Wanting, with a capital “W” …and God

A perfect world for me would include Wanting, with a capital “W”. We would want and have the energy and motivation all included, like a first class Qatar Airline’s ticket with real linen napkins for your glass of water with gas. We’d feel the desire to do things, and good things too. We wouldn’t crave that trash like cookies, ice cream, or chips until we couldn’t taste it any more. Nor would it drape us over couches all day watching tv or fill our heads with cotton-candy audiobooks.

A place of safety would have us full of urge and interest for growing our inside parts, the creative parts, the parts that parallel play with what is Love. We would Want, like a coil that unravels, like my puppy seeks my hand, like the people on Easy Street in a better place.

Wanting is a gift. It isn’t a right. People who have never lost it, they just have no idea about existing in the absence of it. But those poor souls who have lost it, who don’t Want, who have felt it leave them like a mist into the ether, that is hard.

I’d like to tell you a story to help you understand. And there are so many patients clamoring to speak, but my own voice for them is clipped by limited skill and talent. Their voices are most eloquent. For this, I refer you to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), who are people for people. An awesome resource.

However, in my own effort, know this: Wanting is a gift. I’ve seen what it looks like when it is gone, and it is vacuous, a void, a space where if not filled, devils come to occupy. The devils of our broken minds. Depression, that is dark. Down down, feeling like it will suck you into the earth and plants will grow out of your carbon compost.

Priscilla asked me why she felt this way. Why was the gift taken, without clear reason? That familiar phrase, “I don’t have a reason to feel this way. Everyone says I should feel good about my life. But I don’t. I don’t even care if I die. I don’t care about anything.” It’s a familiar phrase because many in Priscilla’s patient cohort say almost the same thing word for word.

I don’t proselytize in clinic but I am open to whatever religion people come in with and how they practice it in the world of mental health. For Priscilla, this was her conflicted outcry.

“I need help. I can’t go on like this. I’ve prayed for help. I’ve asked God to heal me. But I’m still so depressed. Please pray for me. Please help me.”

All the like minded believers are feeling super fine with her right now. “Yes. Pray about it. God can heal you.” And maybe some are thinking she must even be a little culpable. Even if at a dusty genetic level. Yet for whatever reason, God has gifted them with lovely Wanting. Not her though. Many here would think emotions and behaviors are spiritual issues, moral, and connected to salvation. I do. …As a psychiatrist, may I? But looking too close at that, at moralizing emotions and behaviors, is like poking the IRS, so all is quiet.

Her outcry, “Please help me!,” was a spiritual request synchronous with a physical and temporal one. “Please help me…” feel and behave well. It’s sounds of Naaman asking Elisha to remove his spots of leprosy. Or the crippled beggar, stretching his hand out to Peter. Or Esther fasting to beg for the lives of her people. “Please help me.” The spiritual is there with the body.

In my life, having practiced in medical research as well as clinical care for 18 years, and after a super super long many years of schooling, after having walked through church and daily Bible study, (and this is a run on sentence as that’s what this unfolding in my professional experience feels like sometimes), I am comfortable with asking God to help Priscilla, whilst helping her see and achieve how God, S/He, is going to do that for her through a medical approach.

But the absence of Wanting in her life, wanting to get up in the morning, wanting to read her Bible, wanting to take care of her kids, to shower, to have sex, when she doesn’t want this, it isn’t fair. It isn’t because she was bad, or is less than any of us, or doesn’t have the ear of God. I’m very comfortable saying that she has a treatable objectively identifiable medical illness. Thank God. God is all that is good, and kind, and God has mercy for us bleeders, the jacked up, the mean spirited and the ruined. God sees what is wrong with our bodies and minds, and God doesn’t resent us getting medical help. How absurd otherwise.

Self-Care Tip: Give yourself a break and ask for help. There is a better place. Keep on!

Questions: Have you ever experienced the absence of Wanting? Or seen it in someone else?

What did it look like? Please tell us your story. We need to hear.

Science and God Awkwardly Related

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God and science are as awkward together, culturally, as someone walking in on you in the bathroom, mid stream.

People think science and God can’t be related. Like there’s a gap.

My son and I watched, “The Exodus Decoded,” a 2005 documentary, directed and starring Simcha Jacobovici, and James Cameron. In this, the history of the Biblical Exodus is presented through a scientific paradigm.

My son was discombobulated. “Mommy do you believe that!? What do you think? Do you think science explains the miracles God did? I don’t.”
True. He hasn’t had the benefit of decades of higher education to influence his thoughts but irregardless, he is not alone in this.

