May 8, 2011

A LETTER TO MOM - HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY

Dear Mom,



Well it is Mother's Day once again and after searching for some unique gift - let's face it, you have had your fill of my unique gifts over the years - I have decided that an open letter on my blog (and Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn) might be an original way to thank you for the nine months of relative peace you enjoyed prior to my birth, followed by the 51 years of torment thereafter.

I know that I was a good kid and never shaved the dog, or did stupid things like shoving things up my nose - well I did manage to split my head and force you to carry me up a hill from the park where it happened as you attempted to flag down a cop car as blood spurted from my head.

So I was an okay kid I guess because the only time I said anything rude to you I had my face slapped. And after I told you that it did not hurt and you did it again harder, I knew that it was a mistake to repeat the "that didn't hurt" line. But I repeated it another two times, anyway, until it really hurt and I was bawling. Never did that one again.

Motherhood is a joy and a curse, the latter from the endless years of worry that intellect never graced the offspring, especially with each stupid act and deed that the child manages to invent. The fact that it is a mother's love that usually stops the mother from killing the child for all the trials she is put through is, perhaps, the greatest reason to take pause and celebrate Mother's Day. Despite the gray hairs and wrinkles brought on by child rearing, most mothers would repeat the whole process, and often do.

Thank you mom, for allowing me to live. With children of my own, more than you had, I can say that I understand what you went through, and you should take solace in the fact that payback is complete.

Happy Mother's Day.



- Posted by MisterWriter

May 5, 2011

ARE WE MENTALLY SCREWED UP OR IS IT JUST THE PSYCHOLOGIST’S NATIONAL ANTHEM?

A statistic floated my way that stated that 26% of Americans are diagnosed with a mental disorder. Now without insulting people with extreme psychological issues which almost certainly do exist and do require treatment, “Although parallel studies in 27 other countries are not yet complete, the new numbers suggest that the United States is poised to rank No. 1 globally for mental illness, researchers said,” as quoted in a Washington Post article you can read HERE.
A different study showed that on average one quarter of the country has had a criminal record ( about 65 million citizens with about 13% for marijuana or drug related offenses) with  “more than 50 percent of inmates in prisons across the country suffer from mental illness and substance abuse,” says The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. “Major depressant disorders to paranoid schizophrenia, to bipolar disorders; those are the offenders that we see," says Dale Schipaanboord, a mental health administrator at The Olympus Facility (Utah).”
“Most estimates put the number of homeless people in the United States around 3.5 million a year,” Sam Tsemberis, Ph.D., founder of Pathways to Housing for the homeless mentally ill population, said in an interview. “The question then is, How many of these homeless 3.5 million people are severely mentally ill? Depending on how you define mental illness—the criteria you are using—the estimates range between 20 percent and 40 percent.”
We lead the world in mental illness as well as the number of people we have locked up in prison, two very interesting statistics. We are, in short, screwed up!  Or are we?
“Some critics question the estimates. Jerome Wakefield, professor of social work and psychiatry at New York University, said that they are based on overly broad definitions of mental illness. He doesn’t impugn the researchers: “The studies are obviously important, well-intentioned and very sophisticated.” However, he thinks there are problems when a profession produces its own such estimates, which can draw more attention to the field. “Usually a profession advocates for itself, but then society steps in and says where the boundary is.”
Here is the thing. When your blood pressure goes up, and you happen to be at the doctor, he notes it. If  he notes it again, you may get labeled as hypertensive. If you are one of millions suffering “white coat hypertension” which means that your blood pressure elevates only in a medical setting (and who can blame you – or me) then one of two things happens; your doctor decides to put you on drugs because any hypertension is bad hypertension, or you doctor decides to let you live with it (until it kills you – and the jury is out on that one.) Either way you are now listed as hypertensive. 
The fact is that we are told what to think and believe by professionals who are themselves like students; prone to error and fixated on the path of least resistance. I have had doctors tell me so many variations of their reasons for a particular medical result, plying drugs and then more drugs to solve the interactions of the first drugs, until I realized that they were not only incorrect (objectively), but the treatment was to stop the drugs.

