Get Treatment to Move On – Addictions

Molested by his cousin, neglected by his parents, he watched his intoxicated father beat his mother.  Thinking she would die too many times, he ran away, returned in a police car over and over again, as if wanting to get away was a crime.  He came back and raped his neighbor, more than once.  He spent a lot of time trying to get sex even though he knew it was ruining him and others.  He lost interest in almost everything else.  He suffered uncontrollable impulses.

He was 18 years old when he left it all for the safety of prison.  During the next fifteen-some years he was diagnosed, treated, and kept.  But kept for what?  For eating.  He gained weight, until he needed 2 seats to sit in.  Eating became his preoccupation.  He didn’t have sex.  He had food.

He was released to a home for sexual offenders, put on a diet and lost weight.  He lost it big and fast and felt in control.  He started purging and not finishing his meals.  He thought about purging all the time.  He knew he shouldn’t do it.  His voice was changing, raspy and his throat hurt but he still purged.  He wasn’t having sex.  He wasn’t over-eating.  He was purging.

For whatever reason, no one had yet seen the pattern.  Mostly everyone saw sex offender.  Me included.  I was trying.  I was trying to treat him with empathy, trying to get past the bile that comes when I think of rape, trying to consider the courageous things this man was doing now in life.

In one of my favorite scenes from the film, Rachel Getting Married, Kim played by Anne Hathaway argues with her sister about her own chances to have a future:

Rachel: Kym, you took Ethan for granted. Okay? You were high for his life. You were not present. Okay? You were high.
Kym: [Whispering] Yes.
Rachel: And you drove him off a bridge… and now he’s dead….
Kym: Yes, I was. Yes, I was stoned out of my mind. Who do I have to be now? I mean, I could be Mother Teresa and it wouldn’t make a difference, what I did. Did I sacrifice every bit of… love I’m allowed for this life because I killed our little brother?

I thought of this and somehow through all that trying, I did. And because I could empathize, a space opened up for me to be more objective.  That’s when I saw it.  I saw the pattern.

Addictions migrate.  Someone who may have started out as a food addict, might turn to gambling, and then later to alcohol.  Someone with sex addiction, might turn to food and then later to purging.

It can be like that game I used to play at Chucky Cheese, trying to hammer down the little animals that pop out of holes.  We need to treat the disease of Addiction regardless of how it’s dressed, or else it will keep popping up.  And like Kym, if we do, although perhaps terribly wrong in some unchangeable ways, we will still have a future.  If you’d like to read more about this “kainos” (Greek word for the opportunity to be made new,) read the post New versus New.

Self Care Tip #62 – Get treatment to move on.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.

A Little Bit is Not Enough – Claim Full Health

The good news is, I just ate 3 chocolate chip cookies.  You already know the bad news.  Has nothing to do with my post.  I’m just sharing it for the sake of your own

Schadenfreude 🙂

…Onward.  Question:

Does emotional disease get worse even while on medication therapy?  Sometimes.  It does so more often when the disease process is treated but only partially treated.  Read a little more about this in this post if your interested.  A primary care physician recently told me, “I think the term ‘Partial Responder’ is a marketing gimmick to get physicians to prescribe more medications.  I don’t think it even exists.”

There’s a lot to be said about interview skills in sussing out the partial responder.  If I asked someone if they felt better, many things play into their response. Everyone’s responses are biased of course.  We don’t have sterile minds.  For example there’s the patient who wants to please their physician.  “Yes I’m better!”  i.e. “Yes you’re a good doctor!”  There are the patients who don’t want to be patients and minimize whatever they’re going through.  There is the physician who leads the interview.  “So, you’re feeling better?”  “The medication is helping?”

Partial response means that at the end of a full treatment initiation period, there is some disease remaining but a reduction of disease.  For example, in depression, I may no longer be suicidal, but I still have trouble feeling pleasure in life.  In cancer it means that there is tumor reduction of at least 30%.

Now why would a physician presumably agree that there is a partial response in cancer, but not agree that it happens in mental health?  Anyways….  (Ahem.)  When we partly respond to mental health treatment and don’t push further for full response, about 70% will relapse.  Versus maybe 25% in those who reached their pre-disease baseline emotional health through treatment.

Don’t get lost in this.  The point is, get treated and get fully treated.  Mental illness is progressive and causes changes at the cell level.  The brain is connected to the rest of our body.  The brain is human.  A bit better, is not enough.

Self Care Tip #61 – Go all the way!  Claim health.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Did you find this to be true in yourself or someone you know?  Please tell me your story.

Claim Your Brain

My mind, like rusted gears, was not moving well.  It hadn’t been really since my 1st pregnancy 8 years ago.  There are few things that dumb us down as much as pregnancy and children!   Hormone changes, lack of sleep, fluctuating from 145-200-145 pounds three times, and then the subsequent growing beloveds around me to contribute to mental dissociation.  Simple sensory overload from talking, yelling, crying, petitioning, inquiring kids factors in.  You may read more about sensory issues here.

Daily writing, like a staunch governess, found my brain under cobwebs, bug carcasses, and musty stench.  (Hello old friend!  There you are!)  This helps to explain the joy gripping my hand, like girlfriends on the playground, when I sit down to write!  The world is active to me, including rather than excluding me. My in-between moments used to hang like an old woman’s breasts.   Now much more time full of nourishing thoughts bless me.  I am in awe.

My patient came in sighing deeply.  He wasn’t better.  No, he said.  He lacked motivation and interest and connection from the world.  He felt selected out to suffer.  A dumping ground for misfortune and misunderstood.  Efforts through medication, after medication changes were like looking for love in all the wrong places.

We talked about cognitive distortions, tapping into things that used to make him happy, road-blocks in poorly designed neurological grooves – volunteering at the library or animal shelter, journaling, sharing his life story with others, exploring his spirituality.  No.  No good.  Nor could he consider psychotherapy as he’d been through too much of it already to consider it again.  And he just couldn’t get interested in groups such as through NAMI.

His brain, assaulted by stressors, disease, and disuse was growing silent.

Being a friend means yelling, fighting to reclaim your journey, finding something to connect you to your process of life.  My patient was letting squatters take his property simply by being absent.

Self Care Tip #60 – Claim your right to health.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What has helped you connect with your own journey in life?  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.

Keep it In The Relationship

She is a level-headed woman generally.  Objective by nature.  But now she asks, “What should I think?”  No longer taking birth control because she says she doesn’t need it.  They aren’t having sex.  Her husband uses porn and now openly gawks at other women walking by.  She says she doesn’t really care.

When a couple stops touching, the relationship is virtually over.  Few people revive their intimacy after too much time without sex.  Not everyone will believe this and may think it is too primitive for a true relationship of love.  But that’s the stats folks.  What to do if you physically can’t have intercourse?  Figure it out.  Must touch for intimacy.  Sounds like a bumper sticker.

Reminds me of a mighty river that suffers interference of dams and rerouting waterways.  Eventually a dry riverbed that once roiled with current and depth is left baking in the sun.  Even Paul the Apostle who never married recognized that if you aren’t physically intimate with your spouse, your nonphysical connection is also lost.

Physical intimacy is of course only one paradigm of intimacy.  And just about any one can say that, “Sex doth not a love make.”  Nor am I talking about finances, floss left in the shower, or how someone squeezes the bottle of toothpaste.  But whatever the many reasons are explaining the space on the couch, it ain’t good.  

So what did I tell her?  I certainly didn’t tell her “What she should think.”  I did review that we can’t trust our feelings.  “That’s true” she said.  “I hadn’t thought of that.”  Feelings lie all the time.

Question:  What do you think?  Agree or disagree.

Self Care Tip #59 – Keep it in the relationship.  Be a friend to yourself.

Caught in Your Net – Thanks

Connecting more with friends since I started blogging. People I went to school with are knitted together electronically.  The world is smaller than ever.

In school, a people whom we drifted in and out of intimacy with, as kids will do, surrounded us.  Regardless of intimacy, they were generally there the next day and the next day. Familiar faces, personalities, specific laughs, and voices you could pick out in any crowd.  I’m pretty sure with many of them, I still could.

After many years without them there to see me fall off my chair, set a ball, share books, compare bra sizes, whisper, giggle – did I not miss them?  But I did.  Now however, through this technology-net, impossibly dispersed groups of people show their faces on my computer screen daily.  And regardless of degrees of intimacy, they are witnesses again when I fall down and when I stand.  I feel more alive!  Even seeing an angle of someone’s jaw line can take me back to a lawn and a tree and a bench we used to share between classes.  In almost real-time, I am laughing at their jokes, fame and foibles.  Crying with them when they lose.

Certain things are even better than they were when we were in school.  We don’t have as much time for closeting behaviors, hurts, shame.  It leaves more room for the real self to occupy.  Read more about this in the post “Sunshine.”

So to all you old (and new ;)) friends who have given me this privilege, thank you for catching me in your “net.”  Life with you is better.

Self Care Tip #58 – Connect with others to feel more alive.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question: What has helped you feel more connected?  Please tell me your story.

Let it Make You Strong

She is young, golden, blushes easily, bright solar eyes, with graceful speech, not rushed or loud.  Like so many others, she doesn’t believe her beauty.   She came to me to get help.  Crippled by anxiety that hits out of the blue, like a hooded man grabbing her in an alley.  She feels during those times like she is dying or going crazy.  She started avoiding public places and became fearful looking over her shoulder for the next attack.  She was humiliated on all accounts by her uncontrolled emotions and thought people could see how crazy she was just by looking at her.  Branded and tortured.

When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, he made plain the cultural pressure to define what is apparent, seen, and interpreted.  But more importantly he made plain the ability of an individual to define themselves on their own terms regardless.  Hester Prynne wore her letter A at first by mandate and then by choice, letting it represent who she was, where she came from, and where she was going.  She wore her letter and when people tried to change its meaning to something culturally less scarlet, “A” for “Able” she made it clear that she is the one who will decide the meaning of her life’s events.  Her and God and no one else.

When anxiety hits, we are scrambling to understand why.  We think, “What could we have done that is so terrible to have brought this kind of torture on?”  As Hester Prynne began her scarlet letter days bewildered by the force of emotion behind her angry neighbors, so victims of anxiety are bewildered by the level of shame and wild fear they presume must be linked somehow to this judgment upon them.  It becomes their life’s work to determine the meaning of a life with this.

Nathaniel Hawthorne writes,

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not to tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong…

Suffering is a schoolhouse for the courageous.

After some months of medication therapy this twenty-something woman said

I’m not so uptight about things.  …I didn’t know my anxiety was that bad until I got out of it.”  What amazed her even more was how better the rest of her body felt.  “Even physically I feel much better.”  No more chest tightness, body aches, and shakes.

She has the rest of her life to figure out how to say what this disease means and how it plays into the way she defines herself.  She will decide I hope.  Not her family, future husband, church, or Brook Shields.  I hope she will take what it teaches her and let it make her strong.

Self Care Tip #57 – Let it make you strong.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.

Bringing Your Worst or Your Best – Family

When I go to work, I feel my spirit get up off the floor, onto its knees and then it’s feet, and then fly into skies of happiness and inner congruence.  Work is where people are respectful to others.  If not they disappear.  (i.e. They’re fired.)  They do their chores and sometimes even with pleasure.  I am less often reminded of the fine line between success and failure, and I can always find my scissors, tape and stapler.  I’m sitting at home now, letting out a dreamy sigh.  Ah.

Why do we treat strangers so well and our family not so well?  Why do we give our best where our best is valued only as much as the going rate of gold and

silver?

John Tauer, Ph.D. states that coöperation and competition are not an either or.  He tells us from 4 years of research at basketball summer camps that the effects of combining coöperation with competition (intergroup competition) is much more powerful than either one alone.   In other words, individuals competing isn’t as fun or successful as a group of people competing against another group of people (i.e. teams.)  I propose that this might be part of the play in the difference between home and out of home behaviors.

In the home, we tend to see ourselves as individuals maybe even competing against each other.  Out of the home, we ally with others whom we can work with to compete against others.  We bring our best to the playing field perhaps.

In The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, we see a family who is marooned, cooperating as a team against dangerous elements (intergroup competition) to survive.  They have so much fun doing it that when rescue finally comes, nothing could entice them to leave their happy treehouse.

We see other examples of this (intergroup competition) when a family member gets sick and everyone rally’s to fight the disease together.  I wonder how we can do that good stuff without having to wreck a ship or fight cancer.  I’d like to give my best to my husband and kids every day.  The fraternities, the gangs, the undying lure of neighborhood rivalries, reality TV show Survivor – all show us that this intergroup competition is pleasurable and effective.

Question:  Have you experienced this kind of success in your own home?  Please tell me your story.

Self Care Tip #57 – Bring your best to the people you love.  Be a friend to yourself.