What Are Our Treatment Options in Psychiatry?

choosing

I go through this almost every time I see a new patient.  I often hear that this is all they really wanted, “To know what my options are and that I’m not choosing something way out there.”

First off, most treatments for psychiatric brain illnesses are not done with intention to cure, but rather to restore health and increase quality of life.  Healthy is not the same as disease free.

This applies to all the treatments listed here.

1.  Hospitalization:

Inpatient – 24 hour locked unit, voluntary and involuntary, little psychotherapy, and daily physician care.

Partial Hospital – Day Hospital that runs during business hours such as 9AM-3PM, voluntary only, includes intensive psychotherapy, and weekly physician care.

2.  Counselling/Psychotherapy:

Talk therapy and exercises of various forms.  May be with physician or nonphysician.

3.  Stimulation Therapies, such as:

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) requires brain surgery to implant an electrical stimulation device in the specific brain area, controlled by a device implanted in the gut. Effective, but higher risk.  Least time consuming for maintenance care.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – The patient sits in a chair with a magnet at the head’s surface that uses magnetism to stimulate the brain for treatment, 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for various weeks, according to the patient’s need and funding.  Few side-effects.  Time consuming.  Not as effective as DBS or ECT but comparable to some medications.

Electroconvulsive Therapy – Uses electricity to stimulate the brain, inducing a short seizure for treatment.  Considered safe and of low risk.  Most effective.  Response is speedy.  Few, and mostly temporary side effects.  Does not enter into the body systems.  Less time consuming.

4.  Medications:

Chemicals for treatment in the form of pills, liquids, injections, patches, powders, vapors, gases – enter into the body systems causing physical side effects that, as with any treatment, must be weighed against the benefits.

Pills – generally taken daily, which is a challenge to treatment compliance, and activate internal conflict and personal stigmas.

Injections – generally done in a clinical setting, bimonthly or monthly.

5.  Aerobic exercise 50+ minutes, 5 days a week.

6.  Sleep hygiene.

7.  Diet

8.  Alternatives – such as over the counter herbals, naturalistic supplements, meditation, spiritual, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, or no treatment.

Questions:  What do you think of your options?  What do you choose?  And why?  Please tell us your story.

Did I miss anything?

Self-Care Tip:  Get informed about your treatment options.

If You Love Me, Give Me Less But Give To Me Bigger and Better

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Good news.  Marcy was better.  She was feeling better emotionally, less triggered by simple stressors, and parenting better.  Marcy didn’t think it was anywhere near easy, but it was better.

It had started for her about six months ago, when she realized her children were on edge around her, when she realized she didn’t want to be around her children and when she didn’t like much else either.  Was she a “crabby woman?”  Ouch.  It hurt her to think that.  Were some people just mean?  And she was one of them?  Marcy said no.  She couldn’t make anyone believe her these days but she knew she was designed for something better than that.

When this happened, Marcy hit self-care boot camp.  She cut her time with her kids, husband, any extras.  She didn’t cut them out, but she did cut back.  With that time, she went back to the starting point – herself.  She gave less to them, and more to herself so she could give bigger and better to them whom she loved, not excluding herself.

Good news.  Marcy is better.

Self-Care Tip – Give more to yourself.

Question:  What has your self-care taken from those you love?  What has it done with what you still give to those you love?  Please tell me your story.

Say Yes to Medication And No To Drugs

Please don’t call them drugs.

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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

 

Mental Illness Relapses When Medications Are Stopped

Free face of a child with eyes closed meditati...

Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #246 – Collaborate with your physician to change your medications.

It keeps happening.  People are stopping their medications and then getting more sick.  Recently it was Olivia.  I can always tell when she’s off medications – she personalizes things way more and she acts like a victim to many many random things.  She is irritable.

Olivia, did you stop your meds?

Olivia on medication was not a super easy-going person but she dropped much of the edge, her thoughts were clearer and she was able to see other people around her.  Today Olivia felt like her bullets were in place and about to fire.  She answered my question obliquely.

There are sooo many reasons I am better without those in me!   I used to not be able to feel God.  When I prayed, I didn’t sense His Spirit.  Besides, I’m doing fine.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  I’m happy!

The biggest bummer about getting into the scene after the medications were stopped verses before, when stopping them was just a consideration – is that the patient doesn’t see themselves clearly.  They don’t see how bad it’s gotten.  They can’t be objective largely because they are using the same organ that is ill to describe itself.  If I could have discussed it with her before she stopped her medication, she would have been in a healthier state and more able to weigh her risks and benefits of medication verses no medication.

Sometimes we do agree together, patient and physician, to stop medications and sometimes we don’t.  Doing it together is the key though.

Questions:  How do you work with someone who wants to come off their medication?  How about yourself?  Has this ever been a problem for you and if so, how did you deal with it?  Please tell me your story.

Check Your Read. Even When You Feel Shame, Bullied and Herded, You Are Free.

Eve covers herself and lowers her head in sham...

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Self-Care Tip #219 – Check your read.  Be a friend to yourself.

I’ve been reading the comments on suicide, thinking and reading and starting who knows how many posts for today, but just couldn’t pull it together.  I spent my time rather drawn to the same words that I hear so many others say as well in clinic, in church, on the street, in the home.  Instead of seeing them find their place in me like I normally do with this kind of crowd, the words kept their space; word-snobs – crutch, selfish, dependent, moral and other words, dusting and reapplying in their reflection.

I had to think, “Why?  Why am I staring like this?”  And so the rest of the day, I perused those thoughts, licked my finger, flick, next, paper-cut and so on.  After all, this is SELF-care I’m talking about, implying I am starting with me.

At last, after rereading yesterdays and past comments, I found the shame I was avoiding.  Why I feel shame about these things isn’t important in this post.  (Maybe another post.  So if you have nothing else to keep you reading, you’ll have that dish to bait you.)

Shame comes when implied or direct judgment creeps into our space.  It herds us.  We are bullied and lose our personal boundaries.  It touches and violates.  That is what shame does.  Any time our perception of freedom feels threatened, it is normal to want to defend ourselves.  Separating from stigma is a normal response.

Claiming the shame, however, isn’t forced on us.  It is our choice.  Once we own the shame, then wanting to get away from reminders of it, of course, is natural for anyone.  But jog back and see.  The perception of shame was never forced on us.  We are free.  We are free to feel, to perceive, to believe, to choose or to stop rubbernecking at the sparkling drama.

He made me so mad…!

She really hurt me.

You ruined my life!

I don’t want to take medications because my husband makes fun of me.

I take Prozac but I don’t have mental illness.  I’d be ashamed to…

It is a normal response to not want to be in the space where we feel these things.  That is natural and what many have thought worth fighting for.  But what if our perception, our Sixth Sense, wasn’t getting a good read?  A war might have been avoided.  Our lives might be lived differently.

We really are free, already, to choose.

Question:  How do you see shame affecting your ability to be friendly with yourself?  Or others?  How have different perceptions put you in a place that felt more free and safe?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Is About More Than “Me”

Self-Care Tip #208 – If for no other reason, get friendly with yourself simply to survive and you’ll see what that means later.

my self care reminders

Image by CatrinaZ via Flickr

It is not unusual to think of “selfish-care” when we hear “self-care.”  I can imagine children gripping their mother’s skirts more tightly, husbands pulling their helpmate’s hands away from this influence, church-folk sniffing over rejections to service-calls or friends personalizing the way their phone doesn’t ring as much as it used to.  This is a natural response, although it is a false perception.  Think – feeling suffocated by her penance, he’s wearing a martyr’s cross or she’s giving to us from victimhood.  Those are the times we would rather not receive the gifts of time, person or anything dripping with that kind of guilt and implied debt. This kind of service comes from someone impoverished, giving on credit.

I’ve been known to say, “We can’t give what we don’t have.”  Or as Jasmine said,

You can’t give someone a ride if you’re all out of gas!

So when is self-care selfish?  To be true to what self-care is, I’d say almost never.  However, because the question comes from such an intuitive fear in any of us, “never” can’t be an entirely fair answer.  To answer it best though, we need to turn it over and go back to trying to discover why we wanted self-care first.  What brought us here?  Jacqui said it well in yesterday’s post-comments:

Ditto about ‘self-care boot camp’. I may steal that one. You’ve given me permission to be selfish if need be. It’s all about self-preservation.

Sometimes we are reduced to self-preservation.  It has an intensity to it, a survival mode of live or die, which may be appropriate to a desperate condition in life.   Many of us know what that feels like.  So in this context, self-care is in part about survival.  Alright.  But is survival a selfish need?  Are we worth that little?  Does the life in us hold value only at that level?

rejuvenation.self.care.logo

Image by guttersnipe.76 via Flickr

You hear the clomping my words are making and can follow that I answer, no.  Survival has far reaching significance.  I matter.  You matter.  We have value beyond our own selves and Me booting up to live better also ripples over those same infinite number of connections.

I am confident that if for no other reason than getting friendly with yourself simply to survive, you will still see at least some of what more that means later.  Self-care is about more than Me.

Question:  When do you think self-care is selfish?  Why do you think self-care is not?  Please tell me your story.

Just to Feel Pleasure

week-end-pleasure

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Self-Care Tip #189 – Heal for yourself, and you’ll see that also, everyone heals.

The best thing I ever did was go on antidepressants.

Bianca sat, but her whole body was talking.  She was telling me about her changing life.  She had read some of her journal from a year ago when she pounded on herself for her behaviors.  She thoroughly grieved the time with her children when they heard her scream about small things that kids do.  She told me about her sons face when she was irritable.  He showed all the waiting tension that an open child will when waiting for Mom to lose it.  She was trying to push it aside and think rather about how she now could finally enjoy them.  Bianca said,

I just had no idea before how much better life could be.

Bianca’s face became tight and she didn’t make eye-contact,

There’s no way to describe what it’s like to not enjoy your kids – My own kids! – for most of their born lives and then wake up and experience something different.  I just can’t explain what it means to now actually like being with them.  I’ve always loved them but I didn’t feel the pleasure and I hate that.  I want that time back but I can’t have it and I can’t give it to them either.

I’m so scared it will end, the pills will stop working and I’ll lose this new life.

Before her medication, Bianca worked hard at taking care of herself.  She was a check-list of responsible self-care.  Bianca thought it was important that I knew this.

  • Aerobic exercise – check!
  • Healthy diet – check!
  • Sleep hygiene – check!
  • Bianca talked about God but things got confusing for her there.  She didn’t like to think about Him being on “a list.”  He was in her life and didn’t feel He failed her even though she couldn’t feel pleasure or joy.

Still, she continued to coil up and release hard punchy words at her kids and then hate herself for it.  She had prayed so much about this and wouldn’t even mind if God had to puppet her, if that’s what it took, in order for her to treat her kids better.  She could not stop herself from being what she called,

Crazy Mommy.

But now, after she was treated, Crazy Mommy was gone.

Aside from dropping the shame, the best thing for Bianca was knowing that her kids could trust her, felt safe with her and that she felt safe with herself.  Everyone was healing subsequent to Bianca healing.

How many of you have told us a similar story.  A similar rescue.  Yet, never-the-less others of us are afraid to go there.

Question:  How are you present with others who don’t understand your rescue story?  How do you stand beside someone who needs medical help for emotional illness but won’t accept it secondary to stigma?  Please tell us your story.

The Spider Sat Down Beside Her – Mental Illness

Self-Care Tip #178 – Find your courage and answer to stigma.

The Little Miss Muffet scenario explained by D...

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Something as simple as taking pills can sabotage us.  The act of putting it in our mouths signifies all sorts of things from religion, to freedom, to personal identity and beyond; even someone who is trustworthy versus not.  Pill – take away her children.  No pill – could be president.  Pill – discredit whatever he says.  No pill – worth listening to.

Martha is a mother of four lovely girls.  Her husband is divorcing her and she wonders what he will do in the process.  She’s been depressed in the past and anxious with a history of panic attacks.  She took two years to get over them using breathing exercises and other therapies. She didn’t use medication.  I don’t need to tell you what her husband thought of meds or of her during that time.  It was a miserable time for her.

Now, during this new stressful time, she has relapsed in mood and anxiety problems and is terrified that if her husband finds out, he’ll take the kids.  Martha sees mental illness as a bullying tool for anyone to dump her over.  Little Miss Muffet is a story she often has compared to her situation.  The spider is the mental illness she feels is dangled over her to her demise.  Martha is bullied and scared away.

Taking pills makes me feel like I’m crazy!

Note: it’s a type of crazy she interprets as being something different from the crazy of mental illness.  For Martha, the crazy that comes with medication therapy is more sinister and discrediting than the worst experience of terror any of us have ever gone through, i.e. panic attacks.

Every day, we who take medication for emotional illness have to answer to those accusations.  We contend with the fingers pointing our way, the jeering in our memory of loved ones and the boxed presumptions we find ourselves in.

This may sound a little dramatic to some out there, although familiar.  To others, it is an understatement of what they courageously confront to take care of themselves.  Each of us must come up with our own answers and find our own courage.

Martha finally decided on medication treatment and within two days she was amazed to find that she could eat without throwing up and no longer felt anxious.  She still insisted that taking medication was only temporary but getting a pill dispenser had helped her get past some of her daily battle with stigma.  She just opened the lid and poured the pills into her palm, threw them back and swallowed without looking.  Martha found it easier not to dispense each pill each day out of each bottle.  It was also easier for her to keep this information secure in the confines of our office.  For Martha, for now, this was how she answered.

Question:  How do you answer to stigma?  How do you maintain your sense of freedom when other forces tell you that you are not free?  Please tell me your story.

Waiting For Self-Care to Start

Self-Care Tip #176 – Don’t wait to start caring for your self.  

I’ll get to it when things slow down for me.

I can’t handle one more stress on top of the kids and all the people who take, take, take.

Don’t take this away!  It’s my only vice!

I don’t have time because I’m working so much.

There are so many good reasons to wait for self-care.  I don’t belittle them.  I do them too.  There’s a reason we here at FriendtoYourself.com call self-care the hardest work.  It is not for anyone who isn’t willing to go through the fire of putting themselves first.

“The fire,” you say?  Yes.  Fred taught me that.  He was down twenty pounds, working out almost every day with aerobic and anaerobic exercises, putting his ear-plugs in when sounds escalated his nerves, more motivated, interested and active.  Fred was growing again.  He said that it had been years since he’d done any of these things for himself and couldn’t believe what the world looked like when he felt so good.

Fred was sad though.  Not depressed.  No, he hadn’t been depressed for at least a year on his medication and even less so since he was taking care of himself physically.  But sad.  His wife wasn’t interested in his changes, she was disconnected emotionally, and more so every day it seemed to him as he began to change physically, emotionally and behaviorally.  His friends were growing distant.  He wasn’t interested in office politics either.  It was a simultaneous coming together of life in himself and a falling away of the life connection in his “previous life,” as he called it.  Surprisingly, the people he loved the most weren’t so happy for him.  Weren’t supportive of him.  He was sad for that.  There are never gains without losses.

This is not to forget the new relationships he was growing.  There was new life all around him and he still maintained hope for the connections he had before.  But those people who he had called his own for years were the ones who gave him all the reasons to wait for self-care.  He was way past waiting.  He was already on the other side enjoying the sun.

Question:  What have you overcome to get at your own self-care?  Is there anything your are still waiting to do?  Please tell me your story.

*Art work (assumed) courtesy of carldagostino.wordpress.com.

Work Hard to Take Care of Yourself If You Want An Easier Time Taking Care Of Others

Self-Care Tip #174 – Work hard to take care of yourself if you want an easier time taking care of others.

My marriage has never been better.

Freedom Press (UK)

Image via Wikipedia

Kirsten had good posture.  She made eye contact and she wasn’t fidgeting when she told me about the changes in her life.  I hadn’t seen her in clinic for two years and apparently in that time she had set her husband free.  She was seeing less of him than she ever had and they were both busier than any other time in their lives.  Yet their marriage was at its peak.  I felt like I was getting off the point of why she came and wondered if asking her for details was unprofessional.  I did want to know.  Lucky for me, she wanted to tell and I just let it happen, as if I was doing her a favor.

I admit, sometimes I get something out of my clinicals.  I’m not always the best therapist.  I don’t always keep things about my patient when I let myself receive, or even actively take from them.  None of us are that altruistic.  Therapy is supposed to be one place any of us can go, and know that when we go, we can expect to receive everything except the fee-for-service.  Therapy should be the closest thing to a one way street in this non-altruistic world.

To my rescue, Kirsten said,

He has been meeting with friends, exercising, eating out and working the 12-Steps twice a week.

Yes he was sober, but he was also a bunch of other stuff.  Taking care of himself, he became a better husband.  Better body, clearer mind, happier, more attentive, less angry; she could hardly stop listing.

Freedom is useless....

Taking care of himself took a lot of work but it made taking care of her a lot less work.  True, she wasn’t the center of his life, she gave up on some fantasies, she didn’t ask him for more time, but all those in the past had only grown her own point of anger and blame and not the marriage dreams she thought they would – letting them go was a good thing.  Yet, cutting him free still felt risky to her.  She came to me because she was becoming more aware of what that fear was doing.  When she was afraid, she was sabotaging herself.  Bits of herself recognized that she could feel as free as her husband did.

To be free of fear for Kirsten, she needed medical help.  Kirsten’s fear came from nowhere, out of the blue and was not only triggered by suspicions about her husband.  To be free for Kirsten’s husband required other forms of self-care.

Question:  What kind of self-care does your freedom need?  How has your hard work on your own self-care spilled over into less work to care for others?

When You Can’t Control This, Emote Empathically

Self-Care Tip #172 – When you can’t control this, emote empathically.  Be a friend to yourself.

A couple of days ago I wrote about being transparent with ourselves and others when we are not in control of things.  (Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t.)

This road sign image is in the public domain a...

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It got mixed responses but all worth thinking about.

Jennifer responded on Facebook,

The 3 C’s help me all the time; I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t change and or cure it!

Isn’t that wonderful?!

  1. Cause
  2. Control
  3. Change

And it’s helpful to remember that claiming these 3C’s still may not remove us from the stressor.  We are however more present with ourselves and others despite the stressor.

Another reader BeeBlu’s, brought up that famous “fine line,”

I agree that it’s healthy to have this attitude to certain things in our lives, but as you say, it is also no excuse for bad behaviour and letting emotions go into free fall at the expense of others. I think there is a very fine line between the two. bb

…And her signature, “bb,” – awesome.

A line that is thin implies insecurity, danger and something precarious that may end up all wrong.  I wonder about that line.

On one side we have the 3 C’s:  cause, control, change.  On the other side of the line we have responsibility for the boundaries of others.  I wonder if there really is a dividing line after all or if it is just bad lighting.  If there wasn’t, there would be no need to thicken the line, to defend, or to pick sides.

Emotional health makes shadowy lines disappear.  It takes someone who has emotional health to be able to say their 3 C’s and still consider the internal and external milieu of others.  It takes someone who has done their self-care and put money in the bank; someone who has reserve built up that spills over into empathy.  We can’t emote empathically so well when we aren’t emotionally healthy.  The less of that, the more real the line becomes.  The less of that, the more precarious we are.

Gaining emotional health may take medication, exercise, sunlight, granola, grandma’s kisses and all sorts of things.  Each of us has to figure it out for our own selves and just do it.

Questions:  What do you think about this business of shadows, lines, and living cautiously?  When you have been healthiest, how have you been able to embrace both the 3 C’s and emote empathically at the same time?  Please tell me your story.

Listen to Your Mind and Body When Doing Something As Simple As Cleaning

I Heart Cleaning

Image by Valerie Morrison via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #170 – Listen to your mind and body when you do things like cleaning, even if it makes you feel better or worse.  Be a friend to yourself.

Whenever someone in the house can’t find something, I ask them to please just start cleaning and sooner or later they’ll find it.

Today my kids and I spent two hours cleaning their play room.  My daughters were amazed at all the treasures they found tucked under, over, this way and that way in their clutter.  Although there was a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth along the way, in the end everyone was happy and pleased with themselves.

One of the blog-sites I enjoy reading is “Earthquakes and Rattlesnakes” by Zahara.  The other day she said,

I have a lot on my mind.  It seems when my mind is in a jumble, my house is in a jumble.  Cluttered, disorganized.  Can I unclutter my mind by cleaning my house?  Probably.

According to BBC News, cleaning improves mental health through the exercise that is inadvertently done.

And as Louise Hay once said,

Cluttered closets mean a cluttered mind. As you clean the closet, say to yourself, ‘I am cleaning the closets of my mind.’ The universe loves symbolic gestures.

But there are times when this goes awry.  In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, people may clean ritually and compulsively to avoid an egodystonic fear; a fear they know doesn’t make sense but still terrifies and overwhelms them.

Or in Major Depressive Disorder, the illness affects their brain and body so much so at times that they can’t do basic life functioning, such as cleaning their house or even showering.

So I’ll tell the mothers out there such as myself, the BBC News, Louise Hay and the rest of us that cleaning is good self-care.  The milieu around it is also a good indicator on when it is time to go get professional help.  Listen to your body and mind.

Questions:  When and how has something as simple as cleaning improved your mental state?  When has something as basic as doing your activities of daily living shown you that you or someone you love might need to see their doctor?  Please tell me your story.

Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t

Playing in the Sink

Image by Paul Mayne via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #169 – When there is negative chaos, remember and say, “I can’t control this.”

Carol had worked there for seven years.  The supervisor had just asked her for more hours and Carol felt almost good to be able to say she didn’t have any more to give.  Yet when Carol got the email that her job position was closing in a month, she was physically affected.  Her autonomics (“fight-or-flight” reactions) were on full alert.  If there was an attacking bear, she might have out run him.

Healthy Carol had been to enough 12-Step meetings to remember, “I can’t control this.”  She said it a few times and turned it over to her Higher Power.  She did not crave or relapse in her addiction’s disease.  Her pulse was still fast and her hands were still tingling for the next several hours but she didn’t “use.”  She went to her meeting and she pushed on.

When Carol thought about her future and the things she could do to prepare, she inevitably thought about the things she couldn’t do.  She said,

I can’t control this.

When Carol imagined what other people would think after hearing about her unemployment, she said,

I can’t control this.

In mental health we struggle with that a lot.  The emotions that grow self-loathing, the behaviors that distance us from our support and loved ones, and/or the physical changes that keep us from performing – are all confusing.  At what point do we say, “I can’t control this?”

I remember a Seinfeld joke about water faucets in  public bathrooms.  The ones that you have to hold down to keep the flow going.  I’ll spare you the misery of me trying to retell it and get to the point.  Why do they have those faucets?  It’s as if they think people will have a water party in there or take free sponge baths if they could turn the faucet on long enough actually to wash their hands.

baby elephant | playing in the water

Image by Adam Foster | Codefor via Flickr

When we say something like “I can’t control this” to the idea of emotions and behaviors, the general fear is that people will take wild liberties, – splashing emotions around and behaving like elephants after the summer Serengeti drought ends.  Mayhem will ensue and the staunch healthy-minded with dry pants will have to clean continually after us.  Not many people want to be sullied by the emotions and behaviors of others and this, “I can’t control” business is a boundary issue.  Maybe stigma is one of the ways we change out the faucet on others.

There are some very primitive characters and severely ill people who might say in fact that they cannot control all feelings and behaviors.  This is more than most of us armored with some healthy coping skills would believe or say.

“I can’t control this,” is not a free pass to vandalism, vengeance, volley-ball or any other very vexing behavior.  It is not there to hand over like a ticket to other people for their excuse, justification or condolence of our situations.  It is there for us to hold up to ourselves for the purpose of honesty, submission to our Higher Power, humility and healing.  No one can control the flow out of that.  That is free self-care.

