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self reliance

Your personal bill of rights. Yes. That’s right.

It’s the day after Christmas and a fairly blustery day. I had choices this morning. I could have stayed in the comfort of  the warmth of shelter or brave the cold and venture out.

Most people who know me would have guessed I would have chosen the warmth of shelter over braving the icy wind and icy streets, as winter is not my thing at all. I’m glad I chose to experience a walk under steel grey skies and crunching ice and snow. I set off  on my frozen journey feeling especially happy that I could feel the cold on my face.

With no other intention but to experience the aliveness of cold, my thoughts turned to becoming grounded with nature . I imagined roots growing from the bottom of my feet into the ground below, hooking me to the earth. In this grounding and being present to the sky, the earth and the cold I had  a sudden incredible insight. At least I think so, and I’m hoping you do as well.

2012 has been such an incredible year, full of twists and turns, loss and gains and all coming at the speed of light. Many others that I know personally also have experienced this same wild ride. Have you?

I have been chanting affirmations daily to counter act any fears and worries I have had on a daily basis. Being a practiced observer of my thoughts and feelings has taught me to shift my thinking surrounding any thoughts that are not of my highest self or for my highest good.  Chanting  affirmations daily has helped to transform those anxious feelings about the future, the unknowns and have brought me back to center at least for the moment that I am experiencing those thoughts and emotions.

Today on my frosty walk however, a thought surfaced which turned into a series of one line sentences which turned into my own personal “bill of rights“. “What do I have a right to have in my life?“, I asked myself.  The answers like water came flooding in rather easily. More easily than setting annual resolutions that tell me what I “should” do differently. You all know how effective those tricky should s and shouldn’t s are, don’t you?

I also thought about all the things that had transpired in 2012 and despite my positive frame of mind, affirmations, meditation, studies, still my life seems fairly unstable and uncertain. Thinking about the practice of affirmations and not wanting to lose faith in all that I believe is true for me, I wondered what more I need to do to become fully actualized, to live my truth.

What do I have a right to have in my life? What do you have a right to have in your life?

So just to get you thinking about your own bill of rights it might be helpful to review what Wikipedia tells us it is : The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government’s power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserve some powers to the states and the public.

If I were to apply this meaning to my own life I would rewrite this description as such: My personal bill of rights for my life serves to protect me against my limiting thoughts, ego negative self-talk , fear and worry and guaranteeing me unlimited freedom to choose whatever I think I have a right to have.  In addition there isn’t a single thing outside of  myself that can interfere with my personal bill of rights, because I created them and I also create anything that is in opposition of them.

This mornings walk and  insight helped me to understand better why endless  chanting  of affirmations, meditation and staying present in the now in order to observe my thoughts and emotions have yielded some results, but at the same time  the practice is like washing your hair, shampoo, rinse and repeat. What is creating these blocks? What is keeping me from accessing what is rightfully mine to have?

Don’t get me wrong I love affirming. It serves to immediately shift me from any negative thoughts I may have about myself, others and my life. However, I’d like to share what I came up with on this mornings freezing cold, crunchy grounding  walk; my personal “Bill of Rights”.

My hope is that whomever reads this will craft their own personal bill of rights that they can use in place of weak resolutions and vows to change. The reason I say this is because  I believe you have a right as well as every person on the planet has a right to experience their life according to what you think you deserve, what is rightfully yours to have.  Consider carefully what you think you deserve because this is what is creating  your current life experience.

This is what I came up with for my personal “bill of rights” These are mine. What are yours?


My personal bill of rights:

I Sue Birkam as a member of this universe, this divine place where all things are possible if I choose to deserve them, have hereby today created my personal bill of rights. I will remember these and read them often when I forget who I really am.  I am free.

