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Precious memories

Memories

 

As those of us from the “Baby boomer” generation continue to get older, there’s an increasing discussion about memory; the loss of it from age or disease as well as ways to increase and restore memory.

As a psychologist I have always been aware of hypnotherapy, regression therapy, the power of suggestion and a variety of short term memory induced medications which have the ability to expand the far reaches of our mind.

The hippie movement and psychedelic drug use of hallucinogenic medications such as LSD along with the research of Dr. Timothy Leary as well as Angel Dust and others brought new meaning to the terms of “getting high” and “mind expansion”. Ironically, these illegal medications were in wide use by the military in an attempt to seek out how much the human mind could be expanded for use in memory and neurological research.

Reportedly, the results were quite incredible.
Many test subjects claimed they could remember all the way back to their birth and some claimed they were even able to recall some of the womb experience.

The interesting reports were from the test subjects claiming to remember past life and even “other worldly” life experiences.

I have often utilized the power of suggestion as a therapy tool to help patients cope with grief or a traumatic experience; even to the point of helping them to forget. I also worked with a Psychiatrist friend who was also a certified hypnotherapist and he would often utilize this tool in taking some of my patients back to a point in their life they needed to remember in order to forget.

All of this said, I thought very little of mind expansion drugs or medication; I considered it all “bunk” and nonsense, that is until I was fully and officially diagnosed as an epileptic.

Although I am a genetic epileptic, I wasn’t officially diagnosed until 2005 when after a full blown Grand Mal seizure (in which I was pronounced dead) I was put on anti-seizure medication. Until 2005, I could not remember nearly anything from my childhood before age nine or ten and even much of that through age fifteen was often strained at best.

Once I began taking the anti-seizure meds, I almost immediately had clarity of memory going back to when I was six years old. It’s actually quite amazing; I now remember things I had totally forgotten.

Even more amazing, is that after my most recent two grand mal seizure this past December my neurologist added a second daily dosage of an additional new anti-seizure med and now I can remember many things all the way back to when I was two years old.

Talk about precious memories, I was recently holding my nearly one year old grandson and watching him smile as I let him hold the TV remote control. Suddenly, my mind flashed backed to when I was about a year older sitting in my granddaddy’s lap and he gave me an old style striped peanut butter candy. He used to save them after the barber gave them out at the barbershop. Anyway, my granddaddy saw me trying to eat thru the cellophane wrapper so he tore it open and let me lick it. It was great.

After he saw how much I liked it and nearly licking the candy to death, he took his pocket knife out of his pocket (every man and boy use to carry one back in the day) and he began to scrape the candy into his hand and then fed it to me. This is such a wonderful memory.

Memories are indeed wonderful and should be cherished.

The Apostle Paul said “Let the mind of Christ Jesus be also in you” (Philippians 2:5); in other words think like Jesus and live like Jesus and the result will be good living and good memories… just like Jesus.

Paul went on to say, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Paul is basically telling us that good and Godly thinking produces good and Godly memories. Good in and good out.

I am always amazed at people which have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that have lost most of their memories yet still have vast memories of church, scripture, old hymns, Sunday School and Baptism. It’s as though the Godly memories rise to the surface of their life.

Let’s exercise our memories and think on the things of God.

God bless us all as we think on HIM.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

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Ageless wonders

My late father used to say, “Just wait till you get to be my age boy”.

Of course, like many of our parents that was one of many of my Dad’s favorite sayings to me throughout his long life of 83 years; from the time I can remember till just before he died.

The older we get, the more we tend to reflect on our age and the past. If it’s not the result of a deep lingering memory, it’s that old sports injury or new diagnosed illness which creeps up behind us, taps us on the shoulder and says, “you’re old”; you want to just turn around and slap it but then you realize you can’t turn around like that anymore.

None of us want to believe we’re getting older. I know a writer I met a few years back in her nineties told me she couldn’t believe she was as old as she was because she just didn’t feel like it.

One of my university “Geriatric psychology” professors used to say, “You can try to run from it, ignore it or simply change the subject but the fact is, if you’re lucky age will catch up to you.” Think about his remarks,”…if you’re lucky…”. He would also add, “If you’re not lucky enough, it won’t really matter and you and God can discuss what happened up close and personal”.     Most of the class didn’t appreciate his dry humor at the time but it was his way of saying “don’t take life too serious”.

In other words if we’re fortunate enough to experience all that accompanies a long life, we will have aches, pains, difficulties and the emotional stress of moving forward in time and “getting old”.

A Christian Psychologist colleague of mine (who is no spring chicken) says repeatedly that the older we get the more important it is to have a daily personal reaffirmation which involves positive affirmation about our present life situation; regardless of our current circumstances.

Everyone should formulate their own daily plan. My simple fifteen to thirty minute daily “re-affirmation”  (reaffirming the life God has given me) usually goes something like this: I pray thanking God for today, my life, my family, church and our nation. As an epileptic I also ask for a “seizure free day”. I sing one of my favorite praise choruses, “Let’s forget about ourselves and magnify the Lord and worship him”, I read scripture (currently reading through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), I read a portion of a favorite book or two and finally I formulate a plan for the day.

We must never dwell on the past because we’ll never get it back. The past poisons and penetrates our mind and very ounce of our being; to quote a popular cliché’ of our day, “Just let it go”.

The bottom line is that each of us are “Ageless wonders”. Leave the past behind, don’t worry about the future and pursue the present.

Jesus said it best, And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25:26)

God bless your day.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

The Importance of Sam’s Law

Hopefully, as I prepare to publish this article, “Sam’s Law”, House Bill 684, was being heard in front of the Senate Education Committee (Tuesday, April 30) and will be placed on the agenda for a vote prior to the ending of the current Texas State Legislature.

The reason this law is of vital importance is that it will require all schools to become epilepsy educated and aware. Epileptic seizures (of all kinds) are often misidentified and epilepsy itself is so misunderstood that many people don’t recognize a seizure when they see one. Some seizures such as absence, simple or complex partial seizures are simply unrecognized.

Even when a seizure is recognized, people often don’t know what to do. This is especially true in our schools. Children and teens with epilepsy can experience a seizure and depending on the type of seizure, teachers, coaches, principals, counselors and even some school nurses are unaware of how to proceed.

This is also true of School police officers and security. In fact certain seizures such as grand mal and petite grand mal seizures are all too often perceived by police and security as simply disobedience and a behavioral or drug related problem sending these epilepsy effected students needlessly and incorrectly to the local jail, juvenile detention facility or a behavioral hospital leading to misdemeanor or even felony charges against a sick person needing immediate medical attention and wasting valuable time.

Please remember, Epilepsy kills.

Sam’s law,  (HB 684), introduced by Rep. Travis Clardy, would require that ALL Texas public school personnel — meaning anyone who has contact with a child with epilepsy — will be trained in seizure recognition and seizure first aid. People who interact with children with epilepsy on a daily basis should be trained to care for them if they have a seizure.

Sam’s Law would ensure seizure education and first aid training for employees in Texas public schools who have contact with children. It would require teachers to take an online course effective Dec. 1, 2019. The bill proposes free seizure recognition and seizure response training for teachers and staff at Texas public schools.

The bill is named in honor of Samantha (Sam) Watkins, a Kilgore ISD student who passed away in December 2016 after complications from a seizure just three months after she had been diagnosed with epilepsy.

Again, not to be morbid (but as an epileptic myself) Epilepsy kills and both time and the proper response can be the difference between life and death.

Much of the foot work in getting this bill introduced into the Texas legislature was due to the efforts of former teacher, Shari Dudo who is also an epileptic. After suffering a seizure at the school where she taught, she founded the Purple Warriors of Texas. Samantha (Sam) Watkins’ mother, Barbara Watkins, also a teacher has worked with Shari to get this bill introduced into the Texas State legislature and bring it to its current point in the state senate.

At the same time, there are many others throughout the nation attempting to get similar legislation introduced into their own states.

Still others such as the RGV’s own April Flowers and her daughter Lili are spending time in Washington D.C. meeting with Congressional staff and Senators in an attempt to raise attention to the need for Sam’s law nationwide.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

NEW EPILEPSY Support Group Forming

We are in the process of starting a second Epilepsy Foundation support group for the lower RGV area which will meet at a separate week and day of each month from our current Edinburg meeting.

You are also welcome to attend the support group in Edinburg which meets the third Thursday of each month in the Texas Room of the Edinburg Regional Hospital.

The NEW group will meet at the City of Laferia public library which has elevators and easy accessible handicap bathrooms. Specific dates and times are yet to be announced. If anyone knows of folks with epilepsy, family members or their care givers which would be interested or could benefit from this group, please email me at drtruthman@live.com.

FREE food and beverages will be provided.

Thank you,

Dr. Lee Outlaw

Depression can be a dangerous thing

In follow up to my previous article, “Depression is everybody’s problem”, this article will point out the danger of depression when gone unchecked.

The 2015 crash of the Germanwings  Airbus A320 flight 4U9525 on March 24, 2015 which killed all one hundred fifty persons on board is a stark reminder of the need for closer scrutiny of those who are put in charge of the lives of others.

In the crash of the Germanwings  Airbus A320 flight 4U9525, the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had apparently been struggling with mental  illness and depression for some time. He even received a letter declaring him unfit for work (at some point)which somehow officials are only finding out about now as a result of Lubitz hiding the letter.

Like many depressed and psychologically distressed people, Lubitz apparently was able to hide his illness all too well; many who knew him, found him, normal, capable and even fun.  

Even when he was originally hired by Lufthansa in 2008, the company said Lubitz was psychologically sound and completely fit to fly.

As of today however, after the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bild (a German  Newspaper) citing unnamed sources claiming that Lubitz had suffered severe mental illness, Lufthansa has now admitted they learned in 2009 that Lubitz had suffered  a “previous episode of severe depression”.

Although Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, knew of Lubitz’s battle with depression, they allowed him to continue training and ultimately put him in the cockpit.

Lufthansa contends however, that because “Lubitz had a valid medical certificate, had passed all his examinations and “held all the licenses required”; there was no reason not to let him fly.

This is a staunch reminder of the need by every one of us to take a proverbial pinch of our mental capacity to see if we’re really ok. We all need to maintain good mental and emotional health but unfortunately not everyone is willing to check their mental and spiritual compass.

If you doubt your mental stability for even a minute, for goodness sakes talk to somebody professionally. Don’t be so proud that you endanger yourself or those around you.

On another level of mental health, too often like the recent German Air crash, someone with less than competent mental capacity gains control of people and either limits or ends their lives.

The potential for anyone with power over people to take such control to the extreme is just too fragile to allow incompetency to be put in control.

Having worn so many professional hats over the years as a pastor, theologian, psychologist and insurance adjuster, this writer has seen far too much incompetence among those in charge of others.

The old saying of “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is so true.

This writer has seen good men and women totally collapse under the obligation of power and control.

I’ve seen pastor’s attempt suicide after major catastrophes like hurricanes which wiped out their churches and homes, theologians who couldn’t handle a flaw in a theological truth they once held firm, attorneys who lost major cases, athletes who lost the big game, parents who lost children and on and on.

In short, everyone is vulnerable to mental illness and associated depression at some point in their life.

When life becomes more than we can handle on our own, that’s when we need to talk to someone professionally.

But what about the professionals who think they’re above talking to someone?

Does this not support the need for a required mental assessment of every major professional?

Certainly all pilots, bus drivers, train operators, ship captains and personnel, doctors and hospital staff, law enforcement, attorneys, prosecutors and certainly all politicians should be required to have an extensive mental health screening; not just a  criminal background check but an intensive mental health checkup.

Most of all both the Democratic and Republican Parties should include in their Presidential Candidate vetting process a mental health checkup made public to all.

Good mental health is very important and should never be taken for granted because the mind can indeed be a dangerous thing.

Please, if you are having strange or unusual thoughts, feeling depressed or lonely, call someone today at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.

Also call your political party requesting that a mental health checkup be required in all political candidate vetting processes; especially of those running for the office of president.

© 2019 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III

Depression is everybody’s problem

The suicide death of so many celebrities and returning military from combat zones brings to the forefront the all too common problem of depression with the often end result of suicide.

We all have seen the many public service announcements by the late Mike Wallace and others who have openly admitted their battle with depression in an effort to shed light on an all too common problem.

With one out of every seven people in the modern world dealing with this very serious mental health issue at some point in their life, there is simply never enough emphasis placed on this condition.

There is so much which can be said about depression and yet the reality is very few people actually attempt to do anything about either their own condition or the condition of a friend or loved one.

Depression is generally defined as, a condition marked by feelings of worthlessness, dejection and worry which is usually accompanied by a state of unhappiness and pessimistic outlook on life.

The depressed person is susceptible to minor states of frustration, feelings of guilt and even occasional paranoia with a tendency to feel they are either a failure or failure prone.

Basically the depressed person develops low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy.

In more severe cases, depression may result in suicide.

Depression can be brought on by many things including Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

It has now been stated by the wife of the late Robin Williams that he was actually suffering from the early stages of Parkinson which might have contributed to his depression.

As an epileptic, this writer is well aware of the potential of the medication I take as well as the disorder itself which can lead to depression. In fact, my neurologists always ask me on each checkup visit if I am experiencing any depression.

As a child I witnessed the constant depression of my late mother and wanted to know more about the subject which ultimately led to my study of psychology.

Unfortunately, my mother never really recognized she had clinical depression; although it was quite evident to those around her.

For my mother as well as both of my Grandmothers, they simply addressed their problem as being “down in the dumps” or “having the blues”.

Down in the dumps and having the blues doesn’t last a life time but genuine clinical depression can; especially left untreated.

It should be noted here, that there is a clear clinical distinction between a person suffering from what is known as a “neurotic depressive reaction” which might result from a difficult situation or traumatic life event such as a divorce or family member’s death and “psychotic depression”.

“Psychotic depression” includes a variety of widely known depressions known as “manic-depression” and “Bi-polar condition” (which today is often included as one depression type).

Persons diagnosed with a psychotic depression usually have a long history of mood swings and depressed episodes accompanied by extreme paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

Although both forms of depression are treated similarly, most forms of Psychotic depression require long term use of medication, personal and group psychotherapy and often even in-patient hospitalization.

In short, depression should never be ignored.

In contemporary society, there is simply no need for anyone to suffer with the pain of depression or to inflict in those around us the pain of watching our reactions to difficult and depressed feelings.

With proper psychotherapy and medication most types of depression can be “handled” and most people live a full, healthy and satisfied life.

Available medication, good doctors, neurologist and psychotherapist are usually the easy part.

The difficult part is helping people understand they have a problem and then leading them to seek out the appropriate solution.

Bear in mind, you cannot push a depressed person; it can only make their situation worst.

Most men cover up their feelings and as such seldom admit they’re having any kind of an emotional problem.

Even if their Family doctor prescribes some medication and warns the patient one of the side effects can be depression, many men will simply respond by saying, “it’s nothing I can’t deal with”.

Women usually will seek professional help for depression the quickest due to recognizing and understanding their own feelings.

Unlike men, women openly and easily display their feelings and emotions; any change in that normality seen by themselves or their friends and family often sends up a red flag that something is wrong.

As a result a visit to the doctor, therapist or at the least the best friend or hair stylist is sought to talk things out.

Herein is where depression becomes everybody’s problem.

Women realize for the most part, that “airing out” their feelings or differences helps and often even bring about a solution or complete healing of the depressed state of mine.

Men on the other hand hold it in and are very good at putting up a façade that there is “nothing wrong”.

Teens too, are often good at hiding their true feelings for fear of being “singled out” and made fun of for admitting they have a problem, talking about it to friends and family and seeking the professional help they need.

In over thirty years of counseling, the main reason most people came to me ultimately led back to depression.

Their depression escalated other problems such as marriage and family relationships, employment problems, long time friendships and various forms of sexual dysfunction.

Often depression can affect health problems such as appetite, weight gain or loss, hair loss, visual problems and much more.

Many times it is necessary for a psychologist to refer a patient back to their family doctor in order to eliminate a possible physical problem.

Again, depression is such a huge problem that it is everybody’s problem; it is a personal problem, and your friends’ and family’s problem.

It is your church and pastor’s problem and it is your family doctor and psychotherapist’s problem.

It takes all of us working together to recognize our own depression and/or that of our friends, family and co-workers.

Depression is indeed everybody’s business and my next Christian Counseling article will look at its many warning signs.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Becoming EpiAware

This is a meme I came across several years back from one of my Epilepsy support groups and felt it time to include with a short article on anti seizure medication side effects.

The meme addresses a subject we don’t often think about; our anti seizure medication and the side effects they bring to our lives. It sometimes causes us to do or say spur of the moment things we don’t intentionally mean to say or do. It’s very similar to or may even be part of an aura or seizure; and yes most anti seizure meds can cause auras and or seizures.

The side effects are not wanted or planned; they “just happen” without warning. We need to familiarize both our self as well as family members and friends with these side effects.

Remember, most epilepsy medications are not only prescribed for epilepsy and seizures but also for behavioral health use in treating such illnesses as Bipolar Disorder and many Schizophrenia disorders.

Unfortunately for the epileptic, the medication can often have the exact opposite effect for which it was intended in treating such behavioral disorders.

As a result it is extremely important to know your medication’s side effects; not just in general but in you specifically; find out everything you can. Becoming familiar with these side effects can help prevent wrongly diagnosed mental health issues as well as social and relationship issues.

It is important that every epileptic as well as friends and family know and understand anti seizure medication side effects; not just in general but specifically for the epileptic in their life.

We should all become “#EpiAware”.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD