Dec 14, 2009

What matters now - get the free e-book

Here's a free e-book that you should not miss. It's a compilation of quotes from the best contemporary minds. It's inspiring. It will make you stand up from your chair and make a difference. I plan to print it and read at least one page a day... hey, it might even get me to start writing again.

Below is one page extract that is significant to this blog... Just like the author below, I found that once I became free of my anxiety I became much more skilled socially than most of the people around. While being trapped in social anxiety and trying to find a rational way out of it, without even realizing it, you learn a lot about human nature and being social.


I have really bad social skills, so I am constantly noticing
how the whole world revolves around social skills.
Research that really blows me away is that people would
rather work with someone who is incompetent and
likable than someone who is a competent jerk. And
then I saw that in some cases elite British crew teams
will put a weaker, but very likable, rower on a boat
because people row faster if they row with people they
In my life, I have had to learn social skills one by one,
because I have Asperger Syndrome. I learned to smile at
jokes even though I’m too literal to understand most of
them; I listen to the rhythm of a sentence to know
when it’s time to laugh. And I learned how to say, “How
are you,” with the right tone of voice – to express
interest – although to be honest, saying that phrase
gives me so much anxiety that I never actually say it.
A few years ago I found myself smack in the middle of
the recruiting industry. I ended up, somehow, being an
expert on how to attract candidates, and an expert on
how to present yourself well to employers. At first I
thought it was absurd. I’ve never worked in human
resources, and I’ve never been a recruiter. But then I
realized that I’m an expert on the hiring process because
it’s all about social skills, and I’ve been studying them
my whole life so that I don’t look like a freak.
In fact, it’s not just getting a job. Or giving a job.
Getting or giving anything is about social skills. The
world is about being comfortable where you are and
making people feel comfortable, and that’s what social
skills are. What’s important is to be kind, and be
gracious and do it in ways that make people want to do
that for someone else.
Penelope Trunk is the founder of Her blog is

Nov 23, 2009

Engage with Grace - a Blog Rally

Last Thanksgiving weekend, many of us bloggers participated in the first documented “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at having all of us understand and communicate our end-of-life wishes.

It was a great success, with over 100 bloggers in the healthcare space and beyond participating and spreading the word. Plus, it was timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these tough conversations – our closest friends and family.

Our original mission – to get more and more people talking about their end of life wishes – hasn’t changed. But it’s been quite a year – so we thought this holiday, we’d try something different.

A bit of levity.

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important.

To help ease us into these tough questions, and in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d start with five parallel questions that ARE pretty easy to answer: 

Silly? Maybe. But it underscores how having a template like this – just five questions in plain, simple language – can deflate some of the complexity, formality and even misnomers that have sometimes surrounded the end-of-life discussion.

So with that, we’ve included the five questions from Engage With Grace below. Think about them, document them, share them.

Over the past year there’s been a lot of discussion around end of life. And we’ve been fortunate to hear a lot of the more uplifting stories, as folks have used these five questions to initiate the conversation.

One man shared how surprised he was to learn that his wife’s preferences were not what he expected. Befitting this holiday, The One Slide now stands sentry on their fridge.

Wishing you and yours a holiday that’s fulfilling in all the right ways.

To learn more please go to This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. If you want to reproduce this post on your blog (or anywhere) you can download a ready-made html version here

Oct 10, 2009

Dr. Rob's post on anxiety

Dr. Rob has a great post on anxiety. Make sure you read it. It's worth knowing what happens in a doctor's head when you have anxiety.

Jul 5, 2009

Doing well!

Long time, no see!

I'm in a contemplative mode right now, so I figured I could write an update. My social anxiety is better than ever. I'm feeling funny at times, but I just acknowledge it and brush it off: it's just like having a runny nose: just take a tissue, wipe your nose and move on. No big fuss. Just yesterday I casually invited my brothers in law out for lunch... me? alone with guys other than my husband?making the invitation without any hint of hezitation? - who's this girl?

I dropped yoga for a long time, and I just got back to it this last week. I am a different person, I found back my anxiety-free world. I see now that I have conditioned myself to be anxiety-free when doing yoga. So I need to keep on doing it. It's great!

I will be moving out of the country for 6 months and I am quite emotional and observant about everything around: admiring my neighbourhood, the trees, the birds, my car. I am packing my whole house and it's great to touch each object. Bring back memories.

For those of you that were around at the time when I had an impossible dream, the dream became quite possible. I am taking an online course of Health Care for IT Professionals and doing really well and I think by the end of this course I will be able to find some work. My doctor was already interested in me coming to review her workflow and help with their new EMR system.

The conclusion is: social anxiety can be beaten without medication. You can achieve your dreams no matter how crazy they seem to be. Just don't give up. Keep pushing yourself. But you need to know what you're pushing for: clarify your priorities and your goals.

Apr 13, 2009

Exposure Therapy Helps Relieve Social Anxiety

No man is an island, and as human beings, we have to interact with society in some form or the other if we are to survive on a day to day basis. So you can understand how social anxiety becomes a problem for those who live with it day after day and restrict their lives because of this mental disorder. When you’re afraid of communication and other aspects of public life like driving, flying, walking on the streets, shopping and the like, you can see how it becomes a problem to do perform even the most basic activities.

While some people turn to medication as a way to resolve these feelings of anxiety and fear, drugs are not recommended unless your symptoms are severe and unmanageable. Besides, medicines that are used to treat such disorders include anti-depressants, beta blockers and benzodiazepines that are full of chemicals that could turn out to be addictive and that also come with their own side effects. Instead of relying on medicines, one of the best ways to tackle social anxiety is to try exposure therapy.

For those of you who know how to ride a bike, this form of treatment is just like learning to ride your bike for the first time. You’re scared, you have no sense of balance, and you’re terrified of hurting yourself. But you go ahead and try it because you so badly want to ride that new bike. Exposure therapy is all about overcoming your fears too, step by step, bit by bit. Just as someone holds on to your bike for the first few minutes and then lets go so that you try to gain a sense of balance, exposure therapy too involves breaking down your fear into smaller pieces and tackling the smallest one first.

So if you’re scared to talk to the opposite sex, start out by talking to someone you already know, like the girl/boy next door who always smiles at you, the smile that you were too nervous to return until now. Then move on to talking to people who are normally courteous, like salespeople and customer service representatives. It’s not going to be easy, and just like in the biking lesson, you’re going to end up falling quite a few times. But the key to success is to pick yourself up, brush the dust off your clothes, forget the minor bruises that you may have, and get right back on that bike again.

xposure therapy works best when you have someone to support you, just as your dad or mom would hold on to the bike till you’re able to find your bearings. You also need to know when to push yourself and when to stop – go as far as your fear will let you go but stop once you reach that point. You need to keep at one level till you feel no fear at all, and only then can you move on to the next level. It’s a slow process, but the infusion of confidence you feel when you master each level and move on to the next one will help you cross the next one faster than you did the first. So stick with it, and you’ll find yourself managing your anxiety in no time at all.

This post was contributed by Alisa Johnson, who writes about the types of nurses. She welcomes your feedback at Alisa.Johnson1982 at 

Mar 22, 2009

Livin' in the moment - the book

A commenter asked me to recommend other books like Michael Pollan's. I did not read other books like Michael Pollan's, but here's another recommendation: brand new, released on March 17, David Romanelli's book: Yeah Dave's Guide to Living in the Moment - Getting to Ecstasy through wine, chocolate and your iPod list.  

The book is excellent! I went to his yoga classes whenever he was around over the last year and I am reading his email newsletter and I pretty much know all the jokes, but I still find it refreshing to read the book. Dave is great. He's just another guy and is admitting it. Only he's not just another guy. The way he's observing the world and the way he's showing how he deals with it it's very original. He's fun and honest, silly and serious. 

I have a hard time realizing why I like him, but I am hooked. His is the kind of yoga that I want to practice. You can also check out his blog for funny and interesting weekly posts. 

Feb 14, 2009

6 years - We Will Not Forget You

6 years ago, on Valentine's day, I was admitted into the hospital. I was 24 weeks pregnant and I was feeling great. But my doctor's appointment showed a blood pressure of 180/100, and my kidneys were spilling a lot of protein - sign that they are not functioning well... I had preeclampsia. It is a disease that could be very dangerous for the mother and the baby. The only known cure is delivery of the baby, and at 24 weeks of pregnancy, this is problematic as the babies cannot live without a lot of interventions and they risk blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, and all sorts of other issues.

My baby was stillborn on February 17, and my own hospital ride after delivery was quite bumpy: fluid in the lungs, unexplained high fever, high blood pressure... the problems never seemed to end. 

After this, we became involved with the Preeclampsia Foundation and I made a ton of friends there and acquired knowledge about my disease and support for our subsequent pregnancy. I am so grateful that the organization and the forum exists because they were my family for a number of years. If you know anyone having any similar issues, make sure you tell them about the website.

6 years later, I finally feel a bit more detached from the experience. I'm still thinking about it, but the trauma is mostly gone. Of course having a 3 years old that is extremely happy and healthy and normal in any way helps a lot.

This year, for the first time, my 3 yo son could somewhat understand what I'm talking about. He asked if we're lightning a candle for Angel's birthday, and he wanted to sing Happy Birthday and to bake Angel a cake. We will go see the ocean where Angel's ashes were spread. It is comforting to know that anywhere there's a sea or ocean there could be a microscopic cell of our dear son.
The other thing I did for Angel was to plant a little garden of Forget-Me-Nots and Lilly-of-the-Valleys (called little tears - Lacramioare - in Romanian). It is great during the spring and summer, but in the winter, there's nothing there. 

I have a friend, Kitty, that takes great nature pictures and she happened to have the Forget-Me-Not picture above. She got me a beautiful print that I framed and I am now keeping with my family pictures. I love the personal nature of buying stuff made by friends, and to personally know the artist or person that made something. 


Feb 10, 2009

My class graduated

For the last couple of years while I was blogging about social anxiety, I also followed a number of other social-anxiety related blogs. And, happily for all of us, it seems that we all graduated: 

  • S A Dave got a job and he's doing pretty well there and has no spare time to write,
  • "The guy at Successfully Shy" moved on with life (and Congratulations for the recent event!)
  • Matt released his e-book
  • Drew gave away his blog to Vladimir
  • and I keep dreaming about starting to blog about something else.
I keep promising and I always come back. Well, I had a very promising proof of my emotional maturity this week-end and I also will start having a bit more time at work... so I think now it's the time to get this project going. 

It's time for a new generation of socially anxious to take over. The world is so much different these days: you have UTube and communities all over the place. Good luck to you all! 

Feb 1, 2009

Books - Michael Pollan

I heard a few people positively mentioning Michael Pollan's - The Omnivore Dilemma, so I read it and I loved it so much that I had to also read In Defense of Food. 

Finally food and nutrition books that make sense instead of scaring you to death and making you wonder how come other people aren't dead by now with the food they eat. The Omnivore Dilemma starts by  describing the industry of growing corn in America and all its uses, and the drama of both the producer and the consumer in an industrialized agriculture. It continues with a trip to a "post-organic" farm in Virginia, and end with his adventures in hunting and gathering the food for a meal the way our ancestors must have done it. 

In Defense of Food suggests a heathier way of eating that might help avoid the Western diseases. It explains where nutritionism and reductionist studies fail. He suggests that we restart eating the way our ancestors did and keep the food culture alive. We need to know where our food comes from and need to be mindful while eating it.

I especially loved The Omnivore Dilemma... as I read through it, I wanted to go and start a farm myself... 

In the end I have an idea where I want to go and I have a probable explanation for my ulcerative colitis. While this was not mentioned as one of the Western Diseases, I think it fits right in. The books are very well researched, they are shockful of references.

My conclusions: over the next couple of years I will work on restarting to eat the way my parents did, I will start my own garden and will subscribe to a CSA. I will work toward going less often to grocery stores and on eating more plants and more diverse foods. I will also work towards becoming more mindful of our eating and cook more. I will prefer food quality to food quantity.

And I now decided: I do not want to become a vegetarian. I will try to shift the ratio from meat towards plants, but I see no need to give up meat completely. (check if you want to become a vegetarian)


Jan 29, 2009

Wellsphere and bloggers

I had a post earlier this year ranting about health websites that try to buy small blogs like mine. The website that contacted me was Wellsphere - basically a collection of medical blogs. I answered to the mass email by saying that i am not interested and that if they really want to help people they can link to my blog. I did get the link and as opposed to people that gave away their posts, I actually got a few hits from them. 

Wellsphere was sold earlier this week for a lot of money. The bloggers are very offended as they did not get any money out of the deal but gave away all the rights to their content republished by Wellsphere. 

For more details about this check Dr. Rob's comment. Always be very careful  what you sign up for and make sure it's really what you want. 

Jan 16, 2009

I'm grateful for my eyes

A yoga teacher friend of mine, Kitty had a heartbreaking post today about her hearing getting worse. She a great yoga teacher and she's taking beautiful nature pictures. If you want to see and buy some of her stuff, you can visit her on Etsy. She's a wonderful person, one of those that I probably would have never known if blogging and social networking wasn't around. I am so moved by Kitty's inner beauty and by the fact that people like her exist and they are around us. One more time, social networking is heaven for us the socially anxious. 

Anyway, her post made me remember the scare I used to have about my eyes for years. Especially by the end of January I was having huge issues with my eyes: I was unable to read at night and had big problems during the day. My eyes get very tired and it seems to be related to natural light: it seems to be better in the summertime than during the winter. The new more efficient halogen lights might also be helping. 

In addition, this year I have eyeglasses with progressive lenses which allow my eye to pick whatever position works best at a certain time. My dioptries keep growing every year, so I imagine that one day I might need some sort of operation or even become blind. Fortunately this doesn't seem so close this year, so I am just enjoying it. 

I read about a book a week for the last month or so. I love them all. And I want to write about them all, but never get the time... Hey, I got to go start a new book!

For now, I am grateful for my eyesight and wish Kitty all the best! 

Jan 11, 2009

People in my life

I visited a friend yesterday and met her nice husband. This gave me a moment of reflection on how my life changed over the last couple of years. Two years ago, I thought I only have my husband close. I looked at anyone with suspicion: I was scared of being cheated, abandoned, ignored. I was scared to leave my kid with anyone. I only trusted one or two doctors.

Now I have people and friends in my life. I have friends to share my fears and worries, and brag about my achievements and joys. I have people that I am comfortable leaving my kid with at anytime (granted a three years old can take care of himself better than a one-year old, but anyway). I'm not scared of trusting my house with some people: what's the worst that can happen, and I know they are nice anyway, especially if I treat them nicely. My work world has been populated with people with their lives, desires, achievements and failures, were before I just saw work and "resources" that could get sick, wanted vacations and free days and all sorts of other stuff that was in the way of work. 

My guard was way up and I let it down. And I started seeing a lot of beautiful interesting stuff behind it. Love and you will get love, trust and your trust will be answered, but most importantly, from Lance Armstrong: "I don't take anything for granted, this way anything that happens is a miracle"

There are great people out there, just give them the chance to show you. They are in many ways just like you, and in many other ways quite different. Accept the differences and accept them for what they are. 

Jan 8, 2009

I'm twittering

I am yogileana on Twitter.

I like Twitter for little thoughts. I don't want to throw in everybody's face that I deal with social anxiety and I want to talk about things that might be irrelevant to the SA people.

I will load all my posts into Twitter, so if you want to follow me there go ahead.

I like the fact that all messages should be at most 140 characters. This will help me become a better writer, I think!

If you wish to vote for me

Here's the link for voting for the best patient blog. Please consider voting for me.

I must admit that I could not vote. The system never got my vote in. I tried to vote for Duncan Cross that I nominated, but it never registered. I tried in both Chrome and Internet Explorer browser, from different locations. Considering the large numbers, I suspect it's a me issue and this humbles me deeply as I am building web applications, and still have no idea what could be wrong.

Jan 5, 2009

Geek Doctor

Oh, wow! I was nominated in the finalist list of best patient blogs! That's pretty neat! Here's the list of finalists. The voting starts tomorrow. If you like this blog, feel free to vote for me. 

I have mentioned John Halamka's blog before, but I never discussed it in detail. I read it since the first post and I did not miss one entry in more than an year. I started reading it because I want to work in IT in a hospital and John is the CIO in Paul Levy's BIDMC hospital. As expected, I learned a lot about IT in healthcare, but the blog goes so much further.

I started by being critical and resistant. What, open source used extensively in a large organization? You mean Oracle is not your main database? You don't think that relational databases are the best databases? You buy and build?

Then I just listened and learned. And John's blog was a huge support for me in my yoga journey. I hang out with people that were so different than the world I'm living in: stay at home moms, and teachers and athletes and artists... was this meditation thing something that rational people do? Like programmers, engineers, doctors? And then he started the series of personal, lifestyle entries on the blog on Thursdays. After a series of posts that demonstrated that this is one of the most rational people I ever met. While not practicing yoga himself, a lot of the subjects John is covering have to do with stuff that I studied: treasuring each moment, keep the emotion in the present, respect your personal and family time as separate from your work time, and most important: accept everybody, even if you don't agree, or especially when you don't agree... there might be something to learn in your resistance. 

John' blog was nominated a a finalist in the Medgadget awards for Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog. I for one will vote for him. And will keep reading his blog. Thanks for writing! 

I'll soon have a blog pot about a few books that I recently read that I found very enlightening. Two of them were recommended on John's blog.