A pharmaceutical representative I was speaking with explained, “People feel like religion or spirituality are emotion-based whereas science is coming from a field where you have to be objective and unbiased. I think also like you get too much feelings involved, you know? No go.”

Is it like, “God and state,” so is God and science? Like it’s wrong to relate it. Is it not ethical?

Many of us think, mixing these ideas leads to less validity. If that were true, what does it say about who God is? That would be a pretty limp God, who is separated from “one” of His creations with another. Nor is it that kind to “Me”. Me Me Me. Remember? Everything starts and ends with Me here at Friend to Yourself. If keeping science and God separate were true, it increases disconnection in my life. And we are created for connection.

Question: In the words of my son, “What do you think? Do you think science explains God’s miracles?” Or what?

Self-care tip: Allow the gap to fill in between your Higher Power and the explained in your life, however you will. It will improve your self-care.

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!

It goes in both directions

caged

Say hypothetically that you or I achieved full health, that fount of youth that our heroes pursued on their lonely journeys, persons of La Manche. Say we, like Tuck Everlasting, or the marvelous “Lucy,” as performed by Scarlett Johansson and written/directed by Luc Besson, became well. Became every bit of our potential.  Say Fortune caught us finally in her gauzy fingers and we no longer were bound by the helix of genetic vulnerability, so much as to say that we are no longer a broken fly, indeed, in a web of inevitable need for salvation.  Would God who is and who is personal be friendly to me?  Or would God who no longer sensed “need” in Her subjects lose interest and wander off into the forest of other brokenness?
That’s a pathological relationship when its function is fueled by brokenness, thinking the brokenness allows for connection and Love.

How bout Me, then?  Would we forget about the One who had tended our hurts, a gentle Giver, like a child moving from one wrapped present under the Christmas tree to another.  Would God serve no purpose in our self-care?  In fact, would there be self-care any more?  Maybe in this hypothetical scene of the perfect human, we would lose connection.  Perhaps we would become like the girl in Hawthorne’s fantastic short story, The Birthmark, who without our imperfections would die, unable to breathe the air.  Unable to receive Love without our flaws.

No.  You and I are more than this.  We are not loved by a God who keeps us in misery for the sake of Her throne, for the purpose of saving us from sickness and suffering.  We are not sought out in a personal intimacy that is, in its own design, sick.

God isn’t afraid of perfection.  Our connection to God who is and who is personal is not threatened by our healthy selves.

Salvation goes in both directions – up and down, when we are doing well and when we are unwell, to our perfect as well as our imperfect selves.

Self-Care Tip:  Let us feel very good to include God who is and who is personal, when confidence lifts.  It won’t jinx Me or my connection to God to value oneself.  Keep on.

Question:  When do you want to connect with God?  Does staying connected with God improve your self-care, even when feeling great?  Have you thought that there is value in connection with God when doing well or poorly?  Is it either-or in any way?  Please tell us your story.

“I’m Making You My Business!”

“I’m Making You My Business!”

It is pervasive.barriers

We talk about salvation as if it is an event, a diploma, a point in time, something with a frame and boundaries and a rejection of everything else about us.  Salvation is not this.  Salvation is pervasive.

Same with carrying your cross, going out into the world, and so forth.  Salvation and all these life axioms are in the divorce we are suffering, the depression, the trouble with sleep, the courage we demonstrate going into public, the fear we succumb to, the freedom we give up to anxiety – this is all about salvation.  This is what going into the world means.  It’s not one or the other.

When we say, the world will fall away, it is saying that there are no dividers any more.  If you’ve ever heard the term, the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make her a friend, this is the same idea.  God who is and who is personal takes away the dividers and makes us Her business.

God who is and who is personal is important for self care because She is all about Me.

Self-care tip:  Let the barriers go and accept the presence of Love.

Question:  Does God improve your self care?  Do you see dividers between your personal stuff and what is, who is, God?  How does that serve you, Me?

Keep on people of courage!

There is no self-care without Love

grieving

Reggie showed up without his wife.

The wife was a short woman.  She had some practices that usually increased the space she occupied – the smell of tobacco, the size in her chair, the volume she laughed with, her large wiry curly bouffant, and her hope-filled aura. 
“Where’s your wife Reggie?” 

Reggie had sat down with his usual socially acceptable moderate expression. 

It was common for his wife to accompany him to my clinic and if she wasn’t there, it was only for purposes of work.  She prioritized him, it was clear.  However, her work was inconsistent, money was always tight, and she would most often have to travel when the opportunities arose.  Being a temp in nursing was like that.  Reggie was so proud of her and looked at her in that mix-matched role that any relationship between one person and another always is.  In Reggie’s case, sometimes she was his parent, lover, friend, enemy, caregiver, and now, what?

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know I love the concept of Time.  I fantasize a little about separating Time from space and yes, at some moments, think I am all that. (Wink.)  When I asked Reggie, “Where’s your wife?” I might have done it, though not pleasantly.  Something happened there that was inter-dimensional.  Because he was transformed.  His face didn’t melt or droop.  There wasn’t a process to it.  Rather he was sitting like a normal Reggie and then he was wasn’t.  Between normal and transformed, to me, reality changed.  The between was a crack that was a different reality.  A black space without Time.

Reggie cried,

“She left me. She left me.  I begged her not to, and she did.”

Reggie’s wife had done something personal.  She went and died. 

Even when Reggie stopped crying, he looked bewildered, raw and like the faucet was going to poor a lot more.  We did get to start talking a bit about how much his wife loved him.  We speculated about the love remaining after she died. 

“I wish I knew!  I wish I knew she was somewhere good and I wish I knew if she could see me.…” 

Reggie wished he could remain connected to the love. 

During our treatment together for over a decade, Reggie complied with our medical treatment in the context of that love.  Reggie honored his wife by taking care of himself.  He even lifted up his illnesses like an offering to her.  I was struck with the concern of what kind of treatment compliance Reggie would shift to if he thought he was living without love.  I was concerned that he would not value himself, including the respect he was able to show his illness without the company of his wife’s value and respect

The way that we honor those we love and those who love us, is by honoring our own selves.

It is intuitive in our nature to believe that we can’t live without love.  Where does love go when we die? 

This brings us to another premise in, “God and self-care,”  – there is no self-care without Love.

The argument psychiatry has with the concept of Love is that sensing it, knowing it, perceiving it, is all a part of our modular brain, therefore no more than grey matter.  Thus implied that it is diminished. 

Question:  Does it diminish Love for you, knowing that our perception of Love is as mapped out as that, even able to be man-handled, turned on or off by neuronal signals? 

Please tell us your thoughts.  Keep on.

Self-care Tip:  Find Love for self-care.

Don’t Save God

saving God

A danger I don’t want to be confused by here is the temptation to save God.  I recognize I have dabbled there.  But, I am not saving God.  The agenda here is not to prove or disprove, to champion Her, or to drag any of us through the cutting edge of knowledge on dark matter. 

How much I get out of having God in psychiatry is all about me.  It’s good for me, my psyche and my self care.  I like who I am through the eyes of God, who is and who is personal.  I like what it does to me and my relationships.  This is how I see God in my life – home, biology, work, disaster, accident, gardening. 

She cannot be quantified.  If you can imagine it, God may be that and more. 

If I were a plumber, than God would be in plumbing for me.  It just so turns out that I am professionally, a psychiatrist.

Most people whom I’ve heard speak about God don’t have much that I want.  God did not employ them, from my perspective, any more than He did to me in mine.  Or the opposite is just as true.  She did.

Rob the pastor needs to do what is best for Rob. Instead, I hear Rob turfing off the disappointments in his life on God. 

Why do I do it, bring God into my self-care?  Because I want to.  Embracing that there is more knowledge than there is now in humanity, is part of Her and my relationship.

Question:  What do you want?  Why do you include or disclude God from your self-care?  Please speak!  It’s healthy for you.  It’s healthy for me.  Keep on.

Self-care Tip:  Don’t save God.  Start with Me.

God Exists and God is Personal

God and me

As there are so many views on what “God” means, and because that’s not what we want to debate here, we have a useful premise. 

God exists.  God is personal. 

Nor is our purpose to worry over the function of religion, to roll between index and thumb the business relationship between us and God, nor to tidy up the religious wars between our nations. 

The purpose here is to discuss how to be a better friend to Me, in the context of the premise, God is and God is personal to Me. 

If God is, then He is personal.  Otherwise, there is no point to God, as far as you and I are concerned.

Question:  How do we treat ourselves well in the context that God is personal to Me?  If God exists and isn’t personal, what is the point of Him?  How does working under the premise that God is and God is personal improve the way you care for yourself?  Please speak out.  We need you.

Self-care Tip:  Accept that God is and is personal to you and keep on.

The Modular Brain Doesn’t Need God?

I’ve been a little scared of losing God most of my professional education and practice life.  Everyone knows that no one can make it through psychiatry and still believe in God.  And those that do make it through psychiatry and still believe in God, don’t get it. Or so the opinion goes.

When I started medicine, I thought I’d most likely go into psychiatry.  I read my Bible every day. I was crushed by landslides of information I had to learn. With the equivalent of dirt in my hair, broken bones, and blood, I participated in prayer groups and Bible studies. I had to sleep eight hours a night.  If I didn’t, I couldn’t lay down knowledge and I couldn’t cope.  You may be one of those lucky persons who only need four to six hours of sleep at night to be human.  This an advantage equivalent to getting a silver silk parachute airdrop of food, medicine, and weapons in the Hunger Games.  I graduated from medical school and still had God.

Psychiatry residency opened up and I got closer to the the lions den.

What I found is that if you believe in God you are distrusted by colleagues.  If you believe in God you are distrusted by Christians because you’re a psychiatrist. And by Scientologists.

Innocents seem to be fine when they enter into psychiatry residency.  Then they come out totally changed. It disappoints Dad. Surrounded by cerebralists.  It changes the plans sponsors have made for the psychiatrists.  The psychiatrist doesn’t get invited to speak at church. The sponsors think they must have let him or her down.  And the sponsors thought the psychiatrists let them down.

Psychiatry is very high risk to the psychiatrist.  Why is it harder for them to keep God? It’s just generally not taught to utilize God in remedial processes with broken people. “And yet that is what God does best,” says my orthopedic buddy.  He says, “Psychiatry breaks down interpersonal relationships rather than include the spiritual. Unless the psychiatrist feels very comfortable with the healing and revitalizing powers of God, they don’t use it for themselves in practice.”  Is there a God-desensitization process built into their education.?

When studying where emotions and behaviors come from, God can’t be scaled.  There is no way to measure God.

We delve into human behaviors and emotions so intimately in psychiatry.  Once you realize that those things we used to moralize our life parameters with, once we realize that a perception of God is that “easily explained,” we don’t know what or who God is if not that.  Psychiatry deals with the mind and spirit and not the musculoskeletal world.  They are are right in the middle of breakdowns in that field where good bones and joints don’t make the difference.  They are right there where good behaviors and emotions are valued,  and explained in terms of grey matter.  Psychiatrist come to understand that everything is modular in the brain.  At that point, there is no need for God anymore.

Why do people lose God?  Parents blame themselves.  “I’ll never forgive myself.”  They know what they’ve lost.

Remember that song by Sting, “I hope the Russians love their children too“?  God v the Modular Brain might become a war.

My next book is going to be about God and psychiatry.  Wish me luck.  Recommendations, opinions, (no crude gestures,) and silver silk parachutes airdropped are all welcome.  Don’t hate me.  Keep on.

Fatal Game of Playing Chicken

Stubborn in a game of chicken, who will win?

“The principle of the game is that while each player prefers not to yield to the other, the worst possible outcome occurs when both players do not yield.”

chicken race

As said by one avid chicken-owner at the UK World Championship Hen Races, “Listen birdbrain, you either perform for me, or perform for Colonel Sanders.”

Sometimes it is like that between the idea of, everything starts and ends with Me, that we hold here at FriendtoYourself.com and others who say, Love God first.

So, in the spirit of hoping, and “racing well,” let’s discuss.

If we could Love another first, that would just be great.  But we can’t.  (Hear the whine? 🙂  I suppose I have made those sounds before.)  We can’t.  I think that is the curse of Adam and Eve.  We can’t love anyone truly more than ourselves.  It always comes back to me.  We can be thankful for Jesus saving those Garden-of-Edeners, and the rest of us from that lonely circle.  Jesus inserted Himself into our round and round so first, we are never alone, and second, we have Love that is bigger than any catastrophe we think we were born into or happened upon along the way.

When I was a young-in, I studied at Rosario Beach.  We took samples from the ocean and did funky things to them and finally were tested and passed the class.  In this process we studied insertion genes.  These are awesome in their changing power.  This is how mutations happen in nature as well as how we now do genetic engineering.

insertion gene

None of us, like lined up chromosomes, can insert into ourselves the ability to start or end anywhere but with Me.  But, just like the stupidity of working out before you go to the gym, we do not wait for that to be inserted into Me before we pursue Love.   Love inserts in.  Until then, the Love part is foreign to Me.  It is a mystery.  Our life journey of beginning and ending with Me is changed from the one we started with.

Like weaving in magic into the common circle that everything starts and ends with Me,…  But we are not magicians.  I am no magician, although I have watched, “Now You See Me,” 🙂 and I understand that even magicians do not believe what they do is magic.

We have often said and heard others say, “Don’t love Me first, Love God first.”   We are not worth much to our neighbor though if we do not like Me.

So basically any time on our personal life journey, we might have enough insight to perceive the Loving of another more than Me, think Magic.  Someone did you an insert.  Now, even though your circle will still end with Me, your Me is changed and connected to Love.

It is a bummer that so many of us, with inherent self-recrimination, tell ourselves and others to, “Love God first,” when we might as well demand that we do our own gene engineering with Magic.  If and/or when we do love another first, by definition, that is not about Me.

“We love, because He first loved Me.”  ‘Member?  1Jo 4:19

We can, however, enter ourselves in for the insertion.  If we do not put our name in, it is harder to get called I would think.

Self-Care Tip:  Believe in Magic to treat yourself and others kinder, with less self-recrimination, and with more hope.

Questions:  I’m still growing on this.  What do you think?

Talking about God in Medicine

train hopping
Why don’t you talk about God more?

This question is familiar to me.

People think that with as much as I see and am seen by, as a psychiatrist, I do not feel awkward.  Not so.  I can face all manner of dragon, beast, friend or foe, but put me with a Christian who wants to know why I do not talk about God as much as they think I should in my medical practice, and I become a wet-eyed girl again, hopping from foot to foot.

This would never have been a question someone would dare have asked Kreplin or Bleuler.  But then I am not Kreplin or Bleuler.  I get asked.  Kreplin and Bleuler would not be caught discussing psychiatry casually nor personally.  I do.  In the history of psychiatry, what has developed the culture of our practice, we have biases toward the practicing of medicine without bias.  I am biased otherwise.

Conversely, the culture of Christianity in our generation is that we do almost the opposite – nothing is not about Christianity.  Everyone is a creation of God so that makes it everyone’s business.

You can see how there is a tension between countries and I am a train hopping hobo.  You know the risk in train hopping, do you not?

Why don’t you talk about God more?  (Hop! Hop!)

I tried to explain this to my Dad.

“Dad, so many people, who have been hurt, perceive that the trauma related to God.  The Christian language, is for them, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and can be activating.  So many people are confused about God and I’m not to confuse them more.”  This is consistent with the culture of psychiatry and standard of practice.

It is uncomfortable on even a more personal level though.  Being Christian means that God and I are united, married, intimate and there is not much more personal than that.

We have discussed before the difficulty in describing behaviors without tagging them with a moral quality.  This is important in part because our emotions and behaviors come from our hard wiring, our temperament, not from a stick shift or consistently from choice.  We intuitively think that what comes naturally from our personality is a thing of rightness or wrongness.

We have explored that emotions and behaviors come from the brain, a human organ, and not Jerusalem, or the city of Oz.  Emotions and behaviors come from a human organ, tissue matter, and are symptoms of the health condition of that organ.   Emotions and behaviors sometimes come without invitation.   When our brain is not healthy, what we feel and do that is not friendly to Me or others are symptoms of that illness.

So now when we describe God, a very personal, intimate union in us, we oft affect our humanness.  If I describe my perception of God to another, there are huge personal implications.  Maybe that person does not want an intimate relationship with “Someone” who has my personality traits, my temperament, and as generated by the condition of my brain health.  Maybe that person might feel violated rather than be in a patient-doctor relationship.  Maybe that person might afterward, as I have felt when others described God to me, think they need to take a good hot shower or at least wash their mouth out.  Icky.  You think?

One of the reasons I love the writing of King David is that he just tells his story.  Not much more convincing than someone’s story.

The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.  He leadeth me beside still waters.  Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me….

sheep

Nice.

When a patient is in treatment with me, there are unique moments that come and go when my story comes out, but it is not standard.

Why don’t you talk about God more?

So there you have it.  That is why, for now.  I hope to grow and assume this will not be my opinion nor practice forever.

And between me and thee, at Friend to Yourself, we are also still figuring this out.  Together.

Questions:  Do you wish your physicians talked about God more? or less?  Why?  How has it affected your treatment?  How do you wish it would change?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  When people talk about God, or hurt you and you believe Christianity or religion is involved, remember they are human, not God.

