God in the Space of Synthetics

Hello Friends!

I’m going to try something a little different today. I’m posting a dictation between a patient of mine and me because I think it has flow and a nucleus. (There are a few small changes made in liberty, and no identifying data.) Let me know what you think of the content.

Psychiatrist:  …And so we were talking about perfectionism, right? 

Patient:  Yes. 

Psychiatrist:  And about how you are not being kind to yourself when you expect yourself to be all healthy.

Patient:  I’m not being kind to myself when I don’t want to take this or that because I don’t do synthetics. (This is what my patient was using to describe medications.)

Psychiatrist:  I like that you used the word synthetics, because I’ve never put it in that perspective with patients, and you did that for me. 

Patient:  Well, there are non-synthetic and there are synthetic. 

There’s body recognizing things, plants, and then there are the synthetics, what the pharmaceutical companies produce. And I’m a very negative pharmaceutical company person. 

Psychiatrist:  Compare that to other inconsistencies in our life. Such as, I’m going to be all-natural, I’m only going to wear hemp.

Or take it to the point where I’m going to weave my own clothes because it’s really natural and I know exactly what’s in it. Versus saying that I’m moving forward and I’m going to take what science has offered to us. I’m wearing polyester right now. 

Or, I’m willing to take over the counter “herbs” because they don’t have the pharmaceutical stamp on it, or maybe I like that it grows out of the ground. But none of that has been governed. Aside from the “he-said-she-said evidence,” there’s often little science behind some popular over the counter remedies either. 

Let’s consider that perhaps the study data, comparing in a regulated way, one patient with another, defined synthetic agents, and then allowed my body to be its healthier self. It gave us objective data. Numbers. Sure they have their flaws and weaknesses as we learn in statistics that all does. Poke holes in it as you wish, but at least there is a degree of transparency.

Patient:  Maybe for me it’s more trust, because I feel like people are so over-medicated today. And it’s easy to write out a prescription than to really deal with the issue. 

(Me, on the sly: This view, that practitioners prescribe for reasons other than for the medical benefit of the patient, is one that I honor with humility, and stand up and listen when others voice it. Annals fill the internet search engines on it, I’m sure. I will still pick at it a little, I’m a stubborn nubby person like that.

Let us note together that the word, “easy,” in this context isn’t so kind to our person. Taking medication to treat a medical illness is often not easy. It is one of the most courageous acts in someone’s life. And this wonderful lady, who came into my scary office, was a great example of this kind of courage. She wasn’t here doing what was easy. She was giving her emotional entrails a work-over with her psychiatry venture.

This patient, whom I will name hereafter, Lady Courage, was “really dealing” with the issue, in contrast to her self-described mores. Might we suspect the insidious tendrils of “Mister Stigma” shaming her? Yet here she was… Just fabulous!)

Lady Courage: I’m more one that, “Let’s really deal with your issues, and then your mind should come around, everything should come around.” That’s how I view it, because if you don’t fix the underlying problem you’re never going to fix the problem with meds.

Psychiatrist:  Okay. But you’re willing to say there might be some inconsistencies in that right now.

Lady Courage:  Right, no, I’m not … 

Psychiatrist:  It might not be entirely false, but it might not be entirely true. 

Lady Courage:  Exactly. 

Psychiatrist:  We were saying, “I can be healthy but still have disease in my life.” 

Lady Courage:  Yes, that’s true. 

Psychiatrist:  Because I don’t have to be perfect. 

Lady Courage:  Right. And I do find that a little bit hard. But since you put it in that aspect of being, “healthy with disease,” I can see that. I probably never saw that before, because I did always separate the two, either you’re one or the other. 

Psychiatrist:  Wow. 

Lady Courage:  Yeah. 

Psychiatrist:  That’s poignant. Is that how you see God as well? 

Lady Courage:  In what aspect? Like, yeah … Well, you know what? I try to strive to walk in His ways. I haven’t always walked in His way, so I do have guilt about that, but I shouldn’t have that and I know He’s already said He’s forgotten it, He’s washed me clean. So it’s just receiving it for myself. And that just is faith. And I know then it makes me feel like I’m lacking a little faith, but I know I should be stronger. But, yeah, The Word is something that I strive to follow, and it’s hard. 

Psychiatrist:  So do you feel like God is, “either/or,” in the way He looks at you? What about the parts of you that are diseased? 

Lady Courage:  Well, no, yeah, He’s going to heal that. 

Psychiatrist:  But what if He doesn’t right now? What does that mean about who God is?

Lady Courage:  Well, He sent me here probably in hopes that you can help me to heal. He provides these avenues for us, so that we can get healed. 

(Folks! So good! Smile.)

Psychiatrist:  So you somehow think that God enters into the space of the synthetic. 

Lady Courage:  Well, yeah, I guess so, yeah. I do, okay. It’s so contradictory, but in one aspect I do take a thyroid medication that is a synthetic, but I know I have to take that and I understand it and I don’t feel it’s abusive. And I look at my blood work and I know where I’m supposed to be and how much I should be, so I feel confident. But when it comes to things like this that I’m not used to taking, and that don’t show up on labs, and it involves transforming my brain, I’m not really on board with that. 

Psychiatrist:  So when you use the word transforming my brain, I understand you’re saying that it’s making you into something different? 

Lady Courage:  It can alter your brain, yes. 

Psychiatrist:  Okay, so that’s the part I think that’s very scary for people, because they think it’s making them into somebody they’re not. But in reality the medications are there for healing who you already are. So for example, today you feel more like yourself than you did last week. 

Lady Courage:  Well, yeah, last week I was desperate and hurting and losing weight and scared. 

Psychiatrist:  And today you’re closer to who you think your healthy self is. 

Lady Courage:  I think today I’m … Yes, I’m much closer to my healthy self. 

(Q: Closer to who God is creating you to be? Closer to God’s will even?)

Psychiatrist:  In all of these scenarios, at each point we want to think, “What does this say about who God is?” If He or She, (but we will say He to simplify because it’s culturally appropriate,) is kind and loving like you mentioned, then would this belief, X, Y or Z, be true?

Self-Care Tip: Lay out our beliefs next to that standard, that premise in our life. And because we’re a lot crueler to ourselves, then we would allow other people to be, it can rescue us on occasion.

Questions: “What does this say about who God is?” Please speak out!!! …and, Keep on!

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!

What are you Living for?

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“Latest Banksy Graffiti”

Why do you get out of bed every morning? To go to work? You think, “Life i is about working and then, someday I’ll die.” Are you living to go to school? Perhaps a student for life, the best is to gather and gather. A klepto of information.  Ma skzwybe you live, instead, to stay home and not leave. That can be worth it. Leaving home feels like going to one’s death for many, in fact, with anxiety.

Is what you are living for, worth “living for?” Why didn’t you kill yourself last night?m I’m not asking for “13 Reasons” or glamorizing suicide in any way, like it ois, unfortunately, being done in the media these days. I’m just asking. (Straight face. Eye contact.) Why?

Suicide is increasing, this year up by ~30%. It’s sad but I’ve heard the ignorant say, “When our world is being overrun by humans, this is just one more way to improve population management.” Why anyone would say that, let alone to a psychiatrist, speaks toward the unfortunate person saying it more than anything. Even so, these are the people that contribute to our cultural stigma and sentiment, like the wrong colloid for growth. This stigma is best diminished by peer-to-peer influence. Your voice; you speaking up is the painting over the foul-language graffiti. You speaking of your own journey with suicidality or any related diseases changes the ignorance into empathic knowledge. 

We are in the mental health equivalent to the industrial revolution. Fortune. We are wealthy in mental health treatment options. Bling! Bling! It wasn’t too long ago when we were trusting depression medical therapies to crude agents bulky, and bluntly stunning our neuroreceptors. These were a big stick coming down on a flower.

Think of the cart and horse transforming into the automobile; course into sleek and refined; slowly moving and grossly impacting changes, contemporarily working rather as specific rapid responses. Now remember your parent, or mine, who never had the opportunity to receive a treatment that would work in a matter of weeks, and without turning her/him into a zombie-blimp.

A child stands there going through his own vasovagal experience, scared and confused while watching his favorite person in the whole world performing like a broken toy. The child tries to make sense and restabilize their once clarified existence. The parent goes through this at first for about six months and then somehow “gets better.” Was it the prayer that worked? Was Momma finally able to “pull through it?” Was it because the child’s behavior finally became “good enough” to please God who then condescended to make his momma better? Momma does well for another 2 years. She’s connected. She’s filled with purpose. The memory turns into something like, “Boston’s worst winter in fourteen years;” briefly print-worthy and then thankfully, not much more.

Then momma is again dark, hopeless and staying in bed whenever she can. The child, Teddy, is now a preteen of ten. This comes back, like finding another letter from his cheating dad’s girlfriend under a magazine in the back of the closet where his golf clubs are. And instead of six months, Momma’s change lasts about two years. (Can we even call it a “change” when it lasts two years?)

The amorphic improvement comes again though, like a miracle, but who can trust it. Miracles aren’t gotten in vending machines after all. I We can’t buy them with a paycheck.

Sadly, as Teddy feared, another some many months later, Momma drops again. This time she plummets rather than drops, into a drunken, more terrible condition. For longer, and the boy is now a teen. He at first appears more calloused. Yet, if questioned, he will show his grief and bewildered young self, just there behind a gentle touch, or a cluster of inquiring kind words. He loves her well. Why can’t she love him? Moms who love their kids will get up in the morning. They’ll shower and they’ll talk. They don’t write suicide notes or leave their son’s to find them half conscious when they get home from school. Not mom’s who love their kids.

Our moms, yours and mine in the seventies, didn’t have the privilege of taking treatments that worked or worked well, and rapidly. We are so blessed. How to grasp the immense difference in our Age; this Age of mental health revolution.

Now a little boy sees this change in his favorite person in the world. She is fortunate enough to receive medical treatment, and within weeks is “back to myself again.” This little family escaped years of decomposition by the ravaging damages from brain illness. 

My grandma, Elsie Louise, (isn’t that a great name!), was washing her laundry in a new machine that decreased her labor by many hours. One day, when she was daydreaming about her young handsome husband, or maybe it was the chicken she lost to the fox, when she screamed, jerking out from a terrible pain in her hand. Her fourth finger was gone. She lost it, pulled off by the twisting force of the machine’s internal grips.

Now we place our laundry in a closed lidded box we just walk away from. We don’t even think about the appendages we are allowed to retain. We don’t imagine the privilege. 

In psychiatry, it is like this. The treatments we had generations past were better than none. But, enter now into 2018, and we don’t realize how good we have it. We forgot most of the print-worthy stories back then. Not to use the treatments from this revolution, is going back to the darker ages of medicine. The treatments save lives. They bless. They make us rich in life. Bling! Bling! Look at your wealthy character. Healthy.

Why are you still alive? Whatever you answer, fight for that. Take advantage of the mental health revolution and live well.

Questions: What are some stories of those you have loved who missed out on mental health treatment? What are some stories of those who did not? Where is the difference?

Self-care tip: Speak! We need to hear you. You are painting over the foul-language graffiti of ignorance!

Keep on!

False Thoughts about Getting Healthy

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Think of walking in a rainstorm. Your clothes and hair hang heavily. They provide no protection. They offer no remedy. You take a hand towel out of your bag and try to mop up your icy wet face. Wring it out and continue to wipe. 

This is like choosing to do all the psychosocial efforts in your life, but missing the biological. Until you treat the underlying illness, much of our efforts to heal are like using a hand towel to dry off in the rain storm. We think that we can get better without medication. Or, we may reject other treatment options, like ECT or TMS. We think false thoughts. 

It’s not healthy to take pills. 

I’m better than that. 

All I need is God. 

My parents would be upset, so I shouldn’t. 

If my work found out, I’d lose my job. So I shouldn’t. 

THC is better. 

Exercise is better. 

Some of these are entirely false. But some are just partly false, encased in a disconnected truth. This “rain and the hand towel” idea is not an analogy meant to minimize or bring shame to those who choose not to engage in treatment. It is not meant to talk down. Please forgive me for the crudeness and limitations. It is just meant to crack open this idea.

Yesterday, Louise commented that her physician told her taking sertraline, or Zoloft, was like taking “a vitamin for my brain”. That clicked for her! Vitamins were ok.

Question: How has your physician helped you get past not wanting to take treatment? How could your provider do better with this?

Self-care Tip: Allow healing with medical treatment for medical disease.

Get You Some of That – Medical Treatment for Medical Illness

…Continued from yesterday.

Cole_liveCole Swindell – Get Me Some Of That

Why do I feel so horrible when I start a treatment that is supposed to help?

Medication treatments for depression and anxiety, and some other brain illnesses, often worsen how you feel before you feel better. I can’t tell you how many patients have told me that if they had known this before, they never would have stopped their mediation(s).


Yesterday, our post discussed a Dr. Jones and Presley.

Presley fired Dr. Jones when after following her directive, he subsequently experienced an extreme panic attack. Dr. Jones may not have done anything wrong in her treatment recommendations. Presley was just an individual, as compared to a “number on the curve” of treatment responders. Escitalopram, the medication discussed as an example yesterday, (one medication option out of many), may have been dosed at an initial amount that Presley’s body couldn’t handle “straight out of the gait”, so to speak. But likely, if he had started at a lower dose, maybe ½ or even ¼ of the tablet, and then waited for his body to accommodate to the medication. Then Presley would have tolerated it. Presley would have tolerated slowly increasing the medication if approached, rather, piece-by-piece of a pill. I’ll even joke with patients,

I don’t care if you lick the pill. Just get on it.

When slowly titrating a medication, it allows the individual’s neurotransmitter receptors to down-regulate whilst the agent floods the receptors. If there is a neuron targeting another neuron, there’s a baseline balance in time. There is a baseline understanding between these neurons. An agreement, of sorts. “I’ll sit here and receive your messages,” (neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine). “I’ll then carry those messages on your behalf to their intended recipients,” (such as the amygdala or hippocampus). But then this person artificially takes a higher quantity of these messengers, for example, by way of medications, and floods the system. The receivers, (or neuroreceptors), have to adjust to this to establish a new healthy baseline. 

In this initial time of treatment, when 1st introduced to the increased neurotransmitter-load, (ex: as released by a tablet of Escitalopram), there can be a negative response, such as panic and/or depression emotions. We call this, “initiation side effect’s.” Once the neuroreceptors get used to the new load, then the response improves. 

After accommodating to the new pharmacology, the brain is allowed to experience the blessing that comes from treatments, and heal.

Some individuals are outside of the curve and cannot tolerate the standard initial treatment dosage, like Presley was. Some are inside, and can without much difficulty. The point in treatment, though, is that the person just needs to get on it.

Get on treatment. However you do it. You have to make the treatment work for you, an individual, in your own way. The prescriptions are there to serve you. You aren’t there to serve the medications. I like to analogize Jesus’ statement,

The Sabbath is there for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Make it yours as an individual and reap the benefits; the blessings inherent there. (See Mark 2:27). 

If you don’t get on the treatment, you won’t get better. Anything less than this will be inadequate. It’s like drying water off your face with a hand towel while still walking in a rainstorm.

What is your agenda in treatment? List it. Write it out. Then, go get you some!

Outside a medical approach is like flicking water off in the context of a rainstorm. If your agenda is getting to your healthy self. Get out of the storm and get dry. Then go get it. 

You have a medical condition. Treat it with the assistance of a medical professional. 

I don’t go to a plumber to help with my electrical home repair. I don’t go to an accountant or a church counselor to treat a medical one. 

The plumber, the accountant, the church counselor are what they are. This is not minimizing their efficiency in their own fields of excellence. But why do we seek care in psychiatry from those who haven’t studied this? From those who are not experts in this? Maybe stigma keeps us away from psychiatric care. Maybe misinformation directs our search for mental health treatment elsewhere. 

Self-Care Tip: Get you some medical therapy for medical illness.

Question: What are further concerns you may have about taking medications? How would you prefer your medical providers to work with you? Please tell us your story. 

But I’m Not Someone Who Likes Taking Meds

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Presley couldn’t breath. A truck just drove through his thorax. A monster-hand was closing around his heart. He couldn’t swallow well. Was something stuck in there? Dizziness nearly dropped him, but instead of moving to sit down, like any other normal person would do, he bolted. A fire chased him. He had to escape or he would die. In the bathroom where he found himself, the mirror reflected a sweaty face and crazy eyes. Was he dying? Presley’s phone looked blurry as he dialed, 911.

Please help! I’m having a heart attack!

That was the first time this had happened. After the third visit to the emergency room over the past month, Presley was able to avoid calling 911, although still convinced he was going to die when the next episode hit. He agreed to seek counseling, where he was taught different skills to connect his mind and body, to slow his breathing down, to process, even when he was convinced he was dying.  For a time, Presley improved. It was like it never happened. He was almost able to convince himself that it wouldn’t happen again.

This turned over and over, feeling like he was going to die while losing his mind, re-engaging in counseling, thinking he was better, stopping counseling, and then another violent emotional event, thinking for sure, he would die.

It was after his second trip to the ER when he received the recommendation to schedule an evaluation with a psychiatrist. But he preferred to work through this in therapy. Presley didn’t like pills. He wasn’t someone who medicated. An olive-skinned athlete, he lived clean and didn’t believe there was much that healthy living couldn’t cure. And Presley did live clean. He ran fifty miles a week. He ate raw foods. He read his Bible.

After several months of this, his therapist, Dr. Wu, recommended he get a psychiatric evaluation. However, Dr. Wu agreed that he would continue to work with him, whatever Presley chose. (Was this the right thing for Dr Wu to do?) Presley chose, no. No psychiatrist. What would a psychiatrist do to him anyway?! He wasn’t crazy. (Except when he thought he was.)

Presley visited his primary medical physician, Dr. Belinda Jones. It had to be better than seeing a shrink!

Dr. Jones, I don’t want to take meds.

Dr. Jones, cleared him for any medical condition that might be contributing to his events. Only then was she able to convince him to try a “safe antidepressant”, escitalopram. After one pill, Presley had the worst event of his life. He’d never had any experience that was more terrifying. Presley didn’t go back to Dr. Jones, “of course.”

When these emotional tornadoes hit more frequently, he became paralyzed with fear that he would have them in public and be humiliated by them. Presley stopped going to work.  If it wasn’t for his rent, he’d never go back. But he had to. So finally Presley agreed to see a psychiatrist. …

To be continued

  • Sincerely, Dr. Q

Questions: What would you tell Presley? 

How would you like your physician and/or therapist to handle this, if it were you?

Why is Presley so opposed to taking medical therapies?

Please speak! We need to hear you.

Self care tip: Keep on! 🙂

STOP! DON’T STOP! The quandary inside of us when deciding to take medication

Everyone says “Hi” to my dog, Timothy… Way more than to me. Silence.

Is it the springy fluffy hair, I wonder? They walk up, even speed, out of an unseen shadow without inhibition and rub him down. He is pleased every time, to say the least. Do I regret all the painful laser hair removal treatments I got years ago? Hm. I am half Lebanese after all and few really know how much fur I really came with.

(Curly-cue.)

Steve came looking for help. I spied him in the hallway before clinic. That’s always a little awkward for some reason. Running into someone out of context. Like we both are caught out of costume and the curtain just pulled up. (Gotcha!)

His strings pulled in, an inner tension, apparent even then. He looked susceptible to emotional or physical attack when we caught each others eye. I could see him wondering if this was “her”, his psychiatrist. What was he expecting?

When patients come in for treatment, it’s comparable to anyone acting on a realization that they’re vulnerable, asking help from a stranger. It can take immense courage.

Part of this understanding is what contributes to the awkwardness of meeting in the hallway, out of context. We are both a little undefended there.

So what would bring a person to do this to themselves? It doesn’t sound pleasant when put this way – vulnerable, asking help from a stranger.

Steve had a wife, kids, a job, a house, and a pet. Inside this bubble, Steve didn’t think he had reasons to feel the way he felt. He looked for them and felt stupid because everyone told him how good he had it. Nor did Steve see reasons to behave the way he behaved. He described his story, a rolling out of his life, like that of a hand stitched carpet. In it, we saw together that he had anxiety then, and then, and then. He had coped well mostly, until he hadn’t. Then he would spend some time falling out of circulation and incurring losses. Then he’d recover and forget. He’d forget that worse patch and redefine the lines around the man. Then again the lines would smudge, he’d get anxious and irritable beyond “control”, grapple within the darkness of the white noise, which panic brings, grapple for reasons why the anxiety came again. His identity would be so threatened, the suffering, the feedback from everyone around him would pull on him, that the lines of his person frightened him into treatment.

There Steve was. Timothy at his feet with his puffy furry head in Steve’s lap. Steve asking for help. At the same time as asking for help, he would also refuse, stating caution.

“I don’t want to change myself.

I like being the person who gets things done so well.

I like accomplishing things.” (He thought it was his anxiety that allowed him to do this.)

It reminds me of the, “Stop! Don’t stop!” that I’d tease my brothers with when we were kids.

People think that taking medication changes who they are. Understand that in order for this to be true, that would mean medication changes DNA code.

“Doesn’t it change my brain chemistry?”

Let’s say that were true, that medication changes brain chemistry. Still that isn’t changing your DNA. The DNA is what gives a person “personality,” or, what many of us say, “Who I am.”

After getting laser hair removal, I didn’t change my DNA, but I don’t have as much hair. When my kids were born, I checked, and sure enough, DNA…. They’re gorgeous! Wink. (That’s done with one heavy cluster of eyelashes around my dark Lebanese eye.)

Question: What are your fears about taking medication?

If you have taken medication, how did you see it affected your identity?  What happened to who you call, “Me?”

Please SPEAK! We need to hear you. Keep on!

Self-care tip: Self-care means taking care of yourself even at the biological level. It starts with “Me.”

 

Why Not Skip Medication and Go Naturallllllll?!

The little Train

The train was tarnished from soot.  The engineer, Jack, grimaced over the craft, while he hauled wood into the fiery oven hidden in her belly.  She was a steam engine and her whistle sounded through the air like a shiver breaking ice.

Indians watched from a bouldered distant peak.  They saw the smoke and marked its passage with each puff.

Just then, a mischievous current sucked up that chimney-spew like a genie to her lamp and the loud wind masked the sound of her turning wheels.  To the unfamiliar natives looking on, the tiny far off train appeared to have stopped, silent to them now and no smoke to ribbon the air.

Not so, though.  Jack did not know they were watched, he and his steely lady.  He did not know he was described in the mind’s of others.

Moving.  Not moving.  Progressing.  Stopped.

But the sensory descriptors were misleading.

Music please.  (Perhaps tom-tom pow wow drums.)

As in this tidy little parable, we think that when we get relief from symptoms, it means that the disease process is better.

Anxious?  Have a beer and vuala!  Better.  Can’t sleep?  Smoke some weed and, “Aaaah.”

No?  “Of course not!” we say.  “We don’t do those plebeian substances.  We use our medications as prescribed.  We don’t abuuuuse them.  If we need more, we ask for more.”

This dialogue is usually regarding benzodiazepines.  “Doctor, I can’t take antidepressants or those other meds!  Why is everyone always pushing drugs on me?  I’m just taking klonopin.”  Or, “Doctors over-prescribe!  I just need xanax!”

Brain disease runs something like the steam engine train.

The steam coming out of the chimney is what we see in symptoms, such as, anxiety, inner tension, fear, insomnia, irritability and so forth.  Get rid of the smoke and we think the disease is dealt with.  However, the train is still going.  The disease is still progressing, although not as notably disruptive as before.  To stop the train, we must stop the engine, or the disease process.  I’m not saying we must cure the disease, rather, just slow or stop the disease progress to treat it effectively.

Our goal is more than symptom management.  Our goal is to treat the underlying illness to preserve brain health and prevent against further injury.

Self-Care Tip:  When medically indicated, consider medical therapy.

Question:  When your symptoms improve, how do you continue toward treatment goals?  How do you go past getting “better” to full treatment?  Please tell us your story.

Sleep Hygiene – my version

1.  The bedroom is only for sleep and for sex.

  • If you aren’t having sex than all you get to do is sleep.  No food, no phone, no TV.  Only sleep.
  • The bedroom is a sanctuary for sleep. Your subconscious is way to powerful to toy with.  When you go to bed you want it to be telling you to sleep, not read that last chapter or check the latest on @Twitter.
  • This can be a change in family culture and affects everyone in the home.

2.  No naps longer than 20 minutes during the day time – Known as a “Power Nap.”

  • If you are tired and have the luxury of lying down, do it!  But set your alarm to wake you up in 20 minutes.  You can do this 20 times a day if you want to.  But no longer than 20 minutes.  Anything longer will break into your deeper stages of sleep and throw off your sleep cycle (also known as sleep architecture) at night.

3.  No caffeine second half of the day.

4.  Exercise but not before bed.

  • Exercise will help regulate your sleep cycle at night if you just give your sleep initiation some space.
  • Try to get forty to sixty minutes 5-7 days a week of aerobic exercise to get best results.
  • Look at exercise like a pill.  A prescription.  Something for your medical and emotional health (inspiring to me), not necessarily for your waistline (inspiration notoriously short-lived.)
  • Every day think, “I’m exercising so I feel good, so I sleep good, so I can do what I want in life” – what ever that may be for you.  Some people will say, “…so I’m not a crazy Mom!”

