Religion

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People often want to know something about their psychiatrist.

There is this thing called “transference” where their past relationship history can certainly color what they think and feel. I have no big secrets to hide from my patients, so I can usually be direct and take only an insignificant amount of time on these issues. Usually it just takes one of my stabs at humor.

For those to whom religion is an important facet of life, I am often asked about my beliefs. I often end up saying things like, “I am very sorry I am Jewish and not the Christian you would have preferred, but do you think Christ could work through a crazy old Jewish lady like me who would work really hard to help you feel better?” A “yes” and a laugh and we get straight into the meat of things with that one. Read more on Liberal or Conservative — Different Brains or Different Opinions?…

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We are in an era when all reporting — wire services, networks, whatever — looks the way tabloid reporting did when I was small.  Aggressive, emotional, mostly verbal renderings of disasters that are meant to strike terror into the heart of the reader.  Sometimes, something miraculous or near miraculous.  Once in a while in this constellation of stories there is something “inspiring.” We all need inspiration.  It is tough to define and highly individualistic.

I actually like this definition more than others: That “feeling of enthusiasm” that makes you “do” or “create” something. Read more on We All Need Inspiration — Here Is Today’s Dose…

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I have heard just a little too much about suicide among the religious — from patients, from others, now this; to the son of a published pastor who gave an invocation for the Obama folks.

I really do feel for the family, for death of the younger generation before the older one by any means including suicide by his own hand, is a horrible thing that is anti-nature and has a profound wrongness, a too-deep effect on all involved.

I was way back in residency when I attempted to gather some statistics on the association between religion and psychiatry in Kansas, sending a basic questionnaire on feelings about mental illness (and referral patterns to mental health professionals) to a big list of Wichita area “religious professionals.”
First, I had already made the assumption from the French part of my education that not too many people actually went to church, but none of them seemed to much care about mental health professionals.

In Kansas, with the world’s worst statistics (no major support on this from my

Read more on Religion — And Suicide…

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It’s called freedom of religion, folks.  That means you have the right to worship as you please, even if you’re in prison, even if you’re Muslim, and even if you’re Taliban.

Prison is horrible.  More horrible than anyone who has never been in or near one can imagine.  I know.  I worked inside prisons, back when someone might have had at least a little respect for credentials like mine.  This was before they started over-disciplining doctors and forcing their asses out of those august institutions in favor of cheaper folks, like nurse practitioners. Read more on Freedom of Religion in Prison…

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Back in France, when I wished there were more hours in the day to study, two female Mormon missionaries showed up at my door.  They tried to get inside, wanting to assimilate me to that religion.  I had not yet developed the method of chasing Mormon missionaries that I used years later, when we lived in Palm Springs.  I took the bus and the Mormon missionaries would nail me at the bus stop.  I did not want to run away and miss the bus, so I yelled “Devil get thee behind me” in English and numerous Psalms in Hebrew.  This method worked quickly and efficiently for getting rid of many southern California Mormon missionaries.  This method has been replicated by me in numerous situations.

Back in France, I was less experienced.  I hit them with Genesis Chapter 3 verse 16; in French “Tu enfanteras avec douleur.”  I suppose I could have used the English standard version.  I basically convinced them not only that I knew my Old Testament pretty well, but that I had enough problems being female and a French medical student without being a Mormon.  The older of the two women, a preceptor guiding a young student, said the equivalent of “she knows Scripture; we better leave her alone,” and I hid my joy. Read more on Women’s Pains…

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The Catholics have a history of making heroes out of those who suffer the most.  I really don’t know what kind of reaction this young man should expect from his “very Catholic” grandmother when she finds out he is using medical marijuana.

