The Perfect Doctor – Healthy With Disease

looking

One of the difficulties we have in talking to psych patients is realized with the dawning truth that we are not curing anyone.  Working in those conditions of not curing, you both, patient and psychiatrist, have to come to terms with each others’ agendas.  The physician says, “(‘I’m a failure.’)  I can’t cure anything.”  Now eye contact is even tough.

“If I don’t look them in the eye, some other emotion will surface and they’ll stop crying.”

Rachel was crying and crying hot and hard in the emergency room.  She was unable to stop the lava flow.  It was bewildering to her.  The people around her shifted their gazes.  Those who didn’t, looked angry instead, as if to say, “Pull yourself together, Woman!”

Psychiatrists have the advantage perhaps to these others in the lobby and receiving rooms and gurney shelves. Supposedly psychiatrists can grip and tug at the corner of the large sweater that is human behavior and say, “Emotions and behaviors come from the brain.”  They can imagine, if not entirely believing at a visceral to cognitive level, that the person they observe is responding to symptoms of what is happening biologically, at a cellular level. When they are tempted to avert their eyes, or look back impatient with the messy emotions, they can say, “This is medical.”  Impatience with emotional chaos from psychiatrist to patient, is equivalent to the ER doc saying to the trauma patient, “How dare you bleed in a public area?”

When someone cries on the medical unit, you may hear, “Nurse! Call the psychiatrist! There’s an emotion on the ward!” Later when things are calm, I walk out and they say, “Doctor!  You’re amazing!  What did you do?”

“Well, I bit off the head of chicken and sacrificed a goat on the patient’s chest.  Then I said, take this pill and everything will be as it should.”

Luckily I have several chins now, and when I gesticulate, their quiver contributes to me looking very capable. As if I could cure something.  I don’t know much about art history but, The Thinker, a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, is probably what that Frenchman’s psychiatrist looked like when they both came to terms with the fact that psychiatrists don’t cure anything. (Heresy.) At least he got to get nude while he did it.

Talking to psychiatric patients can be that difficult.

There are studies on patient satisfaction that demonstrate that patients don’t like us when they think we give them bad news.

You see the predicament here, don’t you? So, some of the difficulty the world at large may be having with talking to psychiatric patients is that we have distorted perceptions of good and bad news. We may have difficulty with our own humanity, frailty, infirmity, and seeing it out there “without a scarf on” for decency, is a hard reminder.

We will never be cured of so many things. All of us. And the best we can hope for…

What is the best we can hope for?

(We are all gluttons and all hope for many unpublishable things but please! Just humor me.)

Say: “I hope to be healthy with disease.” There. Now we will all speak better to each other. It all starts and ends with Me.

Questions: Have you ever had difficulty talking to a psychiatric patient? Have others had difficulty speaking with you? Why do you think that is? What could help? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip: Hope to be healthy with disease. 

(I bet Carl D’Agostino could make an excellent cartoon with this rich irony to work with! That’s right Carl! You heard me! Maybe a blue ribbon with a hole in it?… Ah heck. I’m sticking with practicing psychiatry and leaving the toons to you!)

Making our way through the questions on ECT – Top 3 Reasons for Being an Advocate

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?

fancy

Ooh La La!

So much fun to play dress up! When I was a scrub, a solid big boned unkempt of the Cleveland National Forest bordered lemon groves, when I walked barefoot, disappeared for the entire day in the rattlesnake infested chaparral, when I followed my brothers around like a desperate child, I still liked to play dress-up. I would sneak into my mother’s long closet, a dressing room really, with folding doors. I could hide behind her dresses, or climb up onto her shelves and be nothing more than luggage. But mostly I remember staring at her clothes and shoes. I remember one of her all time best outfits – a blue knit bell-bottomed jumper. A wide white belt with a hand-made gold buckle was an excellent accent. Yes, it would drag down below, but all the better to cover my brown feet.

When I think of my top three reasons for being an advocate for ECT, I think of dress-up. There are so many great options to put on, and I can and do exchange them with aplomb, as Fancy Nancy would say. That’s a French word for poise. It’s fancy. If you catch sight of my brown feet here and there, well, you can’t take the hills out of the psychiatrist I guess.

For today, Reason Numero Uno, (Fancy for #1, in honor of the second language I wanna-be speak):

  • It works most consistently, and most quickly of any treatment available. One must pick her fights after all, mustn’t she?

Reason Ithnān, (Arabic for two, in honor of my fancy mother):

  • It doesn’t touch “the body,” i.e. metabolics. Clean.

