Pandemic Mental Health Crisis

Black woman in white tank top holding sad child with mask on face

My Mental Health is Deteriorating

The seeds of the pandemic mental health crisis sprouted when we experienced the Spring 2020 lockdowns where non-essential businesses were forced to close. Many people were left without a job and struggling to make ends meet. We all experienced the recommendations of spending less time outdoors to avoid contact with potentially sick pedestrians and limiting our time in stores. I personally used to run in the park and spend time on benches to enjoy nature. Many people also cluttered in parks. But many people also got very scared and listened to everything the media and government told them. They spent their days locked in their apartments staring out their windows in the midst of a brewing depressive and/or anxiety crisis. Some parts of the world today are still experiencing lockdowns, such as Australia. Doesn’t the government know that they contribute to mental health disorders ? Of course they do.

Pandemic Mental Health Crisis: The Jabs

This is a very controversial topic because half of Americans and many across the world are weary about getting vaccinated. These vaccines were released to the public in a year. The average vaccine trial takes about 14 years. In addition, Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines use mRNA technology to deliver the genetic material coding for the viral spike proteins. mRNA vaccines were never previously introduced unto the public. Why did they introduce them now during a pandemic? What are the long-term side effects? To make things even worse, local and state governments as well as the federal government have been pushing vaccine mandates. NYC recently passed a law prohibiting unvaccinated people from indoor dining, going to the gym or any public events without proof of vaccination. Healthcare workers and many other businesses are now being mandated to become vaccinated or risk termination. Don’t you think this raises the stress level of many people who rightfully choose to be unvaccinated? This is increasing the anxiety level in many people. On the other hand, many believe that the benefits of becoming vaccinated outweigh the potential long-term risks of these vaccines. People don’t want to catch COVID! Both sides make great points, but this doesn’t mean that mental illness is not at play here.

Bottles of COVID vaccine

The Unpredictable Future

Considering that the current vaccines only prevent severe illness from COVID and not minor illness, in addition to similar viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, will this not result in deadlier strains in the near future? I find it silly that the USA is going to provide booster shots starting the 20th of September. Many third world countries have still not gotten their first shots. Don’t they realize that new variants will arise in those countries, making booster shots essentially meaningless? The point of a booster shot is to raise your antibody levels back up to when you got your last shot 8 months ago. If new variants will arise that will likely be immune to the current vaccines, what is the point of booster shots? All of this is raising the stress levels in many people, causing them to become anxious and depressed, and many even isolated inside their homes.

What is your experience with mental health during this pandemic?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Acupuncture for Neck Pain

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Can Acupuncture help with Anxiety?

I was sitting at a tennis club (similar feel to a small country club) chatting away with two men twice my age and a woman four years younger than me. We were talking about possible treatments for my neck pain. That very moment the contents of acupuncture were spilled on the terrace table next to my chicken Cesar salad. Acupuncture for neck pain? I was being informed of the benefits and positive experiences of acupuncture, such as relief of pain. Here I was suffering from chronic neck pain for over a year with no solution in mind.

I had tried stretching and a change in pillows with no luck. One random weekend evening, I decided to search for acupuncture clinics in my vicinity. Long story short, I arrive at the appointment and inform them of my neck pain. I show the doctor my poor range of flexibility with my neck from side to side. He senses right away after touching my neck that it’s very tight. He instructs me to take off my shirt and lie down on the sanitized table (I can still smell the alcohol).

Acupuncture for Neck Pain: Needle Insertion

He then does a test run and sticks a needle in my anterior scalene muscles. He asks me if I felt anything and I told him no. As a matter of fact, of course you feel it but it feels like a pinprick; literally no pain. So then he instructs me to turn over and he starts going to work finding different meridian points on my body to place the needles. There must have been 6-8 needles in the back of my neck, some in my arms and right elbow region (I suffer from Tennis Elbow at times), and during this last session, in my ankles.

I’ve had four sessions thus far and feel quite satisfied. I noticed an improvement in my neck pain within several days of session #1. The best way I can describe the obvious physical difference is like this: it felt like the back of my neck had become numb; imagine applying a bunch of lidocaine gel. And here I was getting this effect from a few needles placed into my skin! He also instructed me to do some vertical and lateral neck exercises at home which I’ve been doing (sometimes not so consistently).

Acupuncture model of person with meridian points

Acupuncture Conclusion

Overall, my neck feels much more relaxed, loose and tolerant of pain. I don’t think it’s 100%, but sometimes I wonder if I even know what 100% feels like anymore. I’m 31 and I’m expecting to have the body of a 14-year-old who never had to stretch after playing 2-3 hours of intense tennis on a Saturday afternoon. It’s just not realistic. I also enjoy playing tennis on weekends and have been doing so for the last three years while living in New York. The tennis takes a tole on my body and if I don’t stretch consistently, the low back pain that tends to come on after playing for two hours may end up lasting for 3-5 days.

And an interesting fact: acupuncture can help with pain by increasing the release of more endogenous opioids (known as endorphines) within your brain and cerebral spinal fluid.

Bottom line is this: if I want to remain fit and athletic, I must tolerate some pain along the way.

Oh yeah, and can acupuncture help with anxiety? Well, if you don’t consider pain anxiety, then I don’t know what anxiety means to you.

What’s your experience with sports, pain and/or acupuncture?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Psychology of Hating Someone

Frowning white man biting hand

The Hating Game

Everyone has experienced it. It’s that uncomfortable feeling within you when someone else is jealous, envious and insecure.Humor is often a disguise; it’s the lubricant for the hating game that helps ease the intensity of the experience. Those who don’t catch onto the haters have no idea what’s going on; they may think that the person is just playing around and end up giving them more power by being naive. The psychology of hating is based on three factors: jealously, envy and insecurity.

Jealously: People are jealous for a laundry list of reasons. One main reason is because of how you carry yourself. If you have your (shit) together (pardon my French, did not know what other word would best substitute it), such as being successful, dressing nicely, carrying yourself with confidence, having a lot of money, etc, some people will naturally be inclined to hate. Sometimes they don’t even know that they’re doing it; I call it “unconsciously hating.” Jealousy often consists of one or more emotions such as anger, resentment or inadequacy.

Jealous eye staring at man kissing woman

Psychology of Hating Someone: Envy

Envy: Is envy the same as jealously? I like to think that they are little different. While jealously is what I described above, I believe envy is more associated with emotional pain. When people envy you, they cannot stand that you have a quality or desirable attribute that they don’t have. While quite similar to jealously, people who envy others experience resentment and disgust; they also experience a deep pain. Many are jealous but do not necessarily hate; they lie at the borderline of hating. But those who envy are certainly hating.

Psychology of Hating Someone: Insecurity

Insecurity: This is the most powerful factor out of the three because it stems from deep inside the hater’s psyche. The entire reason that people hate is not because of jealously or envy. They hate because they are insecure to begin with; they are not confident or assured and are uncertain and anxious. When they identify attributes which they lack, their insecurity burns with fire, as if someone just ignited a forest fire. Naturally, insecurity branches off into jealously and envy. If they work on their insecurity and become confident, the room for jealously and envy grows smaller and they become more confident in accepting their own traits and qualities.

Let’s be real, we have all hated on others and experienced jealously, envy and insecurity. But many of us recover from this destructive state of mind by working on our insecurities. When you start focusing on bettering yourself and appreciating others’ success, you will find more peace in your heart. You will even grow to appreciate how much others have that you don’t; you will become motivated to learn from them so that you can attain their level of success. This is how it works!

