Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘mental-health’

Today is the next to the last day of Hannukah! How is this possible? I haven’t made latkes yet, or baked dreidel cookies. Times like these make me think about time; like why is the trip driving home always faster than the trip going to a place. It was the exact same amount of miles, it just seems faster.

Anyway, welcome to the seventh installment of Ada’s Yiddishisms. This one is about time, in a way:

Farshlepteh krenk

A drawn-out illness, neverending…

My niece told me about a TED Radio Hour podcast about adaptation, so yesterday I listened to it while I went through some motions at the gym. This I do on a regular basis so as to avoid a farshlepteh krenk. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/455904076/adaptation

It was fascinating, and since I now have to put prednisone drops in my eye every four hours, my ears perked up at this story. A boy was born with cancer of his retinas (stay with me now) so that by the age of 13 months he had to have both eyes removed. He was blind and the first thing he did in the NICU after surgery was climb out of his crib and explore his room!

His TED point was that his parents never treated him as if he was special. They let him grow like a normal boy and explore his world. And so he naturally adapted to the darkness in the same way bats get along flying at night, echolocation – “…the sonarlike system used by dolphins, bats, and other animals to detect and locate objects by emitting usually high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal’s ears or other sensory receptors.”

In other words, he naturally adapted as an infant by clicking his tongue.

What does this have to do with a neverending illness you might ask? It made me think that some parents might immediately do everything in their power to shield that blind baby, to try and make his world carefree. They would emit sympathy from others, he would be labeled, classified and codified.

Some parents create a sickly child, where there is none.

Still, this month is the neverending season of joy, right? If you happen to be going through something hard right now, just remember that December can amplify those feelings. And that it is only one month, 31 days. And we are halfway there. And the second half goes faster!

Let’s hope you don’t come down with an illness, even a short one, over the Holidays, but if you do these two Jewish doctors will be working on Christmas day. L’Chaim!

IMG_3560

Read Full Post »

Woodstock

Woodstock

It’s been a strange week. It was the 45th Anniversary of Woodstock. Three days of Peace and Music and Mud. So we get to reflect, what did it really mean? Bob was home for a long weekend, and we were able to attend a party thrown by our favorite neighbor/friend/alpaca farmers, DeeDee and Bill! Bob thought about his time on a psychedelic school bus while I sipped on a Madison County wine as the sun set and we met the vintner himself; DuCard Winery has won awards for its famous Viogner and its French winemaker, Julien. When I heard that they are planning a wine and chocolate pairing on Saturday, August 23rd, I was all in…https://www.ducardvineyards.com

But the highlight of the evening was meeting my friend’s daughter Brighid, and her son Djouby. Brighid is the brilliant and beautiful Founding Director of a non-profit arts organization in Chicago, “Erasing the Distance.” http://www.erasingthedistance.org Their mission is to use “…the power of performance to disarm stigma, spark dialogue, educate, and promote healing surrounding issues of mental health.” They create plays that confront say depression, for schools, churches, organizations and the general public thereby making mental health a subject to confront with compassion and understanding; they are seeking to bring this disease out of the shadows – shining a stage light on our common humanity.

Which leads me to the next question. If you are willing to grant that each family in this country has a limited amount of money they are willing to donate to a non-profit or a charity, what’s up with the ALS foundation/ice bucket challenge campaign making 3M more than they did last year? I admit I was amused. After all, it’s almost like a-pie-in-the-face funny to watch your friends and co-workers dump ice water over their heads. And the celebrities! Lady Gaga was outrageous of course and Bill Gates was all intellectual about it. I even proudly posted a step-niece doing this on Facebook. One of Bob’s cousins is married to a man who is currently in the last stages of ALS. It’s probably one of the most feared of all diseases, including cancer, because like Ebola, there’s simply no treatment.

However, mental health diseases are the single most common problem in our country according to the CDC: “Mental illnesses account for a larger proportion of disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. In 2004, an estimated 25% of adults in the United States reported having a mental illness in the previous year. The economic cost of mental illness in the United States is substantial, approximately $300 billion in 2002. Population surveys and surveys of health-care use measure the occurrence of mental illness, associated risk behaviors (e.g., alcohol and drug abuse) and chronic conditions, and use of mental health–related care and clinical services.”

ALS, on the other hand, has been harder to quantify according to the CDC because, “Worldwide, ALS affects white males aged >60 years more often than any other group. In the United States, ALS surveillance is necessary to estimate the incidence and prevalence of ALS and collect data on risk factors. ALS is not a nationally notifiable condition in the United States (i.e., it is not a reportable condition in all jurisdictions), and individual state reporting requirements differ, with Massachusetts being the only state that mandates reporting.”

