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!

Medication vs Drugs

I imagine some day I’ll understand why users think drugs are healthier options for them then medications.

“Doctor, I don’t think my wife will be comfortable with me adding another medication. It seems like I’m already taking so many!”

Context: Brennon is using THC “for sleep” he explains. Not recreation. It’s “medicinal.”

Boy. We are going to have to redefine what “medicinal” means in the urban dictionary vs. in the medical. 

It’s as if the masses out there are acting like it is stigma behind any opposition of THC vs. science. Folks, there may be stigma involved but it’s mostly science. THC is, 99%, not medicinal. 

My cousin is a hospice nurse and she and I were discussing this. Along the meandering conversation way, we came across, that in her field, many are taking CBD. (I know most of us think CBD is THC-free but it’s not unless it’s thoroughly governed by the FDA.) When we were in our wandering conversation about this, I imagined out loud to her, “If I were dying, I’d want to take a good trip on LSD, do a line of cocaine, and have free access to heroine. Why not?! “

My cousin politely explained that in end-of-life, most people, not apparently ignoramus blind bigots such as myself, prefer to stay alert in their last moments with their loved ones. 

That makes a lot of sense. My “free ticket” to white clouded oblivion suddenly didn’t look as appealing. I’d like that too. I’d really like to have connection with my loved ones. At any time. 

This is the effort in psychiatry as well, believe it or not. When we medicate, we are seeking to align ourselves with the patient’s agenda, toward connection and not away. Toward quality of life and not to harm. Toward hope. When we encourage to take medication, it is not to seek oblivion and isolation. Rather medication is for connection.

Brennon is not alone. Many think that medication takes us away from connection. Away from connection to ourselves by turning us into something we are not. “Doctor, I don’t want to take anything that will turn me into someone I’m not.”

Away from connection to God by taking our willingness to submit to His/Her will, away from His/Her power and toward depending on science instead, as if there is an either/or. No, there is no either-or unless we put it there. There are no dividers between science and God. He/She made them both. They are fluid to Him/Her.

Nor is taking medication taking us out of connection to our partners, nor our family who thinks medication is a cop out and whom are loaded with their own journey of self-discovery over their own self-stigma toward medication. As if taking medication makes our patients less loyal to their loved ones, thereby less connected.

It’s so layered why we think medication is worse. Even worse than mind-altering THC. Even worse, than the disabling illness, or whichever idea it may be.

Question: What is medication worse than for you?

Self-care tip: Seek connection, “even” through medical ways. Be a friend to yourself. Keep on!

Emotions come from the brain.

Margarit was a lovely twenty-something, with blue-black bouncing hair above a slim pixy framed physique. She smiled easily and chattered like she was on telephone call that was about to lose reception. Her hands moved, conducting her thoughts between us. She was dressed like one of the cool girls on campus, out of my echelon, and who just might stab me in the back if I didn’t know better. But I did. She wasn’t mean. She was super sweet, like honey, and cane sugar, and mangos. Margarit was nice. But she had always wondered if she was being so nice all the time, because she was too nervous to be otherwise.

She came because she was constantly preoccupied by worries over things, “no one should be worried about”.

There had been the counsellors, therapists, and pastors consulted. Margarit and her parents had done their due diligence. With initiating each effort toward getting help for Margarit’s anxiety, they anticipated some degree of success. They thought things would get better. And sometimes they did, in degrees, and for a period of time. but the anxiety always came back. It got to the point that Margarit was put in home school, referenced her looping thoughts for everything, and was socially immobilized.

Maybe you’ve read, Gulliver’s Travels, 1726 by the Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift. When Gulliver shipwrecked and washed ashore unconscious, the numerous tiny Lilliputians effectively tied him down. The rope anchors were so small, like acupuncture needles, yet Gulliver could not move. That’s what anxiety does to us. We become internally preoccupied by it and can’t think much outside of our thoughts. We are immobilized.

The anxiety Margarit had been harassed with since a child took her freedoms away. It chose for her before she even knew what she would decide. Example; friends want me to go to the mall with them. “No,” Before her thoughts could even play with the option. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone anyways. Or maybe she would have. The anxiety chose first though and she wasn’t given the chance.

By Margarit’s third visit, she had improved significantly. She was getting to know herself, she thought, for the first time. I met the parents this visit and they looked at me as a front. I supposed it had been them up against so much for so long now, that they had learned to go at the world this way, like a man plow they both held on to. They asked me why no one had ever recommended for Margarit to seek medical treatment for anxiety.

"We would have done anything asked by one of these professionals we took her to. We thought they should know what to do, but they didn't tell us to get her medical help."