My patient is 27, on dialysis, and looking for a kidney transplant to stay alive.  He takes medical marijuana to increase his appetite and well being, as well as minimize the pain and anxiety of his situation.  I have promised that I will not stop trying to help him.  We will go as far as we need to, raising funds if necessary.  My help will likely include taking him “public,” using the media. Read more on How Can We Explain Medical Marijuana to a Catholic Grandmother?…

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Christmas may have provided a break in the mourning for some in Newtown, CT.  That’s good.  Too much mourning is not a good thing.

crying eyesBut the first thing that bothered me about the Reuters article was their description of Newtown as “mostly Christian.”  I am not a terribly ardent Zionist, but I will admit I was proud of the Israeli response to the tragedy.

My heart goes out to those of any other minority religions, for I do not know who or how they are, or if their international communities have reached out to them in any way.  America is neither Christian nor homogeneous.  Failure to live up to the “freedom of worship” part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Normal Rockwell Four Freedoms is just another way we have failed, as a nation, to live up to expectations.

My heart goes out to anyone who has not felt support from the religious

Read more on Newtown, CT and the American Tradition of School Shootings…

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According to Mitt Romney, God lives and always will inside the Republican platform.  Seems to me this would be a difficult place to confine a Supreme Being.  When I heard this, I was in the car with my husband.  I could only think of one response, and that was to pray aloud.  “Dear God, how do you put up with all this crap?  Your friend, Estelle.”

Our political conventions have become religious referenda

At the recent political conventions, each party claimed to be more religious than the other. Is this what politics has come to in the 21st Century?

Although I consider myself a true believer, I will admit to having had philosophical angst about His or Her existence.  I cannot and will not accept the God about whom everyone says “I remember you in my prayers.”  I cannot imagine either Mitt or Barack going to church or kneeling next to bed with a list clutched in their fist that says something like “the folks who lost their houses in the storm.”  Neither can I imagine them letting God do His or Her will, which might include letting the opponent win.  I think that they, and most of the folks I know, use “magic prayer.”  This means that when you say it you have already done it.  I have questioned a few Christians about this, and that is what it sounds like to me.  The reason I have not questioned more Christians about this is that it tends to get them very angry.  My husband does not like me to do things that might get me beat up because he is lots bigger than me and would definitely end up defending me.  I can certainly see why someone would want to pray out loud in a life threatening situation.  Like military active duty type war. Everybody wants victory, although at that precise moment, they are probably praying for their buddy to survive. Read more on Prayer on the Platform…

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When I was a very junior neurosurgical resident in France, I always thanked my lucky stars I had not overused coffee.  Mme. M., who ran the cafe below my apartment throughout the first part of my studies, which were mostly classroom, had an Italian espresso machine and little demitasses (half-cups) of potent brew — so potent that I could not consume more than one in the morning.  Arabica, fragrant, and aromatic, it was a true joy.

After I moved closer to the hospital center, I heard for the first time the expression “pump yourself full of coffee.” (se pomper pleine de cafe)  It was foul tasting stuff, consumed in an infinity of Styrofoam cups, and strong — really strong.  There were rumors that it came from the same “common market supplier” as the wine, which was supposed to also be from a a mixture of common market (it had not yet become the European Union) countries.  All the food was free, as we were government employees.

Nobody ever figured out where the coffee had come from.

There was an open bar 24/7, about as well outfitted as Mme. M’s.  I was afraid to be in the same room with it.  I am delighted to report that I never saw anyone use it on an on-call night.

This is the place I could access a small bed — iron tubes for headboard and rails, mattress probably stiffened with starch.  The joke, which may well have been true, was that it was Napoleonic non-issue, meant for a barracks.

After the first night I lay upon it sleepless, answering a beeper that whenever it rang told me to call the operator and they would tell me who to call, my then-young back was killing me and I was fighting tears. Read more on Save Lives — Let Doctors Sleep!…

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“Nations make their histories to fit their illusions” — Walter Lippmann (twice Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist).

I remember years ago taking care of a Vietnam war veteran who told me, “what everybody says is wrong.  There ARE atheists in foxholes and they is me.”

To be a member of the wrong religion is a very dangerous condition, as many Muslim-Americans have found out in this new millennium. Read more on Thank God I’m Not An Atheist…

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