Bad Sleep is Not Sexy


I tell my patients some rough version of this:

My agenda is that you get sleep.
My agenda is not that you take your sleep meds the way I prescribe them.
Just don’t take them at a higher dose than prescribed.

When prescribed medication, sometimes my patients tell me they think, from me or from other physicians, that they need to do it exactly as prescribed. And that may be true. With most. But there are some medications, which must be specifically described by one’s prescribing provider, that may be used in the way that the patient determines is most useful. The patient needs to look, to think, to speculate, to reflect. Adjust the medication dosages, and try again.

Going forward, before I tell you how you should sleep and what to take for it, think about how your sleep is.  What are the difficulties you have with sleep?
Falling asleep?
Staying asleep?
Early morning awakenings?
Is your sleep refreshing?

Renaldo, (“Please call me Ren”), can’t fall asleep. He lays there for hours, before he finally falls asleep in the early morning hours.

In Spanish we call the early morning hours “la madrugada”. I’ve always enjoyed that word.

It’s been happening on and off for Ren over the past year, but is worsening lately. He is now afraid to go to sleep. Afraid to looking into the dark night while in the company of his thoughts. He has a feeling of dread as his evening comes around. He finds himself avoiding going to bed.

When dealing with insomnia, first we look at these personal observations. They are called “symptoms,” when they are involved in a pathology, a medical illness.

Then we look at why. Why?

To answer this we consider what regulates sleep in our body and outside of our body. These pathologies we suffer come from what is in our body and as they intersect with what stressors come to them from outside of our body.

There are so many medical illnesses that produce insomnia.
Inversely, there are so many medical illnesses that come from poor sleep.
There are also many behaviors and outside-of-our-body stimuli that affect sleep.
Hmm.  Well it’s not either/or. It is likely a tangle of these roots that make this ugly plant grow.

Where to start?

We have covered sleep hygiene a couple times. Have we made the changes in our home and personal sleep culture to groom our sleep accordingly?

Say we have. We don’t read in bed. We don’t have a TV in our room. We don’t use the bedroom except for sleep and for sex. Hey! Sleeping well is sexy! Ahem….          ….We keep the lights low. We try to go to and out of bed around the same times every day. And so forth.

If these were not attended to, a disease process may develop. It is during sleep that our body heals. None of our body rhythms heal during the day. All the neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, hormones, all of these replenish and regulate into a healthy rhythm during sleep. Also, all of our memories consolidate during sleep. That dumbing in parenting syndrome, which I’ve respectfully labelled “DIPS”, may come more from the broken nights, than by the busy busy kids.

Okay. Say we are practicing good sleep hygiene, yet continue to have poor sleep.

There is a reciprocity between symptoms and disease etiologies. In other words, a broken sleep cycle may trigger certain genes to express themselves, and vua-la! Ren is suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Or, Ren’s anxiety genes become triggered for another reason, maybe simply his age, maybe he has low testosterone, maybe he has a thyroid disease, or he snores, and his circadian rhythm, (ie, sleep cycle,) disrupts. Vua-la! Ren is suffering from a sleep disorder.

It’s like the wheels of my mom-van. I bumped the curb the other day and pinched my tire. I disregarded it, …and the orange hazard like on my dashboard. Don’t judge me.

My steering seemed to wobble over the next hour. I pulled over and sure enough. A flat. I wisely (grimace) decided I could just drive it to the repair shop, rather than get a tow. By the time I got there, my wheel was bent and my van alignment was off. There’s a reciprocity to the wellbeing along with the demise of my van’s health.

In my book, Sleep Well, I cover some of these anxiety illnesses. I don’t cover affective illnesses such as depression, or hormone imbalances, or so many other physical pathologies that are involved in generating poor sleep. They are also reciprocally important to emotional health and a quality of life.

I told Ren,

So what do you think is going on with your sleep?…

What are your sleep symptoms?
Do they come from a pathology?
Are they triggering other pathologies?

Self-Care Tip: Sleep Well. Be a friend to yourself.

Robin Williams’ Widow Recounts His Story

Robin Williams saw me through my developmental years. His prolific cinematic accomplishments, whit, depth of character, courage in living with and dealing with mental illness – all this configured him into my life story. Never even thought about him dying. Until he did.

Enjoy reading an excellent interview with his wife.

Here’s to Robin

Best Self-Care Ever! StepBet


Hello Friends!

This post is a simple plug for one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

You have heard me talk about neural grooves and changing habits such as those that are not friendly to Me. In a post, “Pay a Dollar,” I said,

When you feel trapped by your own self, get friendly by remembering this.  You’re mistaken.  You’re talking about a brain groove, not a vampire.  It’s not hopeless.  Not much more, not much less than what it is.  A groove can be abandoned.  New paths can be made and when the stressor hits next time, you will have a longer moment to decide on which behavior to play.  You will have a choice and you will realize more often that you are not trapped by what you thought; you are not hopeless and ugly.

So how long does it take to form a habit? Or break one? To change neural grooves in the brain. Many say, twenty-one days. Others say, you have to do it every day for a year.

This game, StepBet, is designed to get us moving as a habit. I’m loving it. I invite all my patients to join me. My team. My friends! I’m not leaving you out! Smile. Check it out.

You put $40 up that says you will walk a determined number of steps every day, except one, each week for six weeks. If you miss a day, you lose your forty bucks. Some days, I start thinking, …”It’s just forty dollars…(whine – a long high pitched complaining cry.)” The money from those who don’t make it to six weeks goes into a kitty and later dispersed amongst all those who did. Yah! So fun!

Please join me, and let me know how it goes for you.

How StepBet Works

1. Get Your Goals

2. Place Your Bet

3. Step it Up!

Question: What do you do to be kind to yourself, habitually? Please tell your story!

Keep on!

Who Am I? The Threat Of Exploring!

“Talking about me, I sometimes feel like it is scary to know more about me. I’ve found out who I am through very difficult situations so I have an association.”

My hunch is Ericka had many times when information and experiences came to her in her life on gentler carriers than those with this kind of emotional trauma. But she didn’t notice. The coming of kindly delivered insights are easily absorbed and drop from consciousness.

“I feel I overlook those and pay more attention to the bad things.”

It’s like gratitude, a muscle that grows when deliberately developed. That is why we call it the exercise of gratitude. When we deliberately practice noticing, (flex,) recognizing, (now we apply a little fragrant oil to the lovely bulge,) one more rep, (Oh yes! Look out Venice beach!) practicing gratitude, indeed, increases self insight. 

Ericka and I had this discussion in context of discussing her career. The starting point of exploring career choices brought us to look at the different paradigms that may be used to understand our identity, as well as it’s strengths and weaknesses. Poor Ericka felt that using the paradigm of “Personality Typologies” to be like inviting a bully into her living room. One that confined her, boxed her, took away her windows and doors.  However the paradigm of personality typologies is just a paradigm, useful or not, with the power or lack of power that we allow it. It is not a concrete cell, that defines us. It is one more way of increasing self insight, among others.


“Footsie” by Carl D’Agostino, at, “I know I Made You Smile.”

How to Approach the Myers-Briggs:

Take Three times. Each time, read the descriptors to hone accuracy. (It’s a biased test. Taking it multiple times, as well as reading the descriptions helps eliminate the bias.)

The fourth time, the test is to be taken by someone who knows you the best in the world, answering the questions as if they were answering in your stead, with you standing by. Then read descriptors together.

This approach helps diminish the inherent test-bias in the Myers-Briggs personality test.

Example of free online test, (there are several,

We don’t have have to give it more power than you are comfortable with

2. Read, Please Understand Me, vol II


3. Go have fun and…

Keep on!

Live Imperfectly, Dad is dying, and I Have no Power.

wilted flower

Living with someone like tomorrow might be their last is much harder to do when it is actually the case.

My dad told me, after my nine-year old niece died, that a parent should never outlive their child.  When I look at my own children, I know that is true. But with my parents aging process, my dad’s long and difficult past twenty years, and now near end of life condition, I just don’t know how I’d order things, if I could, between us.

When God, (Morgan Freedman,) told the complaining Bruce Nolan, (Jim Carey,) that he could have all of his powers, the audience of “Bruce Almighty” projected both a positive transference and a schadenfreude. Bringing the viewer into the character’s identity is every actor’s aspiration. And we went there. Up. “Yay! Bruce can answer everyone’s prayers with a ‘yes’!” And then down, down, down. The multidimensional disaster’s created by misplaced power, power without wisdom, love, or altruism, was just painful to watch. Power does not God make.

My Dad is dying. Not likely from cancer. Not likely from a failed liver, floppy heart, or baggy lungs. He is just dying.  He’s confused on and off. His spine is failing so he can barely walk. He has repeated blood clots. And he’s recently risen out of a deep depression. Rison right into a confused grandiosity, full awkward, awkward like pants ripping when you bend over type of awkward, and inter-galactic soaring thought content.

The first “word” Dad played in Scrabble last week was “vl.” He explained, “vl, like vowel.” …Okay? For thirty minutes Dad played without playing one actual word. I started crying when he finally stopped connecting letters. The letters floated on the board like California will look after the “big earthquake” finally hits and it falls into the ocean. (We’ve all been waiting.) Now he tells me he called and spoke to Obama and Magic Johnson. Reference point. This is bizarre and out of his character.  He’s been delirious with waxing and waning level of consciousness for a month and a half. He’s dying. Sheez.

Living well while Dad dies is not easy. Would I use power to restore him to his healthy twelve-year old self, like Elli’s seventy-year old grandfather did, in “The Fourteenth Goldfish,” by Jennifer L. Holm? Would I use power to change the order of death? Would I do anything more or less or different, while my dad is dying?

Power does not God make. I am not God. (Ta-da! It’s out of the box now.) But both of us are watching Dad die. I trust that She, with the power, wisdom, love, and altruism, is living with him well, during this time.

In Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, by Camille Pagán, Libby Miller decides to live, just live, rather than die perfectly.  And maybe that’s my answer to this unasked question. Living with someone dying will not be perfect for me.

Self-Care Tip: Live imperfectly to live well, like this is your, his, or her last day.

Question: How do you “live well?”

Keep on!

Blood, Sweat, and Imperfections – Mommy Don’t Look!

Naked and Voyer

Naked and Voyer

Blood soaked and layered with fallen governments, the Acropolis remains, a witness and teacher to a summer fling. 

A tour of the Acropolis and its new museum taught much. #1 – Never go on such travel without a tour guide. She made all the difference. Without her, I might have lasted for an hour, or an hour and a half. I would have thought, “Check! Did the Acropolis! Next?” With her, I felt like I couldn’t get enough. Four hours later. Evi was an intelligent, independent woman, making her way in the world, with the talent of putting ideas together. Another mentor to pick up along my life journey. #gratitude.

(I’m going to try to describe Athens, as seen by a psychiatrist. Smile.)

Evi integrated the paradigms at play, seamlessly, and in flow, from the 800’s B.C. to the 400’s A.D. She spoke about the mathematics involved in The Parthenon architecture, the classical culture seen in the architecture such as the emphasis on the human senses, the development of language and democracy, and more.

None of the construction of The Parthenon is “perfect.” The columns slant, and the stairs bow in their middle. All of this is done to capture the human senses. It was constructed so that when you stand at one corner, you can see almost the entire construct, like inflation of air rounds a balloon. When you look straight on, you are almost able to see entirely around the balloon’s girth. The architect sacrificed perfection toward the ultimate and most valued goals – to experience all the human senses to their fullest, and the classical construction. 

The Greeks developed the idea that whatever is created by man, (scantily garbed statues, architecture, ship making, etc…) should demonstrate, but not surpass the excellence of the human at his or her absolute best. Perfectionism smechsonism.

The kids were a bit horrified by the genitals everywhere. “That’s inappropriate!” or “Mommy, don’t look!” with a hand posturing the Stop! sign, improved my experience 10-fold. 

The Greeks in the 400 A.D.’s recognized the irony in the loveliness of human senses; sight, emotions, spirit, intellect, etc, integrated with the flaws. We are greater, in the best of our imperfect self, than the perfect, mathematical, or any other kind of perfection, eg., 1 + 1 = 2, in a perfect world. 

For example, by tilting the columns, the architect understood that it would give an illusion of straight columns, yet still capturing more of the circumference as seen by the individual. Straight would be perfect. Tilted but looking straight is more representative of a human at her best. Never perfect. And the illusion created by the tilted columns made the construct look shorter, thus not surpassing “the human” capacity to sense it’s grandeur. 

