The Sins of the Fathers, and Mental Health


“We know the Bible speaks of sins of the fathers passing to the 3rd and 4th generations while God imbues his kindness and mercy far beyond that to those who love him and keep his commandments.”

Rosa had no experience in the world of mental health, or so she thought. She had spent her formative years studying the world through the perspective of her church and interpretations of the Bible. As you know, there is a lot in both with a lot to say about emotions and behaviors. However Rosa was taught and modelled that these were moral issues and not biological. An either or, verses, part of the same thing. Could we call it sequent variants, maybe something like genetic alleles? Or maybe something better to describe this is out there, rather than an either or.

Rosa Leticia Montoya, at this point in her development, with her own overwhelming emotions and her husband’s plummet into dark moods, felt forced into considering mental health. She did not want to go there, but here in the space of losing control, not trusting herself or Carl any more, and before she was willing to say she didn’t trust God, she was doing what was a last resort. Considering that she was going crazy was the only thing this chaos could mean.

Before she completely surrendered to the idea that biology was behind this sinister change, she had to ask, “Is this because of our parents?” She had spent her life trying to untwist the bad choices her parents had made and the consequences those choices had on her life. Drugs, alcohol, and cheating were what she had grown up with. Quietly. Hiding it in the church. Rosa there, praying a lot to live well and be forgiven. Praying that bad thoughts would go away. Praying to depend on God and not on herself, as seen through her perseverating worries ever since she was a child. Worried and worried. Not speaking of the wrong Bible-breaking life her parents wore like underwear beneath nice tailored clothes. Would she ever be forgiven? Would she ever stop sinning?

So she asked me, “What do you think?”

That’s a lot to work with as a psychiatrist. So I did what most of us do. Ran to the shelter of medicine. Whew! But there is the added benefit that God created medicine, psychiatry, and all that there is in my tool bag worth working with.

Even so, there was only so long that I could avoid the topic of God and His punishments, per her perspective. It came up every visit.

If you believe in God, at some point within your discovery of mental health, this question will come up. Rosa is not alone. Are the emotions and behaviors gone amok, such as seen in anxiety disorders and depression, secondary to moral weakness? Living with “too little” dependence on God’s power? Is it this? Or is it an “either or”, with our biology? …a matter of cellular grey matter composed of DNA-expressing pathology? And is this something evil woven into my DNA because of what parents did? Well, I’ve spent 30-some years in school and now 15+ years in practice in this space and am still trying to understand.

I’m wondering if you would help me articulate this. It’s fundamental for us in self-care. It’s not possible to be very friendly to ourselves with the dissonance.

So in our self-care question today, please answer us. What is the relationship between “the sins of the fathers” and biology? Please speak!

Self-care Tip: Pursue kindness in your belief systems toward yourself.

Thank you for speaking with us! Keep on!

The Heroic Patient

imagesSorena wore a black knit scarf around a thick neck, folds between scarf and skin. She came in with reflective smooth skin and frozen brow.  After many botox injections, she increasingly found it difficult to change her expression.  People often accused her of not caring about difficult things they were disclosing, and she realized the issue was, she couldn’t move her forehead.

She had a lot of empathy and was frustrated that people didn’t understand this.

We pulled at this idea for some time, recognizing a tension unplugged for her with each injection, a relief she experienced at visceral level. She just felt like she had to get her injections, driven toward them, like a bee toward the hive.

At some level it takes courage to get through the day.  She sees the effect.  Despite the fact that she should take a break from Botox, she can’t stop and this feels frightening.  She’s freezing her face.  It’s a terrible thing to know she has to stop something she is driven to do. It’s really hard. She’s trying to get through each day.

I told Sorena, “What you do every day to deal with this is brave. It’s harder. You have so much strength. You are doing it. You are getting through.”

I’m considering starting a podcast, “The Heroic Patient.” What do you think?

I want to interview Sorena and others with heroic life journey’s for you to discovery, connect with, increase awareness of, and appreciate.

The idea is to interview a world-community patient who will tell their “story.” It enters through the physician’s office doorway and increases transparency.

Many in our world community do not have a great understanding of what a physician nor a patient do in this exchange. You may think, “Well, everyone is a patient so at some level they do.” But:

  • How many, do you think actually go into a physician’s office?
  • How many variety of physicians does any one patient see in a lifespan?
  • How many get to tell their story?
  • How many of us hear each other’s stories?
  • How many of us understand how a physician solicits the details of a story so someone is “heard?”

