Monthly Archives: December 2012

We are Human

You know, I usually try to keep my mind open and my mouth shut when it comes to important issues. However, perhaps silence isn’t always a friend. If I voice my feelings, maybe I will at least have the satisfaction of knowing I can stand up for something I believe in.

December 14, 2012: Twenty-six people (20 children and six adults) were shot and killed by a single assailant in Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Others were wounded. According to police, the shooter took his own life with one of the weapons he was carrying.

In light of this tragic event, gun-slinging extremists are upset because opponents of firearms want to get rid of guns and/or make laws stricter, therefore supposedly taking away some rights of said gun-slinging extremists and ridding the country of violence.


This is what we as a country are concerned about?

Fine. If this is up for discussion, then allow me to weigh in.

If someone is mentally unstable, angry, intending to harm others, vengeful, spiteful or has the desire to cause pain, that someone will find a way, with or without guns.

What is being accomplished by arguing about gun control, causing more anger and prompting threats and anger?

First of all, the very notion that imposing more/stricter laws against guns will prevent criminals from breaking the law or harming others just boggles my mind.

Secondly, how sad it is that instead of grieving and honoring the memories of those whose lives were stolen from them, we’re arguing and quarreling and causing so much more pain and fear.

Take a step back, everyone. Think before you speak, think of others before yourself, and have some humility.

To those who fear your rights may be infringed upon by the implementation of tighter weapon laws, I offer a few words to consider. What happened to the rights of the children and adults so mercilessly slain that morning in Connecticut?

And to those who believe taking guns away and imposing greater laws concerning weapons will create peace and eliminate violence, I offer these words to consider. Do you remember the Oklahoma City Bombing? The attackers used a truck filled with fertilizer-based explosives to murder 168 people and injure more than 680 people. Yes, you read that correctly. If someone wants to cause harm to others, that someone could do it with fertilizer or a shovel or a pen or just about anything.

I’m not looking for a debate. I am simply sending out a plea. Open your minds and your hearts. Reflect and persevere and understand that as long as we live, there will be chaos and there will be order, and that’s just the balance in the grand scheme of things.


UPDATE: This was originally posted about four years ago. Many more people have died.

I’m not against some better regulation on firearms and other weapons, but I do not have the answers regarding how that should be done. I believe mental health often plays a rather large role in gun [or other violent] crime, particularly in cases of mass murder, so I think psychology should be a major consideration in the subject of weapon rights, but who should get to make the call? I don’t have the solutions. I’m not sure anyone does. We are humans. We’re flawed creatures. My real message from four years ago remains relevant however; stop arguing. Stop the hate. Focus on what’s truly important. Hug someone. Apologize. Smile. Compliment someone. Focus your energy on love and positivity and stop feeding the flames of unrest. Think. Feel. Love.


As Christmas approaches, while I don’t necessarily consider myself religious, I extend wishes of joy and warmth to everyone this holiday season. Be thankful for what you have, look fondly upon what you had, and know you are fortunate to have a future. Give, reminisce and remind all those you care about how much they mean to you.

Think, feel and love. We are human.

In loving memory of every life lost at the hands of hatred


think feel love

An In-Depth Look: Depression

What do biological differences, neurotransmitters, hormones, inherited traits, life events and early childhood trauma have in common? According to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit establishment for medical care, research and education, these factors are all possible causes of depression.

Who fits the diagnosis? It could happen to anyone

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in ten U.S. adults report depression.

Depression can affect people of any demographic, but certain groups tend to be more likely to meet the criteria for major depression. Women, people between 45 and 64 years of age, people who are unemployed and those with less than a high school education are some of the groups likely to be most depressed.

I am a female, 21 years of age, a college student and I am employed. I don’t fit in every category for those who are at high risk, but I am part of the one in ten. I have personally been affected by major depression. I’m not the only one; many others outside the categories deal with the illness as well.

Jay Lee, a 23-year-old male college student with two jobs, has had experience not only with depression, but also bipolar disorder, a disruptive long-term condition characterized by potentially intense mood swings and many of the same symptoms associated with depression. Depression and bipolar disorder can sometimes be related, and according to Mayo Clinic, people with bipolar disorder often don’t get the treatment they need.

Lee’s biggest struggle began when his grandmother unexpectedly passed away in April 2007. He and his grandmother were very close and he had felt he could always confide in her. Over the next few months, Lee became very reclusive, his grades slipped and his outlook on life turned grim.

“I felt like I was all alone,” Lee said.

Lee and I both had feelings of hopelessness and despair in the depths of our depression, but others sometimes find a way to fill the void.

Bea Lile, a 75-year-old female, said that when she was 30 years old, she knew she was depressed but never did anything about it. Lile has always known God has been her guide. She said her relationship with God has given her “a joy and peace that doesn’t come any other way.”

Lile’s failing marriage contributed heavily to her condition, but she did not believe in divorce at the time and didn’t want to accept that her decision to be married had been wrong. She eventually divorced her husband, but she said “God was always there.”

“My depression was situational depression,” Lile said.

Lile understood she was depressed, but many people do not have a firm understanding of depression.

What it is and how it hurts

There are plenty of sources out there that explain what depression is, but a health article on The New York Times website provides a simple definition.

“Clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for a longer period of time.”

This disorder can involve a great number of symptoms. The severity of a particular case of depression can depend on how many symptoms the affected person experiences. lists several symptoms of depression, including feelings of sadness or unhappiness, insomnia or excessive sleeping, fatigue, restlessness or agitation, decreased concentration, changes in appetite and feelings of guilt or hopelessness. Trouble thinking, crying spells and unexplained physical problems are also symptoms that can come with depression.

Lile said she “slept less and ate more” when she was deeply depressed, while Lee said he experienced fatigue and irritability, but that those symptoms weren’t the worst part.

“My heart hurt more than anything,” Lee said.

The causes of depression are still being explored, but a variety of factors may be involved, sometimes all at once. Information from Mayo Clinic explains that physical changes in the brain seem to be linked with those who experience depression. Hormones and brain chemicals have the ability to affect mood, and it’s possible that depression can be inherited, though researchers are still trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression. Life events and trauma such as death, loss, abuse and high stress can trigger depression or make a person more susceptible to its symptoms.

It’s no DIY project

Normal day-to-day activities and life in general can become very difficult under the hold of depression. Depression is a chronic illness, and Mayo Clinic explains that it’s not something someone can simply “snap out” of. It often requires long-term treatment such as medication or counseling.

When Lee finally understood he couldn’t get better on his own in October 2007, his parents supported his trip to see a doctor. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Lile never sought professional help, but when she began attending college at the age of 49, each time her small psychology class met, it was more like a counseling session.

“It was the only therapy I got,” Lile said.

Her studies and self-examination further helped her cope with her condition, but in her pursuit of a job, she was required to take several tests, one of which was an emotional evaluation that resulted in a visit to a designated mental health counselor.

Lile said she’s always been able to express some feelings with her coworkers and friends, so when the counselor asked her why she was depressed, she explained every reason she could think of. The counselor stared at her for awhile before speaking.

“Do you realize you’re smiling and crying at the same time?” the counselor asked.

Lile did realize it, and that’s all she knew how to do.

A great number of people suffer from depression, but many still don’t know how to get better.

It’s bigger than you might think

 The estimated 9 percent of Americans facing depression come from all regions of the United States. According to a state-by-state analysis posted on in 2010, of the 45 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that participated, the Southeast states had the highest rate of currently depressed adults, led by Mississippi at 14.8 percent. Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia and Oklahoma also had high rates, while the colder states appeared to have a lower rate of depression. North Dakota had the lowest rate at 4.8 percent, followed by Minnesota, Alaska, Iowa and Colorado. The survey was conducted in 2006 and 2008 and not every state participated in both years of the study, but it’s impossible to accurately measure depression rates.

Why does it matter?

It may be beneficial to study depression on a large scale, but it’s important to also focus on the individuals suffering from the condition. When left untreated, depression can lead to emotional, behavioral and health problems. Mayo Clinic lists several complications associated with depression, such as alcohol and substance abuse, anxiety, problems at school or work, family conflicts, relationship difficulties and social isolation. Self-mutilation, premature death from other medical conditions and suicide are all risks associated with depression.

At the height of my condition, I nearly died as a result of the extreme fatigue, physical pain and emotional exhaustion I had been experiencing for many months.

Jay Lee and Bea Lile both considered suicide as an escape from the pain.

Lile attempted to overdose on medication.

“It was the weakest moment I’ve ever had,” Lile said.

While driving, his little sister in the vehicle with him, Lee had an urge to “crash the car and die.” He decided against it for the sake of his sister and the rest of his family.

If you feel depressed, you should seek medical attention, as symptoms of depression may not go away on their own, and can actually become worse if ignored. It is especially important to seek help if you are experiencing any suicidal thoughts.  The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) reports that over 38,000 people in the United States die from suicide every year, and over 60 percent of those who die by suicide suffer from major depression.

It doesn’t have to hurt

According to the AFSP, depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Once depression is recognized, treatment can help. Between 80 and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain at least some relief from their symptoms.

I sought treatment in July 2012 after suffering from different levels of depression for over four years. I have been taking antidepressant medication since then and I have made some lifestyle changes, and I’m feeling significantly better in comparison to my lowest point.

Lile eventually learned that in addition to her situational depression, she had an inactive thyroid, which can also cause depression. She was prescribed a light antidepressant and thyroid medication, but she stopped taking the antidepressant within about six months when her thyroid medication began to work.

Lile expressed the importance of voicing your feelings, because it makes it seem more controllable. She also said you can really change your way of thinking and learn coping skills, but not alone.

