When I am an old psychiatrist

When I am an old psychiatrist, I’ll be looking at you through my purple eye folds, with my wrinkled pressed lips, eyeglasses pushed tightly to my face, pride propping up my several chins, incensed with the smells of my own medicated dying body.

Proud of you. Proud of me. Not the kind of pride that squashes humility. For what have we to be proud of if we live without Grace. We will still be receiving what we have done nothing to deserve. The kind of pride that says,

There is Love.

There is one who has suffered and healed and hurt and lived well.

We will have made a lot of mistakes. We will have made and continue to make amends.

The kind of pride that kids pressed shoulder-to-shoulder know of when the spinning roundabout slows down. We will be able to hear,

Here is one in whom I am well pleased.

We will hear that and not be ashamed.

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Sequestering Physicians from the Muggles

muggles

When in the exam room, we do not want it to be about the physician.  However many of us don’t want it to be about the patient.

Some of us want it to be about the system, whatever system we are in, so that the system can run as smoothly as possible and get all our protocols met. Are we are making physician-robots?  We isolate them and ourselves. There is a pressure when working in a system to sequester the physicians, such as wizards from the Muggles.

As physicians, we care better for our patients when we realize what we are getting out of the relationship.  We give much better when we know what we are hoping to get and perhaps hoping not to get.  We give better even with medical care.  Is it comforting to think that when it is medical, it is objective, about data?  More safe, perhaps.   However, this binary logic, is false.  We do not practice in such.  We practice in a place where people smile and cry and bond and connect and receive from us and give to us.  When we practice, it is personal.  It is obvious that it is professional.  The delusion is that professional is an either/or condition.  Either professional or personal.  Not both.  Never both.  That is a buttered wall to grip before sliding into patient doctor sexual relations.  Sneeze.

There is a term called, Grace, you may have heard of.  Grace is the condition of receiving without purchase.  Having been gifted and celebrating in the gift without qualifying it.  Perhaps getting a great review from a patient on-line you are expected to respond to, and just saying, “Thank you.”  We have a hard time with this in our world.  “Getting” well.

I struggle with “getting.”  I cannot describe yet how to get well.  How to receive.  When a patient gives to me, I struggle not to qualify what I am getting in the same way I qualify taking a trip to Hawaii, “Oh, I’m going to a medical conference.”  Or, “Look at this new patio set I got from Home Depot!  It was totally on sale.  I got a great deal.”

In practicing medicine, we need to grow to an acceptance of what we receive, and receive with Grace.

I am sure being a patient is better when we realize what we are getting from the exchange too.  We get more, or perhaps differently, than what the insurance and copay gives purchase to.  I hope the patient-doctor relationship is more than what can be had on the street of a Turkish bazaar.

Question:  What are you getting from your patient-doctor relationship?  What is your clinician getting from you?  How can you receive with Grace?  Does this affect your accountability to yourself?  Is this an act of friendship to Me?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Get you some Grace, with Grace.

Angry Responses

offended, by Thys le Roux

If you are not deeply grounded in who you are and what you are doing, if you have not done your own work on your own entitlement and issues, you will by snagged be what others think about you.  This is why what YouTube comments have nothing to do with the video.

When you actually make something and take the risk and roll up your sleeves, when you choose to get off the couch, you become a wall for others to bounce off.  Think of movie reviewers who sit for two hours in a movie and write their review, but never spent a minute on the set nor participated in the grueling effort to create it.   What right do they have?  

The sense of being disempowered is terrifying.  This motivates both sides of this relationship – the creators and the responders.  The people who are the very best, work very very hard on the basics and that is why is looks casual and easy.

Bruce Springsteen’s new album drops today.  A man of hard labor and great flow in performance.   How old is he now?!  He targets everyday people searching for redemption.  He has been around long enough to gather criticism but here he still is, productive, creative, connecting with the world.

When you receive criticism, step one is not to defend.  Do not send them to the website  where they can learn more.  Step one is to find out what else is in the room.

You may go down the trail of defending, whip out your power point, only to find out that their question is a place holder.  They do not understand why you got off the couch and started talking.  Understand where the criticism is coming from.  You defuse things this way and also get to the question behind the question.

Say, “Tell me where that is coming from.”  Or, “Tell me more.”

The sooner you can figure out what else is in the room, what other associations are made from what you just said or did, the sooner you have connection and efficacy.

– This post is credited to thoughts gleaned from Rob Bell.  Thank you Rob Bell.

Question:  How have others attacked your best efforts?  How have you been able to separate what is about you and what is about them?  How have you helped the others in their conflict so in the end you were able to connect?  Or not?  Please tell your story.

Self Care Tip:  Own your own junk and let others own theirs to connect.

Love Relationships for Power or Dependence

He takes care of me.