If a patient were to learn the ‘behind the scenes,’ thought processes, interview techniques and analysis of the physician, would that be helpful to the patient?  Would the doctor learn from this dynamic interplay, and would the interview process evolve and grow from this? How would this effect stigma of all variety? Who knows?

What do you think? Is there a need for the “Heroic Patient” Podcast? If so, what are your recommendations and opinions?

The idea is that we are designed for connection. It’s friendly, remember? 🙂

Keep on!

Self-care Tip: Get transparent to get connected! Be a friend to yourself.

Know You Are Blessed



Think of the worst of us.  Think of the worst about us.  Think of those with self-loathing.  Those with low self-awareness, the violent, and the violated, think of them.  Where is the blessing?

Blessed are the depressed and anxious.

Think of the healthy.  Think of the diseased.  The misunderstood, the ones who live miles apart from connection, who ever push like a dingy from the peer into waves and self-destruction, think of them.

Blessed are the poor and lonely. 

Where is the blessing when your real estate is brought low by the creeping up of low-life.  Where is the blessing when you get cancer just when you might retire, when your own body calls you stupid, when you lose your eyes after training as a surgeon?

Blessed are those whose bodies are dying.

Think of every corner, every shadow and open space and the turns you still don’t know about inside of your life.  Think of the unacceptable, the character you wrestle against to moderate away from extreme.  The rope you swing on and try to bring to rest, think of the grey you think you will never achieve.  This bit and chapter, this part of your construction, this surprise in how you deliver is Loved.

There is no aberration from the norm that can separate you from that Love.  There is no addiction or misdemeanor or illness or mutated cell that can lose blessing.

This is fact.  Our life is to live with it.

Blessed am I.  Blessed am, “Me.”

Question:  Where is the blessing in what you like least about yourself?  Please tell us your story.  We need to hear you! Keep on.

Self-Care Tip:  Be your own friend in adversity as in prosperity.  Know you are blessed.

Love Relationships for Power or Dependence

He takes care of me.

Marrying for security is like bombing for peace.  It was not too long after saying this when Amy told me she had been served divorce papers.  She had been seeing me for several years.  In that time, we had worked through her most recent episode of major depressive disorders and a debilitating anxiety.  She had done marvelous.  Courageously fought for her own health, to be accountable to herself and grow.  Is it that surprising that when that happened, he left her?

Abuse.  When one partner uses the power in them to dominate and control the other.

On the other side, there are those of us choosing the abused role such as for the security of logistics.  Example, “I take care of his/her basic needs, s/he buys me health insurance.”

Marriages, or committed Love bonds, require full dependence on each other.  That is different than power.  It is not qualifying that each of us have different levels of power.  Of course.  But using that power to generate intimacy is like having sex to become a virgin.

Question:  How can you grow dependency in your love relationships?  Even with yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Move away from power as a method to increase intimacy.

Exercise and the Brain – and Dancing to Enrique Iglesias

taylor swift

Greg went to arrange his annual colonoscopy.  Because he was having a chronic cough, his gastroenterologist (GI specialist) was wise enough to schedule him the “double dip” colonoscopy and endoscopy.  Greg was not pleased.  He was less pleased when Dr. GI found gastritis (inflammation) in his colon, an ulcer (inflammation) in his stomach, and esophogitis (location of inflammation intrinsic to word, esophogitis.)

I got the scoop on Greg’s inflammation story when he came in to see me, (yours truly, psychiatrist, brain doctor.)  And why?  Because of his colon and stomach?  Well perhaps.

True.  Greg was not happy.  He had not been happy for a very long time in fact.  Greg was suffering.  And no, he could not exercise.  He just could not.  Fill in the blanks of why he could not.  We have all given those reasons.

Discussing Greg’s story with him, we agreed that ignoring the inflammation story of his GI would be ignoring something that just might relate to the, “Why?” of why he was in to see me.  The same inflammatory process affecting his gut was affecting his brain, the same brain where his emotions and behaviors came from.

Inflammation.  We think about pus-filled blisters, puffy painful knees, spitting back spasms.  But do we think about frothing road rage?  Do we think about forgetting car keys in the supermarket where we bought five things we did not want and nothing of what we planned?  Do we think about divorce?  About losing our job, or not wanting to get out of bed?  When we hear about inflammation, do we think about brain disease?  I think not, Count Powerball.