This is the psychology of hating. What’s your experience with it?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Be Strong and Courageous

Three blue abstract bubbles

Courage: The Road Less Taken

Our automatic response is often, “no, I don’t want to, why should I do that” whenever we’re presented with a new situation, idea or encounter. Why do we shy away from being strong and courageous? This is because we’re comfortable in our bubble; the space where no one can bother us and where we feel in total control. Whenever new ideas pop up, they threaten our bubble by risking inducing uncomfortable feelings, emotions and a general discomfort; we often don’t want to put effort into a situation or person that is not already in our existing bubble.

We all do what I mentioned above, but the question is how do we prevent that? It’s simple on paper but harder in reality: you say no to your bubble and take the opportunity to step out of it. You just have to do it by just saying yes when the opportunity arises. You will feel discomfort and annoyance but the key is to say yes without putting much thought into it. The more you dwell on whether you should do something or not, the higher your chances that your mind will convince you not to do it; your mind loves the bubble.

White husky dog running across wooden bridge

Strong and Courageous: Conclusion

So in other words, sometimes you have to pop the bubble and break yourself free. Relying on others can be hit or miss, but relying on yourself is success if you’re willing to try it. But courage is required from you. Courage is the road less taken because people don’t enjoy taking chances and risks in life. The most successful people are those who take risks. Risks provide you with opportunities you didn’t even know existed; they reward you for being a brave human being who is willing to explore a brave new world. In the end, try being strong and courageous; you’ll feel better doing it.

What is your experience with courage and stepping outside of your comfort zone?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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The Psychology of Money

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Money in the Bank

Our everyday interactions are intertwined with the psychology of money. From the day we discover money as children, we immediately appreciate the power that lies at our fingertips. Whether it’s that yummy cheeseburger at McDonald’s or those candy bars at the local convenience store, we realize that money can bring us immediate happiness; the food or candy provides us with a sugar high and a dopamine rush. Our brain then associates the currency with the awesome feeling, and so we seek to ask our parents for more of it, work for an allowance or get a job as a teenager.

Something changes in adults however; some become very motivated and learn to make handsome amounts of money, while others are lazy and unmotivated and settle for much less than their potential would have afforded them. Why does this happen if most of us appreciated money from a young age? It doesn’t matter where you grew up; even those in urban and poor neighborhoods appreciate the value of a dollar when they see their favorite athletes on television or even drug dealers on their block rolling on 24 inch rims.

Psychology of money

Psychology of Money: Accumulation

Is there a psychology behind accruing larges amounts of money? I believe that there certainly is and that it has a lot to do with drive, belief, vision, motivation and dreams; don’t forget luck. Keep in mind that most of those factors have to be present for one to be successful at obtaining large amounts of money. You can’t just have dreams but not work towards them. You can’t just work hard but not have dreams; otherwise, you’re adopting the role of a robot and you will eventually burn out.

Belief is a very important factor behind the psychology of money; definitely a top 3 factor. Belief is the gasoline in the engine; it keeps your ride moving forward. The engine is your drive, the motivation is the rider and the dream is your destination; don’t forget luck because that’s responsible for a smooth ride. Now do you see how all of these factors are connected?

What is your experience with making large amounts of money?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Falling in Love

White man and woman in love sitting on gray beanbag

Can’t Help Falling in Love

Falling in love… Why do we do it? We think the other person is an extension of ourselves, but are they really? We want to unite and feel like one, but many times with the wrong person; if that weren’t so, then why do 50% of marriages in the United States fail? And why are folks so quick to jump into relationships and run off to get married? Are you supposed to be awarded some kind of medal or something? Let’s not even get into the fact that so many couples remain in a relationship even if they know deep inside that they’re not right for each other; the fear of starting over is overpowering.

They believe that by minimizing arguments, maximizing pleasure and ignoring what they don’t like about each other, that everything will be fine. It never is fine if your partner is not the right one to begin with. Then there are the couples who aren’t in an official relationship; they are in something casual. The movies call them “friends with benefits.” These folks often do well together because it’s a “no strings attached” type of situation, until one of them becomes emotional, catches feelings and falls in love; then he or she tries to distance themselves or even starts a fight to deal with their insecurities.

Man and woman kissing under moon at night

If Anything Happens I Love You

Then there are the couples who are in an open relationship and allow each other to sleep around with other partners. I never understood this type of relationship. It’s supposed to be along the lines of, “I love you so much that I will let you sleep with others!” If that’s the situation, I don’t see how these relationships can go the distance, and I’m not referring to a couple of years, but more like a lifetime. Sleeping with different partners only promotes more interest in other people and may make you lose interest in your partner; what if you meet someone who has more chemistry than your partner? Overall, falling in love and holding onto a current relationship is easier than starting over with a new person who might be a better fit.

What is love to you? Have you experienced pain related to love? Share your experiences below.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Words of Encouragement

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Pandemic: Living in the Era of COVID-19

Take my words of encouragement how you like them. It’s so easy for you (and for us) to wake up every day and dive into a negative state of mind, especially during the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. We turn on the news and hope that we don’t hear any more mentions of “lockdowns,” “mandatory vaccines,” “delta variant,” and “masks.” After one minute of the television chirping in the background, we’re already slightly stressed and quickly turn it off. This process is even worse when you’re suffering from a mental illness.

So what are my words of encouragement for you? I know it sounds simple but they are, “practice gratitude and be thankful for what you already have.” A mistake many people make (including myself) is that they constantly desire more in their life, at the expense of practicing gratitude for what they already have. While there’s nothing wrong with desiring more and creating goals to accomplish new dreams, always seeking without practicing gratitude puts you in a “consciousness of lack.” In other words, you attract more of what you don’t have because that’s what your mind is focused on.

Words of Encouragement: You Already Have What You Need

Just remind yourself that you already have more than you need; never forget that. We’re already very selfish by nature so don’t let your environment make you even more selfish. You can imagine how terrible it must be for your psyche if you’re not practicing gratitude, always seeking more and suffering from a mental illness, all while in the middle of a never-ending pandemic. Gratitude is like medicine but we often ignore this potent medicine that lies within us. We’re too focused on our environment rather than internally being thankful for what we have.

Cloud formed as heart in sky

Starting from today, practice gratitude this very moment and continue to do so for the rest of your life. Lastly, I want to mention that I don’t write long blog posts due to time and energy. As a psychiatrist, it’s a challenge to write impressively long content, so I hope you enjoy these short pieces.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Psychosis: A Taste of Insanity

White woman laying on floor with face in trash bin

Inpatient Care

Psychosis, a taste of insanity minds you no time

It’s no longer the dominant factor

Your mind has discovered the matrix and does as it wishes

Hallucinations or reality, that no longer matters

Feeling good and partaking in the psychotic realm becomes the agenda

Psych patients often become violent when you’re interfering

Inpatient care isn’t easy when they’re freely swinging

You offer them medications but they’re freely swinging

Psychosis: A Taste of Insanity, Part II

Imagine a football team about to tackle them

Those sharp needles entering their body; they become spent

Sometimes four-point restraints don’t even provide a dent

Psychosis doesn’t give a damn; immovable hallucinations become the trend

To the patient this is nothing but part of the experience

You try to educate them but they continue their resistance

Psychosis is their best friend, but sometimes their best enemy

Satan enters their mind and tricks them into a deeper insanity

What can you do besides have potent drugs handy

Blank white psychotic face with hands on head

Do you see how Tricky Psychosis can be?

Many recover but many remain dormant

In the psychotic experience in which they keep roaming

Is there a cure to this madness?

Medications work but sometimes they flop

You keep pushing intramuscular injections

The patient becomes sedated and begging

“I want more, give me another shot”

You tell them they’ve had enough

They lose it even more banging against the wall

Their bleeding forehead leads them to their downfall

You order another injection to calm their nerves

By the time the nurse administers it

The patient is already on the floor hurt

After the chaos calms down you become relaxed

The staff becomes happy and you expect some claps

But who are you kidding

These patients are mentally ill

You didn’t do much besides feed them a pill

Psychosis, will you ever accept a cure?

Or will you keep torturing these human souls

Keeping their psyche in a stir

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Psychological Trauma

Brown mosquito on blue carpet

Psychological Trauma: Emotional Disorder

Psychological trauma can inflict deep mental pain that can remain with you for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years. For example, people with psychological trauma may experience a change in emotions, such as irritability, anger, depression, anxiety and fear. So sometimes trauma comes out at night in the form of nightmares. Do you still experience nightmares as an adult?

For me personally, I don’t have as many nightmares as I did as a child. For instance, when I do have them, I no longer wake up screaming or frightened. I usually wake up in discomfort and try to fall back asleep. People with psychological trauma may remain awake for the remainder of the night. Their nightmares feel like they’re reliving the trauma.

Trauma can result from many events and different types of scenarios:

  • Rape
  • Wars
  • Natural disasters
  • Kidnappings
  • Accidents
  • Injuries
  • Robberies
  • Theft
  • Even an adverse reaction from a medication or illicit drug
Head with black and white spiral

What exactly is trauma?

What exactly is trauma? Be definition, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Therefore, something is traumatic when you least expect it to happen and it causes a great deal of stress and disturbance in your psyche. So if you’re not prepared for something terrible to happen, which most of us are not, your mind becomes shocked when it does happen. That’s because your mind does not experience terrible events very often, so when it does happen, it’s like a horror movie that comes to life.

In addition, these traumatic experiences are then stored in the unconscious mind which sprinkles tidbits of the trauma in the form of nightmares; these nighttime mosquitos love to sting! How do you deal with nightmares? Is there even a way to deal with them? What is your experience with psychological trauma? Have you ever been diagnosed with an emotional disorder? Please contribute as this is a platform for all of us to share our experiences and learn from.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Cannabis Legalization

Indoor cannabis farm

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Let’s start off with The Good of cannabis legalization: governments will get to regulate the production and distribution, ensuring quality products in stores asking for an ID just like how it’s asked for alcohol and tobacco. This will ensure that people are not smoking synthetic cannabinoids (such as K2 or Spice) or low quality flowers which provide shorter durations of high, motivating people to smoke more frequently. In addition, the social aspect of legalization is surely a victory; here is a natural product that has been used since ancient China for medicinal and social purposes. It’s finally available (legally).

The Bad: mental health problems will rise. Yes, I know the argument that people who want to smoke already smoke, whether legal or not. But now imagine opening up stores all around your neighborhood with green crosses flashing. It’s going to be much more tempting for people to purchase some flower; even people who never previously smoked. The idea that it’s legal and the psychology of seeing so many people enter the shops on a daily basis will be quite enticing! In addition, the THC content of modern day cannabis is much higher. Research is still ongoing regarding whether THC can cause psychosis vs. an increased susceptibility of developing psychosis in those with genes for psychosis.

Dank green cannabis buds

Cannabis Legalization: The Ugly

The Ugly: it makes me normal!” Psychological addiction will increase. The downside with higher THC products is that people will like it more: they will experience a more intense euphoria and increased urges to smoke more and more often. Euphoria is very nice when experiencing the daily hustles and bustles of work, stress and relationship conflicts; marijuana is great at helping you let go and enjoy the moment. With cannabis at a store near you, it will be more enticing to order products delivered to your home, seeking that euphoric high much more conveniently; getting high will become easier than doing your own damn laundry!

There, you have my take on legalization. Do I like it that it’s happening? Yes, I do. Am I realistic? Yes, I am. I truly believe that in the long-run, we will see more mental health problems surrounding cannabis, but only time can tell. What are your thoughts on this matter?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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