June 30, 2012

Turning trauma into story: The benefits of journaling

For me personally, June has proven to be a rather disappointing and fruitless month. Just when things began to look brighter, I was involuntarily assigned to be the middle vehicle in a double fender-bender two days ago, and my car now needs almost $1,000-worth of repairs. And as a perfect metaphor for the crappiness of the past month, for whatever reason I was not paid my stipend yesterday for the month of June.

I don't often like to talk about my sour feelings with other people because a.) I'm bad at it, and b.) I have another outlet.

Everyday for the past 12 years (save for a few angsty months in 8th grade), I've been writing in a journal. A good, old-fashioned, hardbound, acid-free journal. Most entries are about the frivolous happenings of the day at school, but as I've gotten older, they've increasingly helped me outline my thoughts and feelings while keeping my head on straight.

Feeling so low, I journaled the night before my car accident, listing ten qualities I liked about myself. Remembering what I wrote as I spent the next day at the body shop and on the phone with the police and insurance companies is, I believe, what kept me from simply bursting into tears and throwing up my hands in defeat.

Writing, as many would probably agree, is therapeutic, and studies in the past two decades have explored the health consequences of secrets, expressive language, and the before-and-after physical and psychological symptoms associated with trauma—an area of research referred to as "writing therapy."

June 15, 2012

Ecstasy: "Safe"?

Call me a prude, but I'm not so thrilled about the announcement made yesterday by British Columbia's top health official that ecstasy is "safe."

Dr. Perry Kendall asserted yesterday that the health risks of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine—or MDMA, the active ingredient in the drug ecstasy—are exaggerated, and that pure ecstasy is not dangerous when consumed responsibly by adults.

Its lethal dangers arise, he says, when gangs pollute the drug with other chemicals.

I'm not sure when the notion came into play that anything which doesn't kill you automatically means its "safe," but I would like to respectfully debunk Dr. Kendall's remarks with a very powerful and striking study published 13 years ago.

June 7, 2012

Narcolepsy: More than just falling asleep on the job

Check out this short video of "Rusty the Narcoleptic Dog." I was first introduced to Rusty in a video presented to my high school psychology class. As expected in a classroom full of teenagers, we erupted into a fit of laughter when the happy-go-lucky dachshund suddenly collapsed into a deep sleep:

Gallup polls reveal that 56% of Americans complain that daytime drowsiness is a problem in their lives, the majority of which is caused by sleep deprivation. A controlled, objective scientific study once revealed that 34% of participants were considered "dangerously sleepy," even when they didn't complain about daytime sleepiness.

America is a sleepy country—but narcolepsy takes it to a whole new level. Imagine feelings of exhaustion at all times, accompanied by inappropriate sleep attacks. Sure, falling asleep on the job is embarrassing and unprofessional, but also imagine the danger of a narcoleptic attack while driving. What is narcolepsy, and what causes this mysterious disorder?

June 4, 2012

Award + more great science blogs!

This afternoon, after a particularly frustrating drive back to PA from a weekend home (seriously, y'all have been doing road construction for the past year!), I checked my e-mail to see that I'd been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger award by fellow science writer Sarah Jane Alger ("Miss Behavior") over at The Scorpion and the Frog.

It's been so exciting to see my blog grow and develop since last summer, so to be recognized by a fellow science blogger is very meaningful for me. Thanks Sarah Jane!

The award works in a pay-it-forward fashion. I'm now to 1.) Thank the giver and link their blog (check!), 2.) List seven things that my readers may not know about me, and 3.) Award it to seven other blogs.