The other day, we were in the Kaia, “Juicy JAM” class.  (Seriously. That is what it is called.) Coach Becca does these Juicy JAM classes about once every three to five months with us, just for fun.  It combines dance with athletics in a way that is designed to burn calories, yet effectively reduces grown women, responsible women of our community, parents, book-keepers, encyclopedia saleswomen, psychiatrists, (I am just guessing at least one of us moves like a psychiatrist) and such…, into giggling, hopping, human bumper cars.  And it is hard!  It is not easy to squat, pop, and then pull your fisted arm down super latino-drama-style over your just so angled body to Enrique Iglesias… I think it was, “Tonight I’m Loving You.”

By the time we had survived our first number, all I knew was that Becca looked really good.  Me, eh, not so much.  It is too bad we can not collect disability for this, not being able to dance.

When we dance, we do not usually notice how everyone else is dancing around us, as much as we think about how we are, ourselves.  Like any other behavior or emotion, we are trapped by our own design.  Look who is telling us that after all!  Our own brain.

Then Becca’s tattoo pokes out and we all think, she is such a bad ass!  (It’s right there just above the line of her pants.)

Where do these emotions, and behaviors come from?  Do they come from the good merit we have earned by hard work?  Maybe a really sweaty muscle bending Juicy JAM work-out?  No they do not.  You are right.  The emotions and behaviors come from our brain.  They come from that bit of us that is, after all, connected to the rest of our body.  Our body, where our muscles pump, where our pancreas balances our insulin levels, where our bowels, which flaunt the highest number of serotonin receptors of our whole selves, move and flow.  Our bodies, where nerves stop or start sending pain signals to our brain, where our heart and lungs pump all the blood that touches every part of us like a master control room – this is what matters to our brain health.  It is a relationship, like Garth will always go with Brooks.  Body goes with brain.  An inflamed body, an inflamed mind.

Now we know you are all thinking about bowels and what exercise does to bowels, and you are uncomfortable.  As you should be.  At least standing at a respectful distance.

I’ll never forget some months ago, and probably most of my Kaia-peers won’t either, when Coach Alyssa was taking us through Kaia-flow, a series of twisting yoga poses slash killer exercises.

Good job women!  This is also great for your stomach and bowels.

I thought, there-after only about stomach and bowels!  It was like a beacon.  No matter what I did, I was thinking about my gut.  And then like the answering horn of a trucker to a kid’s arm signal, “please honk,” there I went.  A slow twist, quiet music in the background, the soothing voice of Alyssa urging us on, and, honk.

There was no way to hide it.  No way to pass it off on my dog or kids or farmland creatures.  I was in the middle of the room and suddenly, like Taylor Swift on a center stage, everyone heard and looked.  Just one more bit of savory evidence that exercise decreases inflammation.

With this understanding, we can perhaps consider exercise like a pill.  Like a prescription.  Do exercise because we do what is friendly to ourselves.  Do exercise because we like being friendly to others.  We know that we cannot give what we do not have – to ourselves or to others.  We exercise because if we do not, we will be the barking mom we do not like, dad, sister, child or whomever.

We will not be nice to our partners when we have ill brains.  We will not feel pleasure as deeply.  If we are kindly toward ourselves, such as exercising, we will protect the soft underbellies of them others we love.  We will treat ourselves better.  We will.

One hour later, after dancing or twisting our inflammation, shame, and inhibitions into the ground, after passing a little gas, we are reduced to inspiration, humbly thinking, “Yes. I am that good.”  And that is the Magic there. We are bad arss.  Body meets brain meets community meets Magic.

And for you scholarly folk who don’t believe me when I say, exercise decreases inflammation decreases brain illness, here are a few articles:

Question:  How have you noticed your body speaking on behalf of your brain?  Or vice versa?  Please tell us some of your story.

Words Like: Distended abdomen! and Connection

distended abdomen

A friend of mine told me the other day,

Mentally I went to a bad place during exercise on Tuesday. Like “I’m so slow, I want to go home, the other girls probably think bad things about me”. In my head space now I see those thoughts as ridiculous. But it was tough to get through.

Excuse me but she is brilliant.  She speaks for millions.

So many times we think about the rough out there.  The words that slow our swing down, that are not said right, that somehow take away points from our identity.  We are not a two-dimensional scorecard.  Speaking up does not qualify us.  Good or bad.  Speaking up does not change our value.