(Even me!  lol!)

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Tenuous Connections – Where is Our Rock?

Skógafoss waterfall

Skógafoss waterfall (Photo credit: big-ashb)

So thinking more about Alena and her alien psychiatrist-poser

Why is Alena known, or recognized, by Alien?

Where Alien came from, brain illness isn’t sustained by the stress of living on her planet.  Those with brain illness either adapt to the primitive resources they live in or they, (pause,) “don’t.”  The community doesn’t know this is happening consciously.  They just know that some people are able to do what earthlings consider magic.  Those with brain illness evolved to survive.  Alien was one such benefactors of time and stress on biology.  She was not there for the process, but for the product

Earth was alarming.  It was the first time she’d ever seen someone with a broken mind.  Knowing where she came from gave her mixed feelings….

I’m getting my hands into this Time-play playtime!  Woohoo!  I have been rumbling over the beauty of all the beloved connections I enjoy, the cherished anchors and reflectors that I’ve used so long to stabilize my identity with.  My heritage, my profession, my employments, my interpersonal relationships, family, my body, currencies, and so much more gives me a sense of security.  A sense, however, in truth and not Time-less.  As so many of us know what the other side of that water-fall looks like – divorced parents, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, illicit drugs, loneliness, poverty, a bone spur or arthritis.

If Time is an arrow, what gives the increasingly obvious wispiness of our securities power?  What is our strength from?

I remember back when we discussed our Essence, the bit of Me that isn’t lost to death, suffering or brain illness.  According to, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, by Sean Carroll, he’d say this can only exist if this Essence in Me is connected to space and Time.

Question:  Where does your connection come from?

Self-Care Tip:  Discover where you security comes from.

God and being a Friend to Yourself – A Reference of Blog Posts

English: Givers at Downtown Alive, Lafayette, ...

English: Givers at Downtown Alive, Lafayette, Louisiana  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Reference of Blog Posts:

Is Religion A Barrier In Your Friendship With Yourself?

Hello Friends.

I’d like to introduce to you, my pastor, John K. McGhee, Ed.D., Ed.S., M.S.P.H.  

We met about ten years ago in Boston, and worshiped together there for no more than a couple of months.  In contrast to how quickly I chose him, I’ve been very slow about letting him go.  He lives around the globe, talking about health, Love, God and individuals.  He has been and continues to be an important presence in my life and although I sit in other churches, he’s my pastor.  May God continue to bless him, his family and his work. 

Guest post by Dr. John Kenneth McGhee.

Dr. Sana’s blog is persuasive, and possibly life-changing.  However there may be some spiritually inclined conservative Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants who may be uncomfortable with her emphasis on self-care as a vital first-step to healthy interactions. Isn’t it quite selfish and rather ungodly to focus on self-care?  Don’t the great monotheistic faiths teach that people achieve their greatest potential when they unselfishly focus on serving others?

I wonder what God thinks about self-care?  Probably it is impossible to know with certainty.  Who can know God’s thoughts?

However, one can find ample evidence from the Holy Books to support a few principles about self-care.

1.  Self-care is promoted in the Torah.  Genesis 1:28 – 2:3   clearly identifies that God told Adam and Eve to have plenty of sex, and babies; eat nutritious food; and enjoy a delightful weekly rest.

2.  Self-care is promoted in the New Testament.  3 John 2 clearly identifies a principle stated by the human being who was one of Dr. Jesus Christ’s closest friends.  “Beloved I wish above all that you would prosper and be in health.”  Here we recognize God’s concern with finance and health care on a very personal level.  The language implies that there is a direct action involved by God’s friends that they would become financially viable and do what it takes to remain in good health.

3.  Perhaps the most concentrated teaching on self-care is given by Paul who mentored Timothy so effectively.  In I Timothy 4: 7 – 16, I find the following direct commands:

  • Train yourself in godliness – this requires time to read, time to pray, time to think, time to do acts of kindness;
  • Don’t let anyone put you down because you are a young teacher – this requires time to nourish a healthy ego, time to know who you are, time to build character;
  • Do not neglect the gift(s) you have received – this requires time to write; time to develop musical or other artistic talents, time to share gifts with others in a faith fellowship community;
  • And finally Paul counsels Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself.”

Questions:  What conflicts do you have in becoming your own friend with your religious beliefs?  Is religion a barrier to you being friendly to you?  Or, how has it been otherwise?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Be aware of barriers to friendship with yourself, even religion.