Health Care Alternatives and Reality – Series – Pt. 2

Overcoming Innocence

A Lifelong Process

In a previous post I wrote about the lessons I learned from my father, a surgeon.  While he loved his profession, he also had deep reservations which he spoke to me about. It seems I took it in at a deep level because I was not exactly a rebel at such a young age. But over time I found myself having to clear my perception of all kinds of health care alternatives. And each time I found myself examining alternative pathways. And, looking back I think what was happening was that my intuitive personality was dictating that I search for alternatives and possibilities.

Searching Psychology

When I began my studies in college I was told psychology was a science. Well, of sorts. Definitely not hard science entirely. There was experimental psychology and there was clinical psychology. When I was accepted into graduate school at Duke it was in the experimental psychology program. it was a matter of a very few weeks before I walked into the chairman’s office and requested a change to clinical. Graciously he agreed.

Interface with Medicine

Early on we began clinical experience at Duke University Medical Center and eventually I did my internship there. It was eye opening. Up close and personal I interfaced with people I admired and some who horrified me even though they were highly respected. The echoes of my father’s positions were significant.

Now I’m Looking Back

Here it is decades later and I see a process of search and discovery. In this series I’m going to share my thoughts about health care and “treatment of illness”. Notice that there are quotation marks there. There are realities and there are dicta. I found myself weaving through a system which I saw as needing substantive modernization and reevaluation if not downright reform at all levels.

Rushing At the Future

And now we find ourselves being pressed into information technology and changes we are only now beginning to understand. The title of this blog is Cusp of Reality and I firmly believe that medicine resides on a vibrating cusp as well. In coming posts I’ll  be sharing my view of health care realities, misgivings about illness and diagnosis. I’ll be referring to revisions of definitions of illness, the difference between illness and life management. While much of what I experienced was in the psychological sphere, it is impossible to separate it from physiological, cultural and logical influences as well. We are on a rough road into the future and we need to explore and study what may lie before us. There I am again as the intuitive personality type facing a world of possibilities. But much of my viewpoint is conditioned  by experience. Jump on board and let’s explore together. 

What are your biggest concerns about health care?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Health Alternatives and Reality – Pt 1

 

Small waterfall along a gorge trail.

To what school of health do you belong?

Okay. You got me. Recently I posted about my experience with vitamin D deficiency and it produced obvious resonance. It made me think about what else you might find of interest. I can’t say I come from a specific school as it relates to health except maybe the School of the Doubting Thomas. So, I looked back and found the roots of my position.

Revelations

My father was a surgeon. He pioneered abdominal surgery in the 30s, 40s and 50s. To me he was Dad and, of course, I looked up to him. It was only later that my brother (an attorney), after some experience in medical malpractice, reported to me how eminent he was. Such a position would make one suspect that he would hold an elevated centrist position. He did not.

The story of his life inspired me. He was born into deep Mississippi poverty. The family was challenged at every level. Finally with his father’s blessing he boarded a train for Washington in 1917 and went to work in the War Department. From there he climbed to college at Columbia in New York and then on to medical school there. It was a breathtaking story of devotion, challenge and, interestingly, a deep commitment to independent thought.

I was my father’s favorite son. He liked to fish, hunt, ride horses, hike and so on. They were not so much my brother’s cup of tea. Not always mine either but my father and I were closer. And so when we were riding in the car he talked to me about his life and his profession. He loved medicine and his desire to be a part of it drew him out of that deep rural Mississippi poverty.

What I Learned

Rummaging around in these past decades I had to recognize that my memory has become a little hazy but a couple of things were clear. In spite of his love of medicine, my father had deep reservations concerning routine practice. I came away with a fundamental dictum. “Question Everything.” He saw a lot of what he felt was malpractice or at least incompetence and when he struck down to the core he felt the greatest tool he had in his practice was not his surgical skill but his bedside manner. He mobilized his patients through hope and belief along with the success of his skills.

It made me understand that my acceptance of medical alternatives was rooted in what he conveyed to me. And allied with it was the notion of questioning everything. Question routine practice, question routine belief, question medical alternatives. Question, assess, test and then maybe accept.

In those days alternative medicine was not widely embraced so I can’t say where he would have stood but I suspect he would have taken some of it in.

The Outcome

So I’m going to go on a tour of what I found from this position. And, bottom line, I find I’m often angry and disappointed. Folded into the other topics in this blog will be health related issues. Just to mention a few. Health care realities. Diagnosis and reality. The travesty of mental illness. PTSD and our veterans. Responding to family crises. Medication and Big Pharma. Taking personal responsibility. Poverty and functional disability. The complexity of drug abuse. And then we’ll see.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Vitamin D and Health 2

 

What a Dreadful Oversight

There is a condition called nonceliac gluten intolerance. I have it. And it means I can’t uptake vitamin D effectively from food. I can only get the doses I need from ultraviolet exposure.

Now I know the medical advise was terrible. All of my life I sought to lie in the sun at every opportunity. And now I know why. I have a picture of me lying in front of a snow drift in the sun in January. I hoped for help but now know if your shadow is not shorter than your height you cannot get much help from sun exposure at that time of the year.

In graduate school I read a book which was a study of suicide in northern Europe. They sought every possible explanation and came up with nothing. I think I know why. The suicides were related to an inherited deficiency like the one that runs in my family. And so the suicides in northern Europe clustered in villages and, of course, was related to families and limited exposure to sunlight.

I go to a tanning booth regularly and it lifts my mood immediately. The dose of vitamin D in a tanning booth is rather large and the effect for me is immediate. My mood alters so the world is bright and brimming with hope and physiologically I feel ever so much better. I call my tanning salon Mother’s after the 60s drug dealer who sold things which made people feel great. Of course drugs are not the answer but the sun is legal.

What Took Them So Long

Until the year 2000 there were almost no studies of vitamin D deficiency which is why my search for information led nowhere productive. Since 2000 researchers have begun to take a look. I know what they will find when they shed their medically induced denial. They probably found nothing in the study of suicide in northern Europe because it may have been a familial disease related to vitamin D deficiency and they never looked into that possibility.

I won’t go into the research in depth but it is available online. Among the results are indications that vitamin D will cut cancer risks for such things such as colorectal cancer and prostate cancer by 30-50 percent. It decreases the risk of heart attacks by 50 percent and reduces the risk of dying from a heart attack by an even larger percentage. It is also linked to dementia.

No, I do not put sun screen on when I leave the house. Yes, I understand there is a cancer risk. I also understand there is a suicide and cancer risk and dementia risk if I do not get the ultraviolet rays on my skin.

A Flawed Set of Medical Models

Am I pleased I traced the source of my vulnerability? Yes, and I find it deeply unsettling. Time and time again I have seen the myopia, and prejudice in medical research. Over the decades I have been less and less impressed by the medical model and see our wellbeing impaired by the influence of big pharma in marketing drugs. (“Tell your doctor if you have been to a place where there are certain fungal infections.” Seriously?). And too often it seems that medical people don’t believe anything unless it is printed in a medical journal.

We wrestle with outdated “mental health” issues and now at long last some people are looking at Vitamin D deficiency but it should have been on the radar before the year 2000. At least at a personal level, concerning mood and for prevention, we can do our own research. The personal study is strikingly simple. Anyone with winter depression can do three things sequentially. Take oral vitamin D, try broad spectrum light therapy and after ending both other tests go to a tanning booth. The cancer and dementia prevention is implicit. Oh yes. Getting sunburned is still not a good idea.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Vitamin D and Health – Part 1

Now a Change of Pace

A Major Oversight

The warnings are everywhere, particularly in the summer. “Do not ever, ever go outside without putting on sunscreen!” (Obviously this warning serves the marketers of sunscreen.) Exposure to the sun puts you in danger of skin cancer and at minimum it may damage your skin, they say. There is some truth to these statements and moderation is indicated.

BUT, there is another side. Before the year 2000 there was little in the way of research concerning the effects of vitamin D deficiency. It is now being done and the story deserves substantial attention.

A Deeply Personal Story

My mother suffered from terrible depressions and great bouts of weeping eczema. My father (who was a surgeon) feared she might suicide. When the first psychotropic medicines came out, he gave his darling wife Milltown to try to help her manage her depression. Much later I learned one of the side effects of that drug was Parkinson’s disease.

In her later years my mother suffered terribly from the effects of Parkinson’s. She would confide in me about her pain and misery—when she knew who I was. She was a very victorian lady who never, ever went in the sun. And that, I was to understand, was her downfall.

As I entered adulthood, increasingly I suffered from devastating winter depressions, also called seasonal affective disorder. By early February I was routinely deeply depressed. I searched for help. I tried medication for depression but there were dreadful side effects and little help. Alternative routine advise was to use broad spectrum light therapy. It did nothing. Also they said to use oral Vitamin D. Even at high doses it did not much of anything. The researchers claimed that tanning booths offered no refuge. They were absolutely wrong.

I Found Nirvana at the Tanning Salon

I recognized that I suffered from the same condition as my mother. Routinely I frequented a tanning booth to very positive effect. I noted another effect. When I failed to go to the tanning booth for a long period even in summer my blood pressure soared.

For a time my wife and I had a business in the Caribbean. It had grown out of the home we had built on St. Lucia. My first act upon arrival was to go lie in the sun. When we closed that business I suddenly had eczema like my mother and returned to the tanning salon. And all around me were warnings about the sun and that I needed to never, ever leave the house without putting on sunscreen.

Stay tuned. In the next post there is more. This is not just a personal story. It has a lot to do with wide-ranging health problems, their origins and treatment.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Feelings of Inadequacy and Powerlessness

 

Personal Management

To fulfill our potential requires not just commitment and dedication for success. It also requires us to deal with our perceptions of ourselves and our belief or understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. Perspective is needed to balance such things as our talents or lack of interest. Our weaknesses need not drive down our self esteem. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s also a matter of orchestrating our motivation with self esteem. And it is often not so easy to understand our strengths and how they may benefit us. The bottom line is that management of the self involves management of an orchestra.

We cannot all be talented in the same way. Where we do not have talent we may have lack of interest or commitment or we may view something as inessential. Men have sports heroes and we are instructed to admire and follow in their footsteps. But some of us are not interested and where formerly this may be seen as an inadequacy or a weakness it can be transformed into a view of lack of interest because there are other talents which offer potential for growth and satisfaction. The confinement may be in what men do to each other. Part of the question relates to recognizing the extent and diversity of effects on each other. All too often there is an
enforced lack of introspection especially if the issue is not to be discussed.

And Then There is the Sexual Arena

Now before us we are seeing considerable evidence of the issue of male sexual abuse. Boys may ask each other, “Did you get any?” This is a depersonalization of women and helps lay groundwork for abusers. This question comes from the outside and, if the young man has values which indicate to him that he wants to not treat women as objects, self esteem may come to be at question.

Establishing a Useful Focus

As the sexual abuse scandals have become highlighted we see a central focus on males exercising power. We need to not overlook the other possibilities and it would need to be central to male group discussions. For many men it is not primarily a matter of power but one of THEIR self esteem. And when women step forward and talk about how they were abused they are too often punished and shouted down which makes matters worse.

We need to recognize that men may push and harass women sexually not because they are exercising power but because they feel powerless and inadequate. In short, it may be compensatory.They hope they may prevail and feel more powerful or worthwhile. Just as when Trump strikes out because his narcissism isn’t being fed. These behaviors can be more indicative of insecurity, fears, powerlessness and personal flaws rather than an exercise of power. They reveal weakness. These men may avoid despair by attempting to reassure themselves and their worth. Otherwise they can collide with a personal negativity.

Self As Trash

If a man believes he is trash then the subjugation of others may enhance, for the moment, their feeling of their own worth. But these kinds of self disregard can be assuaged only temporarily. Self concept and what we believe in ourselves is a virtual statue of self image we carry with us. And if it is dubious or negative then it must be supported and dealt with over and over because there is no event in day to day life which will thoroughly mitigate it unless there is a thoroughgoing search of the meaning and substance of ones self regard and belief. And men, when they are willing to search and admit can help each other with this problem. And so we return again to the meaning and need for men to self examine together. We share these flaws in self and in male culture. One of the leading indicators of this problem being underlying is seen in the man who must always receive praise and adulation. Enjoying recognition and celebration is one thing but the insistence and extent of need indicates a personal flaw.

The Bottom Line

If all the above seems complicated, it is because it is complicated. We need to examine these various themes and lay them out before us. If we focus only on power, we lose track of the variety of things which feed the dysfunction. We have our work cut out for us.

How often have you been able to perceive this process in men?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

America – Addict Nation Pt 2

 

A Call for Help

Shortly after I left my job working in inner city poverty in Baltimore I got a call from a good friend who had been a community organizer in that program. He had become an administrator at what was referred to as a Methadone treatment program. The treatment providers were recovering addicts and social workers. They were under the supervision of psychiatrists. Those supervisory relationships were not working well. I was familiar with that problem because the administrators of the program in Baltimore had been psychiatrists and the rest of us in the treatment delivery teams had to fight them constantly so that we remained focused on the real needs of the community we were serving and how those needs were addressed. What my friend wanted was someone who could address the needs of the incoming clients to the staff in a way that meant something to them. Long term intensive psychotherapy did not. Since I had been on the street with him and other staff I could talk the language of his staff and relate to their perspective. The staff needed a down to earth approach.

A New World of Problems

So I came on board as a clinical consultant. New clients were routed to me for an evaluation. In spite of my time on the street I was surprised at who was coming for help. I had been relating more to community services and the drug world was a different place. I expected to see heroin addicts arriving to take methadone. The people who came had many different problems. Some weren’t even what I would call “physiological” addicts. One nineteen year old had been using hallucinogens for six years. He wasn’t physically addicted to anything but had missed his adolescence.

I won’t go into all the details except to say that it made me aware that drug issues rarely stop at the matter of physiology. There are developmental issues, marital issues, education issues, job issues and on and on. There was absolutely no way to address everyone in the same way. It became a matter of designing approaches and determining needed resources for a broad range of needs.

Treatment Chaos

If we think anything else, we are deluding ourselves. As we begin to look at our opioid crisis there evidently are burgeoning treatment programs but some of them are shady and shabby enterprises. Just recently we learned that Google raked in over $1 billion in ad revenue related to advertising for treatment services. It seems there is insufficient regulation or attention to what needs to be provided and what is provided. We are missing the needs point. There is shouting about the addiction problem, but I’m not hearing a whole lot about a comprehensive plan or even a plan for working on having a plan.

Many Other Needs

One issue alone is illuminating. It is clear that a lot of these opioid drugs have flowed into Appalachia. This is the area where people have labored in coal mines, been injured, and suffer from chronic pain. The coal industry is clearly dying and there is little attention to what needs to be done for the economies of such areas. This alone tells us that we have a lot to study and work to be done. And much of the work needs to start today.

The Bottom Line

In some ways this blog post is nothing other than a warning. We have been diverted by political and ideological infighting. It is time to go to work in a more focused and cooperative way.

I’m going to close this post out now because this subject deserves study, certainly a book, or maybe a library of books. And we are not doing enough that is effective. We have a national scandal at many levels. We need to search and study our world.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

America – Addict Nation Pt 1

 

A Recent Discovery It Seems

The discovery that we have an opioid addiction problem in the United States is getting considerable news coverage. From the noise and amazement, it would seem it just started up.
Of course a problem of this magnitude didn’t just happen overnight. And, in fact, over 60,000 people died from it and related issues last year. That’s more than the 58,000 people we lost in all of the Vietnam War and more than the 37,461 deaths from car accidents in 2016.

Dealing with Scope and Reality

I couldn’t resist the headline because it is typical of the way major issues are suddenly hyped. Reality is often even more insidious. This is not to suggest that we should dismiss the issue. It is indeed serious, but it deserves a much broader form of coverage.

There Are More Than a Few Questions at Issue

I have a few questions and comments. First some questions.

As a member of the “helping professions” my lead question specifically is “What the H..L were the medical communities doing?” Is it conceivable they really did not see how many prescriptions they were handing out with little understanding of the needs of their patients and what was underlying the requests for medication? There needs to be a major discussion among those professions.

Next question relates to big pharma. What we know already is that there were massive shipments of addictive drugs and that many of those shipments were concentrated in areas such as Appalachia. Are we expected to believe that the pharmaceutical companies had no awareness? The bottom line is that this involves criminal behavior. They need to be held accountable. And that in turn should open the scandal of drug prices in this country and the patent need to regulate the pharmaceutic industry in a much more effective and comprehensive fashion.

Next question relates to Congress. Are the member of Congress living off planet? The silence on so many issues is outrageous. There is not nearly enough attention to this crisis in Congress. We should be overwhelmed by their outrage and efforts to look into it. Or, is this another indication off the corruption of big money in Congress?

What Should We do?

Right after we address the above questions we have to go to work. One of many things which distresses me is that I’m hearing little or no talk about what we actually need to do for the sufferers from these addictions. And yes, it is addictions—plural.

Some action is being taken and some of it is at the community level. We have a scandal of large magnitude on our hands and it is ours as a nation. In my next post on this issue I’m going to go into the matter of some of my history as it relates to this problem. We truly have our work cut out for us and it is not just a matter of addressing addiction. Along with those issues we must attend to the larger dysfunction of our nation. We all need to be distressed about what has happened to our country and make a commitment to do something about it.

To Be Continued.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt