Cutting holes in the walls, and God

There are no dividers. This is no surprise to perceptive temperaments. They are the people who cut windows into every wall. Grazers chasing the next butterfly who never want to barn-up for the night. Perceptive temperaments are idea makers and if you pair that with the intuit, then you have someone who is basically a human filing cabinet. They vacuum information and it gets dispersed and organized between all the gazillion neurons in their brain without them even knowing they are doing it. They’re not using flash cards or lists or calendars. Information makes its way into a connection and bigger picture.  The rest of us live by sweaty lines and frames and structure and the idea that in reality, there are no dividers is mind blowing. It’s Roadrunner dynamite to our deliberate order. 

Information is fluid and related at every contact point. This is true also for God. It is true, as well, with God and psychiatry. I think in part it may be why “the church” has such difficulty filing a hole into the idea that emotions and behaviors are moral issues v that they might also be biological. Scrambling that together, egg yolks and all, is unpalatable to many in this well packaged culture, filled up to the brim with temperaments that don’t naturally allow for that.

It’s a beautiful concept though. God has no dividers. God is inside it all, perfused, smeared, imbued. When we think of a limitation to our ability to see God in something, or vice versa, the limit is with us. God made it all. He/She has got the master key to all those doors.

Question: Where does God not make sense in your life?

Self-care tip: Relax into the knowledge that wherever you or your thoughts are, there is God.

Medication vs Drugs

I imagine some day I’ll understand why users think drugs are healthier options for them then medications.

“Doctor, I don’t think my wife will be comfortable with me adding another medication. It seems like I’m already taking so many!”

Context: Brennon is using THC “for sleep” he explains. Not recreation. It’s “medicinal.”

Boy. We are going to have to redefine what “medicinal” means in the urban dictionary vs. in the medical. 

It’s as if the masses out there are acting like it is stigma behind any opposition of THC vs. science. Folks, there may be stigma involved but it’s mostly science. THC is, 99%, not medicinal. 

My cousin is a hospice nurse and she and I were discussing this. Along the meandering conversation way, we came across, that in her field, many are taking CBD. (I know most of us think CBD is THC-free but it’s not unless it’s thoroughly governed by the FDA.) When we were in our wandering conversation about this, I imagined out loud to her, “If I were dying, I’d want to take a good trip on LSD, do a line of cocaine, and have free access to heroine. Why not?! “

My cousin politely explained that in end-of-life, most people, not apparently ignoramus blind bigots such as myself, prefer to stay alert in their last moments with their loved ones. 

That makes a lot of sense. My “free ticket” to white clouded oblivion suddenly didn’t look as appealing. I’d like that too. I’d really like to have connection with my loved ones. At any time. 

This is the effort in psychiatry as well, believe it or not. When we medicate, we are seeking to align ourselves with the patient’s agenda, toward connection and not away. Toward quality of life and not to harm. Toward hope. When we encourage to take medication, it is not to seek oblivion and isolation. Rather medication is for connection.

Brennon is not alone. Many think that medication takes us away from connection. Away from connection to ourselves by turning us into something we are not. “Doctor, I don’t want to take anything that will turn me into someone I’m not.”

Away from connection to God by taking our willingness to submit to His/Her will, away from His/Her power and toward depending on science instead, as if there is an either/or. No, there is no either-or unless we put it there. There are no dividers between science and God. He/She made them both. They are fluid to Him/Her.

Nor is taking medication taking us out of connection to our partners, nor our family who thinks medication is a cop out and whom are loaded with their own journey of self-discovery over their own self-stigma toward medication. As if taking medication makes our patients less loyal to their loved ones, thereby less connected.

It’s so layered why we think medication is worse. Even worse than mind-altering THC. Even worse, than the disabling illness, or whichever idea it may be.

Question: What is medication worse than for you?

Self-care tip: Seek connection, “even” through medical ways. Be a friend to yourself. Keep on!

