Category Archives: Health & Wellness

I’m a Cubs fan, and I’m glad they lost

Rattle the Stars Executive Director Kim Bryan has graciously shared with us her journey of suicide loss, below. She is one of many who have had to endure similar painful experiences. Join Kim and others Saturday, Nov. 18, as Parkland College recognizes International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day with a program and discussion, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room U140 of the Student Union.

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When the Cubs disappointingly dropped game five to the Dodgers, I breathed a small sigh of relief.  We’re a family of Cubs fans: my husband was sucked in at age 7 in 1984, I acquired fandom through 20 years of marriage to a die-hard, and my kids were all born into it.  We even named our youngest daughter after Ryne Sandberg (she has yet to decide whether she loves or hates it).  We made a regular pilgrimage to the Eden that is Wrigley Field, and even braved the cold to wish her a happy 100th birthday.  As much as I would have loved to see my beloved Cubbies repeat this year, I was glad to be spared the pain that comes with their success.

In April 2016, just as the magical season was getting underway, my 19-year-old son died of suicide.  Sam had battled depression for several years, and after the dreadful disease drained every ounce of his happiness, it moved on to those who loved him.  When Sam died, my world went dark.  For the entire regular season, the Cubs were the farthest thing from my mind.  Just getting up and functioning each day was exhausting, and every spare moment I had was spent questioning the last minutes, hours, days, years of Sam’s life trying to figure what I could have done differently, better, to save him.

By the time October rolled around, I was just beginning to pay attention to the rest of the world again, and the Cubbies were certainly demanding attention.  But with every win, I was secretly hoping they would lose.  The little voice in my head was begging them not to win, not now, not this year.  When they won Game 6 of the NLCS, I cried.  I cried, not out of happiness, but out of grief and loss.  It was really happening.  The Cubs were going to the Series, and he was missing it.  How could he miss this?  It was all he had wanted since Neifi Perez tossed his batting gloves over the dugout to him at his first Cubs game.  Despite my best efforts, they just insisted on winning.  When Rizzo made the final out, and the world erupted in celebration, I sat stone-face on my couch, not able to move.  I finally managed a hug to my husband, but no words would even come.  This was just adding insult to injury.  Six months after suicide stole my son from the world, his dream came true.

A few days later, my family made another pilgrimage to the Eden that is Wrigley Field.  I was determined that Sam was not going to miss this.  We put on all our Cubs gear and took the worn-out Cubs hat that Sam wore every day for years, and we joined countless others in writing our tributes in chalk on the brick.  Even though I know it was eventually washed away, it was comforting to know that his name was on that wall.  A piece of him was there at Wrigley celebrating his beloved Cubbies winning the World Series.  We hugged and cried and reminisced about the great times we had had there.  We stayed as long as we could, and then begrudgingly left for home, feeling the gaping hole in our lives that was left when Sam died.

The most difficult part of healing from the death of my son has been reconciling the simultaneous happiness and sadness that comes with times of joy.  When I first started to feel happiness again, I felt guilty for it.  I actually dreaded things that I would feel good about, things that would bring me joy, because I knew that they would also bring guilt and regret, and things that I knew Sam would enjoy were the absolute worst.  Before his death, Sam had written that he knew people would be sad when he died, but that they would get over it because they were better off without him.  Every time I felt happy, those words rang in my head.  Happiness meant I was getting over it, and how could I ever possibly get over losing my son?  If I was happy, did that mean I was better off without him?  How was I going to get through the rest of my life if I couldn’t find a way to experience happiness without being consumed by this turmoil?

Thankfully, I began to connect with other survivors of suicide loss.  Through AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk and Survivors of Suicide Loss Day I began to meet and talk with others who understood what I was going through.  I found a community of people that have both supported my personal healing and my new journey to prevent youth suicide with our organization, Rattle the Stars.

It’s now been over a year and half since suicide stole my son from me.  I’m still not great, but with the support of other survivors, I’m getting back to okay.  For me, okay is something to celebrate.

[Dennis Cockrum is a counselor with Parkland College’s Counseling Services department.]

Cold and Flu Season

Cold and flu season officially starts in October and lasts until April, but it is possible to catch the common cold or influenza any time of the year.

Not sure what you might have? Check your symptoms on the handy chart below from the U.S. National Institute of Health! In either case, you shouldn’t come to school if you’re experiencing a cold or the flu. Focus on recovery and try to keep from infecting anyone else. If you have to leave the house, consider wearing a face mask and be sure to wash your hands often.

Consult with your doctor if you have a health concern of any kind.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Thanks to earlier detection  (via screening and increased awareness) and better treatment options, a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer has dropped significantly (38 percent between the late 1980s and 2014, according to the American Cancer Society). Another way of saying it:  over the last 25 years, 297,300 fewer people have died due to this illness.

Much more work must be done, however, as breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 37 (about 2.7 percent). Only lung cancer kills more women each year. A large racial /socioeconomic gap in breast-cancer mortality also remains, with African-American women having 42 percent higher death rates compared to whites.

If you or someone you love is concerned about developing breast cancer, have been recently diagnosed, are going through treatment, or if you are trying to stay well after treatment, please consult with your doctor and refer to recommendations set out by the American Cancer Society.

Interested in how to help? Visit the American Cancer Society’s “Get Involved” page for options on how to get involved:.

**The above information was compiled from resources available at the American Cancer Society. **

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Rest up for Finals Week…and Your Safety

Sleep is one of the most powerful indicators of student success, and with good reason. Sleep not only refreshes our organs and physical bodies, but it helps us consolidate and synthesize the information  we take in everyday. Many college students (and adults in general) find that they have trouble getting enough quality sleep at night.

Not only is sleep important for success in the classroom or the workplace, but getting enough sleep is critical for your safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures may be the tip of the iceberg, since currently it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness.

I found some great tips for improving the quality and quantity of your sleep, from Middlebury College in Vermont:

Develop a routine. Routines signal to our body that something is about to happen—in this case, sleep! Starting a bedtime routine 30 minutes before going to sleep can help unwind the mind and body and release melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Starting the routine at the same time and trying to wake up and the same time everyday can improve sleep quality and quantity.

Reduce caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to cause people to take longer to get to sleep, cause more awakenings, and lower the quality of sleep. Many types of soda contain caffeine as does chocolate, coffee and many types of teas.

Limit alcohol. Consuming alcohol, even as little as one to two drinks can produce fragmented sleep, causing a decrease in deep and REM sleep.

Go screen-free. The light emitted from cell phones, computer screens, tablets, and televisions trick our bodies and brains into thinking that it is light outside and we should be awake. Adding screen-free time into your routine can help you fall asleep faster.

Make time for physical activity. Often at the end of the day our brains are exhausted but our bodies are restless after sitting in class all day. Making time for physical activity, even just a walk around campus or your neighborhood, can help the brain and body get on the same page at the end of the day.

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]

Five Tips for Enjoying Spring Break…Safely

Parkland College’s spring break is just around the corner, so here are five tips for staying safe during the break:

Stick together
If you’re going on a trip with a group of friends, you’ll all be safest if you stick together. Should one of you decide to leave a party early or go on a solo shopping trip, make sure others in your group know where you’re going and how long you’ll be.

Keep an eye on your money
You don’t want to get stranded in a new and unfamiliar place without any money, so be sure to bring enough to last you the whole trip. If you carry cash, try to keep the amount you take with you on routine excursions to a minimum. Try distributing your money in various places among your belongings and accommodations so that if by chance you lose some or it’s stolen, you’ll still have more elsewhere.

Alcohol and you
Most spring break trips involve some level of alcohol-related activities, and while you may be safest if you don’t partake, the reality is, that will probably not be the case. Being smart about the way you drink is the next best thing, and that involves being cognizant of the risks of alcohol poisoning, selecting a designated driver if you’ve got to travel, and being wary of accepting drinks from strangers.

Safe sex
Should you decide to have sex during spring break, take the necessary precautions to protect against unwanted pregnancy and STDs/STIs. Make sure that consent has been explicitly and freely established between all parties before engaging in sexual activities.

Use proper activity gear
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that accidental injuries kill more Americans age 30 and under than any other cause of death. With this in mind, be sure to wear those seat belts and use life vests, knee pads, and other appropriate gear, especially before venturing out to some high-risk activity.

Have a fun—and safe—spring break!

[Ben Boltinghouse is a public safety officer with Parkland College.]