of changing my behaviors. As someone who has had mental health issues, I know that the symptoms are sometimes very difficult to deal, I can however choose I am going to deal with them and I can work towards rewiring some of my current behaviors. I think there is so much we don’t know about the capabilities of our own brains and this book gives me hope that we can make massive improvements in terms of mental health and learning disabilities.

Get It Done When You’re Depressed by Julie A. Fast

3/5 stars.
ebook, 270 pages.
Read from August 26 to October 07, 2014.

As I usually do with most of the self-help books I read, I took my time. What was refreshing with this book is that it helped me to realize that some of my thoughts and even behaviors are not actually who I am. That when I wake up in the morning and that cloud is lingering over me, I know that I may have difficulties with what I expected to get done that day, that my negative thoughts are a result of my depression and that my brain is lying to me as a result. In recognizing when I’m struggling, I know that I can put out the extra effort to push past as much as I can and still be productive or at least be kind to myself that day if it’s particularly bad.

The author’s main suggestions are in regards to self-recognition and knowing when your depression is taking hold and when your thoughts and behaviors can’t be trusted,  along with suggestions to stay focused and organized. The author also provides plenty of exercises to help the reader along. Additionally, she lays down the science behind getting enough sleep, the importance of exercise and the effects that alcohol and caffeine can have on a depressed brain. What was also very interesting was that at the end of each chapters she poses a question or scenario that relates to the content that was just discussed so that you can get the scientific explanation to that question.

Many people have complained that this book is too straight forward or that if they had tried the author’s suggestions it would have made their depression worse for them but I disagree to an extent. I believe that this book is directed to people with mild to moderate depression, so those of us who are held together enough to not be hospitalized and are of no harm to ourselves or others. While depression sucks all around, no matter how bad you have it, the less severe it is the more we are able to deal with it and I feel that this book is a great aid for the milder situations. The information may be straight forward in some areas but how many of those complaining have willingly tried and put forth positive energy into applying the authors methods? Everything is harder when you’re depressed so it takes more effort to try the exercises and recommendations but, like anything in life, the hard stuff is often worth it.

I think that there are a few stages that a sufferer goes through with depression. The beginning starts with the unawareness which is the pre-diagnosis, the second stage is that recognition and the diagnosis, and the third is how the person chooses to deal with the situation. Depression has a horrible way of making the sufferer very negative and more often than not during the third stage, the sufferer victimizes and feel sorry for themselves at some point. I think many people sadly, are not able to move past this victimization. With this victimization the sufferer believes that they are their condition and that nothing will ever change, therefore handing over all of their power, control, and ultimately their life over to the condition. This is why, I think some people scoff at the exercises and suggestions that the authors makes.

The suggestions, I think to a person in this position, seem to mock their suffering in that they didn’t ask for depression so they don’t need to be accountable for it. However, nobody asks for depression and just like a lot of things in life you have to learn to adapt and to deal. One of the most difficult things I’ve done has been recognizing my own depression for what it is, stop being angry that it’s there, and learn to manage my life with it. Nothing happens over night, so repetition and practice are key to leading a life with depression which, is where this book comes in handy. Everyone is different to so not everyone’s coping methods will be the same. Some people require more compassion while others need a tough love approach.

I believe that people who are dealing with mild to moderate depression don’t have to let it consume their lives. Depression really blows and the effects from it can be overwhelming but the best plan of action is recognizing its presence and not giving up your control to it. It’s a matter of trying to alter our focus and knowing that we have choices and we have options.

My one complaint with the book is that the chapters seemed a bit repetitive after a while in that the relayed very similar information. I mean, if practice and repetition are key I suppose this isn’t a terrible thing, it just made for some tedious reading.

Overall I really enjoyed the books message and I have noticed a difference in my own work flow since reading this book. I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with depression.

The Dreaded Relapse: Dermatillomania

Originally posted on Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) on June 18, 2014.


For those of us that are dealing with and working through Dermatillomania, we’re all familiar with the major ups and downs of this condition. From going to a few weeks or hours without picking or just managing to reduce the picking to a minimum for a while, we’ve all encountered the occasional times after these instances when we are faced with a major relapse in our picking. These relapses are not only damaging to our skin but are oftentimes devastating to our self-confidence and mental health. Here are some tips, remedies and advice to get back on track and staying positive through these tough times:

  • Determine the trigger:  Are you stressed? Getting enough sleep? Or perhaps you’re excited or anxious? These are vague trigger definitions but they are a start. Part of making progress with this condition is monitoring your habits and getting in touch with your triggers. Many people with this condition are self-sabotagers on other levels than with their skin. Whether it’s not getting enough sleep or exercise or just ravaging yourself with negativity and self-hate, recognizing these behaviours are essential for healing. Do you notice that you pick when you have trouble making decisions? When you’re overwhelmed and unorganized? When you have to face/deal with certain types of people or situations? Or are just triggered by perhaps the feel or look of your skin? Get specific and write it down. Create a habit log. It doesn’t have to be complicated but include things like how strong the urge was, how long you picked for, where were you when you were picking and how you felt.  Once you start to notice a pattern of thoughts, behaviours and places where you pick you can start creating strategies for the future. Check out CSBN’s tips and tricks page for more resources.
  • Forgive and be kind: Relapses, just like skin picking, don’t define you or your progress. Be kind! Negative self-talk, hatred and pity will get you absolutely nowhere. Do not make yourself a victim. Victimization will perpetuate the cycle of picking and anxiety. Recognize that you’ve slipped, tell yourself it’s okay, give yourself a hug and look forward. I highly recommend diving into these books for further assistance in getting over some of these mental roadblocks: “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown and “Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop” by Annette Pasternak. Check out CSBN’s store for more book recommendations.
  • Don’t let the relapse hold you back: The red open wounds of a relapse make most of us want to crawl underneath the covers and never emerge but this is often one of the worst things that you can do. Don’t cancel plans over your skin and don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Reclaim your control and get out there! Wallowing at home often leads to more picking and negativity.
  • Reinforce positive thoughts and go back to your picking-reducing behaviours ASAP: If you know you can’t control yourself in certain instances there are few things that you can do to help keep your hands away.
    • Disposable medical gloves work really well in keeping hands away from the skin. They are thin enough that they don’t get in the way of everyday tasks (they even work with touch screens) but will prevent you from looking for and picking at perceived imperfections.
    • Cover up: if your pick spots are on places on your body cover them up so that you’re not tempted to inspect your skin.
    • Set timers and cover-up mirrors: If the bathroom is a room you can’t seem to get out of then cover that mirror and get yourself a timer so that when you do have to make use of that room you’re on a tight time limit. Create a system of rewards and punishments for making or breaking these time limits.
    • Fidget toys and spinner rings: Keep those hands busy! There are many places where you can get these great little trinkets for your hands.
    • Don’t want a fidget toy or a ring? Try knitting or making friendship bracelets. Check out the CSBN’s bracelet project!
  • Healing the wounds you have made: So you’ve made peace with yourself but you’re still left with the open sores. Try these remedies to speed up healing and reduce redness:
    • Apply a clay mask: clay reduces redness and draws out impurities to prevent infection. It can, however, dry the skin out don’t leave it on for more than 20 minutes.
    •  Try a mix of honey, cinnamon and lemon juice: Honey (unpasteurized is best) and lemon juice have natural anti-bacterial properties to keep those sores clean and infection-free while the cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and swelling. Leave it on as long as you want and remove by washing or wiping your face. This mixture works well on the fresh wounds, as it will help create a nice even scab making it less likely you will pick it off later and the sticky honey is a deterrent to keep your hands away from your skin.
    • If you’re going to wear make-up try to let those wounds scab over to an extent and try not to cake it on. Use a green concealer to masks redness and a mix of foundation and pressed powders to get the best coverage. Get mineral-based and oil-free make-up to prevent further aggravation of your skin.
    • Tea tree oil: a natural and pain-free antiseptic that will keep wounds clean and will dry them out quickly.
    • Bactine: This pain-free antiseptic spray will clean out sores and has a pain reliever that will numb surface pain.

Dermatillomania used to be my dirty little secret. It is now something that I have mostly overcome and I am working with a bunch of great people at the CBSN to spread awareness and offer support for people dealing with body-focused repetitive behaviours.

For more posts and information on Dermatillomania, check out: