Our Common Thread

Our Common Thread is also the title of the June/July 2020 Vogue devoted to Creativity in a Time of Crisis.

Photos and quotes of actors photographers fashion designers and others detailed what they were doing living through the pandemic.

Here’s what my quote would be:

Christina Bruni – Brooklyn

I take joy in cooking meals. I feel better when I eat well and break a sweat.

As consistently as possible I exercise 2x per week. Going outside for walks I stay far away from people who haven’t covered their open faces.

My joy is thinking of the coming summer. The chance to talk walk outside even though I might have to use a bandanna to cover my face.

Little things count for a lot like cleaning the bathroom once a week.

My goals have been put on hold. I have the privilege to be indoors doing what it takes to be well so as not to get infected with the coronavirus.

Grocery workers and hospital workers are on the job every day. Their robust efforts make it possible for someone like me to be healthy.

What I’ve thought while life has turned around like a Tilt-a-Whirl ride through this uncertain time:

Be grateful for what you have. You have everything right inside you that you need to succeed. Respect the natural world and the human beings living alongside you on this green and glorious earth.

Each of us gets only this life to live on this one planet. Live for today. Focus on the present moment before it’s gone.

Today is the greatest day. Only today matters.

The past had an expiration date–it ended. The future isn’t guaranteed.

Today is a gift to open and rejoice in.

Pay attention to the birds singing on your fire escape. Listen to the song of life.

There’s no safety in playing it safe. The path of least resistance leads to a dead end.

Other Psychiatrist Questions

Other Doctor Questions:

  1. What is my diagnosis and how did you come to that conclusion?
  2. What medication do you propose to use? (Ask for the name and dosage level.)
  3. What is the biological effect of this medication, and what do you expect it to accomplish?
  4. What are the risks associated with this medication?
  5. How soon will we be able to tell if the medication is effective, and how will we know?
  6. Are there other medications that might be appropriate? If so, why do you prefer the one you have chosen?
  7. What are the side effects of the medication? How long should I “wait out” any side effects before calling you?
  8. Are there other medications or food that I should avoid while taking this medication?
  9. How long do you expect me to be on this medication?
  10. How often will I be seeing you until the medication takes effect?
  11. If I’m taking more than one drug, when and how often should I take each one?
  12. How do you monitor medications, and what symptoms indicate that the dosage should be raised, lowered or changed?
  13. Are you currently treating other patients with this illness?
  14. Is there an alternative to medication like CBT or other therapy?
  15. What are the best times and what are the most dependable ways for getting in touch with you?
  16. What do you consider an emergency if I have to call you after hours?

Feel free to ask any other questions that come to you that aren’t listed above.

To quote the 1990s SYMS clothing store commercial:

“An educated consumer is our best customer.”

New Psychiatrist Questions

New Doctor Questions

  1. If I need to call you, how long do you usually take to respond?  Do you have another doctor on-call if you’re on vacation?
  2. If I ask you questions, will you give me detailed information about why you think I need a certain treatment? I need to know the rationale behind your suggestions.
  3. What drugs do you frequently prescribe to your patients? Have you had success with these drugs?
  4. How much experience have you had with atypicals?
  5. Will you prescribe drugs “off-label” if you think it will benefit me?
  6. Will you discuss any side effects of the medication you’re treating me with, and do you have a plan in case I develop a side effect?
  7. Is your focus on mental illness treatment and recovery, or do you have a general clientele? Are you willing to be creative in custom-tailoring solutions to my treatment needs?
  8. If my parents or a third-party person needed to speak on my behalf or talk to you about my treatment, how would you handle that?
  9. What would a typical session with you be like?
  10. Do you have an area of expertise with certain illnesses?
  11. Where did you get your degree? Are you Board Certified?  How long have you been in practice?
  12. What do you feel challenges and inspires you as a doctor? [This could tell you a lot about their personal work ethic.]
  13. What hospitals do you have admitting privileges with?
  14. Are you willing to coordinate my treatment with my primary care doctor or get the results of blood work or tests from this doctor to integrate my whole health care outlook?
  15. Do you have evening or morning or weekend hours?
  16. Do you test for tardive dyskinesia? Have you ever had a patient who developed this, and what has been your experience with treating TD?
  17. Do you suggest alternatives to medication if taking pills isn’t the only option?
  18. Do you take my insurance? Will you bill my insurance company, or do you expect me to pay up front and then submit my own claim form for reimbursement?
  19. Do you believe someone can recover from a mental illness? [This question is the gold standard. If at all you get the idea that this doctor doesn’t believe recovery is possible it will benefit you to keep looking until you find a professional who is interested in seeing his or her patients succeed in life.]

Choosing a Psychiatrist

I wanted to veer into topics specific to peers.

Who knows–maybe while living indoors you’ve thought about things and want to make some changes.

In the coming two blog entries I’ll list questions you can ask any psychiatrist.

In this entry I’ll start out by talking about my experience.

I was told it’s hard for a doctor to recommend another professional.

The M.D. has to know the patient’s history: their unique constellation of symptoms; track record with taking medication–and numerous other details.

In 2003 I researched the names of three doctors and called them on the telephone to screen them.

One shrink required that I sign a waiver of liability releasing him from any responsibility. Had a former patient sued him?

I thought: if he doesn’t trust me, how can I trust him?

Shrink #1: ruled out.

Doctor #2 operated out of a low-income clinic. The person who answered the phone told me point blank that I wasn’t a candidate for a low-income clinic. (I kid you not.)

M.D. #3 had decided to retire and no longer had a practice.

Dr. A was the final choice that a former friend recommended.

As soon as I entered his office and he shook my hand, I thought: “This is the guy I want treating me.”

He hadn’t even opened his mouth. He hadn’t even started the intake.

You should always go with your intuition. The first time I met Dr. A I grilled him in detail. I had walked into his office with a list of 20 questions.

I recommend grilling 2 doctors and then deciding the one you think is best.

In the coming blog entries I’ll give lists of questions to ask any M.D.

Changeology 90-Day Action Plan

I’m a big fan of the Changeology 90-day action plan for achieving goals.

Using the 5 steps I have achieved a number of goals:

  1. Stopped wearing jeans to my job all the time.
  2. Started wearing makeup more often.
  3. Cooked my own dinners every week.

The Changeology book website has useful resources and worksheets.

Alas I did not get a response when I submitted a message via the contact form on this website.

Other than this I recommend the 90-day action plan.

My Weekly Routine

While living indoors through the pandemic I’ve written down changes I want to make after I return to going outdoors every day.

I recommend reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

In the book the author outlines simple steps to execute to adopt healthy habits and make them stick.

Today I’ve adopted these tactics to power through this extraordinary time:

  1. Eat as healthfully as possible every day.
  2. Exercise at home 2x per week as often as possible.
  3. Go outdoors only 2x per week to reduce the risk of getting infected.
  4. Write down on sheets in a weekly To-Do’s pad the food I eat for lunch and dinner every day.
  5. Place tomorrow’s outfit on the other side of the bed to make it quick and easy to dress in day clothes in the morning.
  6. Typed up and taped to an index card the weekly routine I’m going to establish once I’m outdoors every day again.
  7. Telephone my mother often to talk to her.
  8. Talk to a friend on the telephone.
  9. Keep a journal in a 3-subject college-ruled spiral-bound notebook.
  10. Read books and magazines.

Perhaps these habits will empower you to create your own routine while living through this pandemic and following through after the shutdown ends.

Coping with the Pandemic

I believe that the 5 Stages of Grief align with a lot of our responses to living indoors through the pandemic.

The stages are denial anger bargaining depression acceptance.

I’ve seen or heard no one else talk about these responses to grief.

For one the coronavirus is not a person. Yet it’s okay to have anger that the pandemic has disrupted your life.

A trouper like I am can be in denial about the effect sheltering in place has had on you.

Even while not in a clinical depression it’s also tempting to wear your pajamas all day during this extraordinary time when you’re home.

So like I said the 5 Stages of Grief could come into play.

I live in New York City which is the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

My city will not reopen until June and this might be in late June.

I have empathy for anyone whose recovery has been impacted while living through the coronavirus outbreak.

It isn’t easy–to know that you are not alone can help you feel better about how you’re coping.

In coming blog entries I’ll give some tactics I’ve been using to power through.

Bedlam PBS Documentary

PBS online is airing the documentary Bedlam on the mental health crisis in America.

At the end of this blog entry I’ll give the link to the website so that you can watch this graphic yet ultimately hopeful account.

Decide for yourself what to think after viewing the video.

More power to the Black Lives Matter founder Patrice whose story is told in this documentary.

In fact the Black Lives Matter were instrumental in fighting for mental health justice.

They protested in the street and caused the LA government to halt building a jail to house people with mental illnesses.

The mental health justice activists had the funds diverted to treatment not criminalization.

Seeing this empowering film I’ve decided to donate money to Black Lives Matter.

Bedlam documentary on PBS.