Wanting, with a capital “W” …and God

A perfect world for me would include Wanting, with a capital “W”. We would want and have the energy and motivation all included, like a first class Qatar Airline’s ticket with real linen napkins for your glass of water with gas. We’d feel the desire to do things, and good things too. We wouldn’t crave that trash like cookies, ice cream, or chips until we couldn’t taste it any more. Nor would it drape us over couches all day watching tv or fill our heads with cotton-candy audiobooks.

A place of safety would have us full of urge and interest for growing our inside parts, the creative parts, the parts that parallel play with what is Love. We would Want, like a coil that unravels, like my puppy seeks my hand, like the people on Easy Street in a better place.

Wanting is a gift. It isn’t a right. People who have never lost it, they just have no idea about existing in the absence of it. But those poor souls who have lost it, who don’t Want, who have felt it leave them like a mist into the ether, that is hard.

I’d like to tell you a story to help you understand. And there are so many patients clamoring to speak, but my own voice for them is clipped by limited skill and talent. Their voices are most eloquent. For this, I refer you to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), who are people for people. An awesome resource.

However, in my own effort, know this: Wanting is a gift. I’ve seen what it looks like when it is gone, and it is vacuous, a void, a space where if not filled, devils come to occupy. The devils of our broken minds. Depression, that is dark. Down down, feeling like it will suck you into the earth and plants will grow out of your carbon compost.

Priscilla asked me why she felt this way. Why was the gift taken, without clear reason? That familiar phrase, “I don’t have a reason to feel this way. Everyone says I should feel good about my life. But I don’t. I don’t even care if I die. I don’t care about anything.” It’s a familiar phrase because many in Priscilla’s patient cohort say almost the same thing word for word.

I don’t proselytize in clinic but I am open to whatever religion people come in with and how they practice it in the world of mental health. For Priscilla, this was her conflicted outcry.

“I need help. I can’t go on like this. I’ve prayed for help. I’ve asked God to heal me. But I’m still so depressed. Please pray for me. Please help me.”

All the like minded believers are feeling super fine with her right now. “Yes. Pray about it. God can heal you.” And maybe some are thinking she must even be a little culpable. Even if at a dusty genetic level. Yet for whatever reason, God has gifted them with lovely Wanting. Not her though. Many here would think emotions and behaviors are spiritual issues, moral, and connected to salvation. I do. …As a psychiatrist, may I? But looking too close at that, at moralizing emotions and behaviors, is like poking the IRS, so all is quiet.

Her outcry, “Please help me!,” was a spiritual request synchronous with a physical and temporal one. “Please help me…” feel and behave well. It’s sounds of Naaman asking Elisha to remove his spots of leprosy. Or the crippled beggar, stretching his hand out to Peter. Or Esther fasting to beg for the lives of her people. “Please help me.” The spiritual is there with the body.

In my life, having practiced in medical research as well as clinical care for 18 years, and after a super super long many years of schooling, after having walked through church and daily Bible study, (and this is a run on sentence as that’s what this unfolding in my professional experience feels like sometimes), I am comfortable with asking God to help Priscilla, whilst helping her see and achieve how God, S/He, is going to do that for her through a medical approach.

But the absence of Wanting in her life, wanting to get up in the morning, wanting to read her Bible, wanting to take care of her kids, to shower, to have sex, when she doesn’t want this, it isn’t fair. It isn’t because she was bad, or is less than any of us, or doesn’t have the ear of God. I’m very comfortable saying that she has a treatable objectively identifiable medical illness. Thank God. God is all that is good, and kind, and God has mercy for us bleeders, the jacked up, the mean spirited and the ruined. God sees what is wrong with our bodies and minds, and God doesn’t resent us getting medical help. How absurd otherwise.

Self-Care Tip: Give yourself a break and ask for help. There is a better place. Keep on!

Questions: Have you ever experienced the absence of Wanting? Or seen it in someone else?

What did it look like? Please tell us your story. We need to hear.

Answering Jim, professionally and personally – ECT

A few days ago, Jim, from blog, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” asked in his comment to my blog post,

What is your educated opinion about this?  A friend of mine is seriously considering this.

