As an eleven year old I often felt like I was born in the wrong country with the wrong nose, wrong hair and wrong skin colour. It was all a bit awkward but not much could be done about any of these things. So, the hair was cut short and stayed so for most of my life.
It’s normal for those with dark hair to want them light and vice versa and for those with curly hair to want them straight and vice versa. This is a small example of a much wider discontentment and dis-ease within humans.
We travelled for 36 hours, including an overnight stay at Dar-es-Salaam, 5 take offs and thankfully the same number of safe landings to get here. 3 of these were on the smallest plane I have ever been in. It sits about 14 people including the pilot. It reminds me of ‘Out of Africa’. The engine makes clicking sounds in response to the subtle mechanical actions of the pilot and the scenery is out of the world. Sapphire blue deep waters with turquoise shallow edges dotted with emerald islands with golden crescents along the curved margins.
This is the north of Tanga, a point jaggedly jutting into the Indian ocean with a white sliver of surf marking the reef’s edge. The noon-tide was so far out that it was nothing more than a soft whoosh but we woke up from our post-prandial coma to the rhythmic roaring of the sea that had arrived right up to our doorstep.
The smiles that greet us with ‘Karibu’ are happy and a bit shy. There is no running water or mains electricity. The internet connection comes through a generator and solar powered router, best described as flimsy. Yet, something about being here brings the word ‘contentment’ to mind. This is what it must feel like.
Saagar would have loved this place – a little piece of heaven.
(Sorry, no pictures as very narrow band width on the internet. May be later.)
There is scientific evidence to support that a particular intervention benefits the following conditions:
- Lung function in asthma
- Disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis
- Pain and physical health in cancer
- Immune response in HIV infection
- Hospitalisations for cystic fibrosis
- Pain intensity in women with chronic pelvic pain
- Sleep-onset latency in poor sleepers
- Post-operative course
That particular intervention is – Expressive writing.
The body of literature that demonstrates beneficial effects of expressive writing has been growing over the past 30 years. One of the earliest studies conducted by Pennebaker and Beall in 1986 compared 2 groups of students. Both groups were asked to write for 15 minutes on 4 consecutive days. One group put down their thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic or upsetting event of their life while the other wrote about something trivial, like their shoes or room. The first group self reported fewer visits to the Health Centre and fewer days off due to illness for up to 6 months after the writing exercise, as compared to the second group.
Meta-analyses show that while the improvement in physical health is clear, the results for psychological health are mixed. For a small group of trauma survivors, writing was even found to be detrimental. Although further research is required to clarify populations for whom writing is clearly effective, there is sufficient evidence for clinicians to use expressive writing in therapeutic settings with caution. Indeed, some experts noted that a drug intervention reporting medium effect sizes similar to those found for expressive writing would be regarded as a major medical advance.
(Source: http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338 ; http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/13/how-writing-heals-wounds-of-both-the-mind-and-body/)
For me, writing is life-saving. It gives me a reason to get through the day. It gives my days a focal point inseparable from my love for Saagar. It gives me the strength to carry on. It is the thread that connects so many of us in a beautiful mesh. It helps me discover the joy of writing and the pain of expressing true emotion. It forces me to confront reality, however horrible. It gives me a sense of control over my life, however false. It is my daily meditation, my refuge, my ritual, my learning. I write to heal. I write to write.
Thank you for entertaining the ramblings of an old woman.
As I stepped out of the door early this morning I was struck by a big huge sphere in the sky, a pale silvery moon on a pinkish blue canvas seemed to be sitting just at the end of my street. It was so close, I felt I could reach out and touch it.
(Saagar’s last message on facebook)
It was the same moon as on 8th october 2014. It was in the same phase too. Full!
He saw it and probably felt it’s energy strongly enough to comment on it.
There is a clear co-relation between high tidal waves and a full moon night. We are made up of roughly 70 % water. So, it must have some effect on us too. Is it possible that the sub-conscious mind finds greater expression on a full moon night? Some psychiatrists and mental health nurses swear that they see more patients around this phase but scientific research does not support that.
The article below shines some light on the subject. It goes on to say that there is a higher incidence of animal bites at this time and some police forces put a larger number of staff on duty on full moon nights as they expect more trouble. Some studies have shown that people report a relatively poor quality of sleep around this phase. After all, the term ‘lunatic’ has its roots in ‘lunar’.(http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131029-does-a-full-moon-make-people-mad). But there are no clear answers.
Shall we just blame it on the moon?
We live in an age of sleep deprivation. In the 1950s, most people got on an average 8 hours of sleep every night but now it is reduced by at least an hour and a half. Teenagers need 9 hours but they often get only about 5 on a school night.
Sleep is restorative. It helps with conservation and regeneration of energy. It also helps with basic brain processes such as memory, creativity, problem-solving and learning. Shortage of sleep and poor quality of sleep is deeply damaging, as in shift workers. Not only does it have subtle effects on one’s personality, it also increases the risk of road and other accidents due to micro-sleeps in the day and increased impulsiveness.
“You always get sleep disruption in people with mental illness. That’s because they don’t have jobs, so they go to bed late and get up late” remarked a psychiatrist. This led Dr Russell Foster into the study of relationships between sleep and mental illness. His team at Oxford found that in patients with schizophrenia, regardless of antipsychotic treatment, sleep patterns were not just disrupted but totally smashed. Bipolar and Seasonal affective disorders and depression also involve bad sleep as do dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Sleep disruption is being studied as a biomarker of potential mental health problems and it offers the possibility of early intervention.
Researchers at Oxford have found that if sleep can be partially stabilized using CBT in patients with schizophrenia, levels of delusional paranoia can be reduced by 50%. It is possible that consistent improvement in sleep patterns may delay the onset of certain conditions by knocking the brain into a different developmental trajectory.
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”