Also, the government ruler at the time, Pericles, was the first known leader to integrate a form of democracy. He used citizens and slaves for the labor. Yet he paid them, including the slaves! Furthermore, he gave them freedom in their work to form independent decisions, stating that someone who is told what to do, doesn’t learn anything. Someone who makes their own mistakes, has the opportunity to learn from his mistakes. This was the fulcrum which our civilizations turned on toward human rights and free thought. Pretty powerful.

The Greeks gave their alphabet to the world, from which Latin developed, and thereafter the Latin languages. For example, I never knew that “Agoraphobia,” comes from the location, named at the time, “Agora,” where all the debates were held, again, inspired by this ruler during the 400’s B.C., spurring on freedom of thinking. You can imagine what happened during heated debates. Some people would suffer anxiety in that context, which would deteriorate into a disabling fear of being humiliated by another potential panic attack when in public places.

The priests of the Greek gods served also as their community’s medical practitioners. For example, they used snake venom to both treat headaches and prophylactic against strokes. It turns out that snake venom is an anticoagulant. Totally brilliant. Snake venom in Greek, is called, “physika”, which means “venom.” The caduceus, a symbol that we still use for the physician’s medical practice, shows a snake wrapped around a staff. Later Aristotle used “physika” to name his treaty on nature and the work evolved into “physician.” Way cool. 

The self-care tip: Work your damndest, while embracing and integrating your imperfections along the way, and in this Grecian effort, you will gain the greatest sensorial experience with the world around you, the individual beside you, and your own self.

Question: 1. How do your imperfections enhance your best self? Please tell us your story!

A Tiffany Diamond Isn’t This Good


I’m in San Bernardino today, working in a small community clinic. I am in the company of four licensed and practicing physicians who are donating their time. I am blessed.

One physician I’m working with tells me he has taken care of himself in his medical practice, “basically by not being a hypocrite.” He describes this by lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, etc… He likes surfing, which surprised me! “That’s why I’m skinny.” The man is not wearing california-traditional surf-wear. He’s wearing a general Sears-white button up with black slacks and comfort shoes. And he is old! He is in disguise. The age-disguise. I judge people too often by what I “see,” and this guy is a total surprise. Mr. cool.

There are medical students, college students, and nursing students here as well. One of them is a phenomenally gorgeous import to the US with a magical accent. Currently she’s eating a large bagel with cream cheese, dressed in a pencil skirt, stethoscope slung around her neck. Maybe I hate her just a little. She told me about her own “really good” personal experience with psychiatry and counselling. Her parents divorced when she was in college and “it helped” her get what she needed to get through it. Maybe I love her a lot. A woman of courage.

A patient I saw is a mother of seven. You may think, “Let’s just stop right there.” Anyone who wants to use “all her eggs” would need “help.” This woman has had to be sooooo strong! She’s been abused, used, neglected, and more since she came into this world. Even so, she pushes forward. She demonstrates self-value and Love. Where did this come from, I wondered.  Who taught her or gave her that? Today, she has even finally come into a willingness to get in the space of cultural dissonance, and consider for the first time, medical care for her emotional and behavioral needs. “I need it! I will do anything to get out of all ‘this.'” These words should come in a velvet lined blue and ribboned box. Gimme. Gimme.

We are talking now in the break room about patient and self-experienced medical health care stories. A hospitalist is explaining the difference he sees in his patients between noncompliance versus nonadherence to clinical directives. It’s a like a rocket just shot off! Every one is bothered in some way. You may remember from previous posts in this blog site about the “Number one Reason for Relapse” – treatment noncompliance. I now renege. Let it be known, I was wrong. I’d like to say, “nonadherence.” Forgive me! Noncompliance is an arrogant judgment, implying a decrease of mal intent or purposeful disobedience. There are many paradigms of reasons that interplay into any of our choices and performance in our personal medical care. I love that! Yes.

My colleagues here today, our patients, we all have much to teach each other, much to learn from each other. Today I came here thinking, I want to treasure the person in front of me “right now.” It makes a difference when I engage that way in “whatever.” #Gratitude for one more day where that happened. Those day are surrounded too often by many others when I forget.

Self-care Tip: Treasure the person in front of you.

Question: Who is in front of you right now? How can you treasure this person, this experience, this…? What are you getting from it? How is this perspective and what you get, kind to you?

Be a friend to yourself. Keep on!