Jim was asking regarding ECT – electroconvulsive therapy.

021 Side Effect

021 Side Effect (Photo credit: Jester Jay Music)

Responding to a question that asks me to answer both personally and professionally is a little uncomfortable but this is my best effort.

…Alright, Provocateur Jim, I have been chewing my cheek on this, wanting to say something profound, considered “educated,” ūüôā yet not to turn anyone off with an up-tilted schnoz.

I do love ECT as a treatment option.

ECT is not for everyone of course, as nothing is, but consider it if you are looking for a treatment to work quickly and effectively .

Quickly is important.

  1. Can be life-saving, (“Timing is everything,” they say)
  2. Brain health short and long-term
  • less dementia,
  • less onset of other brain illnesses that come when one brain illness is not fully treated,
  • easier to respond to any future necessary treatments when we get more rapid and full treatment response to current illness episode,
  • ECT (as with medication therapy) that is done earlier in illness episode has a more robust response,
  • relapses are less severe, and we do not drop as rapidly when treatment is obtained more quickly for current illness episode

3. Quality of life,
4. Halt the damage to interpersonal relationships,
5. Diminish financial demise secondary to disability of brain illness,
6. Minimize side-effects,
7. Minimize medications.

Efficacy… do we really need to even say that the goal is to use a treatment that works?¬† ECT works more often and more thoroughly than any other treatment options.

Furthermore, we suffer less illness relapse when ECT is continued in maintenance.

Treatment response is much more robust when ECT is combined with medication.

Side Effects:

The side effects can only be measured on an individual basis, as qualified by the person going through them.

First off, there is no brain damage done by ECT, as seen in medical studies. This is a common fear.

Neither does ECT go through the body systems, it is not metabolized, and does not touch our body organs.  Yay, right!?  Medication side effects are a huge pill-dotted elephant in the room.  ECT does not touch the body (i.e. It is not a substance ingested or entered materially into the body,) all related potential side effects never happen.

The number one reason for relapse in brain illness is medication noncompliance.   This is due to many reasons, such as intolerable side-effects and the cascade of subsequent related issues.  Even dry mouth can lead to root canals.  We do not think of osteoporosis from serotonin agents.  Not taking our medication daily can be for more obvious reasons, like not climaxing during orgasm.

Zoloft Side effects in women

Zoloft Side effects in women (Photo credit: Life Mental Health)

Plus, it is just hard to remember.  Even the most consistent of us generally miss one to two days of medication a week or a month.  It is tough to be consistent.
ECT is less difficult to remember and maintenance ECT is much less frequent than taking pills every day.  Even when the ECT is combined with medication, if a day or two is missed, at least the ECT will be consistent as it has the support of the community of ECT staff and the transportation person to and from the surgery center.

In these regards, ECT has fewer barriers to treatment compliance that the majority of us suffer with medication therapies.  That is a big deal.

The side-effects of ECT are generally headache and temporary memory loss.

During index treatment, (about the first 3-4 weeks,) it is common to experience difficulty imprinting/recording memories. This typically takes about five weeks after the index treatment to return toward baseline. 80 years of data do not demonstrate that there is other memory loss but there are individual complaints of that.

Headaches are common for the the first couple treatments until the anesthesia becomes customized to the individuals experience. Generally after the first few treatments, the personalized anesthesia medications are able to resolve these from causing too much suffering. Not universally of course, but generally. Then once the maintenance treatments get going, memory loss and headaches are not common complaints.

…Big breath…

Did I do it? ¬†Any questions about this diatribe? ¬†ūüôā ¬†Thank you for your patience. ¬†I am trying… ¬†Please let me know. ¬†Keep on.

The Pleasure That Should Be Ours In Emotional Health

Cup of coffee with whipped cream

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Some time, I’d like to come back to our bullying series as there is still some help to be had for us. ¬†However, today, my cherubs are asleep and it’s only seven PM. ¬†My feet are up. ¬†I’m sitting by lots of beauty colored in varied hues of sunset, shadow and dusk. ¬†Tonight will be short. ¬†I will let today end and indulge the coming together of these things. ¬†(I am even drinking reheated coffee with lots of whipped cream!)

