Blessings surround me

David Robert Johnson, MD

Hello Friends,

Thursday, Redlands Community Hospital was able to make an exception and allow us to spend three ultimate hours with Dad In the ICU. He was smiling and attentive. Interested and listening. He had a happy day. We told him our thoughts. Read to him your many notes of love. He especially perked up with my cousin’s report of starting to read a Bible Dad had apparently given him some time ago. That kind of thing has been his and my Mom’s life passion and I don’t think there was much of a better way to say goodnight.

Dad was getting tired. He had started to grimace. There was blood coming out if his ngtube. His pressures were rising and his heart rate was up. Dad said he was ready for his fentanyl. Then he fell asleep.

Around 2am the next morning, Friday, we are told, Dad was asleep and then he wasn’t.

This is the “time,” and he’s not suffering. We are all glad about it. But there is so much of me that still wants him here. My right-arm feels like a knife is in it. My joints hurt. I have a headache. Even in the condition he was in, I would take him if I could.

I will be waiting my whole life for him; for that fortune of being loved by him again. The ground will never be the same under my feet.
Today my Dad died.

There’s never been an Easter weekend like this for me. I’m super grateful for the many layers in our experiences. I feel like blessings surround me. Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Thank you for being a reader here and sharing in life with me so well. We will wait together.

Goodnight for now Dad.

Living, Ready to Die

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Do you ever have thoughts about wanting to die?  If so, why do you want to stay alive?  What’s worth living for?

Think of 3 things worth living for.  For me, I answer — to lose the rest of my baby weight, (my last child was born 13 years ago), God, and family.  Whatever any of our three things are, I call those “hope”.

Hope only belongs to the living.  Even when you are actively dying, hope means you are indeed still alive.  Those three things you think are worth living for now are the things you will reflect on during end of life. They are what you will use to determine whether you have lived a life worth living or not.  In all the in between moments, keep those things in front of you and then you will be ready to die if you must.

Self-care Tip: Live, ready to die.

Questions: Are you ready to live and to die? What is in that space for you?

I don’t care if California falls into the ocean and other perceptions

To all the Californians, the colored, the women, the children, the childless, the divorced, the unmarried, the impoverished, the uneducated, the honking laughers, the unclicked chicks, the benchwarmers, the undistinguished, the immigrants, the gay, the mismarked, and the misunderstood:

On a dry freezing day in Montana, while the barometer read, “2 F,” I waited for the shuttle to take me into town. My child had developed congestion in some sort of viral expression and just couldn’t breath well. The nearest pharmacy was about 10 minutes away and I thought, “I can do this.” 45 minutes till the next shuttle, so I parked myself by the door as a look-out. I let the valet men know so they could assist, something like wrangling a wild Montana horse, I supposed, to get me into the shuttle. (Not sure who the horse is in this metaphor.) I felt like I was in the team. We looked warmly at each other in between this moment and that. I thought, “They are on this.”

At exactly 1045am, when the shuttle was scheduled to come through, I approached the desk. “Have you seen it yet?” One of the men there smiled at me. It looked inclusive. Then he said, “They already came and left.”  “You’re joking,” I said. Sure that he was having a laugh with me in our conspiratorial way. Team members, you know. “No I’m not. They left about 5 minutes ago.” I was out. Suddenly I was alone and it felt cold and I thought, “My child! I’m letting her down.”

I turned away from the valet men, non team members, and reported to the front desk about it. “They left me.” Humiliating tears sprung to my eyes. Oh my word. I had survived strip down yelling sprees from attendings on the hospital wards, pimping teachers, discriminating male figures, angry patients, bird droppings on my head, and I didn’t cry.

I wonder if the front desk felt more awkward with a grown woman crying over a shuttle ride, or if I did. But within 20 minutes they had one of the security men put to task.

Security-man started right in. “Where are you from?”

Me: “California.”

Security-man: “Oh. I think Californians have something wrong with them.” Chatter chatter.

“If California fell into the ocean, I wouldn’t mind.” Chatter chatter.

“If the wall went up around California, and just left the rest of us alone, that would be fine.”

Security-man was in his second career, after having retired from working security in a prison. We commisserated on our mutual experience working in prisons. Me in psychiatry and him in security. He was happy to empathize, “Yah! I’ve seen some crazy ones! There are real wacko’s out there. People who eat their poop and stuff like that.” “You psychologists are treated rough,” and dropped the label, psychologist, several times in a knowing way.

He threw in a few more pearls. “I don’t believe in abortion.” “Californians who work, pay for all the unemployed lazy people in their state.” And then with a confident nod, “Trump is going to win the elections.”

Security-man was graciously driving me, what could have cost $40 for a private shuttle. He smiled and probably thought the whole time, “This girl gets me.” Or, “Isn’t she lucky to get a free education on the way things should be?” To him, he was engaged in friendly banter. By the time he dropped me off back at the lodge, he used my first name, saying, “Sana, people like to visit California, but living there?!” Chortle chuckle.

I didn’t cry, but wouldn’t that have been a more reasonable time to have teared up? Visceral responses can be unpredictable. The generosity, the kindness, the friendship, juxtaposed with the aggression was bewildering.

I was sputtering about all this to my home huddle when we met up for lunch and I guess wore them out a bit in a self-righteous diatribe. My wise child asked me, would you have rather taken the ride with Security-man or have paid $40 for a hired shuttle? Or have waited for the next free shuttle 1-hour later? Sheeze. Can’t an elite Californian wallow a little? Fine then. I prefered Security-man in his inconsistencies, kindnesses and cruelties. I know he is defining the world from his brain.

Sometimes we don’t think we are being aggressive but we are. I thought to myself, “How am I being aggressive toward others?” I know I am stigma-imbued and bigoted toward others, but by definition, I won’t be able to see it. That’s how stigma works. We think we are pure minded. We think we see things clearly. We believe in “the right.” It’s not always this kind of abutment, not always this stark, but it is there. It is here.

Back in California, I am checking the tide, water sloshing up to my knees and I’m touting, “Everything is ok folks. We are good. The rest of you though….”

Now I see through a glass dimly…

The brain is vulnerable to our humanity, our health, the condition we find ourselves in at any point along life’s line of time. (Job security… Too much?) Some day, we will have a healthy brain. A healthy everything and then we will see clearly and face to face. Until then, I’m confident we will, all of us, define what we believe is true and real by the condition of the brain in our head, along with the perfect super-human protective grace of God.

For presently we see through a glass in obscurity; but then, face to face. Presently, I know in part; but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1Cor 13:12

Self-care tip: When being slammed by the hurt and twisted brains around us, contemplate our own distortions and the grace we are surrounded with despite ourselves. Then look forward with hope.

Question: How have you improved your life experience when stigma and bias hit?

Keep on!

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.

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!