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Showing posts from December, 2009

Spiritual Practices for the Dark Night -- Giving Thanks

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions.  They tend to be such cliches.  Quit smoking.  Exercise.  Lose weight.  Well, if you are serious about losing weight, you gather information, you set goals, you plot a course, you prepare your house, you find a buddy (just like in AA), you plan each day, you think a lot and you practice.  It's worth doing, and I did.  The point of all of the above is to change the way you eat.  Permanently.  So I did all of the above and I feel great (at least about the way I eat).  I wish you all the success in the world.

Christians get a second shot at the diet thing in Lent, which begins sometime in the middle of February.  It doesn't fare any better than New Year's diets, because so few people want to change their life.  They want a quick fix for that swimming suit or class reunion.  That's why Lent.  It's time limited, forty days, with Sundays not counting.  Sundays are free days, for all the bad habits you resume once Lent is …

OMGThat'sWhatTheySaid! -- Stigma

On November 26th, the New York Times published an article about the presidential policy not to write letters of condolence to the families of service men and women who commit suicide in a war zone.  These letters of condolence have gone out since Abraham Lincoln started writing them during the Civil War.  Given the upswing of suicides in the Armed Services lately and the attendant publicity, this policy of silence, which began in the Clinton era, is coming under scrutiny and challenge.
In response to this article, psychiatrist Dr. Paul Steinberg wrote an Op-Ed commentary titled "Obama's Condolence Problem," winning him this month's OMG Award for -- oh, it's hard to choose.  There are so many prize-worthy lines.  But let's call it for: Indeed, there is nothing wrong with stigmatizing suicide while doing everything possible to de-stigmatize the help soldiers need in dealing with post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts. I will deconstruct this sentence afte…
In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air,
But His mother only in her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part, –
Yet what I can I give Him, give my heart.

poem by Christina Rossetti. 1872
painting by Ivan Shishkin, 1890

Prozac Monologues at the Movies

Oh, boy!  Butter up the popcorn, slip in a dvd, relax.  This is one very safe and friendly way to spend time with people during the holiday season, and my final installment of this year's Prozac Monologues holiday survival series.  I want my doc and everybody else to notice the implication, that I will survive to do another series next year.
Well chosen movies can fill time, avoid awkward conversation, provide common ground and keep you in the present, always a good thing for the mentally interesting.  Here are my selection criteria for holiday diversion movie viewing:
Movies For Fun

Don't You Love the Holidays!

Ah, the holidays!  Time when far flung family members travel home and grow close around the Christmas tree.  Time to renew friendships in a round of parties and frivolity.  Time to go crazy?

There are stresses this time of year.  Routines are disrupted, people stay in crowded quarters, those who have reason to avoid each other are thrown together, negotiations between exes require professional mediation, alcohol is consumed in greater quantities, expectations for love and good cheer are bound for disappointment.  Loonies and normals alike need to tend to their mental health.

So Prozac Monologues contines your handy holiday guide, with an assist from NAMI's Peer to Peer class and the University of Iowa Adult Behavioral Health department, covering the basics, planning ahead, mindfulness and quick getaways.

The Basics:  Keep to your routine as much as possible.  If you can't eat like you do at home, get at least one nutritious meal every day.  If your family of origin was a little w…

Unintended Consequences.

A few posts ago, John McManamy and I began a conversation about brain surgery to treat mental illness.  You can follow that thread at his blog.  The link will take you to November.  The comments under Me, Captain Ahab and the Anterior Cingulate Cortex are that conversation.  


It seems that brain surgery for mental illness is the topic of the season.  Yesterday the New York Times published the story of Henry Molaison, who had surgery in 1953 to remove part of the medial temporal lobe, including most of his hippocampus.  1953 was four years after António Egas Moniz received the Nobel Prize for his lobotomy procedure, targeting the frontal lobes, and fourteen years after Moniz retired, when he was paralyzed by a former patient who shot him in the back.

The intented result of the surgery in 1953 was to relieve Mr. Molaison's seizures, which he had since childhood and were getting worse, so much so that at the age of 26, he consented to this experimental surgery.  And the surgery was in …

News Flash -- Unintended Consequences

If it's still Friday and if you pay attention to science or technology or the brain, or if you think that live feeds are cool, then zip on over to the lab at UC San Diego RIGHT NOW where scientists are peeling 2500 slices off of a man who was brain damaged 57 years ago, during an experimental surgery to relieve his seizures.  Ever after, his short term memory was good for 15 minutes at a time.  He donated his brain to science, and this is what they are doing with it, to study memory.

I have to get cookie dough made, and will fill out this story later.  But they might finish the live feed today.  So watch it now, and read the story later.

Holiday Shopping for Your Favorite Normal

A friend once described what it was like to have cancer.  Like having a paper bag over your head, you can't see anything outside the bag.  It's all about you and your cancer.

Mental illness can be like that.  Try it for yourself.  Put a bag over your head.  Make sure it's not plastic!  Our issues can be all consuming, our fears, our doubts, our grief, our hysteria, our voices...  We lose track of the world outside our paper bag.

But outside that bag are friends, family, allies.  There are more of them, and they are truer to us than we can imagine when inside that paper bag.  The bag, our absorption in our own concerns, makes certain life skills difficult.

Like holiday shopping.