Your False Intuition

The curse of “intuition” in Data Science - Towards Data Science

You can’t listen to your intuition all the time. You have to have a healthy dollop of distrust for your own inner voice. The siren’s song of our inner self to isolate and “do it on your own”, however dulcet and powerful, are dooming.

When Marsha suffered a dramatic loss in the stock market, she became crippled by anxiety and irritability. It had the further outcome of estranging her from her spouse and friends. She spent all her clean, controlled, but lonely time, alone, like a many thorned beautiful rose in a glass vase.

Marsha and I tugged with this concept, like holding onto different ends of a rope. She did not want to go to therapy. She did not want to disrupt her flow.

Sometimes our lives are “in flow,” but it’s not a healthy flow. We are doing some healthy behaviors, such as exercising, getting our sleep, eating well. However despite this, our emotional disease progresses, unchecked by uncomfortable deliberate efforts. Sometimes we are medication adherent even, and yet our behaviors and emotions are not kind to ourselves. We remain in a condition of suffering, isolated; unable to connect to self and others.

During these times, we need to disrupt the flow. It is laminar, even lovely in its quiet arc, that dishonestly soothes. We need in this case, turbulence and a different direction.

If what you are doing isn’t working, add turbulence and do what is uncomfortable. In Marsha’s case, we both laid the rope down, (smile,) and she pursued a day hospital where she worked on changing her automatic thoughts toward those that were kind to herself. When something triggered her, how she responded, and before she even knew she was thinking about it, was healthier.

Question: Have you ever been misguided by your own thoughts? How do you safeguard against an intuition that may not be kind? Please speak and tell us your story?

Self Care Tip: Don’t let your own intuition be your only voice of reason. Be a friend to yourself.

What are you Living for?

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“Latest Banksy Graffiti”

Why do you get out of bed every morning? To go to work? You think, “Life i is about working and then, someday I’ll die.” Are you living to go to school? Perhaps a student for life, the best is to gather and gather. A klepto of information.  Ma skzwybe you live, instead, to stay home and not leave. That can be worth it. Leaving home feels like going to one’s death for many, in fact, with anxiety.

Is what you are living for, worth “living for?” Why didn’t you kill yourself last night?m I’m not asking for “13 Reasons” or glamorizing suicide in any way, like it ois, unfortunately, being done in the media these days. I’m just asking. (Straight face. Eye contact.) Why?

Suicide is increasing, this year up by ~30%. It’s sad but I’ve heard the ignorant say, “When our world is being overrun by humans, this is just one more way to improve population management.” Why anyone would say that, let alone to a psychiatrist, speaks toward the unfortunate person saying it more than anything. Even so, these are the people that contribute to our cultural stigma and sentiment, like the wrong colloid for growth. This stigma is best diminished by peer-to-peer influence. Your voice; you speaking up is the painting over the foul-language graffiti. You speaking of your own journey with suicidality or any related diseases changes the ignorance into empathic knowledge. 

We are in the mental health equivalent to the industrial revolution. Fortune. We are wealthy in mental health treatment options. Bling! Bling! It wasn’t too long ago when we were trusting depression medical therapies to crude agents bulky, and bluntly stunning our neuroreceptors. These were a big stick coming down on a flower.

Think of the cart and horse transforming into the automobile; course into sleek and refined; slowly moving and grossly impacting changes, contemporarily working rather as specific rapid responses. Now remember your parent, or mine, who never had the opportunity to receive a treatment that would work in a matter of weeks, and without turning her/him into a zombie-blimp.

A child stands there going through his own vasovagal experience, scared and confused while watching his favorite person in the whole world performing like a broken toy. The child tries to make sense and restabilize their once clarified existence. The parent goes through this at first for about six months and then somehow “gets better.” Was it the prayer that worked? Was Momma finally able to “pull through it?” Was it because the child’s behavior finally became “good enough” to please God who then condescended to make his momma better? Momma does well for another 2 years. She’s connected. She’s filled with purpose. The memory turns into something like, “Boston’s worst winter in fourteen years;” briefly print-worthy and then thankfully, not much more.

Then momma is again dark, hopeless and staying in bed whenever she can. The child, Teddy, is now a preteen of ten. This comes back, like finding another letter from his cheating dad’s girlfriend under a magazine in the back of the closet where his golf clubs are. And instead of six months, Momma’s change lasts about two years. (Can we even call it a “change” when it lasts two years?)

The amorphic improvement comes again though, like a miracle, but who can trust it. Miracles aren’t gotten in vending machines after all. I We can’t buy them with a paycheck.

Sadly, as Teddy feared, another some many months later, Momma drops again. This time she plummets rather than drops, into a drunken, more terrible condition. For longer, and the boy is now a teen. He at first appears more calloused. Yet, if questioned, he will show his grief and bewildered young self, just there behind a gentle touch, or a cluster of inquiring kind words. He loves her well. Why can’t she love him? Moms who love their kids will get up in the morning. They’ll shower and they’ll talk. They don’t write suicide notes or leave their son’s to find them half conscious when they get home from school. Not mom’s who love their kids.

Our moms, yours and mine in the seventies, didn’t have the privilege of taking treatments that worked or worked well, and rapidly. We are so blessed. How to grasp the immense difference in our Age; this Age of mental health revolution.

Now a little boy sees this change in his favorite person in the world. She is fortunate enough to receive medical treatment, and within weeks is “back to myself again.” This little family escaped years of decomposition by the ravaging damages from brain illness. 

My grandma, Elsie Louise, (isn’t that a great name!), was washing her laundry in a new machine that decreased her labor by many hours. One day, when she was daydreaming about her young handsome husband, or maybe it was the chicken she lost to the fox, when she screamed, jerking out from a terrible pain in her hand. Her fourth finger was gone. She lost it, pulled off by the twisting force of the machine’s internal grips.

Now we place our laundry in a closed lidded box we just walk away from. We don’t even think about the appendages we are allowed to retain. We don’t imagine the privilege. 

In psychiatry, it is like this. The treatments we had generations past were better than none. But, enter now into 2018, and we don’t realize how good we have it. We forgot most of the print-worthy stories back then. Not to use the treatments from this revolution, is going back to the darker ages of medicine. The treatments save lives. They bless. They make us rich in life. Bling! Bling! Look at your wealthy character. Healthy.

Why are you still alive? Whatever you answer, fight for that. Take advantage of the mental health revolution and live well.

Questions: What are some stories of those you have loved who missed out on mental health treatment? What are some stories of those who did not? Where is the difference?

Self-care tip: Speak! We need to hear you. You are painting over the foul-language graffiti of ignorance!

Keep on!

False Thoughts about Getting Healthy

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Think of walking in a rainstorm. Your clothes and hair hang heavily. They provide no protection. They offer no remedy. You take a hand towel out of your bag and try to mop up your icy wet face. Wring it out and continue to wipe. 

This is like choosing to do all the psychosocial efforts in your life, but missing the biological. Until you treat the underlying illness, much of our efforts to heal are like using a hand towel to dry off in the rain storm. We think that we can get better without medication. Or, we may reject other treatment options, like ECT or TMS. We think false thoughts. 

It’s not healthy to take pills. 

I’m better than that. 

All I need is God. 

My parents would be upset, so I shouldn’t. 

If my work found out, I’d lose my job. So I shouldn’t. 

THC is better. 

Exercise is better. 

Some of these are entirely false. But some are just partly false, encased in a disconnected truth. This “rain and the hand towel” idea is not an analogy meant to minimize or bring shame to those who choose not to engage in treatment. It is not meant to talk down. Please forgive me for the crudeness and limitations. It is just meant to crack open this idea.

Yesterday, Louise commented that her physician told her taking sertraline, or Zoloft, was like taking “a vitamin for my brain”. That clicked for her! Vitamins were ok.

Question: How has your physician helped you get past not wanting to take treatment? How could your provider do better with this?

Self-care Tip: Allow healing with medical treatment for medical disease.

Get You Some of That – Medical Treatment for Medical Illness

…Continued from yesterday.

Cole_liveCole Swindell – Get Me Some Of That

Why do I feel so horrible when I start a treatment that is supposed to help?

Medication treatments for depression and anxiety, and some other brain illnesses, often worsen how you feel before you feel better. I can’t tell you how many patients have told me that if they had known this before, they never would have stopped their mediation(s).


Yesterday, our post discussed a Dr. Jones and Presley.

Presley fired Dr. Jones when after following her directive, he subsequently experienced an extreme panic attack. Dr. Jones may not have done anything wrong in her treatment recommendations. Presley was just an individual, as compared to a “number on the curve” of treatment responders. Escitalopram, the medication discussed as an example yesterday, (one medication option out of many), may have been dosed at an initial amount that Presley’s body couldn’t handle “straight out of the gait”, so to speak. But likely, if he had started at a lower dose, maybe ½ or even ¼ of the tablet, and then waited for his body to accommodate to the medication. Then Presley would have tolerated it. Presley would have tolerated slowly increasing the medication if approached, rather, piece-by-piece of a pill. I’ll even joke with patients,

I don’t care if you lick the pill. Just get on it.

When slowly titrating a medication, it allows the individual’s neurotransmitter receptors to down-regulate whilst the agent floods the receptors. If there is a neuron targeting another neuron, there’s a baseline balance in time. There is a baseline understanding between these neurons. An agreement, of sorts. “I’ll sit here and receive your messages,” (neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine). “I’ll then carry those messages on your behalf to their intended recipients,” (such as the amygdala or hippocampus). But then this person artificially takes a higher quantity of these messengers, for example, by way of medications, and floods the system. The receivers, (or neuroreceptors), have to adjust to this to establish a new healthy baseline. 

In this initial time of treatment, when 1st introduced to the increased neurotransmitter-load, (ex: as released by a tablet of Escitalopram), there can be a negative response, such as panic and/or depression emotions. We call this, “initiation side effect’s.” Once the neuroreceptors get used to the new load, then the response improves. 

After accommodating to the new pharmacology, the brain is allowed to experience the blessing that comes from treatments, and heal.

Some individuals are outside of the curve and cannot tolerate the standard initial treatment dosage, like Presley was. Some are inside, and can without much difficulty. The point in treatment, though, is that the person just needs to get on it.

Get on treatment. However you do it. You have to make the treatment work for you, an individual, in your own way. The prescriptions are there to serve you. You aren’t there to serve the medications. I like to analogize Jesus’ statement,

The Sabbath is there for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Make it yours as an individual and reap the benefits; the blessings inherent there. (See Mark 2:27). 

If you don’t get on the treatment, you won’t get better. Anything less than this will be inadequate. It’s like drying water off your face with a hand towel while still walking in a rainstorm.

What is your agenda in treatment? List it. Write it out. Then, go get you some!

Outside a medical approach is like flicking water off in the context of a rainstorm. If your agenda is getting to your healthy self. Get out of the storm and get dry. Then go get it. 

You have a medical condition. Treat it with the assistance of a medical professional. 

I don’t go to a plumber to help with my electrical home repair. I don’t go to an accountant or a church counselor to treat a medical one. 

The plumber, the accountant, the church counselor are what they are. This is not minimizing their efficiency in their own fields of excellence. But why do we seek care in psychiatry from those who haven’t studied this? From those who are not experts in this? Maybe stigma keeps us away from psychiatric care. Maybe misinformation directs our search for mental health treatment elsewhere. 

Self-Care Tip: Get you some medical therapy for medical illness.

Question: What are further concerns you may have about taking medications? How would you prefer your medical providers to work with you? Please tell us your story. 

But I’m Not Someone Who Likes Taking Meds

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Presley couldn’t breath. A truck just drove through his thorax. A monster-hand was closing around his heart. He couldn’t swallow well. Was something stuck in there? Dizziness nearly dropped him, but instead of moving to sit down, like any other normal person would do, he bolted. A fire chased him. He had to escape or he would die. In the bathroom where he found himself, the mirror reflected a sweaty face and crazy eyes. Was he dying? Presley’s phone looked blurry as he dialed, 911.

Please help! I’m having a heart attack!

That was the first time this had happened. After the third visit to the emergency room over the past month, Presley was able to avoid calling 911, although still convinced he was going to die when the next episode hit. He agreed to seek counseling, where he was taught different skills to connect his mind and body, to slow his breathing down, to process, even when he was convinced he was dying.  For a time, Presley improved. It was like it never happened. He was almost able to convince himself that it wouldn’t happen again.

This turned over and over, feeling like he was going to die while losing his mind, re-engaging in counseling, thinking he was better, stopping counseling, and then another violent emotional event, thinking for sure, he would die.

It was after his second trip to the ER when he received the recommendation to schedule an evaluation with a psychiatrist. But he preferred to work through this in therapy. Presley didn’t like pills. He wasn’t someone who medicated. An olive-skinned athlete, he lived clean and didn’t believe there was much that healthy living couldn’t cure. And Presley did live clean. He ran fifty miles a week. He ate raw foods. He read his Bible.

After several months of this, his therapist, Dr. Wu, recommended he get a psychiatric evaluation. However, Dr. Wu agreed that he would continue to work with him, whatever Presley chose. (Was this the right thing for Dr Wu to do?) Presley chose, no. No psychiatrist. What would a psychiatrist do to him anyway?! He wasn’t crazy. (Except when he thought he was.)

Presley visited his primary medical physician, Dr. Belinda Jones. It had to be better than seeing a shrink!

Dr. Jones, I don’t want to take meds.

Dr. Jones, cleared him for any medical condition that might be contributing to his events. Only then was she able to convince him to try a “safe antidepressant”, escitalopram. After one pill, Presley had the worst event of his life. He’d never had any experience that was more terrifying. Presley didn’t go back to Dr. Jones, “of course.”

When these emotional tornadoes hit more frequently, he became paralyzed with fear that he would have them in public and be humiliated by them. Presley stopped going to work.  If it wasn’t for his rent, he’d never go back. But he had to. So finally Presley agreed to see a psychiatrist. …

To be continued

  • Sincerely, Dr. Q

Questions: What would you tell Presley? 

How would you like your physician and/or therapist to handle this, if it were you?

Why is Presley so opposed to taking medical therapies?

Please speak! We need to hear you.

Self care tip: Keep on! 🙂

Dead kids and Mother’s Day 


To all the surviving mothers who celebrated this recent Mother’s Day without their children, lost to mental illness, we dedicate this post.  To the mom’s who have outlived their babies. To the mothers who have watched their boys and girls deteriorate slowly with piece meal pincing bites that brain illness has taken from them until they were gone. To the mommy’s of those who left them fast, at the end of a rope, under a car, at the point of a needle, or in the many bits of brain that a gun blows apart. 

I’m dedicating this post to the mothers who continue to live. Who remember more than the moment of their child’s death. Who celebrated on Mother’s Day the individual of her child that was more than his or her behaviors and emotions. 

This post is for the mothers who remain for us, we who need them still. We need you. Thank you for telling us your story and living with us, among us. For fighting for brain health, for freedom, we thank you. 

To the mothers who survive(d) the death of their children to mental illness, happy belated Mother’s Day. You are amazing to us. 

Today’s question is more of a request: Tell us your story please. 

Or, those of you who know these courageous women, and want to share, please do. We are listening. 

Self care tip: You tell me. How do you (they) do it?

Keep on. 

STOP! DON’T STOP! The quandary inside of us when deciding to take medication

Everyone says “Hi” to my dog, Timothy… Way more than to me. Silence.

Is it the springy fluffy hair, I wonder? They walk up, even speed, out of an unseen shadow without inhibition and rub him down. He is pleased every time, to say the least. Do I regret all the painful laser hair removal treatments I got years ago? Hm. I am half Lebanese after all and few really know how much fur I really came with.

(Curly-cue.)

Steve came looking for help. I spied him in the hallway before clinic. That’s always a little awkward for some reason. Running into someone out of context. Like we both are caught out of costume and the curtain just pulled up. (Gotcha!)

His strings pulled in, an inner tension, apparent even then. He looked susceptible to emotional or physical attack when we caught each others eye. I could see him wondering if this was “her”, his psychiatrist. What was he expecting?

When patients come in for treatment, it’s comparable to anyone acting on a realization that they’re vulnerable, asking help from a stranger. It can take immense courage.

Part of this understanding is what contributes to the awkwardness of meeting in the hallway, out of context. We are both a little undefended there.

So what would bring a person to do this to themselves? It doesn’t sound pleasant when put this way – vulnerable, asking help from a stranger.

Steve had a wife, kids, a job, a house, and a pet. Inside this bubble, Steve didn’t think he had reasons to feel the way he felt. He looked for them and felt stupid because everyone told him how good he had it. Nor did Steve see reasons to behave the way he behaved. He described his story, a rolling out of his life, like that of a hand stitched carpet. In it, we saw together that he had anxiety then, and then, and then. He had coped well mostly, until he hadn’t. Then he would spend some time falling out of circulation and incurring losses. Then he’d recover and forget. He’d forget that worse patch and redefine the lines around the man. Then again the lines would smudge, he’d get anxious and irritable beyond “control”, grapple within the darkness of the white noise, which panic brings, grapple for reasons why the anxiety came again. His identity would be so threatened, the suffering, the feedback from everyone around him would pull on him, that the lines of his person frightened him into treatment.

There Steve was. Timothy at his feet with his puffy furry head in Steve’s lap. Steve asking for help. At the same time as asking for help, he would also refuse, stating caution.

“I don’t want to change myself.

I like being the person who gets things done so well.

I like accomplishing things.” (He thought it was his anxiety that allowed him to do this.)

It reminds me of the, “Stop! Don’t stop!” that I’d tease my brothers with when we were kids.

People think that taking medication changes who they are. Understand that in order for this to be true, that would mean medication changes DNA code.

“Doesn’t it change my brain chemistry?”

Let’s say that were true, that medication changes brain chemistry. Still that isn’t changing your DNA. The DNA is what gives a person “personality,” or, what many of us say, “Who I am.”

After getting laser hair removal, I didn’t change my DNA, but I don’t have as much hair. When my kids were born, I checked, and sure enough, DNA…. They’re gorgeous! Wink. (That’s done with one heavy cluster of eyelashes around my dark Lebanese eye.)

Question: What are your fears about taking medication?

If you have taken medication, how did you see it affected your identity?  What happened to who you call, “Me?”

Please SPEAK! We need to hear you. Keep on!

Self-care tip: Self-care means taking care of yourself even at the biological level. It starts with “Me.”

 

Stay Awake! to sleep well

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(Whomever it is that originated this stinking hilarious picture and quote, thank you!)

The glass half empty view on sleep and age:

When you are a child, you don’t want to sleep. When you are a parent, you could if you would, and you want to, but there are the kids. When you are fortunate enough to grow old, you want to, don’t have kids, but can’t.

 

The National Sleep Foundation Recommends:

Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13) School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11) Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category) Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours. Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Should-a, could-a, would-a, right?

“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.”

~Wilson Mizner

One thing that gets left out of most sleep books (um, did I include it in my book??) and sleep talks, is how to be awake. Because, the opposite of sleep is not just slogging around in a haze. It is alertness, attention, and memory.

Sort of abandon sleep hygiene for a while. Give yourself a break from the disappointment. And then be firm on the effort of daytime alertness.

Practically, all of this means reading, writing, talking, and moving. No nap unless before noon. The body requires all these to be alert. And vice-versa for alertness.

This is where I additionally bring in the concept of a stimulating medication such as Modafinil. Don’t confuse this with taking caffeine. Caffeine is metabolized way to fast to be helpful in this regard. There are others one may discuss with their treatment provider.

Self-care tip: Get awake, really awake, during the day to sleep well at night.

Questions:

What is your daytime energy like? Alertness, attention, and memory? Do you sleep well in relation to this?

Please tell your story. Keep on.

Blood, Sweat, and Imperfections – Mommy Don’t Look!

Naked and Voyer

Naked and Voyer

Blood soaked and layered with fallen governments, the Acropolis remains, a witness and teacher to a summer fling. 

A tour of the Acropolis and its new museum taught much. #1 – Never go on such travel without a tour guide. She made all the difference. Without her, I might have lasted for an hour, or an hour and a half. I would have thought, “Check! Did the Acropolis! Next?” With her, I felt like I couldn’t get enough. Four hours later. Evi was an intelligent, independent woman, making her way in the world, with the talent of putting ideas together. Another mentor to pick up along my life journey. #gratitude.

(I’m going to try to describe Athens, as seen by a psychiatrist. Smile.)

Evi integrated the paradigms at play, seamlessly, and in flow, from the 800’s B.C. to the 400’s A.D. She spoke about the mathematics involved in The Parthenon architecture, the classical culture seen in the architecture such as the emphasis on the human senses, the development of language and democracy, and more.

None of the construction of The Parthenon is “perfect.” The columns slant, and the stairs bow in their middle. All of this is done to capture the human senses. It was constructed so that when you stand at one corner, you can see almost the entire construct, like inflation of air rounds a balloon. When you look straight on, you are almost able to see entirely around the balloon’s girth. The architect sacrificed perfection toward the ultimate and most valued goals – to experience all the human senses to their fullest, and the classical construction. 

The Greeks developed the idea that whatever is created by man, (scantily garbed statues, architecture, ship making, etc…) should demonstrate, but not surpass the excellence of the human at his or her absolute best. Perfectionism smechsonism.

The kids were a bit horrified by the genitals everywhere. “That’s inappropriate!” or “Mommy, don’t look!” with a hand posturing the Stop! sign, improved my experience 10-fold. 

The Greeks in the 400 A.D.’s recognized the irony in the loveliness of human senses; sight, emotions, spirit, intellect, etc, integrated with the flaws. We are greater, in the best of our imperfect self, than the perfect, mathematical, or any other kind of perfection, eg., 1 + 1 = 2, in a perfect world. 

For example, by tilting the columns, the architect understood that it would give an illusion of straight columns, yet still capturing more of the circumference as seen by the individual. Straight would be perfect. Tilted but looking straight is more representative of a human at her best. Never perfect. And the illusion created by the tilted columns made the construct look shorter, thus not surpassing “the human” capacity to sense it’s grandeur. 

Also, the government ruler at the time, Pericles, was the first known leader to integrate a form of democracy. He used citizens and slaves for the labor. Yet he paid them, including the slaves! Furthermore, he gave them freedom in their work to form independent decisions, stating that someone who is told what to do, doesn’t learn anything. Someone who makes their own mistakes, has the opportunity to learn from his mistakes. This was the fulcrum which our civilizations turned on toward human rights and free thought. Pretty powerful.

The Greeks gave their alphabet to the world, from which Latin developed, and thereafter the Latin languages. For example, I never knew that “Agoraphobia,” comes from the location, named at the time, “Agora,” where all the debates were held, again, inspired by this ruler during the 400’s B.C., spurring on freedom of thinking. You can imagine what happened during heated debates. Some people would suffer anxiety in that context, which would deteriorate into a disabling fear of being humiliated by another potential panic attack when in public places.

The priests of the Greek gods served also as their community’s medical practitioners. For example, they used snake venom to both treat headaches and prophylactic against strokes. It turns out that snake venom is an anticoagulant. Totally brilliant. Snake venom in Greek, is called, “physika”, which means “venom.” The caduceus, a symbol that we still use for the physician’s medical practice, shows a snake wrapped around a staff. Later Aristotle used “physika” to name his treaty on nature and the work evolved into “physician.” Way cool. 

The self-care tip: Work your damndest, while embracing and integrating your imperfections along the way, and in this Grecian effort, you will gain the greatest sensorial experience with the world around you, the individual beside you, and your own self.

Question: 1. How do your imperfections enhance your best self? Please tell us your story!

The Perfect Doctor – Healthy With Disease

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One of the difficulties we have in talking to psych patients is realized with the dawning truth that we are not curing anyone.  Working in those conditions of not curing, you both, patient and psychiatrist, have to come to terms with each others’ agendas.  The physician says, “(‘I’m a failure.’)  I can’t cure anything.”  Now eye contact is even tough.

“If I don’t look them in the eye, some other emotion will surface and they’ll stop crying.”

Rachel was crying and crying hot and hard in the emergency room.  She was unable to stop the lava flow.  It was bewildering to her.  The people around her shifted their gazes.  Those who didn’t, looked angry instead, as if to say, “Pull yourself together, Woman!”

Psychiatrists have the advantage perhaps to these others in the lobby and receiving rooms and gurney shelves. Supposedly psychiatrists can grip and tug at the corner of the large sweater that is human behavior and say, “Emotions and behaviors come from the brain.”  They can imagine, if not entirely believing at a visceral to cognitive level, that the person they observe is responding to symptoms of what is happening biologically, at a cellular level. When they are tempted to avert their eyes, or look back impatient with the messy emotions, they can say, “This is medical.”  Impatience with emotional chaos from psychiatrist to patient, is equivalent to the ER doc saying to the trauma patient, “How dare you bleed in a public area?”

When someone cries on the medical unit, you may hear, “Nurse! Call the psychiatrist! There’s an emotion on the ward!” Later when things are calm, I walk out and they say, “Doctor!  You’re amazing!  What did you do?”

“Well, I bit off the head of chicken and sacrificed a goat on the patient’s chest.  Then I said, take this pill and everything will be as it should.”

Luckily I have several chins now, and when I gesticulate, their quiver contributes to me looking very capable. As if I could cure something.  I don’t know much about art history but, The Thinker, a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, is probably what that Frenchman’s psychiatrist looked like when they both came to terms with the fact that psychiatrists don’t cure anything. (Heresy.) At least he got to get nude while he did it.

Talking to psychiatric patients can be that difficult.

There are studies on patient satisfaction that demonstrate that patients don’t like us when they think we give them bad news.

You see the predicament here, don’t you? So, some of the difficulty the world at large may be having with talking to psychiatric patients is that we have distorted perceptions of good and bad news. We may have difficulty with our own humanity, frailty, infirmity, and seeing it out there “without a scarf on” for decency, is a hard reminder.

We will never be cured of so many things. All of us. And the best we can hope for…

What is the best we can hope for?

(We are all gluttons and all hope for many unpublishable things but please! Just humor me.)

Say: “I hope to be healthy with disease.” There. Now we will all speak better to each other. It all starts and ends with Me.

Questions: Have you ever had difficulty talking to a psychiatric patient? Have others had difficulty speaking with you? Why do you think that is? What could help? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip: Hope to be healthy with disease. 

(I bet Carl D’Agostino could make an excellent cartoon with this rich irony to work with! That’s right Carl! You heard me! Maybe a blue ribbon with a hole in it?… Ah heck. I’m sticking with practicing psychiatry and leaving the toons to you!)

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Hello Friends,

I’m enjoying this all too fast passing time at the APA annual meeting in Toronto. What I am most enjoying is the education, the community and connection with new and old friends, and the reminder of what this is all about – you and I. In honor of us, I’m “pressing” this excellent post from our national advocators and stigma-fighters at NAMI.

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts. How does this resonate, or not, with you. We need to hear!

Be well and keep on!

Q

Why do I Keep Living? – Chronically Suicidal.

trainwrecklife

Carl D’Agostino is a retired high school history teacher. His interests include woodcarving and blogging. Cartoon blog at carldagostino.wordpress.com.   Cartoons published in book, “I know I Made You Smile, Volume I.”

Marvin lived hard for years, used up his bank, his talents used up like putting a flame to his wick.  He was wired to live in the moment. Living that way, when he had gifts galore freely given, living was different than when those gifts were used, diminished, and broken. Marvin was smart enough to rationalize his way into a chronic suicidality thereafter.

What is the point of living, after all? Marvin asked this question, answered it, and asked it again, to the point that it separated itself from Time and place. It is a question that is infinite anyhow.

Sometimes Marvin, with this infinite question, this question that occupies the time of God, kings, and beggars, Marvin would sit in my office with this infinite question in his nicotine-stained and inked fingers, and he would in this bring together the infinite with the finite. I remembered that the whole point, the meaning of the infinite and finite, is increased in value by the other. Marvin, living in the moment, even now years after his coin was thus reduced, was living in the infinite.

Why do I have to keep living? I just need someone to tell me it’s going to be ok if I die.

Marvin, If you are looking for a doctor to help you die, you need to go somewhere else. I will always choose life.

(It seemed like that “FYI” was in order.)

“We” made a plan …that Marvin wasn’t entirely in agreement with. I told him he could not come back to my clinic if he wasn’t engaged in that plan.

Marvin, we are just going to do what the data tells us will work. We don’t have to feel it or even believe it. We have the data at least.

Every time I have ever seen Marvin, I took a hard look, memorized him, knowing this may be the last time. Setting boundaries with him was freaky. It felt like trying to hold broken glass. Would Marvin be back? If not, I knew I’d be hurt.

The patient-doctor relationship is unique to each patient. It is unique to each doctor. For me, in my patient-doctor relationships, if it wasn’t for the hard grip I keep on the seat of my chair, I’d have too many of my patients in a big, but likely awkward, (and my Academy tells me, “Inappropriate”) hug.

This flashed through my mind in fair warning again. I compromised, saying instead,

You matter to me, Marvin.

I think Marvin’s lip actually curled and his canines grew. And I quote,

How can you say that? I just don’t get it.

This was a moment of road’s diverging, 31 Flavors, coins in your hand in front of a mother-loaded vending machine. I could see philosophers, all over the now and then of the ages, slobbering like they were at a nudie bar.

Once, when I called 911 on behalf of a patient who needed to go into the hospital for safety, the police person looked like that, bouncey even, on her toes. I had to check her feet to see if she was actually standing on a pedestal, she sermonized my poor patient so thoroughly. I think she was even eating a candy bar as she left my office, satisfied, (without my patient, by the way. Apparently she thought her tonic words had medicinal powers.)

Marvin was fishing me. There were so many ways to lose with that question. He was hoping I’d flop around with straining gills sucking air for hours while he tugged on the hook.

I’ve done that often enough, and will do it many more times. We can count on mistakes. What took me by surprise was, this time I did not.

Well, I’d guess it has something to do with me and something to do with you.

Yup. It surprised me. The surprise brought a wave of gratitude. “Thank you God.”

And if you aren’t as surprised or grateful by that liner, I can only explain that it was right at the time. Marvin lost his handlebar lip curl. I lost my grip on the chair. Marvin’s still alive, (I know everyone’s worried about the “for now” part of that.) And our universe cares, finitely and infinitely.

To the Marvin’s of the world, the wasted, the used, and the squandered, work your programs.

To the lonely and distorted, to the ones who have tried to die, to you who don’t know why you keep living, follow what the data offers by way of direction.

To you who may not get the same freely given gifts in this life that are now gone, you have good things coming.

We choose to live with you, than without. We choose you again. We choose, every time, what Love will bring. Keep on.

Questions: Have you ever asked yourself and/or others, “Why do I keep living?” What has your answer been? What is your answer now? For yourself. What would you tell your own Me?

Self-care tip: …I think I waxed on and off enough already with that – smile.

Stigma and Me: Me-on-Me Crime

who me?

Me-on-Me Crime!

I was doing my speed walking thing on the Balboa Beach cottage lined shore. Gorgeous, it was. Fluffy thoughts were everywhere. I was purposely passing under the low hanging docks to upscale some lower body muscles. Some string bean teens with their fishing poles moved into the water’s leisurely lipping edge ahead of me. Who wouldn’t be distracted by such poetry?

Can you guess what I did? I looked up. I lost my squatting waddle.

When someone driving on the freeway slows down to look at an accident on the shoulder, we call them “rubber-necks.” What do we call someone who walks taller, someone who loses her shorter self under a low dock when “speed walking” at approximately four-miles-an-hour?

Me.

This was more painful than my three cesarean-sections. Of course, there was no anesthesia when I sped into the solid, immovable wood. I loosely figured, with physics being what it is, that I received in return the equivalent to someone slamming me with a baseball bat. I was never great at physics but I remember that Force = mass * acceleration. I am not telling you how much “maaaass” was involved, so, for the disgruntled forensic’s enthusiasts out there, we just won’t know how hard I was hit back.

As the blood was pouring down my throat, out of my mouth, down my face, and as I gargled the words, summarily “help,” to 911, I thought, “That wood was not there before, because, why would I do this to myself?!”

How are we our own enemy? I’m learning a lot about stigma these days, in preparation for a couple CME talks coming up. Stigma is a molded and remolded term, but for our purposes, we’ll say that it can be broken down into, prejudice and discrimination.

Prejudice refers to our attitudes, beliefs, and emotions.

Discrimination refers to action, what we do about it, and behaviors.

I really like this. It helps to see where “Me” plays into our own stigma behaviors toward our own selves. For example, skipping our medications on and off.  That would be, discrimination, when it is done in response to a conscious or unconscious prejudice about taking medication. Maybe taking medication induces feelings of shame or blame. Then we behave with missing pills.

Another example of stigma, is seen in our aging “baby boomer” population. Turns out, psychiatric patients are living longer too. Social workers and other professionals are admitting more and more psychiatric patients into senior facilities, e.g., assisted living, nursing homes, home health services at home, hospice, etc., and the staff at these agencies do not know how to work with psychiatric patients.  So, the senior facilities try to send these patients to psychiatric hospitals or hospital emergency rooms, and the nursing home or senior facility won’t accept them back into their program afterwards, stating “We don’t have the staff or programming to work with psych patients.”

Senior nursing home/assisted living facilities are realizing that they need to hire/train their staff to work with psychiatric patients in their senior years and that this is part of their growth as an organization and their commitment to providing quality care to seniors.

The prejudice comes from feelings, such as inadequacy, on the part of those serving psychiatric patients. The discrimination is when the patients are turned away. Everyone loses.

It’s an exciting time for senior facilities. It’s an opportunity for their staff to learn new skills and understand that with even some basic training on communication skills, therapeutic interactions, some do’s and don’ts, they CAN admit and care for psychiatric patients in these senior facilities. Everyone wins.

The most important message in learning about stigma, is we hurt ourselves any way it turns. And why would we do that to Me?

I still have a headache, three days later. My teeth hurt. And I’m not as pretty.

Self-Care Tip: Break it down – What are you feeling? How are you behaving to yourself?

Question: How have you been prejudiced and acting out toward yourself? How have you eliminated stigma toward yourself? Please tell us your story!

Keep on!

Walking in on me after my massage.

walking in on me

I never realized, until this experience, that during a full body massage, one’s “girls” seem to swell and grow,… and no, the “girls” were not directly handled.

What brought it to my attention was the door opening. That misty moment hung in the air – between the massage ending, the masseuse leaving the room, and the sheet coming off my body just before getting re-dressed. The salon’s hostess stood there and squeaked,

Oh! I sorry!

First reaction, should this happen to you, is to laugh a little. This is what you will do. “Ha-ha.” Then you will think, “What? Did I just laugh?! Oh. Those must be ‘comedy boobs.’ …Can I have my virginity back?”

And then, “Is this covered in the insurance?” 

I’m simply really glad it was not more than one lady who was at the door. It could have been a crowd. And I’m not implying any of them would have liked it either. (Boys, shush. You don’t have to remind us that a male’s response to a woman opening a door on him when he is naked is entirely different.)

But I should have known this would happen. When I was being “roomed,” the hostess wandered her facility like she was on an easter egg hunt.

Is this the place? No? Here?

Oops! I Sorry!

How bout behind this door?

Yep. You got that. She did walk in on someone else while trolling around with me. I was forewarned. Yet, did I leave? No. Rather, I deferred with, “She’s mortified. This is the bottom of her career, poor thing. She’ll never do that again! I’ll act like I didn’t notice.” Optimism rears its perky head.

During our room-hunt, we came upon a large one with many cots. It appeared to be a community massage room.

I’m all for community. Community, NAMI, connection – you’ve heard my spiel. But this was a different definition of “community.” I thought,

These massages must be cheaper.

Because who wouldn’t wonder, “Is that relaxing?!”

Again. Males are different, I’m sure, but really. All you do is smell feet. Or maybe it’s like the swingers version of massage therapy. You might not walk out with the same wife.

Finally roomed, stripped and prone, my masseuse came in. She had such “rolling-pin” strength in her one arm… “She must work out.” 

Bone…still bone. Yup. You’re still on bone.

My face went numb pressed into a doughnut, but I kept on. (I once got an award for being “The Most Tenacious.” I think I was like ten. How did they peg me?) My back was getting worked over, and I had faith, at some point, it would feel wonderful. Just like I thought no one would walk in on me and my restored, and more than, decolletage.

I never actually saw her. My masseuse. She came in, did her rolling pin thing and was gone. No face-to-face. The experience was difficult to identify. What shall we name this?

But you know the next part of the story. The door opened.  

I don’t have a self-care tip to share today. It could be to go get a massage. Or not. I, with what looks like a more full than empty glass, thought this experience was too rich not to share with my friends.  Keep on.

Question: When has your optimism v. pessimism steered you wrong!? Please spill. Please. Spill.

Don’t Save God

saving God

A danger I don’t want to be confused by here is the temptation to save God.  I recognize I have dabbled there.  But, I am not saving God.  The agenda here is not to prove or disprove, to champion Her, or to drag any of us through the cutting edge of knowledge on dark matter. 

How much I get out of having God in psychiatry is all about me.  It’s good for me, my psyche and my self care.  I like who I am through the eyes of God, who is and who is personal.  I like what it does to me and my relationships.  This is how I see God in my life – home, biology, work, disaster, accident, gardening. 

She cannot be quantified.  If you can imagine it, God may be that and more. 

If I were a plumber, than God would be in plumbing for me.  It just so turns out that I am professionally, a psychiatrist.

Most people whom I’ve heard speak about God don’t have much that I want.  God did not employ them, from my perspective, any more than He did to me in mine.  Or the opposite is just as true.  She did.

Rob the pastor needs to do what is best for Rob. Instead, I hear Rob turfing off the disappointments in his life on God. 

Why do I do it, bring God into my self-care?  Because I want to.  Embracing that there is more knowledge than there is now in humanity, is part of Her and my relationship.

Question:  What do you want?  Why do you include or disclude God from your self-care?  Please speak!  It’s healthy for you.  It’s healthy for me.  Keep on.

Self-care Tip:  Don’t save God.  Start with Me.

God Exists and God is Personal

God and me

As there are so many views on what “God” means, and because that’s not what we want to debate here, we have a useful premise. 

God exists.  God is personal. 

Nor is our purpose to worry over the function of religion, to roll between index and thumb the business relationship between us and God, nor to tidy up the religious wars between our nations. 

The purpose here is to discuss how to be a better friend to Me, in the context of the premise, God is and God is personal to Me. 

If God is, then He is personal.  Otherwise, there is no point to God, as far as you and I are concerned.

Question:  How do we treat ourselves well in the context that God is personal to Me?  If God exists and isn’t personal, what is the point of Him?  How does working under the premise that God is and God is personal improve the way you care for yourself?  Please speak out.  We need you.

Self-care Tip:  Accept that God is and is personal to you and keep on.

Between Me and Thee While We Are Apart

apart

I woke up and thought, I love and am loved. I heard the birds. I recognized different songs. I know “our” birds outside our door. So grateful. The morning noises in the house, kids – This is what I pray about when I pray, “Be between me and thee while we are apart one from another.”

Every day takes us.  We go toward and away.  We connect and disconnect.  What do you hope stays close when you weave your pattern?  When you are taken into your day?

It may be a day.  It may be education.  It may be divorce, bankruptcy, or a change in condos that takes you.  It may be as simple as getting a haircut.

As hairstylist Jane said, “I see people come in here all day trying so hard to be unique, and I can’t believe that they don’t see just how un-unique they are.”  She was noticing that “unique” implies disconnect. Those of us in this condition may be grooming toward disconnectedness and missing that even the pursuit of this is inherently a connecting force between me and thee.

Let us acknowledge the connections, not fear them.

Back in the day, there was Laban and Jacob, who had shared space for many years.  When they separated, they artfully practiced connection.

Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap….And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. And Mizpah (“watchtower”); for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

Here, many centuries later, we remember our declaration of independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776.  It is our watchtower of sorts, a time when we celebrate our freedom, beautifully crafted into what brings us together.  Freedom is not synonymous with disconnection.  It is the ability to choose, to move in and out, to live with boundaries that are made of ribbons rather than walls, to have distance and still remain close to where our heart is.

Questions:  What connections over Independence Day weekend are you celebrating?  Please speak out.  We need to hear you.

Self-Care Tip:  Let your uniqueness and freedom be a connecting force in your life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Sequestering Physicians from the Muggles

muggles

When in the exam room, we do not want it to be about the physician.  However many of us don’t want it to be about the patient.

Some of us want it to be about the system, whatever system we are in, so that the system can run as smoothly as possible and get all our protocols met. Are we are making physician-robots?  We isolate them and ourselves. There is a pressure when working in a system to sequester the physicians, such as wizards from the Muggles.

As physicians, we care better for our patients when we realize what we are getting out of the relationship.  We give much better when we know what we are hoping to get and perhaps hoping not to get.  We give better even with medical care.  Is it comforting to think that when it is medical, it is objective, about data?  More safe, perhaps.   However, this binary logic, is false.  We do not practice in such.  We practice in a place where people smile and cry and bond and connect and receive from us and give to us.  When we practice, it is personal.  It is obvious that it is professional.  The delusion is that professional is an either/or condition.  Either professional or personal.  Not both.  Never both.  That is a buttered wall to grip before sliding into patient doctor sexual relations.  Sneeze.

There is a term called, Grace, you may have heard of.  Grace is the condition of receiving without purchase.  Having been gifted and celebrating in the gift without qualifying it.  Perhaps getting a great review from a patient on-line you are expected to respond to, and just saying, “Thank you.”  We have a hard time with this in our world.  “Getting” well.

I struggle with “getting.”  I cannot describe yet how to get well.  How to receive.  When a patient gives to me, I struggle not to qualify what I am getting in the same way I qualify taking a trip to Hawaii, “Oh, I’m going to a medical conference.”  Or, “Look at this new patio set I got from Home Depot!  It was totally on sale.  I got a great deal.”

In practicing medicine, we need to grow to an acceptance of what we receive, and receive with Grace.

I am sure being a patient is better when we realize what we are getting from the exchange too.  We get more, or perhaps differently, than what the insurance and copay gives purchase to.  I hope the patient-doctor relationship is more than what can be had on the street of a Turkish bazaar.

Question:  What are you getting from your patient-doctor relationship?  What is your clinician getting from you?  How can you receive with Grace?  Does this affect your accountability to yourself?  Is this an act of friendship to Me?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Get you some Grace, with Grace.

Love Relationships for Power or Dependence

He takes care of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise and the Brain – and Dancing to Enrique Iglesias

taylor swift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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