5.  Keep the lights dim before bed.

  • Light turns off melatonin release from the pineal gland in our brains.  Darkness releases it.  Having your face 6 inches from the computer screen or TV before you lay down doesn’t give your body much time to turn itself off.  Melatonin is a cornerstone in sleep architecture.
  • Some people who feel they must be on the computer or TV before bed have found that wearing sunglasses for at least the last 30 minutes helps.

6.  Go to bed and get out of bed at the same time every day.

7.  If you can’t fall asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something else until you feel sleepy.  Then go to bed and try again.

  • Refer back to #5 when choosing what and how to do your activities during that time.

8.  If you can’t fall asleep in 30 minutes, consider taking a sleep aid.

9.  Do not take any sleep aids over-the-counter except melatonin, valerian root, or chamomile.

  • All others including anything containing diphenhydramine, block your deep sleep. You may end up sleeping a longer amount of time, but you won’t be getting restorative sleep.  It is during the deep sleep that your body heals, replenishes it’s hormones and neurotransmitters, and consolidates memories.

10.  If you choose to take a prescription sleep aid, do not take benzodiazepines such as diazepam, temazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, or lorazepam to name a few.  These also block deep sleep.

  • Sleep aids safe for deep sleep and sleep architecture, include atypical benzodiazepine receptor ligands – such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), or zaleplon (Sonata).  The main differences between these are how long it takes for them to be metabolized/washed out of the body.  Some are quick and some last the full 8 hours.
  • Trazodone (Desyrel) is also safe for sleep structure and maintenance.
  • Sometimes people will find that combining something like zolpidem with trazodone is most effective for them rather than using only one agent.

11.  Do not use alcohol to sleep.  Alcohol is a depressant (will make you depressed) and also blocks deep sleep.

12.  Do not smoke before bed or if you awaken from sleep.  Nicotine is stimulating.

13.  Don’t sleep with your pets or children.  They are disruptive.

  • It’s not personal.  It’s sleep hygiene.

Self Care Tip #34 – Use these tips to decode how to sleep well.  Be a friend to yourself.

Questions:  Why do you skip the bits of sleep hygiene that you do?  What helps you in your tough work of being your own friend in regards to sleep?  Please tell us your story.  

When To See A Psychiatrist

Singer Brandy Norwood in September 16, 2010.

Even car accidents happen for “good reasons!”

Wanda didn’t want to hear the reasons.

Anything could sound like a good reason for bad performance.  It is what it is.  Just own it!

And Wanda was out.  And just as quickly as she concluded, I flashed back to the quivering resident who messed up on internal medicine rounds.  I stood there with my spine like a steel rod.  My white coat felt heavier with my fair-weather reference books bulging in my pockets.

Keep your chin up and look at her!  I told myself.

This wasn’t the first time for me, so I had the “luxury” of practicing a previous well-described lesson from my attending on how to respond to feedback.  Those days seemed like a series of stings, burns and frost-bite, but I am grateful for that at least – the knowledge of how I’m supposed to “take it.”

Wanda came back into my mind’s focus as memories of internship faded.  Wanda wasn’t even mad at me.  She was telling me this story as an example of her difficulty coping with anger.  Here she was asking for help while justifying her position.  Don’t we all, though?

I saw the irony in her criticism of those who gave reasons for their foibles as compared to her own explanation for anger and medical care.  Yet again, aren’t we all inconsistent like this?  Wanda is not alone.  She even had good insight too.  Explaining away our mistakes is shabby, lacks class and is insincere.

Some time ago in a post, Please Don’t Say “But”, we talked about this, which later we termed “presence.”  But why see a psychiatrist about these things?  Because insight is only worth so much.  If the mechanics to respond to the insight aren’t well, then you’ll be able to withdraw from your self just that.  In Wanda’s case, it was spitting anger, hot to the touch and not much safe.  It had quite an effect on her interpersonal relationships and quality of life.

But Wanda was suffering in more than her apparent psychological and sociological selves.  She was also suffering in her biological self.  (See biopsychosocial model.)  Wanda, was ill.

When we find that we can’t do what we want, don’t respond the way we intend, have negative emotions and behaviors we didn’t invite, see the associated deterioration in our connections and quality of life – when we are suffering, we need to look for help.  It’s hard to be productive and survive without support.  Any bit of nature will tell you that.  Ask a peach tree if you don’t believe me.

Question:  Does it make sense to you that emotions and behaviors might be all we have to show us that we are medically ill?  If not, please tell us why.

Self-Care Tip:  When insight isn’t enough, consider a medical consult.  Be a friend to yourself.

Medical Therapies Are Like Old or New Rugs

English: Physician of Rome During the Empire -...

The older I get, the more reputation I accumulate.  I am an old rug.

Have you ever seen a child – their smooth, unblemished skin like marsh-mellows;

their eyes, cupcakes, (my children’s are chocolate);

the way they look at the world open-mouthed swallowing flies;

the way the world looks at them?  Both sides hungry.

We say about these kids in contrast to us old property, “They have it all.”  They have it all because they just have not been around for very long.  They do no have a bunch of mistakes accumulated, crafted and woven into their lives; mistakes that could not be outed.  

Children do not have a limited supply of first beginnings.  When you have been around a while like us, first beginnings seem like they have changed their constitution.  On this side of the freeway, even though we have the freedom to start over at any point in our lives, starting over means something different when you have been around.  

It is not a matter of value.  Being around does not devalue Me.  It does not take away our worth.  It does not improve our worth – the Me we speak of.  Perhaps it will improve our worth in other ways or lessen it – but it won’t touch Me.  

There is nothing like a veteran office staff who knows how to do everything that your office needs.  That person is different from somebody out of high school.   Better for the position – yes, but not a better Me.  There is nothing like having a physician who has practiced for ten or twenty years and seen patients walk out angry, has seen patients die, has seen in action which treatments do what.  There is nothing like a physician who has worked with a medication long enough to know the inside of it; that there is good and there are things that happen that are not so good and that when you cannot unravel those things from that therapy, you try to see it together.  A more valuable physician for the job, but not a more valuable Me.  

The office staff, the physician and the child have reputations.  Those who have been around would take up more ink.  

Treatments are like that too.  The longer they have been around, the more reputation they have.  It is like being at a party and you see somebody who has been to all of the parties.  Somebody who has been the first to come and the last to leave, who has hurt people and been hurt and who has gossips surround them.  When you see that person, you walk in the door and think, “Oh boy!”  Or, “Yes! the party girl is here.”  But no matter what you think of them, there is something to say about them lasting as long as they have in these circles.  There’s a reason they keep getting invited and a reason they weren’t taken off lists.  

A treatment that’s been around a really long time, that has gotten a bunch of heat and perhaps even been referred to as “barbaric,”  has remained in circulation for reasons worth knowing.  If it didn’t offer lasting and unique benefits, if it’s benefits weren’t considered greater than the risks and potential negative outcomes, if people’s lives weren’t improved more than they were damaged – that treatment, like so many others, would have extinguished on their own much earlier in history.  

Questions:  What do you think when you see the treatment that you have been offered.  Has it been around long enough to get a reputation.  Or is it the new kid, the new child with velvet for skin?  Their eyes have not woven in shards of particled light that tangled the loom perhaps?  You with reputations, who are older than this and still around, tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  When considering treatments, consider their age as you consider their reputation.  Be a friend to yourself.

Medications and Being Chosen by Fear

English: In 1870 he lost an arm, in 1917 he lo...

Many have been hurt by medications.  There are those life ending treatments.  There are accidents.  It doesn’t matter what remote or near number in the chance-line the side effect has to the victim or the survivors.  They happened and they happen.

If you are a survivor of something like this, if your child died or your mother almost did, if you lost your favorite thing in life – lost what you identified yourself by or if you were changed without being asked, you know what I am talking about.

How do you come back after that?  How do you endure opening your pill dispenser on Wednesday, on Thursday, every week, every day, how do you take medications when they are prescribed?

On my end as a physician, each prescription is a choice.  Each prescription carries the bit I am allowed to participate in.  Signing my name, I am saying with the informed patient, that the benefits outweigh the risks.

When you take your medications, know that you are not alone.  Know that you are doing this with numbers of other courageous people taking their medications.  Know that your physician, with the research behind this, with the high numbers of other persons generous enough to enroll themselves in those medication trials before the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved it.  Know that the FDA is with you and know that the benefits out weigh the risks for you.  That you decided the benefits are greater than the risks means you know what they are and you are choosing to take care of yourself.

Medication isn’t for everyone.  Medication hurts a lot of us.  Taking medication with this knowledge is still something many of us choose.

If we are not taking our medication because the fear precludes it, we can do better than that for ourselves.  We can choose not to take it without being chosen by fear.  On the flip side, we can choose to take medication without being chose by fear.  Being chosen by fear hurts us too.

Self-Care Tip:  Go into the space of where your fears are and let it lose power over you.

Questions:  How do you claim your freedom to choose when it comes to something as complicated and scary as medication?  Please tell us your story.

Consider the Barrier Stigma Plays in Your Ability to Take Care of Yourself

Esther... The Girl Who Became Queen DVD Cover

I am just going to come right out and say it.  I have been trying to be clever, a Queen Esther toward her King and Hamon, on behalf of the people she loved.  (Yes.  I am Queen Esther in this story.  You can play her in another one.  Maybe tomorrow.)  I have been talking about treatment options for brain health and it is just not going where I was trying to take us – ECT.

ECT, my friends.  Electroconvulsive Therapy.  Many people see this as an extreme option for the dire, filtered out treatment failures.  That is an ugly description but I believe pretty close to what we have culturally got.  Many of you have told us how you escaped receiving electrically induced convulsions.  You hid from the boogie man and lived to tell us.  (There are chemically induced convulsions but we have more control of the convulsions through electricity, so that is the standard of care.)  Others have testified that it destroyed them with a catalog of specific and nonspecific complaints.

Interestingly we have not heard from you who have received ECT.

Come out, come out wherever you are.

Stigma perhaps hides you, and we can understand why.  Stigma toward ECT is like stigma toward anything – pretty off topic and hurtful.  Although it is improved by education and empathy, it is not fun challenging it “alone.”

Tonight I am not going to talk about the pros and cons of ECT, but to say that you are not alone.  You who are in treatment or have been in treatment or are considering ECT – would you tell us what you know, personal or impersonal?  There are many of us who would benefit from your education and empathy.

(What would that do to stigma?  What would that do for us?)

It would be wonderful to hear questions any of you have, as well, and anything related to ECT that you would like to share.  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Consider the barrier stigma plays in your willingness to receive treatment and to connect with others.

What We Will Do For Brain Health – Looking For Heroes

Death and the Maiden #2

Image by CapCat Ragu via Flickr

My dad is turning seventy-seven tomorrow folks.  He could have died a gazillion times before now, but it is the tumbling of those near-deaths into big life that teaches and recruits me.  He makes life feel like open space, warm skin, color and lyrics.  Now his spine is crumbling, his legs are weak, his lips are always moving in and out like a rabbit and he’s almost too hard of hearing to comfortably socialize with.  Still, it is the life, the interest he has, the way he doesn’t stop growing that somehow dims the many times he might have died.  Why does the one time he will die seem impossible to juxtapose against any future then?  Where will life go, if he is not there to infuse us with his humble will?  I think it may fall asleep with him but I know it will not and I cannot imagine it otherwise.

These past few posts we have talked about “special efforts” for brain illness.  We asked, “Is there any treatment you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?”  We have not said the reason we cannot fairly answer.

I don’t know how life will be without Dad; we never know how life will be when our brain is bad and then more bad.  It’s hard to tell.  We can only imagine and usually our imagination will be wrong anyhow.

Any answer to this question, “Is there treatment you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?” is shaped by our understanding of what “extreme” means.  It changes shape and margins with the degree of brain illness.  With each turn, as our disease process exacerbates, so progresses our willingness to believe what is reasonable versus what is “extreme.”

Many of you have told us of your own specifics in your fight for brain health.  People do heroic things and I’m thinking you and I might have a bit of a living hero in us.  In part, it is the inherent unknown in growth that testifies to life itself.

“Is there treatment that you think is too extreme to consider to get brain health?”  I imagine my answer would be, no.  Please tell us more about yours.  Your view from your degree of extreme helps.  Keep talking.

Self-Care Tip – Let the hero in you speak, grow you and testify to life.

Please Get Back on Your Meds!

Please get back on your meds!

Pretha explained that her mom had done better on her medication.  It was the irritability that isolated her.  That and the boredom.

It’s just boring, her daughter said.  It’s boring because there’s just so little there before she falls into her fray.  The venere is so thin.  It’s just boring.  

Pretha’s mom who had taken her medication didn’t see what it was doing for her.  Every day it had hurt her a little, knowing what she knew.  She was better now that she had given it over to God.  Her life without medication was a testimony to the power of God.  She had not been faithful taking medication.

