Category Archives: Essays

Traumatic Brain Injuries

By Marianne Curtis

For decades, doctors have been studying patients to see what side effects, if any, that they may suffer as a result of traumatic brain injury. Fascination on this subject grew immensely when an unusual case surfaced back in 1848.

Phineas Gage was working as a railroad foreman when a freak accident caused a 13-pound tamping pole to blast its way through his skull. It entered Gage’s head below the left eye and exited through the top of his skull. Surprisingly Gage survived this major trauma to his brain. It was through studying Gage that doctors discovered that damage to the frontal lobe negatively affects thoughts and ideas.[1]

While Gage may have been one of the first reported cases on the result of traumatic brain injury, doctors have been studying patients ever since. It is hoped that by studying recovering patients, doctors can further understand the most complex organ in our body – our brain.

According to the Center for Speech, Language and Occupational Therapy Inc. a traumatic brain injury, occurs approximately once every 16 seconds and annually affects over 700,000 individuals in North America. Not surprisingly, most occur in automobile accidents.[2] Any injury sustained by a blow to the head can potentially cause a traumatic brain injury. Closed injuries, otherwise known as concussions, usually occur in incidents involving a fall during every day activities. What they both have in common is that an array of behavior and language changes can and do occur in a majority of patients.

Recently I spoke to a Landmark teen who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident. It was through talking to him that I understood how an accident can cause memory loss, speech impairments, and in some ways, a complete personality change. In this case, Lex[3] spent several days in a coma. When he finally woke up, doctors discovered that he could recall his life up the accident, but that particular day and the collision were beyond the reach of his memory. The first few weeks were also spent dealing with severe short-term memory loss. At first he could only recall about a minute at a time, but as his brain healed his memory slowly returned.

It has been almost a year since Lex’s accident, and he still can not recall what actually occurred that evening. According to his parents, the once quiet, well mannered teenager now angers easy and is prone to fits of rage. At one point he was hospitalized by his family because of his sudden uncharacteristic behavior.

Research done over the years has proved that a person can experience physical, mental, and behavior changes as a result of a traumatic head injury. Individuals may have problems speaking, seeing, hearing, and using their other senses. They may have headaches and feel tired a lot. Trouble with skills such as writing or drawing can occur. Muscles may suddenly contract or tighten, seizures may occur while balance and walking may also be affected.

Because the brain has been injured, it is common that the person’s ability to use their brain also changes. Trouble with either long or short term memory is common, making it difficult for individuals to focus their attention and concentrate. Thinking may slow, along with listening and speaking abilities. Reading, writing, planning and understanding, along with impaired judgment can also occur.

 And lastly, social, behavioural and emotional problems can occur resulting in sudden changes in mood, combined with anxiety and depression. Children may be restless and cry a lot. A difficulty in the ability to relate with others can also cause problems, including self-esteem issues, employment, educational and motivational issues.[4]

 Another thing that has been discovered is that the lasting effects sustained as a result of a traumatic brain injury can change over time. According to Dr. Jay Uomoto, Ph.D.[5] these changes are a result of development and life stages that occur throughout a persons life. He says that in childhood, a student that has suffered an injury may require extra tutoring to help them make the grade. Self-esteem issues can also arise because children may get embarrassed if there are physical and mental disabilities associated to their injury. Teenagers may have a heightened reaction to normal adolescent development issues. In adulthood, brain injuries have been known to lead to difficulty during transitions in life, such as the completion of college, marriages, parenting, and job issues.[6]

 It should be noted that not every person that suffers a traumatic brain injury will have any of these symptoms. Injuries can range from mild to sever, and can change over time.

 There is help for individuals that have sustained a brain injury. They are often sent to see a neuropsychologist, who can evaluate how a brain injury affects learning, communication, planning, organizational skills and relationships with others. Once the causes of the behavior are understood, the neuropsychologist can recommend strategies and help parents and family members respond to behaviors.