Questions:  When have you felt like you had to explain to others your behaviors and feelings even when you didn’t have an explanation?  How did you bring it back “home” to your own self-care and get past the stigma?  Please tell me your story.

Choose Self-Care At Your Most Elemental Level

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Self-Care Tip #167 – Choose self-care at your most elemental level.

Carl, who writes blog-site, StillFugue, said after yesterday’s post on self-care being for everyone,

Sometimes depression blocks this type of self-care regardless of how good our cognitive strategies are.

Carl reminded me of Dr. Lang.  He was a physician, a father, a man of high character who never had depression in his life.  Then after a series of life stressors depression expressed itself and he, who once was the warm-fuzzy in the hospital, the man who never lost his optimism, the man who turned anyone’s bad mood around – this man came to me under a black cloud, heavy with melancholy, and raining tears.  He cried all the time.  This giant of a man cried and cried on his wife’s shoulder, and she was bewildered by him.  She told me he had done this for a month now, although the depression started about four years ago.  He kept wanting her to read to him the book of Job and cried more barely hearing the words.  He had already been through a series of well-chosen medications, but still he sank deeper.  No form of treatment kept up with the leak in his ship.  What was self-care for Dr. Lang?

Did Dr. Lang have good coping skills?  Well he wasn’t coping well now even though he knew the strategies.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t use the coping skills.  Did he have intelligence?  Yes.  Did he have resources?  Yes.  However, none of that is what this was about.  Asking Dr. Lang to cope with his feelings is the same as asking someone blind to see.  Physically, biologically he could not.  His brain could not.  Much of his ability to choose behaviors and emotions were drowned by illness.

So again, the implied question comes to us, – “Is self-care for everyone?”

Mr. Rick C. threw this life-saver out in response to our question,

During times when chaos ensues, either internally or externally, self-care seems to become the basis on which all other positive actions are built.

Sarah McGaugh also referred to self-care as “action,”

A call to action may also be a higher calling than one’s own self….

What action did Dr. Lang do?  He cried on his wife’s shoulder and read the Bible, i.e., he leaned on the support he had built up before the hard times came.  After failing medications, he sought another opinion and other treatments.  Sure, he couldn’t get out of bed otherwise even to bathe himself, but he had made it to my office.  What did Dr. Lang do?  He got electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and in two months, along with his medication (only one antidepressant was needed at this point), Dr. Lang was no longer crying.  In four months, he was laughing again.  In six months, he stopped ECT altogether and maintained his emotional health with his monotherapy medication.  It’s been seven years since Dr. Lang went through all that and he has not relapsed yet.

I pick out so many points that I consider self-care choices Dr. Lang made.  They changed over time for him according to his needs and abilities, but he didn’t want to die.  Even at his worst, when he could barely remember why life was so important, that wisp of hope was enough to live for.  It was a higher calling to him, higher than his own dark wants.

That was Dr. Lang’s choice.  He chose self-care at his most elemental level.  It was his response to the call of hope.

Questions:  But what about you?  What do you think?  Is self-care for everyone?  Please tell me your story.

Know What You Are Fighting For – Your Right To Journey.

You Should Be Living

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Self-Care Tip #162 – Know what you are fighting for.  Be a friend to yourself.

Bridget told me,

I felt free to do something creative without having to feel guilty about it.

She had read the blog post, “Self-Care is Freedom, is Democracy, is Because We Are Accountable.”  I was just starting to think about other good places to go with that but before I got too far she hit me with,

I just hate myself!

Hearing those words is like watching squishy and partly moldy tomatoes hit the wall.  It’s messy.  It’s dirty.  No one’s excited about dealing with it.  And, there is something negative that brought it on.  Readers, you’ll remember this countertransference when you’re the counsellor in some other situation and think, “Darn that Quijada!”

My thoughts bumped and piled up.  Stopped, until they started pulling themselves off of each other.  I tried to put these disparate bits of Bridget’s narrative together.  And I wasn’t alone.

I don’t get it!  Why do I feel this way?

Who doesn’t have conflicting feelings about themselves?  Bridget perceived and celebrated her freedom to self-care, yet was betrayed by her own, just when she was reaching for it.  Is that ok?

What strikes me about Bridget is her journey.  She has struggled with anxiety and depression for many years.  I know with me, she’s been in treatment for five of them.  During that time, she has been lovely although not perfect.  She does her hair, glossy blond in large waves, trim body frame and polite like no one I’ve met.  Many medications have failed her and she has taken those failures and claimed her future over again.  The intense forward movement of her inner self has never been muted, even when she has had thoughts of wanting to die.

I have learned what she values, what she’s willing to let go of and what she isn’t.  Her appearances matter.  She is artsy and gets energy from being alone.  She loves people.  Her marriage is rocky.  She struggles with parenting.  She loves her husband and her children.  Bridget’s journey is a journey of imperfection, beauty and courage.

