BEWARE THE CAREGIVER’S SYNDROME

A recent NY Times article by Catherine Saint Louis revisited a topic I have written about previously–the Caregiver’s Syndrome.   Just yesterday one of my patients described her own efforts to step away from that role, for just a while, while her husband was recovering from a serious injury.  I applauded her efforts and tried to relieve her guilt for doing so.  Intuitively she knew she had to do it.  She felt herself breaking down, emotionally first, then physically.

The truth is simply this– the caregiver suffers tremendously from the role of providing care to a loved-one.  Now this is painfully obvious to most, but the extent of the suffering may not be.  I see this in my patients, their own mental and physical suffering often follows their intense focussed care of a loved-one.

From a personal perspective I saw it take place in my own family.  Both my parents are deceased.  But in her last years my mother suffered from dementia.  She recognized everyone but gradually and insidiously her short-term memory failed.  My father was the product of depression/ WWII stoicism.  It was not in his DNA to burden his children with his problem.  As his children, we were in denial as well.  Perhaps we didn’t want to see the inevitable.  We (my sister and I) still viewed my father as an iconic pillar of strength.  How foolish we ALL were.  As my mother lay in bed with Hospice care present, anticipating imminent death, my father crashed.  I saw him earlier that morning.  Our family were at their home to be present for my mother’s passing.  I off-handedly asked him how he was doing.  “Just a head cold” he replied.  Kissing my mother goodbye, I left their home to play golf.  Later that day my wife and sister stopped by, once again to see my mother for perhaps the last time.  But there had been a radical change in my dad.  He was dying from sepsis.  Five weeks in ICUs with pneumonia, congestive heart failure, sepsis, blood clots, pleural effusions……he survived.  But he was never the same. 

He crashed for one reason.  It was clearly the intense emotional stress of seeing the love of his life slipping into oblivion that annihilated his own immune system.  Had we all been more aware, we could have intervened.  As adult children, we should have stepped forward and assumed more responsibility, regardless of his refusals.  We could have insisted that he step back from the daily horror of dealing with someone who asked the same question, over and over again.  He could have been relieved of some of the burden–not only of the actual work involved but of the guilt that enveloped him as he gave in to anger, time and again.

The analogy with airflight is powerfully applicable.  When the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen on before attempting to help another…..listen carefully.  It will eventually it will apply to us all– if not in the present than assuredly in the future.

JEWISH SELF-DEFENSE — Why Should It Be Needed

Yes. Bravo to the Jews of Paris who defend themselves agains hateful mobs.  But why should this be needed? Political discourse seems dead.  The rule of the mob is rearing its ugly head around the world.  Those individuals committed to peaceful discourse, negotiation, compromise are silent.

Are we as a people, nation, civilization descending into nihilistic chaos?  Aren’t rules of law designed to defend the minorities, those whose beliefs differ from others? What happened to the rule of law?

When scenes of European anti-Semitism in 2014 bring to mind the black and white scenes of Nazi Europe we are ALL in trouble.

There is an entire generation of young, liberal, tolerant Jews who support Palestinian rights and a Palestinian state who are in shock right now.  They never dreamed that such deep seated Jew-hatred still existed in the world.

 Thank God for the internet and social media.  Thank you Wolf Blitzer of CNN (never thought I’d write that) for allowing Hamas to expose their vile Jew-hatred with the insanity of blood-libel.  To those uniformed, Jews do not make matzah from the blood of children.  Jews were murdered and tortured in the Middle Ages by believing Christians.  Now Islamists have taken up the insanity.

What about  political solutions to the Israel/Palestine crisis?  Sadly, you cannot negotiate with primitive, uncivilized, hate-filled human beings. Hamas, Hezbollah, Jihadists do not seek political solutions to anything. They only respect power.  Because Jews are not ready to commit mass suicide, they must use violent means to defend themselves.

Jews with guns may be an anit-Semite’s worst nightmare.  But believe me, they rather not.  Israeli’s are producing technology to help paralyzed people walk, to defeat Ebola etc. etc.  Would not the world be better off allowing them to do just that? Hey.  It could even be used by those who hate Jews.

