When I am an old psychiatrist

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

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

There is Love.

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

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

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

Here is one in whom I am well pleased.

We will hear that and not be ashamed.

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Getting Older and Getting Born

Sana_Set09_LeoChaves_032

Sana_Set09_LeoChaves_032 (Photo credit: LeoChaves)

Turned another year over. Forty one now. Sometimes I already feel like there is a toe tag on me. Other times I ride the consciousness of now and innocence, as if I have forever to do whatever it is I am living for. As if fear did not pulse around me, as if life held no shame, then I carry my 41 years as lightly as a daughter spatters kissies over her mother’s arms.

Getting older is all the hype now. I was not alive 100 years ago but I wonder if 40 was the “new sexy” then. Gwyneth Paltrow is lovely. Me and Gwyneth. We have so much in common.

Huffington Post featured 30 Celebs Who Are Aging Gracefully. Tina Turner, Sting, Sigourney Weaver, the list is full of real people sharing our life-space. Remember Working Girl? Boom.

I look at my parents, friends, patients, myself, strangers on the street and stories that symbolize a person’s life lived. I look and I think of someone who climbs Everest. I think of frostbite. I think of a long long journey. I think of death.

The day before my birthday, the excitement made waiting too much to endure. A small chocolate bar, a handmade card with misspelled words and two tightly folded dollar bills disregarded the calendar date. Neatly arranged on my night table, I was told by their giggling toe-toe hopping agents, “Happy Birthday tomorrow, Mommy! I’m so glad you were born!”

And I was born again. Just like that. Love labor.

Some women have birth the way it is supposed to happen and others suffer. After my third child, my OB-Gyn, I love that woman, told me with nothing more than fatigue and honesty, “Sana, you should probably stop at three. Pregnancy and delivery is just not easy for you.” My pregnancies and deliveries were not that easy for her either.

Our rebirths also come easy and come hard. We almost die. We cruise through as if we were made for it. “She was made to have babies!” (Dodge the loogie I cannot help but hurl. Damn those women with baby-making bodies!)

I know we think things like this about people without brain illness, (if they even exists.) Maybe we think they do not have the suffering we do. Maybe we think we have it worse. We think at least we are misunderstood, when we hear,

“Get over it!”

“Just calm down!”

“Would you relax?!”

Breath. Yummy. How we love that. The list of these is longer than the path up Everest. And so helpful. Who has actually calmed down when told? Notice the exclamation points. Exclamation points symbolize emotion, in case the mountaineering porters saying the helpful emotion-directives did not know.

During our long long or short journeys we get to be born once, twice, forty-one, or the last time, because of Love. We do not get a Love that is measurable liquid or linear, like Time. Love is not healthy or unhealthy. It does not curl into our DNA, and is not dispensed by privilege. Nor a jury of Sherpas. Calm down.

Love is. Love is, and Love offers us a newness over and over and over and over because.

We have different birthing experiences, but I am glad you were born. You are loved.

Self-Care Tip:  Allow Love to bring you new beginnings.

Questions:  How has birthing gone for you?  What have been some of the new beginnings you knew Love brought you.  Please tell us your story.

The Tabouli Song

Oh my freaking word! This is so funny. I am crying over here.

My Brother and his family came over today to visit with sweet moves and perfect middle-eastern minor cords coming off them. The great GoRemy is now a favorite.

I wish I had seen this before reuniting with my family from Lebanon yesterday at my parents home. They are just in from Beruit and, my word! The stories they live. I am glad GoRemy will bring a smile to their faces. They are in a terrible war and live yet with hope, although death is all around them.

“Why are you going back?!” I asked them.

I wanted to wrap each them up in some filo dough and take them home with me forever.

I cannot explain exactly why they are going back soon. Who can explain the reasons why we each want to be home. Reading, “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” by Patricia MacLachlan, with my kids the other day, I remembered their fight with the land that betrayed them during the dust bowl. I remembered their dad, as if he were my own, running out into the hard weather to save what he could. They were hungry, overworked, thirsty and looking at each other for meaning. Their fear of losing what they loved was as intense as their fear of any disaster.

“Caleb Witting: Seal was worried. The house is too small, we thought, and I am loud and pesky. Anna Witting: We thought you might be leaving us because you miss the sea.
Sarah Wheaton: Well, I’ll always miss my old home, but the truth of it is, I’d miss you more.”

And I guess for my relatives, it is no less of a conflict.

I hope you enjoy “The Tobouli Song,” with us and think about your own story. Keep on.

Self-Care Tip: Explore what makes you go back.

Questions: What makes you return… Or not? What do you call home and why? Please tell us your own story of what is worth it to you.

A Young Man’s Wrenching Journey

Children!

On Jun 18, 2013, Anon wrote:

Hello Dr. Sana L. Johnson-Quijada,

Thank you for coming to talk to share some of your experiences and views associated psychiatry. I am sorry I have not emailed you sooner.  This was my first year taking three sciences and when it came time to study for finals, I pretty much ignored everything except school.

Thank you for giving the class and myself some exposure to psychiatry. Your talk was very intriguing, especially how you see a person, in particular how their brain health affects their personality. When you started to talk about homelessness it brought back painful and confusing memories from my childhood.

My parents divorced when I was seven and the majority of my time was spent with my mother because my now deceased father had a difficult time keeping a roof over his head and doing the activities of daily living. When I was a little older I even loaned my dad some money when his car was impounded. I could not understand why my dad was in the situation he was in and why I was seemingly more capable than him. I loved him very much and wanted to help him in any way I could.  But in the end, I could not make any of his decisions for him.

My older brother is living in a shelter and he reminds me of my dad in so many ways. When we lived together, before my parents divorced, my brother was just about as hard to get along with as my dad, and my dad was physically abusive to him. I was so confused and could not understand why we could not love each other or ourselves. My dad’s incessant fear of doctors and my brother’s fervent choice to self medicate only complicated the situation we were in.

My heart goes out to my family and people like them and I have a strong desire to help people. Your short talk resonated with me and I was intrigued by psychiatry because I thought it might be a way for me to help. How do I learn more?

Sincerely,

Anon

On Jun 18, 2013, at 5:16 PM, Sana Quijada wrote:

Hey. So good to hear from you. I remember you well. Sniff. Big hug. You are not alone, dear man. 

How to learn more?  Hmm. I would start by attending some local NAMI meetings. Follow up with me in a bit after you do and we can keep the lines open and ideas flowing. It is an honor to connect with you. 

I celebrate your focus and completion of finals. 

I would love to post your email letter on FriendtoYourself.com … 

Your story is seriously powerful.  As my six-year-old says, boom! Smile. 

Till next time,

Sana Johnson-Quijada MD
www.FriendtoYourself.com

On Jun 24, 2013, at 5:00 PM, Anon wrote:

Yes you may post my email I feel honored. It took a lot of courage to write and I am glad you were receptive.

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

Questions:  How would you recommend a young person find out more about psychiatry, before pursuing years of study?  How did you investigate your profession before committing?  

How do you talk about your family of origin history?  How do you find the courage to share these things, to find community in what hurts?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Find the courage to connect with others and your story.

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Celebrating Nancy

By Nancy, 

sharing some of what she has done in friendship.

“Celebrating being a friend to myself by becoming the ACTIVE artist that I have always wanted to be. Actually have an image that has been juried into a calendar which is being sold National Colored Pencil Society of America convention at the in Brea this summer…and I will be attending the convention, thanks to my husband’s generosity. So excited!! Never thought, when I was in my darkest of places twenty years ago, that I’d be willing to attend a convention alone!! Learning to be a friend to myself has given me this gift and I couldn’t be celebrating more or be more grateful to you and my friendtoyourself friends!!! Bless you all!!