What I have thought of to share with you my friends, as I’ve enjoyed its friendly work on me today, is the pleasure that should be ours in emotional health.

Bad things will come. ¬†We will have anger, lower communication and such. ¬†We will wish we hadn’t pushed the call button on the phone by accident when yelling. ¬†BUT. ¬†But (“Mommy you said a potty word!”). ¬†But it will pass. ¬†It will not define our day or our perception of self. ¬†We won’t¬†catastrophize and we will trust ourselves to show love and mercy to Me in our weakness. ¬†This is a pleasure to experience. ¬†This is what comes when we have brain health.

If this is what has always been your reality, well great. ¬†BUT. ¬†But (“Mommy! ¬†Why did you say that?). ¬†But, many of us know what it is to crave for days when we can say that the blow-ups, outs and ins don’t blot out the sun. ¬†They shouldn’t. ¬†The pleasure comes with health. ¬†Go for it! ¬†You are worth it. ¬†You were made to feel pleasure.

Questions: ¬†When was it that you realized that your emotions and behaviors didn’t rule you or someone you love any more? ¬†What did/does that mean to you? ¬†Please tell me your story.

(Ah!  There goes the last of the sun and the trees are now silhouettes.)

Self-Care Tip #257 – Go for the pleasure of trusting yourself to respond with healthy emotions and behaviors.

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 РCheck 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.

Bring Your Separate Selves Together – Personal Journey

National Museum, Czartoryski Collection

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Self-Care Tip #199 – Bring together what you are naturally inclined to do with what you spend your energies on.

When we do what we like to do, what is congruent with our hard-wiring, what is naturally inspiring, fatigue becomes part of our pleasure in my life.  Cliché,

Enjoy the burn,

…is common for a reason. ¬†There are times when pain, fatigue, difficulty and hard-surfaced days are bits of what make life journey one of richness, rather than diminished. ¬†I was reminded by Jaclyn Rae’s Blog-post today,¬†that when we can say,

I’ve¬†learned that I’m tired but still want to do what I do,

…we are paddling the same river our life is floating down. ¬†When we by mental illness,¬†misfortune, choice or neglect, don’t – we are more observant of our lives rather than participants to them. ¬†We find being present in the process difficult. ¬†It’s not something everyone can do in all aspects.

However, we don’t have to be defined by those particulars, choosing instead to do the hard work of processing our choices, our energy and where it comes from, our emotions and see how they weave into our constitution. ¬†Then, some time when breathing hard, limping and spent, we will remember this and reconnect the experience with the choice and the emotion a little quicker. ¬†We will less often separate from the water our life is traveling. ¬†Not become observers but participate more often, more actively, more tangibly with that¬†kernel¬†in us that stays, our essence. ¬†(See blog post, My Essence.)

In the marvelous work,¬†‚ÄúHis Dark Materials‚ÄĚ trilogy,¬†Philip Pullman describes us as split persons, a body and a spirit (“demon”) that might be parted by neglect, carelessness, abuse, or other¬†disasters. ¬†But when it is separated, the body suffers and is disconnected from it’s life purpose, what brings pleasure and presence in the world around. ¬†(See blog post, Soul and Body.)

There are medical illnesses that do this, as mentioned above, and in those cases, perhaps all to do is get medical care, heal, treat and get on with life.  Other times, it might be that we forgot ourselves in the midst of caring for children, a demanding job, an opinion that victim-hood defines our life possibilities or what not.  We have options.

As Jjen reminded us some days ago,

The bad doesn’t disappear but it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Questions:  How have you reconnected to your life journey?  Your essence?  What is constant about you in your changing self?  Please tell me your story.

Just to Feel 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.

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.

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

You Should Be Living

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Self-Care Tip #162 РKnow 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.

Emotions: The Physical Gift We Can Name

Leprosy hand affected fourth digit

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Self-Care Tip #148 – Identify your emotions, navigate, and get help.

Mad. ¬†And when Mia was angry she wanted to go eat. ¬†Nervous. ¬†When she was nervous she wanted to go eat. ¬†Like a wire with a current, she couldn’t stop her thoughts from moving and moving. ¬†Although eating soothed her in less than a shard of a second, it was also followed by self-loathing. ¬†Self-loathing brought on more eating and then purging.

Sitting in my office, Mia said it was like she was looking at herself from the outside in and the self on the inside could hear the, “Stop!” ¬†Demands, petitions, and begging to stop came from the other Mia, who was loosing her command-authority in a scary-fast way.

How often we hurt ourselves but blame a trigger, an emotion, a person, or an act of malice. ¬†If only we could say, “Put the offense down and take two steps back.” ¬†But sometimes we can’t. ¬†It’s easy to piously say, with habits and cassocks or¬†soutane (French for traditional priest’s attire) in place, “Don’t make decisions based on emotions.” ¬†It’s easy to say, “Be objective, we can’t trust our emotions.” ¬†But if emotions are what we use to interpret the world around us¬†with, if that’s all we have,¬†what can we do?

Emotions are ideally the color, texture, perfume, music and salt in our physical self. ¬†Emotions are our spiritual sensory system. ¬†Not being able to trust them is a big loss. ¬†Being blind, deaf, anosmic (can’t smell,) unable to taste, and numb would make it really hard to interpret the world around us too.

Paul Brand, MD, coauthored with P. Yancy, “Pain: ¬†The Gift Nobody Wants.” ¬†This book uniquely tells Dr. Brand’s story of working with lepers in India. ¬†Leprosy is a disease that causes a person’s nerves to stop working so¬†they lose their sense of touch and subsequently can’t feel when they hurt themselves. ¬†A once harmless thing like bumping a finger for example, is extremely dangerous. ¬†Lepers can’t feel the pain, and so don’t accommodate for it and protect themselves. You can imagine that bumping a finger but not reacting to it leads to tissue damage when it is done over and over, until one day the finger falls off.

Dr. Brand is right. ¬†Pain is a gift. ¬†And so are emotions. ¬†Including emotional pain, if serving as intended, to protect the individual and not self-destructive things such as¬†bingeing and purging. ¬†The purpose of this post is¬†not to get into what binging and purging is. ¬†That’s just an example of behaviors that might grow out of emotions gone amuck. ¬†Emotions that we used to trust. ¬†That use to tell us who is a friend and who is an enemy. ¬†Emotions that used to know who’s side they were on. ¬†Emotions that forget their own like that can be just as extremely dangerous as leprosy is to our tender fragile fingers.

The purpose of this post is to flatten the mountains of understanding between here and there.  Between understanding that emotions are as physically important as anything else, such as the spinal cord.  The purpose of this post is to furthermore say what to do about it once we can 1) identify the problem and 2) get past the stigma.  Mia did the eating and purging stuff, but she also asked for help.  3) Ask for help.

Lepers have still so few options to help their disease.  Us with emotional illness are very blessed because we do.  We have medications, psychotherapy, coping skills, miracles, and more.  We have a lot.

Question: ¬†How do you define the space between emotions and other “real” medical illnesses such as diabetes? ¬†How do you navigate around stigma? ¬†How do you ask for help? ¬†Please tell me your story.

Full Treatment Response Means a Better Future

wethree by Nancy Denomme

Self-Care Tip #140 РPush for full treatment response.  Be a friend to yourself.

Frankie was 45 now, feeling it, and feeling grumpy. ¬†“I’m on Lexapro!” she said as if that should exempt her from her present condition. ¬†She had teenagers. ¬†“Enjoy these times when your kids are young. ¬†It just gets worse!” ¬†Frankie thought that if her kids weren’t stressing her out, she’d be fine.

Maybe parenting and other life-stressors do get worse as we progress through years. ¬†Even if it’s true, it isn’t the point.

Frankie told me that she had felt “normal” until the last approximate four weeks when she wasn’t able to let stress go. ¬†She was taking things personal, even when her mind knew¬†they weren’t about her. ¬†She didn’t like herself as much and was angry when she thought that her kids were thinking the same thing about her. ¬†She was just a little angry. ¬†Not like she was before she was taking medication. ¬†“I’m not so bad. ¬†I’m ok. ¬†I’ll be fine.” ¬†About 70% of Frankie believed that she was still good. ¬†About 30% of her knew at some level that she wasn’t.

“Frankie, stress is always going to happen. ¬†It won’t get better necessarily when your kids move out. ¬†Life will keep the spin on. ¬†Frankie, the difference can be in you, not life. ¬†How you cope can be different. ¬†Things don’t have to feel that hard to get through.”

We talked about partial treatment response and what that meant in regards to disease progression. ¬†Depression progresses as does anxiety as disease processes. ¬†Also, people lose response inconsistently to various treatments. ¬†However, it is not the time to throw our hands up and say, “Bummer! ¬†Life really is harder on me than necessary!” ¬†It is the time to say, “This is medical.” ¬†And explore if there are any other things we can do to improve treatment response and decrease disease progression.

Leaving ourselves partially treated is leaving a leaky pipe in the wall of our health structure.  We will worsen faster, more dramatically, and be harder to treat in the long run.  We will lose treatment options over time simply by not doing as much as we could earlier than later.

This is not to say, that if this blog-post finds you at a “later” position in life, that it is of no use. ¬†Unless that’s how you see your future. ¬†Which if true, I’d respond that this is distorted thinking. ¬†Possibly secondary to the disease process and all the more reason to get treatment, again, sooner than “more” later.

I was so happy to have had this brief discussion with Frankie because it resonated with her.  Her approach to her self-care tweaked and she saw her negative emotions and behaviors were coming from her condition more than from the chaos around her.  She made friendly choices to heal.  Medically heal.

Later in our treatment together, I asked her about how her kids were. ¬†Frankie brightened up with stories of their successes. ¬†I asked further if they were stressing her out, and she looked at me like, “Why in the world are you asking me that!? ¬†That’s out of left field!” ¬†She had already forgotten that she had held them responsible for her feelings not too long ago.

Question:  What barriers have you been up against to get full treatment response?  Please tell me your story.

Stop Blushing. It’s Not About “Me.”

Beckwith James Carroll Lost in Thought

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #137 – Take yourself out of it to be more present in it.

When I started Toastmasters, I blushed, I stammered, I um-d my way through every talk. ¬†I thought about “Me” a lot. ¬†I thought about others in relation to Me. ¬†I kept thinking, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” ¬†(Which, by the way, is supposed to desensitize Me and make Me feel better.) ¬†But I just got more¬†doe-eyed in the headlights.

I lasted about a year in this speaking club before life grew over it and I dropped out.  I still consider myself a Toastmaster, though, and, many friendly critiques later, I remember my hard-earned lessons:

1. ¬†In other people’s eyes, it is not about “Me.”

Bob Freel, from Toastmasters International, often coached us to think about our emotional connection with our audience. ¬†He made it clear that the reason so many of our talks stunk was that we were so caught up in ourselves. ¬†We were not looking at “their” faces. ¬†Thinking about “their” feelings. ¬†Speaking to “their” interests.

Now how does this relate to self-care you ask? ¬†Well, when anxiety hits my patients, they seem to find a little solace hearing that most of the things people do or say around them, to them, about them, etc. has nearly nothing to do with them. ¬†Even when they are named by the person speaking. ¬†That can be confusing, but just because our name may be on someone’s lips, on the program, on the tag — that doesn’t make it about us.

I am amazed at how true this is when flipped around too. ¬†When I think about how often I’m thinking about others, (or not thinking about others,) I stop in my own tracks. ¬†I’m pretty darn self-absorbed. ¬†Yet, that is not a bad thing. ¬†It’s just how it is. ¬†For all of us.

Pulling our own selves out of the equation, helps us in fact to be more present in it.  For our own selves and later for others.

Sometimes we just can’t do this though. ¬†That’s when we need to think biology is getting in our way from getting out of ourselves. ¬†Let’s do it and stop blushing.

To read about #2 on this fine list, tune in tomorrow fellow friends-to-ourselves!

Question:  How has pulling your own self out of the equation helped you be more present in it?  Please tell me your story.

You Are Enough.

Self-Care Tip #119 РRemember that you are enough.  Be a friend to yourself.

Forrest Gump (after watching his girl Jenny throw rocks at her childhood home of abuse,)

Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.

That movie grabbed almost everyone’s heart-strings. ¬†And when I saw my patient Sarah, I kept thinking about Jenny throwing rocks.

Sarah started crying. ¬†I’d never seen her do that in the 8 years we’d worked together. ¬†She was one who talked in spurts. ¬†Sometimes saying nothing for many visits, and then she’d start questioning me about foods, diet questions, or parenting. ¬†Then quiet some more. ¬†Today out of the blue came her tears and words.

When she started on her disclosure, I tensed up thinking, “What am I supposed to say? ¬†She’s never done this before!” ¬†I realized that being a psychiatrist, I should know the answer to that question and got even more insecure because nothing came to mind.

Her lovely face crumpled over the story of her “stupid” father. ¬†He never let her go to school. ¬†He was violent. ¬†Sarah is now teaching herself how to read; and more tears, her lovely face trembling. ¬†She is a mother and there are no books in her home for her children because she is ashamed of herself. ¬†“My dad is an idiot man.”

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can last a lifetime.  The horrors that are relived by the survivor can be unspeakable for them.  We never know what people are going through really inside.  They could be a survivor like Sarah or Jenny.

So far, I hadn’t said other than a few “psychiatry-sounds” like “hmm,” and “Oh.” ¬†Don’t be too impressed but I remembered someone somewhere wiser than me put it this way,

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything.

And I really didn’t. ¬†She did. ¬†And she did it wonderfully. ¬†We ended up talking about authors she hoped to read eventually. ¬†She’d heard of Isabelle Allende and wanted to get to her books some day. ¬†We hadn’t even started talking about medications yet. ¬†Sarah left after saying that when she stopped learning and growing, she would be dead.

What hit me was that Sarah wasn’t looking for more than me. ¬†I searched, wanting to give her more and came up with what I hoped was an appropriate facial expression. ¬†In a way, by not speaking much, I was able to receive and be blessed by her story. ¬†I might have missed that.

My mentor, author of blog CreatingBrains.com, encouraged me when I was unsure about teaching others. ¬†She said, “Look at your life and who you are. ¬†You would be surprised.”

When we are insecure about something, it helps to remember that we are enough for the task at hand.  As individuals.  We have in us all the days that came before, the experiences, the generations that handed us down, the God who made us and as per my belief, never leaves us.  We have so much.  Considering all this, be still and know.

Question:  When have you been amazed at all that was inside you?  Please tell me your story.

When It Is Time To Take Medication

"Yard with Lunatics"

Image via Wikipedia

When is it time to use medications for mental illness?

It is time to consider a medical cause for your behavior and mood when:

1.  you can no longer control them

2.  they affect the various areas of your life

3.  you start having other physical symptoms not accounted for through medical exam and studies, such as:

  • sleep changes (Pearl: ¬†Sleep is known as the vital sign in psychiatry.)
  • change in energy
  • gastrointestinal – stomach upset, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, change in appetite
  • neurological – headache, numbness, tingling, shaking, change in response time physically or verbally

I’m sure I missed a few things, but roughly, these are guidelines that can apply to most mental illnesses on multiple spectrums, such as anxiety, mood, psychosis, addictions, and even character pathology.

According the numbers count done by NIMH:

…about one in four adults ‚ÄĒ suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.¬†When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.¬†¬†…mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada.

When you next go outside and walk in a crowd, count them. ¬†One, two, three, mental illness. ¬†One, two, three, mental illness. ¬†And so on…. ¬†If you suffer from mental illness, you are not alone.

If you buy any of this, if you see these things in yourself, consider seeing a physician for further evaluation and possible medical care.

Self-Care Tip #108 – Take medication if it’s medical. ¬†Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How has your definition of mental illness affected your ability to get treatment?  Or how has it affected your interaction with those who are in treatment?  Please tell me your story.

Related Articles from FriendtoYourself.com
  • Mental Illness Relapses When Medications Are Stopped http://bit.ly/pA4kxo
  • Number One Reason For Relapse In Mental Illness ¬†http://bit.ly/rt1qJf
  • Are Your Meds Safe? ¬†http://bit.ly/lh1cBh
  • Say Yes to Medication And No To Drugs ¬†http://bit.ly/oX12i0
  • Fears of Addiction To Medications for Brain Illness http://bit.ly/oWY8i4
  • Other Fears of Medication For Brain Illness ¬†http://bit.ly/qdHksR
  • Afraid of Meds ¬†http://bit.ly/rjt7wY
  • Full Treatment Response Means a Better Future ¬†http://bit.ly/ph84ZU

A Little Bit is Not Enough – Claim Full Health

The good news is, I just ate 3 chocolate chip cookies. ¬†You already know the bad news. ¬†Has nothing to do with my post. ¬†I’m just sharing it for the sake of your own

Schadenfreude ūüôā

…Onward. ¬†Question:

Does emotional disease get worse even while on medication therapy? ¬†Sometimes. ¬†It does so more often when the disease process is treated but only partially treated. ¬†Read a little more about this in this¬†post if your interested. ¬†A primary care physician recently told me, “I think the term ‘Partial Responder’ is a marketing¬†gimmick¬†to get physicians to prescribe more medications. ¬†I don’t think it even exists.”

There’s a lot to be said about interview skills in sussing out the partial responder. ¬†If I asked someone if they felt better, many things play into their response. Everyone’s responses are biased of course. ¬†We don’t have sterile minds. ¬†For example there’s the patient who wants to please their physician. ¬†“Yes I’m better!” ¬†i.e. “Yes you’re a good doctor!” ¬†There are the patients who don’t want to be patients and minimize whatever they’re going through. ¬†There is the physician who leads the interview. ¬†“So, you’re feeling better?” ¬†“The medication is helping?”

Partial response means that at the end of a full treatment initiation period, there is some disease remaining but a reduction of disease.  For example, in depression, I may no longer be suicidal, but I still have trouble feeling pleasure in life.  In cancer it means that there is tumor reduction of at least 30%.

Now why would a physician presumably agree that there is a partial response in cancer, but not agree that it happens in mental health? ¬†Anyways…. ¬†(Ahem.) ¬†When we partly respond to mental health treatment and don’t push further for full response, about 70% will relapse. ¬†Versus maybe 25% in those who reached their¬†pre-disease¬†baseline emotional health through treatment.

Don’t get lost in this. ¬†The point is, get treated and get fully treated. ¬†Mental illness is progressive and causes changes at the cell level. ¬†The brain is connected to the rest of our body. ¬†The brain is human. ¬†A bit better, is not enough.

Self Care Tip #61 РGo all the way!  Claim health.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Did you find this to be true in yourself or someone you know?  Please tell me your story.

Afraid of Meds

A colleague told me,

I want to get off my sleep meds because I don’t want to be dependent on anything.

Dependence. ¬†Lazy, pass-the-buck, unimaginative, immoral, chemical abuser. ¬†Maybe even doctor-shopper depending on who is speaking. ¬†When someone says it, before we talk about medication use, biology, etc… we need to know what is behind that word. ¬†Working with the tip of an iceberg of prejudice might sink us before navigating much treatment. ¬†Even physicians after 25+ years of education and more of medical practice, find it hard to shed these cultural prejudices about psychotropics (medications used in psychiatry). ¬†What does the word dependence mean to you?

To psychiatrists, substance dependence means that the body has become accustomed to something. ¬†We don’t get as much physical or emotional boost we used to using a substance, such as to nicotine, alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications. ¬†We now need more to get the same effect we would have gotten before with less amount. ¬†It includes¬†physical and emotional cravings – like sweating, shaking and yearning. ¬†A lot of time is spent to do whatever it takes to get it. ¬†Can’t cut back. ¬†Keep doing it even though spilling into personal and professional space. ¬†Keep using even though aware body and mind are worse for it.

Was this a description of my “dependent” colleague?

How about abuse?  Substance abuse is when we do dangerous, mean, and/or irresponsible things when using.  Was he hitting his wife when he was under the influence of a sleep medication?  Was he taking sleep medications when he was at work because he liked how they made him feel?  Driving with them?  You get it.

This guy is no dummy.  Yet he felt guilt and shame about appropriately using a medication for a medical reason.

I was seeing a woman for the first time in my clinic.

“Doctor is this medication going to make me addicted?”

We spoke about her fears.  Turns out, she thought her medication would prejudice the world against her.  Change her personality.  Make her crave it if she ever wanted to stop.  Steal from her geriatric mother and eventually, who knows?  Panhandling?  Now how am I supposed to work with that?  How she ever got the courage to come and see me in the first place with all that on her back, must be pure grit.

So here’s the dirt. ¬†Some medications have no dependency risks. ¬†Some medications do. ¬†Some people abuse any medication they can get their hands on. ¬†There are rave parties where there is a kitty – a bowl full of whatever pills anyone in attendance donates to. ¬†They take them out randomly and swallow to get whatever surprise awaits them. ¬†Is one class of medication more often abused than another? ¬†Yes.

As a prescribing physician, I have sworn to not intentionally do any harm. ¬†As a patient, you contract with me to take your medications as prescribed and safely. We’re in this together. ¬†We will talk about any recommendations and you will hear the risks and benefits to treatment. ¬†You will decide. ¬†There is no conspiracy to turn Americans into bad citizens through psychotropics.

Self Care Tip #52 РFind out where your fear is coming from.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What are your fears about psychotropics?  Agree or disagree with this post?

Look Around At The Other Reasons – Depression

Flagellants mortifying the flesh, at the time ...

Image via Wikipedia

“I’ve done some bad things.” ¬†Patient tells me she can’t sleep well, is nauseated, depressed mood, worried with perseverating thoughts about acts that shame her and ramifications, doesn’t feel as much pleasure in life, isolating, tearful and more. ¬†I was alarmed! ¬†What could she have done that deserved this kind of self-flagellation? ¬†When she told me, I didn’t realize it.

I was still waiting for the rest of the story. ¬†I got caught up in her own self-judgment and found myself sitting beside her “in court.” ¬†Once I realized what I was doing, I was¬†chagrined. ¬†Here I was collaborating with her in her inappropriate guilt. ¬†It took me too long to register that her reaction was not proportionate to the offense. ¬†I told her I was sorry she was going through all this emotion. ¬†She said, “It’s my own fault.” ¬†Is it though? ¬†We needed to start looking at additional reasons that might be influencing the way she felt.

Start looking at other paradigms when the emotional response is out of proportion to the event(s).

An analytical approach would look at¬†unconscious reasons, such as other personal choices that¬†conflict with a core beliefs. ¬†Or perhaps, something like unresolved anger coming out in physical and emotional symptoms. Ask about our “closets,” peel away pretense and let your flawed self into the air. ¬†Keep it real.

Another paradigm is medical. ¬†Inappropriate¬†guilt is a symptom of Major Depressive Disorder, a debilitating disease process of the brain that affects the whole person/body systems. ¬†When distorting things out of proportion, personalizing too much, we must ask if there is a depression going on. ¬†Ask yourself. ¬†Ask others. ¬†But don’t let it continue if at all possible. ¬†Major Depressive Disorder is a progressive disease that does more damage to the brain the longer it goes untreated. ¬†In other words, the brain is affected more over time, it is harder to treat and it is more dangerous to the person. ¬†The average length of an episode is 2 years and the more times it returns, the more chance to have the disease process continue for life. ¬†Treating sooner and for longer, decreases the chance of relapse.

Excellent for us are the many treatment options for this potentially devastating disease. ¬†Even in the “lifer,” when staying on medications, the relapses are much easier to get through and shorter in duration. ¬†The medication has a protective effect on the brain. ¬†Prophylactic against further insult.

In the woman I told you about, there was another emotional spectrum disorder, anxiety. ¬†Anxiety and depression are like brother and sister. ¬†They often go together. ¬†But for today, we’ll leave it on the symptom of inappropriate guilt and let it rest on the reminder that the brain is human, mortal, attached to our neck and not an aura. ¬†When the brain gets sick, it shows how it is doing the only ways it can, often through emotions.

Self Care Tip #46 РLook at all the reasons influencing the way we feel.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Agree or disagree?  What is your story?