 Over a hundred and fifty years ago little was known about how the brain can be affected after a traumatic head injury. Now, after decades of research doctors understand that there is a direct connection between significant changes in an individual after an accident.

 By understanding these changes and their causes, a person that has been affected by such an injury has a better chance of recovery, while family members and loved ones receive as much support as possible to help them deal with the sometimes unexpected changes that their loved .


Source: Understanding Psychology (page 166)

Kay, Thomas, Ph.D., “Minor Head Injury: An Introduction for Professionals.”   U.S. Dept. of Education, 1986

Dr. Jay Uomoto, Ph.D. Life Changes After Brain Injury Jun 9, 2003

[1] Source: Understanding Psychology (page 166)

[3] not his real name

[4] Kay, Thomas, Ph.D., “Minor Head Injury: An Introduction for Professionals.”   U.S. Dept. of Education, 1986.

[5] Dr. Jay Uomoto, Ph.D. Life Changes After Brain Injury Jun 9, 2003


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Media and Adolescents

By Marianne Curtis 

As a reporter, anything that has to do with media always peaks my interest.  As a parent that has three teenage daughters and a ten year old son, teenage behaviour is of personal interest to me. Taking this class has been very educational.  I find myself watching my family and thinking that I know why they act the way they do.

 Taking on the challenge of watching a teenage based program was not as easy as I thought it would be either.  My options included enduring another showing of “Mean Girls”, along with my drooling son. I also considered watching “Malcolm in the Middle”, or “DeGrassi Junior High”, but instead I laughed my way through several episodes of the ’70s show.

 If you do not know, the ’70s show follows the lives of six teenage friends, and their parents.  Even though the show is set in the ’70s, many of the issues that Eric, Donna, Hyde, Kelso, Fez, and Jackie face are typical of the issues today.  From having girlfriends and breaking up to growing up or dealing with their parents – these kids face it all.

 Because the show is only thirty minutes long, I took in three episodes to make sure that I had enough information for this report. The major issue in one episode involved Kelso.  He found out to that this girl who he had a one night stand with, was pregnant!  At first, he was trying to convince his friends that he had slept with this girl.  She was very popular and they did not believe that she would give him the time of day.  She denied knowing him and Kelso was very disappointed.  However, a few days later this same girl barges in on Kelso and his friends to tell him that she was pregnant.

 In the beginning Kelso denied that he was a father.  But the rest of the group sat down and talked to him.  For a group of inexperienced teenagers they proved to be very adult when they explained to him that he was responsible and then he should do the right thing.  For Kelso the right thing was to ask her to marry him.  She said no. Kelso was relieved but eventually he decided that he would stick around and help her with the baby.  I think that Kelso was very adult when he realized that the right thing was not to run away but to stay and try to be part of his child’s life.

 One of the interesting side parts of the ’70s show is that one thing that this group of friends has in common is that they are all stoner’s.  This I feel, is a very negative portrayal of teenagers because it shows that drug abuse was so rampant in the ’70s that it was OK to portray it in a TV show.  Now we all know that not every family in the ’70s openly smoked marijuana or that all teenagers were in fact stoner’s.  However showing the show during prime time television in the evenings, gives teenagers ample opportunity to laugh and giggle, then they think that it’s OK to get high.

Then there is the matter of perspective.  Eric’s father, treats his son without any respect.  He calls him names like dumb-ass, or stupid.  I don’t think that this is appropriate way to portray a parent.  I believe that if you want your children to respect you, then you should treat them with respect and name-calling is not a way to gain respect.  Eric tries to ignore his father but he is not always successful.

During my time watching the ’70s show I was exposed to the sometimes illogical thinking of teenagers and the way they deal with crisis. While the methods that these kids used to get to their final decisions may seem illogical to us adults, it is really obvious that to understand a teenager one must be a teenager.  But if you provide them with guidance, and the right tools these hormone filled humans will hopefully grew up to be our next president to prime minister.

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The “Fitting In” Test

By Marianne Curtis 

The fascination and entertainment found in taking personality tests has been titillating people for decades. Magazines, newspapers, and even community newspapers usually have at least one quiz that promises to help the reader determine something significant about themselves. With the modernization of the world’s communication methods, a simple search on the Internet[1] can result in almost six million websites that offer online psychological tests to find out more about one’s personality, intelligence, career, health and relationships.

 The majority of people taking these tests realize that the quizzes are set up for entertainment value. However, in some cases, the results of these tests become the subject of discussions and comparisons to the point of becoming a major popularity draw in online communities. An online community can consist of a cyber chat room or message board that draws people with specific interests to that particular domain. The tradition of posting links to an interesting personality test that someone has come across, is a common one in these online places that usually draws many participants. When such an invitation is posted, it is assumed that everyone who sees the link will go complete the test and then report back their results in the same thread. The intent being that persons who take the test with post their results to help facilitate the “getting to know you” process of becoming a true participant in that particular online community.

The initial plan of finding out more about other site visitors is usually the intent of posting links to personality tests as it is considered a good way of figuring out who are the “crazies”. However, sometimes the results of the tests become a means to cut out people. I have seen women who have answered a “poll” (what test links are referred to by some) get bashed because they admit that they think outside the box. Depending on the type of test it is, this has led to the negative use of that test information by bored or mean chatters. A “I am better then you” attitude sometimes gets adopted and soon the actual fun of the test is replaced by the feeling of regret at being dumb enough to post the results.

In this scenario, personality tests can be both good and bad. While the initial intent maybe to give everyone an equal opportunity to let others know who they are, the test results are also sometimes used to divide and separate. After speaking to a few personality test junkies, some admit that they have not posted their real answers for fear of being ostracized for thinking differently then everyone else.

 On the other hand, posting the results of a personality test can be a means to open the doors for a lively discussion – depending on the content. It is definitely fun to go find out what your perfect chat name would be, or what you were in a past life. However, people need to understand that these tests are for entertainment value, and good laugh. They should not be used as a means to weed people out, just because they don’t think the same way you do, or be the basis for a popularity contest.

 Most of all, if a person is just trying to fit in – don’t take an online personality test and then post the results – because the ultimate test is not what you find out about yourself when you take the recommended test. The test ultimately becomes how well you survive the “fitting in test”.

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The Frightening Truth about Phobias

By Marianne Curtis

When I was a little girl, I  was not afraid of anything but I can clearly remember when the fear and paranoia that would eventually become a part of my daily life set in.  I was about eight years old when my mother (whom I later realized suffered from a number of psychological disorders) discovered a “religion” based out of New York City. She became obsessed with the end of the world and preparing our family to meet God.

 It was that obsession and her subsequent behavior that led me to be afraid to of everything.  Eventually, she made me believe that anything I touched would either die or break. I remember when I got pregnant with my third child, and my sister was still childless – I actually believed that I had somehow done something to affect my sister. It turned out that she was pregnant too, and we excitedly expected our children together – then her daughter was born with sever disabilities, and my girl was perfect. When I found out my daughter Ashley had a heart murmur, I actually celebrated because my daughter was not perfect, like my other two. My mother even asked me if I had wished this upon my sister!

 This demented thinking, inflicted upon me by my mother haunts me to this day. I still have struggles, and believe it or not, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that in her current mental state (Alzheimer’s) she can not judge or condemn me any longer. It is only now, that I am learning that it was my fear of her that has led me to be afraid of really living life to the fullest.

 According to our Understanding Psychology textbook anxiety disorders affect 19 million Americans annually. These orders are characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear when confronted with a given situation – real or imaginary. This fear can blossom into full-blown panic attacks and sometimes-medical assistance is needed to help one get over their phobias.  I can honestly say that despite all that I thought I feared I really have no real phobias. But that can not be said for the group of twenty-seven people that participated in my phobia survey.

Taking statistics from the American Psychiatric Journal, the top ten phobias that people experience in order are: spiders, social phobias, flying, fear of lack of escape, small places, heights, vomit, cancer, thunderstorms and death or dead things. I put together a survey listing those fears and invited a number of people to respond. They also were asked to list their fears, if the phobia was not listed.

 Twenty-seven people responded to the survey of which only four were male. The majority of the group was adult but three of the twenty-three women were teenage girls. It is important to note that all the adult women that responded to the survey were mothers of small children. Out of the entire group, there were two fearless females and only one fearless male – all were adult.

 The top four fears that the respondents voiced were closed places, social phobias, heights and spiders.  An equal amount of people said they were afraid of cancer, fear of lack of escape and the fear of death and dead things. A smaller group admitted to be afraid of flying, thunderstorms and two people were afraid of vomit.  One of two women afraid of vomit says the fear is so intense that her husband has had to deal with that aspect while raising their children. She added that she is currently seeking therapy to overcome the fear.

 The respondents were also invited to list their own fears on the survey. A number voiced surprise that the fear of drowning and deep water did not make the list. The fear of snakes, reptiles, rodents and insects were also added to the list. Other fears added to the list were the fear of fire, surgery, pain, violence, abuse, and the supernatural. In addition, the fear of being alone or rejected was also listed as being significant.

 The relevance of the amount of mothers among those polled became prominent when a large number of the women said that they had unnatural fears towards the safety of their children. A majority voiced a very real fear that their children would be abducted. One mother admits that she never leaves her children with anyone else because she doesn’t think anyone can care for their safety like she can. Another mother says that she is not scared of heights, but if she sees someone else lean over a ledge she “freaks out”.  The fear of not being able to rescue the ones they love, in the event of an emergency is another strong fear that was voiced.

 One of the teenagers told me that she was terrified of being cut and having her wrists tied up. Interestingly enough, she has tried to figure out why she had this fear but she has never been able to explain it. The remembrance of an incident with her father when she was two did shed light on her severe fear of deep water though. This lead me to look further into the fears that people voiced.

 I was able to ask a few if they knew why or when these fears originated. One respondent said their fear of violence came from being abused. Another’s fear of surgery came from their mother’s dying on the operating table. Yet another is terrified of rodents because they were accidentally locked in a shed with rats when they were a child. While these answers were forthcoming, the others could not explain their fears. Each respondent says that they have tried to beat their phobias in some way. Some fly, despite a fear of flying. One even went skydiving to try to overcome his fear of heights and flying. And lets not forget the poor lady that is going to therapy so that she can handle when her children spit up or vomits.

 The one thing I found in common with all the people that participated in my survey was that they were embarrassed that they had their fears. In same cases, the fears play a significant role in their lives, and for that reason have in some way has been disabled by that fear. Just the fact that over half of the group suffered from a social phobia is significant in itself. To be affected by fear of groups and social situations where escape is not easy, would make it fairly stressful to function on an every day basis.

 By completing this study, I find it discouraging to live in a society where such significant amounts of people live with phobias of every day things. This means that by in large, we are a paranoid race. The question then becomes, is society to blame, or who? Because even though we live in a fairly violence free region, where life is much simpler then other areas, there still seems to be many other things that people are afraid of – rational or not.

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Is there sex after kids?

Researched and written by Marianne Curtis

Many people do not realize the importance of maintaining a healthy physical, emotional and sexual relationship with their partner after they become married with children. Couples worldwide need to spend more time rekindling relationships that have fallen to the wayside as a result of the replacement of midnight romps with soothing nightmares and playing tooth fairy. While sex is not the most important part of a relationship, Canadians tend to forget that sexual intimacy plays a significant role in their lives, especially after they become parents. Men and women need to remember that being married with children does not mean that they can no longer be each other’s lovers and play dates.

It is very important that couples continue to work on their relationship with their partner after they become parents. Many new parents become caught up in the excitement of having children and they tend to put the needs of the adults last. When children arrive couples tend to gravitate towards the new arrival and forget about each other’s needs. The things that couples once enjoyed together are quickly replaced by activities enjoyed by the children.

