World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is world suicide prevention day. It isn’t a trendy cause, and not fun to talk about. Nonetheless, it very important to raise awareness about this issue as suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the world among those 15 to 44 year of age.

Suicide is preventable. Drawing from personal experience, I don’t recall ever being suicidal but I have been depressed. Depression is the leading cause of suicide and annually 20-25% of Americans over the age of 18 suffer with depression. Over 80% of those who receive treatment for their depression are successfully treated.

I’ve seen suicide attempts. As I think about this day and try to make a small positive contribution, thoughts and images pop into my head. One image is that of a Polish nineteen year old girl in the ICU during my first days of residency. I’d like to share this with you.

I first saw her legs as I glanced through the sterile glass walls of the room. Pale porcelain white skin and long legs that just laid there limp and seemingly lifeless. Then I noticed waves of shiny light brown hair fanned over the pillow. I couldn’t see her face as it was covered with the ventilator tube, tape and straps. There was IV tubing coming out of her chest and arm. A black faced monitor had waves of red, blue, green and yellow displayed across its screen and the waves moved. There was a monotonous beeping sound – I can almost hear it now. There were two figures standing by the door. A middle aged woman with short blond hair and a man. Their eyes filled with what I assessed as concern and fear as they stared into the room. I think the intensive care doctor was talking to them. A few other facts pop into my head. She had attempted (unsuccessfully) to end her life with a lethal quantity of acetaminophen. Her liver and lungs had failed and she was clinging to her life. A bitter mixture of feelings swept over me. I read through her chart and though I can’t remember all the scary problems listed, many of them singularly could kill her. This beautiful young girl was barely tethered to her life through tubes and wires. What hit me was a contradictory image of someone so full and devoid of life at the same time.

Two years went by and I was doing rounds with the gastrointestinal team. One of the names on our list seemed familiar. I went in to see a strikingly beautiful, vibrant and friendly face who welcomed me with a warm smile. She was a liver transplant recipient who had been hospitalized for complications of antirejection medication. Her current condition had improved and she was getting ready for discharge. She seemed happy and filled with joy and optimism. She told me she was recently married to a man “who saved me” and wanted to know about pregnancy as she was eager to start a family. She also mentioned she had immigrated to America from Poland in her early teens with her mother who married an unkind and abusive man and how she had felt neglected and abused by both of them until she couldn’t take it anymore and tried to end her life. It hit me then – this was the same girl.

I don’t know what happened to her after this encounter. I knew her chances of pregnancy were slim as the drugs she was on were very dangerous and contraindicated during pregnancy and stopping them could kill her. I was again swept with a bitter mixture of feelings. What if it had been different, if she had asked for help, if someone had reached out and tried to help her in those desperate times. What if someone had known about her struggles. What if she didn’t reach for the bottle, didn’t swallow the pills, what if her liver hadn’t failed.

When it comes to mental illness and suicide, it is easy to jump to conclusions. To portray a black and white image.  I suspect some may call her a coward, or judge her mother and step father harshly. It doesn’t matter anymore. But we don’t live in a black and white world. There is a little bit of each in the other. It is important to remember that every life deserves a chance. That every feeling must be acknowledged, even negative feelings, and that feelings pass. Someone may feel so overwhelmed with negative emotions that they feel incapable of tolerating them and wanting to escape, even if this escape comes in the form of death. Their thoughts maybe so distorted and impaired in such ways that irrational impulses may appear logical. Based on my few encounters with suicide survivors, they were happy to have “failed”. Those feelings do pass and the people who suffer with such thoughts and feelings deserve our empathy and help. It is important to not marginalized and stigmatize mental disease, depression and suicide. There is help and together we can preserve life and prevent suicide. For more information visit the following sites.

https://www.iasp.info/wspd/
https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2644231-suicide-prevention
http://www.save.org/
http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=705D5DF4-055B-F1EC-3F66462866FCB4E6

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Three deaths

I have this image and these words right at the tip of my tongue, I remember her, thin, tall, sun kissed skin and the lines on her face telling stories of a dense life, a hard life perhaps, but a fine one at that. Her silvery blond curls cut short close to her scalp. Her gaze, her blue eyes full of respect and kindness. Her voice as calm and simple as her demeanor. She was radiant in her simplicity.
Oh how I wish I remembered her words. For the longest time I held on to them, safely I thought; but now … they are gone. As I delivered the news of the brain tumor and that the neurosurgeon was reviewing her scan results and would be by to talk to her. As I told her she wasn’t allowed to eat since she might need surgery right a way. As I took her history and told her what her seizure was caused by, she calmly listened and smiled. She told me she had had a good life and was content and that God will take care of her. There was such conviction and resolve in her words. I don’t remember the exact words, but there was such conviction and resolve in them. They were quite beautiful. But I don’t remember.
“Likely a gleoblastoma” … I knew what that meant. Sadness filled my heart.