 Where are the  world’s rational Muslims here? Where are the French, Germans, Belgians,  Australians—everywhere where mobs have attacked Jews right now.

Think of this argument as self-serving.  Let Jews do what they do best–think, create and help mankind.

 Rational people can still save our world from imploding.  But they better act fast.  

WHEN PACIFISM BECOMES SUICIDE — How A Just War Emerges from Spirituality

To those of us who seek to live a life imbued with spiritual principles, the notion of war seems abhorent. And yet there are wars that must be fought.

 Essentially when there is an aggressor whose goal is annihilation of the enemy (namely YOU) there is a moral/spiritual imperative to resist.    To do otherewise is, in essence, to accept suicide.  There is no option.

Passivity is capitulation to evil.

There may be political issues which motivate the aggressor.  They may completely believe in their cause, their holy right to seek your annihilation.  But that just doesn’t work.  There is no room for “proportionality”.  

Powerful responses which may shorten the conflict are justified from a spiritual perspective.

 God help as all.

MEDITATE — Now More Than Ever

I will be the first to admit, I am an inconstant meditator. But I recently resumed the millenial old practice and I have to say, I appreciate it more than ever.

 In a time when time itself seems life’s most valuable commodity, meditation shows us how relative it can be.  Einstein was right on so many levels, but meditation brings it home.

 Try meditating for only 10minutes.  Set your timer.  Sit quietly.  You can choose a variety of methods but perhaps the Mindfulness approach is as useful as any.  Merely observe your breath as it enters and exits through your nose.  That is it.  When your mind wanders (and it will, many times) gently return to your breath.  Smile inwardly as you realize how difficult such an easy task really is.  Understand that our minds are conditioned to attempt to multitask.  We are products of this culture, at this time in history.  No wonder we find simply paying attention to one thing, like our breath, is so difficult.  And yet it is crucially important.

 As a culture we are obsessed with exercising our bodies.  We are often “into” brain games to hold off the ravages of an aging brain.  But meditation is even simpler.  It is more honored, studied, validated than any other mind study.  It has even been shown to change the shape of our brains.

 And just perceive how long 10 minutes seems to us.  I bet you will question your timer.  It must have shut off, you will think, how could 10 minutes SEEM so long.  

But aha.  That’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

LETTER TO THE GAZANS — Time For Change

Far be it for me, hardly an expert on the Middle East, to offer thoughts on this decades old conflict.  But am I missing something here?

 Didn’t Hamas begin this conflict by lobbing missiles on Israel? Didn’t it do so with NO possible realistic goal to destroy Israel or have it submit to Hamas’ dictates?  Didn’t Israel agree to a Egyptian-brokered cease fire while Hamas did not?

 If I have my history correct, Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005.  Wasn’t that supposed to open the doors to a Palestinian renaissance, without those hated Zionists controlling your lives?  Settlements, settlements, settlements.  Israel must remove them or there will never be peace in Palestine.  OK.  Now what?

 Israel is the evil empire, isn’t it?  Hamas knew Israel would not tolerate missile attacks.  Hamas set you up to take the hit for their political/religious agenda.  Israel has repeatedly warned you to leave targeted locations.  Could you envision Hamas doing likewise to Israelis?

 Hamas uses you as human shields, hides weapons in mosques etc. etc.  So what is the answer?  Gazans…..isn’t it time to reject your jihadist leaders who seeks your destruction in order to gain international support?  Your life has no meaning to them.  Is that a surprise?  And finally– how’s your life been under Hamas?  Has that been “workin for ya?”

 So I apologize for offering such a simplistic, perhaps naive recommendation for your lives.  Of course having your own Palestinian state would be great for you.  Being recognized among the world of nations would be ideal.  Having economic opportunities, free from fear is every human being’s goal.  But you aren’t anywhere close to that, are you?  Hmmm.  Any other ideas? 

SENSELESS. SLAUGHTER

There is a time for war, a time for peace.  There is a time for anger, a time for confrontation. There are those human beings, however, who bring shame on our species.  Those are the murderers of the three Israeli youth.

No politics, no oath of jihad, no level of political frustration can ever justify what they perpetrated.  As long as human beings are capable of committing atrocities in the name of hatred we are a diminished species.

The mentally deranged are excused.  But the mothers  of jihadists who commend the death of Israeli children and laud their children  as suicidal murderers defy human comprehension.

This is sad on so many levels.

WHEN SKEPTICS LOOK AT LIFE AFTER DEATH

I totally understand the skeptics perspective on anything paranormal.  I get it–where’s the “proof”?  

For most of my life, I was in their camp.  There is no rational explanation for many extraordinary experiences people have or the uncanny ability of mediums to describe our deepest connections with those who have died.  I guess where I depart from my scientific colleagues who deny the reality of such occurrences is that I have heard too many to discount them, to label them hallucinations, or fabrications.

 Basic principle 101– people don’t make up stories about their deceased loved-ones.  They have no reason to do so.  Rather the contrary—-they risk the ridicule of others.  I know this is so.  They have confided this to me.

 In his book What Is Death? biologist Tyler Volk battles with this issue.  He sides with the materialist–monists.  Our mnd is the creation of our physical brain.  There is no such entity as the soul.  Physical death is the end of existence.  That ‘s his mantra and he is sticking by it.

 Ironically, he places a footnote in his book which challenges that very belief. On page 232 he reports an experience of “one friend, a professor of sociology and biology” who had a paranormal experience. Interesting that he introduces the story by offering credentials and therefore credibility to his friend.

 Volker writes He traveled in his mental, astral body from his hotel bed to his house in West Virginia.  Floating above his mother, he watches her on the couch, reading a magazine with the television on, until she put the magazine down and fell asleep.  He floated down close enough to note the article she had been reading.  He was enough of a scientist to want to verity his experience.  When he returned home, he asked his mother whether she ever read such-and-such an article.  She told him she had been, but didn’t finish because she fell asleep. He even found the magazine in a stack on the living room coffee table, where he had seen her lay it.”

 Hmmm.  Interesting how Volker places this in a footnote near the end of the book and does not comment further on it. He even uses the term “astral body” without explanation.

I would have used this anecdote to open the book up!   It is an incredible experience from someone who clearly had credibility in Volker’s eyes.  Yet he can’t deal with the cognitive dissonance.  It doesn’t fit into his materialistic, science based dogma.  How unfortunate.

 To me, these experiences are illuminations of a deeper more complex and transcendent reality.  Why marginalize them? Why deny them because they don’t fit the pre-conceived paradigm?  It is not even scientific to deny facts that don’t fit.  Einstein would have never made his breakthrough discoverie of realtivity if he had been motivated to fit his observations to existing beliefs.  Quantum theory remains scientifically valid yet philosophically and cognitively extremely difficult ot undertand.  That doesn’t mean we should deny their reality outright.

 Mystery abounds in the universe.  Dark energy and dark matter are science based descriptions of the universe, accounting for more thatn 90% of “everything”.  We understand and perceive less that 5% which is the energy and matter we think we know.

 My wish is merely this.  Remain openminded about the nature of reality.  Don’t discount what you can’t explain.  Be skeptical but not dogmatic.  Remember, absence of proof is not proof of absence.  Enjoy the journey to discovery.

METAPHYSICAL LESSONS— ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT….

ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM.  MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILY, LIFE IS BUT A DREAM.

 So, do these words trigger any deeper associations for the reader?  I recall a medium’s connection with my paternal grandmother Fanny.  Her words of wisdom to me involved letting go of worries and concerns since life is only a dream anyway.  Later on, this concept was confirmed by one of my aunts, Pearl who had deep metaphysical interests.  Yes, her mother, my grandmother Fanny,  did express those sentiments during her life.

 And what about the directive to “row, row, row” ?  Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that self-directed action is required in this incarnation.  Passivity is not appropriate in the face of the challenges of existence.  Free will dictates that we are obliged to make choices.  Choose to act in ways that promote our best interests.

 But what about going “down the stream”?  Does that imply we should always take the easy way out of our dilemmas?  Probably not.  But on the same token, continually struggling against the flow of one’s life is foolish and wasteful.  There is a path in our lives that needs to be pursued.  We may need to work to discover it.  But once we do, it will feel right.  At that time it will seem as if our journey is downstream.

