Be Willing to Stick Your Toe In The Water of Self-Care – Just Start.

Three Capetian French scholars consulting an a...

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Self-Care Tip #204 – Be willing to stick your toe in the water of self-care – just start.

I’m not interested in medications.

I used to really wonder why anyone would come to me and say this.  Sometimes we would both realized that they didn’t know what a psychiatrist was.  My degrees seemed transparent as they hung so quietly on the wall.

My girlfriend, who’s an Ophthalmologist, loves it when her patients homogenize her work with what optometrists do.   And it wasn’t until I read Madeleine L’Engle did I understand more of the differences between astrology and astronomy by understanding their similarities first.

For the magi, astronomy and astrology were one science, and it is probably a very sad thing that they ever became separated. That is yet another schism which looks for healing…

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

In those cases when my patients don’t know who they came to see, I have tried to bridge the awkwardness with something to put them at ease.

Don’t run for the door.  There’s no cage.  See, the doors unlocked.  There’s no implication that you have to take medication just because you came to see a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist.

But I’m not interested in medication.

Then there are those who know who they came to see.  But they may not know the connection between behaviors, emotions and their brain health.  (Of course there are other reasons to see an MD I’m not covering here.)

I’m not interested in medication.

Who wouldn’t wonder?  Now I realize an MD is good for more than just prescribing, if she wants to be.  I know.  Wild and outrageous idea, right?  So before I educate anyone on my enormous fund of knowledge or my stealth abilities to diagnose and treat, I think about what it is that this someone thought they might get from coming to see me.

(Enters Fatima:)  Fatima came in this way.

I’m not interested in medication.

Fatima wasn’t feeling good.  Her emotions were corrupting her behaviors and quality of life and she was trying to help herself, stretching her toe into the pool of science, slowly.  She had never been a person to jump in and splash.

After speaking with Fatima for some time, we were able to come up with what she felt she needed help with, what she thought might be medical, what she might be willing to try – for now that meant engaging in psychotherapy, starting omega 3’s and vit D, working on her sleep hygiene, trying to get more aerobic exercise in (like a pill) and doing a mood chart.  We decided together that she would see how this goes for her over the next two to four months.  After that, if she wasn’t doing better or better enough, we’d consider a medical intervention.  We’ll see if she’s interested in medication.  Maybe not.  She can choose when she believes she’s making the right choice.

Questions:   What helped you take the plunge into medication therapy?  What held you back?  Or in someone you know?  Please tell me your story.

Connection: It’s Medical But Still Magical

XO with Internet connection, Khairat (India)

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Self-Care Tip #157 – Don’t depend on yourself to find connection.

We are people of a greater ability to bond than our senses, emotions, intuition, reason or technology can account for.  Our connection to each other and to God supersedes our belief in connection.  In this discussion, I am looking at “connection” beyond the paradigm of our perceptions.  Although connection between me and you is all about me and you, our bond also transcends either of us.

Meet gorgeous Candy.  She refuses any medications that might change her appearance in any way, ie. increase her appetite.  She would rather freeze in a catatonic state and die thin than gain weight.  She has come to me after years of struggling with irritability, anger, depression and anxiety.  She has never seen a psychiatrist although these emotions have misshapen her relationships, crippled her parenting skills, and removed her from her community of friends and one marriage.  Her medical condition continues to threaten Candy’s connection with her own self.  It continues to threaten her connections with her now teenage children and her second marriage.  Candy tells me that she doesn’t feel anything for her husband.  When she says this, she looks at me expectantly, as if she just released a big revelation.

When people are initiating treatment, I try not to get into anything personal too much.  Although I gather their personal history, I don’t give much feedback.  I try not to discuss their desire to make sense of all their conflicting feelings.  Sometimes they ask me questions, advice, directives and that’s natural.  However, it would be misguided to answer those questions, because we can’t let our emotions guide us.  I tell them,

Let’s revisit these questions after the treatment has time to take effect and you feel more like yourself.

It’s medical but still magical.  In four to eight weeks, they often hardly remember the questions they had.  The negativity is just a haze in their past.  The resilience comes with emotional health and copes with the simple stressors that used to sever interpersonal emotional ties.

Candy was one of the lucky ones who found the magic.  She felt self-trust more than she had felt her entire life.  Feeling safe with your own self is wonderful.  Much of the population who has not been where Candy has been can’t say the kind of thank you that Candy can.  They don’t know what it means to be lost and then found in this way.  Candy has something very special.

Yet when we think of Candy’s sense of connection, we also look beyond the biology of it.  I did spend some time describing how biology can change our perception of connection, but I didn’t do it to explain how connections are formed.  I described it more to demonstrate that we cannot depend on ourselves to define connections.

Don’t stumble on the philosophies around adjustment issues and conditioning.  Connection with others exists regardless of our fortune in family, money, treatment or maltreatment, biology, and self.  We are connected because there is a force of connection created and present in all of nature, regardless.

Madeleine L’Engle, wrote in “A Stone for a Pillow,”

Perhaps what we are called to do may not seem like much, but the butterfly is a small creature to affect galaxies thousands of light years away.

Our connections are there regardless of where we are at in life.  I would even take it further to say that connections to us even survive the cutting blow from death.

Connection is an eternal truth.  It makes a difference to us just to know that, but even if we didn’t, it doesn’t change our connection.

Question:  How do you make sense of your changing perception of connections in your life?  Please tell me your story.

There is Less Space Between Emotions And Science Than We Think

The supermassive black holes are all that rema...

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Self-Care Tip #147 – Bridge the gap between emotions and science.  Be a friend to yourself.

She had been through a lot – Aimee.  Lost her baby brother to medical disease.  Was in a stressful marriage and didn’t like her work.  There was more but you get the drift.  She found herself thinking that things would be different if things had been different.

Would they?

Readers, I am referring specifically to her medical condition.  Not to the fact that the universe is different because her brother died.

Madeleine L’Engle talked about death affecting the whole universe.  She compared it to the death of a star.  In death, the star creates a hole in space dark and large, enough so that the absence of it has its own gravitational force, a “black hole.”  L’Engle says that when any part of creation dies, we are all touched.  Life knows and the absence of that bit of creation leaves the surviving universe changed forever.

Aimee wasn’t talking about that.  Aimee thought her emotional illness was largely secondary to her life stressors.  Because this influenced Aimee’s choices regarding her medical treatment, I had to tell her no.  Gently.  It was hard for her to hear.  “Aimee, your sadness you feel now, four years after your brother’s death, your isolation and amotivation, your low sex drive, your difficulty feeling pleasure in other things, your sleepiness during the day – these things are not because you have suffered your brother’s death, nor because your marriage is hard.”

There are times when directly saying things is the more gentle approach.  No one going through what Aimee is going through wants to hear about how I feel about it.  Yuck.  There’s not much that is slimier than going to someone for objective feedback and getting their emotions and personal opinions all over you.

Aimee left saying she understood and with a new medical treatment for the medical illness propagating emotional and behavioral symptoms in her.  We’ll see if she did some days from now.  But what about you?  Do you believe that her emotions and behaviors were secondary to medical illness?

Readers, life stress will continue to happen.  What may change is how we respond to it.  If our response does change and it isn’t serving us or others well we need to think that we might not be interpreting how we feel objectively.  We might be having changes to our biology that “taste like chicken.”  It helps to get a physician’s opinion – someone who sees behavior as more than the spirit, the abstract, the puppet of our volition.

Question:  How do you bridge the seemingly abysmal distance between emotions and science?  Please tell me your story.