We stopped applying objective analysis to situations and instead look for the easy fix, the definitive diagnosis and apply it as some sort of universal, for all time thing. We do not start out damaged, but we damage ourselves along the way. The prevailing theory of blood pressure treatment is that you are on it for life. When you consider that most people with elevated blood pressure are overweight, and losing sufficient weight often rectifies the blood pressure issue, is it still a fair statement that people need to be on that medication for life?   The other factor is that as with all medications, the human body develops a tolerance (and an addiction – whether mental or physical) to it. So you get caught in a catch-22 where your medication, that causes other problems, needs to keep increasing and as it does, and as you experience other side effects, you are also mentally crippling yourself into believing that you are fundamentally defective were it not for the magic pill and the medicine man.  And getting off that cycle is like getting off heroin or quitting cigarettes.
Is mental illness a state of being, a state of mind, or both? And is it a permanent condition that you remain afflicted with or can it be induced and removed in kind?  We all want wellness. We want to be whole. We want to be regarded as strong in mind and body. We want to be normal, even though normal is a word with a very loose definition in a country that likes to label everything with sub-categories.
One thing is certain, a diagnosis of mental illness, or physical illness,  often develops into a crutch to explore the many laws that are in place to aid the disabled, in whatever form, to as normal a life as possible. Our anti-discrimination policies are so easily bound to that so once you get that blue disabled placard, you are part of a different club.
Before you attack me for an opinion – understand that there are disabled people of no choice, no alternative and thankful for whatever remedy that comes their way. I am not suggesting in any way that these people are creating a situation or that they are not deserving of any remedy that works for them. This discussion is about the validity of the label assigned by the psychiatric profession and whether it is acceptable to allow the country to carry the statistic of  “26% of Americans are diagnosed with a mental disorder”  as a norm.
Psychologists and psychiatrists in their 50 minute sessions rely on quantitative psychological profiles that may be accurate as a snapshot, but like the STAR test in education,  are merely small windows into a very large and deep swimming pool. The fact that talk therapy and drugs are the main tools against mental illness seems to indicate that it is a flawed approach given the statistics that they so quickly cite showing how many people are still mentally ill (despite their efforts.) 
In fact, by definition, virtually everyone could be classified as mentally ill in some way whether delusional with unrealistic expectations (every teenager) or suffering from phobia (fears are prevalent although not always consistent). Ambition can be determined to be a flaw with the ego, while someone who has a hard time trusting others is certainly in need of a psychology wonder pill. Drink more than two drinks a day and you could be an alcoholic. And blaming the actions of those labeled above can serve  as a reason to avoid harsh consequences. Murderers and violent offenders who are justified through a mental impediment or a childhood trauma, seems to me to be a mental illness on the part of the psychology profession desperate to drum up business. When we start attributing the past as the sole motivator for our present actions and thought we are doing a disservice to those who suffer by alleviating them of a need to move beyond that point in time.  And so wrapped up in defendable counseling points, victims of trauma grow to resent anything that suggests they grow beyond their trauma, or move on with their lives.  Soldiers on on the battlefield know this well.  And certainly it is difficult to pass through understanding trauma and how it affects you.  The point is that survival is about change and while one can remain steadfast in the  pain of the event, in order to survive they must change. This is the lesson that life teaches every living thing. Of course I am sure that someone will  say I am just being paranoid and in need of therapy to get back in touch with my inner child in order to find out where I was abused for making such broad sweeping statements.  Or perhaps I am suffering delusions of grandeur in my wildly ranging ranting? Am I doing a Charlie Sheen?
Panic attacks and anxiety are good examples. These are conditions that we have grown into usually due to events that serve as triggers, although later they may be trigger-less. The treatment – drug you up with everything from an SSRI to a Benzodiazepine, talk therapy, in an effort to control your symptoms. More radically, there is a treatment that encourages you to confront and encourage your symptoms in order to lessen your sensitivity to them. But why do they happen? Chemical imbalance of the brain. Determined how?  And the medications cannot be proved to be effective other than some statistical evidence amidst a slew of side effects and other arbitrary effects that could likewise have helped.  In fact, when it comes to the psyche of both men and women, cycles are as prevalent as anything else. Just ask the husband of a woman with PMS or the wife of a man with his version.  We are not the sum of our parts, but our parts, our choices and our actions.
Divorcing parents are often thrust at psychologists for an evaluation of their parenting skills in what always appears to be a test of who is the better parent – at least that is the feeling each person gets. I have seen a case where an angry mother falsely accused by the father of molesting the child, angrily poured out the tale to the psychologist and was listed as excessively emotional, aggressive and likely to inflict emotional distress upon the child, all based on a fear of being taken advantage of and anger at a false accusation. Now go figure that one out.  Bad parents. Good parents. How to deal with difficult kids – haven’t they been difficult since the beginning of time? Why do we need instructions from some counselor now on how to do this the right way? What is the right way? Go look at the rows of self-help books in a bookstore and realize how screwed up we have allowed the psychological industry to make us.
And what of our need to see dead Osama Bin Laden photographs. Reuters displayed three dead men from the compound with nasty wounds, very graphic. But it was not Osama. Are we mentally ill that we revel in the death of this terrorist? Or are we just rejoicing in the fact that he will not enjoy any other events he caused?  Are we collectively in need of therapy from 9/11? Perhaps we should all be in therapy since it appears we have not overcome the basic angst of that event.
Offshore oil drilling after the oil disaster is back. Surely that warrants some psychological evaluation? Certainly the members of Congress should all have mental health exams….
A psychological evaluation is pricey. Repeated tests that attempt to discern the answer by repeating variants of the question with alternative positions serve to get by the scrutiny of the test taker. Are you sad? No. Have you ever been sad? Yes. Do you recall being sad? Yes. Are you unhappy? Yes. Do you wish you were not feeling sad? Yes. If you knew someone who was feeling sad would you encourage them to seek help? Yes.  When you are sad do you find that talking to friends is helpful? Yes. Do you have friends? Yes. Do you know any friends who are sad? Yes. Has any of your friends seen you sad? Yes. Do you feel the need to hurt yourself? No. Are you happy? Yes. Have you ever been unhappy? Yes. And so on…
With repeated therapy sessions, an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety pill, group therapy and some home self-esteem chants I will give you, you should begin to feel better quite soon.  How many sessions will I need? It is really hard to say? Each person responds differently.   Am I mentally ill?  Of course not. I would say that you have some issues that are troubling you that you need to work through and together we can make progress on these. Do you take insurance? Of course. – Guess what the insurance company classifies you as?  Mentally Ill.
Okay. Our time is up. I’ll see you again next time for another session. Take care.
MisterWriter