Tag Archives: health

Take Good Care

“I was kind of a sludgy mud-dweller… everything was really slooooow.” – Neko Case


I’ve long admired the talented musician Neko Case, and when she came out last year in interviews as having dealt with major depression, I was deeply moved. What struck me most about these interviews was her honesty, humor, and utter nonchalance while speaking about the illness—depression is not often talked about this openly by public figures. And yet, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, nearly 7% of the North American population experiences depression in any given year. I have been one of those people.

After attending a training entitled Mental Health First Aid a couple weeks ago I was reminded of the stigma and shame attached to mental and mood disorders—illnesses that people often have no more control over than say, epilepsy or diabetes. I’ve always been pretty hesitant to talk about my own experiences with dysthymia (chronic depression) for this very reason, but I’ve made it a goal of mine to be more open about it from now on. I think it’s important that other people feel they’re not alone, and also that they’re aware of resources for getting help. We all need a little help sometimes.

I’ve compiled a few helpful resources here for those dealing with a mental or mood disorder (with a focus on the under- or uninsured), or for the loved ones of those who are struggling.


re:solve Crisis Network: 1-888-7 YOU CAN (1-888-796-8226) — This 24-hour hotline is staffed by mental health professionals who can assist callers in avoiding a mental health crisis. They can also direct callers towards in-person care.

Allegheny County Mental Health Services:  Allegheny County Information, Referral and Emergency Services (IRES) (412) 350-4457 — This number is also answered 24 hours a day /7 days a week and puts you in contact with an Allegheny County staff member who can provide information, find someone to provide ongoing help, or help you arrange involuntary examination and treatment when needed.

Allegheny County Peer Support Warmline: 1-866-661-9276 — This hotline provides supportive listening, problem solving, resource sharing and peer support for mental health service users or anyone else 18 and older.

Anonymous Mental Health Screening for In/Active Members of the Military: This service is designed specifically for members of the armed forces. These free, self-administered, online screenings can help determine if behaviors related to mood or anxiety levels might be related to a mental health concern and/or indicate that a professional consultation could be helpful.

Birmingham Free Clinic: Basic primary care, blood pressure and blood glucose screening, smoking cessation, and physicals are provided. Mental health assessment and counseling by appointment only for existing patients. Provides free health care to uninsured Latino patients on Saturdays.

Mental Health America – Allegheny County: A comprehensive list of services available to residents of Allegheny County. The “Where to Call Guide” is especially helpful.

NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program: A free 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses that discusses the clinical treatment of these illnesses and teaches the knowledge and skills that family members need to cope more effectively. NAMI De Familia a Familia, Contact Alby 412-244-3142 or Jorge 412-788-4582.

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape: PAAR offers English and Spanish language counseling for victims of sexual violence. Additional services offered include preventative education and mental health counseling for both adults and children. Offices are on the South Side at 81 S. 19th Street. Contact Teresa Otoya-McAdams 412-431-5665 or teresao@paar.net.

Psychology Clinic: Duquesne University has a free clinic that requires no insurance or personal documentation. There is no limit to the number of sessions a person can have. Family members are welcome. It does not have addiction and substance abuse services.


One good thing that has come out of my own (ongoing) experiences with depression—I’ve realized that mental and mood disorders can happen to almost anyone, and I need to give people the benefit of the doubt and be gentle when they’re having a hard time.

So be kind to your fellow travelers and take good care,


PS – Bonus resource: the Mental Health Channel has a series called The Inside Story that profiles people who “reveal their mental health diagnoses and their paths to overcome them.” It’s terrific!


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Walk the Walk

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been walking for pleasure as well as exercise for so long that it has become ingrained in my psyche. Walking is just something I must do, a restlessness that has yet to abate. If I’m inside too long, I get what I call “inside head,” a fuzzy feeling, not a headache, but as if my head is stuffed with cotton. Only spending time outdoors cures this very uncomfortable feeling.

Why walk?

  • You only need a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, no other special equipment required.
  • You can do it anywhere, in your neighborhood, in the city, at a park, in a mall, on vacation.
Walking along Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington.

Walking along Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington.

  • You can walk alone or with a group.
  • It’s how to get to know a place really well; you see things when you walk that you miss when you’re in a car or on a bus.
Clear Creek State Park trails.

Clear Creek State Park trails.

  • You can incorporate it into your workday so you don’t have to take extra time to workout; I try to make time for at least two 15-minute walks. The city block around the Main Library in Oakland and the museums and Schenley Plaza is perfect for this goal. If it’s too cold, I walk up, down, and all around the eleven stacks in the library. On weekends, I try to walk for an hour or more.
Walking in Chatham Village, where I live, is like living in a park.

Walking in Chatham Village is like living in a park.

  • It’s a great way to connect with your partner or a friend; during the summer, evening walks after dinner are how my husband and I discuss our day–as well as help our digestion.

-Maria who, oddly enough, rarely uses a pedometer




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You’re Just Not My Type.

Dead Ole' Pancreas

There is an inspirational meme that goes around Facebook every so often that says, “Live every day like it’s your last.” It’s usually sparkly or has rainbows or a black and white beach scene or some equally pukey thing. That’s so adorable. In theory. In practice? It’s a damn depressing way to live.

A year ago I wrote about being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and what a downer it was. (Lousy Anniversary, June 2012)

Oh, what a naïve little kitten I was!

Believe it or not, I found something worse! Being MIS-diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. I’m actually a type-1 diabetic. [insert my favorite curse words and some insulin here.] You know when it’s awesome to discover said misdiagnosis? When you’re on a long distance bike ride/camping trip! You know what else is awesome? Not being able to breathe because your body is in diabetic ketoacidosis! And best, most brilliant of all? I thought it was because of seasonal allergies. Uhh, can you say *headdesk* ?


The thing is, I knew something was wrong. I felt terrible all the time. I was so tired and thirsty and hungry and I was losing weight way too fast. I was taking medicine and exercising and doing all the stuff doctors told me to do. And there is only so much salad one person can eat. So I gave up.

Not my most magnificent idea.

In retrospect, I should have listened to my instincts and advocated for my own good health. Alas, you can’t unscramble eggs. Here are some useful books I’m reading. Now I’m going to live forever. You’re welcome.

HospitalStayHospital Stay Handbook, Jari Holland Buckland

Being in the hospital is the worst. You get no sleep, terrible food,  and in my case, I had to cry so that someone would let me take a shower. This book actually would be more useful for my husband (or any caretaker), as it’s focused on providing information for patient advocates. It’s scary hearing that your wife could have died and even though I have a living will, it’s a whole new ball of wax when you need it.

TakeChargeThe Take-Charge Patient: How YOU Can Get the Best Medical Care, Martine Ehrenclou

This is an excellent resource for finding a good doctor and dealing with your doctor, insurance companies and all of the other people involved in your healthcare. There are sections on how to be your own advocate and how to prevent (ahem) misdiagnosis, as well as interviews with actual health professionals.

EmpoweredPatientThe Empowered Patient, Dr. Julia A Hallisy

I’m that sick person that wants to crawl in a corner like an animal and be left alone to lick my wounds. However, all that results in is poor care. If you don’t care about your health and well-being, why should a doctor? The chapter on second opinions was illuminating. I could have been properly diagnosed with a simple blood test, but I never thought to ask. There is an anecdote about a young man diagnosed with incurable stomach cancer only to find out (via second opinion) that he had an ulcer! The moral of the story is: Before you let someone remove an important organ (or put you on a boatload of medication) get a second opinion!

LifeYouSaveThe Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care- and Avoiding the Worst, Patrick Malone

Here are a few of the awful, yet preventable complications of diabetes: blindness (that’s the biggie), heart disease, loss of kidney function and feet. Swell! This book explains how to audit the health care you receive, particularly if you have a chronic disease. Written by a medical malpractice attorney, Nine Steps discusses not only the physical aspects of your health care, but the mental, emotional and financial sides as well. The chapters on the drug industry are informative and really, really depressing.

getting stabbed eight times a day, hating the smell of insulin and looking for a pancreas,

My next tattoo?

My next tattoo?


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Sleep Well

Sleep is the best meditation. Dalai Lama, XIV (1979)

I once had insomnia for almost two years, fueled by a stressful living situation as well as my poor diet and sleep habits.

Cats, the sleep champions.

Cats, the champions of sleep.

As a librarian, I’m trained to do research which I do rather obsessively and, since I don’t like doctors–I hate that the first thing they do is prescribe medication rather than root out a cause–I wanted to solve this problem on my own.* I read many books and articles and then I put words into action.

What worked for me:

  • Creating a relaxing evening routine. These are the cues the body needs to trigger that it’s time to wind down for the day. This includes ablutions (like showering and teeth brushing), reading, and listening to soothing classical or new age music.

  • Not eating two to three hours before bedtime, so the body can focus on sleep, not digestion.

  • Regular daily exercise. I alternate my mornings between yoga and Synergetics, and I take two or three 20 minutes walks a day.

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day.  It sounds obsessive but it works! Throughout all of my reading, this was the number one tip. I find that my body rests best when I awaken at 6am and am in bed by 9:30pm.

  • Getting some sunshine and light early in the day; it resets the internal body clock; conversely, avoiding bright light and stimulation–such as television and computers– in the evening.

  • Eating whole foods. I have never slept so well in my entire life since I went vegan six years ago; since then, I have also given up sugar and all processed foods. I fall asleep easily and I sleep through the night.

  • Nightly meditation. I clear my mind of everything before I turn out the lights.

These books were especially helpful to me:


Restful Sleep: The Complete Mind/Body Program for Overcoming Insomnia  by Deepak Chopra


How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep: More Than 100 Ways You Can Improve Your Sleep by Richard Graber


*Disclaimer: This solution worked for me but, as I’m not an expert, it may not work for you. Seek medical help if you need it.


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I’ve been vegan for almost five years but I still continue to look for ways to improve my health even more. During this time, I’ve removed all processed sugar and most processed foods from my life, stopped drinking my usual espresso in the morning and tea in the afternoon and, during the last month, have been eating more raw food every day.

Raw food is something I’ve been curious about for awhile now. Summer, of course, makes eating more raw much easier. During the summer months, I tend to eat less and I avoid anything heavy (read: cooked). I’ve also joined a fabulous local CSA to make this process even easier (and also for the variety of foods they send weekly) and save me some time shopping on my precious weekends. I’ve started to drink daily green smoothies; it’s a great way to make sure I’m getting extra greens in my life.

Of course, I could never do this without the help of the library and, while there are quite a few raw food books and guides out there, I want it simple and I want it vegan (because many raw foodists still eat dairy). Here are a few books that have inspired me with beautiful photos, sound advice, and delicious recipes:

Going Raw: Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet and Lifestyle Revolution at Home by Judita Wignall. This inspiring guide is filled with both simple as well as elaborate recipes, colorful and appetizing photographs, and step-by-step instructions on getting more raw foods into your life. What I especialy liked about her book was her encouragement that you don’t have to eat 100% raw all the time to reap the health benefits of raw foods. The book comes with a very helpful and useful DVD demonstrating kitchen techniques and equipment demonstrations.

Photo courtesy of Raw Food Recipes for Beginners

Raw Food: A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcrantz and Irmela Lilja. Swedish authors Palmcrantz & Lilja’s book is filled with gorgeous photography, very short ingredient lists, encouraging testimonials, as well as tips and shortcuts to make the raw transition easy.

Live Raw : Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty by Mimi Kirk. This book caught my eye because the author is an older woman (she’s in her  70s!) who looks amazing and her recipes are very easy to make. There’s a lot of variety, too, and they are delicious. Kirk also discusses lifestyle, including mindfulness, exercise, and stress and how those can affect the body as much as the food you eat.



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What Ails You?

Last week I was too sick to do anything.  I left my house twice in six days- once for a doctor visit, and once for a trip across the street to the mailbox.  I know a lot of other people are sick right now, too.  It may not even be winter yet, but cold season has clearly already arrived.

If you’re interested in getting to know the enemy a little better, stop into the library for one of my top five picks about germs.   (Don’t be afraid, we have hand-sanitizer.)

Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways To Make Germs Your Friends, by Mary Ruebush

Ruebush irreverently describes how the immune system works, the behavior of germs in our bodies, and how the American obsession with hygiene might actually be making us sick.

The Five Second Rule and Other Myths About Germs: What Everyone Should Know About Bacteria, Viruses, Mold, and Mildew, by Anne E. Maczulak

Maczulak details the germs that are lurking everywhere, inlcuding which ones could actually be dangerous and the (real) best ways of avoiding them.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today by Rob Dunn

The modern human lives in a world with no predators and relatively little disease.  Biologist Rob Dunn explores the ecosystem we used to be a part of, and the possible consequences of leaving it.

Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future, by Michael B. A. Oldstone

From smallpox to SARS, Oldstone recounts history’s most notorious epidemics, and introduces us to the scientists who are trying to identify and prepare for the next one.

Germs & Your Health, by Bill Nye the Science Guy

If all this germ talk is starting to make you uncomfortable, let Bill Nye explain how good nutrition, fitness, and sleep – along with a proper hand washing routine – can help ward off the plague.


(PS – Don’t forget that today is election day.  For more information on Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s referendum on the ballot, please visit ourlibraryourfuture.org.)

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Healthy is as Healthy Does

Webster’s Dictionary defines “health” as “the condition of being sound in body, mind and spirit.” Other definitions include “being free from physical pain and disease” and “the general condition of the body.” Therefore, good health includes not just one but many facets of positive living.

We all know health is important. But in our multitasking society, life pulls us in many different directions. Work, family and friends become intertwined and business can take over our lives. It is difficult to find the right balance. As a patron of the Library, we have some opportunities to assist ourselves in the right direction.

Currently, I am obsessed with exercise videos. Without spending a dime, they provide a way to incorporate daily workouts at home. Exercise produces endorphins that benefit body, mind and spirit. Here are a few that have maintained my interest (and yes, they are available in our local libraries).

Leslie Sansone’s Walk At Home-Five Day Slim Down– In our catalog, type “Sansone, Leslie” under “Author” and 72 titles appear. This is one of my favorites, with something for everyone. Choose to walk a mile a day or complete the entire video in one session. During each mile, you’ll focus on a particular body part, such as arms, legs, or tummy. Includes easy breakfast ideas as well. Request a copy as soon as possible!

Leslie Sansone’s Walk Slim: Fast Firming!– Another favorite. Strengthen arms as you walk. Plus, see progress with a mile marker on screen. Its fun, and unlike the gym, the video can be turned on at your convenience.

Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred– If you desire a more intense workout with a strict trainer, Ms. Michael is your choice. Known for her tough regimen on the TV program Biggest Loser, she can make anyone cry. If I need motivation, I put this video in for a full body workout. Of course it is not for everyone and on some days (gasp!), I cannot finish without taking breaks.

We all know that exercise plays a role in good health but eating well is just as important. Here are some titles for further thought:

Nutrition for Dummies by Carol Ann Rinzler- The book begins with a simple definition of nutrition and lists everything you might want to know about vitamins and minerals. It also includes basic diet plans.

Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel with Eve Adamson- Offers tips on how to eat anything and stay thin. The authors have a simple solution: watch portions and eat in moderation. Although this saying is as old as the eleventh stack itself, interesting analogies drive the point home.

Eat Your Way to Happiness: 10 Diet Secrets to Improve Your Mood, Curb Your Cravings, Keep the Pounds Off by Elizabeth Somer- A handy dandy, self-explanatory tool for those who want to feel they are not on a diet.

As you can see, the Library offers many resources for exercise and diet education and inspiration. They remind us that we can continue our search for good health despite life’s temptations. I must end this for now because I have an appointment with my personal trainers, via video, in five minutes.

 -Melissa H.


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Looking out for numero uno

Have you ever been sick?  Do you have any health conditions or concerns about the health of loved ones?  When you hear other people say that they have certain illnesses, do you just know that you have that illness too?  If you said yes to any of these questions, you are in luck!


The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have teamed up to make an invaluable, free web resource called MedlinePlus.gov.  Medline Plus is a consumer health website that is easy to navigate, and is full of information like health news, medical journal articles, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, a dictionary, physician and hospital directories, interactive tutorials, drug information and more.  It even has surgery videos!


One feature that is especially great to file in your brain for the future is the tests and diagnostic procedures tutorials.  Let’s say you have carpal tunnel syndrome or are thinking about hip replacement surgery.  Each condition and procedure has a multimedia tutorial with an optional questionnaire that helps to customize your tutorial.  This page is easy to navigate and has plenty of tips for those of us not very comfortable using a computer.  The slides and videos contain enlightening and empowering information presented in non-threatening, easy-to-understand language.  The tutorials have anatomical drawings with explanations, as well as symptoms and causes, treatment options, risks and other information. There are even text documents like this one on back pain prevention that can easily be printed and read away from the computer.


Another great feature is the link to the quarterly Medline Plus: the Magazine.  The pdf format is colorful, the information is relevant, and most importantly (some might say), the stars on the cover are glamorous.  Some highlights from the Winter 2008 issue include alternative health, fighting stress, diabetes, best buy prescription drugs, and having a healthy pregnancy.


Remember, the best way to take care of yourself is to be knowledgeable and informed.  This is a great place to start.




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Be Well.

If the Log Lady in a Sick Room isn’t quite enough self-medication for you when you’re feeling a little sicko, we have shelves and shelves of materials that will help you to help yourself get well.   Health and wellness books and magazines await the pro-active library patron patient including everyone from germ freaks to sacred women to official patients.

When you don’t have the safety net of health insurance, receiving care can become less complicated when you empower yourself with resources to take care of yourself and your familyBe well with this collection of resources for uninsured and under-insured Pittsburghers.  Ask a nurse or conduct at-home tests.  Try out some cures that the existential “they” would rather you not know.

Most importantly, learn how to prevent becoming sick.  The First Floor is hosting an Alternative Healing Series beginning March 26th, with presentations by healers and preventative therapists of acupuncture, massage, energy, and therapeutic yoga.   Please join us for these free presentations and check out some of these wonderfully caring books and resources that are available to you.

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This is your life.

I was all set to do a post on beauty and fashion because for some reason, I have beauty and fashion on the brain.  The truth is, I’m dying to do a beauty and fashion program series here at the library.  But then someone told me about this, and I began to rethink my post. 

I think of fashion and beauty as a terrific example of how the library offers all sorts of materials on all sorts of topics, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat .  So I’m going to start my blog with the first thing in the morning:  the bathroom.  What’s the deal with this bathing-every-day thing?  Why are we all so obsessed with cleanliness?  Were we always this concerned about our odors?  Find out in The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, by Katherine Ashenburg or in Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity, by Virginia Smith. 

But perhaps your morning thoughts are of a more practical nature.  Perhaps you walk into your bathroom every morning, and you look at the wallpaper and think of creating your dream bathroom. Or you wish you knew how to fix that dripping sink, or worse, you wish you had gotten to the bathroom faster.  (Now if that particular title doesn’t seem up-to-date enough, give one of our health databases a try.)  Do you see what I mean?  Every aspect of our lives on the planet is addressed at this library!  And we haven’t even gotten to the closet yet!  I’ll save that for next time.

Posted by: Kaarin


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