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I’ve got my Kleenex, my waterproof mascara, my dancing shoes, and a heart overflowing with JOY! I’m ready to go “Over The Top” today with Women of Faith!!

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It’s Not Him, It’s You! by Laura Berman, LCSW, PhD

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I explored an exceptional new look at love, relationships, and intimacy from Dr. Laura Berman.  Dr. Berman is a well-know sex educator and therapist, who has published several best-selling books on sexual health and pleasure, as well as hosting a new television show on the Oprah Winfrey Network “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman”.  In this book, “It’s Not Him, It’s You”, Dr. Berman focuses specifically on the needs and concerns of women–with emphasis on taking personal responsibility for getting “your needs met” and resolving any particular issues that may be keeping you from “getting the love you need and want’’ including issues that can occur with relationships, certain mental conditions, body image concerns, as well as family challenges.

 

The information is presented in a very accessible manner: including multiple-choice quizzes, Top 10 lists, and wonderful explanations and illustrations.  Please note: this is a serious look at sexuality within the boundaries of a relationship and does contain many explicit, but not inappropriate photographs and should only be viewed by appropriate audiences.  Some of my favorite parts included her list of “Relationship Commandments”,  the “Top 10 Ways to Stay Connected”, and “Are you a Vixen” (which was followed by specific instructions and tips if you are in need of a transformation.  Overall, this is an excellent look at this very sensitive and important aspect of any woman’s life and well-being.

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imagesIt seems that everyone is a-twitter about Twitter. This social networking site has exploded in recent months leading many to ask the questions: “What is it?” and more importantly, “Why Twitter?” I created an account to experience the phenomenon for myself. Twitter appeals to me on several levels: from the tech/gadget geek side as well as from a psychological perspective—”tapping into the stream of human consciousness”. Fellow psychiatrist Dinah Miller, of ShrinkRap fame, did a similar experiment herself: after one week of Tweeting she posted: “My week is almost up. I still don’t get this. Who is rilescat and why does he have a dead panda on his desk?” There is certainly no shortage of characters in Twitterland. I was impressed with the amount of wit and wisdom being shared in 140 characters. The requisite brevity forcing some to re-discover the art of editing: making every word count. I also observed some incredibly empathetic and compassionate exchanges: including one mother’s life-changing foray into the world of childhood leukemia. Twitter has been described as “a cocktail party” and Facebook as “a dinner party” given the degree of intimacy with ones friends and followers; this seems to be quite accurate. Twitter seems to function best in niches: thus promoted by the use of “Hashtags”.

 

To “get it”–to understand WHY, it is necessary to look at the motivation of each individual. Twitter asks the question: “What are you doing right now?” Differences in motivation lead to diverse responses to this simple question and a variety of Twitter experiences: some individuals are looking for entertainment, some for connection, some for information, and others for self-promotion. The potential for all exist in abundance on Twitter.

 

Many basic emotional needs of individuals can potentially be met through social networking: feeling validated, belonging, being heard… and with minimal risk of emotional trauma and physical effort (as one can happily tweet away in ones pajamas). While this connection for such individuals who may have limited access to other interaction can have certain positive aspects; (ie, a mom who stays home with her children); one must also consider the potential negative consequences of such virtual relationships as well. When needs are met in this superficial way… is the individual kept from developing deeper, albeit more complicated relationships in the world beyond the internet?

 

The potential for constant connectedness leading to the loss of being fully present in one’s “real” life is another concern. When I first began looking for people to follow, I searched for Jon Kabat-Zinn (author & founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction): figuring that he would disseminate some incredibly wise tweets. He’s not on Twitter; the closest I could find was a remark about Twitter being the antithesis of mindfulness. No less concerning is the diversion of time and energy from other “real world” relationships. It is not unheard of for people to spend upwards of 5 hours daily checking their Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter accounts.

 

Perhaps the first question to answer before “What are you doing?” is “What am I doing here?”; consider if the virtual world is the best place to accomplish your goals. As for myself, I remain undecided. While I am absolute junkie for wit and humor, I have found the pace of information to be excessive at times. As with most things in life, it will come down to finding the right Balance… and the determination of how long to stay at the “party.”

n64272810705_9010I had the pleasure of watching Dave Ramsey’s Town Hall for Hope last night. I like Dave Ramsey’s approach to money and I often recommend his “Financial Peace” program to my patients who are struggling with financial difficulties. I appreciate his take on the family’s budget as being just that: the outline of the family’s priorities as determined by the entire family together. His focus on personal responsibility resonates with me as well. I thought his presentation was uplifting and encouraging as he reiterated his common sense financial fundamentals to allay the “spirit of fear” that has come over most of America. If you missed it, I would encourage you to check out his website: www.townhallforhope.com .

Mr. Ramsey concluded his presentation with three action steps to combat “fear, panic, and hysteria.” They are: “take action, don’t participate in loser talk, and be giving”. I was struck by the need to apply these same principles in all areas of our life where we experience hopelessness: concern about a down-turned economy, dealing with difficult life situations, and most certainly, dealing with depression. Hopelessness can be one of the most challenging aspects of depression due to its invasive and destructive nature.

Let’s look at each step of the action plan as it pertains to mental health:

Take Action: “Get up, take action, get moving.” My treatment plans almost always include a recommendation for exercise. This type of “action” gets people off the couch and “out of their heads” at least for the moment. The mood enhancing effects of exercise have been well documented: improving levels of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain, boosting endorphins, releasing muscle tension, reducing stress –hormone cortisol levels, as well as improving sleep, confidence, and potentially reducing isolation. Exercise and music therapy remain some of the best non-pharmacologic steps individuals can take to improve their mental and physical health.

Don’t Participate in Loser Talk: This is one of the basic principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Specifically, don’t stay stuck in negative thinking. There really is power in positive thinking. Seek to identify and correct any distortions of thought that might be keeping you mired in negativity. Hopelessness is associated with many such “loser thoughts” that lead to poor self-esteem and creating a self-fulfilling negative spiral of thoughts and beliefs. Surround your self with optimistic and encouraging people and avoid those besieged with the “Spirit of Eeyore”.

Be Giving: Of all the recommendations I make to patients, giving can have the most profound effects on peoples’ lives. Giving is empowering. It improves self-esteem, imparts a sense of connectedness, and can foster an optimistic attitude. Altruism is one of the surest ways to restore hope as well as restoring an individual’s sense of purpose and meaning. Being a part of a cause larger than oneself and the feeling of making a difference in others’ lives are crucial for mental well-being. Giving, especially gifts of time and service, can grant a person perspective thus enabling him to look beyond his problems for a little while.

So no matter what obstacles or challenges you might be facing in your life, I join with Dave Ramsey in encouraging you to choose HOPE now.

 

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna

At the urging of friends, family…, I have decided to start blogging.  When I first started, I was not exactly sure who my audience would be, what my objectives were, or if this endeavor would prove to be worthwhile.  But I decided to give it a try and see what emerged.  I suspected it would end up part-musing,  part-rant.  After a few weeks, I found myself drawn to posts that would further clarify ideas discussed in treatment, give additional background information, or discuss news headlines that are applicable to my practice.  Therefore, I have decided to link this blog with my professional website and abandon anonymity.   I will continue to maintain the utmost level of confidentiality, and all (if any) patient references will be confabulated.

 

A little about myself:  I am a private-practice, outpatient psychiatrist who does psychotherapy as well as medication management.  I am very interested in integrative psychiatry and “mind-body-spirit” medicine, with particular interest in Christian psychiatry.  I live and practice in the heart of “the Bible-belt” and “Tornado Alley”.  I currently work  part-time… it seems to be the best balance for now as I am also the mother of two boys, both under age 5. My current professional interests include Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (as per Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn);  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for weight loss ( Judith Beck, PhD), and trying to convince my  friends and patients that doing Yoga and/or meditation doesn’t mean they love Jesus any less.

 

Why Dymphna?  Given the initial goal of anonymity, I tried to find a name with some tie to mental health.  St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental health professionals, those who suffer from mental illnesses and nervous system disorders, and happy families.  Not too bad… plus she’s Irish.  It’s my nod to my “Bubba” who was both Irish and Catholic and who always believed in me (even when I converted to a Protestant faith).  She is now in her heavenly home and I miss her.  All things considered, I have decided to leave the name of the blog unchanged.  I hope you enjoy!