Individuals suffering from mood and anxiety disorders such as bipolar, panic disorder and major depressive disorder may be more likely to abuse opioids, according to a new study led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They found that mood and anxiety disorders are highly associated with non-medical prescription opioid use. The results are featured in a recent issue of the Journal of Psychological Medicine.
It’s that time of year. The media is filled with stories about people traveling to be with loved-ones. Holiday decorations and yummy recipes abound. But for many people, the holidays are a difficult time of year. This piece is for those of you who face isolation during the holidays, either because you’re unable to be with others at all due to health or financial limitations (which often go hand in hand), or because your participation in those gatherings is severely limited by your health difficulties. I fall into each category, depending on the holiday in question.
The latest celebrity Buddhist, Mick Jagger, can't get it. Neither, it appears, can I. It seems that to be satisfied, I'd have to arrange my life and the world to conform totally to my liking—and then have them stay that way:
In my last piece, 5 Techniques to Help with Physical Pain, I described five exercises to help ease bodily pain. The response to that piece was so positive that I thought I'd follow-up by describing one of the mainstays of mindfulness-based techniques for helping with chronic pain and illness: the body scan. (The body scan has its origins in one of the manymindfulness meditation techniques taught by the Buddha.)
When someone asks me how I'm doing, I've got my glass-half-full and my glass-half-empty answers. My glass-half-full answer is that I'm now able to be up and about for several hours in the morning and then—usually—again in the afternoon.
I once read that the most common movie line is, "Let's get outta here." That describes exactly how I felt a few weeks ago as I sat in the lounge chair in my backyard. I was suddenly overcome with restlessness. But I didn't have the option to "get outta here." As most readers know, I'm mostly housebound due to chronic illness.
In May of 2001, I got sick with what the doctors thought was an acute viral infection. But I didn't recover. As the months went by and I didn't get better, I felt as if I'd entered a parallel universe that I didn't know existed. One reason this universe is largely invisible is that many people living with chronic pain or illness don't look any different from those around them. We simply don't look sick or in pain.
In April, NPR ran a story titled, "The Slow Internet Movement." It reported that hipster cities like Portland, Oregon are sprouting Internet cafés that only offer dial-up access to the web. These cafés give customers, "Slow pours and slow Internet. Here, you can order your coffee and spend four hours checking your email, all for .99 an hour." "Wow," I thought." That's just my speed!" (No pun intended.) But the story didn't just run in April. It ran on April 1st and was NPR's little April Fools joke at the expense of gullible people like me.
What do you count on as "certain" in your life? If you'd have asked me on May 21st, 2001, the day before I got sick with an illness that continues to this day, "Do you believe that impermanence and change are universal laws?" I would have said, "Of course!" I'd been a practicing Buddhist for ten years. Impermanence is what the Buddha called one of "the three marks of existence." We see it everywhere—in changing relationships, in changing political regimes, in the rapid-fire arising and passing of thoughts and moods.
The last time I was in New York City was August, 1992. I took my then-teenaged daughter, Mara, to see The Big Apple. Right now, my husband, Tony, is in NYC with Mara's own ten year-old daughter—our granddaughter, Malia. Tony and Malia are doing the same things that Mara and I did 19 years ago. They're taking in the sights. They're going to Broadway shows. They're riding the subway. They're walking all over Manhattan. Mara and I saw Miss Saigon and The Secret Garden. Tony and Malia are seeing Wicked and Billy Elliot. Truth be told, I've struggled with my inability to accompany them on this trip. But I can't go. I'm too sick to travel six hours to visit Mara and her family in Los Angeles, so New York is definitely out of my reach at this moment in my life.
On June 28tht, I wrote a post titled, Things You Can Do from the Bed. I listed eight possibilities. I've had so many creative and inspiring ideas added to that list from different sources (private emails, comments at Psychology Today or on Facebook), that I thought I'd gather them together here. So, here's a new list for you to consider.
In 2001, I got sick with what the doctors initially thought was an acute viral infection. I have yet to recover. Diagnosis: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—a little-understood illness that is as debilitating as its more justly named cousins that also compromise the immune and neurological systems. My case is particularly severe. I feel as if I have the flu without the fever—24/7. It is so disabling that I was forced to give up my beloved career as a law professor.
The four sublime emotions (also called the four heavenly abodes) are qualities of mind that we cultivate in order to alleviate our suffering and the suffering of others. In the language of the Buddha (Pali), they are called the brahma viharas, which means "the dwelling place of awakened beings." The good news for us unawakened beings is that it's easy to begin cultivating the brahma viharas. Indeed, they are an integral part of other religious, spiritual, and humanistic traditions. I present them here with a distinctly Buddhist "flavor."