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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Drug Seeking

As much as I'd love to give you that post on drug-seeking here, I can't. But it's over at TheSecondRoad.Org.

There's no sister post here on ENT like there should be, because right now I'm overwhelmed with changing the baby's diaper and playing Chomp (you'll see) with the other kids, and fielding phone calls from my practice because I'm out of town visiting family for yet another holiday.

It gets boring, I know, hearing that I have yet another holiday. But think of it this way, Another Jewish Holiday!

If you think of religion as the opiate of the masses, then come to think of it, we're drug-seeking as we speak. Cooking and cleaning before the holiday just so we can hang around for a couple of days and learn things, eat, socialize, pray a little. No work, nada. The guy on call will take your call.

I tend not to think of it this way, that religion is an opiate. I know from opiates, what they do to people. There are other classes of drugs that change how you feel, opiates are only one, and these tend to bite you in the end, too.

Sorry. So negative. So let's not focus on that. Next week will be different, I swear (no promises, scratch that). There's so much more to talk about, seriously, than how people like to get high. But if a person only wanted to read about or talk about how people love to get high and all the wonderful ramifications of that, then a blog like TheSecondRoad would serve that purpose nicely.

But we've barely, hardly talked about divorce on the blog. Maybe it's time.

therapydoc

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Housekeeping

One of my readers (Brandice) complains:
I'd really like to read your blog, but a truncated RSS feed (making me go to your site from Google Reader to read your posts) is basically like saying, "I will only let you read my content on MY terms rather than in a way that's convenient for you" and it's incredibly frustrating. Giving your feed about another week and then I'm just going to unsubscribe if you're dead set on keeping the truncated feed.
I'm not a real internet person, believe it or not, and don't worry much about these things. But I love solving things, all kinds of things.

As far as I know, at the top of the browser, inside the wide skinny rectangle, is an orange doodad that you can click on to subscribe directly. But maybe that goes through Google, too.

Are other people having problems with this? Should I call up the Google people? I imagine these issues started when Google bought Feedburner. Nobody kvetched before.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

therapydoc

Monday, May 18, 2009

Friendship Interruptus



It sound silly, but isn't as silly as it sounds. Friendship is sensitive, and it's those interruptions, past, present, and future, that can make it so ridiculously hard. A can't live with it, can't live without it thing.

But that's not the point of the hottest study at UCLA, which is worth talking about, if only for a minute, because I'd like to get back to that friendship interruptus thing. Gale Berkowitz's piece waxes poetic on friends (thanks J and others for the link). We get it, 100%, those of us who are female, about friends:
They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are.
They help us remember our past, shape our identities, fill in gaps in other relationships, and more. Laura Cousin Klein, PhD co-author of the study believes there is a biological reason that friends serve us well when we're under stress. Fight or flight, the old stress response paradigm, is a gross simplification.

Actually, cognitive therapists have known that since the fifties, but okay.

I'll paraphrase:
. . .when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the female stress response, it buffers "fight or flight. Females don't run, and they don't fight, they turn to tending the children and socializing with other women, which in turn stimulates greater oxytocin production, which further counters stress by producing a calming effect.
So it's pretty important that we do what is natural to us, arrange chick flick night.

Or at least lunch. Or dinner. Guys, apparently, because they're guys, don't get this warm and fuzzy oxytocin high because they are guys and their testosterone mitigates its effect, anyway. Whereas estrogen, the hormone that makes females softer in so many ways, might enhance it.

It does seem that men relate less intimately to one another, although some of us would suggest that this is a response to internal homophobia. Whereas the female brain gets warm and fuzzy at the very thought of shmoozing with other female brains, guys get prickly.

Even guys can be intimate, however, we know that, and we see it quite a bit in cyberspace where it's safe and there's less fear of exposure, thanks to anonymity. Having that sixth degree of separation, male bloggers are just like female bloggers, and master whatever intimacy fears they might otherwise face in life stuck being guys.

The study could be interpreted as a biological proof, the one that some of us have been looking for, that women, as a group, are truly superior in fundamental ways. We certainly score better on social report cards.

Can't wait for the comments. I'm ducking.

But you know it's much better to cry with your girlfriends than to stuff your feelings or throw back the Jack with the guys! Well, some of us think so.

All this and Jeffrey Zaslow's story (WSJ, Sat-Sun) about the Ames Girls. Eleven (now 10) women from Iowa have remained close friends for over thirty years. And they didn't stay in Ames, Iowa, either. They kept the mojo working from afar.

I love so many things about this story, but mainly hate that I don't have this, a minyan* of close childhood friends. Mr. Zaslow finds it marvelous, too, that these "girls" stayed a cohesive social unit, for he spent a good deal of time with them to research his book. The book documents their friendship and may imply that the magic that keeps the Ames girls together has something to do with having no issue with the label girls. Whatever the secret, maybe it's a private school or a church thing, I haven't read the book, or all of the article to be absolutely honest here, whatever the reason, we're jealous.

Because it's true that the people we grow up with are the ones who remember. They remember our parents when our parents were young. They remember how we looked, how we behaved. They're the ones who suffered at our sides or yakked with us on the phone until daybreak when our teachers embarrassed us, or boyfriends dumped us, or our parents spleened us or screamed at one another, shaking the rafters. So having friends around ten, twenty, thirty years later is a blast to the past, every time you meet up. Old friends refresh the old pages.

Now really. Why don't all of us have a group of ten or eleven best friends?

Families on the move are partially to blame. The army brats whose parents have to pick up and move to serve Uncle Sam cart their kids from city to city, post to post. And those brats (how I hate that word) sometimes attend upwards seven to ten schools before they graduate high school. The government should find another way, seriously, to stop this slam dunk to socio-emotional health. Friendship interruptus is in the mental health equation, no question.

Poverty is, too. Parents one step ahead of the wolves tend to be on the move. Bye, bye, class of 2010. We're heading south where it's warmer, west where nobody knows our name.

And then there's normal adolescence, for so many of us. Those of us who suffer from being normal might behave in unorthodox ways as adolescents, one might even say anti-social ways. We get depressed and withdrawn, difficult to socialize with, but we also get curious. And when that happens we want to know what other people are like, want to befriend new kids, ditch the old.

Dropping old friends was an occupational hazard for some of us, not only as adolescents, but as younger children, too, and is thought to be part of the developmental growth process. It isn't smart to ditch people, but some of us do it anyway, can't cop to that girl scout motto, Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.

And we know which ones are gold.

And when the new kids get boring there are others to replace them, there always are. So kids moves on, socially, don't always care or look back. Until ten, twenty, thirty years later they stop and say, Where did everybody go?

Moving from one peer group to another can be painful to the ones left in the dust. Teenagers, ten-year olds, don't have farewell lunches or termination discussions. They just drop each other. It's assumed if I don't call you that I don't like you anymore. It's painful and it's mean, but this is how kids are.

We have to watch this in the blogosphere because as our social circles grow, it is inevitable that bloggers will feel "dropped" when in fact there is no disrespect, no one is being dissed, it just happens, too many friends, not enough time to read one another's blogs and still write our own and occasionally wash the floor.

But we kind of know that our hearts are still in it, the social game, and we feel the love. We're not dropping anyone and the blogrolls roll on. But we're no Ames Eleven.

So much of this cut-off stuff is in the very fabric of our complicated realities, so much so that parents should warn children:

Life hurts, and it starts with friendship.

There are other reasons that groups of eleven are rare. To even establish such a group implies inclusiveness, the polar opposite of insulting exclusivity, and we need some social maturity, lots of it, and basic human kindness to keep adding members to clubs. Don't you kind of wonder, Who did the Ames Girls leave out?

Once I joined a choir and it was fabulous. We all so enjoyed it until, one day, a new singer joined us, and this person sang so loudly and so off-key that it was impossible to keep the choir going. We had to stop singing, the director had to make up a reason she couldn't work so that we could all save face. But that's social maturity, if not to the extreme, the nth degree.

Social maturity in friendship, keeping friends, having friends, is hard to muster up if you grow up in a family that is incredibly dysfunctional, chock full of neglect and/or violence. It's more likely that you'll be shy and insecure, that you'll develop some bad habits, too. Some of us become aggressive, like our parents, or jealous, insensitive, dependent, avoidant. These are casualties of having lived in emotional chaos.

And we don't want to invite anybody home, let alone eleven others.

In this position it's pretty obvious why having friends feel like a stretch. Friendship requires trust, more than a little risk. The skittish among us don't have that. So we don't have the friends to lose, let alone drop. And those of us who learn to be aggressive sometimes garner aggressive friends. And when we outgrow the tough skin, when we want out of the gang, well, there goes the Top Eleven.

Which brings us to another top-notch way to kill friendship. Get sober. An addict who loses the desire to hang around with people making love to their bottle of beer, will lose them, the beer drinkers. There might have been a history of years of drinking and smoking, shooting and sniffing and BAM! a person decides this isn't the healthiest way to live and off to a Twelve Step meeting he goes and never looks back.

Well, maybe not never.

And don't tell me they weren't good people, the people making love to the bottle of beer or the stick or whatever. Just because people have an addiction doesn't mean they have no feelings, have to be thrown away. I know it feels that way at the time, and surely they threaten sobriety and the whole nasty episode has to happen. But then they're gone, and for all we know, maybe they're sober, too. And you can't repair a relationship just because you say I'm sorry. (check out theSecondRoad.org for more on getting sober and making new pals in the process)

I just hate cut-offs, is all.

Do we have to keep going? Do we have to talk about the fact that as soon as women get engaged they gradually begin to dump their single friends? Or when they have their first baby, or first set of babies, they don't even know where they left their phones, let alone remember your phone number? Or how when they get sick and who doesn't, in one way or another, or depressed, they get introverted and hide, and sometimes, don't you hate this, some people have the audacity to die, to abandon everyone, not just us, to suicide, no disrespect to those who are no longer living. They got sick or were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or went off to war.

So what I'm saying here is that we're drawn to stories about the Ames Girls, and to Sex in the City, and Friends, and the women on Desperate Housewives, I should say some of us are, because these female clusters have figured it out, how to make and how to keep friends, and we know, at least those of us who are female, how fan blanking tastic it is to have them.

I'm sure there's already a Hallmark holiday in the making to honor friendship. But for those who have lost them, the feeling is going to be bad, just like it is on Mother's Day, because of that oxytocin deficit, and half the time, seriously, nobody's saying goodbye

therapydoc

*minyan rhymes with gin-gone is a quorum of 10 Jewish men.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

E B White and Twitter

What some of us have learned from Twitter is that we can communicate better with fewer words.

E. B. White said it first in The Elements of Style (1918) with that famous line:

Omit needless words.

Not that it's easy to heed that advice, but therapists should be able to do it since our rule is:

Do more listening than talking.


On the other hand, we know that writing's therapeutic, very much like that empty-out-the-brain phenomena of talk therapy.

That in mind, two short posts coming right up.

therapydoc

Same Time Next Year

THE ANTS:
We keep a pretty close watch on the little guys is the truth, don't let them get too comfortable. It's finally springtime in Chicago, the temps are high in the sixties. So they like to stop by and see what's happening inside the house, you know, see what's cooking.

Good for them, but not so good for those of us who are forever entertaining. And there's that awful feeling all the time that there's an ant up our sleeve.

I tell my son to zip-lock all things food, or refrigerate everything, and he's pretty good about it, has joined the holy war against the invaders. We make it our business to finish all the leftovers and chips, sweets especially.

He's a scientist but took his first social science class this year, an introduction to psychology, so he's interested in this networking the ants have down to a science, wants to master this. Leadership is big in all the schools these days.

I tell him that with them it's all about passing along information. And they love to meet under tents.

But their brains are so small, he objects. Wait, do they even have brains?

Yes, and their brains, like ours, are driven by food, sugar, really. But they don't hoard. As soon as they find something decent to eat they report back to tell the other peops in the hood where to find it. These people haven't a selfish bone in their bodies.

People? Bone?

You know.

He buys me more traps for Mother's Day and a really good Mother's Day card, which all makes sense at the time.

Anyway, like the well-bred guests that they are, they were out of the house in three days. I imagine they'll be back same time next year.
therapydoc

Better to Lie

FD tells me he's tired and has go to bed by eleven because he has to get up at three to go to the office to finish some charts. A quality review insurance representative is going to review his charts to make sure he's really a good doctor, not a fake in a lab coat.

I groan because (a) it's so insulting and ridiculous that someone from an insurance company will be reviewing the notes of a physician old enough to be his or her father, and (b) because I am pretty sure I have another two hours of wake time in me.

"I'll come up and read while you sleep. Gimme a couple of minutes. I'm not tired."

Meanwhile someone mentions that hot apple pie would be so nice, which sounds like a fabulous idea. I'm in, don't mind making one, we have apples.

"But we have no flour. Chaval,*" I say.

FD is out the door in a flash, returns in a few minutes with three sacks of flour, two white, one whole wheat. He's not taking any chances this will happen again anytime soon. "Goodnight, honey," he says and heads upstairs to retire.

I make the pie and wait around while it bakes, watch a Parks and Recreation with our above average physics major son. This doesn't beat hearing him talk about pendulums and gravity, but it'll do. Around 12:30 I'm beat, head upstairs for bed, leaving the kid to turn off the pie. It's almost done, but so am I.

FD is at the computer playing Scrabble.

"I thought you had to go to bed! You're getting up in a few minutes!" I exclaim.

He doesn't exactly answer, mumbles something like, Yeah, yeah.

I'm asleep in seconds.

In the morning, before he heads off to work (he's already been to work and back to finish the charts and made synagogue rounds) I take him aside.

I tease: I know why you didn't go to bed early.

FD: Huh? Why not?

Me: Because you didn't want to go to bed without me, right?

FD: Uh, no. That wasn't it. . .

Me (displeased with this response) : There are times, you should know, that it's better to lie.

Hit the cymbals.

FD: Huh? Nice pie?
therapydoc

This is the perfect place to say, chaval, soft "ch", rhymes with duh-doll, Yiddish for too bad, because it really is a shame when you want to eat something sweet but will have to do without and go to sleep instead.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

You Only Have One Mother

That's a direct quote from mine, "You only have one mother." She says this as we're driving out to the suburbs to a family party. (I'm driving, FD and my parents are telling me how).

"You only have one mother."

This stops me in my tracks, not literally, or there would have been a pile-up on the Edens, the 'Super Highway' to Wisconsin.

But I'm thinking, What does she mean by this?

Not hard to figure out, of course, that she's saying that my attention is divided, for sure, and she doesn't get enough of it, and when it comes to Who's Yo' Mama, the answer's quite obvious. She is. And I know it's hard, at the end of the day, to make a call and say, How's it going? but obviously, it should be an every day thing.

INSANE, I know you're thinking. ENMESHED, must be.

But you're wrong. It isn't insane, it's not enmeshed, and it isn't even coming from her. We're talking about an octogenarian. And ours is a relatively close family, although we're not on each other like white on rice, don't know one another's every step, and no, I don't call every day.

The idea is that they're special.

On Mori Therapy, Isabelle recycles an older post (she and I go way back) from 2007 about her father, a guy she adored, and how she wishes she could pick up the phone and say hi, but it's impossible at this point. Not to be maudlin. That's what grieving, remembering, is all about, feeling terrible that we can't just pick up the phone. Making the call is a big theme on this blog, you may already know. The applications are enumerable.

We can't all do that, dial the number. Not all the mom's are around. And some women, people who might have been moms but maybe changed it around, opted out or gave a child away, they're thinking along those lines, too. They won't be getting the call, no Hallmark card.

And let's talk, some mothers drink too much, aren't or never were available, use(d) drugs. Or our daughters and sons do that, disappear into that world, turning the day into one of failure. And so many first degrees can't function for some other health related issue. Mothers Day can be a tough one.*

Every once in a while a person will come to see me in therapy and inevitably the past will come up. We talk about loss, and we talk family, for what else is there, really, that pulls at us, drives us as crazy, a no pain no gain sometimes, sometimes mostly pain, sometimes heavily weighted on the gain. At some point it will come out that the narrator has between 3 to 5 siblings (more or less) and that nobody is taking care of mom or dad. In this case mom or dad are generally supremely independent, eschew attention, but are getting older, falling, forgetting, not eating as much or anything, not getting around anymore. And nobody comes over, nobody checks in. In fact, everyone has moved away from the home town.

And I'll suggest, "Well you know, we have these things, they're called telephones. You should arrange it so that at least one person calls every day. You're going to want to know if she isn't able to answer. You know?"

That's pretty much all I wanted to say on this post, that and to tell all of you mothers, especially those who have special needs children, that you're doing an unbelievable job. What's that they say? Half the job of life is just showing up, and anyone reading this blog is doing that and more.

But a quick story and better even, a decent one-liner, credit to my only mother to lighten the mood:

We're at this quasi-engagement party for my nephew, a Meet The New Family get-together, and Mom is standing a long time, trying to be sociable. I feel she's standing too long because I feel I'm standing too long, and if I'm tired, she must be tired. Our boundaries are fine, thanks.

Anyway, I suggest that we sit and she says she's good, she's not ready to sit down. We're talking to another guest, both riveted, liking this new person. I straighten up a little, throw back my shoulders to get comfortable, Mom looks up. She's looking at me, sizing me up.

She says to our new friend,

"You know, I used to be as tall as my daughter, but now I go to the doctor to find that I'm a full five inches shorter than I used to be!"

Neither of us knows exactly how to respond; we sort of smile half smiles.

Then she goes for the punchline.

"But I don't feel that way! Not at all! When I think of myself, I'm five-foot seven!"

She's got that glint in her eye, exceedingly pleased that her brain, the real person in there, can fool that other ego, her body.

Boy I hope I get that patch of DNA.

therapydoc

*You can read what I wrote about Mothers Day in dysfunctional families on The Second Road.