In my mind, I flashed to Naaman being told by Elishah to dunk in the dirty Jordan river seven times to cure his leprosy (2Kings 5). Psychiatry is the filthy river and dunking in it is the nonsensical act of taking psychotropics based on magic and miracles. They were here reluctantly having preferred to start with clergy and therapists, beat up by inappropriate guilt, but ready now to consider that anxiety, in Margarit’s case, is a medical symptom of a biological illness.

The question of why no one had referred them toward a medical approach for their daughter’s illness is a good one, though. I asked a pastor what he thought, and he spoke of the difficulty of not being a medical specialist; not knowing when to refer people. And what of the therapists? Likewise, I guess, that they generally have been trained to approach emotions and behaviors through a psychological and sociological paradigm. And what of the parents themselves? Did they, when their daughter broke her collar bone in the 3rd grade after Christy pushed her off the swings, take her to the emergency room or to the movies for a night out? The ER. But when her daughter showed preoccupied thoughts that permeated her days, affecting her choices, small or large, affecting her sleep, and so forth, they did not think that the thoughts were related to anything medical, coming from her brain. They did not think that the thoughts were more than coping skills, or habits, or choice.

It is a condition of our humanity to want to look at thoughts and behaviors as many bits of our life control to be manipulated intentionally. As if we could. Like “The Matrix.” Or cooking a soufflé. Or driving a 1969 Chevrolet Camero. Shift already! There’s the good intentioned phrase, “Calm down.” “Take a chill pill.”

Oh good. Someone finally said it. If they didn’t I never would have thought of that. Now I am calm because I was told to be calm.

Emotions and behaviors come from the brain. Take the brain out and no matter what chaos hits, we would feel fine. Take the chaos away, and leave the brain in, we are still left with the brain, and what ever condition of health the brain is in.  So if the brain is ill, it expresses itself in a way that is ill. If the brain is healthy, the emotions and behaviors are healthy. They are symptoms of a medical condition.

Question: Where do you find your sense of control comes from, considering the biological paradigm? Let’s talk folks!

Self-Care Tip: Consider the biology behind whatever it is that feel and do.

I Can’t Make Friends – Anxiety

voyagerMr. Clark stopped talking and walked to the ringing rotary phone on the wall.

We were experts, as 7th graders, in anticipating what phone calls would be about. I’m surprised we never got around to making bets. I missed my chance to be a bookie. When the phone rang, it could mean someone was in trouble and had to go to the principle’s office.

Everyone was quiet waiting to see if their name would be called. No. That wasn’t it.

It could mean there was a school announcement. It could mean there was something wrong with our bathroom plumbing! But it had never meant that a space ship had exploded. Seventh grade was not the time to grasp what this meant. If we couldn’t grasp it, if our perceptions were unable to see it, then it could not actually exist. Right?

We kids had other things we were trying to sort out. Boys and girls. Getting your period or facial hair. Zits. What Melissa said about you when you thought she was your friend. These were space occupying in our minds. There was little room for understanding that this phone call announced the end of 8 lives, a billion-plus dollars blew up, nor especially not what it meant politically! Spouses and children, watching and cheering in the bleachers live, front row and center, witnessed as their own individual loved one exploded into tiny particles.

Mr. Clark walked, white-faced and perspiring, to the radio, asked for silence over the hum that had built up, and we heard. The challenger, the 8 people aboard (one of them a teacher), in 1986, was gone.

A spaceship exploding is about what anxiety feels like. That may sound extreme but it is the truth. And those who have experienced it, as if their were going to come apart, will do anything not to experience it again. This urge to avoid anxiety expresses itself in emotions and behaviors. But often, when anxiety doesn’t reach a full explosion, the afflicted individual doesn’t even know that they are sensing the urge to avoid, nor how they are responding to this avoidance. The afflicted person and those who know him get think that these medical symptoms are actually the afflicted’s personality. “It’s just the way I am.” 

You may be someone who feels inner congruence with decisions. By temperament, you like closure! But even so, against your own hard-wiring, you find that you have trouble making decisions. How you talk is driven by indecision. You’re couching what you say, being careful. Your self-esteem erodes.

Manuel had some similarities to this, but also, on top of his medical condition with avoidance symptoms, his personality was one that got energy from being alone. That doesn’t mean Manuel didn’t like people or interpersonal relationships. It just means that he got energy from being alone. And he did stay alone most of the time. When around others, the energy poured out of him like lemonade through an open spigot. However, he wanted others. Being lonely was not his goal. But there he was, more energy when alone combined with a thrumming buzz of nerves when he tried to make friends, when he tried to date, or when he was approached by someone spontaneously in public who asked the time.

Fudge! She only wanted to know the Blinking! Time! he screamed inside.