“Don’t try to do it by yourself,” Lile said.

Lee has had to make his own changes in life to be happy. Playing golf and surrounding himself with friends and activites he loves helps him cope, but he knows he still has several issues to work on.

“I’ve tried to make myself smile more and say the word ‘hate’ less,” Lee said.

Lee is still taking medication for his condition and he said he feels ten times better.

His advice for anyone facing depression is simple.

“Just get help, really,” Lee said. “In any way you can.”

So, what do all Americans who suffer from depression have in common? We share the ability to heal, the right to be happy and the responsibility to take care of ourselves and get well.

Additional information from Mayo Clinic:

If you have suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Contact a family member or friend.
  • Seek help from your doctor, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
  • Call a suicide hot line number — in the United States, you can reach the toll-free, 24-hour hot line of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 to talk to a trained counselor.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If you have a loved one who has harmed himself or herself, or is seriously considering doing so, make sure someone stays with that person. Take him or her to the hospital or call for emergency help.

How to Give a Meaningful Gift



Can you hear the groans? The holidays always cause some stress, especially when it comes to giving gifts. There are plenty of reasons to give, but it can require a lot of effort. We all know someone who’s hard to buy for, hard to satisfy or hard to please. How do you decide what to give?

There are many factors that should be considered when choosing a gift, and your main goal should be to give a gift that is meaningful, unique and memorable.

First, what’s the occasion? Some gifts are more appropriate than others, depending on the event. For example, it would likely be unwise to give someone a pair of Christmas socks for their June birthday (unless the recipient is crazy about Christmas footwear).

Second, who is the gift for? Meaningful gifts should be personal and relevant (usually). For example, you wouldn’t give a new mother a loud set of subwoofers.

Third, what do you know? It’s beneficial to have an established relationship with the recipient and to have some knowledge about their interests (but giving to a stranger is nice, too).

It’s good to have an idea where to start, but the most important part of giving involves knowing the recipient will value the gift. If you use your knowledge to your advantage, you can be confident the recipient will appreciate your gesture.

To gather the knowledge you need and put it to work, there are some guidelines you can follow.

  • Pay attention!

If you take an interest in the person and take time to figure out what he or she enjoys, it will be much easier to decide what kind of gift to give. Pay attention to details about the recipient such as favorite colors, flavors, scents, materials, hobbies and desires. Knowing more about these aspects of the recipient’s life can help you personalize something special and tailor it to his or her liking. Focus on wants but think about needs. The recipient might need one thing but want something else. Sometimes it’s OK to compromise. For example, if your little sister needs a new winter coat but wants a teddy bear, and her favorite colors are pink and purple, you could give her a pink coat with a little purple teddy bear tucked in the pocket. It’s really up to you to be observant and make a connection.

You have to develop ideas from what you’ve learned, so the next step is critical.

  • Brainstorm!

Effective gift-giving does involve some thought. Use what you learned about the recipient and put it all together. Don’t go to the store and hope something brilliant will jump out at you. Instead, have at least an idea brewing before you start shopping. Looking for a gift is much easier when you know what you’re looking for. In addition, perhaps a normal store-bought gift isn’t suitable at all. Sometimes people prefer homemade gifts, so it’s good to consider that possibility, too. Also, decide if the gift should be simple or complex and determine what you need to do to make it happen.

The saying “It’s the thought that counts” applies here, but put it to good use.

  • Action!

Once you’ve got a solid idea (or several), get to work. Allow yourself enough time to devote to the gift so you can focus on making it meaningful. The time you put into a gift can say a lot about you and make the details shine. It’s OK to let the recipient see your hard work, but subtlety isn’t a bad thing either. Most importantly, be creative. Push the limits and exceed your own expectations.

If you’re still stumped, here are some examples you can follow to get you going.

My favorite way to give a meaningful gift is to create a gift basket of assorted items that apply to the recipient’s interests. Sometimes giving several small items that are very valuable to one person is better than giving one item that is fairly valuable to many. It’s fun, too. Gift bags are easy to coordinate and the ways to fill them, display them and give them are endless.

If you have a certain skill, put it to work. If you can crochet, bake, paint, or do anything from your heart, you can create a meaningful gift. I often sculpt roses from clay and paint them to suit the people receiving them. When someone knows you have devoted time and labor to create something especially for them, the gift is all the more valuable.

Sometimes people would rather have an experience than a material gift. Keep this in mind and decide if it’s something you can bring to life. A trip to the zoo or the bowling alley or an afternoon of skydiving might be the way to go.

Not everyone has a big budget, so sometimes it’s difficult to give the ideal gift. Just work with what you have. Giving a meaningful gift doesn’t have to be expensive.

Giving a gift can be just as rewarding as receiving one. It can be very fulfilling to know you have made someone happy with your thoughtfulness.

Now that you’ve got the idea, stop groaning and start giving.


This and other great student-written stories can be found at

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