Normalizing our behavioral health response

I keep seeing headlines: MENTAL HEALTH IS WORSE. TEENS ARE STRESSED. ADULTS ARE STRESSED. DRUGS AND ALCOHOL AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ARE UP.

Like they shouldn’t be? This isn’t news. It is expected, because we are in a pandemic, the death rate is up, people are frightened, the scientific news changes daily and now we add a war.

OF COURSE PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS AND STRESSED. And when stress goes up, substance “overuse” goes up too. Add fenanyl to the mix and the overdose death rate is up. Should I call it the “overuse” death rate to be politically correct? I do think that it is stupid to stigmatize “overuse”. But I also do not like the term “overuse”. Addiction may be stigmatized, but to me addiction means the drug or alcohol or gambling has taken over the person’s brain and it is the addiction that is lying to the person and to me. It makes it much easier for me to watch for relapse if I think of it as the habit or substance in control. There is no stigma there: the person is deeply ill and needs help. Part of the help is recognizing relapse. I look for signs.

With behavioral health we learn to watch for signs. The latest guidelines say that we should screen for behavioral health problems at well people visits. One in ten people are depressed and the lifetime incidence is higher.

The online and news articles sound surprised that there is an increase in behavioral health problems. Why would anyone be surprised? We have evolved emotions along with logic and emotions help us to survive. If you are a child in a war zone or a family with abuse or domestic violence, your brain wires to survive the crisis as best you can. These are ACE scores, Adverse Childhood Experiences. Every child’s ACE score is going up during the pandemic. Adults can develop PTSD, depression, anxiety: of course. This is how our species survive. It isn’t FUN but it is not a disaster either. We can help each other. We can listen to each other. We may have to say “I can only listen to this for ten minutes,” and set a timer. There was a cartoon with a father with a stop watch. The daughter is complaining as fast as she can. He stops her: “There. You have had your one minute of whining today.” Limit the news if it is driving you bananas or you feel more depressed or frightened. Turn off the television: if you live in a safe place, go for a walk. I have goldfinches and pine siskins arguing with each other in my front yard. The cats are hugely entertained by this. The cats only go out with harness and leash. I may need to follow Sol Duc up trees. She leaped on top of the outdoor cat cage yesterday, four feet up. I was surprised. No wonder they can catch birds: from a stand to four feet up and she is about ten months old. And see? We are distracted by the cat and relax a little.

If you are not trying to escape a war zone or something else horrible, give yourself the gentle gifts: things that make you relax. Stupid cat videos, old music, reread a beloved book, a gentle walk outside. Yesterday I “walked” Elwha. He spent the whole walk sitting on the porch watching the birds. Two birds landed in the grass and he immediately morphed to hunter, but was still on a leash. I saw a pair of robins in the back yard. One was holding something in her beak. A gift for the other? Nest building? Nestlings already?

My other go to is the trees. I go lean on a tree when I feel overwhelmed. The trees do not seem to mind. Rocks don’t either and I am very grateful.

Blessings.

Our rhododendrons are blooming.

#ACE scores #behavioral health #emotion #fear #normal emotional response

Stages of Peace Playlist I

Dang, I’ve got a lot of stages. So it is a long playlist! I can’t complain (yes I can), after all, I wrote the stages. Hmm, to work, to work, to play, to PEACE.

Twisting words- The Grass is Blue – Dolly Parton

Confusion- Get it Worked On -Delbert McClinton

Denial- Old Number 7- The Devil Makes Three

Bargaining – Gallows Pole- Alvin Youngblood Hart

Anger- Joanne Little- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Bitterness -The Wound That Never Heals – Jim White

Revenge -Silver Dagger- Dolly Parton

Acting Out – Pills I Took- Hank Williams III

Oppositional Defiance- All Hail- The Devil Makes Three

Grief -Days Like These – Over the Rhine

Acceptance- In my time of dying – Alvin Youngblood Hart

Forgiveness -Jesus on the Mainline – Mississippi Fred McDowell

Healing- I be your water- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Hope – So Glad I’m Here- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Reconciliation – You are loved, Victoria Williams

Peace – Everybody Ought to Know (and) Redemption Song- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Stages of PEACE

We have stages of grief. Now if we are going to make peace, we need to break it down into the stages that we need to go through. I think this incorporates and embodies the stages of grief. We need to plan peace. We need a map to get there, and it is not a simple road. We can’t just say I am peaceful. We must do the work. Here are the stages I can think of and I have certainly gotten stuck in some of these stages. What about you? No…or are you in denial? And if not you, I would bet money that you can name someone who you think or feel is stuck in one of these. Takes one to know one though, right? No, maybe that’s wrong. Stop confusing me!