  • I have the right to be happy.
  • I have the right to be creative.
  • I have the right to be loved and be loving.
  • I have the right to forgiveness and to forgive.
  • I have the right to be successful.
  • I have the right to know my value and worth and to eliminate anything that is in opposition of  that.
  • I have the right to be free and live in full expression of this freedom.
  • I have the right to prosper and use my abundance for myself and to share my abundance in service to others.
  • I have the right to share my gifts and talents.
  • I have the right to my emotions, passions and dreams.
  • I have the right to experience receiving as well as giving.
  • I have the right to be in full acceptance of myself, the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • I have the right to be in full acceptance of others, the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • I have the right to be healthy and to do the things I need to do to remain in good health.
  • I have the right to be beautiful and to not allow what others define as beauty to affect how I think about myself.
  • I have the right to be cherished, respected and considered.
  • I have the right to be visible, to be seen and heard.
  • I have the right to clarity in my life and when I receive clarity I have the right to choose differently no matter what that clarity provides for me, bravely.
  • I have the right to the freedom to be me.
  • I have the right to stumble, fall and make big mistakes.
  • I have the right to laugh at my mistakes and to begin again.
  • I have the right to personal expression of my feelings and beliefs without being judged.
  • I have the equal right to treat myself the way I treat and give to others, with kindness, love, non-judgement, acceptance and with gratitude for all that I am and have become.
  • I have the right to surround myself with people who are supportive, caring and loving.
  • I have the right to amend my bill of rights and to expand it at anytime

I am thinking that if  I can live by this personal bill of rights in 2013, I’m guaranteed to have every thing I deserve come my way. I also think that I have a choice to abide by my “bill of rights” or understand what an injustice it would be to myself and others to ignore it.

What is on your personal bill of rights? Are you willing to create your own and begin to manifest what is your right to have? I sincerely hope you feel inspired and moved enough to provide feedback here and at the very least consider crafting your own 2013 bill of rights or at least think about what you deserve.

Epidemic of Labeling Part I ADD and ADHD

I’ve put off writing this post but it has been nagging at me internally for months.  I think this post must be written in order for me to move forward and past the nagging.  I never have liked nagging.  The questions and arguments I have been having with myself prior to writing this post is… what does this subject have to do with the business of coaching?    I have come to conclude it has everything to do with coaching.  This post subject will need to be written in multiple parts in order to completely share this perspective and the research I’ve done on the subject of ADD and ADHD.

Coaching is about enlightenment, discovery and forward movement.  Today my inner voice wins! The topic of labels and particularly ADD or ADHD is one that I have personal experience with.  My hope is to enlighten adults as well as adults with children who have labeled themselves or are currently taking medication for ADD or ADHD.  I pose these questions to readers of this post:

Why do we place so much trust and belief in something  like ADD and ADHD that no one can fully explain?

Why do we quickly resolve to revert to medication as a solution, based on a set of conditions that automatically label ourselves and our children?

Why do we buy into whatever our culture and more importantly the pharmaceutical companies are selling?

Why don’t we question everything before we give it a label?

Why do we assume there is only one way to resolve ADD?

Why is it that outside of the US an ADD diagnosis is relatively unheard of?

ADD and ADHD are labels that I frequently hear people use when they have trouble focusing.  It’s often used loosely like other culturally infused phrases and sometimes as an excuse to make up for a lack of attention given to people, conversations and projects. Some people use it to explain why they haven’t made progress on their life dreams.  Others have bought into the cultural term and some have agreed with the psychologists on behalf of their children and decided to medicate.

First hand experience

I have an adult son who could be labeled ADHD, who has referenced this of himself multiple times throughout his life.  He has always had a talent for art, especially in illustration and a beautiful imagination.  He currently makes a living with his art. He has never been tested and claims a lack of focus and feels hyper at times.  I have a daughter who is now almost 21 and was told she was ADD around age 15, at least  by the definition and testing used by a psychologist.  She is gifted in music and can hear sounds and tones in music that most people don’t hear.  She sings, writes songs and is a socially and environmentally engaged contributor to our world.  She is  full time college student with an internship, holds a part time job and lives independently in another state.

My younger brother was diagnosed at a young age with hyperactivity, before the term ADD and ADHD was widely used.  He was given Ridlin as a child. He would have been 50 years old if he had lived.  He’s no longer with us as he fell into alcohol abuse in his twenty’s long after he stopped taking Ridlin.  In his early 30’s he took his own life.  He was highly creative artistically, curious and gifted with the ability to do impressions of just about anyone.  He made everyone laugh.

When my youngest daughter was a child, she was interestingly different.  Curious about everything,  gifted linguistically and musically inclined.  She started talking at ten months and singing in tune by age three.  She hated tags in her clothing and I would have to remove them from everything.  She refused to eat certain foods due to their texture and her food could not touch each other.  So casserole’s were out of the question.  She needed a different utensil for each food item on her plate.  She was hyper sensitive to smells, sounds and the moods of other people.  We had some very frustrating moments especially in the morning.  One example of this was when I had to get to work on time,  I would put her shoes on and she would take them off  because the seam in her sock wasn’t perfectly aligned.  I wouldn’t see anything amiss so I would attempt to fix the problem and put her shoes on.  She would proceed to take them off again.  I found myself carrying her shoes on many mornings.