Reason Trois, pronounced I think like, twa, (Fancy Nancy’s favorite language. Need anyone explain? “French is fancy”):

For example, just by requiring someone to help with transportation, it’s built in. That thereby inherently increases community awareness of mental illness, something we rarely speak of with each other.

Then there is the medical staff. Our nurses are every patient’s advocate. Our masseuse increases oxytocin and other healing neurotransmitters when the patient’s get their massage waiting for treatment and then when in recovery. Our anesthesiologists are knowledgable, see the patient in their “whole person,” often picking up other issues that then will get the patient to receive treatment and improve the patient’s quality of life (QOL); such as hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, etc…

There’s more, but basically in ECT, none of our patient’s are alone. That stands.

Question: What are the top three reasons you prefer the treatments you engage in? 

Self-care Tip: It is always helpful to write out why you are doing what you are doing, when it comes to medical treatments.

Making our way through the questions of ECT – Memory Loss

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?

memory loss

1. Cognitive and memory impairments:

There is no brain damage done with ECT. One way to understand the memory loss is with our own not so fond memory of carbon paper and credit card receipts. It’s not too ago that we made manual credit card receipts. We used, what was essentially, a machine that held the card in place, while we rolled over a two-part receipt, including one surfaced with ink. When rolling over the card, the ink pressed into adjacent paper the outline of the card face.

Inevitably, whenever I had one such interaction, the carbon paper was used up. There would be little patches of ink left on it, but in all the wrong places. People would try to move the carbon paper around to maximize its usefulness. And we’d roll over it multiple times, using repetition to get a good enough copy, when the carbon-paper had gone almost white. Roll. Roll. Put your weight into it. Roll.

The machine hasn’t changed. The machine isn’t broken or damaged. There just isn’t enough ink on that paper.

This is a rough analogy of what happens in our cells.

When we get new experiences, our cells try to “imprint” those memories into another area of our brain for storage and later use.  We use the intracellular “ink” to do this. However, a seizure dumps that ink, the neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, hormones, ions, and all those good ingredients needed to lay down new memories. It squirts the intracellular ink nearly completely out when we are stimulated, like squeezing a bag.

ECT is a stimulation treatment. It uses electricity to stimulate, toward the effort of healing. There are other stimulation therapies that we have discussed already – magnetic and chemical. Not all stimulation therapies result in a seizure. We don’t know why a seizure is needed for such a dramatic benefit, but so far, in our 80+ years of experience with ECT, it is needed for this magnitude of healing. The seizure is the event that “tips the ink-well.”

Our cells will naturally refill if left alone, after being “tipped over” and emptied. What brings about the memory loss is that in the beginning, in the ECT index trial, we don’t. The proximity of the treatments to each other is more frequent than what will allow for the cells to refill adequately for new memories. We stimulate, Monday, then just as they start to refill, we stimulated again Wednesday. And then again Friday. Then we do it again the next Monday, and so forth.

This is only in the index trial though, the first part of ECT that we do in order to get healing. Once the first 2-4 weeks, approximately, are done, treatment response is achieved, and we progress to a maintenance program of ECT to keep those benefits. Just as with medication therapy, if we stop treatment, if we stop the pills, if we stop the stimulation therapy, often, we will relapse and become ill again.

In maintenance ECT, we treat as infrequently as once a week to once a month or more. By allowing our cells to refill with “ink” between stimulus events, the difficulty imprinting new memories goes away. Those memories of events that happened during the index treatment, (the 2-4 weeks when we first start ECT,) may never come back. But we wouldn’t expect them to, necessarily, because there wasn’t enough ink to imprint them at the time. Like a carbon copy paper without ink on it, no matter how many times we roll over it, mechanically, we don’t have the ability, the ink, the ingredients, or whatever you want to call that stuff needed to save the memory of an experience permanently.

I’m not going to go into the obvious juxtaposition of this with what happens cognitively with brain disease untreated, or with other treatment options toward brain health. I hope you do though. Because there’s so much there and it’s fun, liberating, and increases our personal freedom to choose.  Keep on.

Questions: What do you think about not being able to keep the memories of your life for a brief time? What is the cost benefit ratio to you, when you think about this? Please tell us your story.

Self-care tip: Be as careful as you can in your accounting, book-keeping, of your risk-to-benefit ratio of treatment.

Questions From Someone Important – On ECT

Hi. I was hoping I could ask you a couple questions about ECT for a research paper I am writing.