And maybe we don’t all go through all of these stages. Or go through them in the same order. When I watch families grieve after a death, they often fight. They fight about how to grieve. The family members may be in very different stages, or the family may have stages or roles assigned to certain people, who may or may not accept the assigned role. My maternal family has anger assigned to me. I don’t really care any more. Since I am not angry, presumably they can’t handle anger and need to outsource it. I got tired of saying “I am not angry” and being told that yes, you are angry until I would get angry… you see the problem, right? It got ridiculous. My sense of the absurd kicked in and then I would try to really enjoy being angry. You are supposed to give things your best effort, right? Snort.

Message me if you think of some stages that I’ve missed! Then we can all get to work, on working through these. MAKE PEACE, PEACE OUT, PEACE ME, PEACE YOU, PEACE THE WORLD! Might take a while. Get on it, get to work.

Twisting words

Confusion

Denial

Bargaining

Anger

Bitterness

Revenge

Acting Out

Oppositional Defiance

Acceptance

Forgiveness

Healing

Hope

Reconciliation

Peace

_____________

What does the helmet have to do with this? Nothing… I just like the helmet. I keep thinking that it could be a breastplate instead of a helmet. And it is a clue to my May blogging… where am I? Where is this helmet?

Fibbing Friday in the movies

  1. Finish the quote: One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most famous lines is, “I’ll be…” “I’ll be PEEEEACE!”
  2. Finish the song title: One of Randy Newman’s best known songs is “Why Can’t We…” “Why Can’t We Peace Each Other!”
  3. Twilight wasn’t about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. What was it about? The Forks Vampire/Human/Werewolf Peace Consortium that healed the entire world.
  4. What made Blade different from the vampires he hunted? He changed his name from Blade to Peace and his very touch brought peace to the hearts of the world of Vampires.
  5. In what movie did Billy Crystal play a character named, Miracle Max? WORLD PEACE IS HERE
  6. The Goonies wasn’t about a group of kids searching for a lost treasure. What was it about? Some silly kids who start a peace movement in their neighborhood and end up leading the UN.
  7. What was name of the character than Alan Rickman played in the first movie that he starred in? PEACEMAN.
  8. In The Professional, who does Natalie Portman’s character shoot with a paint pellet? The Horseman of WAR. Peace ensues.
  9. The Phantom of the Opera isn’t about a disfigured man who terrorizes a Paris opera house. What is it about? A Peace Phantom who keeps changing the tragedies into Joyous Hymns to Peace.

For Fibbing Friday.

Are our immune systems failing because of isolation? No, and here is why.

A friend quotes her son, who says that our immune systems are failing because we have been in isolation. I respond that it’s not isolation: it is stress. Anyone who is not stressed by the addition of war to a pandemic needs to have their head examined. Why does stress mess up our immune systems?

We have two main systemic states: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic is the high stress, fight or flight, muscles fired up, gut on hold, and unfortunately we have a pretty sympathetic state culture. Add a pandemic on top of that and then a war and no wonder everyone is flipping out. Parasympathetic is the one we don’t hear about: the happy, relaxed one that likes stupid cat videos and laughter.

Without the sympathetic nervous system, we can survive. Without the parasympathetic, we die.

I have written about how we metabolize cholesterol, depending on whether we are in a sympathetic or parasympathetic state. When we are relaxed, or less stressed, we make more sex hormones and thyroid hormone. That is parasympathetic.

When we are in a crisis, or more stressed, we make more adrenaline and cortisol. That is in the sympathetic nervous system arousal state.

A pain conference I went to at Swedish Hospital took this a step further. They said that chronic pain and PTSD patients are in a high sympathetic nervous system state. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight state. It’s great for emergencies: increases heart rate, dilates air passages in the lungs, dilates pupils, reduces gut mobility, increases blood glucose, and tightens the fascia in the muscles so that you can fight or run. But…. what if you are in a sympathetic nervous system state all the time? Fatigue, decreased sex drive, insomnia and agitated or anxious. And remember the tightened fascia? Muscle pain. The high cortisol level also is not good for the immune system, so we are more likely to get sick. High cortisol also raises blood sugar and the immune system is hyperalert. We are more likely to develop autoimmune disorders.

When we are relaxed, the parasympathetic system is in charge. Digesting food, resting, sexual arousal, salivation, lacrimation, urination, and defecation. So saliva, tears, urine, and bowel movements, not to mention digesting food and interest in sex. And muscles relax.

If the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive, how do we shut it off? I had an interesting conversation with a person with PTSD , where he said that he finds that all his muscles are tight when he is watching television. He can consciously relax them.

“Do they stay relaxed?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” he replies, “but my normal is the hyperalert state.”

“Maybe the hyperalert state, the sympathetic state, is what you are used to, rather than being your normal.”

He sat and stared at me. A different idea….

So HOW do we switch over from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state?

Swedish taught a breathing technique.

Twenty minutes. Six breaths per minute, either 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out, or 6 in and 4 out. Your preference. And they said that after 15 minutes, people switch from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic state.

Does this work for everyone? Is it always at 15 minutes? I don’t know yet. But now I am thinking hard about different ways to switch the sympathetic to parasympathetic.

Meditation.
Slow walking outside. No headphones! We need to listen to the birds and wind, watch the trees, really look at nature. All of the new sensory input relaxes us.
Rocking: a rocking chair or glider.
Breathing exercises: 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Work up to 20 minutes.
Massage: but not for people who fear being touched. One study of a one hour massage showed cortisol dropping by 50% on average in blood levels. That is huge.
Playing: (one site says especially with children and animals. But it also says we are intelligently designed).
Yoga, tai chi, and chi kung.
Whatever relaxes YOU: knitting, singing, working on cars, carving, puttering, soduku, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, making bean pictures or macaroni pictures, coloring, a purring cat, throwing a ball for a dog…..and I’ll bet the stupid pet photos and videos help too….

My patient took my diagrams and notes written on the exam table paper home. He is thinking about the parasympathetic state: about getting to know it and deliberately exploring it.

More ideas: http://www.wisebrain.org/ParasympatheticNS.pdf

stone shaped heart

your heart is an agate
clear stone

you have won
sort of
you think

but I am water
I am waves
I will smash you against the other rocks
and wear you down

I am water
I carve you like a laser
you wear my name
carved in your stone shaped heart

it is already written there
on your stone shaped heart
faint, because water wears slowly

water wearing stone
over time

_________________

April 21, 2022

talking about silence

we are talking about silence
yours deliberate
you don’t want people to know
how you make your money

you are angry, I notice
at how people treat you
you are a self made man
with a lot of money

I don’t much care
about your money
happy for you
& etc

I am more interested in silence
I go silent in Kindergarten
because I am too weird
have no tv
and want to sing

I do not bother to lie
because people don’t listen anyhow
and they don’t believe me

I listen, you say
I read everything you send me

That is not enough, I think
I don’t say it
I think about saying it
I don’t say it

I stopped sending you my poems
months ago
when you got angry
I asked if you would respond
something
a positive
a negative
even just “Read it.”
I don’t understand
why you got angry
and I am not scared
so much as surprised

I guess you brook no criticism
ever
I wonder why you must be perfect
seems tiring to me
at any rate
I am not sending you any poems
any more
since then

you could read my blog
I post some there
selected ones
unexceptional
less personal
though I suppose you could still
be angry

you say you know I am angry
when I go silent

I go silent, thinking about that

you are right that there is anger there in the room with us
you sense it
it is yours, not mine
the bear chained in the dungeon
roaring

poor bear
I send it love
and it is crying
bitter tears
wet and cold
in a pool of tears
I can’t free it
only you can

for a moment you are aware
that I am silent about my poems
then you slam the dungeon door again
and talk about guns and science
and what you will do next

and what you will do next
with your bear
and without me

___________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: distorted.

P is for Paper over

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway. Today’s post is about my mother and my sister: another woman artist. Christine Robbins Ottaway.

I do not have much of her fine art. She was a landscape architect and historic preservation expert and worked for Caltrans. She also wrote, on her blog Butterfly Soup, and in other places.

The painting is an oil, by my mother Helen Ottaway, done when my sister was 14. This painting seems especially creepy to me, the oranges and blues. I love the painting but it is frightening as well. My sister could write terrifying stories. Here is my poem about one of her stories. The title of her story is “We don’t make good wives”.

Paper over

They are papering over your memory
They want the clean version
The inhuman perfect version
I remember the violent sea serpent
Related to Aunt Nessie: me, I think

He stole your skin, you say
But you lure him to, posing
On the shore naked
And let him take you home
And impregnate you

And then you have six daughters
What did he expect? you say
Cold blooded and beautiful
White skin and greenish hair
Who all can swim like fish
and all seven search
Until you find the skin
and then away

You say, he took my skin
Now I have taken his

Let them paper over your memory
Let them pretend you were sweet
I hold your words in my mind
And I love you wholly

__________________________________

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.