Marrying for security is like bombing for peace.  It was not too long after saying this when Amy told me she had been served divorce papers.  She had been seeing me for several years.  In that time, we had worked through her most recent episode of major depressive disorders and a debilitating anxiety.  She had done marvelous.  Courageously fought for her own health, to be accountable to herself and grow.  Is it that surprising that when that happened, he left her?

Abuse.  When one partner uses the power in them to dominate and control the other.

On the other side, there are those of us choosing the abused role such as for the security of logistics.  Example, “I take care of his/her basic needs, s/he buys me health insurance.”

Marriages, or committed Love bonds, require full dependence on each other.  That is different than power.  It is not qualifying that each of us have different levels of power.  Of course.  But using that power to generate intimacy is like having sex to become a virgin.

Question:  How can you grow dependency in your love relationships?  Even with yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Move away from power as a method to increase intimacy.

Exercise and the Brain – and Dancing to Enrique Iglesias

taylor swift

Greg went to arrange his annual colonoscopy.  Because he was having a chronic cough, his gastroenterologist (GI specialist) was wise enough to schedule him the “double dip” colonoscopy and endoscopy.  Greg was not pleased.  He was less pleased when Dr. GI found gastritis (inflammation) in his colon, an ulcer (inflammation) in his stomach, and esophogitis (location of inflammation intrinsic to word, esophogitis.)

I got the scoop on Greg’s inflammation story when he came in to see me, (yours truly, psychiatrist, brain doctor.)  And why?  Because of his colon and stomach?  Well perhaps.

True.  Greg was not happy.  He had not been happy for a very long time in fact.  Greg was suffering.  And no, he could not exercise.  He just could not.  Fill in the blanks of why he could not.  We have all given those reasons.

Discussing Greg’s story with him, we agreed that ignoring the inflammation story of his GI would be ignoring something that just might relate to the, “Why?” of why he was in to see me.  The same inflammatory process affecting his gut was affecting his brain, the same brain where his emotions and behaviors came from.

Inflammation.  We think about pus-filled blisters, puffy painful knees, spitting back spasms.  But do we think about frothing road rage?  Do we think about forgetting car keys in the supermarket where we bought five things we did not want and nothing of what we planned?  Do we think about divorce?  About losing our job, or not wanting to get out of bed?  When we hear about inflammation, do we think about brain disease?  I think not, Count Powerball.

The other day, we were in the Kaia, “Juicy JAM” class.  (Seriously. That is what it is called.) Coach Becca does these Juicy JAM classes about once every three to five months with us, just for fun.  It combines dance with athletics in a way that is designed to burn calories, yet effectively reduces grown women, responsible women of our community, parents, book-keepers, encyclopedia saleswomen, psychiatrists, (I am just guessing at least one of us moves like a psychiatrist) and such…, into giggling, hopping, human bumper cars.  And it is hard!  It is not easy to squat, pop, and then pull your fisted arm down super latino-drama-style over your just so angled body to Enrique Iglesias… I think it was, “Tonight I’m Loving You.”

By the time we had survived our first number, all I knew was that Becca looked really good.  Me, eh, not so much.  It is too bad we can not collect disability for this, not being able to dance.

When we dance, we do not usually notice how everyone else is dancing around us, as much as we think about how we are, ourselves.  Like any other behavior or emotion, we are trapped by our own design.  Look who is telling us that after all!  Our own brain.

Then Becca’s tattoo pokes out and we all think, she is such a bad ass!  (It’s right there just above the line of her pants.)

Where do these emotions, and behaviors come from?  Do they come from the good merit we have earned by hard work?  Maybe a really sweaty muscle bending Juicy JAM work-out?  No they do not.  You are right.  The emotions and behaviors come from our brain.  They come from that bit of us that is, after all, connected to the rest of our body.  Our body, where our muscles pump, where our pancreas balances our insulin levels, where our bowels, which flaunt the highest number of serotonin receptors of our whole selves, move and flow.  Our bodies, where nerves stop or start sending pain signals to our brain, where our heart and lungs pump all the blood that touches every part of us like a master control room – this is what matters to our brain health.  It is a relationship, like Garth will always go with Brooks.  Body goes with brain.  An inflamed body, an inflamed mind.

Now we know you are all thinking about bowels and what exercise does to bowels, and you are uncomfortable.  As you should be.  At least standing at a respectful distance.

I’ll never forget some months ago, and probably most of my Kaia-peers won’t either, when Coach Alyssa was taking us through Kaia-flow, a series of twisting yoga poses slash killer exercises.

Good job women!  This is also great for your stomach and bowels.

I thought, there-after only about stomach and bowels!  It was like a beacon.  No matter what I did, I was thinking about my gut.  And then like the answering horn of a trucker to a kid’s arm signal, “please honk,” there I went.  A slow twist, quiet music in the background, the soothing voice of Alyssa urging us on, and, honk.

There was no way to hide it.  No way to pass it off on my dog or kids or farmland creatures.  I was in the middle of the room and suddenly, like Taylor Swift on a center stage, everyone heard and looked.  Just one more bit of savory evidence that exercise decreases inflammation.

With this understanding, we can perhaps consider exercise like a pill.  Like a prescription.  Do exercise because we do what is friendly to ourselves.  Do exercise because we like being friendly to others.  We know that we cannot give what we do not have – to ourselves or to others.  We exercise because if we do not, we will be the barking mom we do not like, dad, sister, child or whomever.

We will not be nice to our partners when we have ill brains.  We will not feel pleasure as deeply.  If we are kindly toward ourselves, such as exercising, we will protect the soft underbellies of them others we love.  We will treat ourselves better.  We will.

One hour later, after dancing or twisting our inflammation, shame, and inhibitions into the ground, after passing a little gas, we are reduced to inspiration, humbly thinking, “Yes. I am that good.”  And that is the Magic there. We are bad arss.  Body meets brain meets community meets Magic.

And for you scholarly folk who don’t believe me when I say, exercise decreases inflammation decreases brain illness, here are a few articles:

Question:  How have you noticed your body speaking on behalf of your brain?  Or vice versa?  Please tell us some of your story.

Value Yourself

tiger cat

The room is dark, shades drawn for hours. Sandra stays unwashed in her blanket.  Around her are gathering piles of laundry and stale air.  Pictures have fallen over in their frames.  Sandra hears her daughter, “Mommy, please get up now.  Let’s get up Mommy.  I want you to get up.”  Sandra’s body feels like a bag of concrete and she tries to explain this to her seven-year-old.  “I’m just so tired, Honey.  You go play.”

Days and then months go by, like this.  Some of them, Sandra is up and functioning.  But mostly just.  She finds her thoughts are not clear.  It is hard to find words, let alone anything around the house.

“Who is this person?” Sandra thinks about herself.  She wonders if her husband will leave her.  He is trying to have sex less and less.  They do not talk and she is pretty sure her last real orgasm was a year ago, Thursday.  She cannot believe he even likes her when she dislikes herself so much.

Sandra is not treating anyone very well.  She has lost what was in her bank and cannot account for her own value.

Our value is not a very politick thing to celebrate, to speak of, or to put at the front of the line, but we, individually are worth it.  Sandra is worth it.

You are worth it.

Sandra was having trouble like this.  She had been missing more and more work, for “sick days” and she was worried she would be replaced.  “Who are these people?” she wondered about her colleagues, whom she used to enjoy, joke with, and compete with.

It occurred to Sandra, at last, that everything that was worth living for was only insecurely hers.  She thought, if she lost them, she would die.  She needed to get better.  She wanted to get better.  All the way better, back to herself, funny and sexy and showered.  That would be real nice.

Sandra took, what for her felt like, a desperate action.  Sandra went to see a psychiatrist.  It was not easy understanding her treatment options but basically they came down to, medications, psychotherapy, and stimulation therapies of which electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is the gold standard.

To grasp what these options meant, Sandra needed to think about how long it takes to respond to treatment, the chance of responding to treatment compared with not responding, either at all or only partially, and side effects.  Because of knowing she was about to lose “it all,” (home, marriage, employment, possibly parenting rights, and more,) she decided she needed treatment that was the most likely to work and work fast. (ECT can be up to 90 percent effective in reducing the severity of symptoms.)  Sandra did not want to gain weight.  “I would rather die,” she said.  And she did not want to get other medical problems from trying to treat another.  (We call these iatrogenic, when a medical treatment causes another disease, such as an antidepressant causing obesity.)  Because ECT allowed for all these, Sandra launched her ECT index treatment.  She started in treatment even before she started having hope.  Sandra took the action she was able to, toward her value.

This a a short story about Sandra, but her story goes on in a much richer, and pleasure filled way.  I wrote her story to give you an idea of how someone who has never tried medication therapy may decide on choosing ECT as their first treatment effort when struggling with brain illness.  Because of her value.  Because of our value.

Question:  When you explore your value, what would you like to do that more directly honors you?  What does valuing yourself do for those you value outside of yourself?  How can you show that you value others but caring for yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Care for yourself to care for others.

Seeing Into Yourself

You don’t see yourself!  All you do is diagnose depression!  You have no idea that life is happening around you.  There are reasons why people do what they do!

Lots of exclamations pinned what Victor said to me like war ribbons.  He was angry but did not know it.

I’m not angry!  I’m not yelling!

So here we were, telling each other what the other person did not see in themselves.  Great place to wedge into.  Mountains of nothing.

As my beloved residency attending used to tell me,

Look who’s telling you that.

By which of course he meant, your own brain can not be the best mirror of your soul.

Question:  What do you use as your mirror?  Where to you go, who do you trust?  How do you find a way to see yourself?  Please tell your story.

self-care tip:  Find a way to see into yourself you can trust.