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If you missed my interview with Robert Shryoc, Founder and CEO of Stonegate Center, a recovery community for men struggling with addictions, you really should take time to check it out. On the program, we talked about some of the lies we tend to tell ourselves when we are stuck in a negative cycle, habit, or addiction. You do not want to miss it! You can tune in to the program by clicking here.

Tonight on the program, I am revisiting a topic that I posted several weeks ago: the three people that you need in your life to succeed. I got such a good response from people about how helpful they found it that I decided to do a radio show about it. If you happened to miss the post, you can read the original below or tune into the program tonight on KCBI 90.9 at 6:30pm or 10:30pm CDT, or click on the link here after 7 pm to hear it in it’s entirety. Also, be sure to tune in next week as well. I will be talking with Stephanie Coker, a licensed social worker who has both personal and clinical experience working with those who are emotionally fragile. Stay tuned for more great guests and topics in the months ahead!! :

So, there you are…reeling at the news, a look of utter shock undeniably written all over your face. That exciting opportunity for which you had trouble falling asleep the night before is now the shattered hope that will keep you up tonight!

The work you put into the dream – the planning, the time, the networking, the energy – all seems now like a complete waste of time. And what hurts the most? The whole thing would have worked out if not for the interference of other people! Why couldn’t they catch the dream? Why couldn’t they get the vision? Why couldn’t they see in me what I know I have to give?

People will tell you, “Well, it just wasn’t meant to be?” Is that supposed to be comforting? I mean really…if it wasn’t meant to be, then why did I kill myself thinking it was? Why couldn’t somebody have seen that earlier, told me, and saved me a whole lot of trouble? If it wasn’t meant to be, then what is meant to be? Is there any point, any good that I can take away from this defeat?

My response? No doubt…there is!

Now, I’m not going to go into a bunch of platitudes about “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” or “this will build character in your life.” I know these are true, but they usually don’t help much in the face of such a tremendous disappointment. Instead, I want you to focus on the original passion that led you into this seemingly lost endeavor in the first place. I can almost guarantee you that it wasn’t about money, power for power’s sake, popularity, or pure pleasure. It was always about people. You had something that you wanted to give, something to contribute, a need to know and be known, a need to accept and be accepted, a hope to empower and be empowered. You haven’t lost faith in the dream…you’ve lost faith in people!!

So what do you do? How do you keep this disappointment from completely tainting your love, faith, and hope in others and making you a bitter, cynical person?

Let me suggest that you start by envisioning three people in your mind. Keep these people with you through the trial. Give them a face, a name, a legacy, and a future with you. They are as follows:

  1. The person you are striving for: This is the person that more than likely you started your mission to reach. I asked a factory worker installing seatbelts in automobiles who he was striving for. He said, “That little girl, just like my daughter, whose life will be saved because of me.” A teacher recently told me it was “that kid who really can succeed but everyone else in his life keeps telling him that he cannot!” Who are you striving for? He or she will be the one who gets you back up on your feet when you face a roadblock on the way to your dream. If you do not have someone like this in mind, create them. Be as detailed as possible. Give them a name. Envision their face before you when you are feeling discouraged. No venture in life will succeed if you are pursuing it for purely selfish gain. Your work will be so much more satisfying, even in times of failure, if you are striving for another.
  2. The person you are striving with: Somewhere in this world, there is someone who has gone through or is going through exactly what you are. They need you! They need your story! If you hole-up in isolation and coddle your hurt, keep it to yourself and refuse to share it, you will miss out on the connections you could have made with people who want to give and receive strength for the journey. Your heart will overflow when you meet them: a kindred spirit you might never have known otherwise. I interviewed a woman who said, “I thought I was all alone, but a whole world opened up to me when I opened up to it. It was like walking through a fog of loneliness for so long and then suddenly stumbling upon a campfire, burning bright and hot, surrounded by people celebrating a journey not yet finished but sure to end well. They were ready to walk along with me. My heart glowed for the first time!”
  3. The person you are striving toward:This isn’t as simple as a WWJD bracelet with which you snap your wrist each time a problem arises. It is, however, visualizing that one individual that you want to be and asking yourself how your pain can make you more like him or her. I’ve been reading a kids version of Pilgrim’s Progress to my children at night before bed, and so for me right now, I’ve been visualizing the character, Faithful. He’s the one who entered the town of Vanity Fair and was dragged into the courts by the town’s people. Despite all the tempting and laughing and brutality he experienced for being different, he stood strong in his mission, even to death. That’s who I want to be. I know I’m not perfect in that regard. I know I have a long way to go with lots of setbacks, but I keep that story in my mind and it helps. What about you? Who do you want to become? Perhaps he or she is a real person or a fictional character that embodies all the qualities you long for. Tell yourself that this setback is an opportunity to become more like them and determine to be that same person others aspire to be. It will make all the difference.

Questions: How do you keep from getting cynical about life and love when you’ve faced a hurt or setback? Are their ways that you have found helpful to keep you motivated? If you had someone in mind to strive for, with, and toward, who would they be?

 

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This is the second part of an interview I participated in for the Texan, a publication of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I was asked to comment on the motion presented to the SBC Executive Committee in favor of improving churches’ care for those with mental health challenges. I see this as a huge step forward in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, which has unfortunately been propagated by the church at times. In this section, I answer the question, “How does mental illness relate to the fallen nature of mankind?” I’d love to get your thoughts on it:

“However you view the “mind-body-spirit” dynamic—you have to acknowledge that sin taints our entire essence. We sin as an act but we are also sinners in our essence and that essence spans our spirituality, our psychology—I would use that term psychology—and our physiology, our bodies. When you see it from that standpoint, it allows for the uniqueness of the individual and their struggle. It allows for the infusion of truth, grace and mercy into their specific circumstances. And the gospel becomes very real to them because you’re not taking a cookie-cutter approach to every single person. You’re recognizing that we’re all tainted by the fall, but that tainting is very different for each person. So Sally, for example, may struggle with pride or arrogance or gossip, but Johnny over here struggles with pornography or violence, anger, rage. What makes them different? They’re both sinners. They’re both tainted by the fall. But their genetics, personalities, sex, and life circumstances are all different. And so it creates both a dynamic of collective sinfulness, commonality, while maintaining a uniqueness in these other areas. And when I see clients that come to my office, I take each one as an individual and try to tease out what is the essence of their struggle in this life, how the fall has tainted them, but also how they can be redeemed, in body, in soul, in spirit.

To address the physical nature of our humanity, let me point out that researchers have done studies looking at people with severe anxiety and demonstrated that certain areas of their brain are not just functionally overactive, but actually physically larger. One area in particular, called the amygdala, is larger and hyperactive in those who are extremely anxious. So then we must address the nature of their struggle. If somebody has a larger amygdala and it’s overactive, are they going to struggle more with worry and with anxiety, which the Bible says we clearly should not do? Yes, absolutely. Does that affirm their sinfulness? Of course, it affirms that they are broken people just like all of us. The statistic, as far as brokenness, is 100 percent—it just differs in the areas that we struggle. The joy and excitement of what I do is to learn about the nature of their anxiety and help equip them to battle it effectively, incorporating all tools at our disposal, given to us by God through both divine revelation and natural revelation.

So this resolution seems to me to be the equivalent of Christendom’s acceptance that the world is round. In Galileo’s time, there was a lot of fear about what the acceptance of this fact would do to the Faith.  It challenged people’s worldview. This is an equivalent issue in that it’s challenging our worldview today. But I think in the end, it will not do anything as far as shaking the core doctrines of our faith and what we believe, but will instead help us to be more effective as ambassadors of the truths we find in scripture about our brokenness and our need for a Savior.”

Question: What do you think? What causes mental illness? Is it physical, psychological, spiritual, or all of the above? How do you think we can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness while still remaining true to our faith?

(Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter @DaveHendersonMD, and Linkedin for more articles like these.)

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Tonight on For Christ and Culture, Barry Creamer hosts the show as I call in from Chicago, The Windy City, where I attended the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists’ annual meeting.* Be sure to tune in on KCBI 90.9 at 6:30pm or 10:30pm or by listening online any time after 7:30pm as we discuss the role of medication in treating psychiatric illnesses, when to prescribe and when not to, and how doctor’s determine when and how to use medications. We also dispel some myths about overprescribing in our culture and give some recommendations for clients seeking treatment. Seeing a mental health professional can be a scary thing to do, but with some preparation ahead of time, you can be confident that you are taking the right steps toward securing your own or a family member’s mental health. Here are just a few recommendations:

  1. Do your research ahead of time. Reading online reviews of a doctor can be helpful, but more often than not, getting a recommendation from a friend, a primary care physician, or another therapist who has had a positive experience with the doctor is the best way to feel comfortable that you have made a good choice.
  2. Consider the style of the professional. Is the doctor’s method of evaluation conducive to your needs? Ask questions of the staff before making an appointment: How long is the initial evaluation? Do I see the doctor the whole time or are their other individuals, assessments, and time commitments involved? It would even be appropriate to ask about the personality style of the doctor. Many people want to know if a doctor is sensitive to their spiritual and religious beliefs. These are all valid inquiries to help you make an informed decision. If staff seem inpatient and unwilling to respond, you might take that as a warning sign for future experiences. (Realize, however, that most doctors’ offices are extremely busy, so it would be helpful to think out your questions ahead of time, write them down, and take notes while you talk in order to get as much information in as short amount of time as possible.)
  3. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. No physician should get upset by a client’s decision to obtain a second opinion. It is always helpful to have another set of eyes on the situation to help determine the appropriateness of the diagnosis and the effectiveness of the treatment. If opinions differ, however, it will ultimately be your choice to decide on whose advice you act. Just realize that most doctors will require that you make a decision and see one or the other professional. Doctors do get concerned when a client shifts from doctor to doctor because it interrupts what we call “continuity of care.” Continuity of care allows us to follow an individual over time, make sure that treatments are effective and safe, and intervene quickly if a problem arises.
  4. If you’re hesitant to start medication, consider seeing a psychologist first. Most psychologists are trained in assessing personality styles and symptoms related to mental illness. If you are really wanting to keep medication as a last resort and fearful that a psychiatrist will automatically prescribe (It happens sometimes!), you might start here and allow the psychologist to recommend psychiatric treatment if they are concerned. Just realize that this adds an addition step onto the process and may lengthen the time it takes to find relief from your symptoms.
  5. Trust your instincts. After you’ve done your research, talked to friends and family, and prayed about the decision, move forward with the treatment recommendations that have been agreed upon. Most doctors today are collaborative in their approach. They don’t “force” you to do things unless they have an immediate concern for your safety or the safety of others. In these instances, they will likely involve friends and family who love and understand you. Each step of the way, ask questions. Talk openly about your concerns. That’s why the doctor is there. Perhaps you are unsure of your decision-making abilities. You have a right to an advocate who could join you, at least for the initial evaluation. And remember, if it doesn’t work out between you and the doctor for some reason, it doesn’t mean that you or the doctor has failed. It may simply mean that there is a better person suited to care for your needs.

Questions: Why do you think it is so scary to see a psychiatrist or other mental health professional? Is it possible that some of your fears can be assuaged by following the steps above? What other helpful tools have you developed to find the right professional for yourself, your family, or your friends?

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I’m not a diehard fan of zombie movies, but I must admit I found World War Z entertaining. (If your interested, you can listen to a radio show I did recently on the psychology of the undead by clicking here.) In zombie flicks there is always a scene were the protagonist (the living) and the antagonist (the undead) have a chance to observe one another from a place of relative safety, often depicted as a chain link fence. Both have the desire to destroy one another but amid that destructive force lays a hint of curiosity. What’s it like to be on the other side?

There are so many of us today who feel like the “living dead.” We are going through the motions of life, but nothing seems to bring us pleasure or fulfillment. I’m not sure how this feeling developed or whether people of centuries past could relate to it. I do know that years ago, when someone in a community suffered, the people of that community suffered with them. During World War II, you might drive through your neighborhood and see a star in the window, representing a family member who died. People would bring meals to one another and stop by for a comforting word or two. Today we lack that kind of camaraderie because many of our communities are virtual. On social media sites like facebook, twitter, and google+, we don’t have to interact with each others’ suffering if we don’t want to. Recently, I was scrolling through the news feed on facebook and I began reading a post that described a recent disaster in the family. Without even thinking, I skipped past it to a funny youtube video another friend had posted.

That separation, that chain link fence, can also leave us wondering, “Am I the only one that feels dead?” When all you see are vacation pictures, delicious meals, funny videos, the best images of people smiling and living life to the fullest, it is easy to start questioning the fullness of our own reality. Here are some actions I’ve found helpful to fight that feeling:

1. Take a break from social media for a while and reach out to a LIVE person in your REAL community.
2. Stop focusing on the grand and amazing events of life, and stay present in the moment. Learn to find beauty in the ordinary. (A hot cup of coffee on a cold day, your favorite pen when you’re doing paperwork, the giggles of your son or daughter, a wet kiss from your pet.)
3. Remember that what you see in the virtual world is often an illusion. Everyone is human. Everybody hurts. Don’t look to social media to fill a void in you that only another live human being can fill.
4. Stop watching the lives of other people and start doing some living yourself! One moment at a time.

Questions: What activities in life bring you the most joy? How can you infuse more of those activities into your daily routine? What are some of the small things in life that you’ve been ignoring that might actually encourage and lift your spirits? Stay mindful of them through the next week and see how your attitude about life changes.

With the coming healthcare reform that is bound to pass sooner or later, I thought I would post an interesting perspective. It is that of the fictional character, Dr. Hendricks, from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, describing why he quit the medical profession:

“I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago…Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything–except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the “welfare” of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only “to serve.” . . . I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind–yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well that is the virtue that I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors their system will now produce. Let them discover, in the operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if hes is the sort of man who resents it – and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”

Question: What are your thoughts on the coming changes within healthcare?

soldier20and20flagI was driving home from work yesterday when I heard about what happened at Fort Hood. This kind of tragedy always leaves me asking the question: “Why?”

One of the hardest truths to accept is that we may never know the reason this side of heaven. Nor, in the case of other people’s suffering, need we ever know! God deals with us as individuals in a very personal way. As C.S. Lewis said, God only tells us our story…not someone elses.  We cannot expect God to give us the inside scoop on every current event in the world. In a kind loving way, He often tells us to mind our own business. He does not want what we see happening around us to dampen our trust in Him.

When God revealed to the Apostle Peter what kind of death he was going to die, Peter’s first reaction was to look back at John and wonder, “What about him?” Jesus refused to answer his question. “What does it matter what happens to John? You follow me.”  When we witness events like the massacre at Fort Hood, we turn the question around and ask, “What about me?” After all, if God could allow such a tragedy in someone else’s life, isn’t it possible that He could do that same to me?  

This is the problem, I believe, with comparing our pain with others. Too often, it stirs up feelings of pride, fear, guilt and bitterness. We must accept on faith that God is working in the lives of those suffering from the tragedy at Fort Hood just as He is working in our lives through our own struggles. The “why” and the “how” is not necessarily for us to know.

Our responsibility is twofold:

1. To wrestle with God over our own hurts and ultimately submit ourselves under His infinite wisdom and control.(Psalm 102)

2. To seek out opportunities to relate to those who are in pain and provide them with the comfort God has given us.    (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

This is how God can use pain to bring us closer to Him and to each other.

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I am a board certified psychiatrist, author, speaker in private practice with Southwest Clinical and Forensics in Dallas Tx. I also serve as an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I have a passion for helping people through painful circumstances, be they physical illnesses of the brain, psychological conditions of the mind, social problems of everyday life, and/or spiritual crises of faith and worldview.

Disclaimer

All information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for a professional evaluation or treatment. If you are experiencing emotional distress, please contact a mental health professional. Dr. Henderson cannot respond to inquiries about prescription refills, or medical or psychiatric emergencies over the internet. If you are a patient in need of assistance, please contact Dr. Henderson’s office directly, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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