I have been in Japan for almost two weeks, and already wish I could back again. It is a land of beauty, serenity and traditions. I wanted to go here already as a child. I watched manga-cartoons, fell in love with geishas, samurais and the esthetic houses, and found my favorite author there. The people here look really beautiful, and they are so diverse. The wear anything they fancy, which is liberating. I`ve seen close-knit families playing with their children, and experienced their kindness. There is so much more I could write, but a pictures says more than a thousand words, so here are some of the pics I`ve taken so far.
Saturday I am going to Japan! My little brother is coming with me, and we have both waited for this trip so long. He was just 8 when I promised him that when I became a psychologist and had money for it, we would go there. He kept reminding me of my promise every year, and now we`re finally here. That means my head is buzzing. I can`t say if its butterflies flying around in my head or a fanfare longing for my attention, I just know that I wish the butterflies or fanfares would quiet down a bit. When I am in this hyper state I also start thinking about everything else. Work is going very well at the moment, but today I had to apply for staying where I am now, for longer (hopefully forever, since I love the place already) and that set off a cascade of thoughts. I also got some new patients this week, and I just keep going through what some of them said, turning me into the investigator, searching for clues on what might help them. I don`t worry too much about staying up a bit longer than usual, though: Tomorrow is my last day at work before I start on my two-week holiday. These are exciting times, and sometimes I`m allowed to just bask in the glory of it.
If any of you has been to Japan, I would love some tips or recommendations.
When I wrote a paper to become a specialist in clinical psychology, I focused on EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and the brain. When I woke up today I was inspired to learn even more, and maybe try to do more research the coming years. To summarize my paper, I tested a woman with neuropsychological test before and after treatment with EMDR to see if there were any changes in the test results. The result showed that her memory scores became better after EMDR. To educate myself further, I started to read an article today about trauma and the brain, where EMDR was one of the treatment methods mentioned. I want to share the most interesting part of the article, here.
Decades ago, Harry Harlow compared monkeys raised with their mothers to monkeys raised with wire or terrycloth “surrogate mothers.” Monkeys raised with the surrogates became socially deviant and highly aggressive adults. Building on this work, other scientists discovered that these consequences were less severe if the surrogate mother swung from side to side, a type of movement that may be conveyed to the cerebellum, particularly the part called the cerebellar vermis, located at the back of the brain, just above the brain stem. Like the hippocampus, this part of the brain develops gradually and continues to create new neurons after birth. It also has an extraordinarily high density of receptors for stress hormone, so exposure to such hormones can markedly affect its development. Something as seemingly inconsequential as five minutes of human handling during a rat’s infancy produced lifelong beneficial changes. New research suggests that abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis may be involved in psychiatric disorders including depression, manic-depressive illness, schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder. We have gone from thinking of the entire cerebellum as involved only in motor coordination to believing that it plays an important role in regulating attention and emotion. The cerebellar vermis, in particular, seems to be involved in the control of epilepsy or limbic activation. Couldn’t maltreating children produce abnormalities in the cerebellar vermis that contribute to later psychiatric symptoms? Testing this hypothesis, we found that the vermis seems to become activated to control— and quell—electrical irritability in the limbic system. It appears less able to do this in people who have been abused. If, indeed, the vermis is important not only for postural, attentional, and emotional balance, but in compensating for and regulating emotional instability, this latter capacity may be impaired by early trauma. By contrast, stimulation of the vermis through exercise, rocking, and movement may exert additional calming effects, helping to develop the vermis.
A powerful new tool for treating PTSD is eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which seems to quell flashbacks and intrusive memories. A moving visual stimulus is used to produce side-to-side eye movements while a clinician guides the patient through recalling highly disturbing memories. For reasons we do not yet fully understand, patients seem able to tolerate recall during these eye movements and can more effectively integrate and process their disturbing memories. We suspect that this technique works by fostering hemispheric (Reprint from www.dana.org a non-profit dedicated to brain research) integration and activating the cerebellar vermis (which also coordinates eye movements), which in turn soothes the patient’s intense limbic response to the memories.
You find the rest of the article by following this link:
Sometimes you meet people in the most unexpected ways, and I’ve found that the internet makes it even more likely to happen. I don’t know why, but opening up to others can at times be easier than talking to your friends. Don’t misunderstand, I have so many good friends, but with Marie I can completely be myself and say whatever I think.
This post, Marie, is for you.
When I first stumbled upon your blog, I immediately felt that I had to read on. I read a truly honest post, and was so impressed. I often password-protect my posts, but you left your story there, ready for everyone to see. Opening up like that takes courage, and I felt the need to know more about you. We started chatting, and my gut feeling was not wrong. Your thoughts resonated with mine. I found somebody who got me, who believed in the magic of the universe, who follows her heart no matter what the circumstances is. My head got cleared, like a cloud vanishing from the sun. It you can follow your dream, so can I. And what made me even happier was the thought of you sharing so much of your thoughts and feelings with others, maybe touching others like you touched me.
I also like your writing. It is so honest and brilliant. There is no doubt that you see through things, lift the veil from confusion and find your way. You wrote a post about religion, and wondered if Buddhism could contribute to your life. You’re a searcher. On a quest, and there is nothing more inspiring than people who try to find their own way. For many it is a struggle to navigate in endless choices and tasks. There is always something to worry about. But you find your way. Even if life has been hard sometimes. You get up there and fight.
I want to share your blog. I want others to read your thoughts and be inspired. You have become a true friend, in such a short time. And even if we never meet, I will never forget you.
You find her blog at http://makeupmarie.com
I have been in my new job as a clinical psychologist for one month now, so it’s time for a update. I still can’t believe how fast the time has gone, it feels like the day is over before it even began. This is good, since it means that I am engaged. There is seldom a dull moment, and at the end of the day I look back and realize I have learnt something new. Already I have touching moments that I will carry with me until I take my last breath.
I have met many interesting people with a plethora of problems. Some with depressions, one with panic attacks, several with traumatized childhoods and also people with anger issues, AD/HD and personality disorders. Since I still see new patients, I haven’t had many conversations with anyone yet, and for many we are still getting to know each other. Finding the correct diagnosis is important, and we can’t move on before we have pinpointed what needs to be looked at more closely.
But even if we haven’t started on direct treatment yet, this first phase is hopefully already a step in the right direction. Although it’s necessary to go through some surveys and standardized questions, there is room for therapeutic work.
The first phase of therapy is often about stabilizion and education. By getting to know oneself better, the path for change is created. For traumatized victims, learning about how trauma effects the body, is crucial. For people with panic attacks, knowing the symptoms and normalizing them, helps a lot. If you understand what happens, it’s easier to start coping with it. In some ways, fear of symptoms is what many struggle with the most. When we face or monsters in a controlled way, we can finally watch them from afar and act like we want to.
Elizabeth Gilbert described in her book ‘big magic’ how she looked at fear: Fear is always with her, telling her that she should be careful. Prodding her to not take chances, because she might get hurt. She has learnt to thank her fear, because it wants to protect her. At the same time she also tells her fear that it can be there and monitor her surroundings if it wants to, but she must take command. She soothes herself by accepting that she will feel terrified and unsafe, at the same time as she assures herself that she can cope with what comes.
Many of my patients are still afraid. And that’s okay. We all are, often. I will not promise a rose-garden, but I want to explore the area they walk in no matter what is there.
My first week in my new job has gone really well. Already it feels like the day is over before it began, even if I’ve just had three patients. But there has been meetings, conversations with lovely new colleagues and learning new routines. It looks like the patients I will have a myriad of issues that will challenge me in a good way. Since my area of expertise is trauma, my training in treatment models not pertaining to trauma-treatment is somewhat limited. But it still is exciting and probably even necessary. Having just traumatized clients can be taxing, since they require your full attention. Containing their feelings can also affect therapists in the long haul, so treating clients with different problems is advisable. The three clients I’ve met so far, have myriad problems. The first is there for a diagnostic evaluation and treatment of anger issues, the second most likely has Asperger in addition to personality disorders and the third depression and a eating disorder.
I knew it would be good to finally do clinical work again, but it was even better than anticipated. In addition the clinic I am working in is excellent. The employees are highly skilled, and to my utter amazement they are especially interested in trauma. I don’t think it could get better, but my gut feeling is that it will be.
I’m back where I belong and it feels like finally coming home.