Commentary #74: The “New Science of Psychedelics”

The New Science of Psychedelics

Image Credit: NPR

Many of you know that I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to regularly is NPR’s Fresh Air podcast.

This week, Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, a world-renowned author. His books have typically focused on food and agriculture.

However, his new book, titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, discusses the history of psychedelics, and the “new” uses of them to help treat anxiety, depression, and helping cancer patients face their mortality.

There have been two phases of clinical trials up until now, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved Phase III, which is “testing of drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety.”

In researching for the book, Pollan himself became a “reluctant psychonaut” with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushroom) to see if these effects were real.

I won’t tell you Pollan’s results, but it’s a really interesting process. I recommend listening to the podcast version of the show, as it’s an extended edition, where Pollan and Gross discuss the history of psychedelics, which is so fascinating to learn. It’s amazing to learn how LSD was first synthesized, and how it has had a turbulent history. Pollan also discusses psilocybin to an extent, which is another interesting part of the story.

For me, I was definitely more than a little skeptical. I’ve never used any drugs or psychedelics in my life. I’ve seen counselors and therapists.

However, Pollan lessened my skepticism a bit during his interview with Gross. One of his interview subjects was a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. She was absolutely terrified of it recurring, and she was paralyzed with fear. She found a guide, a therapist who administered small doses of one of these psychedelics, and helped her along her trip. She discovered this “black mass” underneath her rib cage during the trip, and originally though it was her cancer. The guide helped her understand that it wasn’t cancer, but in reality it was her fear and anxiety. During the trip, she commanded the black mass to leave her body, and it did.

When Pollan’s fact-checker called to verify her account right before the book’s publication, Pollan’s original words were something to the effect of “this black mass was significantly reduced after her experiences with psychedelics.”

The woman corrected the fact-checker over the phone and said, “No, it wasn’t ‘significantly reduced.’ It was extinguished.”

Again, some of my skepticism remains, but as someone who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder (GAD), hearing the woman’s story gave me hope. I truly believe these psychedelics helped her.


For more information, check out the following links:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Commentary #73: Thoughts on “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist”

Evil Genius

Image Credit: Rama’s Screen

It’s time for another diatribe on a Netflix original series!

If you’re interested in other Commentaries I’ve published on other Netflix original series, here are the links:


“Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist” explores the case of Brian Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery driver, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wells was the unfortunate pawn who was forced to rob a PNC Bank in Erie on August 28, 2003. He had extremely detailed notes for the bank employees, demanding $250,000. He walked out with a little over $8,000.

The police spotted him standing outside his Geo Metro, in the parking lot of an Eyeglass World retail store near the bank, and placed him under arrest. As police were calling the bomb squad and assessing the situation, Wells indicated that he didn’t have much time, as a timer was beeping on the bomb.

The bomb was locked around his neck.

In this four-part series, documentary filmmakers interview almost all of the parties involved, from the local police, state police, FBI, ATF, friends of Wells, and several alleged co-conspirators.

Unfortunately, Brian Wells was not available to be interviewed.

As we started watching Part One, I looked at Al and I said that I remembered seeing the news coverage about this case. At the time, in August 2003, it was the last week or so of summer break, right before I started my freshman year of high school.

I remember the “pizza bomber” case.

The reason why Brian Wells wasn’t available to be interviewed for this documentary, 15 years later? While handcuffed, sitting on the pavement in the Eyeglass World parking lot, police could only watch as the bomb around his neck exploded.

The documentary, in the span of about four hours, dives deep into the complicated world of mental illness, and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Once a striking woman in the town, Diehl-Armstrong was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, among other illnesses.

For years, Diehl-Armstrong professed her innocence. She vehemently denied she was involved in any bank robbery, or murder plot. She claimed she’d never met Brian Wells. She blamed Wells’ unfortunate demise on several others.

But, evidence doesn’t lie. In the middle of the Wells investigation, another party, William “Bill” Rothstein, called police and told them he found a body in the freezer, and Marjorie (or Marge, as the documentary filmmaker calls her) killed him.

Unlike Making A Murderer and The Keepers, I appreciated how concise Evil Genius was. I think dividing it into four episodes was the right choice. It was well-planned, and well-executed.