I am sure she is gone. Of course I don’t exactly know when or how since I finished my 7 day shift and was off duty. Great way we practice medicine these days. But years later and I still remember her, I hope she had peace and didn’t suffer near the end. She was beautiful.

***

Moaning and writhing in pain he was gracious and kind. My clumsy hands examining him, his abdomen exquisitely tender. My questions ignorant and irrelevant as I look back, and my inexperience comical and tragic. “I have to examine your rectum sir”. Poor man agreed. He was in so much pain but he told me it was his honor to contribute to my education and that he understood it was necessary. Was it my second month or third as a practicing doctor? I don’t know. I knew nothing but I felt fear as he nearly jumped off the bed at my slightest touch. I called the surgical resident.

“he is in bad shape, you need to examine him now”.
“are the CAT scan results back yet?”
“no, but …”
“Is it an acute abdomen?”
“I don’t know … maybe, I think maybe …”
“ what year are you again?”
“intern … but you really should see him now”

I recorded in my notes (59 year old veteran presents with acute onset abdominal pain” …. “surgical consultation placed, spoke with surgery resident, awaiting CT results”.
They took him to the operating room hours later. By then I was off duty.
The next morning I opened the electronic chart and there it was, “death note”. He died on the operating table. Cause of death: perforated appendicitis.
All the while I was pushing on his abdomen and checking his rectum for blood or stool, his bowels were bursting open, oozing angry bacteria into his insides. All the while he was thanking me and telling me it was his honor to contribute to my education. All the while he was putting up with my endless questions “where did you serve”, or when did you start smoking, how many drinks do you have, where do your kids live, … all these stupid questions. Perhaps the appendix hadn’t burst yet. Perhaps it burst while I was taking my full history and checking of my check list. While I timidly tried to get the surgical resident to see him. While I was learning to be a doctor, perhaps there was a few minutes there, between my incompetence and his angry appendix. Perhaps had he been seen by a real doctor, or a surgeon, perhaps … But now, he is dead.

***

At first glace he was disheveled. His mismatched ragged clothes several sizes too big hung on his thin frame as if he were a scarecrow. I crunched up my nose as I was entering the room, expecting the stench that was all too familiar in those wards.
He didn’t stink. In fact he smelled of clean soap and laundry detergent. He was slurring his speech. The emergency room note read he might have been drunk. But one look at his asymmetric face with a large swollen right cheek and jaw suggested there may be more to this story.
Sadly there was … significant weight loss, difficulty eating, and progressively swollen face. For the longest time I remembered his diagnosis. I was by his side as the pathologist took a fine needle and pierced and poked his face to get a sample. But now, it too is gone. As is he, I am sure. This was the year 2006 and he had advanced neck cancer. The last day I saw him his friend had brought in a portable CD player and he was listening to classical music. For such a rough looking man, he had such a gentle soul. I had wanted to bring him some of my CDs, but I never did. I still remember that, and him … That nice veteran, the scent of clean soap and soft classical music …

Infestation: the state of being invaded or overrun by parasites

Our house is infested by fleas. I did not know of this not so little fact about our home despite my four year olds little body being covered in tiny little bite. “It is ants or mosquitos” both my husband and I thought until we hired a mobile pet grooming service to come and give our cats what is known as a lion haircut. ef07b900c10911e2976e22000a1fbc8d_7

This was the first time we were giving them a haircut and since the cats are exclusively indoor cats, I thought it would be a convenient and safe approach to reduce the shedding, the matting and the hairballs (all the great things that come with having long hair cats). I was in the van while the groomer, shaved our cats and one of the first things she said was, “have you treated their fleas?”. Fleas! What on earth was she talking about! These are indoor cats, they have never, EVER had fleas. It turns out, I was wrong. They do, courtesy of our last year’s move to Dallas. Where these nasty little creatures came from is besides the point and as I learned, they had not only been torturing our poor cats, but in fact were responsible for the nasty bites on my daughter and on occasion myself.

