Just say, “NO”. 

How many times have you taken a day off and said, “today is my day”. And then you pick up your phone…. And the day is no longer yours. In order to have time to give away, you need to make time to get away. 
We live in a world of busyness. REST is just missing a few letters to read as STRESSED. We add too much to rest and then it becomes stress. Stress is DEADLY. Many evidenced based studies show the negative impact of stress on our life. Rest is the easiest cure yet we never get enough. 

We need rest. Sometimes when we get away from everything we take a vacation and we take our friends with us. This is not getting away from everything. This is taking your life with you and you are not truly getting away from it all. There is a difference between traveling and vacation. 

So many times, we find our identity in our work. This is not who we are. The problem is that we feel as though people need us. That’s just it. People don’t need us. Everyone is replaceable. That’s life. We can give more of ourselves when we are fulfilled and recharged as opposed to just being and constantly draining ourselves. How can you be inspiring and of use to somebody if you are no different and no more passionate than before, because you never stepped away to learn more and get rid of the old and allow yourself to receive the new. 
On the 7th day of creation, God rested. How in the world do we think that we don’t need what God wanted. We need rest. Sometimes we need to simply learn to just say, “no”. …. And when you say, “no”….. Be okay with it. Otherwise the stress from your regret or saying “no” will eat you alive and ruin your rest. Set boundaries in your life. 
We live in a world that doesn’t stop. We work so much and push ourselves so hard that we are literally killing ourselves. 

You don’t have to have the answer for everyone, everytime, everywhere. Take time for YOU. 

Thailand days 1,2 &3 …human trafficking

Day 1 So!! I am in Bangkok and it has been an amazing trip from the start!! So many breakthroughs …. Today we focused on local people during the day and went around praying over people and we saw blind people healed in order to see and people with chronic pain healed and people who couldn’t walk, walk. People were healed and it was powerful! Some people on our team even began to speak in Thai when they were praying over people and the Thai people understood and fell to their knees in tears… It has been a miraculous trip!!! I cast a demon out of a woman who was twitching and pouring sweat and heavily afflicted and walked up to me asking for me to pray for her… And in the name of Jesus I cast it out and it latched on to my arm and my arm was moving uncontrollably and it was intense pain. Others from the trip laid hands on me and got rid of it. It sounds unbelievable … But it was intense and it was like nothing I have ever experienced before.  
People did not understand what we said half the time but they knew we came to bring love. So many lives were touched and this was only our day ministry on the first day. We are now cautious and aware of the battle we are fighting here. 
The spiritual battle is intense here! The sex industry is big and it is furious! We walked the red light district at night tonight and saw the grounds we are going to do ministry in tomorrow. There are so many broken sad faces. The children are everywhere and they are right in the heart of it. The people are selling their children!!!! We are going to be trained tomorrow during the day by those who have been here laying the groundwork for us, and then going out with our teams and translators tomorrow. I am with a strong group who has been awesome and I have learned so much already and my heart is breaking and changing. I am experiencing things that I thought were only on TV. There is going to be restoration… Justice… Freedom and revival … I can barely put into words what I have experienced… It is supernatural … Unfamiliar and intense … But it is real and it is a battlefield. 
Crazy thing that happened … When we got to our hotel the group leader told us to pray over our rooms since we are in a hotel in the middle of the red light district where so much evil goes on.. I was tired and said meh.”. We are fine.. I got this” then I got into the shower and I looked down and the tub was filled with blood and I realized my nose was bleeding uncontrollably. I saw visions of death and pain and things that have happened in this room. It would not stop bleeding for 5 minutes and then finally I began to pray and I prayed over the room and when I said that there will be no more blood shed in this room and that the blood of Jesus is powerful and covers me, my nose stopped bleeding instantly. Bizarre!!!! And when I left my room a girl on my team said, ” so I feel like we need to go out prepared and claim the blood of Jesus because that is the only power we have!” I told her what happened to me minutes before and it was amazing! 
Then when I went into my room the closet had handprints and marks on the smoky glass door that were multiplying from the inside. ( sounds crazy ) I was freaked out but then I asked God to show me why this was happening and if it was a spirit or a sign… And I saw children and faces in the glass. And I opened the door and my roomate walked over and said ” what just happened, because I just saw a little boy skipping out of the closet like he was just freed” God told me that he wanted me to open the doors that nobody is willing to open out of fear because if I don’t, then who will.  

Random things people prophesied to me today: 
A girl who didn’t know me and didn’t know about my brother committing suicide last week came up to me and said ” God wanted me to tell you that it’s not your fault and you need to stop blaming yourself and put your focus back on the mission he has you on” I told her that was crazy that she said that because I have been struggling with self blame with my brother’s death. 
Another guy came up to me who didn’t know me.. Said that God gave him a vision that I had been working on a farm and God is preparing me to protect people at this farm .. I told him I’ve been working on Kendelton Farms in Houston, Texas and I have been houng there on safe house for women and children survivors of human trafficking. He was amazed.. As was I …
Then another girl came up to me and said that God told her that I have been struggling with a rough past and a lack of family but that He will bring people into my life to become a new family and He has me where I am for a purpose. 
Then Daniel (a pastor preaching at the church in Bangkok we visited) pointed to me in the middle of the service and said he had a vision and declared it before the church about how he saw me standing in the middle of the street and having headlights come straight at me and I was just staring into the headlights… And then the car didn’t hit me and I survived and that God is doing some deer in the headlights moments in my life recently (which He clearly has) and that I am going to survive even though it looks like I’m about to be hit. 
SO needless to say … This has been a powerful trip and it’s only day one. These are just a few things on my heart that I can remember from today… I started off being freaked out and now I just realize that I am protected and purposed.
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Day 2 

This is the second day and the miracles have not stopped. From the moment we walked up and saw rain in the forecast and gray skies above us, we knew God was going to do great things. We left the hotel and walked to a local human trafficking rescue chapel. As soon as we all took off our shoes outside of the door and went inside the rain began to pour down. Service itself was awesome. God did amazing things. When we left, we went outside in the rain stopped. The ground was wet and our shoes were dry. We walked back to the hotel and when we got inside the rain poured down again. The forecast said that it was supposed to rain every day, and we have not gotten wet yet. 
While we were in the church our leader told us to go over to the women and start praying for them. We don’t speak the language so we don’t know what they need prayer for. But we believe that when we pray in the Holy Spirit that their spirit will understand our prayers regardless of the language. The women that came up to me I was given visions of different things to pray for them for. As I would pray over one girl for forgiveness of her abortion she finally let go and began to weep even though she didn’t understand my words. The next girl I prayed that God would give her the husband and children she has been desiring. She began to weep and nodded her head yes. Over all of them I prayed that they will feel security and the love that they were never given will be given to them in new ways. and I told them that their families would be taken care of back home, even though they felt that they were abandoning their families by not sending money from prostitution back home to support them. I prayed these things not knowing anything about them. Later the leader who works in Thailand told us that these women have the biggest need for security, love and that their families will be taken care of back in the villages. God told me what to pray for before I even knew. 
Early in the morning, when we were preaching before a group of these trafficked women, our leader that spoke the message was sharing a message of love. The whole time that she was speaking I was amazed at how she was glowing. I saw her shirt and how late it was and it seemed like the white was glowing. I even thought to myself, “I could never get away with wearing white without spilling something on it.” Her message was powerful and pure and brought many of the women to tears. After the service we went to lunch, she sat across from me at the table. I looked at her and she looked different and when I looked at her shirt it was a camouflage dark shirt. I told her that I could have sworn she was wearing white. I told her that she glowed and that her clothing turned white as she was speaking. That message spoke to me that even when we try to camouflage ourselves God will show forth his might.
The whole day the theme that people kept talking about was a spirit of adoption. There are so many young girls who have been taken from their families and feel alone. We told them that they had been adopted into a new family. And that Jesus was their father and they are loved. I resonated with that message since I was adopted and felt alone and I was able to reach women in different ways because of a deeper emotional understanding. 
Different people from the team came up to me and prophesied to me and told me of visions they saw for me… 3 people came to me at different times who didn’t know me or each other and they all spoke the same words and had the same vision. It was eye opening and confirmed Gods power to me. Again, this is something that’s hard to explain if you did not experience it yourself. But it’s real. 3 people told me that they had a vision of an onion and that the layers needed to be peeled back and that there were tears inside that wanted to come out but the process of us peeling had not been done yet. They said I needed to do that in order to cry. They said that I spend so much time helping others that I never give myself time to he. Then a friend back in Michigan messaged me and said he just woke up from a dream where he was holding two onions in his hands and he asked me if I was ready to peel them yet? When he shared that with me I was overwhelmed. 
There was a girl in church I prayed for in the morning and I laid my hand on her stomach and prayed over her baby without even knowing she was pregnant and without speaking my language she began to cry. Later I saw her making jewelry and she put down the jewelry and came to me and just hugged me and wept. 
Later, there was a girl on my team who I didn’t know that came to talk to me and started telling me about her vision for Detroit and a human trafficking ministry….her visions lined up with mine and she talked about a year that God was preparing her for and I shared my heart with her and we both saw the same vision. I told him about how I’m praying that God would bring somebody with that vision to Detroit for this year because I was going to be spending a year dedicated to Houston to prepare myself to better Detroit. She was that girl. This girl also has a desire to be a nurse and to be a sexual assault nurse examiner. She shared that with me and I told her that that is what I specialize in. That was a divine appointment. Before she knew who I was, she added me on Facebook because she felt like she wanted to connect with me. My Facebook was private and she didn’t know what my specialty was but for some reason she felt she wanted to connect with me. I told her that I had been reading the chapter in the bible, Isaiah 61 and that I felt she needed to read it to. She said that she has been meditating on that same passage for weeks. 

ONE OF THE BIGGEST MOMENTS OF AWE- we were walking from the red light district back to the hotel. While walking there was a man walking beside us. He was wearing an Australian shirt. Our group was in a hurry to get back to the hotel because we were late. But I thought that I was supposed to talk to this man. I asked him if he was from Australia. He told me that he was from Sweden. He said that he was here for word and to do some diving. We did not get to talk for long because our group had to turn at the next street. I shook his hand and walked away. In that moment, I’ve prayed that God would bring somebody into his life that day to pray for him. I feel that I was supposed to pray over him but I did not have time. So I asked God to be bigger than the time constraint and to send somebody to pray for him. Later that afternoon, Ryan one of the men on my team came up to me and said that he wanted to hear more of my story. He said that he was intrigued by the power I carry and wanted my insight. He said that he saw me talking to this man and wanted to know more. I told him about my burden for the hearts of the men that buy the women for sex, I told him about my heart for the traffickers. About how I feel that they are filling a void and that they have an addiction and they are struggling too. He commended me for stopping to talk to that man. Later that evening we went out on a night mission on the streets. When we got back from the red light district we shared stories about what happened. Ryan stood up and told us about man he stopped in the street in the red light district. He said that he got the chance to pray over a guy that he walked up to because he was wearing an Australian shirt and asked him , ” are you from Australia.” Then the guy told him that he was here from Sweden and was doing diving and his name was Stefan…….. He got to pray over the man and he told us about it. It was amazing that God used him to reach the guy that I saw earlier that day, especially in a city as big as Bangkok!!!! That right there is divine intervention.
When we went out in the red light district and went into one of the strip clubs it was eye-opening. The strip clubs that I minister in, in Detroit are much different. Here in Thailand the girls are sent in from the villages to work in the strip clubs. They send the money back to the family and is considered honorable. When we walked into ours we looked at all the girls on the stage that have numbers on them. You are supposed to choose a number for the girl and they bring her to your table. They get paid based on services and the amount of drinks you buy them. As the woman danced, I prayed for the Lord to open my eyes to which girl he wanted me to bring to the table to pray with and show love to. I asked him to show me the child in the room. There was a girl on the other side of the dance floor that was facing away from me. It was almost as though God shined a light on her. And I decided that I wanted to choose her. When she turned around and looked towards our table I could see that she was only a child. The mamason (lady pimp) brought me to her and I led her back to my table. She spoke very broken English. She was about 11 or 12 years old. She said that it was her first day. She was very timid and scared. She had blisters on her feet from it being the first time she wore high heels. The shoes were much too big for her tiny feet. She was barely wearing any clothing. When I ordered her drinks, I told her that I was not going to buy her alcohol and that she was safe to sit and drink with me. And I sat there with her and just hugged her and told her how precious she was and that God was going to take care of her and make a way for her to be free. She said that she loved singing and that she wanted to go to school and finish someday to be a singer. My heart broke for her. And it reminded me of my purpose. It reminded me of why I do what I do. To go in, rescue, and love these girls who are being forced into sex slavery. There were Buddhist shrine’s everywhere in the place. They believe that this is honorable to their god. That sacrificing their daughters for sex is an honor to their gods because they are providing for their family. This is the perfect opportunity for me to tell them about Jesus and that they can choose a God who loves them regardless of where they have been or what they’re about to go through until they find freedom. And that they are already forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. That they have hope for healing and redemption. And that they still have worth. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Day 3 forgive any grammar errors. I’m exhausted!! 😊 

Many people think that women in prostitution have a choice and they do it because they want to… Well… That’s a lie….

On day two we went to the local ministry here where they give the women who have been rescued from human trafficking jobs making shirts and jewelry and the sales fund their rescue program and give them a salary and a way to make money outside of prostitution. I bought one of the shirts that said “light up the darkness”. Today at the church I was sitting in the back and in the church was all of the rescued women who have been taken in for shelter and restoration. I felt led to go up to the front pew and lay my hands on a girl and pray over her. The act of going to the front of the church made me very uncomfortable but I began to pray over her in English and she only spoke Thai. As I was praying over her she began to laugh uncontrollably. I was praying in English that the childhood that she was robbed of would be given back to her and that she would have the joy and laughter of a child. Her laughter would not stop and it was contagious. People around her began to feel that same joy and began to laugh uncontrollably. It was beautiful. She looked at me with tears in her eyes after I finished praying.. And In broken English she pointed at my shirt and said, “that’s shirt is that I made”. I knew in that moment that God called me from the back of the room to the front to pray over her for a purpose. 

During breakfast in our hotel lobby our pastor stood up and started telling us what we were going to do for the rest of the day … There were other people in the restaurant eating and my eyes were turned over to a man sitting on the left side of the room and I started praying for him and sensing anger in him. He was facing away from our group and was on the other side of the room but I saw spirits of darkness and anger around him. Once our pastor started praying for our team at our table, when he said “Jesus” the man across the room turned around and waved has hands around and yelled out in anger, ” shut up, just shut up, shut up” the waiter came to him to calm him down and I prayed that God would calm the man and remove the spirits of anger surrounding him. The man immediately stood up and walked out of the restaurant. It was intense! The name of Jesus is powerful. There is so much going on in the spiritual realm that we do not see. And this confirmed that for me once again. 
In a village that our team went up to a miracle happened where a lady had a giant cobra come towards her and when it raised up to attack her, she said, ” If this Jesus that my sister believes in is really the one true God then leave form me and let me live. The cobra dropped down and went away. This was so symbolic. The fact that it balled is amazing in itself but I’m not completely shocked because God is so powerful…. But it’s symbolic as well because in the bible it talks about how satan was a serpent. The things that are happening here in Thailand are beyond belief and I am being stretched so much in my faith!!!
As we left to head to a new place in Thailand, we went to the airport to catch a local flight. I asked God to show me the men in the room that I needed to pray for and I asked him to point out the men who were about to fly to the villages and buy the girls and bring them back to work in prostitution. As I looked around the room I saw cleat the men who were getting ready to do so. I saw it in a supernatural way that was hard to explain. Usually when I go undercover to collect intel it’s all about using my skills to collect information. This was the first time that I actually asked God to point them out to me. I am learning!! 
Then when we went to the food courts I was shown a man that God wanted me to talk to. I walked towards his direction and before I could even say anything to him he said, “you are so happy and it’s like you are glowing, why are you so happy?” And I said, ” thank you I am very happy! I’m in Thailand and I have been able to share the love of Jesus with so many people and I have watched healings and miracles for the first time … So even though I am exhausted, I am so happy” I sat down at the table that he was eating at and asked him if he was happy and he to me that he was right now. When I asked if he was happy with his career he said no, it is very stressful and tense and that he has to leave and go on vacations to get away from the stress of it all. I asked him what he did and he said that he runs the night clubs in London. I told him that was very ironic because I was in London last year and was at the main club that he runs an I met somebody that I gave my business card to that read my books and sent me an email that when I came in he saw light and happiness that he has never felt and that even though I am back in America he will never forget how I made him feel. SMALL WORLD!!!! Without being too specific in order to protect myself in case he was a head trafficker, I simply told him that my mission is to be in nightclubs in order to be a light in a dark place and to show the love of Jesus in the dark places where many go to fill voids and end up feeling even worse after making bad decisions because they were looking in the wrong places. He told me that he appreciated me coming and doing that and that it is a heavy place and he feels so much tension and darkness while he is there but he has to be there to run it because he makes so much money and that he travels as much as he can to get away from the noise. I told him I had to get to my plane but that God pointed him out to me to walk up to in this huge food court for a purpose and that I would be praying for him. He said, ” please, please do and pray a lot especially early in the mornings” that moment was such a reassurance of how God prepares divine appointments far in advance and uses things in ways we will never fully understand.

Murder/Suicide: Fate of our friend in Chicago

How do we process this?

 

In light of the recent tragedy, in the death of one of our fellow Couchsurfing hosts, (name protected) I thought I should shed some light on the background of the situation. Many are in shock over this incident and reasonably so. To see the Headline “2 dead in a Murder/suicide on Chicago’s north side” would not phase most. However, when you continue to read and you find that it was a friend, the element of shock settles in.

After staying at his place last year, I gave him a copy of my autobiography. After reading my story, He opened up to me about his background and I began to mentor him, as part of what I do. With the background He gave me, I can’t really say that I am shocked that he committed suicide, however the murder part was more of a surprise to me, although, with suicide comes desperation. I do remember one conversation  when we talked about our suicidal attempts in the past, he said that if he ever killed himself he would want to take all of his enemies along with him if was going to kill himself anyways. I understood the line of thinking, even though it wasn’t rational to most. This was over a year ago.

He was an interesting character to say the least. If you ask many who knew him, you would get many different opinions. Like everyone else, he had a story in life. His childhood was not the greatest. He went through much suffering as a child and young adult that most would never understand. He faced setbacks and challenges put before him the best that he could. He did what most of us who have been through tough times did, he survived. As an adult, after several life changes, and life decisions that brought him to where he was in Chicago, He came to a crossroads in hos life. He decided that his life was going nowhere and that his alcoholism was gong to get the best of him eventually. He had most of his “community” in online forums and blogs, where people understood him. He came across couchsurfing.org and that began the new chapter in his life.

He opened up his home to men and women from all over the world to stay for days and sometimes weeks at a time. The culture of Couchsurfing is that of helping each other out and experiencing new places and learning about new people. Each person who is a Couchsurfer has a different reason for why they are a part of that community. For him it was a unique reason. He had come to the place in his life where he needed a reason to wake up in the morning, and hosting Couchsurfer’s did just that. It gave him a purpose in life.

He began hosting multiple people at a time. People from all over the world wanted to come visit Chicago so he was busy EVERYDAY! When he had guests stay, it gave him a reason to keep his house “clean” and it gave him a reason to make food- most importantly it forced him to stop drinking everyday- which was one of his greatest struggles. To host surfers was a form of accountability on his journey to freeing himself from alcoholism. His great depression that he faced was easily forgotten about as he had joyful, new faces in and out of his home all the time. With each new person brought new stories to Michael’s world. He began to hear about journeys that others took and he began to gain perspective.

It can be argued whether this was a healthy coping mechanism or not. Couchsurfing was to Him as drugs are to addicts. It was an addiction. His “power hosting” became a race and a point of contention in many threads. He would take pictures of his guests and post them in groups to share with people how many people he hosted each night and what his new tally of Couchsurfer’s was. He began to cling too tightly to the numbers aspect of it and lost focus of what the intent of Couchsurfing really was. This made many avid Couchsurfers upset and uncomfortable and confused many who were new to the community. He began to have unrealistic expectations of guests and would be territorial when they would come and go. He was opening his home to people and yet they would leave during the days to go explore the city of Chicago and come home late at night to sleep and then be off to a new city the next day. To him this felt like abandonment. He then began to feel as though he was being used. This brought back many negative feelings from his childhood and he started thinking irrationally. He started drinking again and would get angry. He stopped hosting for a short period and even ran into some trouble with the Couchsurfing system where his profile got deleted.

There was a case where this was due to two homeless people that he let stay with him for a short period that refused to leave. The cops were back and forth to the home and it was very hostile. He felt like a prisoner in his own home. Once they left he drank heavily again and his past continued to haunt him. After many of us wrote to the Couchsurfing board, he eventually got back onto the Couchsurfing site and began to host. His thinking had already become irrational.

Through a separate online site he met somebody that was willing to move in to his spare room to help him with rent and also let Couchsurfer’s come and stay in the common rooms. This new roommate was a very hostile situation as well. When it got out of hand and He wanted him to leave, the man refused to go. He then became desperate. After cops coming back and forth to the home, and then resuming his drinking habits, He finally broke.

He had reached out to a few people and made mention of suicide and about “getting rid of this man and then himself” but the comments were easily overlooked, because who would expect that from him?! He reached out to his “ friends” on forums and messaged previous Couchsurfer’s, but everybody has their own lives and futures. The people who he considered his new “family” as he worded it, were now too busy for him and had forgotten to write back. It brought him back to a negative place in his childhood where he was neglected and abandoned and in many ways abused. This solution to his problems had now become another “attacking force on his persona”.

He had posted quotes about the imminence of death on Facebook and posted pictures of the grim reaper and graves to his public pages. It was easy to look past. Not many actually understood what was going on inside his mind. He was desperate and looking for help but he looked to all the wrong places. He refused to turn to God or have faith in anything because he wanted to figure it out on his own and not have a “higher power” decide his fate. So he chose his own fate.

That fateful day in June, He and his roommate had a disagreement and he had clearly pre-planned in his mind how he was going to handle it the next time around. I talked to him the day of and he was at a peace about things. The happiest he had been—in his mind, the suffering was finally going to end. Later that day, when he requested for me to call him, I, as many other was too busy to get back to him, and this was only hours before the incident. Who can say what it was he wanted to talk about, I doubt he could have been talked out of it maybe he just wanted to say goodbye, or maybe he wanted me to hear it. I will never know but I will remember the desperation and the hurt that he always talked about and I will always wished he had looked upwards instead of down, but he had no hope and he would not allow himself to look elsewhere for help.

With mental illness there is no rationale in these “psychotic breaks”. Was what the roommate did, worth losing his life over, I am not the judge of that, nor can I say that anybody ever deserves to be murdered- but what’s done is done, and many will continue to wonder, “why?” and we will always say, “what if?”.

What I will say is that you should not blame yourself if you were one of the people whom he reached out to that day or even the week prior. Everybody has their own schedules and lives to live and as much as we try we can not help everyone. As a mentor, and life coach, it is hard for me to accept when I lose one of the people I was trying to help, but it comes back to the fact that you cant help somebody to change if they do not want to change. Change comes from within.

It has been confirmed that he shot his roommate and then he shot his dog, (She did not die instantly, as of 3-4-15, she is at a local clinic and they said that she should survive but will need therapy) following these two gunshots, the final one was to his own head. The autopsy report proved that it was his own hand that shot himself based on the forensic ballistics aspect of the gunpowder and size of the exit and entrance wound on each subject. His ETOH level was extremely high. He had drank heavily prior to this all taking place. Does that justify it, NO! However, it was a factor and alcohol makes people irrational. When you have a mental illness alcohol intensifies the neurological patterns of psychosis. This was a sad day in the heart of Chicago and many are mourning his death while others are sitting back to say, “I told you so”. Regardless, It has happened and his pain was valid and his story affects others.

Maybe this will be a motivation and reminder to you to pay attention to red flags when people are crying for help. Never ignore the small comments about guns and suicide, rarely are they minor comments. Every word spoken has a purpose. Please take mental illness seriously and remember that we all have a purpose in life and our stories all connect somehow. Don’t get caught up in the busy-ness of life where we get task oriented and we forget about the people we meet along the journey. Everybody that you meet is for a purpose. Try to figure out what each one means. Don’t waste your life…it really is short.death

The Polish Woman-DONT JUDGE

Today I went to the hospital to drop off a prescription and when I was in the parking garage trying to park I had quite an interesting experience… There was an SUV that kept backing in and out of a space trying to get out. There was at least 10 cars behind me waiting to get past this car. Finally when the driver pulled in one more time before she reversed the three cars in front of me zoomed past and I followed around we were all frustrated. I looked back at the car and it was an old lady in there.. The remaining cars that were waiting continue to zoom past behind me. I parked one floor up and I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I walked down to the next level in the parking garage and went up to the car door of the lady that was again trying to reverse out of a space. I went to her driver side window and asked her if she was in need of help. She said, “yes I am”. I said how about you get into the passenger seat and I drive your car out of here for you. She immediately got out and went around to the passenger side no questions asked. As I drove down a couple of the ramps I talked to her to try to figure out what was going on she said that she had eyes surgery today and it was supposed to wait but she had to get back home right away so she left the office early. Her family was too busy to drive her to her eye surgery today. I told her that it was not a good idea for her to leave right now and that she should wait. I sat in the car with her for 20 minutes while she told me stories of her coming to this country with only five dollars in her pocket. It didn’t look like her eye condition was getting better enough to drive so I parked her car in a different spot and brought her inside with me to fill my prescription. While we waited for my prescription to get filled and we had lunch and continued to chat. She was the sweetest 80-year-old lady I have met. Of course I am biased towards Polish people but she had a lot of wisdom to share and she had quite an interesting story. Once her vision came back to normal I walked her back to her car and made sure that she got out of the parking garage okay. She thanked me and told me that God sent an angel to help her today and that she was very grateful. I learned a lesson in humility today. I was so frustrated and angry at this person who could not back out of the space and was holding everybody up while in the meantime it was somebody who was struggling and needed help. I need to exercise Grace more frequently in life as much as has been given to me over the years. We are in such a hurry so many times that it’s hard to see what’s really going on around us.

Love or Lust

Hollywood paints the wrong picture of the love story. It shows people who meet and fall in love. It gives us an unrealistic expectation of what love and relationships are like. The difficult issues in life that affect relationships on a daily basis are not presented in the films. The love is covered in Lust and it is based on a physical attraction. Love endures, lust does not. There are many issues in relationships such as: Whether or not they want children, how the finances will work, where the kids will go to school, religion, purpose and direction in life, and moral standards. These are issues that are not touched on that make or break the relationship. The Hollywood picture of the perfect relationship of falling in love and everything just “working out”, leads to the increased divorce rate. Just because you love somebody does not mean the relationship will work out. Many people forget that. Relationships are tough! The word “relationship”, scares a lot of people.

Regardless of how hard people try to fight being in a relationship, ultimately everybody has the fear of being alone. Many people date around and are “seeing” a lot of people at once. They are afraid to enter into a relationship because they’re afraid of making a mistake. The painful truth with that is, any relationship you enter into either ends in a happily ever after, that may include a marriage, or it will end in a divorce or a break up. That’s all there is to it. The relationship will come to a crucial point where you need to decide to end it or move forward in the relationship. Acknowledging this at the beginning, will lessen the hurt when it has to end. Dating is a risk, but it is an informed risk. In the situation where somebody is dating around with many people at once, a lot of people get hurt. If the person is not forthcoming about what their intention is with each of these people, that leads to heart break. The fact is, if you don’t give a relationship a try, you don’t know whether or not you could be happy with just one of the prospects.

Let’s be clear: dating is exhausting. It’s hard to sit down and tell your story to one person on Monday and repeat it on Tuesday and again on Thursday and Friday. It’s physically exhausting to date. When you are monogamistic and you pick one person to spend your time with and to invest in, you have more time to find out who that person is and whether it can go somewhere. If you spread yourself thin amongst many people at once you will get nowhere with any of them because you can’t possibly give yourself out to that many people and have any return on your investments. Granted, if you are seeing one person at a time and you realize that there are nonnegotiable’s that you guys cannot work out, then it only makes sense to end the relationship before you go further. That is a step that most people miss. They continue in a relationship even though they know that at some point it will fail. Again, this comes from the fear of being alone. Most people do not have enough self-worth to know that they will be just fine after the break up. Anybody who has gone through a break up and has found love afterwords has realized that there is hope. This is just hard for people to grasp at the time. We have all been there. Regardless, you won’t know whether or not the relationship can work past the obstacles unless you try. If there are two or more things that you want to change about a person then that is probably not the right person for you.