Along the way, the interviews conducted were well-done, accurate, and simply fascinating. This is one of those cases where it’s hard to delineate who is and should be involved, law enforcement wise, and how those jurisdictional arguments can hinder an investigation. It shows the need for constant communication between agencies, something that was sorely lacking in several areas with this particular case.

The series also heavily focuses on mental illness, hoarding, and narcissism. Diehl-Armstrong made me sick from the very beginning. To me, she is an evil individual, who is a true narcissist. She only cares about herself, and will place blame on someone else within seconds. She’s angry, combative, and definitely not a nice woman.

It’s sad, really. They interviewed her father, and showed photos of her when she was younger. Back then, she showed immense beauty and immense promise. She’s extremely intelligent, and that’s ultimately part of the issue. She was called a mastermind, and I believe it.

Personally, I believe Wells was an innocent victim. I believe he was simply delivering pizzas, doing his job, and was caught up in an unfortunate series of events that led to his murder that day in August 2003.

However, the documentary looks at both sides – Was Wells a true victim, or was he involved in the plot?

You decide.

At the end of the series, I felt like all my questions had been answered. The right people, I believe, were arrested and prosecuted accordingly. The law enforcement agencies have learned, at least I hope they have learned, that constant communication and cooperation is key. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I thought it was a fascinating subject to explore and discover, especially since it’s been nearly 15 years since Brian Wells was killed. I applaud the filmmakers for choosing to focus on this case, their research, their interviews, and being as unbiased as possible. It’s not easy to do, especially with a case like this, one that got more complicated and convoluted.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #71: “My Non-Fictionalized Love”

Image result for love quotes

Image Credit: BrainyQuote

I’m part of a really cool group on Facebook called Bloggers Helping Bloggers. It’s a unique community, where members can share their recent posts, publicize their blogs, and provide tips and tricks to the group as a whole.

Through Bloggers Helping Bloggers, I recently discovered Melissa, the author of Perspective Changes Everything.

She posted a link to her most recent post to her Facebook page this morning, and I devoured it immediately. What a powerful message!

Here’s the link to her post:

 


Image result for love

Image Credit: Thought Catalog

Melissa and I are a lot alike. We’ve always had our noses in books, since we were kids. She loved Danielle Steel as much as I did.

She watched more soap operas than I did, but I remember learning about them from my grandmothers and a few other female family members. Personally, I never saw the appeal of watching them religiously, although I did see a few episodes when I stuck home sick in middle school and high school. I always found myself rolling my eyes, hardly believing the drama that the actors were projecting, and changing the channel within a few minutes.

Melissa also referenced the movie adaptation of The Notebook, which I still watch occasionally. I’ve read almost all of Nicholas Sparks’ books at this point, plus seen most of the movies. I told Melissa in a comment on her Facebook post that I did my senior thesis in college on the perceptions of love and romance with the Nicholas Sparks books. True story!

But, as time has passed, I noticed that my perception of love and romance had always been heavily influenced by the books I read, and the movies I watched.

And, today, those perceptions are very different from the media portrayals.


I’ve seen this evidence in my own relationships. I’m a Christian woman, so I was raised to save sex for after marriage.

However, as early as middle school, I noticed that some of the Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs), and young adult literature was already shaping my young mind. I thought about, dreamt about a boy kissing me in front of the entire school, youth group, what have you. PDA all the way, LOL.

When I was in high school, I found myself fantasizing about being swept away by a handsome boy/man, falling in love, and eventually having sex with him. Marriage would be nice, too, and hopefully kids (ideally a boy and a girl), but I knew that was a long way off. I’d dated two guys by the time I was headed to college, and I was a full year into the third relationship by the time I started at Longwood in August 2007.

Some of you know that my third relationship, from 2006-2010, quickly became manipulative and eventually abusive. Not a Lifetime movie type of situation, but there was definitely drama.

When I first met Al in 2010, I was just starting to heal. I’d been through immense trauma, and it’s taken me many years to deal with all the repercussions. Nearly four years of manipulation and abuse is a long time. But, I’m grateful that I was able to finally recognize the signs, and escape when I did.

If I had stayed with John any longer, he would have proposed to me less than a month later, the day after my birthday in 2010. Knowing me, I would have said yes.


It’s interesting to think about my first date with Al. When I’ve told the story to people, I usually get the following comments:

  • Oh, wow. That’s so sweet!
  • It sounds like a fairy tale.
  • It sounds like something out of a Nicholas Sparks book / movie.
  • That’s so romantic.
  • Awwwww!

I’m always flattered. Trust me. That first date was something truly special, and I think about it often.

I learned on our wedding day, more than five years later, that Al knew he wanted to marry me after that first date.

For me, it took me about a week to realize that’s what I wanted. Mainly because I wanted to make sure this whole thing wasn’t a dream – That it was reality.

Nearly the first year of our relationship was “long-distance,” because I was a senior at Longwood, three hours away. Thankfully, we got along so well from the very beginning, that we didn’t have a lot of fights, disagreements, arguments, etc.

Were there stressful times? Absolutely. I remember multiple times feeling incredibly guilty because I only had 5-10 minutes to talk to him on the phone, because my schedule was so packed. It’s a wonder that I slept well at all during those two semesters!

I’m grateful that we both are good communicators, because I’m convinced that’s one of the main reasons we’ve been together for so long. Sure, there are definitely times that we struggle with it.

Because of the manipulation and abuse, I was truly afraid to speak my mind and express my feelings for the longest time, and Al helped me overcome that fear. He was so respectful of me from the get-go, willing to listen, and to just hold me if all I could do at that particular moment was cry. I’ve learned to become a better listener throughout the years, and I know that’s improved my communication skills.

Another revelation for me was being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015. I always knew that I had anxious tendencies for many years, but getting the actual diagnosis was huge for me. It answered so many questions. I know Al was grateful that I saw the need to see a counselor at that time, given my expression of unresolved feelings regarding my relationship with John, and we were toward the end of planning our wedding. I knew I needed to lay everything on the table before making this life-long commitment to Al a few months later. At the time, I was also struggling with a friendship/relationship with a male classmate-turned-friend, Justin.

We got married on November 14, 2015. Al makes me so happy, truly. Together, we bought our house in the summer of 2016, and we hope to adopt a greyhound later this year.

We both have stable jobs. We look forward to doing some traveling before 2018 ends. And, we’re starting to plan for the future, too.

One of my favorites :)

One of my favorite photos from our wedding. Image Credit: Stellar Exposures

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that we were meant to find each other. Al’s brother, Nick, was the main instigator for getting us together, and I can’t properly express my gratitude.


Throughout the years, I’ve witness multiple “true love” stories, many in my own family.

  • My parents, married for 36 years.
  • My in-laws, married for 36 years.
  • My mom’s parents were married for 64 years before my grandfather passed away in 2008.
  • My dad’s parents were married for 51 years before my grandmother passed away in 2011.
  • Both sets of Al’s grandparents were married for decades before his grandfathers passed away in 2004 and 2006.
  • Many of Al’s aunts and uncles have been married for more than 30 years.
  • My Aunt Marny and Uncle Butch, married for well over 40 years.
  • Many couples in our church congregation have been married for 30, 40, 50, 60 years.

Every couple that I’ve listed has gone through their own trials and tribulations. My parents struggled to get pregnant, Mom had three miscarriages, and then I was born 15 weeks early. I was the only child. We were a Coast Guard family, and moved twice before I was five. Dad retired from the USCG in 2002, and worked for NOAA until his retirement in 2016. Our wonderful federal government brought its fair share of stress and frustration, but they stuck it out.

Al’s parents didn’t have a lot of money at first. They started dating when they were in high school – Their best friends also married each other. Then, Al’s dad got a job with Newport News Shipbuilding, and stayed there until he retired in 2014. They both have had health scares, but they’re doing great now.

All of our grandparents, in some way, shape, or form, were touched by war or military service.

Several of our aunts and uncles have children, but several don’t. Many have had health issues. A few have had mental health crises, and a couple have been unemployed for periods of time. But, through it all, their marriages have been strong and solid.

I think about all these strong, stable, solid marriages often. More often now that I myself am married. I feel blessed, knowing that I am surrounded by so many people, mostly family, that have made their marriages work, blossom, and prosper. I learn from all of them, constantly.


I love what Melissa says about never throwing in the towel. Never giving up. Realizing that marriage is work.

This is the third time this week that I’ve seen Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages book come up, in either blog posts or conversation. I’m taking this as a sign that Laura Beth needs to read it!

Through Melissa’s post, I’ve resolved to read Chapman’s book, give my marriage more attention, helping Al and I grow even stronger as a couple.

I know Al’s not going anywhere. And neither am I. We’re in it for the long haul.


So, thanks, Melissa. I needed to read your post today. I needed to write about it. To share it. To digest it.

Thank you. I’m so grateful!


What about you?

Do you have a “non-fictionalized love” story?

What do you think about the influence of media on love and romance? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

 

Tag #46: The Harry Potter Tag

The Harry Potter Tag

Image Credit: My Tiny Obsessions

Let’s keep the Harry Potter theme going, shall we?

I found this awesome tag on Perfectly Tolerable.

Here’s the link to her post:


Guidelines: 

Do the quizzes and answer the questions! All of the quizzes can be found on Pottermore.

Questions:

  1. What is your Patronus? (Pottermore quiz)
  2. What is your wand? (Pottermore quiz)
  3. What would your Boggart be?
  4. What position would you play in Quidditch?
  5. Would you be pure-blood, half-blood, or Muggle-born?
  6. What job would you want once you left Hogwarts?
  7. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?
  8. Favorite book?
  9. Least favoritee book?
  10. Favorite film?
  11. Least favorite film?
  12. Favorite character?
  13. Least favorite character?
  14. Favorite teacher?
  15. Least favorite teacher?
  16. Do you have an unpopular opinion about the series?

Answers:

What is your Patronus? (Pottermore quiz)

What is your wand? (Pottermore quiz)

What would your Boggart be?

Hmmmm. Tough question.

Losing all hope.

What position would you play in Quidditch?

Keeper!

Would you be pure-blood, half-blood, or Muggle-born?

Half-blood.

What job would you want once you left Hogwarts?

An Auror.

Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?

The Invisibility Cloak.

Favorite book?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Least favorite book?

None.

Favorite film?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Least favorite film?

None.

Favorite character?

Hermione Granger.

Least favorite character?

Dolores Umbridge (shudders at even writing her name).

Favorite teacher?

Minerva McGonagall.

Least favorite teacher?

Tie between Gilderoy Lockhart, and Dolores Umbridge (shudders again).

Do you have an unpopular opinion about the series?

Nope. I love it all.


That’s it for this tag! I had a lot of fun with the questions.

What about you? Do you like Harry Potter?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #67: “God Hears His Children” – A Music Review

Pinterest 2

Image Credit: Pinterest

I have an amazing friend, Chloe, who lives in Tennessee. We’ve struck up a friendship because of our shared love of American Girl dolls. We’re involved in multiple AG groups on Facebook, and we message each other several times a week. Chloe has autism, but nothing is stopping her! She has competed in several pageants, including Miss Shining Star, several online Facebook photo pageants, and Tennessee Miss Amazing!

Recently, she shared on Facebook that she had written a poem, titled “God Hears His Children.” Well, a family member helped her put music to the words. The iTunes release of the “God Hears His Children” single happened today!

To purchase, go to iTunes and search for “God Hears His Children – Single.” The thumbnail image is yellow lights with a microphone. Chloe’s name is in the upper right-hand corner, and the title is in the bottom right-hand corner.

eBay

Image Credit: eBay

When Chloe gave me a sneak preview of the single, I loved it!

I’ve already downloaded it, and I anticipate listening to it often.

It’s a good first start for her, and I’m thrilled that she took such an awesome leap of faith. First, she wrote the poem. Then, she asked her family member to help her set it to music. And, she wanted to get it submitted to iTunes!

I’m so proud of her!


Her passion, drive, and determination has blown me away from the day I met her on the American (AG) Girl Doll Obsessed BST Facebook group!

In addition, she’s a faithful member of the American (AG) Girl Dolls Obsessed: His Rock Facebook group. She also recently created the Amazingly Ag free online doll pageants Facebook group!

I hope she continues writing poems, and maybe creating more music in the future!

Congratulations, Chloe!!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #66: “T5W – Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy in Other Media” (Reblogged)

Star Wars

Image Credit: Quora

I think I need to start doing these different posts during the week! This one from Thrice Read caught my attention immediately. By the way, T5W stands for Top 5 Wednesday. Too cool!

I’m married to a wonderful, amazing geek, so I have a much greater appreciation for science fiction and fantasy now!


Here are my Top Five:

1. Star Wars (Movies)
2. Star Trek (Movies and T.V. Shows)
3. The Princess Bride (Movie)
4. Jessica Jones (T.V. Show)
5. The Flash (T.V. Show)

Star Wars (Movies)

Full disclosure: I already liked the Star Wars franchise before I met Al. I have now watched all of them. I wasn’t partial to the sequels at first, but now that we watched all of them in “machete order,” I understand why they were produced. I don’t have to like them, though. My all-time favorite Star Wars movie is currently The Force Awakens (2015).

Star Trek (Movies and T.V. Shows)

I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for the Star Trek franchise since meeting Al. I remember watching The Next Generation as a kid, and loving LeVar Burton! We’ve seen all the movies. The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek Into Darkness.

The Princess Bride (Movie)

This is one of my favorite movies!

Jessica Jones (T.V. Show)

Like Thrice Read, I love this show! Netflix struck gold with this one. We just finished watching all of Season 2, which we both think was better than Season 1!

The Flash (T.V. Show)

We loved this show from Day 1. It’s a good series. Plus, Grant Gustin is a local boy! My mom’s best friend taught him piano!


What about you? What are your favorite sci-fi and fantasy in other media? Let me know!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Thrice Read

It’s another Wednesday and another really awesome top five Wednesday.

Obviously I’m a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy, but this week I get to completely geek out over the genres.

This week I’m going to give you guys the low down on my favorite science fiction and fantasy’s in other media.


The 100 (T.V. Show)

The 100 wasn’t a show I would have watched without Jenn pushing me to watch it. It’s a CW show and it’s not really within my demographic any longer, but I absolutely love it. It’s got both elements of science fiction and fantasy and it’s just everything for me.

Jessica Jones (T.V. Show)

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this show. From the cast to the story line, this show is everything to me. I’m about two episodes from finishing the second season and, honestly, I may just go…

View original post 146 more words

Commentary #63: “Awareness vs. Understanding”

Image Credit: TOBYMAC

I started following Caralyn’s awesome blog, Beauty Beyond Bones, a while back. She is an awesome, amazing woman. I love all of her posts!

She always shares something profound, or thought-provoking, every week. This past week was no exception.

Here’s the link to her post, published on February 22nd:


Caralyn’s focus is her journey after her eating disorder (ED). She’s a beautiful woman, who is an activist for so many causes. She posts recipes, too!

This particular post shined a spotlight on Weight Watchers being in the news last week, and not for a good reason.

They announced they would be offering free memberships to teens, ages 13-17.

Naturally, this caused almost immediate backlash.

I’m with Caralyn. I don’t agree with Weight Watchers offering these free memberships. Teens, ages 13-17, have enough to deal with in their lives. Yes, obesity remains a significant issue. Caralyn cited several statistics, including some from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But, for Weight Watchers to offer these free memberships to this very vulnerable age group is not the answer.

She tied the Weight Watchers news in with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA), which starts today, February 26th, and runs through March 3rd.

I see her point about viewing NEDA with somehow glorifying the disease, and so on. But, then she realized that the news about Weight Watchers is one reason why conversations need to be had.

And then, she hit on the Awareness vs. Understanding point, which I think is so important.

There is a difference.

Awareness is certainly important, and a good thing – Share stories, come together as a community, and so on.

However, understanding is even more paramount. With something like eating disorders, moving beyond awareness into understanding is critical.

With that said, I cannot say that I empathize with Caralyn, or say that blanket statement of “I understand” at all. I have never had an eating disorder. I know what they are, how they start, the basics. You could say that Laura Beth is aware of eating disorders.

Caralyn, however, truly understands eating disorders. She is a survivor. She is an advocate. She works hard to discuss ED, her own journey, and help others, which I find incredibly admirable. In her post, she writes that “an eating disorder is a mental illness.”

She closed her post with wanting to “foster understanding on this anorexia recovery blog” and “answering any and all questions about eating disorders, recovery, treatment, how to support. Nothing is off limits.”

I think this is wonderful! She, of all people, knows what she’s talking about. She writes beautifully and humbly, too.

So, if you’re interested in asking questions or learning more, check out her blog!


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Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

To me, Caralyn is a source of inspiration. Thank you for being amazing!!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