Yep we had a problem on our hands and just how big a problem it was, turned out to be way beyond our wildest imagination. After spending hundreds of dollars in grooming, vet fee, flea bath, skin and oral anti flea medications and a hefty $300 to a professional pest control company to come and spray our house full of toxins, washing all washable things and discarding pet bedding and furniture, not to mention daily vacuuming of the house, we still have the problem. Except now that the cats are not as enticing a choice, the humans of the house have become feast to these nasty creatures.

So fleas, these nasty creatures that I had only seen on paper, in fact do exist. That set me off to read more about these types and in fact all types of parasites. Web definition of a parasite is An organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. That is what differentiates bloodsucking parasites such as fleas from say mosquitos who also live on blood but don’t live in or on their host.

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Now my intention with writing this little piece was partly to vent about the nasty on going problem in our house and perhaps get some advice (the newest weapon I am using is flea lamps around the house which has trapped hundreds of the little bloodsuckers). But really what inspired me to write about is was the term “infestation”, a word made by humans, to describe organisms that interfere with our humanly ways. What differentiates me, who also depends on other organisms to thrive and survive without any benefit to the other organism be it plants or animal sources of food from a parasite? Of course my dependence on resources which I use selfishly without returning the favor extends beyond that of my food source. I depend on the mother earth for survival and in fact I live “on” it qualifying me as a parasite to earth if one considered earth to be a living organism. Perhaps not in the traditional sense of word, but this little planet of ours is a living breathing organism, is it not? It nourishes life, breathes and blows air and steam out, has secretions, excretions and many other functionalities that we associate with living organisms.

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Is it not that earth is in fact infested by us humans? We, the living parasites, have overrun and invaded it, rapidly depleting it of its resources without any benefit to the host – Earth. Another planet looking at earth, it could in fact consider our blue planet to be an “infested” planet. So what makes me better than fleas and pests that I have set out to destroy? Nothing really! I am no better but as I open yet another aerosol can of poison and use disposable traps, and such around the house, I don’t really care if I am any better than these little bloodsuckers. I am a mother on a mission and I will fight this to the nail and tooth so that my little girl doesn’t have to suffer another bite.

But this poses another question, if I am so clever as to come up with using traps, toxins and other means of “mass destruction” on organisms that for one reason or another, I want eradicated from my life, what if mother Earth, also resorts to such measure? What if all the natural disasters from diseases to tornados and floods to earthquakes and landslides are ways the blue planet is trying to “reduce” the infestation of humans? What if even human madness, murder and war are ways mother Earth attempts to cleanse itself of this persistent and rather resistant problem we call “Humanity”? What if …?

The Three Little Pigs

When I first came to the America, after a 49 hour long difficult, sleepless journey, I found myself feeling a sense of disequilibrium. This feeling came upon me as we set foot inside my grandparents home in Rolla, Missouri. No it wasn’t the sleeplessness or jet lag, it was a physical sensation as I felt the hollow ground and the echo of my feet as I waked on the floors of a house built from wood. It was a solid construction and in a very good condition, however if felt vastly different from the concrete floors I had grown up and walked on for nearly two decades of my life. It did not feel supportive, and was a very strange sensation to experience.

Years have passed and I have lived, worked, studied and experienced variety of buildings and structures and I no longer give it much thought as the equilibrium centers of my brain and spine have desensitized to the variations of structural material used in each of these places.

Today as I was driving home, I passed by several large developments and structures under constructions, some where single family homes, some apartment complexes. The structures where largely being built from wood. I could see the entire skeleton of these structures with the exposed wooden beams, walls and frames and suddenly I remembered the old fairly tale of Three Little Pigs. You know the one with first pig building his home from straw, the second one from wood and the third one who turned out to be the wisest, built his from solid bricks – yep that one.

We are now amidst the tornado and flood season in the great plains region of America and yesterday several structures where flattened in the neighboring Oklahoma, and last week we had massive tornados destroying many homes and neighborhoods near Dallas where I live. I can’t help but wonder, why the buildings in these parts of the country that are exposed to annual massive storms, tornados and floods, are made of wood? Is it because it is cheaper, or perhaps because it is quicker to build? What ever the reason maybe, it is sad to see that the middle pig continues to make the same mistake … The middle pig in many instances also turns out to be the poor pig so apparently he isn’t missed much or talked about once his wooden home is blown away. The wise third pigs with their mansions and massive bank accounts, now they seem to know better as I haven’t seen their homes, lives and work places blown away. Granted I am generalizing but still I can’t help but draw this comparison.

Now back to my country of origin, in Iran everything was built more or less the same way, from steel, concrete, cement and brick. I remember when we were building our home, we had hired an architect and the two story structure took over two years to finish. We often visited the site and I was mesmerized by seeing the workers laying bricks or mixing concrete and plaster. All the walls and ceilings were plastered as we did not have or use dry wall. This was the norm, the way all buildings were built and are still being built. Another major difference between our homes in Iran and the ones here is that the majority of people in Iran did not and do not own their homes. They rent. If you owned your home, you had fully paid for it. There was non of the “pseudo home ownership” that we have here with people calling themselves homeowners to property that is owned by banks and pay what seems to me like a monthly rent to these banks. We also did not have a bank come and take your “owned” home if you missed a payment.

No, we did not own our homes. Also we did not have tornadoes, hurricanes or floods. We had earthquakes and the eight year war with Iraq when our cities and homes were bombed day and night. I don’t know if that makes us any wiser than the middle pig with his wooden home. In the face of bombs and earthquakes, steel, concrete and the bricks crumble without much hesitation.

nullBut this is one instance when I think the new world, America, might be better served if they learned lessons from the old world. To build their structures more soundly, and more appropriately to the environment. To run the electrical wires underground, to have better foundation for their cities, their people and their homes. To have basements or other structural necessities in areas prone to tornados and massive storms. I am sure there are learned experts in this area who can figure out ways to better protect innocent lives when faced with these types of disasters. The question is cost – cost of making us more immune to the disaster vs. cost of reacting to and cleaning up after the fact. One way or the other we will have to pay, the question is when? These are just some of the thoughts that run through my mind every time I see a new subdivision appear out of thin air over night with identical cookie cutter homes, every time we lose power during a storm, every time I see neighborhoods flattened and lives lost during another storm, tornado or flood.

Yes I am an American. I live in a land where we don’t seem to learn from the past. Where we’d rather pay with our lives and homes and pay to clean up than pay to prevent disastrous outcomes.

“God”?

* Nasa-Astronomy-400x600
In college I took a course in theology. The first paper we wrote was about God and if God had become irrelevant in in today’s culture (that was in 2000 but culture hasn’t changed too much since then). At the time I was leaning more toward a relevant God and though I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, it concluded that God was relevant but that religion or its practice needed to be adaptable and progressive, that perhaps the written word was meant as a guideline and not a verbatim set of rules.

I am not sure if I still think that way. In fact I’m not even sure if I believe in a God at all. There I times I consider myself and atheist, other times I identify more with agnostics, saying I don’t know, but there are still times, however rare that I do find myself feeling and thinking that there is some sort of a creator out there. For the most part that creator is the universe, not the mass and volume of it but the force behind it, perhaps more as a form of energy. I find myself relying on this creator or universal force when I seek some form enlightenment or connection. Be it in times of sadness and grief, or desperation and need and even elation and joy, I do find myself affiliated with a creator.

Note how I avoid using the term “God”; recently I realized I have an issue with this word, as it fuels as sense of defiance and sarcasm. It doesn’t stop there, the fact that the word “God” is considered to be masculine and the use of the pronoun “he” has the same effect. You might think this is a feminist agenda, but it isn’t. The pronoun “she” is no better. I don’t want my creator to have a gender. Not a he or a she. Assigning gender diminishes its mystic and powerful presence. My creator/universe is genderless, nameless and shapeless.

I have thought about this for a while now trying to understand where my opinions and feelings toward this concept come from. Religion is the most powerful force governing the world, even in the 21 century. Having a clear understanding of what it means to each individual is very important. Here is what I’ve come up with to explain my dislike and repulsion for the words, religion, God, and he.

I grew up in Iran as a secular person perhaps because my parents were secular. However religion played a very prominent (and for many negative) role in that country and the lives of those around me. We learned about it extensively in school and I witnessed people practicing Islamic prayer rituals. Though I did not personally affiliate with it, I suppose it did get ingrained in parts of my brain. I remember my beloved grandmother praying daily and how spiritual and lovely she appeared to me during her prayer rituals. Somewhere deep inside, I defined true prayer and affiliation with a creator, through visions of my grandmother praying.

In Iran, Khoda (that is the Farsi word for Gad) is genderless, not a he or she. Khoda is also shapeless and formless. Assigning any physical attributes to this creator is somehow believed to diminish is powerful meaning. The only physical attribute I recall from all those religions lessons is perhaps that of “light”. That is the only metaphor I recall affiliating to the creator. When I think of my past, it is no surprise that I still identify with a creator, similar to the concepts I learned in those early formative years.

For me, in those rare moments that I affiliate with a universal force/creator, a metaphysical, genderless and shapeless power/energy is more congruent with my inner belief system. I want to make a firm stand for my beliefs. I am anti religion; I don’t believe in it or subscribe it in any shape or form. I am at best a reluctant and indecisive believer of a universal force and if I have to use a pronoun that is “It”, and not a sexualized being. I opt for “It” because I find repeating the word “universal force/creator” to be too cumbersome and visually tiring. I haven’t decided yet if this creator is an intervening in our lives, but I am leaning more toward a non-intervening creator. In the end and despite all my curiosity and defiance, I am perhaps affiliating more with a creator that is similar to what I learned during my formative years in Iran. That is a sobering thought. Even my dislike of “religion” perhaps stems from seeing its negative effects in my childhood and still seeing its negative effects today through the same cynical and critical eyes.

That is my piece and now that I’ve said it I have peace!

Thanks for reading

* image taken from http://www.top-walls.com/wallpaper/nasa-astronomy/

I am a Gun fearing, unarmed American. Is there an amendment for that?

In the wake of another school shooting today in California I will finally speak my mind. I am not the only one or even one that matters in the great debate that is going around the country regarding guns and gun control. That being said I feel many of us who oppose guns, for one reason or another, are quiet while the gun-lobby is stirring up the pot (and they do so clearly for the economic and the financial gains that come from the gun industry). More of us the un-armed and Gun-fearing group need to voice our concerns.

If it wasn’t clear above, I am a Gun-fearing citizen. I reflect on my past to understand how it shaped my personality. I am a child of war. I grew up in war. I heard sirens, I heard rockets, and I heard the sound of fighter jets dropping bombs all over my city. So I grew up hating wars. I hate wars, I hate killers, I hate bombs, and I hate guns. I am not alone. Most other survivors of war or gun violence have similar views.

As an American, I see there is a war taking place once again. Perhaps a covert war, but it leaves victims just as cruelly and viscously as any other war. I don’t understand how in the 21 century, this country is still tip toeing around gun issues. At least not enough to make a drastic stand and changes the way things are done. Why are guns so available? Why is gun ownership a “right”?

The senseless and unimaginable act of violence and terrorism against little innocent children just few weeks ago stirred me up. My mind is flooded with emotions and thoughts. Sadness, devastation, compassion and anger have fueled a determination to stand for change. I don’t want to be silent anymore; I don’t want to be distracted away from this tragedy. I must say what is in my heart as I, along with the rest of America, grieve this devastating tragedy.

When I point to something, stop looking at the tip of my finger. I am pointing at gun violence, at the abundance of guns and lunatics in our so-called “free” country. Is it a free country when one freely goes on a shooting spree and takes innocent lives? I suppose you could define freedom as that. Freedom shouldn’t mean entitlement.

Stop talking about the deranged gunman and start talking about what will be done to prevent the next one. Stop talking about metal detectors and armed security and staff at schools. Reporting the age of the gunman, his GPA or the color of his clothing or the location of his house is irrelevant. Interviewing innocent young children who were effected by this horrific crime is exploitive and distasteful.

Start looking at why this country is rapidly losing its mind. Why do people go insane and violent and why do they all seem to have guns? Perhaps with the artificial pressures and inequality that plagues the United States, it isn’t hard to account for the rise in mental disease. But not all mentally insane are violent. Why is it that these violently insane perpetrators all have guns at their position? Is it because they legally purchased it perhaps when they weren’t insane or at least not overtly insane? Why is it that when insanity hits, the gun and the lunatic are perfectly paired. It is a recipe for a disaster that kills without prejudice. It kills innocent children and adults alike without so much a pause or consideration.

I hope it is not too late and that we will open our eyes and finally see the task before us. I hope that for the sake of our innocent children; we will do what is long overdue. Even if it is hard, even if it is not popular, even if it is expensive, do it anyways. So that we invest in making us a healthier society because in the long run, everyone will win.

Languages and their significance. A personal story

I recently read a bloggers comment on how he wished he could learn and speak all languages. His appreciation for linguistic expression and his unprejudiced and progressive desire to know all forms of communication was inspiring. Although I share the passion for languages to some extent, I find my own interpretation of language to be partial and heavily subjective.  Some languages are infused with memories, experiences and emotions, positive or negative that have transformed their significance into something much more powerful for me.

Today I visited two blogs belonging to some of my followers. One of them was Italian and the other French. Though unable to understand their content, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the written language. I have a life long admiration and appreciation for French language. I have worshipped it from afar, as an unattainable measure of linguistic beauty, be it in the form of French music or movies or the rare chance when I get to be around French speakers.

I believe the elevated status that this language holds for me has to do in part with its inherent beauty. I recently learned the term essentialism that refers to appreciation of something, based on its essence and not merely a superficial impression. No doubt, French is a very beautiful language in its essence. It has subtly passionate and seductive tones, and the melodic rhythm of a sonnet that captures my attention from the start, to the very end and resonates somewhere deep, deeper than my eardrums. It resonates somewhere deep within the soul. I remember when I traveled across Europe, as soon as I stepped out of the Italian train in the French riviera, I felt starstruck by the ordinary French speaking to each other in that beautiful melody.

My admiration for all things French also has to do with my childhood memories. I grew up reading French literature including works of masters such as Roman Rolland, Victor Hugo, Gautier, Emile Zola, Alexander Dumas, and Albert Camus and several accounts about my favorite emperor, Napoleon. This was courtesy of my mother’s expansive library. Another early memory that is linked to a fuzzy and happy childhood comes from when I attended a daycare center run by a French woman who lived in Iran at the time. Oddly, I remember very little from the time that had such an impact on me. My mother tells me how we were taught to walz (we were 3 and 4 year old children!) and to sing French songs. The one thing I do remember is how to sing Frère Jacques, I song that has sentimental value indeed.

Then there is French food, cheese, wine, my all time favorite the French baguette and last but not least the French sense of elegance and fashion. For reasons that can be traced as far back as my very first memories to the cheese I like to spread on my baguette, I love all things French!

But that is not all I have to say about languages. I speak three languages, Farsi is my mother tongue so is Azeri and they are very important parts of who I am, how I think and how I express myself. American English, on the other hand, has become a part of my adult life. I am comfortable with English and it fits me. Though I have far less fluency and eloquence than what I desire, I find myself thinking and even dreaming English. It too has become a part of me. I never thought of English as beautiful, or not. English just was; and it became a part of me.

There are some languages that I do find unlikeable. I used the term “unlikeable”, to emphasize the subjective nature of my assessment. The one that comes to mind is One Arabic. Ever since the first time I remember hearing the langue, I recall not liking it. I am not certain that this dislike was entirely my own opinion and not that of others around me. My mother, for example, did not like Arabic. Considering all the political and religious changes Iran went through during my childhood, Arabic became more than just a language. It was a symbol of religion, of religions oppression, of slashing women’s rights, and of authoritarianism. It became the language of war and that of death.

In the early years of the Islamic revolution, music was banned in Iran and the only acceptable form of music was Quran verses or other religions songs mostly in Arabic. A few days ago I listened to a program on NPR about the country of Mali and its recent change to an oppressive religions government after the imposition of the Sharia law. They talked about the recent ban on all forms of music other than religions verses. A French-speaking musician and rapper performed a beautiful song in French, showing signs of resistance and risking persecution. I was instantaneously transported back to my childhood in Iran, to when my taking piano lessons, had it been found out, would have been considered criminal and resulted in the persecution of my family.

In school we were taught Arabic and Quran since the 6th Grade.  I was taught this language for 7 years and I have forgotten it all, unable to say a simple hello in Arabic. I used to blame my inability to speak Arabic to the poor methods used in teaching the language but I now believe the reasons run deeper. Perhaps my refusal to retain what was learned and in fact passed during all my examinations, was a conscious or unconscious act of rebellion and defiance.

Languages are more than mere forms of communication. They hold within them powers, good and bad, depending on how they are used. They, similar to music or other forms of art can illicit powerful emotional responses. I have a desire to understand the linkage between these emotional associations, as they relate to my own response to language, and that of others. Perhaps by doing so, one can learn to re-associate previously learned languages with more pleasant memories. I am eager to learn if a language with positive and pleasant emotional associations, can be taught and learned more effectively.