Always Applauds: Regina Garson, Editor, Magic Stream Journal, Huntsville, AL
Making Magic Online
Helping people learn about and cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. as it is commonly known, is just one of the ways in which Regina Garson reaches out to others. S.A.D. refers to the feelings of fatigue, depression, irritability and lack of motivation that many people feel during the winter months. Most experts believe that S.A.D. is caused by the decrease in natural sunlight that occurs during this time. As the founder and editor of Magic Stream, an online journal that serves as a self-help and mental health resource for people seeking information about everything from basic nutrition to aroma therapy, Garson carries out her mission of bringing the world closer together by sharing her own stories and allowing others to share theirs. Magic Stream's first edition came out in the spring of 1995 and since then has been published three or four times a year on the internet. "When I first learned about the internet I was struck with the possibility of good coming out of it," says Garson, who lives in Huntsville, Alabama. "I thought that if people knew more about each other, there would be more understanding and less violence."
Garson got involved in the internet when she went to Athens State College to get a second degree; she ended up getting two degrees. "I went there to study the use of literature and creative writing for healing," she says. "That meant a double major in behavioral science and English." It was in one of her classes that the idea for Magic Stream was born. "We studied the psychology behind old-fashioned fairy tales," Garson recalls. "I'd always loved them. Magic Stream became my attempt at writing an old-fashioned fairy tale. In the tales, the magic stream was where the wounded come together and by sharing in strength, pain, and tears they are all made stronger. The magic comes from the tears of those who are willing to see themselves as they really are and then reach out to others."
Whether it's the pain and depression brought on by Seasonal Affective Disorder or the blue feelings brought on by a traumatic event or some other difficulty, Garson's ability to generate and edit information about how to cope has made a tremendous difference in many people's lives. And she speaks and works from experience. "There was a time in my life when I really needed and wanted basic information about dealing with emotional wellness," Garson says. "I felt like I was going from one wall to another, just looking for what now seems the most simple self-help information. I had no experience using mental health services. I didn't even know what a therapist did."
Garson eventually found a therapist, but was encouraged to take medication in order to deal with her depression. "If there's a medical reason behind depression, you may very well need a medication to treat it," Garson says. "But, for me, it didn't feel right." She found another therapist and started to learn how to deal with life's problems without, as she puts it, "getting bogged down in another depression." Garson admits that some of what she learned may sound obvious. "But when you're not doing so well, it can be hard to put your finger on the obvious," she says. "In Magic Stream, my dream took focus."
Magic Stream began as an internet directory linking online mental health and self-help resources. The emphasis was on the sites that were maintained by people who were trying to help those with the same issues that they themselves faced. "From there I started pulling in the writings of people who had dealt with various emotional issues on a first-hand basis," says Garson. "On a very basic level, Magic Stream is about taking care of yourself emotionally, learning from others who have been where you are, and seeking professional guidance when needed." Garson is particularly proud of Magic Stream's involvement with the First Internet World Expo in 1996, in which small Web sites from all over the world joined together. Similar projects include her involvement with the Minorities Job Bank, which helps equalize opportunities for minorities in the workplace, and the President's Initiative on Race, for which Magic Stream joined the effort to collect public feedback and provide information on what Garson calls "the real human effect of those who live with racism."
Today, Magic Stream continues to serve the online community in a huge number of ways. "We do everything from posting photos of lost children to getting out information on human rights violations and race issues," says Garson, who grew up in Alabama during the civil rights movement and calls herself an activist at heart. "Although I think it would be great if we could all take a pill to fix our lives, so much emotional baggage could be eliminated if we could all just be nicer to each other. That sounds simplistic, but it's real."
At 43, Garson is the mother of two teenagers and, as well as her degrees in behavioral science and English, holds a degree in Advertising and Communications from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. "I was really an old-fashioned, stay-at-home mom when my kids were small," says Garson. "When they got a little older, I went back to school and that's when I started Magic Stream." Though she also holds a full time job as the internet editor of Women's Village, an online career and professional development resource for women, Garson still manages to take time out to visit schools and talk about trends in cross-cultural poetry. She leads a busy life, but it's clear that her passion for her work and the satisfaction of helping others keeps her going. "Everything with Magic Stream was in baby steps and elbow grease," Garson says. "But it's so important for me to do this. We are all in this world together and in everything from child rearing to race relations and violence on the street, it does matter how we treat each other."
To access Magic Stream, go to http://fly.hiwaay.net/~garson/
Always a Woman
Copyright 1999, Proctor & Gamble