I talk to a lot of folks about depression. I have a medical license granted to me by the State of Georgia that certifies my credentials to do so. What is the main cause of depression? I’ve wrangled the poetic one for myself…..
One memorable surge of the Byzantine invasion, was a benevolent-sounding legislative attempt to improve the quality and standards of medical laboratories. It was called, euphemistically, the “Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act” of 1988, or, CLIA.
Once upon a time, there was an era when the doctor and the patient had a direct clinical, personal, and financial transaction with each other. Gone are the days of the trust, respect, and responsibilities that accompany such a direct relationship.
This blog is not about my father’s advice. It’s about one of my role models who gave me an example of such a life. His name was Tommy. He wasn’t a doctor. He wasn’t one of my teachers. He wasn’t really a friend, although he knew my face and said, “Hi”, when he saw me.
He was a mentally handicapped busboy.
Each morning I’d make my rounds in the ICU, and, coming to her room, would expect to find Miss Hattie’s bed empty. But she hung on, the heavy aroma of the grave still oppressive. It constricted you from all sides.
I can’t prove the existence of love by scientific experiments, but tell me of any greater force on earth for bodily recovery, reconciliation, sacrifice, bravery, and physical strength. And no one can deny that a soft touch or the healing presence of a caring person has physical therapeutic power to a sick one. The philosophical materialist who denies the existence of anything other than the tangible, observable, and quantifiable realm merely says such a phenomenon is “psychological”.
Those who see me and know me in the office know that my focus has always been on prevention and wellness. And I try to practice what I preach. But can I also show them by example how to die or to deal with disabling or painful illness? The life of the body, no matter how hard one works at it, will end.
Dr. Banov was, perhaps, the kindest, most astute, most compassionate doctor and teacher of the art of “beside manner” that I have ever met. If I haven’t said this before in a previous blog, I must now tell you another term for “bedside manner” that I am fond of using. It’s that ability to make people feel better by just being with them. I would like to take credit now for coining the term: “therapeutic presence”. Dr. Banov had it.
The more you drive down that road the same way, the deeper the ruts get. Sometimes those ruts get so deep and ingrained, no amount of turning the wheel will get you out of the rut. That’s when a motor-grader machine comes in. It plows up and smooths out the ruts so you can get control of your car again.
But if you keep going down that road the same way all the time because you choose to steer along the same path, the ruts will return.
I can treat this patient with an anti-depressant plus an anti-anxiety drug to treat the chemistry of his or her brain. This person will likely feel and function better. But if they don’t start to learn new patterns of thinking (that is a spiritual process), and continue to dwell on old hurts, losses, suffering, fears, the anxiety and depression will persist, or return. No amount of medication will cure a person who willfully refuses to seek change.
Now to take the complementary view of the “mind”. Here we deal with something spiritual, not physical.
Science has demonstrated that living tissues (especially those of the brain) DIE from lack of oxygen. The definition of death, technically, is “cessation of cellular respiration.” Respiration means “breathing”. Breathing requires “air”. Air is Life.
What I’m trying to say about “the mind” is that the strict “naturalist” (look that up, too) is correct in saying that every thought we think, emotion we feel, motivation we experience, is accompanied by a an electro-chemical, neurological, biophysical phenomenon somewhere in the physical “brain”…. But we cannot by this conclude that the mind is just a physical phenomenon. There is so much more..
So, again, I dare you to show it to me this thing called “the mind” so we can all see it, define it, quantify it, study it, and treat it. Thus we can properly define and seek to cure this thing we call “mental” illness.
This is not to say that we can’t tell a lot about someone’s “mind”, but this we can do only indirectly. The contents of one’s thoughts, ideas, expressions, choices, actions, etc. tell us about the “mind” but they are not “the mind”. To direct some type of therapy to any one “thing” that is a “mind” is not like treating a lung or a liver or a pancreas.
So, for two or three hours I sat with him in his motel room. We talked. Played cards. Passed what seemed to be an eternity of time for me. I knew it was the right thing to do. I hated it. He was so frail. So skeletal. He reeked of the chemotherapy that coursed through his veins. I think my nose and eyes burned from the fumes of it.