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Are We Too Sensitive?

Being sensitive is a double-edged sword, for sure. But without that sensitivity we would not have empathy for others and also would not have the capacity for introspection. Both are necessary qualities for a spiritual path.

The key is not taking on that as a harsh judgment against ourselves. It can be difficult. For me it started in childhood with a verbally abusive mother. Every time I am rejected or perceive rejection it takes me right back to that vulnerable place. I have to remind myself that the situation is not the same and that I am not powerless like I was before. And that my mother was screwed up and her judgments of me were not correct.

Therapy is very helpful in this process. At the same time of course I have made mistakes and hurt people so I have to face that and see what changes I need to make. Frankly at this point the best way I can differentiate between situations that are my fault and those that are not is to talk to my therapist. He is very good at helping me to understand other people’s points of view. That in no way means that other people are always right, but they are not always wrong either.

Ironically, sensitive people can come across as uncaring, even when we care a great deal. That is because of defensiveness. We are afraid that what we have done is an indictment against the core of our being.

In order to face the things I have done wrong and not be defensive I have to remind myself that I am a Child of God and that despite what I have been taught I am not evil, I only make mistakes. There is that part of me that is Divine and wholly good and that will never change. I simply need to align myself with that part of me.

I found this great article by Christian author Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund addressing common very bad and hurtful advice given to Christians who suffer from mental illness.  This is not to bash Christians, who are generally well-meaning in their advice. But their arguments come from ignorance and this article refutes them very well. It also gives great spiritual resources at the end of the article:

Reblogged from the Patheos Progressive Christian Blog Post Traumatic Church Syndrome:

5 Lies Christians Tell About Mental Illness

In honor of National Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 5-11), I invited minister and social worker Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund to write this post about some of harmful lies told in Christian communities about mental illness and faith. She is the author of Blessed are the Crazy: breaking the silence about mental illness, family & church (Chalice Press), which is both a memoir of her own family’s struggle with mental illness and a resource for faith-based organizations to provide healing and comfort for those who suffer.  

Lie #1: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

This statement echoes across the Christian landscape. Intended to comfort the afflicted, it actually lays an ugly guilt trip on the person suffering. To say that mental illness is something that “God gave you” implies that God wants you to suffer. “Mental illness is part of God’s will, and you are supposed to be strong enough to handle it.” FALSE!

Lie #2: Daily prayer and bible reading alone cures mental illness.

According to a recent LifeWay poll, nearly half of Evangelical Christians between the ages of 18-30 believe that prayer and bible study alone can cure mental illness. This belief is in direct opposition to medical research that confirms that many types of mental illness are best treated by a combination of cognitive, behavioral and pharmaceutical treatment plans supervised by mental health professionals. To say that mental illness can be cured by spiritual practices alone discourages Christians from getting the mental healthcare they need to treat and recover from mental illness.“God cannot use scientific advances to heal the human body.” FALSE!

Lie #3: Depression is a sin, a curse, or demon possession.

It’s true that we do not yet fully understand all of the environmental and biological causes of mental illness. Yet to state that mental illness is only caused by things in the “spiritual realm” denies what we know to be true: mental illness is a brain disease. While there are certainly spiritual aspects to both the cause and the treatment of mental illness, mental illness is not simply a spiritual disease, curse or demon possession. To talk of a person’s mental illness as a result of a sin, curse, or demon possession is to further stigmatize, shame, and isolate the person. “Mental illness is the result of a sin, curse or demon possession.” FALSE!

Lie #4:If you loved Jesus more you would be happier. 

This is a Christian twist on the “just try harder” lecture. If only you just loved Jesus more. If only you just believed more. If only you just let Jesus all the way into your heart, then you would be happier. This belief denies the reality of clinical depression that is not a matter of simply trying harder. Jesus loves all people, including people who have mental illness. Loving Jesus more is something we strive for as Christians, but not because it will make us happier. “Mental illness is a result of not loving Jesus enough.” FALSE!

Lie #5: You can’t be a Christian if you have a mental illness.

This is an old one, something that saints in the church have struggled with for centuries. We think that perhaps we are not deserving of God’s love because we have a mental illness. We do not know how God could accept us or love us because we are not perfect. So we think that a person with mental illness cannot be a Christian, cannot be a leader in the church, cannot be an ordained minister. Ministers, especially, are not supposed to have mental illness. But the truth is that Christians are humans, just as sick, broken, and in need of healing and wholeness as everyone else. As a person with mental illness, being a Christian can be a way to find compassion, support and love from a community of faith.“True Christians are immune from mental illness.” FALSE!

Sarah’s recommendations for healthy, faith-based mental health resources are as follows:

NAMI Faithnet: www.nami.org/FaithNet

Pathways to Promise: www.pathways2promise.org

Mental Health Ministries: www.mentalhealthministries.net

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness: www.inmi.us

United Church of Christ Mental Health Network: www.mhn-ucc.blogspot.com

 
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Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rebariley/2014/10/5-lies-christians-tell-about-mental-illness/#ixzz3FySQchp9

 

Anyone out there who loves taking meds? What? The silence is deafening!

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with our pharmaceuticals. Here is a wonderful satirical piece from the Onion illustrating a innovative way to increase patient compliance. I’ll let you guys read this while I search for my medication, Damnitall:

Wonder Drug Inspires Deep, Unwavering Love Of Pharmaceutical Companies

NewsScience & TechnologyproductshealthISSUE 42•10Mar 6, 2006
 

NEW YORK—The Food and Drug Administration today approved the sale of the drug PharmAmorin, a prescription tablet developed by Pfizer to treat chronic distrust of large prescription-drug manufacturers.

Pfizer executives characterized the FDA’s approval as a “godsend” for sufferers of independent-thinking-related mental-health disorders.

PharmAmorin, now relieving distrust of large pharmaceutical conglomerates in pharmacies nationwide.“Many individuals today lack the deep, abiding affection for drug makers that is found in healthy people, such as myself,” Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell said. “These tragic disorders are reaching epidemic levels, and as a company dedicated to promoting the health, well-being, and long life of our company’s public image, it was imperative that we did something to combat them.”

Although many psychotropic drugs impart a generalized feeling of well-being, PharmAmorin is the first to induce and focus intense feelings of affection externally, toward for-profit drug makers. Pfizer representatives say that, if taken regularly, PharmAmorin can increase affection for and trust in its developers by as much as 96.5 percent.

“Out of a test group of 180, 172 study participants reported a dramatic rise in their passion for pharmaceutical companies,” said Pfizer director of clinical research Suzanne Frost. “And 167 asked their doctors about a variety of prescription medications they had seen on TV.”

Frost said a small percentage of test subjects showed an interest in becoming lobbyists for one of the top five pharmaceutical companies, and several browsed eBay for drug-company apparel.

PharmAmorin, available in 100-, 200-, and 400-mg tablets, is classified as a critical-thinking inhibitor, a family of drugs that holds great promise for the estimated 20 million Americans who suffer from Free-Thinking Disorder.

Pfizer will also promote PharmAmorin in an aggressive, $34.6 million print and televised ad campaign.

One TV ad, set to debut during next Sunday’s 60 Minutes telecast, shows a woman relaxing in her living room and reading a newspaper headlined “Newest Drug Company Scandal Undermines Public Trust.” The camera zooms into the tangled neural matter of her brain, revealing a sticky black substance and a purplish gas.

The narrator says, “She may show no symptoms, but in her brain, irrational fear and dislike of global pharmaceutical manufacturers is overwhelming her very peace of mind.”

After a brief summary of PharmAmorin’s benefits, the commercial concludes with the woman flying a kite across a sunny green meadow, the Pfizer headquarters gleaming in the background.

PharmAmorin is the first drug of its kind, but Pfizer will soon face competition from rival pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company is developing its own pro-pharmaceutical-company medication, Brismysquibicin, which will induce warm feelings not just for drug corporations in general, but solely for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“A PharmAmorin user could find himself gravitating toward the products of a GlaxoSmithKline or Eli Lilly,” BMS spokesman Andrew Fike said. “This could seriously impede the patient’s prescription-drug-market acceptance, or worse, Pfizer’s profits in the long run.”

“Brismysquibicin will be cheaper to produce and therefore far more affordable to those on fixed incomes,” Fike added.

The news of an affordable skepticism-inhibitor was welcomed by New York physician Christine Blake-Mann, who runs a free clinic in Spanish Harlem.

“A lot of my patients are very leery of the medical establishment,” Blake-Mann said. “This will help them feel better about it, and save money at the same time.”

PharmAmorin’s side effects include nausea, upset stomach, and ignoring the side effects of prescription drug medication.

Go to the original article.

Laughter is great medicine so get your fix at The Onion.

Heh, heh…I remember when the allergy drug Allegra came out, the ads never got around to telling you what it was for. They just showed a very happy woman surfing across a wheat field. I kept thinking I want what she is having…

Alas, I still can’t find that damn prescription Damnitall, damn it all!   :(

 

Another great article from Tiny Buddha and Bill Lee, whose article from Om Times I posted recently. This is more than a simple instruction on mindfulness, but also a story his profound struggle with mental illness and learning to manage his symptoms of bipolar disorder and PTSD.  Even more than that it is a inspirational story of survival and triumph over the odds.

Calm Your Mind Without Sitting to Meditate

Hiking

“Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

Sitting meditation has always been challenging for me; practicing mindfulness, even harder.

As a self-confessed worrywart who has contended with constant ruminations, flashbacks, and nightmares for most of my life (more on this later), all prior attempts at being fully present and not thinking merely served as reminders of how little control I had over my mind. Then I took up hiking and stumbled upon a form of meditation that literally transformed my life.

Initially, just being out in nature on scenic trails cultivated calmness and cleared my head. Almost immediately, I realized that hiking provided a respite from intrusive thoughts that have plagued me since I was a tyke.

They include flashbacks of my mother’s numerous suicide attempts in our decrepit Chinatown apartment, my father’s drunken rages, and recurring images of shootings, savage beatings, and other gory crime scenes from my gangbanging days.

Ruminations include the sound of gunfire along with the replaying in my head of toxic utterances in Cantonese that translate to “Giving birth to you was my biggest mistake,” “I wish you were never born,” and my own father yelling “You bastard!”

Somehow, walking in nature enabled my mind to slow down and rest, which felt liberating.

Unfortunately, the novelty soon wore out. Merely walking and hiking wasn’t enough to prevent symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress from returning. I reverted to rehashing the past and worrying obsessively about the future.

However, I had gotten a taste of the benefits of mindfulness meditation and discovered that it can be practiced while engaging in an activity I enjoyed. These revelations motivated me to keep at it.

After reading what was available on walking meditation, which typically advise focusing on the flow of our “in” and “out” breaths, I developed my own techniques for practicing mindful walking and hiking.

My favorite is to look ahead and select a destination point or object and stay focused on it. It can be a shadow on the ground, boulder, bush, tree, manhole cover, light pole, store awning, mailbox, and so on. Once I reached it, I chose another landmark or object, usually a little further away.

Rough or uneven trails forced me to concentrate on each step for safety reasons. My brain automatically blocked out discursive thoughts; otherwise I could slip, trip, or fall. Other techniques I came up with include fully feeling the ground of each step, following the flight pattern of birds and insects, observing cloud patterns, and being conscious of sounds and scents—moment to moment.

Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, often called “Thay,” which means “teacher” in Vietnamese, is revered throughout the world for his teachings and writings on mindfulness and peace.

He has brought the practice into institutions, including maximum-security prisons, helping inmates attain calmness and inner peace while being confined up to twenty-four hours daily. Many of them have professed that mindfulness meditation is the most difficult endeavor they have ever engaged in.

We live in a culture where many of us want quick results with as little effort as possible. This applies to how we approach our work, health, pastimes, social interactions, and problems. This mindset is the antithesis of mindfulness.

In my opinion, it is virtually impossible to tackle mindfulness meditation without patience and discipline. Fortunately, these attributes can be enhanced by engaging in the art itself.

When I started mindful walking and hiking, my ability to stay present was measured in feet and seconds.

As a highly competitive, emotionally undisciplined, and impatient person, I could have easily succumbed to my frustrations and given up. But the short periods of calmness and inner peace I attained—supplemented by my stubbornness—provided the necessary resolve for me to stick with the program.

As I continued my mindfulness “training,” catching my mind when it wandered occurred sooner, and the ability to refocus took less effort. Using kind, positive messages such as “rest” and “focus” was more effective than phrases such as “don’t wander” and “don’t think.”

Insight and mindfulness meditation are usually practiced separately. Personally, when I am procrastinating about something or seeking a solution to a problem, ideas and answers usually emerge effortlessly during or immediately following my walks and hikes.

These epiphanies and aha moments tend to be inspired by kindness and compassion, as opposed to ego.

I was severely beaten by a rival gang member as a teen. For over forty years, I suffered nightmares, flashbacks, and ruminations of the attack. Both conventional and unconventional modalities of therapy failed to provide much relief.

One morning, I was enjoying a relaxing hike when the familiar image of my attacker suddenly appeared. For the very first time, I remained calm and found myself viewing my lifelong enemy as a kindred spirit. I saw him as someone like me, most likely abused as a child, who desperately sought empowerment by joining gangs.

This awakening, along with my spiritual practice, enabled me to cultivate compassion and forgiveness. The nightmares and flashes of the attack ceased at that point and have not returned.

Mindfulness can be practiced pretty much anywhere and at any time. I do it first thing in the morning when I wake up while still lying in bed, in the kitchen, in the shower, at my desk, and most recently while getting dental work done.

Whether I devote a few seconds by pausing and taking a deep belly breath—or hiking for several hours—benefits are reaped.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, practicing mindfulness has transformed my life. With a family history of mental illness and a violent upbringing, I have been diagnosed and treated for multiple mood disorders, including manic depression, post-traumatic stress, addiction, and rage.

My mindfulness practice has empowered me to rest and calm my mind, as well as intercept and suppress negative thoughts. It serves as a powerful coping mechanism for me.

For the majority of my life, I was at the mercy of gambling urges and other cravings. When I encounter them now, I pause, acknowledge what is happening, take a few deep breaths, focus on my surroundings, and allow the urges to pass.

Staying relaxed enables me to respond instead of react, which places me in a better position to reflect and gain insight into the underlying issues that triggered the desire to self-medicate.

My mood is much more stable and I have better control of my emotions. The benefits I received from mindful walking and hiking has inspired me to practice it throughout the day.

I used to loathe driving because of my road rage. I was terrified of myself, often wondering when I left the house if I would end up in jail or the morgue. My level of stress rose in proportion to the amount of traffic I encountered.

Practicing mindfulness meditation in the car keeps me mellow as well as alert. I have become a patient and compassionate driver, smiling at other motorists and limiting use of the horn for safety purposes. Another insight I gained is that my past aggressive behavior on and off the road attracted like-minded people.

The mental discipline I gained also enabled me to embrace Buddhism, which has interested, yet eluded me for many years. All of this empowers me to attain and maintain equanimity. Now, I can even sit and meditate for long periods without feeling restless or irritable.

So for those who find sitting meditation challenging, or for individuals seeking different ways to practice mindfulness, I recommend mindful walking and hiking.

Not only is it a fun way to quiet the mind while getting some exercise, but it can be life-changing—helping us let go of worries, stress, tension, and even the most painful memories from the past.

Hiking man image via Shutterstock

Avatar of Bill Lee

About Bill Lee

Bill Lee is a second-generation Chinese American who grew up in the Chinese underworld. He is the author of three memoirs. In his new book, Born-Again Buddhist: My Path to Living Mindfully and Compassionately with Mood Disorders, he describes in detail the positive impact that mindful walking and hiking has made in his life. Visit facebook.com/Bill.Lee.author.

See original article here.

Please visit Tiny Buddha for more inspiring stories!

See my reblog of Bill Lee’s article Living Mindfully With Mood Disorders.

 

Oh man, nothing makes me so angry as when people peddle misinformation as being fact, especially when it comes to psychiatric medications. While I acknowledge that not all people are helped by them and that some have bad reactions to them, the anti-medication movement is often riddled with ridiculous statements such as “Antidepressants damage the brain and cause people to become sociopaths.”  My conscience is very much intact, thank you very much. And that goes for others I know who take antidepressants as well.

I am focusing in this post on antidepressant medications, although the same principles apply to many other psychiatric medications as well. But I hear antidepressants being brought up more often than others, and I have studied them more than others as well.  I want to say upfront that I am not a medical professional. I am a mental health consumer who believes knowledge is power, so I have done my own research on this.

There are more subtle charges about antidepressants than what I posted above, that are more believable to people who don’t know the facts.

“Antidepressants work no better than a placebo”

Partly true. The end should say “For mild to moderate depression.”  But for major clinical depression and bipolar depression they do work. The logical conclusion is that many if not most of mild to moderate cases of depression are situational, rather than biological. Antidepressants are not designed to treat non-biological depression.  Unfortunately the overprescribing of antidepressants to those who don’t need them has resulted in a backlash from the public and the media is not always reporting the entire story.

Another charge is this:

“It says right in the antidepressant drug information that they don’t know how it works so the hypothesis that it corrects a chemical imbalance must be wrong.”

Again, partly true. It does say that it is “thought to work” by correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain. But there are many non-psychiatric medications that have the same type of caveat. Just because they don’t always know exactly how a medication works does not mean that it is a useless medication. It is results that matter. Some research has shown that perhaps it causes an increase in neurons which might account for why it may take up to a few weeks to become effective. It may also be a case of multiple effects that are in play as well. Perhaps the medication affects both the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain AND increases neurons. It has to be pointed out that until recently it was thought that the brain could not regenerate and produce new cells. That has been proven wrong with the new science of neuroplasticity or neurogenesis.  My next post is going to go into how the hypothesis of the chemical imbalance came about. It was not an unreasonable idea in light of the knowledge of the brain they had at the time, in the 1950’s. But I want to point out that the “chemical imbalance” hypothesis, while it is being challenged, has not been disproven either. It is up in the air at the moment.

One thing that many people don’t understand is that science progresses in stages and it is self-correcting as well. No scientist will ever claim that they understand everything perfectly. When  I debate people on scientific research, I point out this as an example of how science works. While Isaac Newton was a brilliant man, he never actually understood what gravity is. He was the one who discovered the principle or the theory of gravity and described its mathematical qualities but he didn’t know what it was or the cause of it. Others built upon his discovery so that we have a more complete view now.  But even now there are mysteries because Newtonian physics and Quantum physics should not be able to exist side by side as they contradict each other. Yet they do, not because either one of them is wrong, but because our understanding is incomplete.

And gravity works, whether you understand it or not. The same principle applies with medications.

This is just something to keep in mind when people claim that “such and such research” has been “disproven”, many times based on only one study. Studies have to be replicated in order to have any validity at all. And the human brain is a rather difficult organ to do research on. Lab animals can be subjected to medications and also be controlled for variables. Then they are killed and their brains dissected. You can’t do that with people. So studies have to be based on effectiveness, not on a complete understanding of the pathology of the mentally ill brain.

But the one that really “Grinds my gears” is when people compare psychiatric medications to addictive illegal drugs.

“Antidepressants change the levels of neurotransmitters and alter receptors. Cocaine also changes the levels of both dopamine and serotonin, as well as noradrenaline, and alters receptors.”

This is one of the most insidious charges around. The fact is that many medications affect the levels of neurotransmitters and possibly receptors as well.  That does not automatically mean that they are bad for you or are addictive. Many migraine medications, and drugs for Parkinson’s disease for example. In fact any medication that can cross the blood-brain barrier is likely to affect the brain in some manner, such as with older antihistamine medications that cause drowsiness and are still a popular ingredient in over-the-counter sleep medications.

The difference between a horrendously addictive and destructive drug  and an antidepressant is HOW it works in the brain. Cocaine does raise the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, temporarily, by causing them all to be released at once. That is what causes people to feel high. When you come down though, those chemicals are depleted and then you become depressed and your body craves another high.

On the other hand, antidepressant medication does not cause a high and is thought to work by conserving the levels of neurotransmitters by inhibiting the re-uptake into the cells. It essentially is recycling the chemicals that would otherwise be broken down by the body, meaning more of it is available for use in the brain.

Those are two completely different processes and in fact antidepressants do exactly the opposite of what cocaine does! Cocaine depletes, antidepressants conserve!

If anyone challenges you on taking “happy pills” ask them what the street value for these things are. The answer is zero.

The only psychiatric medications that you need to watch out for are tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Some people do end up abusing them. You and your doctor need to watch out for signs of tolerance, needing more to have the same effect. If you are uncomfortable taking these medications, ask your doctor for non-addictive medications or other ways to manage your symptoms. And please do not get the term ‘major tranquilizers” confused with the term “tranquilizers” as the former is an old-fashioned term for antipsychotics, which are not addictive.

The answer to all this insanity is to educate yourself and others (if they are open to that). Learn what your medications are and how they work. All the information I have supplied here is readily available online and you can also ask your doctor. Read the drug information from the pharmacy too and ask the pharmacist questions as well. Knowledge is power!  ;)

 

 

After many years of being in therapy off and on I am so happy that I have found such a good therapist. He has been helping me clarify my relationship problems and I am seeing things in a new light. I have also been spending a great deal of time thinking about things (one thing that being disabled gives you is plenty of time to think! That can be good or bad).

The fact is that people scare the crap out of me. I don’t make friends easily. You see I think I am going to ruin their lives. From an early age I was always “making” my mother cry or get mad, but I never knew quite what I did that would cause that extreme reaction.  Mostly what I did was simply talk at the wrong time.

I also have an almost clear memory of her putting me and my sister to bed, and I was talking to her while she tucked me in. I don’t remember what I said, but she got this shocked look on her face and started crying and ran out of the room. My sister said “See what you did!”

Perhaps guilt is why I do not remember what I said, I have blocked out some childhood memories where I only remember parts of what happened. All I know is that I wasn’t saying anything with an intent to upset her and her reaction mystified me.

My mother obviously had problems, but having gone through bipolar depression myself I do not believe that she suffered from depression. Overall her moods were okay, except when it came to dealing with me.

When I started school I would not talk to anyone because I figured that they would hate me, because if I was not good enough for my family how could I be good enough for anyone else? Of course that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and I got the label “retard.”

My fear of people is now 100% worse because of having bipolar disorder. I have created my share of havoc with it although I am dealing with it better now.

It doesn’t help when my brother-in-law chimes in “No wonder you have no friends!”

Ironically when he said that I had done nothing to him but that is a story for another day. The point is that it hurt, badly.

The reason I have few friends is not because I don’t care about others, as he implied. It is just the opposite. I often feel like all I have to offer to others is pain and misery. And that is also why I have not dated in years. And now I am  disabled with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue so somehow I doubt that I would be a fun date.

I know, at least intellectually, that I am more than my illness and more than my worst qualities. But that has not reached my heart yet.

My therapist says that I remind him of a sun-burnt person who is always desperately trying to make sure no one touches her in a crowd of people.

However he is helping me to understand what went on in my family and the ironic fact that my mother actually loved me, but did not know how to show it. I will write about that in another post. The point is that hopefully I can learn to let go of the shame that I have accumulated. Shame is actually different from guilt in a very subtle way. Guilt says “I did a bad thing but I can correct it”. Shame says “I am a bad person and nothing I can do will ever change that.”

It is the shame that leads me into suicidal ideation, although I have promised myself to not go down that road again, mainly for my father’s sake. He spent so much time listening and helping me during the bad times and it would be a betrayal to him to do myself in. He is also proof that I am lovable, even when I don’t feel it myself. His love has sustained me.

I wonder how many of you identify will what I have said. Please share. :)

 

Reblogged from Science Daily:

 

Spirituality, religion may protect against major depression by thickening brain cortex

Date:
January 16, 2014
Source:
Columbia University, Teachers College

A thickening of the brain cortex associated with regular meditation or other spiritual or religious practice could be the reason those activities guard against depression — particularly in people who are predisposed to the disease, according to new research led by Lisa Miller, professor and director of Clinical Psychology and director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The study, published online by JAMA Psychiatry, involved 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history. The subjects were asked how highly they valued religion or spirituality. Brain MRIs showed thicker cortices in subjects who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not. The relatively thicker cortex was found in precisely the same regions of the brain that had otherwise shown thinning in people at high risk for depression.

Although more research is necessary, the results suggest that spirituality or religion may protect against major depression by thickening the brain cortex and counteracting the cortical thinning that would normally occur with major depression. The study, published on Dec. 25, 2013, is the first published investigation on the neuro-correlates of the protective effect of spirituality and religion against depression.

“The new study links this extremely large protective benefit of spirituality or religion to previous studies which identified large expanses of cortical thinning in specific regions of the brain in adult offspring of families at high risk for major depression,” Miller said.

Previous studies by Miller and the team published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2012) showed a 90 percent decrease in major depression in adults who said they highly valued spirituality or religiosity and whose parents suffered from the disease. While regular attendance at church was not necessary, a strong personal importance placed on spirituality or religion was most protective against major depression in people who were at high familial risk

See original article here.

Ah yes I remember mania, which with me comes once in a blue moon, if even that. I don’t get true out of control mania, but what is called “hypomania”, a less severe form. Thus I can be a bit nostalgic. My last one lasted about three weeks, and towards the end I was cycling between hypomania and depression several times a day, literally laughing one moment and crying the next.I had changed insurances and ran out of my Zoloft and had not made an appointment yet with a new doctor. And yes it is counter-intuitive that this should cause mania, but later on I stumbled upon an obscure research paper online that said that yes, this can happen when going off of an antidepressant.

At any rate for a while I was on a pleasant high and I truly thought I had reached enlightenment. For the first time, all my resentments went away. I loved everyone. I even considered contacting the Dr. Phil show to tell him how well I was doing and see if he could put me in touch with some people who could help me along in my spiritual journey.

Only one thing stopped me. That still small voice that knew that is was not real. Even though I had never had this kind of high before and it had never lasted that long before either, I was well versed in the symptoms of bipolar disorder. I had studied the symptoms. I was spending the whole day in a blissed out state. I was feeling hypersexual and was also fantasizing about that for hours a day. And I needed less sleep although at the same time I exhausted beyond belief. That is part of the fibromyalgia/ chronic fatigue disease I have. And I spent a whole  night pacing back and forth saying my thoughts out loud in rapid succession comparing my (what I thought to be) brilliant insights tying together different psychological theories.

Since I was living alone no one knew about all this and I did not tell them because, once again, a part of me knew that this was wrong and that I needed help. Especially when it started turning from hypomania to depression. So finally I decided to do so and go back on my Zoloft.

The whole thing left me disillusioned . Nothing about it was real. My resentments came back and  I was on solid ground again. I hated this. I felt like I had been cheated!

But just because this “spiritual experience” was not real does not take away from the spiritual experiences I have had when I have been well. They have been much more subtle, often coming in dreams or during spiritual exercises. I don’t feel high, or invincible or that I have all the answers. But I do feel a sense of comfort from them.

Here is Deepak Chopra’s take on the matter:

This is reblogged from Oprah.com :

Ask Deepak: The Difference Between Mental Illness and Enlightenment

Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users’ questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.

I am at a point in my life where there are some things I can’t tolerate anymore, especially while dealing with the stress of having both physical and mental problems. As much as I know spiritually that everyone has good within them there are those that simply can’t be trusted. In many ways I am naïve in that I think certain people will change if I just give them the chance or if I conform to what they want from me. The way I am with people is that I bounce between being totally wide open to being totally shut down. Neither side is healthy but I think a good start for me to fix this problem is to figure out what kinds of behaviors are warning signs that I need to pay attention to.

That brings me back to my family problems but instead of talking about my sister and my problems with her as I have done a lot, I will focus on my brother-in-law. In fact I am beginning to understand that some of my sister’s antagonism towards me stems from his behavior and the fact that he is a master manipulator and a liar.

I do realize that there is no point in trying to change him but I am using him as an example of what I need to watch out for. Perhaps this is karma, except that as I frame it (in my better moods) it has less to do with punishment and more to do with second chances. The Universe keeps sending me messages that I cannot afford to ignore.

I will start with an example of how he has set me up to fail.

When we as a family went out for dinner my brother-in-law would pay for everyone. I would have my debit card out to pay and he would tell me to not worry about it since he would get it. I asked him “Are you sure?” He always said yes and I thanked him. It was a break for me as I am on disability.

Later on when my sister and I had a falling-out he sent me a very nasty e-mail and made the charge “Every time I see you, you pick my pocket!” What the hell???

I mentioned this bizarre charge to my father and he clarified what was going on. My father asked my brother-in-law to put my meals on his credit card without my knowledge.. The reason why is simple, my father pays off his credit card and in fact all his bills since he does not have a job. My father was the one who was paying for my meal, not my brother-in-law. He just found it convenient to do it this way.

Now I have tried to blow this off as a simple misunderstanding, but I am wondering if it is more than that. Because how could he possibly think that I put my father up to this when I had my debit card out to pay? And surely he is intelligent enough to figure out the reason why my father asked him to do this. How could I be “picking his pocket” when it was not his money in the first place???

If he had a problem with what my dad asked him to do then he should have addressed it with him. But now I have the reputation with him and my sister of being “a thief.”

Later on my sister told me that he sometimes puts the meals on his business account, which is still funded by my father because it is not successful. In fact the reason why my father is paying their bills is because he refuses to get an outside job as my father has repeatedly told him to do.

How the hell does he expect me or my father to know that he is doing that, especially when it is only “sometimes”?

The irony here is that in actuality he is picking my father’s pocket and mine indirectly because it would be nice if I had an inheritance., especially since I am disabled. But even more important is that my father needs the money for himself. He is 86 years old and retired. He worked hard to save his money, but my brother=in-law has not made a serious attempt to get a job in three years, since he lost his last job.

Because of stuff like this it is becoming more and more clear to me that with all this going on that having a relationship with them at this point would be an exercise in futility. I do realize that I have made mistakes in our relationship but in some cases it is obvious that I am being set up. And my brother-in-law lies about me all the time to make me look bad. He has done it with my father, who doesn’t buy it for a second but he has told me about it. I am sure he is doing the same with my sister.

I once had a dream where I was so mad at my sister I was literally at her throat in anger and then the scene changed to my brother-in-law flying a model airplane with a smirk on his face. While I am not an expert in dream interpretation I wonder if this was a warning about him playing games behind the scenes to intensify the problems with my sister. Flying a model airplane could symbolize manipulation.

This is just one example of many of where I simply cannot trust him and by extension my sister as well. It is a hard lesson for me to realize that not all people I encounter have good intentions. On the surface he is a very nice and pleasant person. And he has done some good things as well for me. But that does not mean that I can trust him. Sad but true.

Reblogged from OMTimes:

 

Living Mindfully and Compassionately with Mood Disorders

mood-disorders_OMTimesby Bill Lee

Manic depression, post-traumatic stress, and addiction are all complex psychiatric mood disorders that many suffer concurrently. Those of us who have been diagnosed with one or more of these mood disorders, or mental illnesses, (co-occurring) contend with debilitating symptoms, which may include severe anxiety, dramatic mood swings, rage, ruminations, flashbacks, and nightmares. Our manic episodes are often life-changing and can result in death. Although there are no cures for any of these disorders, adopting a Buddhist practice that includes mindfulness and Tonglenmeditations can augment our existing treatment protocol.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is simply being fully aware and present in the moment. It’s like having an orchestra conductor inside our heads, who also serves as a gatekeeper—intercepting negative thoughts, such as urges, ruminations, flashbacks, and addiction cravings. When we’re free of these triggers and symptoms, we can concentrate, reach a higher consciousness, and embrace insights, which can lead to emotional breakthroughs and healing.

Belly breathing is the core technique for practicing mindfulness meditation. Also referred to as “abdominal” and “diaphragmatic” breathing, this is our inborn way of respiring and it has distinct advantages over breathing from our chest. Belly breathing enables us to take in more oxygen with fewer breaths—with more carbon dioxide being expelled on the out breath. Increased utilization of our diaphragm to breathe lowers our heart rate and helps to stabilize our blood pressure. Belly breathing stimulates the area just below the navel, where our body stores chi energy. This is where our Buddha nature resides.

A Natural Mood Stabilizer

Those of us who suffer from the mood disorder of being bipolar face challenges that our friends and family often have difficulties understanding. A genetic predisposition and chemical imbalance can result in extreme highs and lows as well as rapid mood swings. A mindfulness practice can help us gain better control—not only of our thoughts—but of our emotions as well.

Being attentive from moment to moment enable us to be fully conscious of changes in our mood, which may occur suddenly. Mindfulness serves as a potent coping mechanism for us. When we find ourselves in a stressful situation or sense that we are becoming anxious, overly sensitive, irritable, hyper, fearful, or aggressive, implementing mindful breathing immediately helps us to pause and focus, instead of panicking, retreating, acting out angrily, or resorting to high-risk or excessive behavior—such as compulsive gambling, hypersexual activity, or wild shopping sprees. This brings our mind to a relaxed state, where it can rest and recharge, while maintaining full awareness. Mindfulness meditation reduces our anxiety and acts as a natural mood stabilizer. It is a great way to cultivate loving-kindness for ourselves.

The Four Noble Truths and 12-Step Recovery

Buddhism and the 12-Step Recovery Program have a lot in common. Both traditions promote community (sangha), spirituality, humility, accountability, making amends, ethical behavior, and of course—abstinence from intoxicants. In fact, most of the literature used in recovery fellowships is in accordance with the Eightfold Path.

One major difference between 12-Step fellowships and Buddhism is that the former advocate surrendering to a higher power, while the latter emphasizes the power within each of us. Those unfamiliar with Buddhism may be surprised to learn that Buddha presented himself as a teacher and instructed his followers to think for themselves and not take his words at face value. He did not wish to be worshipped. So addicts who are atheists or agnostics can adopt a spiritual practice without any expectation to turn their will or their lives over to anyone or anything. The solution for our suffering lies in our true nature….Read more here

 

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