Unless a relationship with one’s partner has been fostered over the years, the marriage is often doomed. Couples are not told that while their children will wait while they build their marriage, the marriage will not wait until the children grow up.[1] One day, one’s offspring will grow up and move on. Many couples that divorce after twenty-five years of marriage say that it was because they did not maintain that relationship with their partner. After over two decades of living together, yet separate, couples are often left grasping for memories of what brought them together in the first place. To prevent this from occurring, couples need to spend more quality time together and stop taking each other for granted. It is never too late to rekindle the lost flame by beginning a love affair with one’s mate.

Having a healthy sex life is not only good for mom and dad but it is also beneficial for the children. When couples have a healthy sexual relationship, it shows their children and families that their chosen life mate is the most important person in their life. It also teaches children appropriate ways to maintain relationships, which they will hopefully take with them into their own relationships later on in life. One of the greatest things that parents can give their children is a strong loving relationship between each other.

It is very important that children see the love their parents share, from all aspects. When the kids see that their parents are working on their relationship, it puts more emphasis on the importance of those relationships. It shows children that a marriage is just as important as playing sports and hanging out with friends. (Billingham)

Couples that maintain a healthy love affair with their partner tend to make better parents. They are more sensitive to their children’s needs because they are less likely to be walking on eggshells due to pent up sexual frustration. If one partner is constantly rejecting the other, anxiety manifests itself in negative behavior towards the children, often to the unawareness of the parents. By remaining a vital sexual being one can be assured that they will be a more sensitive, understanding parent. (Belsky)

Couples who maintain a healthy physical relationship with each other tend to live longer and lead happier, healthier lives. University professor Robert Billingham, from Indiana ‘s University Bloomington believes that sexy young people make for sexy old people. “Sex can make life and the relationship more pleasant. Couples who can sustain an active sex life tend to live longer and tend to be happier.”[2]

Having an active sex life is a healthy and necessary part of life and a relationship, even once parenthood begins. A vast array of healthy physical and psychological effects on the body are seen on couples that engage in regular intercourse. These effects have been seen as to significantly improve both parents’ lives.

Men reported to have frequent orgasms have a death rate of 50% less then men that do not have frequent orgasms.[3] Having sex three or more times a week has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by half. Sex is also good cardiovascular exercise equivalent to running fifteen minutes on a treadmill. An improved sense of smell, reduced depression, pain relief, a higher immune system, better bladder control, better teeth, and a happy prostrate are all things that have been accredited to maintaining a healthy sex life, no matter what age a person is.

Keeping the passion alive after becoming parents is a great stress reliever. People who have more sex report that they feel more at ease, happier and have learned to better handle the every day stress in their lives. This in turn helps boost self esteem, and overall wellness in each partner.

Therefore, it is very important for a couple to maintain a healthy physical and sexual relationship with each other once they become parents. It is important because once one’s children grow up and move on, mom and dad are back where they began – a couple. When a couple is active sexually, it shows that they have a healthy communication style that will benefit them as they parent. It also teaches their children the importance of their marital relationship, which they will carry on to their own lives.

Furthermore, maintaining a strong sexual relationship with ones spouse throughout the parenting years will ensure that both parents will live a longer, healthier life. With the many health benefits attributed to frequent sex, it is clear to see that it is important for men and women to continue to placing their relationship with each other at the top of their daily to-do–list.


Arp D and C.  Sex after kids? Website 

Retrieved from on April 26, 2005

 Belsky J. Transition to Parenthood: How a first child changes a marriage. Website

Retrieved from on April 26, 2005

Billingham R. Active Sex Life Means Longer Life. Website

Retrieved from on May 10, 2005

 Dating Matchmakers. Benefits of Lovemaking. Website

Retrieved from on May 10, 2005

Duerksen C. Love and Sex after Children: How to keep the flame alive.

Website. Retrieved from on April 26, 2005

 Farnham A. Is Sex Necessary? Website Retrieved from on May 10, 2005


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