She had one speed.  Hurry up wasn’t part of her makeup.  I would have to wake her up extra early so we could be on time, waking her up early to give her the leisure to eat her breakfast slowly.  I also discovered difficulty in adapting to quick changes.  By this I mean needing to give her plenty of notice when I had to be somewhere or to run errands.  If she was busy playing,  I would have to let her know even before she could tell time that in 10 minutes we would be leaving, then five minutes, then three, then two minutes.  This seem to work better than just telling her “c’mon we have to go right now.”  The warning system that notified her that change was about to occur worked so much more effectively and she became more cooperative about switching from one activity to another.  I purchased a book called the “Difficult child” because clearly this unusual behavior must be labeled difficult.

In the first grade, during conferences with her teacher, was the first time I encountered the recommendation to have my daughter tested for ADD.  Of course I asked the teacher why she thought so.  The rather elderly teacher, ready to retire the next year, started the conversation with “Winter Birds”.  I looked puzzled by this statement and almost chuckled out loud. “We’ve been studying winter birds and your daughter, instead of paying attention was braiding the hair of the girl in the seat in front of her”.   I asked how long they had been studying winter birds?  Her teacher replied “two weeks”.  I told her teacher that perhaps my daughter had learned all that she wanted to learn about winter birds in the first week.  I came to the realization that I myself wouldn’t want to learn about winter birds day in and day out.  I didn’t think my daughters actions warranted buying into the ADD label and consequential testing, especially over the subject of winter birds.

In the third grade my daughter came home telling me that she was going to “pull her hair out”  if  the teacher said one more time “take out your math books and turn to page 21”, in the same tone of voice, in the same way every single day. My daughter would mimic the teacher’s monotone voice and all I could do was laugh.

She displayed an interest in music before she could speak full sentences, directing me to change the station on the radio until what she called “clown” music was found. I figured out quickly clown music was classical music.

Math was difficult for her but other subjects were somewhat easier.  To help her with math I found it necessary to become very creative.  We played *’mother may I math* a game we had invented.  She and her friend would compete answering the multiplication tables and when they got the answer right she or the friend could take a step forward.  We made a geometry twister game out of an old sheet and made a spinner with the geometric designs on the spinner.  It was played the same as Twister and helped her to identify the shapes easily. She responded well to this type of interactive homework assistance.

Studying was difficult for her.  When  lists of spelling words were difficult to remember we used what she was most interested in to help her remember.  We put the spelling words to music and sang them instead of reading them over and over. She received 100 percent on most of her spelling tests after this. She passed every grade with decent grades. By capitalizing on her interests… it made learning much less frustrating for both of us.

She was easily as frustrated with the dull and repetitiveness of school, pretty much from the beginning.  I frequently had to discuss with her the reasons why teachers taught the way they did. It wasn’t easy to keep her interested in learning.  I refused to have her tested for ADD and would not play into the cultural epidemic of  all children must behave and learn the same way.


In her junior year of high school, my daughter came to me and asked to be tested for ADD.  Her teachers by now had sufficiently convinced her that her focus was an issue.  She compared herself to her peers and how easily they learned and was now thinking about her future. S he didn’t want to struggle her last two years of high school.  She talked with the majority of her friends who were taking prescribed medication for ADD, and those who would buy a pill from a friend when a big test was on the horizon. These friends convinced her how much easier it was for them to focus and do well.  She came to me and we discussed it.  Against my better judgment, I made an appointment from a referral by her doctor.  She went through a battery of written tests and a conversation with the psychologist.  At the conclusion of this one hour meeting the doctor handed us his diagnosis.  You guessed it… he said she had ADD.

She was placed on medication which would need monthly approval from the doctor to obtain a refill.  She started the medication on a weekend and what I observed was amazing.  She was very focused she told me, but felt odd.  She couldn’t really describe it.  That evening she picked at her dinner and barely ate anything.  Day after day on this medication I noticed a child who was much different then the one I had raised to this point.  She had trouble sleeping and eating but boy was her focus and listening skills exceptional.

