mentality

There’s an epidemic coursing through America, silently capturing the lives of many people. It leaves them internally harmed and demoralized. It is stigmatized, looked down upon, and often viewed as unacceptable. I am personally responsible for contributing to the growth of this problem. But sometimes, life has a way of exposing you to situations and people that will dramatically change your perspective. This happened to me, and I feel obliged to correct my previous ways by being a voice for those experiencing this silent killer.  We can treat it with awareness, compassion, and support. I boldly stand behind the notion that these illnesses are real problems that need real solutions. I want to be a part of a system and country that seeks to address awareness and answers. I refuse to continue being a part of the problem. There’s an epidemic coursing through America, and it’s called depression and anxiety.

As an aspiring physician, I hope to treat patients holistically and with a purely patient-centered focus one day. I am particularly interested in heart diseases. Who knows what type of physician I will become, but I find it fascinating the heart is uniquely connected to other body systems and plays a fundamental role in regulating normal functions. If a patient presented to me with symptoms of cardiovascular disease, I would certainly identify the origin of the problem and seek to address it with a canon of treatment options. It would be absurd to think that physicians would allow their patients to carry around undisclosed symptoms due to fear. If a patient came to me and failed to mention severe chest pain, it would greatly alter the course of treatment and would likely lead to poor outcomes for that patient. Why is it then, when a patient presents with a mental disorder they often feel restricted or discouraged to tell their family members and physicians? Like our hearts, kidneys, lungs, and immune system, alterations in the mind can lead to a “sick” mental state as well. These problems are real. I was someone who paid little attention to mental disorders before this summer. I don’t really know why there was a disconnect for me, but I do know that I wasn’t convinced that mental disorders were real. It gives me great shame to say that. We as individuals, communities, and a country must seek to understand the needs of patients with mental disorders and try to alleviate the deeply rooted stigmas these individuals are faced with.

From a humanistic standpoint, I previously thought anxiety and depression could be controlled and cured by an individual person. A lack of willpower, I suppose, would cause a person to suffer from chronic mental illness. I am revealing these very derogatory  ways of previously thinking to illustrate what I believe to be a common theme throughout American opinion; however, from a purely scientific standpoint, a chemical imbalance in the mind cannot be controlled by individuals. Chemicals, specifically these types called neurotransmitters, control so many of our regular processes in the mind and ultimately throughout the rest of our bodies. A deficiency or over-production of certain neurotransmitters can wreak havoc on a person’s homeostatic levels of these chemicals and can lead to subsequent pathway activation or inhibition. I am not a brain biochemist, and I’m certainly not claiming to be one, but I can at least attest to the fact that the brain is infinitely complex and chemical imbalance theory likely plays a significant role in depression and anxiety. This means that in combination with other factors, chemical imbalance is a problem that people cannot control. Neuroscientists across the United States and world are working tirelessly to understand the basic mechanisms of depression and anxiety to hopefully develop better treatments and cures (insert: future blog post on the necessity of basic scientists vs. clinical and translational researchers). Furthermore, we can do something as non-scientists and as friends, family members, and individuals that interact with people who have mental disorders on a daily basis.

I propose a few key points.

The first: Let’s stop stigmatizing people who struggle with chronic illnesses of the mind. My initial point was the synonymity between cardiac diseases and mental disorders. Maybe this is hard for some people to understand (as it once was for me), but these are both simply problems that happen to the human body. I had trouble even typing the words “mental disorder” because the word disorder has such strong negative connotations surrounding it. The main reason I chose to use that term, though, is that I would not hesitate to write heart disorder or kidney disorder. In order to eliminate the stigma associated with depression and anxiety, we must treat them as we would treat any other human illness: as just that. It is a disorder. One that we must fight to normalize and identify. Mental disorders happen, and they will continue to do so as long as our brains hold the ability to change (which they will continue to do so). So let’s work hard to make these individuals feel less like outcasts in the world and accept them for being just like we all are: highly imperfect and flawed.

The second: Anxiety and depression affect a combined 25.1 million people in the United States (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). That’s a lot of people. It is very likely that you will encounter someone who struggles with these illnesses at some point in your life, probably daily. I suppose that these people look as if they have no struggle, they likely speak positively, and may even deny any kind of illness. Instead of trying to identify every person with a mental disorder, let’s seek to create a welcoming environment for someone who may need to talk about their mental struggles. Let’s become a more openhearted community and country and invite these special people to share what they’re going through. Much like a person with the threat of a stroke should let their family and friends know, we must be able to accept the responsibility of trust from these people. I desire to be a comforting hand, listening ear, and unbiased friend to anyone who needs to talk about what is happening with their mind. We can all be these types of people.

The third, and the last: If you find yourself struggling with a mental disorder, please know that it is okay. Someone with heart disease would have their health compromised if they felt the need to hide it from others as well. The best way we are going to solve this problem is if we have people come forward to be ambassadors for change. Mental illnesses are real. We all experience them at some point in our lives, maybe temporarily or perhaps chronically. Know that what you are experiencing is okay and be open to reaching out and talking with someone. We can all spread awareness, and we can all push for ending the epidemic that harms so many lives each year.

As a future physician, I pledge to create a welcoming environment for my patients to tell me about these things. I will seek to treat a patient holistically, including issues of the mind. Until I am a doctor, I will be a friend to those who need me, pray for those who are struggling, and try to spread awareness of the highly stigmatized illnesses of depression and anxiety. Our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, pastors, professors, aunts, colleagues, and the world need us to band together and fight to end this epidemic.

 

new year

Happy New Year’s Eve!

2015 was one of my greatest years so far. I have seen myself grow so much just in the past few months and look forward to how much I will learn about myself and my future in the next year as well. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve this year. My highlights of 2015 include:

  • Gaining my beautiful, healthy baby nephew
  • Getting nominated, interviewed, and selected as Presidential Scholar
  • Spending prom night in Nashville with my very best friends (whom I miss so much)
  • Being Valedictorian for the class of 2015 and the great experiences that entailed
  • Spending two lovely weeks at the beach with my family
  • Taking my first, REAL yoga class at Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL
  • Relaxing over the summer and reading some extraordinary books
  • Shadowing a cardiac electrophysiologist at Vanderbilt
  • Attending NEEDTOBREATHE and For King and Country concerts
  • Moving to Belmont, living with my amazing roommates, and making lifelong memories
  • Getting the opportunity to conduct biological research in neuroscience
  • Finding my niche at Ethos church
  • Continuing to learn through difficult times and lean more dependently on God
  • Realizing life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. But that isn’t what makes it beautiful.

In 2016, I have decided to change up my blog posts! I am going to post more frequently and hopefully I can help others with some of the things I have decided to write about. As you probably know, I am a college student studying biochemistry and wanting to pursue medicine. I would love to incorporate more of my study techniques, my ways to navigate through difficult material, and different things related to my course of study. I am going to post more about my journey through yoga and how I became interested in yoga. I will continue my posts about concepts and ideas, and I look forward to sharing more of my opinions on philosophical texts and ideas. I also want to spend more time focusing on Christianity and spirituality. So if you are interested in very different hobbies and interests, I welcome you to my blog!

For 2016 you can look for posts that center around:

  • My journey as a science major and pre-Med student
  • My ways to find happiness and motivation in high stress situations
  • My thoughts on various scientific and philosophical texts, concepts, and ideas
  • My journey as a yogi, health and wellness tips, and ways to find healthy eats in different places
  • My occasional beauty post or recommendations
  • My raw and vulnerable thoughts as I navigate through difficult times
  • My reasons for being a Christian and some of the readings I find helpful

I am excited about this change for my blog, but I look forward to continuing the types of posts I have been about since day one. I hope many of you can find ways to help me in various aspects of my life as well. I pray for all of you to have a happy new year, and find many joys and successes in 2016!

 

plastic hands

flower envelope.

I started college this past week, and I already have the addition of so many unique experiences. I have been to an outdoor free concert in downtown Nashville, I have exchanged “hellos” with more people than I thought imaginable, I have made friends that I plan to hold onto, I have ran and explored around my magical campus, I have had moments of homesickness, I have attended interesting lectures, I have attended boring lectures, I have eaten at amazing restaurants, I have heard fantastic musicians, and I have most recently spent quite a bit of time in my dorm reading and writing notes and trying to decipher scientific text into simpler terms for my own understanding. But tonight as I write notes over chemistry concepts, my thoughts keep navigating towards neuroscience…

Plasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to change and conform to new environments, new demands, and new experiences. It is a rather novel concept but to me it is absolutely awe inspiring. Our mind is the single most complex organism on our planet and remains the most complex system even when we extend to the Milky Way that envelops us in its gravitational embrace. Our minds, the envy of computational and electrical engineers across the world, is able to physically adapt to change. It is living, growing, and becoming more dynamic with every encounter we have and every memory we form. Your neural connections are on fire as you read this very sentence. Your brain is processing every bit and piece of information and deciding instantaneously where it is to be stored. Why does all of this fascinate me? Because I sometimes feel we as humans forget that we too have this plasticity feature. We are not supposed to remain complacent or dormant. We are not encouraged to become comfortable as the character we were cast for the play of Life. If the brain has the unique quality of changing when needed, of becoming better adapted for the role that it is required to fill, then we need to replicate this quality in our everyday lives. Open up your mind, your home, your heart, and your eyes and look for ways you can become an asset to the vast world around you. Find your passion and fall deeply in love with what it takes to pursue it. Be adaptable. Be the moldable human being God designed you to be. Stretch your beliefs, stretch out your hands to others, and stretch yourself vehemently in ways previously unthinkable. It is my belief that when we use our plasticity as humans, and as lovers, and as sons and daughters, and as warriors, and as citizens, that we have moved towards the bright and hopeful road of satisfying the great Creator.

So go out here. Look for the changes you need to make to be a better person, to make better decisions, and to make the world a better place.

I pray you find your ability to change and use it.

“His master replied, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23.