Love without connection

Delicious rocky road Baskin and Robins chocolate cake was staining Fred’s teeth bright vampire red from the frosting. It mesmerized me as we bantered. Though, not enough to completely distract from the trigger setting off my sympathetic tone. 

“So, you are writing about God and psychiatry?” (Ba-boom!)

Fred is an enormous genius, well published and internationally acclaimed. (I’ll call him, “Dr. Fred” to give some cred, because he really is all that.) He’s super kind with real attachment to his friends and the random stranger, but still intimidating as heck when he wants to grapple ideas.  I sent up a prayer that God be in this talk and not my pride in the talk. I botched up good once or twice but in the end, if nothing else, I was blessed.

In his own life journey, Dr. Fred had done his own Jacob-like wrestle with God. He was still recovering from it, I think. I respected him so much. Some of us are given the chance to wrestle and we choose not to. Fred had courage and character. He brought his all to this interest of who is God.

To clarify my starting line in this discussion, I offered up my little premises; 

  • God is, 
  • God is Love, 
  • and We Are Designed for Connection. 

He nodded. “Ok then.” I felt a little deflation in his interest because much of his personal wrestle was prior to that line/premise I drew – “God is.” Even so he rallied and engaged.

“Ok then. What if you were to say that we should bring and deliver love ourselves? In all interchanges. In all encounters. We bring love. What’s wrong with that? Do I need to have this God in that case?”

Honestly. My little corner of the world, my home, my church, my grocery store, all would be better if I/we lived this way. I am proud and blinded by it. I interpret the world and call what is real and truth as defined by my own sight and how good could that be by definition? I am not loving enough.  

The idea of bringing love is wonderful. That’s not a difficulty for me in concept. My difficulty is where it starts from and ends from. It’s a place of disconnect. A place that start autonomous from a Creator. A Maker isn’t there at the end either tying me to Him/Her. Connection. With what I understand of Dr. Fred’s perspective is that even if we were to bring love, give love, generate love, in the end, we are alone. Disconnected. It is because we are created and connect at all points that we are never alone.

I guess, inherent to the word “Love,” well it means connection to most of us. So this is a hard bridge to shimmy. It’s like water water everywhere and nothing to drink. We have this sense of goodness, kindness, call it love, in our lives, but we are still alone. I’m cringing because I don’t have it. This sounds pompous and I’m sorry. Forgive me. I’m offensive. But I don’t think God is offensive. So I’m getting it wrong. Help me?

When we run into something that doesn’t fully make sense, the problem’s not with God. It’s with us.

I am a Christian whose church doesn’t like a lot about her.

So, I was standing on stage singing songs, my service/therapy dog, Timothy, chose to lie down, belly side up one step down with his goods in full view of the saints. I think that’s when I officially lost their favor. Timothy comfortable on the raised dais, …just no. Next thing I knew, Pastor and I had the most awkward phone call of my life. Basically I learned that emotional support animals and therapy animals, no matter their licensure in these, are not legally defended to attend church.

But church is different than God. To me, it is full of people like me. Proud. Blinded by pride. Defining the world around them, what is truth, what is real, all through their senses, no matter the biopsychosocial condition of their organ; their brain. They need me as much as I need them partly because none of us can be a mirror unto ourselves. Sometimes we both get that, and it’s lovely. Other times, not so much and we fall apart. In the end, though, I remain connected. Connected because I am created. I am carefully made. I am wonderfully made. Marvelous are God’s hands that made me. My soul knows it well. Ps 139:14.

Self-care tip: Find your connection. There is Love.

Question: Tell us about connection in your life. Where is it? What is it? We need your voice.

Besmirching God with My Crazy

I’m sitting here in a volunteer medical clinic for a 60K attendee camporee. It’s humid and hot and we are seeing a lot of dehydration, amongst other things. 

As a psychiatrist, I’m humming the Hallelujah chorus as I discover how much general medicine I still remember, from gout, viral rashes, respiratory and ear infections, cuts and bruises, and so forth. The group I came with teases me that if someone comes in for a cough, two hours later they will have disclosed that they were abused as a child and be swallowing prozac.  I am ignoring this implication that I am missing “the point” by treating for psychiatric needs. Ignoring and missing, at least it’s consistent.

Our theme from this camporee week is appropriate.  We have been looking at the life of David. In these, we see a whole lot of psychiatry going on, both medical/biological, and that which has to do with volition. King Saul demonstrated a sure biological mental illness. And David pretended to be crazy – call it, “acting out.”  

God put this in the Bible for some reason(s). Question: What does this say about God’s character? I mean, we certainly don’t look up to people with acting out behavior, like David. Nor do we necessarily look up to people with mental illness like Saul, either. What does this say about who God is? Why does God put this in the Bible?

The Bible didn’t describe this as psychiatric, behavioral, acting out, or general medical.  It just told the story. These ages later, we can do more with the story. Here in time, with the knowledge that the generations have given us, we could say something psychiatric was going on. But generally, despite this knowledge, we ignore the medical condition. We still talk about them with a weighted moral perspective, as if they departed from their spiritual walk in these behaviors, rather than consider the medical condition of their brains.

David is getting a javelin thrown at him while playing the harp. Patton State Hospital for the criminally insane might have housed king Saul if he were alive today. Then, David is in front of the Philistines with King Akesh, where he “pretended to be insane; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.” (1Sam 21.) 

Dr. Martorell, a neonatologist, told me,

“I see so many people afraid to discuss problems such as depression, anxiety, other psychiatric illnesses and even family problems or abuse.  Yes, partly due to the fact that they may be judged as not having enough faith or not taking care of their health or not following certain principles.  

Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Carrie stated, 

“God and psychiatry go hand in hand I believe, but many Christians don’t think psychiatry has anywhere to go in the church. This is sad because my mom had bipolar, but nobody could help her.  She needed the ‘extra help’. The church thinks we should be able to handle it ourselves.”

You may have seen the lock-down type who says, “Keep it in the family. Don’t tell others what goes on here. It’s none of their business.”  

Dr. Martorell said, 

Our cultural or family upbringing has a lot to do with how free we feel to discuss these issues.  In certain cultures mental health problems are simply not discussed.  If it gets brought up, the family directly or indirectly tells the affected person suffering not to discuss these outside the home, as though it were some dark secret that cannot be disclosed.

Nurse Carrie said, 

“Everyone thinks we should deal with things on our own, and we shouldn’t have to talk to people about our problems and what’s going on in our lives.”

Ironically she is describing a condition of the church of independence. Yet inherent to being a believer is the learning to depend on someone else, God. 

Nurse Carrie said, 

“Why is it with depression and such, we can’t work as a church and have medical get it done.”

Many say, ‘If you go see a psychiatrist, it’s a sign of weakness. You’re not a good Christian.’ These are the comments I’ve heard of through the years.  You should just pray, and God can take everything away.”  

When my aunt suffered colon cancer, she didn’t get medical treatment in the beginning, preferring to have herself anointed, and follow a “homeopathic” approach. Later as it progressed, she changed her mind and found it was too late. So although largely, it isn’t only in psychiatry that we misrepresent who God is, we need ask ourselves, Who is God if what we believe about this is true?

Dr. Martorell shared,

As a neonatologist, I see infants born prematurely. Their brain develops outside the womb and are simply not the same as those that develop in a dark, quiet environment listening to mother’s heart rate, free of noxious/painful stimuli inside the womb.  As much as we try to imitate a womb with our incubators we can’t provide the same care.  When these infants are followed up for years, some develop physical deficits such as cerebral palsy, blindness, the need for oxygen, and the inability to eat on their own. These physical problems are easily seen and various treatments can be provided.  They are also at greater risk for developing learning deficits, hyperactivity/inattention problems, depression, anxiety and some academic papers even suggest increased risk of schizophrenia.  The thought behind these is that billions of synapses are occurring during pregnancy and the way these synapses connect is different in premature infants.  It is also interesting to note that the brain volume preset at birth occurs during the last 4 week of pregnancy. As these children grow up they need treatment for physical problems as well as psychiatric problems they may develop.  

I realize that it is not just in our churches that we are afraid to address this issue but I see it in the families of my newborns.  So many of these moms self medicate with illicit substances in order to treat their anxiety or depression.  Our culture as a whole has neglected to look at these issues as a medical problem that needs treatment.  So many children and teens are committing suicide.  Our own “well educated” health professionals have some of the highest suicide rates and yes it is occurring in our christian institutions as well as outside.  

Nurse Carrie said, 

“In this kind of approach, people are saying S/He’s not a loving and forgiving God and S/He doesn’t understand us.  If you deal with psychiatry, you’re a sinner. Why can’t you get it done with God on your own. He’s not a loving God, saying this person is not allowed to take medication. The pastor’s describing a cruel God because he’s not allowing the person to get the help he needs.  Like if someone’s leg is bleeding and you refuse to give that person a band-aid. 

But, God is always loving. This can’t be true.

I don’t think the pastor has a right to tell the parishioner that.”

Maybe we just succumb to the awkwardness of it all.  Too awkward to talk about God in our community.  Too awkward to talk about psychiatry in our church. There are so many reasons we approach emotions and behaviors this way but in the church or outside of it, let’s consider the question, What does this ay about God’s character?

I was cleaning up a leg laceration about 1 1/2 inches long and 2cm deep. I placed the triple antibiotic ointment and approximated the edges with steri-strips, yet still encouraging the patient and her guardians to take her to the urgent care to get stitches. This wasn’t a sterile environment and our supplies were limited. While working on the wound of the young teen, I asked a few brief psychiatric intake questions. It turns out, no. She didn’t have anxiety, or depression, or psychosis. What do you know!? Not everyone does. But she and her guardians were super pleased to pray together before they left and I was blessed by them.  

God is a God of love and the kind of God that cares about all of it in all of us. S/He is kind and not miserly, discriminatory, or punitive in interest and connection to us.  

It sounds like from what i’m writing that psychiatry isn’t seen as a legitimate form of medicine in the church. Or maybe the church doesn’t refer to it, or support it.  

A friend from my group read this post and responded. 

“We hear a lot about emotions and behaviors in the church, and related directives. We don’t hear however about where emotions and behaviors come from. 

I hear, ‘just pray more,’ or that I am lacking in faith. The people in the church get defensive, as if they have to defend God. And that’s not it. Honestly, it’s not complimentary to me that they think I’m insulting God. They are in a way attacking my spirituality. But I know God is helping me and He’s here with me. But I’m still this way. I still feel this way.

There’s a taboo that mental health and disorders all get grouped into this one cringeworthy word, “Crazy.” We’re almost protecting God from crazy by staying away from it in the church. We forget about the sin factor. The separation between us and God. The loss of connection. The word crazy isn’t very nice. So if we say crazy and we say psychiatry and God, it’s almost like we are besmirching God.  

Self-Care tip:  Ask, and ask again, What does “this” say about the character of God? It comes back to “Me.”

Question:  Do see the Bible and your church talking about psychiatry? Where and how? What does it say about who God is? 

Keep on!

Patients who see me think God has not heard them

Hi friends. This is unedited. Something unedited really doesn’t have a right to be published online. Ah well. We are all rebels here. Give me your thoughts, mark up for your edits. We need to hear from you.

People come and say, I prayed God would heal me, I did everything right, but I didn’t get better. So I finally came to you. It was my last effort. I’ll do anything. I can’t live this way.

Then we sat together and explored what was happening here.

God is a better psychiatrist then I am, but it is a miracle every time that S/He uses me to answer prayer.

See what God is doing.

I’m grateful I am given these years as I am able to grow in understanding that my job is not as much to see, what can I do. Rather, watch and participate in what God is doing.

Remember Gideon.

The Israelites from Abraham till Jesus came, wondered and wandered around, thinking about what their destiny was. When they got Saul as king, they lost vision of seeing what God can do. Then they broke up into different kingdoms and got more kings. Then they were conquered over and over and they waited to get their victory. Then Jesus came. And showed us that His kingdom was one of love. Could we say, in some ways, it was a disappointment?

I’ve been disappointed at various times of my wandering and wondering how I fit in. Now I am very slowly learning that it isn’t about me.

Do not limit what God can do. Do not squeeze God down to the confines of our own minds.

Ellen White says that we will spend all of eternity learning about the character of God. That’s a lot of content. That a lot of interest.

If we think about all the scholars of scripture; jesuit’s, ravi’s, pastors, people with photographic memories, the wisdom of Solomon, it doesn’t touch all that is waiting there in that space of eternity for us. We are just getting a toe into what will capture our attention for eternity; what will give us purpose, motivation, interest, a wanting to live and connect with self and others for a space of existence that has no parameters to time.

Self care tip: it’s more than Me

Please speak out and tell us your thoughts.

Keep on

The Sins of the Fathers, and Mental Health

 

“We know the Bible speaks of sins of the fathers passing to the 3rd and 4th generations while God imbues his kindness and mercy far beyond that to those who love him and keep his commandments.”

Rosa had no experience in the world of mental health, or so she thought. She had spent her formative years studying the world through the perspective of her church and interpretations of the Bible. As you know, there is a lot in both with a lot to say about emotions and behaviors. However Rosa was taught and modelled that these were moral issues and not biological. An either or, verses, part of the same thing. Could we call it sequent variants, maybe something like genetic alleles? Or maybe something better to describe this is out there, rather than an either or.

Rosa Leticia Montoya, at this point in her development, with her own overwhelming emotions and her husband’s plummet into dark moods, felt forced into considering mental health. She did not want to go there, but here in the space of losing control, not trusting herself or Carl any more, and before she was willing to say she didn’t trust God, she was doing what was a last resort. Considering that she was going crazy was the only thing this chaos could mean.

Before she completely surrendered to the idea that biology was behind this sinister change, she had to ask, “Is this because of our parents?” She had spent her life trying to untwist the bad choices her parents had made and the consequences those choices had on her life. Drugs, alcohol, and cheating were what she had grown up with. Quietly. Hiding it in the church. Rosa there, praying a lot to live well and be forgiven. Praying that bad thoughts would go away. Praying to depend on God and not on herself, as seen through her perseverating worries ever since she was a child. Worried and worried. Not speaking of the wrong Bible-breaking life her parents wore like underwear beneath nice tailored clothes. Would she ever be forgiven? Would she ever stop sinning?

So she asked me, “What do you think?”

That’s a lot to work with as a psychiatrist. So I did what most of us do. Ran to the shelter of medicine. Whew! But there is the added benefit that God created medicine, psychiatry, and all that there is in my tool bag worth working with.

Even so, there was only so long that I could avoid the topic of God and His punishments, per her perspective. It came up every visit.

If you believe in God, at some point within your discovery of mental health, this question will come up. Rosa is not alone. Are the emotions and behaviors gone amok, such as seen in anxiety disorders and depression, secondary to moral weakness? Living with “too little” dependence on God’s power? Is it this? Or is it an “either or”, with our biology? …a matter of cellular grey matter composed of DNA-expressing pathology? And is this something evil woven into my DNA because of what parents did? Well, I’ve spent 30-some years in school and now 15+ years in practice in this space and am still trying to understand.

I’m wondering if you would help me articulate this. It’s fundamental for us in self-care. It’s not possible to be very friendly to ourselves with the dissonance.

So in our self-care question today, please answer us. What is the relationship between “the sins of the fathers” and biology? Please speak!

Self-care Tip: Pursue kindness in your belief systems toward yourself.

Thank you for speaking with us! Keep on!