After she had lost the first 10 lbs, I contacted the doctor about the weight loss.  It had gotten to the point I had to force her to eat.  I would tell her she couldn’t go out with her friends until she finished a plate of food.  The doctor switched her ADD medicine to something different hoping this would allow her to sleep and eat.  Shortly after starting this new medication, the school office called to let me know that my daughter wasn’t feeling well.  I spoke with her on the phone and she complained of a rapid pulse or fluttering in her chest.  She went to see a heart specialist who couldn’t find anything of merit.  She had mood swings that put her in a depression some days and others that were normal.  Some might think it was associated with just being a teenager but I felt it was more pronounced now on this medication.

The doctor put her on yet another medication for ADD, and this just worsened the lack of eating and sleeping.  She claimed to feel somewhat more focused at school but I didn’t see a remarkable difference in her ability to study.  Her grades in certain subjects were always B grades.  Math was a struggle and continued to be.  The most interesting observation of all was the classes that she did well in were also ones that she was challenged in.  She got A’s in those classes and it qualified her to move into honors English class.  The difference those classes made looking back, are the ones that made her stretch more.  Around that same time she started *picking*.  Picking at her her scalp and her skin uncontrollably.

Eventually we both concluded that the medication made things worse.  It changed the light hearted fun child that I used to know into a zombie.  She had lost 15 lbs and three or four medication switches later, she decided and I agreed that she would stop taking them.  She put weight on, slept better and returned to her joyful full of life self.  Her moods seemed to be leveling out, even though there was never a chance of avoiding the typical teen drama.

During her Senior year before she graduated, I consulted with her doctor about the picking of her scalp and her skin which hadn’t subsided after stopping the medication.  The doctor referred us to a psychiatrist to determine the problem.  The doctor suspected OCD and thought it would be a good idea to find out what could be done about it.  The psychiatrist concluded that she had Trichotillomania. The solution was for her to take anti anxiety medication.  She rejected this idea.  Since she would be starting college in the fall there wouldn’t be a way to monitor the effects of this medication and part of the treatment was to be monitored.

She was accepted to a college in Chicago and we located a psychologist in Chicago to work with her on this new condition labeled Trichotillomania. Trichotillomania is in the obsessive compulsive family of disorders according to most resources on the subject. I t is described as pulling of the hair resulting in noticeable hair loss in one or more areas, including the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows etc.  I was unable to understand how someone who never had this condition would just suddenly acquired it.

After several meetings and discussions about this issue  along with the history of being diagnosed with ADD, her new psychologist requested the results from the ADD testing done back home.  She told him how ineffective the medication had been and also shared with him the many specific things about smells, textures and sensitivity to moods of people around her she had experienced as a child.  Even though she had outgrown some of the sensitivities she maintained many of them.  The psychologist told her he didn’t think she ever had ADD but instead was HSP.  He concluded this based on her description of how she reacted to the medication.  My daughter shared these findings in a phone call to me.  When she told me I thought “great, that’s just great, yet another label!”  What I found out about HSP was astonishing. I will include the findings and detail about HSP in part two on this subject.

As I wrote this blog post some things came up for me.  One of the discoveries, is that the sudden onset of her Trichotillomania began after taking her ADD medication.  There was no sign of such a disorder before.  I called my daughter mid post to tell her my hunch.  I explained that I wondered if there was a correlation between Trichotillomania and Straterra, Concerta and Aderol the three medications she had taken for ADD.  I left this message on her voicemail and she called me back after looking up the correlation.  Most of the research she managed to find were posts from parents.  These parents noticed after their children started taking the ADD medication a phenomena of picking as well as  facial and body tics.  There were posts from parents about the sudden pulling of eyelashes, eyebrows and fingernail picking.. until they bled.

There are no coincidences.

We came to these revelations as I write this blog.

Both of us  have been puzzled for the past five years at the reasons behind this sudden onset of this condition.  Both my daughter and I feel there is a connection, even though she has stopped the medication almost four years now.  Perhaps the medication changed something chemically and has left her with this condition.  We will never know, because the producers of these products wouldn’t admit to it.  Though many of the side effects listed for these medications don’t specifically mention Trichotillomania, they do mention Tics.  Again, this condition has been a puzzle with the inability to pinpoint the exact time and reason for the onset of this condition… until the writing of this post.  While we are unhappy with the discovery that the medication has had a lasting effect, at the same time we are filled with joy at locating a source for the condition.  She can now work to clear this with alternative therapies such as energy medicine EFT( emotional freedom technique) and meditation.

Question Everything!