What do you think, doctor?  How am I doing?  Aren’t I doing well?

Pretha’s mom was difficult to maintain eye contact with.  I wanted to please her.  That’s not easy for a physician.  At least for me.  It was more uncomfortable because my thoughts had already skated down the path of what if’s.  Whatever I said, Pretha’s mom wasn’t going to get back on her meds.

Where’s the self-care in this?  Pretha?  Mom?  Physician?  You, reader?  Do you identify with any of us?

Pretha and I have similar jobs.  Keep what is about Me, right there.  Be present with ourselves first and subsequent to that more able to be present with Pretha’s mom.

Pretha’s mom has her job of sifting through her distortions, using her same organ that is diseased to understand her disease.  Pretha’s mom’s job is large.

What is your self-care job reader?  Please tell us your story.

Rotate Your Picture To Connect And Grow Presence In Your Life

Hello Dear Friends.

Seems I’m heading toward a different blog-site level of productivity.  Wasn’t deliberately turning that way, but turn I have.  I’m just saying this so you know that I acknowledge the change in flow and am thunking, thinking on it.

I will post a minimum of one to two times a week.  In between, I hope to develop the material we have now, clean it up and share it again, integrated with your comments and what we’ve worked over this past year.

_______________________________________

That done, I can chat about other stuffy stuff.

20080726 - Melanie's Birthday party - DSCN1530...

Image by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

Today, I was thinking about our interpersonal connections we believe so strongly improve our ability to be our own friend.  However, that is not the same as pairing with someone who is bad to us.  We’ve talked about how abuse, any kind, disables us from connecting.  “Get off of me!” is self-care when there is an unequal sense of power being used and we are trying to gain accountability for where we are at in life now.

In my mind’s eye, imagining that, I saw a figure lying on her side and someone heavy lying on top.  “Get off of me!” could mean, “Get off and get away.”  It could also mean, “Rotate the picture.”

See the picture turn 90-degrees?  Now the two figures are standing beside each other rather than subjected.  The two figures are connected, proximate and present to each other’s experiences.  “Get off of me!” doesn’t have to mean, “Get out of my life.”  It might be able to mean, “Rotate.  Stand beside me.  I choose connection in my life and not subjugation.”

Insight isn’t everything though.  If saying, “Get off of me and stand beside me.  Stay connected.  Stop controlling.” doesn’t happen despite insight, we might be looking at behaviors and emotions that are symptoms of brain disease of Me or of the other person(s).  Medical illness needs more than word play and adjusting picture frames.

Questions:  Have you been able to rotate any pictures in your life in any ways that have helped you be a better friend to yourself?  What?  Has that improved your sense of connection with people you didn’t want to lose?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Rotate your picture to connect and grow presence in your life.

Say Yes to Medication And No To Drugs

Please don’t call them drugs.

Image via Wikipedia

Today I spent eight hours in the company of many neuroscientists.  Smart folk.  People I look up to, want to emulate and learn from.  It was an honor.  We covered different stimulating topics about serving our patients, diagnosing better and the development of our field of practice.  We connected collegially, ate too much chocolate, exchanged cards and talked about each other’s families.  I hope to meet them again soon at future related conferences and continue learning from their experiences and study.

The one thing I do not like about any of these meetings however, is hearing people who know better (if they thought about it) naming our good medications “drugs.”

Drugs.  Yuck.  What do you think of when you hear that word?  I think of stigma, addiction, substance abuse, ruined families, fathers who do not come home, needle marks or powder on mirrors, low-living, illegal behavior, dealers, hepatitis and so much more – very little of which is good.  Drugs.  I cannot number how many patients I have spent oodles amount of time on talking them away from the stigma attached to medications because they thought of them as “drugs.”  Blah.  It is not anyone’s fault but we can start over when ever we want to, so let us.  It is time.

Who thinks of anything that actually improves us when thinking of drugs?  Who thinks of life-saving remedies, disease cures, hope, ability to feel pleasure again, forgotten shame, ability to hold a job, restful sleep, speaking well in public, desire to live restored or a mother who no longer wants to drown her baby?  Do you think of that when you hear drugs?

Let’s get together on this and forget the word that carries so much loaded negative meaning.  It is a disservice to ourselves – physician, scientist, grocer, student, surviving family of a suicide victim, newborn baby, patient and all of us who have any connection whatsoever to disease and treatment.

Drugs.  I think of First Lady Nancy Reagan‘s famous campaign in the 80’s, “Just Say No!”  That is not what we want to say or hear when we write or receive a prescription to treat and to heal what can be healed from a debilitating disease.  Just say yes, please.

Medication.  Not drugs.  A word does matter.  A word carries emotion on it like the smell of cookies baking in the oven or the toilet that was not flushed.  A word can start a war or inspire forgiveness.  Words matter.  Words can be part of what helps us be better friends to ourselves.  Why not use them to our advantage?  Let us change our culture and decrease stigma with this simple word – “medication.”

Maybe when I am able to get together with my colleagues again, maybe next year even, we will be using the word “medication.”  Maybe it will be because of the shift in culture people like you and I can start now.

Self-Care Tip:  Please forget about the misunderstood word, “drugs,” and say yes to medication.  Be a friend to yourself.

Questions:  What do you think of when you hear “drug?”  vs. “medication?”  Is there a difference to you?  To you think it would matter to culture and your “Me” if we used “medication” to refer to prescription therapies?  If so, how?  Please tell me your story.

Related Articles:

Fears of Addiction To Medications For Brain Illness

 

Are You Empowered to Start Everything and End Everything With Me?

Yesterdays blog-post brought a few neighborly questions for us to follow-up with.

One is regarding emotions from bluebee.  Is jealousy medical?  Followed by, What part of emotion is under our control?  Indeed.

Second, Sarah quietly slipped the question under our door of how to respond to emotions and behaviors that come from brain illness.  How?  Indeed.

Third, Carl banged a little louder when asking, what keeps him in a relationship with someone who is maltreating him verses leaving?  Indeed.

There is a nice flow to these.  They are leading into the next and circle back.  Emotions and behaviors come from the brain, much which is out of our control and some of which is.  The choice to engage in the life of the ill is like any other choice.  Our own.  If it matters to us if the way the brain is working in the “other” is in their control or not, we can spend more time trying to sus that out.  I’m not sure myself when I get it good from someone mean, but it has become easier to take care of my junk rather than there’s.  For that, I will say a million thanks.  If I’m getting yelled at, I do the checks on myself – anxiety? fear? anger? fatigue? shaking? dizzy? tone of my voice? do I know what this person is yelling about? (most often it has nothing to do with Me), empathy? empowerment? You’ve told me that you are growing in similar refreshing ways.

Face Down w/Laundry and Gwen Stefani

Image by NCM3 via Flickr

I’ve seen this play out a little in my children.  My daughters and son are supposed to do the laundry every morning before they play.  I don’t know how many years now, but their arguments haven’t changed.

I’m doing this all by myself.  No one is helping me!

Mom!  He’s just laying on top of the clothes!  

Mom!  …

These questions above…;

  • where emotions and behaviors come from,
  • control over biological symptoms,
  • do I respond to others with brain illness
  • or do I walk away

These questions don’t mean much if we don’t find where our empowerment comes from.  Me.  Everything starts and ends with Me.

I’m ill for reasons I have nothing to do with, yet I will be accountable for myself and how I affect others.

I feel emotions I didn’t ask for, behaving ways that I am a spectator to rather than a whole person, yet I will do what I can to gain health.  In that, I have control.

I surrender what I don’t control to my Higher Power.  I take medication.  I exercise, guard my sleep hygiene and get regular sleep, eat responsibly, gather and engage community, attend therapy groups and/or individual, I try while at the same time I let go, I love my flaws as I love my perfections, I try to develop my natural genius, try as often as I can to pour any energies I have in that direction as I know I will heal faster, enjoy life more and be more successful at all my efforts when I do.

It reminds me of that saying, that if I have success, it is from standing on the shoulders of giant midgets.  We are all flawed.  We are all wonderful.  We are supported by others who also are full of flawed perfections.

Do I have control?  You bet.  …And no way.  Always, there are both.

Do I talk when someone is mistreating me? or mistreating themselves by neglecting their own self-care? by letting their illnesses shape their lives?  Do I walk away as that may be what my self-care demands.

Everything starts and ends with me.  There are a lot of stops along the way with other forces, but empowerment is mine.  Indeed.  That’s what I hope my kids will learn when doing the laundry.

Emotions and Behaviors Will Get Better As You Heal.

Punch to the Face

Image by Ninja M. via Flickr

Don’t worry.

When you hear that, don’t you think violent thoughts?  Or how about, “Calm down?”  Got to love that.  I have visuals of my back swing.  Sure.  You might call them hallucinations.  I’ve never actually hit someone but I have pulled into ready position.

Here’s the thing though.  After all this on-and-on about taking care of ourselves, I have found myself saying things that get awfully close and I’m looking out.  Pretty soon I’m afraid I’m going to get it.  (I’ve got my eye on you!  And you!)

Here’s what happened.  Augustina was wondering what to do about her best friend.  They had quarreled and then quarreled again.

Naming someone, “best-ie” sounds pubescent but Augustina was no child.  Her best-ie had been her chosen family (as Jackie Paulson reminded us yesterday)  since she was twelve, fat and leaked.  Kids were laughing.  Future Best-ie wasn’t.  That’s the kind of girl she was.  Safe; a light in a house that she had gone toward naturally and that had not been put out by Augustina’s misty self.  Wet face, stained pants, fat neck and pimples – Future Best-ie wasn’t laughing.  And that’s about all it took.  She was her friend.

Why had Augustina and Best-ie quarrelled these thirty-some years later?  This was am apparent mystery to Augustina.  You know those kind of mysteries, when they belong to only one person while everyone else with the answer key is looking on.  It was almost like she was standing there, twelve-years-old and bewildered.  This time though, Best-ie wasn’t on her side.  Or so she thought.

Truth is, Augustina had been mean.  She was not keeping dates, she argued easily and she was more self-absorbed than the color black.  It had been months now and then they quarreled.  Augustina missed all the prodrome, the warnings, the recommendations from family, other friends and including Best-ie to get insight and help.  To Augustina, this quarrel stood alone and she was being misused and misunderstood.

So what do we do?  Do we discuss Augustina’s behavior?  Do we explain her problems?  Maybe.  But only long enough to help her join our treatment team.  Once she’s in treatment, we wait.  We for reasons of self-preservation won’t say, “Don’t worry,” but we will come close.  Why?  Because we know that many of her problems as perceived by others and herself will disappear when her brain illness heals.  Do you believe that?  Where do you think her emotions and behaviors are coming from?

See blog post, There is Less Space Between Emotions And Science.

Questions:  When have you seen maltreatment from others that feels personal to you appear without provocation?  When have you seen someone you trusted change into someone who is mean, angry, selfish and reject you when they never did before?  Did you see the opposite happen when their brain illness was treated?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Calm down.  (Duck!  I see you and I’m outta here!)

Don’t Run Away. You Might Fall In Love With Your Flaws.

DSC03321

Empower yourself by going towards what scares you.  Take it to the table and be with it.  Get to know it and openly share company with it.

Opal was throwing up.  She threw up more when she gained weight or felt fat.  Throwing up didn’t help her lose weight.  It was just a tool she had to deal with it all.  Opal was told often not to worry about her weight.  Told, she looked fine and not to weigh herself.  No one said openly, “Opal, you’ve gained weight and you’re going to get other illnesses because of it if it keeps going.”  They were afraid saying anything like that would make her throw up.  Hm.

What do you say?

We remember the three things that help maintain long-term weight loss.  Well one of the main reasons they work is because they help keep us present with “the problem” or “fear” or “shame” or however we name it.  Our natural instinct is to go away from fear but this is another example of when we don’t get help following our instincts.

What empowers Opal is to get tools to contend with her struggle with obesity.  It is probably a life-er for her and oh-well!  We can love our flaws better if we stop running from them and grow our skills in living with them in a friendly way.

Get empowered with whatever you are afraid of in yourself.  If you can’t do what you need to do to be in the place of that fear, it may be that you have a medical illness keeping you from coping better.  It doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  Staying with your journey, even to taking medication, even to naming brain illness in your life is so courageous.  You become one of the great ones.  Heroic.  It is so much easier to disconnect and lose our opportunity to love our flaws.

Have you ever heard someone call their life-er, “my old friend?”  Maybe it is arthritis?  Or recurring cancer?  Maybe it is brain disease.  Some day, we will also name our own, “my old friend.”  And we, with Opal, will mean it.

Self-Care Tip – Empower yourself by your presence.

Questions:  How do you do what is friendly to yourself when your instincts tell you not to?  What has that done for you?  Please tell us your story.