And here she is again.  Conflicted self, ill, hopeful and claiming her future.  Bridget is right on her course.  I wish I could help more.  I wish she wasn’t still ill.  But I can at least be as courageous as she is.  I can hope with her.  I can stand with her or walk.  I know that put to the question, Bridget prefers this journey than losing the right, the privilege, to journey at all.  Bridget is free.  Many of us are not as free as she is, who knows what she is fighting for.

Question:  What are you fighting for?  If nothing were to ever change for the better in your life, what makes your journey worth it?  Please tell me your story.

Lost But Now Found

A three-year-old labradoodle.

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What a night.  Mr. Rick C. was right.  Sometimes I do sit home and medicate.  It is not self-medicating, though, as I have my own prescriber.  And last night I was using my self-care tools to survive:  0.25mg of alprazolam got me through the first half of the night crisis, and then 2.5mg of zolpidem got me through the rest.  Despite these helpful medications, I dreamed of Timothy and Jack in the worst of circumstances.  I was amazed at how many positions a coyote could hold my Labradoodle in his mouth.  My eyes are still swollen red cherries and my complexion is bad.

Earl and I were not connecting.  Who does when they are afraid and grieving?  I simply told him,

Sorry honey.  I’m no good.  Can’t connect.

Earl is gentle.  He responds easily to words.  He doesn’t react easily to negative emotions.  He is a wait-and-see kind of guy most of the time.  His eyes are not red this morning.  He did not medicate.  He did not make this about him.

We made forty flyers describing our Great Pyrenees Jack and Labradoodle Timothy with our phone numbers and including a lucent plea for anyone to call if they saw them.

Our three kids in the mom-van, I planned to go door-to-door and harass people – I mean ask people – if they knew anything about our dogs.  We first targeted our neighborhood mailboxes where there is a bulletin board for community announcements.  I lifted my flyer to staple in front and center position and, “Darn-it!”  My kids had broken my stapler.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog

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While banging my stapler on the wall, I noticed another white sheet flyer.

2 White dogs found!

More tears.  I called the number and blubbered.  The woman was comforting me, suggesting more alprazolam and a good psychiatrist she knew.  Our dogs were happily frolicking in her back yard with her two German Shepherds.

Timothy and Jack are home now figuratively and literally in the dog house.  We have a dog trainer, at much expense, coming tomorrow to help us.  We will also be placing an electric wire around our fence before the rest of our neighbors cement a reactive opinion about us.  Although our dogs are important, we hope to live here a long long time and don’t want to be picketed out of the neighborhood.

Thank you so much everyone for your kindness, for your empathic responses and patience with your own Dr Q.  It was a large blessing for my fragile self last night to know you were all there.  I hope that blessing comes back to you.

Keep on!

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.

Blog-Jacking – by Rick C.

Hi Everyone… I thought I would kind of write a guest blog today (call it blog-jacking even) DQ did not specifically asked me to do this, however, I do not have any clear recollection of her specifically asking me not to do this either. With this in mind, I would like to let you know about my unique relationship with DQ (I am just going to write DQ because I have a very limited attention span and am likely to have two or three great ideas flow through my brain by the time I type Dr. Sana Johnson-Quijada and then I also start wondering if she has a middle name too and how she fits all those letters into those forms that have the little boxes on them). Anyway… I communicate with DQ on a regular basis and get interesting insight on a variety of topics. This makes me feel unique and special until I realize that most of the people reading this have the same opportunity. Then I kind of ask myself… “What kind of group have I joined?”

To begin, I would like to talk a bit about my psychiatric qualifications. I spent six years attending college. Technically, these were at a community college, but I did take at least one psych course while I was there. In addition, I am an alcoholic and drug addict in recovery who has previously attempted suicide. I take medications for both depression and ADHD. I had to go through a variety of medication to find the right combination because almost every medication I tried made me sweat profusely and/or break out in a rash. As part of my ongoing training, I am going through a nasty divorce which has caused me to be temporarily unable to see my son or live the life that I have become accustomed to. In addition, I have just lost my job of fifteen years due to cutbacks. All of this in the same month that I turned forty and should be free to seek out a quality midlife crisis.

The fact that I am laying in bed with my shoelaces in my possession in a nice room that I am free to come and go from as I please over two weeks after the divorce/job loss week most likely indicates that I am totally delusional and only think that I am happy or that I actually am. Either way, I am content in the place that I am at. This, to me, is pretty amazing.

I am grateful for that I have been through all the things that I have been through in my life because they have given me the strength and experience to go through what I am going through. Even though I did not do real well in school, I somehow did well enough with a big corporation that they are willing to give me a severance package that will basically pay me for the next four months as long as I do not get a job or accept one of the positions they have offered me. Basically, a bunch of paperwork and legal terms that say to me “Paid, vacation!”

Being an alcoholic and a drug addict have led me to become involved in a program that connects me with others who have previously tried to use alcohol and drugs as a solution for coping with life. These people are a great source of support and experience. As for the prescribed drugs, I am not even really sure that I need them all the time; however, I sure as heck am glad that I was on them when my “Perfect Storm” kicked off. Oh yeah, as part of my challenging week, I found myself with no place to live and immediate access to very little money. A little rational thought and I realized that I have an amazing amount of airline miles from years of travel. In fact, more than enough to take up residence in a nice beach front condo for the next month.

Why am I sharing all of this? For several reasons — First and foremost, I am newly almost single and think that this is a great way to meet ladies without having to ever think about the awkward point in a relationship where I will have to explain my past. In addition, the fact that everyone here is reading this most likely means that you have experience with challenges like mine and I can always use others that I can relate to. Lastly, I have found out that when I have felt that I have a very unique situation, I am usually wrong and that I am actually just not in a group of people who feel comfortable sharing their experiences. It would be kind of cool if everyone just wore a signs with their three biggest “issues” on them. I have a feeling that if everyone formed a group with only the people who had at least one issue in common with them… we’d all be in the same great big group called life.

Thanks for reading to this point. What do you think about this? Are you female and single or considering becoming that way? Could this really be a worse idea than matchharmoneyfinder.com or whatever it is called? Keep on and be a friend to yourself and stuff.

Oh yeah….DQ, please get better soon because this blogging stuff is cutting into my busy schedule!

 

When I Can’t Take Care Of “Me”

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Self-Care Tip #130 – Ask for help.  Be a friend to yourself.

The last two days we’ve talked about self-care,

1.  Bringing pleasure to be sticky

2.  Starting and ending with “Me.”

The natural progression is to now discuss,

3.  Taking care of ourself when we cannot.  When we Cannot take care of “Me.”

Still responsible for the single person that God gave us to take care of, “Me,” we lie down unable to move.  Unmotivated, maybe too scared to do what we need to do, emotions awry, other medical problems chorusing in with pain, stomach upset, even infertility – our own brain betrays us in our need.

When we cannot trust our own brain, our own selves, whom can we trust?

Some of us have found our answers to that.  Our lives starting and ending with God, we go where He is.  But the brain is ill and, sometimes, suspicious of the rest of us around without a visible halo.  When people point at me, and say, “God can heal me.  Do not you believe that?!” I say, “Yes.  God is the Great Psychiatrist.  I love that we are in the same line of work.”  And I do.

I do my best to help tell, educate, and offer opportunities that lead to healing for ill people to choose.  It is their choice.  Self-care in the context of illness, of losing the ability to care for yourself, is a place of vulnerability.  We show our jelly sides, the places without defense and we ask for help.  Taking care of our selves includes asking for help.  Scary, undefined, entrusting yourself with outside sources takes the courage that only those with mental illness could know.

Asking for help does not mean that the thread of self-care has left you.  It cannot really.  You being its source.  Do not be confused by the obvious.  Outside help does not mean you are not doing self-care.

When we cannot do our own self-care, we ask for help.  Asking for help is self-care.

thysleroux.wordpress.com

(In reality, everyone doing self-care needs to know when to ask.  Healthy or ill, we cannot be good at it all.  We are creatures who need each other.)

When we cannot trust our brain, find someone(s) else we are willing to invite to join our self-care efforts.  Ask for help.

Question:  How has asking for help been for you?  Please tell me your story.

 

Branding and Branded. Stigma Goes Both Ways.

 

mentalhealth.wa.gov.au

 

Oh, the struggle to understand that behaviors may have something to do with the brain! I shake my fist at stigma! I shake my fist at prejudice!

Now, I can go on a little calmer and say, if you are struggling with this yourself, you are not alone. Even if you are the one propagating it. You stand on the shoulders of others.

In Jesus’ own words:

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

He was talking to me, I know, and you.   We have all been rude and ignorant in our own time and our own place.   We find ourselves holding 2 positions, accuser and accused. The context of our various roles changes with knowledge, coping skills, experience, maturity, pain, mental capacity and so on.   But that we hold both roles in some space of time and place will never change in this world.   Even in heaven when we “see face-to-face” we won’t be completely informed.  We know we will continue learning timelessly. What will change is the abuse, the prejudice, the judgement.  Once and for all, we will finally let that go and believe at a chromosomal level that God is and deserves to be the only Judge.

There must be a genetic component to our double lives in this world. This tendency towards stigmatizing. We know there is a lot that isn’t genetic and for that we fight to grow ourselves and grow others for our own sakes and for theirs. The benefits reciprocate as much as the pain does. And even though being branded feels personal, it is not.

For more relating to this, read the blog posts Forget About Divisions In Knowledge, and Forgive to Get Friendly With Yourself.

Self-Care Tip #109 – Don’t take it too personally when people sneer. Be a friend to yourself.

Question: How do you keep yourself objective when prejudice hits you or someone you love? Please tell me your story.