This is the picture I did in colored pencil – the one going into a calendar to be sold at the CPSA Convention in LA this summer.”

nancy

 

Nicely done Nancy.  We celebrate you.

Just Left of Center, We Celebrate You

Base on balls

Dear One, (You know who you are)

Congratulations on this life-milestone.  Congratulations on what you have come through and what toward.  Congratulations on being connected.  Although you walk, you do not walk away from your life journey.

There are other crossings when we all step away from our life and look on at a safer distance, binoculars in hand, because not to would bring the apocalypse, or at least frizzy hair.

peruvian casi-frizz

peruvian casi-frizz (Photo credit: casimira parabolica)

At this time we see that you are more than a spectator, more than a narrator or a newscaster, not a stranger to yourself described in shame-filled words and judgment, as if you were the sum of right or wrong.  You are, at this intersection, more than your performance, behaviors and emotions.  You are.  You are more.

Some other day, you may find your binoculars again.  You may need them, and that is what it is.  Not good or bad.  For our part, we will celebrate you then too.

We are blessed.  All this that you are is a benediction for us; the walking, breathing wonder of what comes from Love.  We, as might anyone connected to Magic, bless you in return.

“Keep evil away.  Keep walking in Love.  Bless.”

Congratulations for your proximity to what is difficult, for working hard to love yourself, for finding your specialness in more than what hurts in you.  You are special.

You are special, like a seed or a grown and aging tree.  You are special, like San Francisco is in summer or Australia at Christmas.  You are special, like the worst of us.  Like the best, you are special for more than your imperfections.

You stand, with us, just left of center.  We celebrate you.

Self-Care Tip:  Live a celebrated life.

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Live with an agenda

dionna, 1991.

dionna, 1991. (Photo credit: paul posadas)

The blue dragon lifted her head from near-sleep.  She knew.  Pouncing onto the rocky ledge gave her the advantage.  No one would challenge her.  The fresh corpse was for her alone.  As she ate the remains of Dionna, the red dragon who had never flown, the memories of Dionna infused her.  The blue dragon in this had saved those memories and would live them into the forwardness of time.  

Why is it that we repeat the mistakes of our forefathers?  It would be nice if we could somehow be able to capture their hard-earned life experiences.  If dragon lore were true, perhaps.

In Papua New Guinea, Congo, cannibals on the Disneyland Jungle Cruise and who knows where else, eating brain to preserve the life force, save your daughters or avoid the mistakes Dad made gets you a bad and yucky disease called, kuru.  Nothing good comes from eating brain.

And so the blue dragon, whose scales shone in the morning sun, began to tremble and seemed confused over the years.  Her brain got holes like a sponge and she laughed at inappropriate times.  

We just cannot get a leg up on wisdom and experience.  We are not made for it.  Each of make our own mistakes, have to work our own fingers to the bone, and other knowing clichés that in this case just are the darn truth.

What blue dragon and kuru are trying to tell us are that the agenda Love has for us is not to build up experiences like some sort of mental tower of babel.  It is not about the mistakes.  It is about our life experience.

We cannot help but wonder, though.  After working in psychiatry for these many years, I wonder what a joy it would be to give that experience, knowledge, skill of practice and such to my daughter some day.  Ah.  As if it had its own life force, passing it on to my daughter feels like a bit of immortality.

When I die, just eat my frontal lobe, darling.  Not the limbic system.

We are meant to live.  In that living, we inevitably repeat foibles and build up muscles and manage to survive all kinds of suffering.  In that living, we are beat up and rejected.  We are perfect.  We are flawed.  We are marvelous.

Maybe the agenda is not to get it better with each generation or to get it right.  Maybe the agenda is to live.

Question:  Have you ever been frustrated at how quickly your gains in life will be/are lost?  What is the agenda of your life?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Live life with a quality-experience agenda.

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