I loved her voice.  I am thinking she should start up her own blog.  If she can be this transparent on a blog, she is a needed voice.

If I could fantasize a little, (Now! Now!  Stop that,) I would have her and you go back to our own, here at, and start methodically answering each self-care question, post by post, in your own authentic way.  And just you see what a stroke speaking up makes.  Just see what it does for you inside and out.  Just see what it does for others. …Me for example.  See?  I am affected by you.

As for my transparency, in brief, …I did not survive halloween.  I ate like a motor.  Chocolate.  Chocolate and more chocolate.

Otherwise.  I think this greens-and-beans-effort I am doing has been ok.  I am eating a lot of plants.  Trying to keep the simple carbs low.  Not always the fact but the goal.  I do still eat in volume which I will see if it makes a difference or not when it is this type of volume.  All that fiber is making a difference to my gut though!  my abdomen is distended!  TMI.

A couple posts ago we shared Jessica’s, “Do This.”  My question is, what is yours? What is your, “Do This?”  Please do not make me use any more golf analogies, but where are your …words?  Your words are important for you.  They bring friendship to you from you.  They bring you to connection, community, clarity of thought, and as said in a post long ago:

“And if we stop speaking, we will lose.  If we do not respect the opportunity to connect, if we do not treat it as the treasure that it is, not only will the world miss out on the ‘Me,’ we miss out on the world at large.  It goes both ways.

We have a choice.  Get friendly with yourself.  Speak.  Listen.  Connect.

Self-Care Tip – Stay connected for your sake and for theirs.”

Question:  What has speaking up done for your friendship with yourself?  How are your words kinder said than not? Please tell your story.

Get You Some Love


Cemetary (Photo credit: Vu Bui)

The ocean is like an untended cemetery, compared to my youth dives, with shoots of life breaking up the stone and dead coral.  A little family of forceps butterfly fish flutter around the tips of something brown.  I honk sounds through the water to my kids when I spy a trumpet fish, a big one, with some neon lighting up the gray long body.  My kids are so energized.

There are three turtles and I remember I have never swum with turtles before.  “Hey.  That’s cool,” I think.  I try to reconcile the turtles with the changes from when I snorkeled and dove reefs years ago, “Positive?  Negative?”  Something there in me wants to feed this info through my inner hope-machine to convince my other that when my kids swim another future day, the ocean will not be dead.  Foreboding.

I am starting to get disoriented by this and surface to get a grip. My husband pops up and I whisper to him, so our kids do not overhear and lose their energy to my negativity, “It’s like a tomb, Honey!  I can hardly stand it!”  And like a compass, he points to a better direction.  “It’s fine, Sana.  It is what it is.”  Interpretation can distort experience.

Thanks to husband and the reconnection of interpretation with presence, under water, I see this moment, this day, in the parrot fish, the coronets, and the puffers. And I, with more gravity, am able to enjoy what Love is giving now.  A solemn gift.  More informed, my appreciation is deeper and I can receive.

Receiving Love is not as easy as it sounds.  It is the work of a moment.  It is the work of a lifetime.  I am a spoiler, unable to love myself, unless I am able to receive Love from outside of myself and connect with it, in my pathway of Me-to-Me.

I am just starting to get this and am eager to understand and own more, because, this has been amazing.  This is something like how it goes so far; tense up, maybe angry Me, (reason or no reason,) pause, look, pray for it, pause, acknowledge, let it do its thing on Me. Start over. Again. Again.

In we who suffer brain illness, we who suffer cancer, we who are in the dying stage of life, in we who, we, we are in the right place to do this.  This is just where we need to be to receive Love.

Illness does not keep us from the ability to receive Love.  Poverty does not.  Dead coral and loss do not.  Nothing can.

Everything can be used by Love to communicate to us.  Illness can.  Poverty, dying, loss can.  Anything can be used to bring into our circle of Me-to-Me, Love.  Love is now.

I am glad, in age, that I am increasingly aware of the changeability inherent in everything, everything, positive, negative, everything.  This is one more way I am able to receive Love.  Age.

Being able to receive Love requires the process of changing.  It is not stagnant, stationary, unaging.  As far as we are able to understand, it is not.  We are creatures of dimension, creatures of space and time and until we are further created to receive otherwise, this is.

Question:  how do you increase your reception of Love?  How do you receive Love?  How does this affect your friendship with yourself.  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Increase your Love-reception.