But the VA did commission a study of ALS and found roughly 3.9 cases of ALS per 100,000 people in the American general population. Which would make the occurrence of Lou Gehrig’s disease in mostly older white males less than 0.004%. A quarter of our nation’s population vs 0.004% Sooo…

I’m not saying NOT to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, and give money to ALS research. I’m just asking you not to only give your charitable donations to ALS this year. Please spread the love. Because organizations like Erasing the Distance are doing important work in their community, and I know there are others out there working to bring mental health issues to the forefront, to bring malaria nets to Africa, to fund genetic research to cure cancer and to stop the spread of polio and bring reproductive health care to women around the world. Pick your passion, and do your research.http://qz.com/249649/the-cold-hard-truth-about-the-ice-bucket-challenge/

And BTW, I went to Catholic School, in other words Woodstock wasn’t an option.

Brighid and Djouby

Brighid and Djouby

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was Bastille Day, so happy holiday to our French friends belatedly. I love following the Instagram pictures of the French student we hosted one summer, who is now a lawyer and mother of two young boys in Paris. Her shots are miniature art works: a still life of different flowers in bud vases; a building in the south with violet shutters; the backs of her boys in shorts entering a garden with dappled light; or the colorful play of fresh vegetables on her kitchen table “Retour de marche.”

Whenever I see Stephanie’s children, I think of Madeline.

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

She is turning 75 this year and is currently on exhibit at The New York Historical Society. “The Art of Ludwig Bemelman” will be shown until November 19 and then travel to Amherst, MA. “Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, has continued his grandfather’s work with three more books of Madeline’s adventures. He says that Madeline is not French, but a real New Yorker.” http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28233820

Ludwig Bemelman immigrated to the USA in 1914 from Austria-Hungary. Because his mother was German, he was not allowed to go overseas in WWI, though he did serve in the Army. He was assigned to a mental hospital in upstate NY where he nearly suffered a mental breakdown.

He saved himself by creating what he called “islands of security”: “I have started to think in pictures and make myself several scenes to which I can escape instantly when the danger appears,” he wrote in a memoir, “instant happy pictures that are completely mine, familiar, warm, and protective.”

Like Bemelman, I will often see my prose in pictures first. He considered himself more of an artist and less of a writer, and like many artists he had to support himself over the years by working in the real world, and in his case it was the hotel industry. His first Madeline book was published at the cusp of WWII.

I find it fascinating that his red headed girl in the yellow hat was always the one in 13 girls who did not fit into her convent school life – she had a personality and some spunk. It’s as if he took a New York schoolgirl and dropped her into Paris to deal with an ancient regime, because God knows nobody likes what happened to France during the war. Whenever Madeline left her house covered in vines, in two straight lines of girls, we always knew she was in for an adventure. And we always knew she would step out of line. I must remember to get the first book for my Love Bug to read!

Here is a self portrait of my beautiful sister Kay, a gorgeous artist who also worked in the health industry, and sent her daughter to the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The school was founded by French speaking nuns in 1881. Thank you Kay for putting me up, and putting up with me, during Sue’s shiva. Your apartment was my island of security in NYC.

My Sister Kay

My Sister Kay

I believe we red headed girls think alike.

 

Read Full Post »

Hope everyone had a fun-filled holiday weekend and took some time to remember our fallen warriors. Our President went to Afghanistan and the Pope went to Jerusalem, conflict zones still. My silent prayer yesterday was for peace, like some aged pageant finalist, I knew I didn’t have much of a chance.

Bob was saving lives all weekend. No, really he saved a young man’s life, in his 30s, first heart attack, coded right in front of him like they only do on TV. An emergency department can be like a war zone, especially on Memorial Day (or insert any summer holiday). Grills are being fired up and gas tanks malfunction, lawn mowers throw crap into people’s eyes, fish hooks get stuck in the most unlikely places; and that’s just a sample of a country hospital. Throw in too much alcohol and/or drugs, then change your scenario to a city, and all hell will break loose.

Because guns are so prolific in this country. Because guns can be bought in a parking lot, online or down the street at the newest Gander Mountain store where guns line the walls like 3D wallpaper. Because no politician has the nerve to stand up to the NRA, to challenge the 2nd Amendment. We successfully challenged that bit about African Americans and slavery. But heaven help us if we want to keep guns well regulated, have background checks or challenge laws like “stand your ground.” We the people are not even allowed to track gun violence, or sue a gun manufacturer if a gun misfires! In some states, the NRA tells our pediatricians they cannot even ask if there are guns in the home.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

I didn’t start to cry until I saw a father, Richard Martinez, ask how this was possible in Santa Barbara, California. How could his 20 year old son go out to a deli only to be gunned down for no reason. How could this happen after Sandy Hook, CT? http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/father-blames-government-idiots-as-california-town-mourns-killings

“Martinez said his son died because Congress had failed to act after a mentally ill gunman killed 26 people in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. “These people are getting rich sitting in Congress. And what do they do? They don’t take care of our kids,” he said.

Because let’s get real. It’s not about mental health laws and how long people can be held in a hospital or be committed against their will. This latest mass murderer was not only a misogynist, whose parents cared enough to call the police about his homicidal tendencies, he was a cunning, borderline psychopath. He had the money and the ability to purchase as many guns as he wanted, legally, and to fool the officers who interviewed him for what, ten minutes?

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GUNS

Maybe, just maybe there is something we can do. And if enough of us act, if enough of us gather signatures, gather our nerve, we might make a dent and get politicians to listen to parents who have had enough of this senseless gun violence – in schools, in movie theaters, in delis. Because a “well-regulated militia” means the National Guard to me. It takes one nation to end gun violence. Consider joining “Everytown for our Safety.” I did.

http://everytown.org

I was going to write today about a chance encounter I had with a dad helping out his son in a new business, they own a local food truck. But sometimes my fingers just type what they feel, and another dad’s feelings took over.  Why not join Everytown with me, let’s give peace a chance.     IMG_0612

 

 

Read Full Post »

Continuing in the Throwback Thursday vein, I’ve come up with a “selfie” from 1975. CLR Hippie Chick 20131120 WebOf course I didn’t take the photo, and don’t remember who did. Except that it was a photographer who stopped me on Madison Avenue near my sister’s NYC apartment with that age-old ruse about making me a star.  I told him he could take my picture, but gave him the Flapper’s address because I didn’t buy into his nonsense. Not wanting to be the next Ms Goodbar, I forgot about it until the picture appeared in my Mother’s inbox mailbox.

At the time I was putting my Psychology degree to good use.                                                                                            http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/05/willowbrook_survivors_recollec_1.html

Because of my future employer’s investigative reporting, most of the psychiatric hospitals, previously known as “State Lunatic Asylums” were closing down. The overcrowded, inhuman conditions, coupled with advances in drugs like Thorazine marked the 70s trend toward de-institutionalization. The question remained, what should we do with these patients who were returning to society, sometimes after decades of neglect? The answer was a different type of warehousing, “day treatment facilities.”

I was hired to drive a bus and pick up patients from their group homes, delivering them to a bevy of activities in the state of NJ. I also got to run a few of the group therapy sessions, and since I enjoyed gardening, my supervisor encouraged me to plant a garden of vegetables around the back patio with like-minded patients. Passivity was a continuing problem, either due to the psychotropic drugs they were taking or the years spent behind hospital bars, or both. So actually digging in the dirt was considered a milestone.

Today, many people with severe disabilities are able to live a normal life. Modern pharmaceuticals allow them to work, to drive, to love, and to make a home for themselves. But sometimes psychotic patients stop taking their meds, for various reasons and when that happens, when they become a threat, “to themselves or others,” it’s time for a reboot which includes a short hospital stay. And when those psych beds, which may be on a floor of any hospital in your neighborhood, are full, when a doctor can’t find one bed for his or her patient, well then sometimes that patient falls through a crack. Over the years, Bob has had to discharge too many severely ill psych patients because there were no beds available.

964831-creigh-deeds-and-familyMy prayers go out to VA Sen Creigh Deeds who was stabbed by his own son, Gus, on Tuesday after being released from a hospital in Bath County on Monday. Gus Deeds later turned a gun on himself in a continuation of this Shakespearian tragedy now called a “murder suicide.” And we can’t blame the lack of will to pass gun control legislation after VA Tech, or the shortage of mental health beds in the state alone, because blame can be shared by a tightening of budgets over the past few years that was reported by the  National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Virginia’s overall state mental-health budget decreased $37.7 million dollars from $424.3 million to $386.6 million between fiscal years 2009 and 2012.”  The wheels on this bus cannot continue going round and round. If a state senator’s son could not access help, what does that mean for the rest of us?

 In 2011, Virginia inspector general G. Douglas Bevelacqua released a report chastising the state for turning away in a month an estimated 200 patients determined to be a threat to themselves or others who met the criteria for a temporary detention, only because state facilities lacked the room to hold them. Twenty-three of Virginia’s 40 community-services boards acknowledged that “streeting” occurred at their facilities.

Read more: Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds’ Son Evaluated and Released Before Stabbing | TIME.com http://nation.time.com/2013/11/19/before-senators-stabbing-a-shortage-of-psychiatric-beds/#ixzz2lI6Mmsqu

 

Read Full Post »

Something happened this week in Atlanta that will affect 50% of American households, over 11 million adults and 2 million teens in this country. Just think about it, a woman who had recently been chastised by a congressional hearing, turned around to announce “…the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation.” HHS Kathleen Sebelius told a crowd on Friday she was happy to be out of Washington while speaking at the Carter Center in Georgia. As you can imagine, this got a polite laugh from the audience. src.adapt.960.high.1383940058477

From now on, insurers will have to cover mental health and substance abuse services in order to comply with standards of the Affordable Care Act. In the past, nearly 60% of Americans have reported not seeking mental health services either because of a lingering stigma or an inability to pay for help. The latest round of mass killings has highlighted the need for improved mental health care, although adding this “parity rule” without concomitant gun control legislation seems illogical imho. Still this is BIG news.

Coverage for mental health problems should be the same as for physical problems, but the public needs to speak up,” Rosalynn Carter, speaking with her husband, last year told several hundred members of the Association of Health Care Journalists. “What is holding up equal coverage? I think it’s the political consequences of an election year. Excuse me for being so blunt.       ww.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2013/11/09/carter-bush-backed-mental-health-equality-now-bipartisan-part-of-obamacare/

Maybe you’ve seen the homeless veteran get a makeover on vimeo, and then join AA ? Or maybe you’ve seen Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a double amputee, dress down a contractor for scamming the system to get government contracts related to his “disability?” http://www.upworthy.com/whats-the-worst-thing-you-could-say-to-a-congresswoman-who-lost-her-legs-in-battle-found-it?c=ufb2

Our veterans have been suffering long enough, waiting to get treatment for PTSD and head injuries. Homelessness and suicides in this population have been rising . Many seek help outside of the VA, because of the stigma, as well as the red tape. http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/military/critical-need.aspx

Let’s talk about mental health, like any other illness. My parent’s generation never mentioned the word “cancer.” We didn’t talk about lots of things related to lady parts, now we all wear pink ribbons. Reagan didn’t want to say, “AIDS.” But if we can’t talk about something as a nation, how can we cure it?

“Comfort Food”  is a fascinating essay about a Mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and later her daughter was hospitalized with bipolar disorder complicated by substance abuse. Her friends didn’t bring casseroles or even try to talk with her about her daughter. “Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: ‘How’s your depression these days?'” http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/11/families_dealing_with_mental_illness_need_support_too.html

Now if we could only get that darn website to work…

Read Full Post »

Holden 09 005 FB

Serenity in a mountain view

August and September are filled with birthdays in my family. The Bride and my sister Kay share back to back birthdays, I call us Virgo/Libra types (you can count me in later this month) – the Christmas party babies! Happy Birthday to them on this glorious weekend.

These two share more than a couple of dates on the calendar. Kay introduced the Bride to art in her New York City apartment. My sister studied at the Art Student’s League and she also helped to illustrate many medical books during her years working at Mt Sinai Hospital and producing graphic art for the Medical School. With sun pouring through her beautiful Upper East Side window overlooking a garden, the young Bride was given a pencil and a blank canvas along with the love and encouragement of her Aunt Kay.

Painting has been a common thread throughout both their lives. After a long high school day filled with too many AP classes, the Bride would settle into her art class and paint along with beautiful music.  My home is filled with drawings from those days. And Kay’s renditions of our farmhouse in the Berkshires, and our beautiful Welsh Corgis will always decorate our walls.

This meditative time, setting up the instruments of art, the pencils or delicate brushes and turpentine, the smells, the easel outdoors, the time alone to ponder and really see – to see their way into a subject – this bit of creation helped them deal with the everyday stress of school and work. It helped them to slow down.

The Bride sent me an article this week about being busy. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=1&

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

The author, Tim Kreider, calls this addiction to busyness a kind of hedge against emptiness, an “existential reassurance.”  We impose it on ourselves and it makes us feel important. After all, if we’re always so busy, how can we ever take time off for self-awareness. He posits that you don’t hear people holding down two jobs with four kids complaining about being too busy, because they’re just plain exhausted. Interesting stuff, this monkey brain!

Surprisingly an old friend simultaneously posted an article about being a distracted parent, about always saying, “Hurry up!” to her child. And I could see how this attraction to being busy can get its start. The child who likes to dawdle, who stops to talk with strangers, who wants to engage with her environment soon learns to make a goal and stick to a time schedule. And if she or he doesn’t, they may be labeled “special” in school…instead of “artist.”

The Love Bug likes to stop for ice cream with her parents. Slowing down is something children can either help us to do, or we can teach them how to be anxious. We’re the adult in this equation, it’s our choice.  photo

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: