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.

Sweaty and Worried – Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Hank had to sing an Italian song for his tests.

His music instructor did not believe that he had been practicing two hours a day. When Hank asked his voice teacher to sign off on those hours, his voice teacher still did not believe him.  He had nothing to feel shame about.  “Then why did I?” Hank wondered.  Card in his hand, signed off, Hank resentfully kicked at the rocks covering the path back to administration.

Looking out over mostly empty hard wooden seating in the music hall, Hank slaughtered the song. Even so, it was still the best performance he had ever done.  His father was there in his stained tie and largeness.  His mother in her too many colors, smiled loudly.  She was tone deaf.  Frank’s shame followed him.  He had practiced.

Hank’s older brother dressed in silk shirts, a big gold medallion, a tuft of hair coming out of his barely suppressed neckline.  When they prayed, Hank heard these smacking noises, and thought, “Pray for my nausea,” hoping they would stop kissing.  His brother always had a girlfriend.  The girlfriend was at his recital.  There were noises.

Everyone was scared Hank’s brother would marry too early and maybe marry for the wrong reasons.  His dad was always like, “Wait, wait!” But with Angie, Dad was like, “Get married now!”  Angie was the best in a long line of noisy kissers.

They asked Hank to sing at their wedding.  They insisted.  His brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his parents – they spoke in harmonics all at once.  “Hank!  You sing like Sinatra! Don’t worry so much! You should sing!”

In a rented tuxedo, Hank sang.  The mike didn’t work.  Aunt Augusta told him to sing louder.  Aunt Augusta didn’t hear well, even if there was a mike.  Hank forgot his words and had to start over.  Sweat filled his shirt and he thought about the dry cleaning.

Hank has never had a girlfriend and he is almost twenty-five.  Standing in front of all those people without the song lyrics, the only words that came to him were, “I am like a sweaty doorknob.”  His brother, facing a battle of his own between his ruffled shirt and his manliness, did not help.  Hank thought, “He is probably waiting for prayer so he can start kissing.”

The second year of college, Hank got caught with pornography.  “Hank!” His mother pulled his ear, towing him while she shook the fisted magazine through the house.  He didn’t listen to her words.  He only listened to his memories asking his music instructor for his signature. Was it as bad as the wedding?  Talking to Sarah or walking across the campus greens were bad. He fingered his worries like a beaded necklace.  He worried a lot.  Worry and shame.  He wished he could have a girlfriend but thought that was a hopeless cause.  Hank was already planning on buying a new magazine before Mom had thrown that one in the garbage.

It is so easy to explain away why Hank is the way he is.  We have heard enough to say, his parents, his brother, his isolation, his treatment from teachers.  We can use these to say, “Who wouldn’t be anxious, worried, down, and isolated, when going through these experiences?”  If we did though, we might miss the generalized anxiety disorder, the medical.  Conceptualizing the medical in this way can be so difficult.  We could call it, “the un-reasons why” we feel and do what we do.  So then we don’t have to deny it.  The un-reasons why don’t have to make sense.  They are un-reasons, after all. We don’t have to deny them by our inherent need to point at the cause and effect, or explain into uselessness the reason we are this way.  We don’t have avoid eye contact just because they can’t be seen.

Hank, like so many of us, is included in the statistics that generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is one of the top reasons why we don’t get intimate with others.  The anxiety is distracting.  It isolates us.  It preoccupies our thoughts.  It fills us with self-doubt and develops over time, almost inevitably if not treated, into depression.

Getting by with something as subtle as GAD, or other brain illnesses such as degrees of depression, have potentially devastating effects on what occupies our life-line.  The moments that construct the overall devastation may be explained away by one injustice or another, by what are thought to be personality quirks, or simply by neglect of self. But they could be different. The moments, the otherwise same moments, could be different.  The same rude, distrustful teacher, the rejection from Sarah, the quiet mike – those moments could have been different with the same guy, different only in his brain health.  Brain health makes the sameness different.

As Nancy A. Payne, of New York University (NYU) Silver School of Social Work, wrote about treating brain illness,

“There is tremendous satisfaction gained from facilitating the transition from profound illness to equally profound recovery.”

The life-line takes courage to look at.  It takes courage to believe that the effect of our negative thoughts and distorted perceptions could indeed have that pervasively profound effect.  It takes courage to consider that medical treatment can likewise, profoundly change our quality of life.

Hank tried to take his life with a rope before we met.  I’m so glad he didn’t break his neck or die.  He is now well treated and his disease is in remission.  His life-line has changed.Bo-J0zyIEAA_Y3h

Questions:  What are you brave with?  What do you spend your courage on?  Tell us about it.  We gain so much from community and connection.  Keep on.

Self-Care Tip:  Look also at the un-reasons, at the reasons less apparent, at what isn’t seen – look  into those reasons of why we feel and do.

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.

Love comes out of that?!

hope

Hello Friends.

I write to you so many times “in my mind,” which makes me a great writer! Wink.  But even there, I am grateful to have you to write to.

I just got done watching, Fault in Our Stars, with our local hospice team and, oh my word!  I had to breathe through it.  I was terrified I would lose it several times there.  Not being one of those damsels who cries pretty, I was seriously grateful to be sitting in darkness.

So where have I been?  Trying to figure out this friend to yourself thing.  Still.

I had one of my favorite discussions with a patient the other day on where and why good comes out of bad.  Do I love this conversation because it is about an epic force, an energy and a Truth that wins and kicks bad stuff, like, fungus armpits, dead children, divorce, broken friendships, finding yourself alone in a huge space, depression and a brain that you’d rather not be living?  Do I love this discussion because I feel so freaking right?  I do.  Do l love it because I need to participate in it one more time, now, and now?

Probably.

I’m hoping I’m not right though.  I’m pretty sure that even these eyes see dimly and the Truth is even better.  I’ve been told I don’t know it all.

The chat goes something like this,

(Context is status post some real, personal, bleak disclosure.  I’m facing them, and sometimes they look at me.  I sit in an erect chair with a lap desk and laptop computer between us.  Just enough.  Sometimes my service dog, Timothy is present.

One of us inevitably brings up a curving effort toward hope.  Maybe,)

…Love is stronger.

Yeah…

But I don’t know if there is a question mark or a period at the end.  It sits there in the room with us, like it is a squirrel scratching at its whiskers.  It can go in different directions.

Where would it go for you?

Does Love bring good out of bad as if it needs the bad, like dirt around its roots?  Does Love turn the bad into fertilizer, and grow into some apple tree?  We know Love is stronger than bad.  We know Love wins.  But we think, do I have to be loved like this?!  Rather not.

Tevye, the milkman in Fiddler on The Roof, said this view well,

  • [to God] I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?

That is a pretty rough idea of Love.

Love is and Love brings good out of us in any context because where Love is, there it is. Think about presence.  Honest self-awareness.  When you found it was more important to still be able to walk than care if your t-shirt was inside out.  Love is more true than that.  It is more true than looking into her eyes, than hot water over skin.  Love is.

As Green says in the voice of Hazel Grace, “I hope this enough for you.  This is your life. And I love you.”

Question:  What is stronger in your life?  Why?  What happened to disclose such honesty?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Love wins, even for you.  Keep on.

Sending a message to the hope out there, to the love I know exists, to the friend who knows me, the place I can always call part home, part critique, part play-fellow, counselor, walking stick.  Hello.

Caregiving and Selfcare

Fallen_tree2Being a caregiver is, well, …giving!  There is a need.  We respond to the need.  We give.  There is taking from what we give.

When we talk about this, some of us hear the tap, tap of a bookkeeper balancing ins-and-outs.  Tap, tap, take, take.  We feel dangerously close to objectifying what is Magical.  Objectifying what we get from giving loses at this point in our thoughts the bigger circle of love that motivates us.  Let’s acknowledge and respect that.  The bigger reasons are so worth aspiring to and treasuring.  You who believe in what is more than the numbers of our motives and behaviors, please continue to nurture us with this wisdom.  Be patient as we wander in the corners and cracks and in the places we don’t understand so well.

The point of giving, others pursuing the caregiver’s story later respond, is what we receive.  The love, the satisfaction of observing what our efforts contributed to in another’s rescue.  Perhaps, knowing we participated in saving a life.

Am I a caregiver?  Are you?  Well, maybe we think we are excluded from this category because we don’t liaison between one suffering life-being with the world around.  But are!  We all are caregivers by the definition of what is means to be living.  Living is connection.  We, each of us, are connected to the Universe and the different points from there to here where we stand.  Connection is inherent to living.  To live is to be connected.  To disconnect is to die.

This is somewhere along the philosophical thought experiment of, “If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it exist?”  I am told by those who might be wiser that it does not.  I don’t get it and what does that say about me? 😉

Observation vs. reality.

Connection is like that.  It is not perceived sometimes, and sometimes it is perceived.  This is important to Me.  To the part of each of us that is more than our senses.  More than Time and the condition of our health.  More than brain illness.  This is important to caregiving because by increasing our self-awareness of our role in connection, and thereby caregiving, we have an opportunity to increase our ability to combine the Magic of it with the “accounting ins-and-outs.”  Thereafter, we are lead to increase our transparency to others, increase our connectivity and increase our experience in Life Quality.

Magic is compatible with that which is known.  More even, they are not divided, whether we know it or not.  Magic and that which is known, just are.  We are arrogant people any way we turn the talk, of course.  None of us without agenda.  None of us without projectile pride.  But despite this, we have Grace and whether we hear the tree or not, Magic and knowledge have made allowance for us.

Caregiving comes with connection.  We give, we receive, and we do it with agendas.  Increasing our self-awareness through the process, although it feels at times like ringing out a cash register, and feels soiled by the sound of that which taking brings, – self-awareness of our agendas brings more freedom.  We are more free to give by choice rather than martyrdom.  We give without perceiving ourselves the victim to those to whom we give.  We are more free to give to our other agendas.  We are more free to consider our own needs as needs-of-value from one who is also Loved and valued, Me.

Question:  Might increasing our consideration of our “Me” increase our giving well to others?

Do you consider yourself a caregiver?  How so?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Give well to yourself to give well to others.  Keep on.

Know You Are Blessed

ulysses

 

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

Blessed are the depressed and anxious.

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

Blessed are the poor and lonely. 

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

Blessed are those whose bodies are dying.

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

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

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

Blessed am I.  Blessed am, “Me.”

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

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

What to do!? On-Line Physician Bullying.

I’ve been to this great APA meeting, great that is, because of the people!  Wow!  The fellow attendees, the exhibitors, the speakers – just, WOW.

I’m going to try to share content with you but it will take me time.

bully

For today, “Are You a Sitting Duck Online?,” reminded me of our earlier discussions on the doctor-patient relationship and a previous post, on July 11, 2012, that went like this:

Hello Friends.

Please tell me how I’m doing on this.  Just out,

Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice

This is important to me as I treasure both my medical practice and our community, connection, exchanges on-line.   I don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes either, nor the implication that if I did, that means I would have mistreated a patient.

Thank you for this, what I call, a “good problem” to have – the joy of medical practice and participation in social media/networking.

So many of you resonated with this and engaged.  I am still super grateful.  I’d love to continue with you in further discussion and with your comments!

For me, one of the many reasons I was so excited about this recent talk at the APA is because of the mucho online stuff connected to my name that affects my patients and the dynamics in our patient-doctor relationship.

In my practice, these are just a few sites that have wrong information (demographics) on me:

  • healthgrades.com
  • vitals.com
  • betterdoctor.com
  • ucomparehealthcare.com
  • insiderpages.com

They didn’t ask to clarify my demographics.  They didn’t ask me if I wanted them to become an on-line reference on my behalf.  They use my practice information to drive “eye-balls” to their site so they can get advertizing money and more.  They impose incorrect information about my practice, knowing that in so doing, I will be pressed, (I call it bullied,) into contacting them with my correct information.

If I don’t do this expensive effort, (money, time, emotional expense – all in limited supply, to correct what they post incorrectly,) patients will continue to tell me that they couldn’t find my contact information.  When they Google me, instead of my website coming up, these other sham pages pop up.

Some patients call dead numbers or even drive to incorrect locations to find treatment.  Instead of whomever is behind these websites being held responsible, the medical providers are.

These are the notes I took from my colleagues, as I heard them say.

Unfortunately, I was late to the meeting so I missed two of the four speakers.  Even so, this is worth it.


Dinah Miller M.D., Author of “Shrink Rap” and writing regularly for Clinical Psychiatry News.

Dr. Miller told us about the difficulty of “patient” (or nonpatient, i.e., sham-patient) reviews online.

Who can review the physicians?

  • your patients
  • Friends and lovers
  • enemies
  • trolls – a negative internet stalker

Every practitioner has an idea that they are a pretty good doctor.  So it isn’t easy for any of us to hear otherwise ;).  After getting unsolicited feedback from a person who took the time to write a comment on a site that listed her, a site that listed her profile without asking her, Dr. Miller chose not to play the victim.  She decided to call “Health Grades,” and with her persistence, they took her information down.

On “Vitals” – she got an answering machine with a person’s voice mail and no name and number.  So she called CEO, Mitch, who stated she wasn’t able to take her profile down.  She didn’t ask to open herself up to trolls.

Dr. Miller asks, what shall we do, as physicians?

  • do nothing
  • write a response
  • try to call the company

There are many whose livelihoods depend on public opinion.  For example, waitresses/waiters – many lose their jobs if they get even one negative reviews.

The practitioners in the group responded with resonance with Dr. Miller’s ideas.  They also had thoughts that if left alone, the democratic process would win out over time, truth would come out and such.  (Maybe the nearby statue of Liberty played into our thoughts :).)


Paul S. Appelbaum, MD, Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine & Law, Columbia University

Principles that Might help physicians Identify Constructive Responses

  • Responses should be Effective
  • Practical
  • Compatible with medical ethics
  • Positive rather than negative consequences

Problematic Responses by Individual Physicians

  • Request removal by website – typically declined.  Saying you’re writing a public article on it might help.
  • Contact the patient who wrote a negative response to request removal – Patient not likely to remove response, many patients post anonymously, most websites won’t allow patients to remove them
  • Flood site with fake positive reviews – deceptive, embarrassing if discovered, ? inducing a person to rely on a statement that may be used to their detriment (fraud)
  • sue patient for libel – identify patient might be difficulty, people have a right to their opinions – would have to prove statements untruthful and not merely opinion, $$ in money/time/and emotion

Encourage Satisfied Patients to Post Reviews?  We could refer to a firm to do this.  $$

Some sites, similar to “Vitals” offer the option to the practitioner to respond to a posted review.

Negative Reviews:

If we do respond – how?  We don’t want to come across arrogant or insulting.  We fear violating patient-doctor confidentiality. In the end, we recognize we don’t have the last word.  We may respond with a soft word of concern.  “If you would call my office, I’d be happy to schedule at no fee to speak with you about this and see if I can help.”

Can Patient Reviews Be Controlled?  There once was a company that tried this.  “Medical Justice” developed a form that gives control over of copyright of all reviews to MD.  – Didn’t work.  See article, “Company tries to stifle online reviews with patient ‘gag orders’.”

Another idea is that medical practitioners help themselves by coming together to develop an internet ombudsman.  This would be a medical/mental health professional not involved in care of patient.

  • Independent (unrelated party) investigation of physician about the case.  A successful investigation may give a third party opinion.  There’d have to be a reason for the world to trust this opinion.

It is difficult for healthcare professionals to protect themselves from inaccurate complaints about their care.

Positive Reviews

Does it put undue pressure on the patients?

A sign in waiting room perhaps.  Make the information available w/o practitioner knowing if they have or have not commented.

There is a dissonance between the position of being a business person that says we must practice democratically and compete fiscally, yet stay in congruence with what tradition holds us to.


The issues addressed in the talk weren’t specifically about being bullied by sham-websites, but it included that idea, along with other difficulties physicians are experiencing in the rapid transition of 3000 years of tradition as a healthcare providers to spending the majority of their time serving patients first to now, the reckless $ burden of running a media vulnerable business.

In the practice of psychiatry, a traditionally extreme-private practice, this is dissonant to many.

Q:  How do we treat the extremely delicate practice of psychiatry as a business when we are held to currently minimally defended standards like this?  Please speak out and let it flow!  We need to hear from you!  …and, Keep on.

Self-Care Tip:  Deal with internet sham-sites and reviews in a method that is consistent with Me, and temperament, while doing the least damage to oneself. It will be better for oneself as well as others.

 

Turn Toward Something Better

Had a great time at, “Seams of Gold.”  Great example of how community is friendly to “Me.”  Met a wonderful man.

Me:  Hi!  I’m Dr. Quijada!  I’m a psychiatrist.

Him:  I’m Frank.  I’m a recovering Alcoholic.

Got to love love that kind of company.  Thank you to all who participated and volunteered.

images

Found after our evening, was thinking about that darn “justice” ever skirting so much of Me.  The way becoming the victim to abusive treatment drives “Me” into helplessness all around us.  Things like money turn us to blame and ugliness.  In the end, telling our story, we hear from our own selves more about the behavior of the curmudgeon than would ever leave cause/change/control space for an innocent like “Me.”  Yep.  It’s them.

Using the behaviors and emotions of others is never useful to explain/justify the emotions or behaviors of “Me.”  We are as free to choose to be a victim as we are to not.

Programs like, Seams of God, and people like Frank, remind us that turning toward something better is, Way!  It is way, like opening a window to a hot room, like turning the lights on, like biting into a ripe home-grown cherimoya.  Turning toward something good rather than away from “bad” is choosing to be free.

Be free. Everything starts and ends with Me.

 

Keep on, dandies.

your own,

Q

 

Join us at, Seams of Gold!

The University Surgery Center, Department of ECT, and myself will be joining our community at Seams of Gold, where we will share life changing stories of ​resilience, restoration and hope.

Thursday, May 1, 2014  

​6:30 pm to 9:00 pm, Doors open @ 6:00 pm

“Event is Free”

PLEASE COME!  🙂

 

A Father’s Lament  contopolos

On May 29, 2010, we lost our 26 year old son, Nick, after a 14 year struggle to find long term, affordable, quality recovery and care from mental illness and addiction. During Nick’s brief life, both he and those of us who loved him were left with a fatal absence of hope while we struggled, as do many others, to navigate our society’s haphazard, fragmented “system of care”.

Months after Nick had died, I recalled a former broadcast on CNN with a woman who had suffered enormous loss after Hurricane Katrina. The interviewer was asking this lady how, in the face of such loss, she was able to continue on and now help others. She said, “at some point, I stopped asking “why me” and began asking “what now”. That statement, in conjunction with an honest admission from my pastor that “during Nick’s life, he had absolutely no idea how to understand nor how to help us”, was what led to the “what now” of Seams of Gold community service events.

Seams of Gold is named after the ancient pottery art of “Kintsugi”. In this ancient art form of Kintsugi we find the inspiration in how we respond to the fragile beauty that surrounds us.”

Seams of Gold is a FREE multi faith, multi denominational community service event. All are invited.

We are asking that all who have been affected by mental illness and addiction as well as those who love and serve them, to come and be inspired, informed, educated and equipped. Join us, as through the prism of our tears, we pilgrimage together towards a “better day” of empathy, compassion and care for those who suffer.

Recovery is Powerful, it is Possible and it is Beautiful! 

                                                                                                                                  –  Jim Contopulos

 

The beauty of the Santa Rosa Ecological Reserve in southern California provides the backdrop for a father’s lament. Seams of Gold founder Jim Contopulos invites the viewer to join him on a journey as he reflects upon losing his beautiful son to addiction and mental illness.

“Birthed from Pain… Inspired by Art”

                                                                   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGZ1ESOlvbM

Violence and Originality for friendship

Guest Post!

…keep reading…

Image

Learning new ideas and concepts releases Dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter/messenger.  I find this theory consistent with my personal experience as I am studying for the boards.  The new concepts, when I grasp them and link them to things I already know, do seem to bring a tiny packet of fell goodness.  So, as I study, i really try to capitalize on this mechanism of feel-goodness.  Maybe I can get addicted to learning.  That would be a great addiction.  I think in some ways, I already am.

Using Dopamine in enhancing our everyday life and getting addicted on life:  Creative expressions can cause release of Dopamine – proven by both science and by our everyday observations of living our life.

Gustave Flaubert, of Madame Bovary, famously said:

Be regular and orderly in your life that you may be violent and original in your work.

To me, this fits.  I find I don’t need to lead a wild and dangerous life.  I don’t need external thrills.  I get my Dopamine from being able to be violent and original in my thoughts and ideas – Quite the thrill.  The regularity and order I try to effect gives me the time and space to be just that – violent and original.

The most cutting truths live in works where the artist is violent and original.    Flaubert, of Madame Bovary, said, “be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work. “. He is fiercely unapologetic in the way he worked.  I like that.  Be violent and original in one’s work, all the while freeing one’s mind to achieve that end by being regular, mundane, and orderly in one’s life.  The creative juices that thusly pulsates in the artist’s veins more than makes up for the seemingly boring and orderly exterior.

Questions:  What role has learning played in your “feel good” self?  What helps you be violent and original in a way that is friendly to Me?  How do you channel your ferocity in the most friendly way?  How has the boredom otherwise affected your quality of life?  Please comment and tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:   Be violent and original in a way that is friendly to Me

 

Dr. Chin Tang is in his last year of psychiatry residency training, on his way to Fellowship in psychopharmacology through University of California, Irvine.  He is happily married with much adored children.

Dr. Tang says he likes being my friend because in so doing, he is more “emancipated to be as weird and eccentric” as he is, by nature, meant to be.  Dr. Tang really knows how to make a girl feel great.  Thank you, Dr. Tang! 🙂  Keep on.

How Do We Age Well?

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Ella Rose

In preparing for retirement, for aging, we put money away like Smaug The Dragon who knows his coin.  We imagine we will gain freedom, retain vitality, interest, and motivation, perhaps enjoy the affection of those we served through life.  But do we prepare for what is really coming?

I’ve been asked, how do we age well?  And guess who asked.  An aged man.  I tugged on my chin a little to hide my discomfiture.  After all, I would like to sit at his table and listen in on his story of doing what he had inevitably done, grown old.  I’d like to hear what he is pleased with.  And what he regrets.  I’d like to hold up the memories, like picture slides to the light, and see if I recognize anything.  Maybe something I might relate to.  Something I might more deliberately emulate.  I might feel more secure, knowing what he has done before me.  Maybe I’d think I am safe.

Remember that song,

A foolish man built his house upon the sand, A foolish man built his house upon the sand, A foolish man built his house upon the sand and the rains came a tumbling down.  The rains came down and the floods came up, The rains came down and the floods came up, The rains came down and the floods came up and the house upon the sand went splat!

(The hand motions make the song.)

But why ask me about aging?  Do I look so old already?  What the!?  Fine then.  I’d like to say, grow old continent and stock full of Botox.  Nah.  That wasn’t it.  (Mind wandering already you see.)

Or maybe, we who are aging wonder quietly if this person, or that might have a trick of doing it better.  This person wants to hold up my picture slides to the light and gather security to them.  That person wants to do more than hoard coin, and another doubts the vitality and wonders if she’d know what to do with it if it were waiting there for her after all in the end any way.  “How do we age well?”

Start with Me.

Me, where there is freedom to choose, the chance of change, the place where cause begins.  (The 3 C’s done our way at Friend to Yourself :).)

As a psychiatrist, it’s easy for me to think first of the biology of aging of course – brain health over time and to recall that the brain is connected to rest of the body.  I could tell this aged man that he’ll be wanting to get oxygen to his brain at night and use his cpap regularly.  I could speak of motility and exercise, of caloric intake and sleep hygiene.  We might spend some time on medical care for psychiatric illnesses common in again, depression, dementia, anxiety, and so forth.  We might speak of the inevitable process of losing friends and family, aging past a child or losing pets.  But as many so often remind me, psychiatrist’s only have the truth that their perceptions allow.  😉

A dear Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist told me the other day that she has become more convinced than ever that the processes of coming into the world and that of leaving the world are the same.  Having delivered countless souls into life, she has been marked, as if the luminescence of so many branded her.  She carries the knowledge of their entry and of those who have already died.

I remember my niece who died at 9 years and 28 days.  Not so old.  Not so aged.  Some how we think of death when we think of aging, not when we think of nine-year-olds.  However my niece did age well.

I suppose aging is like any system, as strong as its weakest member.  The wonder is that if we believe in aging, we believe our lives run on a line, on Time, which is after all, a human construct, a philosophy and based on Magic. Aging well as implied by my OB-gyn colleague, is looking at it from both ends, looking at what is in between, and looking at what is outside of birth and death.  Aging well includes exploring the essence of Me, what bit of Magic came before Time and before zero and numbers and philosophy turned into math.

How do we age well? Does aging imply disease? Aging is linear. They’re different but definitely paired… Help me on this?

keep on.

Trying to explain, temporary memory loss in ECT

rain gauge

I’m trying to help explain, “Why temporary memory loss in ECT versus loss of memories prior to ECT?” It is “friendly” to understand our treatment options and dispel stigma, starting with “Me.”  Please let me know if this effort is helpful in any way. 🙂

Community opinion of ECT, largely influenced by the media rather than data, has a very hard time believing that the memory loss is of new memories, (or imprinting memory, ) during the course of the index trial; not memories before ECT, not memories after the index trial is done, not memories when maintenance ECT is going on.  

The best way I can explain this, (and this is my own Dr. Q effort,) is that the memory loss is related to mechanical issues, like a cork in a bottle.  Think of a rain gauge, for example.  After it rains, we see on the gauge that it rained 2.3 inches last night.  We uncork it at the bottom, and all the rain water flows out until the rain gauge is empty.  We let the water out. The rain gauge may fill again when it is recorked.

The electrical stimulus and subsequent seizure to a brain cell is like the process of uncorking the rain gauge.  The natural process of the brain is to “recork” after a stimulus, be the stimulus pressure, magnetic, chemical, or in this case, electrical, and let the cell fill back up each time it happens.  The recorking process happens all the time in our brain, (in vitro,) after natural stimuli act upon a cell, be those natural stimuli pressure, magnetic, chemical, electrical, or another.  

ECT is a medical therapy that uses the basic recovery methods of our own physical design and perhaps, this is one of the reasons it is so effective.

Unless the cell has that inside content, it cannot lay down new memories.  The stimulus and stimulus response does not damage the cell.  They empty it. The response is mechanical.

This idea also works to help understand why the memory loss is most often temporary rather than long-term.  The cells replenish between treatments.  It is a cumulative effect, so the closer the treatments are, the more the degree of memory loss.  As the time between treatments increases, the recovery time is so brief, that the patient doesn’t notice memory loss.  The patient is able to imprint memories without difficulty.  The rain gauge, we could say, has its cork in for longer periods of time.

Question:  Have your choices toward treatment ever changed based on dispelling your own stigma?  Has information and greater understanding of your treatment options ever specifically improved your self-care?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Use information and greater understanding of your treatment options to improve your self-care.  Keep on.

Lupita Nyong’o Speech on Beauty – W-O-W! And, thank you.

“…and my mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you and these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.”

This woman gets us. Friend to yourself. Keep on.

The Energy in Stigma, Yours for the Taking

unicorn

There are nothing like lightbulb jokes in the operating room to make you plume your feathers.  The other day, my nurse “enlightened” me with them.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?  One, but the lightbulb has to be willing to change.

How many surgeons does it take to change a lightbulb?  One, because while he holds it, the world revolves around him.

How many nurses does it take to change a lightbulb?  If it’s during shift change, no one will touch it.

That is as far as we got, but please share yours, especially if related to psychiatry :).

Lightbulb jokes are common, clean, dirty, and fairly ageless. It does not take the brightest lightbulb in the room (Teehee!) to know that they are so because they capitalize on stereotypes.  Stereotypes, likewise, are widespread, and fairly ageless.  Even in something as objective as brain disease. i.e., The brain is carbon matter, a human organ, mushy grey stuff. The brain gets sick like any other part of the body, human organ, and people bits. Brain gets diseased, people behave and feel diseased.

A primary care physician’s assistant, “PA,” was sharing with me the other day about how she deals with stereotypes when she approaches patients who need treatment toward brain health.

I tell them about all the executives and professionals who get treatment ‘because the stress gets to them and they have nervous breakdowns.’  Then they don’t feel so bad about accepting treatment because they associate themselves with these successful people.

Stereotypes can be positive, negative, or neutral.  Everyone has them.  We clinicians, patients, grocers, those who want nothing to do with medical care, and even executives and other professionals (smile) have them.  But what, in dealing with stereotypes, is friendly to Me?  It starts there.  With Me, one little, or largely valued Me.

We stereotype ourselves and maybe that is why we stereotype others.  For example, this struggle of what to call illness of the brain is common, widespread, and fairly ageless. A Menninger Clinic blogger wrote eloquently about it recently, “Does reframing mental illnesses as brain disorders reduce stigma? by JON G. ALLEN, PHD.”  Most pithy, I thought was this,

…we should be skeptical of the view that regarding psychological problems as brain disorders will abolish stigma. Although the disease model decreases blame, this shift comes with a cost: It increases pessimism about recovery and might also contribute to perceived dangerousness.

I have never forgotten the Spiral Dynamics idea that in the magical level of consciousness, there is a sense of being disempowered. “Perceive dangerousness” is magical. Behind negative stereotypes, there is magical thinking.  We give over what is not to be given and take what is not to be taken.  We have fear.  We feel victimized.  We lose what is freely our own.  Disempowerment is terrifying. There is a lot more stigma out there than there is information but giving stigma and/or negative stereotypes power is our own choice.

A fellow blogger wrote to me how he approaches it,

Change brain illness to mental illness. Our problems really are brain illness from physical dysfunction but I can accept that my psyche is sick easier than my brain is sick.

Stereotypes may scare us but they can also inspire.  It is up to the individual, to Me, how to respond.  As in lightbulb jokes, we who are targeted by stereotypes can take pride in them.  They are not the same as “stigma” although there is overlap when negative.  Stereotypes can be neutral or even something to be proud of.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? None–the light bulb will change when it’s ready.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? None. It’s their job to help people find their way in dark places!

There is nothing like the kind of energy in stigma and negative stereotypes to inspire us.  Such force, such Magic, these can get the punk in any of us to love who we are.

I used to be quite turned off by the beatitudes thinking I was supposed to want to be a wimp, and couldn’t quite make myself do it.  Now I realize, being a wimp is just what it is.  The blessing is what is inherently available to Me in my “condition.”

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Questions:  How have you been able to use stereotypes and stigma as something toward friendliness in your life?  

What have you found is inherently blessing you from where you find the condition of life to be?

How might you use the energy in them toward being good to yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-care tip:  Use the energy available in Magic to empower you, rather than disempower.  

When I am an old psychiatrist

When I am an old psychiatrist, I’ll be looking at you through my purple eye folds, with my wrinkled pressed lips, eyeglasses pushed tightly to my face, pride propping up my several chins, incensed with the smells of my own medicated dying body.

Proud of you. Proud of me. Not the kind of pride that squashes humility. For what have we to be proud of if we live without Grace. We will still be receiving what we have done nothing to deserve. The kind of pride that says,

There is Love.

There is one who has suffered and healed and hurt and lived well.

We will have made a lot of mistakes. We will have made and continue to make amends.

The kind of pride that kids pressed shoulder-to-shoulder know of when the spinning roundabout slows down. We will be able to hear,

Here is one in whom I am well pleased.

We will hear that and not be ashamed.

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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.

Value Yourself

tiger cat

The room is dark, shades drawn for hours. Sandra stays unwashed in her blanket.  Around her are gathering piles of laundry and stale air.  Pictures have fallen over in their frames.  Sandra hears her daughter, “Mommy, please get up now.  Let’s get up Mommy.  I want you to get up.”  Sandra’s body feels like a bag of concrete and she tries to explain this to her seven-year-old.  “I’m just so tired, Honey.  You go play.”

Days and then months go by, like this.  Some of them, Sandra is up and functioning.  But mostly just.  She finds her thoughts are not clear.  It is hard to find words, let alone anything around the house.

“Who is this person?” Sandra thinks about herself.  She wonders if her husband will leave her.  He is trying to have sex less and less.  They do not talk and she is pretty sure her last real orgasm was a year ago, Thursday.  She cannot believe he even likes her when she dislikes herself so much.

Sandra is not treating anyone very well.  She has lost what was in her bank and cannot account for her own value.

Our value is not a very politick thing to celebrate, to speak of, or to put at the front of the line, but we, individually are worth it.  Sandra is worth it.

You are worth it.

Sandra was having trouble like this.  She had been missing more and more work, for “sick days” and she was worried she would be replaced.  “Who are these people?” she wondered about her colleagues, whom she used to enjoy, joke with, and compete with.

It occurred to Sandra, at last, that everything that was worth living for was only insecurely hers.  She thought, if she lost them, she would die.  She needed to get better.  She wanted to get better.  All the way better, back to herself, funny and sexy and showered.  That would be real nice.

Sandra took, what for her felt like, a desperate action.  Sandra went to see a psychiatrist.  It was not easy understanding her treatment options but basically they came down to, medications, psychotherapy, and stimulation therapies of which electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is the gold standard.

To grasp what these options meant, Sandra needed to think about how long it takes to respond to treatment, the chance of responding to treatment compared with not responding, either at all or only partially, and side effects.  Because of knowing she was about to lose “it all,” (home, marriage, employment, possibly parenting rights, and more,) she decided she needed treatment that was the most likely to work and work fast. (ECT can be up to 90 percent effective in reducing the severity of symptoms.)  Sandra did not want to gain weight.  “I would rather die,” she said.  And she did not want to get other medical problems from trying to treat another.  (We call these iatrogenic, when a medical treatment causes another disease, such as an antidepressant causing obesity.)  Because ECT allowed for all these, Sandra launched her ECT index treatment.  She started in treatment even before she started having hope.  Sandra took the action she was able to, toward her value.

This a a short story about Sandra, but her story goes on in a much richer, and pleasure filled way.  I wrote her story to give you an idea of how someone who has never tried medication therapy may decide on choosing ECT as their first treatment effort when struggling with brain illness.  Because of her value.  Because of our value.

Question:  When you explore your value, what would you like to do that more directly honors you?  What does valuing yourself do for those you value outside of yourself?  How can you show that you value others but caring for yourself?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Care for yourself to care for others.