People can change, yes. Statistically speaking, people don’t change for the better. You can at least give it a try, but again, it is an informed risk. A lot of times what is stopping these people who date around with a bunch of people and deny themselves a relationship status, is the fear of being “taken off the market”. They are afraid to be exclusive with one person because they fear losing out on a bigger, better option. The issue with that is, if you’re afraid of losing out on a bigger, better option then you shouldn’t be in a relationship right now. You are just destined to break a lot of hearts. Yes, you are looking out for your own happiness, but that is at the expense of others. That is when ethics and morals come in to play. You can do what is right for you as long as you don’t hurt anybody else. When you are dating like this, your motives are wrong. Looking for a bigger better option shows internal motives that you don’t want exposed on the outside. Unfortunately, this is very common in today’s dating world.

You need to know what you are looking for and don’t settle for less. That doesn’t mean to be opposed to settling down. Know your non-negotiables. BUT – When you’re ready to settle down, make sure that you are not settling.

Brain Functioning and Neuroscience – The Basics You Asked For

Recently, after having a traumatic brain injury and sparking an internal interest in finding out more about how the brain works, I have been researching neurological processes. I have been studying different scientists and theories about neurological functioning and cognitive abilities. I have been going to conferences to hear specialists in neuroscience lecture about these different subjects. A lot of the subjects are on memory, PTSD, OCD, anxiety, depression and stress. Many people have asked me what I have been learning in the conferences and self-study.

The first key point in learning about the brain was about memory. Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes so quickly that you hardly remember it. When things in life happen so quickly that you don’t have time to process and realize it, you can never remember that certain things happened. That is why some people don’t remember certain facts and details about certain events. You can only remember what you personally experienced. The brain has multiple memory systems and skill learning habits. The studies that have been done are on individual research studies, subjective and objective on patients as well as brain imaging studies using MRI. There were qualitative quantitative studies done.

The brain uses automatic and controlled processes.

STRESS- Stress is a negative emotional experience by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and the febrile changes that are directed towards altering stressful event accommodating its effects. There are normal and abnormal responses to stress. These responses are learned, taught, and picked up at various points along the way. There are many things we can do to reduce stress. Some of those are scheduling better and rest periods from work and not overdoing it on the social end. It is all about balance. A huge part of relieving stress and balancing the stress levels in the brain is getting adequate sleep. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol as well as avoiding pharmaceutical sleep aids.

MEMORY- there was a study done on Henry Molaison. Henry had a seizure disorder. He went through surgery to treat the seizures. In the surgery they removed his Hippocampus area of the brain. The surgery was successful in treating the seizures but it left him with a memory deficit. This deficit was studied in detail and later study another patients undergoing the procedure. People with traumatic brain injury’s or any damage to the hippocampus will have problems with memory loss.(If you pointed directly at your ear towards your head that is the area of the hippocampus). With damage to this area you have a complete inability to learn and retain NEW facts and events about the world. The remote memories which are old memories will be intact. Those tracks have already been laid in your brain and you remember the information as memories. You can go back neurologically into your brain cells to retrieve these memories for what you have already learned. After having brain trauma you are unable to consolidate new information and keep it. Nobody will know there is anything wrong with you until they ask you to recall new information. The current conversations that are held or remembered as long as the conversations kept active that day. Once the conversation is ended, the person will not be able to remember what was talked about. New introductions, processes, locations and anything else will not be retained. People in these scenarios have to learn to make Post-it notes and put reminders in their phone to remember peoples names and locations and job skills.

The question most asked about this is how does somebody with this memory deficit remember to put up Post-It notes and set reminders. The interesting part about this amnesia and brain injuries in the hippocampus is that it leaves intact the ability to acquire and express skilled performance. Routines are key. The technical term is that with hippocampus injuries the declarative or explicit memory is lost. The non declarative or implicit memory is intact. This means simple classical conditioning, skills and habits, non-associative learning, and priming. This is due to a division of labor in the brain. There are different systems that provide evidence for multiple memory systems. This is evident during MRI brain scan’s during questioning patients to recall past events and short-term events. They look at what area lights up during this recollection or non-recollection.

An example of this is mirror reversed reading. If you put three words written backwards over and over and read them you would eventually learn how to read them faster. People with intact systems on both ends will memorize them and remember them. The brain injured patient will eventually be able to learn to do them faster, but will never remember practicing to learn them.

When you drink too much and don’t remember how you got where you are after blacking out – this is an example of this type of memory. The person will know that they missed the time period. But they don’t know what happened or why. The fact that you understand you missed a time period is what happens with brain injury patients. They are aware that there is a deficit, but they don’t know what it is. The brain can continue to learn through experience. It won’t know that it is learning but through experience it builds routine and remembers the expertise. This is how people can maintain a job afterwards. Is long as it is a job they had prior to the accident. You don’t have to be consciously awake to remember skills habits and behaviors.

THE AMYGDALA- This is the area of the brain that I find most interesting. This is the area that stores the emotional memories. It is at the end of the hippocampal region in the brain. The hippocampus remembers what happened exactly, while the amygdala recalls the emotions surrounding what happened. Therefore, people may not remember specific events that took place, but they will have emotions associated with events they can’t remember. This is also known as sensory memory. This explains why adults will have different quirks when they are touched by a stranger or they hear yelling or have weird phobias. They don’t know why they are scared of something or why they jumped when they are touched but it reverts back to when they were a child and had traumatic instances that they can’t physically remember but they remember the emotional response surrounding it. Many cases in child sexual abuse when a child hears a familiar voice of somebody who has hurt them when they were younger, they get scared. Nobody understands why and the child won’t be able to verbalize why because they don’t know. Their bodies and sensory memory remembers that this was a voice present during a traumatic event.

The amygdala is learned through experience and it tells you to avoid something. It is a fear system. It causes you to take pause. Your signals that you should avoid something. I don’t always know where this fear came from, but it gives me fear reactions. So you do not need your hippocampus to learn fear. You can teach and condition fear. When you see a facial expression, whether it is angry, happy or sad your amygdala picks up on that reaction and forms and an emotion based on the face you saw. That is what puts up the red flags. It has learned in the past that there was something negative associated. The AMYGDALA is hyperactive in PTSD patients. That is where hypervigilance and the exaggerated startle response comes from.

MEMORIES ARE MALLEABLE – When they say that you can convince yourself into believing anything it is true. Memories, in the simple nature of how they are stored, recalled and encoded are able to be reconstructed. Our memories are not always accurate. They are reconstructions of our past. It’s like a kaleidoscope, all the pieces are there of what happened, but you have to go back and be able to put all the pieces together every time you bring back a memory. So every time you put the memory back you place them differently in the brain. Therefore every time you recall them some details will be different. Many studies have proven this fact. This is how cognitive behavioral therapy works. You ask people with post traumatic stress disorder or other traumatic psych issues to recall events. Once they verbalize them you manipulate the facts surrounding the event so when they move forward from the conversation it is stored differently than the way it was originally brought up. Therefore the stress response related with this memory is less and each time it’s talked about and manipulated.

This is why leading questions are not the way to handle patients or subjects in the courtroom. Eyewitness and courtroom testimony has been brought into question because of this study from Loftus and Palmer in 1974. Studies have shown that leading questions will give you different answers then non- leading questions. This is because they remember the base of what you asked and they form their response based on certain words asked.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER- Patients with this have recurrent thoughts or images that are inappropriate and distressing. In order to be diagnosed with OCD it has to be excessive or unreasonable. It has to cause marked distress and be time-consuming to the point that it interferes with life. It is caused by the Caudate area in the brain. There is a failure to filter in the system. It causes anxiety and avoidance in the patient. There is a new treatment for OCD where they put an electrical stimulation system into your brain and it focuses on the caudate. When this area is stimulated the patient does not experience OCD symptoms as bad. In all the studies there was a 20% reduction of the OCD symptoms. This may not seem significant but when the compulsions are to hurt people then it is justified.

ADDICTION- Addiction is related to cue- reactivity. Dopamine is the key chemical here. Dopamine reward circuits are associated with the drive, push to respond, and wanting. A dopamine release means whatever it is you just did repeat it. This is the same driver for athletes- People who get runners highs. This is an incredibly powerful motivational system. The nucleus accumbens is the dopamine reward center in the brain. Dopamine is the craving response. That is why if you see a picture during a neurological study you will have an increase in heart rate you will start sweating you will have subjective cravings and mesolimbic dopamine activity. When patients in the study were shown pictures of cocaine, alcohol, sex, and nicotine, these were all activated. If you see something you know you want dopamine is what activates and you were motivated to do it. That is what makes addicts so difficult to help. When they have a buddy who does it with them it motivates them to do it even more. When you remove an addict from the situation there are less cues that initiate that response. Even a picture, a smell or mention of it will activate that dopaminergic response. That is why it is crucial with severe addiction to remove the person from the entire environment and start them over elsewhere. Pornography is also a dopaminergic response to a cue-reaction When they see the picture they respond. This could have maladaptive consequences. It is an addiction. It is crucial to convince people to want to self regulate the systems. There is something to be said about getting people to want to end their addiction. If that is not there then nothing you do will change that. It truly has to come from within.

SLEEP- Sleep is important for memory consolidation. Astrocytes after the neurons going to the brain. When you sleep they get bigger and they do what they need to do to clean up. If you don’t sleep for a long period of time your internal organs start shutting down. This is because the chemicals are not getting cleaned up after they are supposed to. The science of it is – Any action inside the body causes a metabolic response. Free radicals and trace chemicals are leftover of the body processes signals, thoughts, actions. GET MORE SLEEP= BE HEALTHIER.

These are just basics from what I learned…. I found it all very interesting especially with having a traumatic brain injury myself.

Kelly, B. Ph.D- Dartmouth College neuroscience was a main neuroscientist I have been researching through. Keep in mind that if you talk to a dozen different scientists they will give you a dozen different theories. That is why it is important to research empirical evidence that studies have found. This way you are getting accurate information.