I Can’t Make Friends – Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I treat?

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

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

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

Self-care tip – Go toward the data!

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

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

Handout – How to Talk to a Psychiatric Patient.

duck

Finished the CME talk I did last week and thought, you might find some use for it.

I’ve received bad press many times for not being, in so many words, legit or academic enough. Check out the comments on my ECT book on Amazon.com for examples :). Maybe this one leaning into that bosom of greatness will turn public opinion. (Sneeze.)

…Formatting has been a real bear.

As you go through it, please talk out. Tell me what you think. I may do it again. (That’s right. I’m not afraid to threaten. You heard me.)

Keep on, Friends.

How to Speak to a Psychiatric Patient

Introduction:

  • You quack like a duck, avert your gaze, and then hold a fetal position. It’s good for core.
  • Be sure to carry your portable speakers playing zen chakra music in the background.
  • Offer cigarettes.
  • Bring a healthy white chicken to sacrifice over their chest for the exorcism.
  • Introduce yourself with an alias name. Hopefully a superhero.

This is a fail safe method of communication to pretty much hit all the difficult misperceptions we are contending with in psychiatry – demonic possession, shame, violent tendencies, weak character, and poor moral choices.

I’d like to give you the 1,2,3’s on how to talk to psychiatric patients. But as I researched this topic, it became apparent that this wasn’t the direction for us to go in. You have better algorithms, systems, and manuals based on research for this in your own departments. I know you have people who are specialists in the administrative side of things.

For us today, we are going to turn rather toward the innuendos that interplay in communication between caregiver and patient.

The is the first place for us to start, let’s just talk about it here.

What is it like for you to talk with a psychiatric patient?

  • Identifying Me in the mental health treatment paradigm.
  • Not implying that we have skills but no awareness. We are just deliberately putting the practitioner into “it.”
  • It’s a “how to,” but first we need to address our personal limitations.
  • Why do we have these limitations?

I: Clinician/Caregiver barriers

II: Patient barriers

  • What’s over-scored is that the problem is on the patient’s side. The patient is sick after all. We agree. Brain illness and all that.
  • Even so, what is underscored is our side. And that’s what this talk is going to be about.
  • We want to focus on our own thoughts about this. What it says about ourselves. Who am I if my identity changes with how I feel and behave? etc.
  • And then, how do we respond to that?

III: Understand Personal Biases – Likes and dislikes

  • Figure out where we are at. What makes it difficult to talk to patients?
  • What are the common myths? Get the myths out there. 
  • Some reasons are true and not myths.
  • What are some personal biases about working with psychiatric patients?
  • (Bias means – likes and dislikes)

IV:   Define Stigma

1. Prejudice – Attitudes, feelings/emotions (Amygdala)

2. Discrimination – attitudes lead to actions

1: Prejudice

  • Weakness of character
  • Supernatural explanations. (Statistically significant association with superstitions.)
  • The word “patient” not talking about disease, perhaps, but rather about character – something of moral value.
  • Religion. (But only a few believe that spiritual leaders can play a role in treatment! People don’t relate stigma issues to biology.  i.e., It is not biology or medicine that increase the problems, but belief that the person has a personal weakness as demonstrated by their behaviors – A conflict in beliefs, or prejudice, worth exploring.) (…But where do emotions and behaviors come from? The Brain. Thinking they come from a cloud by day or a fire by night fall into the category of prejudice.)
  • Time consumption.
  • Danger
  • Treatment skepticism – no recovery, there’s less hope for them
  • Punishment from God for evildoers.
  • Demonic possession
  • I am lessened by my affiliation with the mentally ill

What are our fears? Fears are an emotion and/or attitude…

  • Brings into play, how do we identify ourselves? …And that part of us that remains even when we are in a changing body (identity).  I call this, “Me,” with a capital “M.”
  • Think about this when we look at responses to prejudice; “discrimination.”

Caregiver stigma – “self-stigma” comes when we internalize public attitudes and turn it onto ourselves

  • We perceive stigma from others due to those we care for.
  • Shame/Embarrassment
  • Fears of what it says about ourselves

2. Discrimination – How we act on those prejudices.

Example:

  • Take “Caregivers Stigma.” We can bring this into our work place as well, from what we glean in our community.
  • We avoid patients who make us feel uncomfortable.

Who has Stigma?

Everyone.  It is in our community, including we who serve and are involved in mental healthcare services.

1. Patient

2. Clinician

Patient

Example: Mr. Whineheart misses his medications approximately three times a week due to logistical reasons. However, we know that Mr. Whineheart has had a long history of difficulty with treatment noncompliance. As we explore further, we discover that Mr. Whineheart dislikes taking medication. It makes him feel like he is weak. Not taking his medication is Mr. Whineheart’s discriminating behaviors against himself in response to his prejudices, (emotions and attitudes of shame.)

Clinician

Examples:

  • Refusing care for psychiatric patients.
  • Starting with Questions:  How do we respond to challenges to our identity? When our identity’s confronted by seeing our patients with psychiatric illnesses, our patients who demonstrate changes in their emotions and behaviors since brain illness set in, we ask, what part of us remains even when we are in a changing body and mind (identity)? How do we respond?
  • If it is positive, it is not discriminatory toward ourselves. If it is negative, it is discriminatory to ourselves and inevitably to others.

V: What are the barriers to talking with psychiatric patients?

  • The tension is when the patient and the clinician’s personal views, life stories come together.
  • Where those thoughts collide is where the tension is.
  • That’s where the barrier is.
  • Once this tension is resolved it’s easier to go into action

VI: Why bother about Stigma?

Because:

  • Stigma is a feature and a cause of health problems. (Both clinician and patient)
  • Belief —> action.
  • i.e., In caregivers, emotional toll can be devastating – may lead to injury or illness of caregiver

Because It Affects:

  • How we speak to psychiatric patients. (Human Value.)
  • Choices in our clinician-patient relationship.
  • Perceived quality of work experience.
  • “Me” and QOL (Quality of Life).

Because It Engenders:

  • Social distance. (Comes from fear. But connection is healthy for “Me.”)
  • We are robbed of opportunities (Think – Agendas, Connection, etc.)
  • Avoidance. (Comes from belief of danger.)
  • Treatment skepticism (What is “recovery” anyway?)
  • We need to ask, “What are our treatment goals?” (Agenda)
  • Frustration and anger, negative emotions.

Responsibility:

  • There’s an unequal level of power (Us v. patients/clients) – inherently increases our responsibility toward others to overcome this.
  • What about us?
  • Identify that. Then fear can become strength. Presence. Actions of discrimination change to actions of hope.

VII:  Agendas

  • Part of our “belief systems.”
  • Exposing agendas, leads us toward action. 
  • Just like exposing prejudice leads to actions of hope.
  • Just like starting with Me leads to actions of accountability and presence.

1.  Traditional agendas in the medical model:

a.  Serve altruistically.

  • Saying we don’t have an agenda is grossly dishonest.
  • Maybe we are uncomfortable speaking about agendas because it creates tension with the classic view that practicing medicine is supposed to be Altruistic.  Altruism is just another “pressure.”
  • It’s a perfectionistic model. It’s false. To ally ourselves with it is a mistake. Brings discriminatory behaviors toward ourselves, driven by prejudices of shame.

b.   Healing

  • The paradigm that never fits for psychiatry – cure, getting rid of something bad, not joining it and integrating it. (Presence.)
  • Can’t stop disease even with appropriate treatment – Treatment agenda changes to center around QOL experience rather than cure.
  • Caregivers in long-term care are not looking for recovery in their patients.

c.  Serve patient (Service)

2.  Traditional agendas of business

  • $, Profit

3.  Quality of work experience

  • Not only do we get money, we get other stuff (biopsychosocial needs).  That affects how we talk to people.

VII:  Solutions

1.  Start with Me. Own that we have stigma: prejudice and discrimination.

  1.  Protest
  2.  Put own selves in the way of these treatments
  3.  Rely on evidence (biomedical conceptualization or education), not ideation (prejudice, emotions, religious causation…)
  4.  Pay more attention to emotions, senses, thoughts.
  5.  Reconsider your agendas e.g., Not necessarily recovery but rather QOL
  6.  Engender a culture of expectation (ex: We expect ourselves and each other to participate…)

2. “Contact based” solutions.

  • The impact of experience and exposure
  • Best treatment is contact with the mentally ill vs. Educational approaches, which, although are helpful, are not as effective. Nor are psychotherapeutic approaches.
  • Maybe we overemphasize education in our culture and undervalue human relationships.
  • We see this anecdotally, but also notice that nearly all interventions studied, (multiple metanalysis, etc.,) used educational interventions primarily.

3. Education (Still important and demonstrates degree of efficacy)

4. Collaborate

  • Involve family

5. Collaborate

  • Involve community, Partnerships with community resources

Conclusion

  1. Start with at Me.
  2. More contact and exposure to people with mental illness.
  3. More education.
  4. More collaboration.

Continue reading

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.

There is no self-care without Love

grieving

Reggie showed up without his wife.

The wife was a short woman.  She had some practices that usually increased the space she occupied – the smell of tobacco, the size in her chair, the volume she laughed with, her large wiry curly bouffant, and her hope-filled aura. 
“Where’s your wife Reggie?” 

Reggie had sat down with his usual socially acceptable moderate expression. 

It was common for his wife to accompany him to my clinic and if she wasn’t there, it was only for purposes of work.  She prioritized him, it was clear.  However, her work was inconsistent, money was always tight, and she would most often have to travel when the opportunities arose.  Being a temp in nursing was like that.  Reggie was so proud of her and looked at her in that mix-matched role that any relationship between one person and another always is.  In Reggie’s case, sometimes she was his parent, lover, friend, enemy, caregiver, and now, what?

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know I love the concept of Time.  I fantasize a little about separating Time from space and yes, at some moments, think I am all that. (Wink.)  When I asked Reggie, “Where’s your wife?” I might have done it, though not pleasantly.  Something happened there that was inter-dimensional.  Because he was transformed.  His face didn’t melt or droop.  There wasn’t a process to it.  Rather he was sitting like a normal Reggie and then he was wasn’t.  Between normal and transformed, to me, reality changed.  The between was a crack that was a different reality.  A black space without Time.

Reggie cried,

“She left me. She left me.  I begged her not to, and she did.”

Reggie’s wife had done something personal.  She went and died. 

Even when Reggie stopped crying, he looked bewildered, raw and like the faucet was going to poor a lot more.  We did get to start talking a bit about how much his wife loved him.  We speculated about the love remaining after she died. 

“I wish I knew!  I wish I knew she was somewhere good and I wish I knew if she could see me.…” 

Reggie wished he could remain connected to the love. 

During our treatment together for over a decade, Reggie complied with our medical treatment in the context of that love.  Reggie honored his wife by taking care of himself.  He even lifted up his illnesses like an offering to her.  I was struck with the concern of what kind of treatment compliance Reggie would shift to if he thought he was living without love.  I was concerned that he would not value himself, including the respect he was able to show his illness without the company of his wife’s value and respect

The way that we honor those we love and those who love us, is by honoring our own selves.

It is intuitive in our nature to believe that we can’t live without love.  Where does love go when we die? 

This brings us to another premise in, “God and self-care,”  – there is no self-care without Love.

The argument psychiatry has with the concept of Love is that sensing it, knowing it, perceiving it, is all a part of our modular brain, therefore no more than grey matter.  Thus implied that it is diminished. 

Question:  Does it diminish Love for you, knowing that our perception of Love is as mapped out as that, even able to be man-handled, turned on or off by neuronal signals? 

Please tell us your thoughts.  Keep on.

Self-care Tip:  Find Love for self-care.

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.