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?
My thesis statement is:
Although there are many different treatments for Bipolar Disorder, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) has proven to be the most effective therapy, treating both mania and depression.
Thanks in advance,
Priscilla

Good morning Friends!

What would you answer to Priscilla?  Do you have personal experience with ECT, primary, secondary, etc? Where did your beliefs and attitudes about ECT come from?

Last week I almost lost control of my functions when my patient told me about his sister’s comments.

Frank, my patient, had called up his sister, asking her to help drive him to ECT in the morning. Frank’s sister hadn’t even known Frank was getting ECT. She was alarmed but didn’t say anything until they were in the car together, a California dawn and sleep in their eyes for context.

Is this for real Frank? Where are we really going?

Frank was straight faced in his pragmatic style.

She thought maybe we were either going to doughnuts or the devil.
I don’t want this to sound bad or anything, but you know how people go, like to TJ, Mexico, to get some sort of cancer therapy that makes their skin fall off, that’s what she thought. Or we were going to get the psychiatry equivalent of a coat-hanger abortion in someone’s garage.
Don’t judge me for peeing a little.

One of my secretly favorite comedians, Amy Schumer, has a way of taking the worst negative biases in our community and denuding them w/o remorse. She did this with “rape.” The internet exploded that, demonstrating that sure enough, our community doesn’t get it. We don’t understand what rape is!

Then Schumer did it again with women. The idea is that we lose value because of age. Sure enough, the world started talking. For example, a few someone’s noticed when Maggie Gyllenhall was told she was too old, at 37, to get the role of a 55 year-old man’s girlfriend.

I wish Schumer would do a skit on electroconvulsive therapy, (“ECT.”) I wonder what she’d play with. Because there is awesome material there!

First introduction to ECT, some people wonder where the leather straps are. Dr. Schumer, in her white coat would say, “Oops! I forgot them at home.”

And what do you wear in an operating room, really? Scrubs for spine surgery. Scrubs for gastrointestinal procedures. And psychiatry?

Dr. Schumer, psychiatrist: “I’m a surgeon!”

Funny how you celebrate things you would otherwise not…”Hey, what a great seizure!” (High fives all around.) Never Say say, “I just push a button.”

Adding to the list of things not to say in the operating room (“OR”):

  • My Bad
  • Who is this?
  • Whoops!
  • I hope this works

ECT patient: “I want to be the placebo guy.” Patient (an older man:) Lifted his head, slightly, after the procedure was over, and asks, “Can I still have children?”

Patient: Being wheeled out of the OR (operating room) on the gurney, she stares up at the ceiling and mutters, “I can see why I need a driver.”two steering wheelsHow do People learn how to drive a gurney?! I just touch the thing and it’s like solid objects appear everywhere. The patients get nervous. One said, “Doctor, there can’t be two steering wheels.”

Dr. Schumer: “I want to reduce staff work load, and since I’ve proven to be an unsafe driver of gurneys… I now control the Tylenol. I am a physician and I hate it when people say that I just ‘push a button.’ They can hardly trust me not to shock myself…. But the Tylenol, the Tylenol is mine!”

Anesthesia: “Versed isn’t really an abused street drug—if you have a good time using it. You don’t remember anything anyway.”

Dr. Schumer: “Yes, I’ve put vaseline on my nipples to help with chaffing.” (Patient: In his ‘twilight’ sleep…we thought, bursts out laughing.) Dr. Schumer: “Yeah, try and not picture your doctor in pasties… It’s not good for your healing.”

Patient to Dr. Schumer: “You’re pretty good at this.” Dr. Schumer:I’ve watched this on the Discovery Channel.” (Then, all of a sudden, she realized “I am not perfect. Such a shame.”) Dr. Schumer: “I really don’t do a whole lot in the OR… In fact, can we just get another gurney in here so that I can lie down?”

Cheap medical service, do you really want that?

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Hello Friends,

I’m enjoying this all too fast passing time at the APA annual meeting in Toronto. What I am most enjoying is the education, the community and connection with new and old friends, and the reminder of what this is all about – you and I. In honor of us, I’m “pressing” this excellent post from our national advocators and stigma-fighters at NAMI.

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts. How does this resonate, or not, with you. We need to hear!

Be well and keep on!

Q

Dr. Sarah Lisanby on ECT | Psych Central

I worked with this amazing lady, peripherally, when I trained in ECT at Duke. She is articulate and is a leader. I’m proud of her from woman-to-woman, psychiatrist to psychiatrist, person-to-person. She is moving soon to NIMH and I bless her life journey. Our world has been blessed by her. Keep on Dr. Sarah Lisanby!

Dr. Sarah Lisanby on ECT | Psych Central.

Handout – How to Talk to a Psychiatric Patient.

duck

Finished the CME talk I did last week and thought, you might find some use for it.

I’ve received bad press many times for not being, in so many words, legit or academic enough. Check out the comments on my ECT book on Amazon.com for examples :). Maybe this one leaning into that bosom of greatness will turn public opinion. (Sneeze.)

…Formatting has been a real bear.

As you go through it, please talk out. Tell me what you think. I may do it again. (That’s right. I’m not afraid to threaten. You heard me.)

Keep on, Friends.

How to Speak to a Psychiatric Patient

Introduction:

  • You quack like a duck, avert your gaze, and then hold a fetal position. It’s good for core.
  • Be sure to carry your portable speakers playing zen chakra music in the background.
  • Offer cigarettes.
  • Bring a healthy white chicken to sacrifice over their chest for the exorcism.
  • Introduce yourself with an alias name. Hopefully a superhero.

This is a fail safe method of communication to pretty much hit all the difficult misperceptions we are contending with in psychiatry – demonic possession, shame, violent tendencies, weak character, and poor moral choices.

I’d like to give you the 1,2,3’s on how to talk to psychiatric patients. But as I researched this topic, it became apparent that this wasn’t the direction for us to go in. You have better algorithms, systems, and manuals based on research for this in your own departments. I know you have people who are specialists in the administrative side of things.

For us today, we are going to turn rather toward the innuendos that interplay in communication between caregiver and patient.

The is the first place for us to start, let’s just talk about it here.

What is it like for you to talk with a psychiatric patient?

  • Identifying Me in the mental health treatment paradigm.
  • Not implying that we have skills but no awareness. We are just deliberately putting the practitioner into “it.”
  • It’s a “how to,” but first we need to address our personal limitations.
  • Why do we have these limitations?

I: Clinician/Caregiver barriers

II: Patient barriers

  • What’s over-scored is that the problem is on the patient’s side. The patient is sick after all. We agree. Brain illness and all that.
  • Even so, what is underscored is our side. And that’s what this talk is going to be about.
  • We want to focus on our own thoughts about this. What it says about ourselves. Who am I if my identity changes with how I feel and behave? etc.
  • And then, how do we respond to that?

III: Understand Personal Biases – Likes and dislikes

  • Figure out where we are at. What makes it difficult to talk to patients?
  • What are the common myths? Get the myths out there. 
  • Some reasons are true and not myths.
  • What are some personal biases about working with psychiatric patients?
  • (Bias means – likes and dislikes)

IV:   Define Stigma

1. Prejudice – Attitudes, feelings/emotions (Amygdala)

2. Discrimination – attitudes lead to actions

1: Prejudice

  • Weakness of character
  • Supernatural explanations. (Statistically significant association with superstitions.)
  • The word “patient” not talking about disease, perhaps, but rather about character – something of moral value.
  • Religion. (But only a few believe that spiritual leaders can play a role in treatment! People don’t relate stigma issues to biology.  i.e., It is not biology or medicine that increase the problems, but belief that the person has a personal weakness as demonstrated by their behaviors – A conflict in beliefs, or prejudice, worth exploring.) (…But where do emotions and behaviors come from? The Brain. Thinking they come from a cloud by day or a fire by night fall into the category of prejudice.)
  • Time consumption.
  • Danger
  • Treatment skepticism – no recovery, there’s less hope for them
  • Punishment from God for evildoers.
  • Demonic possession
  • I am lessened by my affiliation with the mentally ill

What are our fears? Fears are an emotion and/or attitude…

  • Brings into play, how do we identify ourselves? …And that part of us that remains even when we are in a changing body (identity).  I call this, “Me,” with a capital “M.”
  • Think about this when we look at responses to prejudice; “discrimination.”

Caregiver stigma – “self-stigma” comes when we internalize public attitudes and turn it onto ourselves

  • We perceive stigma from others due to those we care for.
  • Shame/Embarrassment
  • Fears of what it says about ourselves

2. Discrimination – How we act on those prejudices.

Example:

  • Take “Caregivers Stigma.” We can bring this into our work place as well, from what we glean in our community.
  • We avoid patients who make us feel uncomfortable.

Who has Stigma?

Everyone.  It is in our community, including we who serve and are involved in mental healthcare services.

1. Patient

2. Clinician

Patient

Example: Mr. Whineheart misses his medications approximately three times a week due to logistical reasons. However, we know that Mr. Whineheart has had a long history of difficulty with treatment noncompliance. As we explore further, we discover that Mr. Whineheart dislikes taking medication. It makes him feel like he is weak. Not taking his medication is Mr. Whineheart’s discriminating behaviors against himself in response to his prejudices, (emotions and attitudes of shame.)

Clinician

Examples:

  • Refusing care for psychiatric patients.
  • Starting with Questions:  How do we respond to challenges to our identity? When our identity’s confronted by seeing our patients with psychiatric illnesses, our patients who demonstrate changes in their emotions and behaviors since brain illness set in, we ask, what part of us remains even when we are in a changing body and mind (identity)? How do we respond?
  • If it is positive, it is not discriminatory toward ourselves. If it is negative, it is discriminatory to ourselves and inevitably to others.

V: What are the barriers to talking with psychiatric patients?

  • The tension is when the patient and the clinician’s personal views, life stories come together.
  • Where those thoughts collide is where the tension is.
  • That’s where the barrier is.
  • Once this tension is resolved it’s easier to go into action

VI: Why bother about Stigma?

Because:

  • Stigma is a feature and a cause of health problems. (Both clinician and patient)
  • Belief —> action.
  • i.e., In caregivers, emotional toll can be devastating – may lead to injury or illness of caregiver

Because It Affects:

  • How we speak to psychiatric patients. (Human Value.)
  • Choices in our clinician-patient relationship.
  • Perceived quality of work experience.
  • “Me” and QOL (Quality of Life).

Because It Engenders:

  • Social distance. (Comes from fear. But connection is healthy for “Me.”)
  • We are robbed of opportunities (Think – Agendas, Connection, etc.)
  • Avoidance. (Comes from belief of danger.)
  • Treatment skepticism (What is “recovery” anyway?)
  • We need to ask, “What are our treatment goals?” (Agenda)
  • Frustration and anger, negative emotions.

Responsibility:

  • There’s an unequal level of power (Us v. patients/clients) – inherently increases our responsibility toward others to overcome this.
  • What about us?
  • Identify that. Then fear can become strength. Presence. Actions of discrimination change to actions of hope.

VII:  Agendas

  • Part of our “belief systems.”
  • Exposing agendas, leads us toward action. 
  • Just like exposing prejudice leads to actions of hope.
  • Just like starting with Me leads to actions of accountability and presence.

1.  Traditional agendas in the medical model:

a.  Serve altruistically.

  • Saying we don’t have an agenda is grossly dishonest.
  • Maybe we are uncomfortable speaking about agendas because it creates tension with the classic view that practicing medicine is supposed to be Altruistic.  Altruism is just another “pressure.”
  • It’s a perfectionistic model. It’s false. To ally ourselves with it is a mistake. Brings discriminatory behaviors toward ourselves, driven by prejudices of shame.

b.   Healing

  • The paradigm that never fits for psychiatry – cure, getting rid of something bad, not joining it and integrating it. (Presence.)
  • Can’t stop disease even with appropriate treatment – Treatment agenda changes to center around QOL experience rather than cure.
  • Caregivers in long-term care are not looking for recovery in their patients.

c.  Serve patient (Service)

2.  Traditional agendas of business

  • $, Profit

3.  Quality of work experience

  • Not only do we get money, we get other stuff (biopsychosocial needs).  That affects how we talk to people.

VII:  Solutions

1.  Start with Me. Own that we have stigma: prejudice and discrimination.

  1.  Protest
  2.  Put own selves in the way of these treatments
  3.  Rely on evidence (biomedical conceptualization or education), not ideation (prejudice, emotions, religious causation…)
  4.  Pay more attention to emotions, senses, thoughts.
  5.  Reconsider your agendas e.g., Not necessarily recovery but rather QOL
  6.  Engender a culture of expectation (ex: We expect ourselves and each other to participate…)

2. “Contact based” solutions.

  • The impact of experience and exposure
  • Best treatment is contact with the mentally ill vs. Educational approaches, which, although are helpful, are not as effective. Nor are psychotherapeutic approaches.
  • Maybe we overemphasize education in our culture and undervalue human relationships.
  • We see this anecdotally, but also notice that nearly all interventions studied, (multiple metanalysis, etc.,) used educational interventions primarily.

3. Education (Still important and demonstrates degree of efficacy)

4. Collaborate

  • Involve family

5. Collaborate

  • Involve community, Partnerships with community resources

Conclusion

  1. Start with at Me.
  2. More contact and exposure to people with mental illness.
  3. More education.
  4. More collaboration.

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