Archives for neurosciences
Okay. It's not white and snowy up here yet, but if you're beneath the 49th parallel, Canada is definitely north and in many ways, great. For one thing, today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a national holiday that always corresponds to your Columbus Day, and a great season for thanksgiving, too. Harvest Time. All over my neighbourhood, walking my two Dandie Dinmont Terriers today, I've encountered people harvesting or clearing out their gardens, a little prematurely placing Hallowe'en pumpkins on their porches and celebrating the splendour of the autumn colours. You have to see them to believe them.
This Thanksgiving Is My Happiest EverLast Thanksgiving, I was starving, skeletal and anxiously waiting to start an eating disorder program.
The most wondrous thing about my dogs is their innate "cuddle-ability." Riley and Lucy love nothing more than to be held and petted. They beg for it. And who can resist a face like Riley's?
My dogs have "cuddle-ability"...This is a Dandie Dinmont Terrier trait. They so love to cuddle that at all our Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of Canada public events we have a special "Cuddling Parlour" where anyone can sit down and "cuddle a Dandie."
What is so magical about cuddling a dog?It's no secret that petting any dog or cat, for that matter, creates a magnificent neuroscientific reaction in the person doing the cuddling and petting. A bonding hormone is produced called Oxytocin, the same hormone nursing mothers produce when they are breast feeding their children. It's also called the hormone of love.
There's a mysterious, somewhat strange-sounding convention in psychiatry, I think. I'm not sure. I've never imagined it would apply to me, so I've never bothered to investigate it. I've steered far away from. It scares me. Leaving therapy... Here's how it was explained to me at the Eating Disorders Outpatient program I just completed. And remember, an eating disorder is a psychiatric illness. For a minimum of two years, I was told, I could not go back to see my social worker, dietician or any of the practitioners who helped me begin eating normally for the first time in my life. A follow-up might be possible, but now I have a psychologist to help me. I suspect psychiatrists work in similar ways. I don't know... Once you say good bye. Once you receive your psychiatric "seal of approval." Once you have your psychotherapeutic "walking papers." Once you leave, is that it? Do you venture off into the world on your trembling feet, vulnerable, alone? Independent? Do you never see your therapist again? Or at least for a minimum of two years? That never seemed to be the case with Dr. Bob. It seemed he would always be there for me.
We all long for unconditional love, but what about unconditional worth? Musing on this question will take more than one blog post, so consider this a beginning. Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D. concisely describes this concept in The Self-Esteem Workbook and when I first encountered it, to be perfectly honest with you, I was stunned. A new concept... I'd never considered it before. Perhaps it's a new concept for you, too. So I thought I'd share some of Schiraldi's wisdom, research and insights with you today because just reading about unconditional worth made me feel better about myself.
In February, my family doctor began cautioning me about my obsessive dieting. She explained that eating disorders are psychiatric conditions, mental illnesses. She used the "A" word. Anorexia. I thought she was out of her mind... I am not thin. I've never been thin. Certainly never too thin. I feel I need to lose more weight. To get thinner. She began monitoring me, monthly. By May, overly concerned about my inability to perceive myself realistically and my relentless determination to lose weight, she said this was related to my "mania" ~ my bipolar disorder. She sent a note to my psychiatrist. He referred me to an Eating Disorders Clinic... Last month, my kidney transplant specialist expressed similar concerns. He didn't want my electrolytes to go out of whack. When I diet, my sodium levels plummet. When these three doctors, the team that keeps me alive, showed such alarm, I decided to investigate eating disorders myself.
Yesterday, in my Leadership in Society class, the second last class of the term, my students discussed change. Our discussion was based on an assignment I had given them. A written assignment. But their real ideas and feelings tend to come out in live conversation. When they engage. Disatisfaction with the status quo... They're pretty unhappy at the campus where I teach. It's small. Formerly an insurance building. Never meant to be a college campus. That's what they want to change. Transform it. Give it some spirit. Some sense of community. They have no place, other than a cavernous cafeteria in the basement, to gather in the flesh. Together. Face to Face. Not just online.
Musing a bit on madness... Actually, the words "mad" and "madness" are quite commonly and innocently used in England. Just here, in North America, there's an aversion to it. It's time we reclaimed them, as gays and blacks have reclaimed the words that accurately describe them. Frankly, I love the term. I love the fact that all of Shakespeare's "fools" and "jesters" ~ often considered "mad" ~ were the only characters in his canon to speak the truth. "Manic Depression" was changed to Bipolar Disorder by psychiatrists ~ to soften the sting out of this ancient and more accurate descriptive term. Bipolar is a ridiculous and meaningless term... What does it really mean? It doesn't change the reality of living with severe, sometimes profound mood swings. There are so many problems with the term "mental", including a "them and us" attitude that will prevent progress in changing the perceptions of people about those of us who happen to live with emotional health issues, including mental health issues and addictions. And who doesn't? Language matters. It's powerful and political. And I don't like political correctness. I like honesty.
A reader, who is very upset with my use of the term "emotional health," wants to stop reading this blog and leave our community here at Coming Out Crazy. I see "emotions" and "moods" as synonymous... That's where we differ. I am not my diagnosis. That the first thing. I am me. My mood disorder is unlike anyone else's, despite a similar label. Oh, how I detest labels, but "emotional" is no label. It's a reality of life. We all have emotions. I wish we could sit down and discuss this... But that isn't going to happen because of our differences, which can be opportunities for learning. Personal growth, I think, evolves when two people can work through a problem and begin to understand each others differing opinions and perceptions. Honestly, I interpret the word "emotional health" as a benign and inclusive term encompassing a whole health hemisphere ~ the other being “physical health” ~ and together, you have the totality of health. Mind and body, soul and spirit. I don't see “mental health" issues as disorders or illnesses or diseases...
So, on Monday, whilst sitting in Dr. Bob's office, I was feeling utterly overwhelmed. I have this harassing disconnect between what I know versus what I feel... We were therapeutically jousting... I did not win. When I left after 60 minutes (which he always gives me, sometimes more) I felt battered and bruised. Beaten. Not the way I usually feel when I leave his office. Lighter. Freer. Buoyant. Hopeful.
When I was a kid, a long time ago, long before I learned about feminism, pre-Betty Friedan, I remember my father joking with my mother. Though on reflection, I don't think his joke was very funny. My father would say to my mother, in jest, because I know he adored her, "Maybe it's time I traded you in for a new model." Sometimes I wish I could trade myself in for a new model... That's not a put-down, but given that right now in my psychotherapy with Dr. Bob I'm struggling with a few very old records that won't stop playing ~ that I cannot break ~ and I'm increasingly upset and disoriented by the values and dynamics of the medical model when it comes to emotional and mental health, I'm thinking it's time for a new model. A new belief system. A new hybrid, perhaps...