 And what about joy in the face of obvious suffering? Wouldn’t it be great if we can find enough satisfaction in the multiple aspects of our life to reach some level of serenity? A great deal of that will be determined by how we perceive our lives.

If we are intense and competitive we can never relax. Whatever we have or achieve will be overshadowed by the accomplishments or material possessions of others. The ability to cultivate the attitude of gratitude puts our minds into a state of relative bliss.  Observe those around us who seem at peace with the world. Rarely will they compare themselves with the lives of others.  Ultimately we should recognize that our unique life journey reflects the need to learn karmic lessons that are ours alone to experience.

So perhaps there is wisdom in this simple childhood rhyme. 

MICHAEL’S WOMAN

This is a bit of a human interest story–at least I think so.

 Michael is a 40 year old male patient of mine with some sort of developmental disability.  I’m not quite sure of his diagnosis but suffice it so say that he can drive, come to my office on his own, concisely describe his symptoms and remember what meds he is on.  In many ways he is an ideal patient.  At times I believe he comes to me to be reassured that he’s OK.  That’s fine with me.  Perhaps that applies to my less disabled patients as well.

 On his last visit I asked how his girl friend was doing.  He said she was good, then added that he wanted to marry her.  He giggled afterwards, as he frequently did when he was pleased with himself.  ‘Will you live together?” I asked.”No” he replied, she needs a lot of help and she might lose her assistants if we lived together.  But I can help out with her a lot”.  He giggled again.  ” We have a lot in common” he noted.  ” I’m disabled and so is she “.  He smiled broadly and clapped his hands together.

 It was a good visit. 

AM I A WANDERING KHAZAR ?

I have always been fascinated by Jewish genetics.  It probably began when I took note of the Middle Eastern origin of Jews and my Father’s family physical similarities more to Eastern European/Slavic peoples.  My Father, Frank was a blue-eyed, blond haired 6 footer as a youth, resembling much more a Russian than a member of the tribes of Israel.  And yet he and all his ancestors were known to be Jews from Eastern Europe, the Pale of Jewish settlement, the Russian lands now part of Byelorussia and Lithuania.

Known collectively as Ashkenazim, their native language was Yiddish.  It just seemed as if there must have been genetic mixing in my family’s history.  After all, Iranian Jews looked very “Iranian”, Ethiopian Jews resembled their countrymen, as did the black African Jewish tribe, the Lembas.  When DNA testing became more accessible studies now seem to point to just what seemed to be the case.

Y chromosome analysis of Jewish males from around the world today seem to point to a Middle Eastern origin, mitochondrial DNA, derived from maternal lines, are much more varied.  The logical conclusion–over the past 2 thousand years or more, Israelite males set out on “business trips”, met local women where they traveled, settled down and created the founding gene pool for a variety of populations.  The proclamation of maternal Jewish affiliation was clearly a later invention.

And now its my turn.  My results are in from 23 and Me, the online DNA analysis.  No question of my Ashkenazic Jewish genetics. But of interest was my paternal haplogroup is R 1a 1a (R-M17)  Present in only about 5 to11.5% of Askenazic Jewish males, it is the dominant male type in Slavic / Eastern European men.  According to 23 and Me it is not of Near Eastern origin.  So what does that mean?  Am I descended from that legendary, exotic and controversial tribe the Khazars? Who you may rightlfully ask? (see Khazar Theory of Ashkenazi Ancestry in Wikipedia)

This Turkic tribe migrated into Eastern and Central Europe and converted to Judaism in the 8th or 9th century.  Historical documents by contemporary Christian and Muslem historians questioned the wisdom of such a decision, thus strengthening the claim of its veracity.  What remains controversial is to what extent these converts became integrated into Ashenazic, Yiddish speaking Jewry of Russia and Poland. Of course politics and anti-Semitism has played its role as well.  Were Zionists from Eastern Europe actually Europeans after all? Were Israel’s critics right to deny the historical connection to the land itself?

Science seems to have provided THE answer. The haplotype of 85% + contemporary Jewish males today have Middle Eastern origins.  Strangely, mine doesn’t.  Does it really make any difference? Perhaps not, but it does explain the Eastern European phenotype (physical appearance) of
many contemporary Jews– particularly of some of my relatives.