Manuel had some friends with whom he was deeply bonded to by shared experiences. But he had gone on to college and his friends had not. It was niggling in whispering thoughts that he might still be hanging out with them because they didn’t disrupt him. Because he came apart. Terror, like a spaceship exploding in the atmosphere after take-off, filled his perceptions, if he tried to hang out with anyone else! And Manuel didn’t like thinking about his friendships that way. They lost value when tattered by that persistent wind. Nor did Manuel like thinking about himself as someone who couldn’t get other friends if he wanted to. As someone who would use the faithful. Friendship by default? No. He felt shame just thinking it and he knew it’s falseness. In his most essential self, he knew he loved them for more than proximity. But he really didn’t know if he was weak. It was a possibility. And besides! What girl would want a weak man?

People with anxiety have barriers to any number of connections in life, like coming up to an energy force field we can’t see. There are interpersonal connections we might have had, but never initiated or explored because the anxiety held you in place. This is what anxiety does to us. Anxiety takes away our freedom to choose. And as the consequences and fruition play out, we live out the related losses.

Manuel came to me because, “Mom told me I better come and talk to someone.” Mom was fed-up with his isolation, hours of video games, and she had noticed that he was spending even less time with his childhood friends. 

Talking to Manuel, unearthing these patterns in his life, his insight grew a bit. But once he looked at anxiety, even with a sideways glance, which was anxiety provoking in itself, he came up against the need to decide,

Should I treat?

Deciding to treat is a decision to make between the patient, perhaps including their support system, and their treating clinician. When there isn’t a clear answer though, like a blood test that shows the vitamin D levels are low, we respond with vitamin D replacement therapy, but in these areas of diagnosis, it often feels nebulus to the patients on what to do.

When the decision doesn’t have clear form, like an undefined space, go toward the data. You may trust your clinician to know that data integrate it into all the information that goes toward deciding on treatment. Or you may choose to spend time researching and evaluating the data on your own and then go forward. Either way, if you stay with what you’ve been doing, you will remain ill and the illness will progress over time.

So either way, going with the data, either via your clinicians recommendations directly, or indirectly. Accept treatment. In fact, run toward it! You will have a much higher quality of life. And… those around you will too.

Self-care tip – Go toward the data!

Questions: What had influenced your choices in treatment or not to treat? Please tell us your story. We need your voice!

Making our way through the questions on ECT – Top 3 Reasons for Being an Advocate

  1. How do you address the issue of cognitive and memory impairments?
  2. What are your top 3 reasons for being an advocate for ECT?
  3. What are the differences between ‘old’ ECT and ‘modern’ ECT?

fancy

Ooh La La!

So much fun to play dress up! When I was a scrub, a solid big boned unkempt of the Cleveland National Forest bordered lemon groves, when I walked barefoot, disappeared for the entire day in the rattlesnake infested chaparral, when I followed my brothers around like a desperate child, I still liked to play dress-up. I would sneak into my mother’s long closet, a dressing room really, with folding doors. I could hide behind her dresses, or climb up onto her shelves and be nothing more than luggage. But mostly I remember staring at her clothes and shoes. I remember one of her all time best outfits – a blue knit bell-bottomed jumper. A wide white belt with a hand-made gold buckle was an excellent accent. Yes, it would drag down below, but all the better to cover my brown feet.

When I think of my top three reasons for being an advocate for ECT, I think of dress-up. There are so many great options to put on, and I can and do exchange them with aplomb, as Fancy Nancy would say. That’s a French word for poise. It’s fancy. If you catch sight of my brown feet here and there, well, you can’t take the hills out of the psychiatrist I guess.

For today, Reason Numero Uno, (Fancy for #1, in honor of the second language I wanna-be speak):

  • It works most consistently, and most quickly of any treatment available. One must pick her fights after all, mustn’t she?

Reason Ithnān, (Arabic for two, in honor of my fancy mother):

  • It doesn’t touch “the body,” i.e. metabolics. Clean.

Reason Trois, pronounced I think like, twa, (Fancy Nancy’s favorite language. Need anyone explain? “French is fancy”):

For example, just by requiring someone to help with transportation, it’s built in. That thereby inherently increases community awareness of mental illness, something we rarely speak of with each other.

Then there is the medical staff. Our nurses are every patient’s advocate. Our masseuse increases oxytocin and other healing neurotransmitters when the patient’s get their massage waiting for treatment and then when in recovery. Our anesthesiologists are knowledgable, see the patient in their “whole person,” often picking up other issues that then will get the patient to receive treatment and improve the patient’s quality of life (QOL); such as hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, etc…

There’s more, but basically in ECT, none of our patient’s are alone. That stands.

Question: What are the top three reasons you prefer the treatments you engage in? 

Self-care Tip: It is always helpful to write out why you are doing what you are doing, when it comes to medical treatments.

The Modular Brain Doesn’t Need God?

I’ve been a little scared of losing God most of my professional education and practice life.  Everyone knows that no one can make it through psychiatry and still believe in God.  And those that do make it through psychiatry and still believe in God, don’t get it. Or so the opinion goes.

When I started medicine, I thought I’d most likely go into psychiatry.  I read my Bible every day. I was crushed by landslides of information I had to learn. With the equivalent of dirt in my hair, broken bones, and blood, I participated in prayer groups and Bible studies. I had to sleep eight hours a night.  If I didn’t, I couldn’t lay down knowledge and I couldn’t cope.  You may be one of those lucky persons who only need four to six hours of sleep at night to be human.  This an advantage equivalent to getting a silver silk parachute airdrop of food, medicine, and weapons in the Hunger Games.  I graduated from medical school and still had God.

Psychiatry residency opened up and I got closer to the the lions den.

What I found is that if you believe in God you are distrusted by colleagues.  If you believe in God you are distrusted by Christians because you’re a psychiatrist. And by Scientologists.

Innocents seem to be fine when they enter into psychiatry residency.  Then they come out totally changed. It disappoints Dad. Surrounded by cerebralists.  It changes the plans sponsors have made for the psychiatrists.  The psychiatrist doesn’t get invited to speak at church. The sponsors think they must have let him or her down.  And the sponsors thought the psychiatrists let them down.

Psychiatry is very high risk to the psychiatrist.  Why is it harder for them to keep God? It’s just generally not taught to utilize God in remedial processes with broken people. “And yet that is what God does best,” says my orthopedic buddy.  He says, “Psychiatry breaks down interpersonal relationships rather than include the spiritual. Unless the psychiatrist feels very comfortable with the healing and revitalizing powers of God, they don’t use it for themselves in practice.”  Is there a God-desensitization process built into their education.?

When studying where emotions and behaviors come from, God can’t be scaled.  There is no way to measure God.

We delve into human behaviors and emotions so intimately in psychiatry.  Once you realize that those things we used to moralize our life parameters with, once we realize that a perception of God is that “easily explained,” we don’t know what or who God is if not that.  Psychiatry deals with the mind and spirit and not the musculoskeletal world.  They are are right in the middle of breakdowns in that field where good bones and joints don’t make the difference.  They are right there where good behaviors and emotions are valued,  and explained in terms of grey matter.  Psychiatrist come to understand that everything is modular in the brain.  At that point, there is no need for God anymore.

Why do people lose God?  Parents blame themselves.  “I’ll never forgive myself.”  They know what they’ve lost.

Remember that song by Sting, “I hope the Russians love their children too“?  God v the Modular Brain might become a war.

My next book is going to be about God and psychiatry.  Wish me luck.  Recommendations, opinions, (no crude gestures,) and silver silk parachutes airdropped are all welcome.  Don’t hate me.  Keep on.

Conditional Love With Me

frayed rope

We have a tenuous relationship with ourselves.  Very conditional, as if we were in a constant state of probation. Have you noticed?  Conditional love: part of the human condition.

I was reading the The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel, by Helene Wecker, and found myself getting into her golem-philosophy, that went something like this,

Since so many of us have it, can’t you just say it is the way things are, and not about freedom or fairness?

Wecker in such eloquence ironically describes the human condition from the story of two inhuman beings.

The New York Times, , describes it as,

When they are later confronted by the evil power who controls their fates, they discover that the ultimate expression of free will may lie in the embrace of limitations.

In considering our limitations in loving our own self, this idea can be useful to come to terms with the day in and out internal conflict of loving what is imperfect and distasteful, with what we would otherwise rather not identify with, and with the acts of friendship toward this seemingly inhuman part of our selves.  In embracing our limitations, we may find less conflict in loving Me, less conditioning, or perhaps a shorter probation each day.  We may experience the probation differently, Chava, The Golem, when we say, “It just is this way with all of us.  I have the community of humanity.

Getting into the space of where our “tenuous bond” between what we love and would otherwise not love about ME, in fact diminishes the frailty and increases the strength in our personal journey.  Rather than putting us into further danger of internal conflict and self-loathing, it allows us to experience what will happen from and in the company of the tension.

More specifically, in brain health, getting into the space of our conditional love for our self, allows us to do things like seek medical treatment when needed, ally with help, with medical treatments that once repulsed us, with something as formulated as putting a pill in our mouth seven days a week indefinitely.  Or another treatment, such as ECT.

We are conditional with ourselves.  It is part of our human condition.  That is pretty close to, “Normal.”

Question: How often are you aware of your own difficulty loving yourself, your Me?  What improves this?  Why does difficulty with loving Me recur and recur without end?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Get into the tenuous space between the “good and bad” of Me where you are normal.