The point of this post is to shift your thinking … just a little.  In that labeling yourself and labeling your children creates a “buying into” of what is acceptable or the norm.  This buying into only encourages the production and philosophy of a money making machine, big pharma. When we stop buying into the definition of normal, which was created by mere mortals we call other human beings who for what ever reason, be it profit or fame have coined these labels without regard for the long term affects of their behavior pill.

In a future post on this topic I will reveal to you the original conception of what we now know as ADD.  Including astonishing research I have done on the subject.  Perhaps medicating ourselves and  our children or labeling ourselves and our children ADD  isn’t a solution but rather a band aid.  Gifted adults and children are being forced into a square hole when the original intention of their lives is to remain round.

We give our children and ourselves a behavior band aid.  I ask who is really benefiting from the behavior pill?  Our education methods and systems haven’t changed much since the days of one room school houses.  Does society and parents need to conform to these gifted souls arriving on our planet ? Or is it easier on all of us to force our children and ourselves into the same square hole?

Please read part two of this post coming soon. I will explain the label  HSP and the reason it is frequently mistaken for the label ADD.  I welcome your thoughts and encourage dialog on this subject.  Stay tuned for part two.

I don’t believe in ADD and ADHD labeling as a disability but rather an opportunity to explore new ways of looking at the special gifts of those who might not fit our typical  or cultural definition of normal.

If you or someone you know would like to explore coaching around a true disability please visit this link.

One Life Coach’s perspective on the health insurance debate

Today is the last day I, my husband and my college age daughter will have the privilege of having health insurance coverage, previously supplied by my husband’s employer. My husband was laid-off just about two months ago from the local government. He is a building inspector. Weighing in on the health care debate, one might think that in my current position, losing my health care insurance, I would be in favor of passing the public option health plan.

It would be so easy for me to say, yes, help me get coverage so I may feel more comfortable and won’t worry if I get sick or if my daughter or husband gets ill. It would be so simple. Having known this was coming since May and consequently watching the frequent publicized disagreements about a massive plan to insure most of the uninsured, afforded me the opportunity to look at a much bigger picture, than just my own personal situation.

Life Coaches, such as myself assist people in uncovering their potential. I gave serious thought on how this relates to our current health insurance crisis and the uninsured people in America. This big picture thinking set me on a path to wonder how the poor, underemployed and unemployed end up needing such basic rights as being able to receive good, quality affordable health care coverage.

America is a place of dreams and opportunities. Many people come to this fair land knowing that if you work hard you can be and do anything you desire. Well at least it has been that way for centuries.

Which brings me to the public health care option. When did we become a nation of accepting the mediocre. When we hand out health insurance run by our government, what incentive does it give the general population to rise above their condition? Forcing the public option keeps people where they are, accepts and endorses their life condition, instead of looking for a way to rise above the unacceptable.

Are there exceptions? Of course, those who are physically and mentally disabled, the elderly and children deserve assistance in a public plan and we have a moral obligation to insure they are well taken care of. Not able bodied healthy adults,who are capable of contributing to their own life with support of another kind.

Instead what policy could we look at that would invest trillions to the uplifting of people  which supplies the chance of providing for themselves? The majority of Americans are proud hard working people. If given the opportunity to be educated, retrained and their gifts and talents recognized and utilized, more Americans would be able to afford to pay for their own health care plan and would feel better about themselves in doing so. So what is the answer to rising above our current condition? Education.

Could we consider for a moment a highly educated America. One that creates and inspires innovation and contributes back to our society. By investing in, and providing for quality free higher education of all our children and all of our adult population. People would have the choice to elevate themselves, rise out of their current condition and be able to afford to provide for themselves and their families. Investing trillions in America’s human capital, the people, would be by far a better investment than handing people a way to stay where they are. An educated public would be a healthier public.

Would there be those who are perfectly capable but reject participating in receiving a higher education than High School? Of course there would still be some. This is America the land of choice. Its my guess the majority of people would take the opportunity and would choose to help themselves.

If we are to socialize anything it should be that every American has the wide open opportunity to receive lower level and higher level education, providing the chance to rise out of their current condition.  It is not the role of government to endorse or agree with conditions of  the unemployed, the uninsured or the able bodied poor.

Over time an educated society would create jobs, invent, teach, cure, provide leadership and prosper. The playing field would be truly one of equal opportunity. America could actually be the land of dreams once more.

So that’s my two cents on a trillion dollar issue. I respect all comments and would love to hear what your thoughts are. Please leave your response below. All fair minded, respectful replies will be approved.