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Ethics & Morality

Gunning for a Solution

“There will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place we’re in at this moment,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

And then she teared up at the horrific Las Vegas shooting.

I rolled my eyes--not because I am questioning Sanders’ sincerity. Like all of us, she is aghast at the latest senseless tragedy. But I roll my eyes--and chuckle ruefully--at the practiced condolences. American society: the equivalent of a Hallmark card.

We decry senseless gun violence in the most visceral of terms. Our Twitter feeds and Facebook post lament the latest tragedy. And following Vegas or Orlando or San Bernadino, we buy a cup of coffee for an appreciative stranger. We reaffirm -- at least temporarily -- our collective faith in humanity’s benevolence.
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Celebrities

#MeToo: You Too?

A viral campaign that has been making the rounds on social media comes equipped with a hashtag and an attempt to bring attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse, both in the workplace and in personal life. It arose because of the not so secret secret of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein (no relation to this author) threatening and assaulting women.

On October 15th, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: "If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet." She
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General

Helping Others Can Heal the Brain

The greatest show in Las Vegas history must be the recent outpouring of the best of humanity. The courage shown by professional rescuers and regular citizens reaching out to help, and even risking their lives to do so, leaves many of us wondering what would we do and what can we do to help others.
Making a positive difference in someone’s life doesn’t take a life-threatening effort. Simple kindnesses can go a long way for someone struggling. I was lucky enough to receive such help this summer.
I blew out my ankle. Really blew it out. As I enjoyed a walk with my husband, on slightly uneven pavement my foot slid off the side of my two-inch platform sandal. Three bones broke and the ankle dislocated.
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OCD

OCD and Computational Psychiatry

There is a relatively new field of research known as computational psychiatry, which focuses on the development of mathematical models to better understand defects in the brain -- defects that lead to adverse behaviors.

A new study published in the journal Neuron discusses findings from this type of research into the fundamental processes of OCD. Senior author Benedetto De Martino says:
"Medicine today is very much about decoding the mechanisms in the body. When we are talking about something like a heart valve, that's a mechanical part that can be clearly understood. But the brain is a computational device that has no mechanical parts, so we need to develop mathematical tools to understand what happens when something goes wrong with a brain computation and generates a disease. This study shows that the actions of people with OCD often don’t take into account what they’ve already learned.”
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Anxiety and Panic

Screening Your Sanity

“Do you not give a damn about your father?” my Dad growled into the phone.

The truth is I cared -- probably too much. And for my own health and well-being, I had to step back from my Dad’s snark-filled comments and Mt. Vesuvius rage.

Family -- or at least the idealized notion of family -- is sacrosanct to me. I cherish my relationships with my beloved aunties and uncles. When they aren’t teasing me for the latest Mattism (losing my keys, wallet, or mind), they are prodding me about my latest love interest or travel escapade. And as for my late mother, she was equal parts mentor and matriarch. From joyfully recalling the day’s events to lunching with her and her tennis girlfriends to Thanksgiving bowl-a-thons, I smile -- ruefully -- at the fond memories. There is a tinge of sadness too as I recall our family’s joyfulness.
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Anxiety and Panic

The Smallest Talk

“Oh, the weather today was beautiful. Do want to talk about the meaning of life?” I ask.

While I facetiously save meaning of life questions for the second date (first date conversations generally revolve around morality tropes and ethical dilemmas -- I kid), I abhor small talk. Small talk is the conversational equivalent of a McDonald's Happy Meal: plastic and headache-inducing.

While I can smile along at small talk, my mind is jumping to more far-concerns concerns, "Why are we talking about Beyonce’s latest outfit when the refugee crisis is blotting Europe or the Republican health care plan threatens the Affordable Care Act? Or my mental health issues are strangle-holding me into submission?"
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OCD

OCD Awareness Week 2017

The 9th-annual OCD Awareness Week begins today.

It always takes place during the second week in October with the purpose of raising awareness and understanding of OCD and related disorders, as well as the appropriate treatment. Many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder know that finding the right help is often one of the toughest battles in the fight against OCD.

Some estimates say it can take as long as 14-17 years from the onset of symptoms to get a correct diagnosis and treatment. Though my family didn't realize it at the time, my son was one of the lucky ones -- it took about two years after his diagnosis to get him the right help.

While that's "not bad" in terms of OCD treatment, it is still much too long. It should have taken days, maybe weeks, but certainly not two years.
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Memory and Perception

Date-Stamping a Mental Slice of Life

The horror of seeing a young girl's arm slashed by an old witch in Boris Karloff's Thriller... the acute embarrassment of seeing the Beaver photographed by Fred Rutherford during his first kiss. Memories of the past haunt the present and remind us of lost innocence.

I think I imprinted on the black peignoir that Laura wore in the Dick Van Dyke episode in which Rob got into a skiing accident and Laura (clad in black) lovingly kissed and comforted him. ("Don't Trip Over That Mountain.")
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Creativity

The Secret Payoff of Being Introverted

Introverted individuals as a whole may, at times, come to be viewed by society as a shy, weird, problematic, standoffish, reserved, and socially awkward bunch of people.

Some studies have pointed to introverts not having enough immune boosting properties to ward off infection and pathogens in the environment, primarily because they tend to avoid large gatherings and their perceived cesspool of germs. Other studies point to a link between introversion, depression, and anxiety.

While these studies may point to a correlational link and nothing directly causal, it is unfortunate that from a social and perhaps health viewpoint, introverts have come to be perceived this way. In reality, we can learn a lot from their behavior, and keen level of introspection and observation.
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Bipolar

A Chemical Hiccup: Medicated Oblivion and Art

“I want to hold you in a warm Atlantic,
A sea of my own making, a meringue of lapis wine.”
It is bedtime, and I have swallowed my evening cocktail of bipolar drugs: 300 mg of Seroquel, the Lamictal, and, of course, the Clonazepam. The Seroquel silence is seeping in. I have about 20 minutes on this dead-end road. Soon, I will fall asleep, content and comfortable, a pleasant and sleeping “high-functioning bipolar,” but I will not get to think about what happens to that person in the warm waves of the Atlantic or find the rhythm that goes with my lapis wine.

Instead, I will forget about the beginnings of my poem in my own happy oblivion, and tomorrow I will pay the bills, maybe watch my favorite show on Netflix, and I will stop trying to knit these words together.
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Anxiety and Panic

The Long Journey Home

Nearly three months ago, I found myself quietly celebrating an anniversary that very few people knew about. I really didn’t want to give it too much attention to be honest. I wanted to avoid triggering thoughts that would take me back to those moments when life wasn’t so great. However, as I sat with my computer I began to remember and I actually smiled.

Prior to 2016, I had lived with family members for over 7 years. After being hospitalized for my mental health condition, I was unable to maintain consistent employment, provide for my daughter, or live alone. It was challenging to find the right combination of medication, self-care techniques, social supports, faith guidance, and therapeutic connections that would allow me to regain my self-sufficiency. In addition, I lived in constant fear of failing.
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Caregivers

OCD and Shopping Anxiety

By the time my son Dan entered a residential treatment center for OCD, he was barely functioning. Using exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy he tackled his hierarchy (a list of anxiety-provoking situations created by the person with OCD), and slowly but surely regained his life.

During his stay, one of his exposures was to go on shopping trips and make purchases. All types of shopping proved difficult for him -- buying groceries and necessities, clothing, etc. But the more expensive purchases, particularly if they were for himself, seemed to be the most stressful.

But he did it. And he felt the overwhelming anxiety. And he refrained from doing compulsions. Over and over again until shopping was no longer an issue for him.
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