(di)stressed.

April showers bring May flowers.  And what does May bring? Well, as we approach the end of this month it seems that May 2017 has brought with it a heaviness. May brought with it a multitude of tragedies.  May was sad.  So I find it utterly appropriate that May is mental health awareness month. Did you know that 1 in 5 adults in the US will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime?

Our culture seems to treat physical and mental health in very different ways. I find myself often talking with my patients about how best to prevent things like cancer, heart disease, bone loss and other physical ailments. As physicians we often forget to remind our patients to take care of their own mental health.  In fact, I would dare to say that for most of us our mental health takes a back seat to all other areas of our lives. We are so busy caring for the needs of others, worrying about the world around us, and so on and so forth, that we forget to stop and reorient ourselves towards health for both our body and our minds.

So in the same way that we should prepare our bodies for long term health and wellness, let us prepare our minds.  It means taking time to rest our minds, find peace in our heart and extend kindness to our minds. So on the last day of this month full of distress, take time to create some new mental health habits. Find your support system.  Those people who will check on you when the days are long and hope runs thin. Take some slow, deep breaths when life seems to be moving fast. Take a walk, preferably in the warm sunshine. Do something just for yourself like reading a book, attending a yoga class, writing something in a journal.

And finally, if you need us, we are here.  Physicians. We care about your mental health. We are ready to listen, to provide empathy, to give resources and to remind you that you are not alone and that there is help.  So say goodbye to May, but say hello to better mental health my friends.

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you’ve got a friend (in me).

As many of you know from the rest of my social media presence, my youngest graduated from PreK this week.  It was all the gloriousness you would imagine.  There were caps and gowns, diplomas, pictures, refreshments.  For part of the program her class sang the song “You’ve got a friend in me” from the movie Toy Story®.  It was, as you can imagine, adorable.  And then the big one had her first acting gig in the church musical.  She nailed it. And back to the little’s ballet recital.  Killed it.  And now we ready ourselves for the last week of school. Of course, you can’t go through this time of year, full of its transitions, without some reflection on the months that have passed.

It was a little over a year ago.  I was listening to some music on a run and for some reason I started thinking about what it meant to be merciful. I was quick to realize that I didn’t really have any idea how to describe or understand or even think about mercy. This, of course, was disconcerting to me having been married to the Pastor for almost 15 years at that point. I was at a loss.  So I decided I would spend some time trying to figure out what mercy was, where it was present, how it happened.  And turns out, mercy showed up in all sorts of places. What I discovered is that mercy might be hard to understand because it is that sneaky thing that is always around but not obvious.  But when you start looking for it, when you take the time to seek it out, you will find it’s all around. In the last year I have been enveloped in mercy.

Mercy is your best friend from long ago and also today getting up before the sun does to go to the YMCA with you.  Even though she could go later…because you can’t.  It is a new friend who came along just at the right time and always tells the truth even when it’s not nice.  And reminds you they are there to stick through the best of times and the worst of times. You can feel it when you sit for coffee with someone who has been in your shoes and nods their head in understanding.  You feel it when that call or text arrives at the exact perfect moment from someone you don’t often get to see but the friendship remains none the less.

Mercy shows up in a big blue van driven by a teensy twenty something year old who picks up kids, who look nothing like mine, after school and nourishes them with food, education and love four days a week.  It’s there when those same kids are on stage at your church next to your own reciting lines in the cheesy kids musical that makes you tear up because you know that this demonstration of inclusion and unity is what God intended. And soon those kids aren’t those kids at all.  They are just kids like mine and yours, showing up every week.

Mercy happens when that person who thought she’d never have a baby sees that face on the ultrasound, or even better, holds that person in their arms. But it is also there when you hold someone’s hand as you give them bad news or grieve with them in the losses great and small.

Mercy happens when the Pastor does a funeral for what can only be described as a tragedy and reminds us that the gospel is an unconventional story and we have an unconventional Savior.  And so is mercy.  It’s there in the loud and in the quiet.  In the wins and in the losses.  It’s wherever we show up and remind each other that there’s mercy enough for each of us.

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thanks a lot internet.

The Pastor and I were having dinner with a young couple that is getting married soon. Along with all the (fantastic) unsolicited advice we gave them, we discussed the enormous amounts of ideas and information available to plan a wedding.  When the Pastor and I got married half a million years ago there was no Pinterest, no wedding websites, no Instagram.  In fact, I can’t really even remember what we used the internet for except doing homework.

Our access to a huge amount of information has been wonderful…and terrible. Never before has one been able to see what every single person you went to high school with is eating for lunch or how your grandmother’s diabetes is doing on a weekly basis.  And while the world wide webs have allowed me to continue my search for the best snocone in the city, how many teaspoons in a tablespoon and to connect with other physicians nationwide for support and resources, let’s be honest.  The internet has ruined a lot of things.

Holidays. Let me apologize to all of you who have lost a mother or a child, who long to be a mother but have not become one and will have to endure the onslaught of mother’s day pics and posts.  And not just that. We can now all see what intricate decorations and party favors are made for children’s birthdays and what everyone is having for dessert on their anniversary along with Christmas morning and on and on.  It’s exhausting.

Compliments and complaints. It used to be that if you wanted to complain about something or somebody, you called up your friend or went to the office next door and spilled your heart out.  And if you wanted to compliment someone you would find them and tell them or send them a note or an email or a text.  Now everything on the internet IMG_4733is either the absolute best or the absolute worst.  I feel like nothing is ever just fine anymore.  That when your hamburger comes out with mustard instead of ketchup the whole world must know of the trauma you have endured. In the same way all things good or great are now “I die” and “Gah.”  New hairstyles, vacation photos, work events, your dog’s haircut.  It’s all over the top.

Professions. All that knowledge out there in the interwebs is awesome. And terrifying. I think we are coaxed into thinking that we can use all that information to master any area of life we would like. Here’s the problem…we can’t. The internet won’t make me into a third grade teacher anymore than it will make you into a gynecologist.  And that’s awesome. The internet should empower us to learn and grow but we should not be mistaken as a replacement for the hard work and training people invest in their careers. So let’s stay away from thinking that a quick search can make you into an electrician or a plumber, a surgeon or a theologian.

In all seriousness, may we use the power of the internet with grace. Celebrate the highs and respect the lows. Think twice before wielding your social media account for vigilante justice. Say a prayer for those who won’t celebrate the events in life that you have the opportunity to celebrate. Make sure the people you love and respect know exactly why that is true. Post a million pictures of your kids, your pets, your food and your drama if you wish. But always remember the power of the internet and that kindness and empathy have a place here too.  And while you’re at it…if you find the best snocone in the city let me know about it, ok?

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