Monday, November 30, 2009

8 Ways to Help Your Bipolar Loved One Cope

Depression and bipolar disorder are family diseases. Everyone who shares a kitchen and a bathroom is affected. In fact, in his book Understanding Depression, J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., M.D., writes, "Depression ... has a much greater impact on marital life than rheumatoid arthritis or cardiac illness. One study found that only severe forms of cancer affected a family as adversely as depression or bipolar disorder.

1. Educate Yourself - Education is always the starting point. Because until the spouse or daughter or friend of a manic-depressive understands the illness, it is impossible for them to to say or do the right thing to be supportive. Do your own research by going online.

2. Learn How--and When--to Talk - As a spouse, you shouldn't say much when your loved one is clutching tissues, crying their eyes out. And you should be hesitant to speak when they are manic (not that they would let you get a word in). But when they don't want to get out of bed in the morning, you should remind them why they need to. And when they are revved up, you should be the voice of reason telling them why, for example, a spontaneous trip to New York isn't smart.

3. Make Some Rules - You know all the fire drills in primary school you prayed would happen during your pop math quiz? All those times the school administrators rehearsed what, exactly, would happen in the case of an emergency? Families of bipolar persons need those as well: plans of action for those times when the bipolar person is sick. In order to design such a strategy, the manic depressive and their loved one must compile a list of symptoms -- the equivalents of the smoke and burning smell of a fire -- and what action should accompany each, like "call the doctor." Each family will have a different list of symptoms and a different model of recovery, because no two illnesses are exactly alike.

4. Plan Even More - As part of your plan of action, you should consider what should happen when the bipolar person is very ill. "When you are dealing with a disease that has the potential to become life-threatening, the last thing you want is an improvised response to an emergency situation," writes Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D. in his book Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families.

5. Listen - "When people are talking," writes Rachel Naomi Remen, 'there's no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they're saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it."

6. Go Gentle - A little kindness and gentleness toward your loved one -- especially at those times when the bipolar person feels incapable of affection and care -- go a long way to aid recovery.

7. Laugh Together - Humor heals in so many ways. It combats fear as it loosens anxiety's death grip on your heart and every other living organ. It comforts and relaxes. And recent studies indicate that humor also reduces pain and boosts a person's immune system. "Laughter dissolves tension, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, grief, and depression," says Chuck Gallozzi of "Like crying, laughter lowers inhibitions, allowing the release of pent-up emotions. After a hearty bout of laughter, you will experience a sense of well-being. Simply put, he who laughs, lasts. After all, if you can laugh at it, you can live with it. Remember, a person without a sense of humor is like a car without shock absorbers." Humor also aids communication, and if there is one thing besides education that is absolutely essential for a healthy relationship with a bipolar loved one, it's strong communication.

8. Support Yourself - Caregiving is draining. Even when you are protecting yourself with the armor of regular sleep, healthy meals, and essential time-outs from your bipolar loved one, caring for a person still takes a toll on both physical and mental health. "It can be exhausting to live with a hypomanic person and frustrating to deal with a seriously depressed person day after day," says Dr. Mondimore. "The changes and unpredictability of the moods of someone with bipolar disorder intrude into home life and can be the source of severe stress in relationships, straining them to breaking point." That's why you need support as much as your loved one. You need to talk to people who have lived with a manic-depressive, and be validated by their experiences. Spouses and family members of bipolar people should consider therapy for themselves, as a way of processing all the stress. You may also benefit from checking out support programs for spouses and loved ones of the mentally ill, like from the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

[by Therese J. Borchard]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ten Ways to Help a Friend's Struggling Marriage

It's common to know someone whose marriage is in trouble and to be unsure how to help. These 10 practical tips will help you get started helping others.
  1. Pray for them by name. Ask God to intervene in their marriage. Ask God to give you and others wisdom to know how to help. Pray in their presence as well as when alone. Send emails and note cards of encouragement.
  2. Listen. Listening doesn't mean simply hearing. It involves empathizing, seeking to understand and expressing genuine interest.
  3. Don't give advice. Your main job is listening. Leave the advice giving to a pastor, counselor or mentor.
  4. Don't make the problem worse. Don't allow your support to be seen as an encouragement to give up or get a divorce. Your job is to help steer them toward the proper help and reconciliation (If addiction or abuse is involved, make sure they get the professional help they need and are safe).
  5. Help them think outside the divorce box. Booklets such as When Your Marriage Needs Help, Should I Get a Divorce, and Marriage and Conflict can give couples both research and practical advice to help them consider the facts about divorce and how to get the help they need for their marriage.
  6. Help them find the right help. Locate a good, licensed Christian counselor in their area. Ask your pastor or Christian M.D. for a referral. Focus on the Family offers a free counseling consult as well as a free referral service to a Focus-screened marriage therapist.
  7. Connect them with a mentor couple. If you are not qualified to help, call your pastor to recommend an older couple who is willing to mentor a younger couple.
  8. Refer them to helpful Web sites. Web sites such as TroubledWith, Pure Intimacy and offer hundreds of articles, practical advice and resource recommendations on various marriage issues. Focus also offers a Marriage Forum designed to give couples a safe place to talk about struggles and successes in their marriage.
  9. Encourage them to work on their problems and not simply expect them to be solved on their own. Focus On The Family offers an online Marriage Checkup which measures over 18 major areas of marriage -- identifying both strengths and weaknesses.
  10. Refer them to solid Christian-based books and seminars. Many are available through Amazon and Focus On The Family. Key resources like Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved, Love and Respect, Love Must Be Tough, First Five Years of Marriage, Help! We are Drifting Apart, Breaking the Cycle of Divorce, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage and others can provide needed encouragement and direction.
[By by Mitch Temple, Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reduce Your Worry About Cancer

Little lifestyle changes can lower your odds of hearing the dreaded diagnosis - "cancer." Slip these practices into your routine and worry less.

Stay Weight Wise

Excess pounds boost cancer risk, a study in The Lancet shows. Build an exercise habit now to head off trouble: The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends aiming for 30 minutes of activity five days a week.

When you hit your 45th birthday, make sure you're also doing 45 minutes of strength training twice weekly to minimize metabolic slowdown. "Beginning in our mid-40s, we lose up to a third of a pound of muscle a year and gain it back as fat, and fat burns fewer calories than muscle," says Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., director of Tufts University John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition in Boston.

Nibble a Bit of Chocolate

Hooray - an excuse (except - you don't need one!) Researchers have discovered a compound in dark chocolate that fights fast-growing cancers such as colorectal cancer. "It requires the activity of an enzyme called kinase, which causes cancerous cells to die but leaves normal cells alone," says Richard Pestell, M.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The finding could even lead to adding chocolate to current cancer treatments.

Practice Peace

Say ahhh! High levels of the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit a key gene from suppressing tumor growth, findings in the journal Genes, Chromosomes & Cancer suggest. Tame tension with this formula from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Healthy Lifestyle Program:

- Take deep belly breaths. You slow and elongate brain waves, bringing on calm.
- Watch your favorite comedy. Enjoying a good laugh activates the areas of the brain that govern humor, in turn suppressing the brain's stress regions.
- Adopt an uplifting mantra. Try "I love my life!" and repeat it when you're happy. You will train your mind to associate the phrase with being content. Then when you're on edge, chant your mantra and you'll immediately feel at ease.

Bake, Don't Burn

Grilling beef, poultry and fish until it's charred to a crisp can turn amino acids and other substances in the meat into heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds that have been linked to cancer. "HCAs are 10 times more potent than most other environmental carcinogens," says Kenneth Turteltaub, Ph.D., a toxicologist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Try these ideas:

- Marinate meat before grilling. Soaking chicken breasts in a mixture of cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and spices reduced HCA formation by 92 to 99 percent, notes a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology. "Marinating creates a barrier between the hot surface and meat, enough to lower the temperature and prevent HCAs from forming," Turteltaub says.
- Keep the grill temp below 325 degrees, the point at which HCAs begin to form. Grill meat or fish in punctured aluminum foil to protect against flare-ups. When fat drips on the hot coals, it forms HCAs, plus other carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that rise with the smoke.
- Microwave beef burgers for one to three minutes before browning; doing so reduces HCA production by 95 percent, according to a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology. Prior to grilling, discard the juices, which contain the building blocks of HCAs. Flip burgers often — about once a minute. This action keeps meat juices from getting too hot and activating HCA formation.

Avoid Needless Tests

Those full-body computed tomography scans you sometimes see at the mall are bad news: CT scans deliver a dose of radiation 50 to 200 times that of a conventional X-ray. A study from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that for every 1,000 patients screened, an average of 908 would have at least one false-positive result, requiring further testing.
Stick to shopping when you're at the mall, and if your doc orders a non-emergency CT scan (say, to investigate headaches), ask if a radiation-free ultrasound or an MRI can be used instead, says Devra Davis, Ph.D., director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the Uni versity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Breathe Easily

Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. The odorless radio-active gas is linked to up to 22,000 cancer deaths annually, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
It is released during the decay of uranium, an element found in many soils, and can seep into your house. "When inhaled, radon can break down cell DNA and lead to cancer," Davis explains. To test your home, look for a do-it-yourself kit at a home-improvement store.

Steal These Secrets

Cancer rates in some countries are significantly lower than in the United States, and many experts attribute this to the lifestyles of people in these areas. Adopt these disease-fighting behaviors from afar:

- Spice things up. In India, where breast cancer rates are about five times lower than in the United States, people cook with an abundance of cancer-fighting spices such as cumin, ginger and turmeric. Go for whole grains. Finland natives are known for eating loads of dark rye and other whole-grain breads, which likely contributes to their low colorectal cancer rates. Kick butts. West Africans smoke much less than Americans, which may in part explain why their rates of esophageal cancer are about 60 times lower than ours.
- Cut back on coffee. The number of esophageal cancer cases has jumped 300 percent in the past 20 years, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports. A primary cause: chronic reflux, which bathes the throat in stomach acids that can erode tissue. To put out the flames, avoid top triggers like caffeine and alcohol. "They relax the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, allowing stomach juices to splash up," says Yvonne Romero, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

Be Sunscreen-Savvy

Melanoma rates among young women jumped 50 percent between 1980 and 2004, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reports.

Apply sunscreen properly: Put on the amount that would fill a shot glass 30 minutes before heading outdoors, then reapply every two hours or after swimming or major sweating. Also, look for broad-spectrum coverage and UVA-filtering ingredients such as Mexoryl, avobenzone and zinc oxide.

Ask About Daily Aspirin

It's not only for heart disease: One a day reduced estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer risk by 16 percent, NCI research finds. "Aspirin may block cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that could disrupt cancer development, in part by reducing estrogen levels," says lead researcher Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D. More research is needed, though; long-term aspirin use can cause ulcers.

Beware of False Promises

At least 25 companies have misleadingly marketed products containing ingredients like shark cartilage, exotic mushrooms and wild yam as cancer treatments or preventives, prompting the FDA to issue a warning this summer. One supplement, CancerGene, claimed to "help switch on all three genes that inhibit cancer." "These products aren't proven safe or effective," says FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle in Rockville, Md.

[research by John Tesh]

Today's Quote

"The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests." - Epictetus

Friday, November 20, 2009

Family Meal Time

According to a new poll commissioned by The Associated Press, 60 percent of those who live with families said they sat down with family for dinner at least five nights in the past week. The research also revealed:

  • Twenty-five percent of families have the television turned on during dinner.
  • Fifty percent of families feel pestered by phone calls during this time together.
  • E-mailing or texting on a cell phone is constantly taking place during dinner for five percent of families.
  • Fifty-one percent of men said they cook dinner at least sometimes.
  • Sixty-four percent of people in rural areas said they eat dinner as a family at least five times a week compared to 56 percent of those living in cities.
  • Twenty percent of those polled said they ate dinner in a sit-down restaurant once in the past week.

The poll was conducted November 5-9 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media, and was based on phone interviews with 1,006 adults. []

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marriage Counseling

A woman seeking counsel from Dr. George W. Crane, the psychologist, confided that she hated her husband, and intended to divorce him.

"I want to hurt him all I can," she declared firmly.

"Well, in that case," said Dr. Crane, "I advise you to start showering him with compliments. When you have become indispensable to him, when he thinks you love him devotedly, then start the divorce action. That is the way to hurt him."

Some months later the wife returned to report that all was going well. She had followed the suggested course. "Good," said Dr. Crane. "Now’s the time to file for divorce."

"Divorce!" the woman said indignantly. "Never. I love my husband dearly!"

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why Many Marriages Fail

One of the chief reasons so many marriages fail is that the functions of a date and mate differ radically: that of a date is to be charming; that of a mate is to be responsible; and, unfortunately, the most charming individuals are not necessarily the most responsible, while the most responsible are just as often deficient in charm.

[by Sydney Harris]

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Today's Quote

"When one is out of touch with oneself, one cannot touch others." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, November 02, 2009

Marriage Under Attack

In June, a U.S. senator and a governor both admitted to adulterous affairs, yet kept their jobs. The percentage of American marriages ending in divorce within five years is twice as high as in any other nation. The United States has 13.6 million unmarried heterosexual couples living together. In some quarters, activists are pushing for recognition of "polyamory," in which a person has more than one legal partner. Throughout American society, traditional marriage --God's design as outlined in Genesis 2:24 -- is under assault. How can we reverse a prevalent cultural pattern in which marriage no longer is a special relationship between a man and a woman? And how can we keep from falling prey to notions that the sacredness of marriage is an outdated concept?

God intended His relationship with His created human beings to be a loving, committed relationship, and marriage is modeled after that. When a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife, it connotes more than just a companion or partner. It's the infusion of two people into one relationship that God expects to stay together.

"Marriage is the very fabric of a society that's healthy," says Linda Mintle, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "It's a sacred institution of God."


Experts say the biblical model and societal expectations for marriage are vastly different. Scripture presents marriage as a covenant vow, not a social or business contract. Yet the standard thinking among many today is that a spouse is disposable if he or she no longer keeps the partner content. Marriage won't always be consistent in its level of fulfillment and personal happiness. Marriage should be a committed union with another person rather than something to make us happy. There will be conflict in marriage. But if the emotional bond between partners is strong and intimate, damage can be repaired quickly.

In July, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford attempted to justify an eight-year secret relationship he had with an Argentine woman. Frequently, politicians caught in adultery make a brief statement of contrition to the media with their wife stoically at their side. In contrast, Sanford stood alone and showed no remorse. He called his affair partner his "soul mate" and admitted that he no longer loved his wife of 20 years, with whom he has four sons. The ordeal may have been a watershed in terms of shifting attitudes. Josh Spurlock, a professional counselor with Tri-Lakes Relational Center in Springfield, Missouri, ( who has been married four years, agrees that the Sanford affair signaled a new boldness by public figures in displaying behavior long considered unacceptable.

Likewise, the sad demise of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair shows how infidelity can spin out of control. McNair, married and the father of four sons, had bought a luxury vehicle for and vacationed with a 20-year-old girlfriend. Police say the adulterous girlfriend murdered McNair because she suspected he was cheating on her in a second affair.

Another sign of growing tolerance of infidelity is the burgeoning number of Web sites facilitating extramarital affairs. One site, whose membership has doubled to 4 million in a year, recently added mobile iPhone and BlackBerry applications to keep suspecting spouses from discovering the adultery.


A critical root of the problem is that it's all about what feels good at the moment. This new relativism of "whatever's right for me' pushes away absolute values." Such thinking is evident in the reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8," which follows the Gosselin parents and their sextuplets and twins. Early episodes in 2007 talked about the faith of the mother, Kate. By June this year, Kate had filed for divorce after the series divulged Jon's dating of a 22-year-old woman. On air, Jon complained that he needed to flee the marriage because of his overbearing wife. "I was too passive. I let her rule the roost and went along with everything. And now I stood up on my own two feet and I'm proud of myself," Gosselin said. No spiritual solutions were offered. There was no talking to their pastor, no praying together, no push for an intimate walk with God. No other couples coming around to help them. It was strictly the secular answer: I'm not happy; I'm getting out. The Gosselins are symbolic of the American pattern of the highest divorce rate in the Western hemisphere.

Divorce and cohabitation -- which begins and ends quicker in the United States compared to other countries -- challenge the foundational premise of marriage. It's a false premise that a relationship is about my pleasure as long as it lasts with a certain other person, and then I can leave. It's antithetical to God's design of marriage, which is about commitment, growth, mutual sharing and benefit of the other person. When people don't have a commitment to the biblical model of marriage, they are vulnerable to other kinds of relationships.

Growing acceptance of adultery has been accompanied by astronomical cohabitation and the highest divorce rates. Many people see broken relationships as an expected part of life. Linda Mintle, whose books include Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage and I Married You, Not Your Family, says the divorce rate for Christians mirrors that of non-Christians because they have adapted to the mindset that marriage is about personal happiness, rather than honoring a covenant.

"Anything that breaks up the institution and marginalizes the important role of a man and a woman in creating a family is destructive," Mintle says.


Mintle says Satan has effectively assaulted marriage on a variety of fronts involving parenting, including: common portrayals of fathers on television as dolts; unmarried Hollywood couples having babies without moral qualms; and homosexual-rights groups trying to redefine the family to include two same-sex parents. "All of this at its root destroys what God developed: The best place for kids to be raised is within the institution of marriage," Mintle says. A generation ago, most viewed procreation as a vital reason to marry, but that's no longer the case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a record four out of 10 births are to unwed women. The widespread acceptance of divorce towers above other threats to marriage. The median age for a first divorce in this country is 30.5 for men and 29 for women. The devastation that happens with kids in the course of a divorce often seems to repeat itself in the next generation. Divorce wrecks the home life of kids. Emotionally, it leaves scars that are carried into other relationships. The wounds of infidelity or pornography are damaging, but they can be healed. Divorce is more like an amputation.

Andrew J. Cherlin, author of The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today, concurs that the carousel of relationships of parents is particularly damaging to children's emotional development and undermines a sense of security and trust. About 60 percent of children born to cohabitating parents see them split up by the time they reach 10 years old, he reports. "Some children seem to have difficulty adjusting to a series of parents and parents' partners moving in and out of their home," Cherlin writes.

Couples contemplating giving up on marriage need not be afraid to seek mentoring help from solid older couples in their church or professional counselors. Such guidance may help put the marriage in perspective. In marriage, sometimes the spotlight of the heart shifts onto what disappoints us about our spouse. As discontentment grows, attraction fades and eventually fades to coldness. The reality of what characteristics attract us to other people is that they are also the qualities that attracted us to our spouse. Thus, innocent attraction can grow improperly into affection that becomes obsession. Even through the bad times in a marriage, God is able to use difficulties to mold us in His image.

[by John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel]

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Today's Quote

"Don't give up. Moses was once a basket case."