Sunday, April 13, 2014

Snapshots: Viagra, Melanoma, and those Pre-Passover Blues

No, the two have nothing to do with one another.
Or they could, I suppose, if anyone thought Passover a sexy holiday, which would make for an interesting discussion that we will never have. 

Let's start with this.

(1) "Harmless" erectile dysfunction treatment associated with melanoma

No more Viagra for you son. And Laura Berman, a famous sex therapist who has at least one clinic to treat women with sexual intimacy problems, will have to put her prescriptions on hold, rewrite one of her books, too. The results of a new study indicate that penile enhancement medication, also used for female sexual arousal, is linked to one of our worst cancers ever, melanoma.

When I was young there was a song, Nature's Way. Spirit, sings the soulful, ominous warning.

It's nature's way of telling you dying trees,
It's nature's way of telling you soon we'll freeze.

We froze east of the Mason-Dixon line, and to the west, too, last winter. Or shvitzed.

Hearing the association between ED drugs and melanoma  I'm humming the song again, seemingly out of nowhere (that's how the brain works, people). We could look at our bodies, and our psychology, as one of nature's finest, most exquisite creations, capable of incredibly creative ideas, achievements. And we think nothing of messing with them.

A chunk of my patient demographic, people in their thirties and forties, barely middle age (forties are the new thirties, thirties the new twenties), impatient with therapy (or in denial) ask their primary care doctors for Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, etc., penile enhancement drugs. Before this new study the docs couldn't say with certainty: The drugs are bad for you. Work on your relationships. As long as blood pressure and heart rate were relatively strong, they caved. So now they can say that. The drugs are bad.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is nature's way of telling you something's wrong, probably with a relationship or an understanding of sexual relationships. Or the mechanics of sex. The most common cause of ED is anxiety, not only performance anxiety, but any kind of anxiety, and often, guilt. And anger.

Melanoma tells us something's wrong with the pharma treatment, too. The problem, if it is not vascular, is psychological or educational. ED drugs treat a symptom. They are a bad idea, the wrong way to treat the problem, if it even is one.

We can discuss the right way another time. I've got to get ready for next week's holiday.

(2) The Holiday Blues
Everyone knows that during the holidays, especially the first ones after the loss of a loved one, we're more vulnerable to depression. Just when we're supposed to be happy, a brick falls on our heads. There's no denying it. We remember faces sitting around the table, singing songs, smiling. These are good memories, and when we think about it, surely a blessing, a good opportunity to add to the positive memories, the legacy, of  people who made such a difference in our lives.

Of course, if I believed that, it would be a sign I'm not a therapist.

In fact, the stress of the holidays, the togetherness, brings on bad memories often, and the worst in people, especially if more alcohol is consumed than usual. The legacy memories, for many of us, aren't always good.

But for some of us they are.

Good or bad, the mental deluge, the stimulation of anniversaries, always has an effect. Great stuff to talk about at parties. (See video link below).

For me, being busy before a holiday also implies cooking and baking, happy busy which is productive, too. In this creative process, inordinate amounts of time are spent trying to remember the things my mother cooked and baked, reading over her recipes, tattered, but written in her beautiful cursive script, soon to be extinct, oil and batter stained (not her fault). I experiment like she did, write it all down. On a computer, obviously. Who has a index cards? I envy those of you who do.

Passover, one of the biggies when it comes to stress, is upon us. The office is closed for 8 days. You will see us at the zoo and the museums, sprung from the drudgery of everyday life.

But if you want to know what this holiday is really all about, you eat matzah. (These we buy at the store, hardly anyone makes them anymore, the rules of baking proper Passover matzah are too complicated.). No matter how ad agencies might make it sound, the stuff is nearly indigestible without lots of butter.

Matzah is the Passover food because it is difficult to digest, unleavened, no yeast allowed, the quintessential symbolic food of modesty. This is a low food, a symbol that reduces us to tears (let's not go that far) by the end of the week. The idea is to get the leaven out of our hearts, recognize it really isn't all about us, and that we're not the ones to thank for our successes, can quit patting ourselves on the back. After all, only a few thousand years ago we were slaves in Egypt, enslaved for a long time, over 400 years. We couldn't have got out on our own. Passover celebrates freedom from slavery and the Creator who made it happen in spectacular fashion. (The story is mind-blowing, as Cecil B. DeMille rightly tells it in  The Ten Commandments.

All that to link over to an irreverent video that made me smile. Sean Altman sent this pitch:

Therapydoc,
I follow your blog. Please enjoy my REAL story of Passover — JEWMONGOUS' new music video "They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)" http://youtu.be/TPAcf1RF2ps

Yours, Sean Altman


JEWMONGOUS
Ex-Rockapella star Sean Altman's comedy song concert JEWMONGOUS is "tuneful and sharply witty" (Los Angeles Times), "relentlessly clever" (Chicago Tribune) and "bawdy with a wicked modern streak" (Washington Post), combining "the tunefulness of the Beatles and the spot-on wit of Tom Lehrer" (Boston Globe). Altman, who "writes hilarious and irreverent acoustic rock songs about his awakening Jewish awareness" (Jerusalem Post), is "part of a new breed of Jewish hipster comedy that includes Jon Stewart, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman and Heeb Magazine" (Philadelphia Daily News). He is a former, founding member of Rockapella and led that pioneering vocal group through its heyday years on the Emmy-winning PBS-TV series, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, for which Altman co-wrote the famous theme song.  His classic Passover song "They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let's Eat)" has been featured on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Altman has twice performed at the White House Chanukah party for the President, he has shared the stage with Billy Joel, Joey Ramone, Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg, Spike Lee, Jonathan Winters and They Might Be Giants, recorded with XTC and Richie Havens, and he performs vocal standards at the bedside of hospital patients as a volunteer with Musicians On Call.  Altman has performed JEWMONGOUS throughout the USA, Europe, Israel and once in China.  www.jewmongous.com


There you go. Not how it happens in most homes, but funny.

Oh, and the Passover Brownie recipe.

Pesach (Passover) Brownies, Gebrukst (for non-gebrukst add potato starch, not cake meal)
1 cup Mothers unsalted margarine melted (yes, the brand matters, use Mothers with proper Passover certification)
Melt into the margarine with 3/4 package chocolate chips
Let cool 5 -10 min
In the mixer beat 
2 eggs
1.5 cups sugar
Add margarine/chocolate
Add 1 pkgs ground walnuts (6 oz) and 1/4 cup cake meal* 
Bake in a 9 x 12 pan at 350 for 30 min. Test with a toothpick.
When they are dry, let them cool down then freeze for 30 min before cutting. Or just eat them.

Happy Holidays, friends.

therapydoc

*Cake meal is very finely ground matzah, a truly humbling baking substitute for the fine flour we use all year round. 

5 comments:

Chelsy brown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Passover, I guess is the element here that seems like this comment belongs in this section. I'd like your opinion. I have a Jewish client, who I see regularly, and have for a couple of years. I have a cross necklace that I have been wearing for the last six months. (I am Christian, but not a Christian counselor.) Anyway, today, she was struggling with some deep emotional issues, tends to be a bit on the spectrum (not diagnosed, just my observation), and asked if I would turn my cross around to the back. She said it was distracting her, bothering, her, reminding her of death. I turned it around, but honestly, was not sure what to do in this situation. I treated the cross as any other distraction may be to a client, and simply removed it. But it didn't feel right. Thoughts?

therapydoc said...

Sorry I just got to this, I've been crazy busy. But yes, treat it like you would anything that comes out of a client's mouth. You can still go back to it. "The other day you mentioned that the cross I wore reminded you of death. Would you elaborate a little on that? What were your thoughts, exactly, and how long have you been thinking this? Could you please share?" No, "I. . .", no, "In our religion we see it as. . ." Stay focused on her and what she feels and thinks. That will be healing for her, telling for you. And what ever you do, don't tell any jokes about the Jewish guy who sold crosses.

Anonymous said...

Nature's Way is one of my favorite songs! Most people don't know it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that helps. I'm guessing I gave it more thought later on than she did, which proves, well, I don't know what it proves….That I took it too personally? Or perhaps, did NOT treat it like I would have treated other distractions which may have been encouraging her that distractions of all types are in the world, and we learn to manage them…at any rate, your post was helpful. WHen I see her again, I may indeed go back to it.