You could say I have a bit of a glow going on. A far cry from Moses’ experience on the Mount, this glow is minute in comparison, and cannot be seen by anyone, besides my doctor and me. And that only on images produced by a high powered Spect scan nuclear medicine camera. A small injection of radioactive isotope, and bingo… I’m glowing. Or at least, my brain is.
Today it seems to be fashionable to have a mental health diagnosis… a topic of casual conversation among friends comparing notes, meds, therapists, experiences. Back in my younger days mental health disease was a mysterious, scary unknown world to enter, and to be labeled with such created but few BIG labels… crazy, weird, one-to-avoid. It was certainly not the topic of conversation, unless whispered in secret confidence.
Through God’s grace and wisdom I have come to know the truth of the matter. We ALL have a mental health diagnosis (at least one), and we are each more than our diagnoses. At first I had to adjust to my mental health diagnoses… wrap my mind around the reality of it, if you will… now I just grin and consider it a colorful feather, or feathers, in my cap.
That is, until the feather gets so heavy it needs yanked out, examined again, tossed, replaced, or reconfigured, the pain (or dis-ease) so unsettling or so great that something must be done. Whatever happens, a gap will be where that feather was, so why not grow it into something healthy and uplifting? Bring a healthier feather to eventually be in that wounded place?
Visiting the Amen Clinic Northwest in Washington State has proven to be a beneficial endeavor. It has been a relief to speak with a doctor who is an expert at reading brain spect scans and who has the data base and years of thousands of such scans to know the significance of various blood flow and brain activity patterns. Looking at the physiological status of the brain, and treating the patient as a whole person, the clinic visits include various testing, and an extensive history review. Treatment includes diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, various therapies depending on a patient’s personal needs, and, lastly, only if necessary, pharmaceutical medications.
My mother, who worked in hospital psychiatry, once said she was convinced mental health disease had much to do with chemical imbalances in the brain. After years on that rocky road I heartily agree. When my body and brain are most depleted of good nutrition, exercise, and the nutritional supplements I need, I become more vulnerable to stress, depression, anxiety, irritability (my brand of mental health issues). It was enlightening really (no pun intended) to learn about the supplements I need to add, and to be thankful for the ones I am already taking and can simply increase. Having a study done that looks at the physical functioning of my brain, and addressing specific areas of need, is to my nurse’s mind a most patient-friendly and sensible approach to mental health that I have encountered in a very long time… digging for the root of the problem, rather than relying solely on a cluster of symptoms.
With everyday stressors having become gradually overwhelming, almost to the point of panicked desperation, it certainly has given me hope. Interestingly… as revealed in part of my scan… being near-stuck in a fight or flight mode tends to cause one to feel like they are losing it! No wonder my patience meter has been down and my irritability factor has been climbing off the charts! In the midst of this, I have learned to give myself grace. The last few years have been fraught with an exorbitant amount of stress, fear, anxiety in our world. Not only are we each dealing with our own personal trials… through the “gift” of social media, we also are thrown into the stress, fear, and anxiety of family, friends, strangers from all over the world, and whoever else joins the harried fray. For those of us who easily carry the burdens of others, no wonder our body and brain chemical balances become out of whack! We are literally churning those heavy things of the world in our exhausted minds. With incoming fodder to fuel the fire nonstop, no wonder one becomes literally drained, and burnt out.
This is how I have found myself surviving these testy times:
1. Thin out social media. Keep that that nourishes; politely unsubscribe from that that does not; or just delete without reading those ads, listening to the news, or the latest, greatest info that only steals part of your brain’s energy.
2. Pray for balance. God knows our needs better than we do. Spend time listening to Him and seeking His wisdom. He never leads one astray.
3. Listen to your body and brain. If you are feeling overloaded, there is a reason. Find the beneficial help you need for a healthy outcome.
4. Write it out. Journaling, writing prayers, honestly grappling with feelings on paper helps make sense of things. God has used this to help me see more clearly, to admit when I am wrong, to cry into His arms my sadness and pain… only to free me from that that was binding me.
5. Never give up hope. “This, too, shall pass,” my wise mother oft’ said. “I make all things new,” says God.
6. Take a walk, and eat real, unadulterated food. Fresh air, exercise, and a change of scenery lets the wind blow cobwebs out of one’s mind. Non-GMO, fresh organic food, avoiding toxins as much as possible, feeds real nutrition to one’s body and brain.
7. Share the burden with someone you trust, a personal friend or a professional helper. Too much isolation can leave one gasping.
As we drive towards home from Washington State I am anticipating receiving my personal evaluation and the recording of the brain scan explanation my doctor reviewed with me via Zoom. Time to absorb a wealth of information before ongoing follow-up. The brain is amazing! A few easy adjustments on my part promise to help my mind, my brain feel better.
Psalm 139:14 (NKJV) gives ultimate praise and credit where it is due: 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
Yes, I do have something to glow about! And a new smile to wear. For after all…. 7For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7a- NKJV).
And this promise on which I stand: 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Here’s to healthy minds and healthy thinking!
For info about the Amen Clinics (that are located throughout the United States) see https://www.amenclinics.com/