Tag Archives: Mind Body Connection

My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part II

I did not see another therapist until I was in law school in New Orleans.  Until that point I never appreciated the connection between the mind and the body.  I had met my wife and asked her to marry me and she said yes.  She immediately went ahead with the planning which took me aback.  It seemed like there was a lot of pressure and looking back on it I had no way of coping.  My throat started to feel like it was closing up on me.  I started to get really bad heartburn.  I went to see the doctor in the school clinic.  He prescribed Prilosec.  It did not really work so I went to a gastroenterologist.  I remember now that he suspected my symptoms were stress related but at the time I did not understand what he told me.  I think the fact that I was in law school scared him because he continued to run tests on me.  There was a procedure where they shoved a camera down my throat.  One time I had a tube fed up my nose and down my throat.  At the end of the tube outside my body was a computer device.  It recorded something to do with my throat.  I eventually changed doctors because nothing he did helped my symptoms.  The second doctor also suggested that stress was the problem but again I did not accept that answer.  I was prescribed antibiotics but they did not work.  The doctor seemed annoyed with me. I wanted to think that the problem was physical.  He eventually referred me to a cardiologist.  The cardiologist acted like he did not know why I was there.  I gave him my story.  He agreed that the problem was stress and recommended me to see a psychiatrist.  This time I listened.

The psychiatrist was a tall, lanky, older man with a gray beard and mustache.  He looked the part of a psychiatrist.  His office was in a shotgun house.  It was dark inside and the walls were lined with tall wooden bookshelves.  One shelf had a skull on it.  He was dyslexic and wrote awkwardly with his left hand.  He assured me my issue with my throat closing up was indeed stress related.  He prescribed me a drug called Serzone which I think is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Prozac.  He had me sit in a recliner and talked me through meditative sessions.  I do not recall what exactly they entailed but I think they brought me to a relaxed state and then he told me when a stressful thought entered my head I should say to it “Stop!  Get out of there!”  After a few sessions the sensation started to subside after months of misery.  This was the first time I appreciated that psychological stress can cause physical problems.  It was also the first time in my life I experienced a physical problem that a regular doctor could not cure.  I believe his method was the Cognitive Behavioral approach.

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Mardi Gras and The Mind Body Connection

I met my wife, Louanne at a law school TGIF party in an Uptown bar called Brunos.  As I poured her a beer from the keg we introduced ourselves.  She said she was from Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I told her I was originally from Avon, Connecticut.  She said she knew about Avon Old Farms (my high school) because one of her mother’s piano students went there. I knew him.  We discussed how weird he was.  We started dating soon after.

During spring semester Mardi Gras rolled around the school shut down for the week.  My apartment had a balcony overlooking the parade route on St. Charles Avenue so it became a popular hang out spot.  Louanne spent the week.  We made a trip to her basement apartment she rented from the Dean of the law school.  When we got there he stood in his driveway dressed in a Soviet officer’s uniform.  We offered him a beer (everyone had beer in their backpacks that week).  He produced a flask and asked us if we wanted to “spice up” our beers.  We said yes and he poured vodka in our cans.

A month or so later one drunken night I asked her if she wanted to marry me.  She said yes.  The next day she called her parents and told them.  That sort of made things more real than I had anticipated.  We planned on getting married the summer between second and third year.

My second year in law school I lived in the same apartment.  Ed moved out and Louanne moved in.  Later that year I took out a student loan.  The debt made me anxious.  I also began to realize that I was not doing as well academically as I expected despite my efforts.  I was passing all my classes but I was still just barely in the top half of my class.  This made me anxious as well.  The reality that I would be getting married also made me anxious.  Then some woman rear-ended my car on the way to class.  She did not have insurance and I did not have collision.  I opened the trunk and then could not close it.  I shut it with a bungee chord but every time I drove over a bump the trunk flew open and slammed shut.  I felt embarrassed and angry that someone else did this to me and I had to deal with it.

One day I woke up and my throat felt constricted.  I thought it would pass but a week later it was still there.  I went to a Gastroenterologist.  He examined me with an endoscope and did not find anything wrong with me. He told me it was stress.  I did understand what he told me.  In my mind there had to be a physical cause and medical solution to my symptoms.  I went to another Gastroenterologist.  He put a tube up through my nose and down my throat attached to a computer.  I wore that device overnight.  This doctor also told me stress caused my symptoms.

The next Mardi Gras was coming up.  I worried that the symptoms would not go away before then and I would not be able to enjoy myself.  I feared I would be missing out.

My friend Al had a party in at his apartment.  We got drunk on Chevas Regal in a blue felt bag.  My throat still felt constricted but I tried to numb out the feeling with booze.  I ended up throwing up under a rug in his apartment.  I crashed at his place.  The next morning I was so hung-over Louanne and I slipped out and went home.  Al found what I had left him under the rug later in the day.

My last Gastroenterologist sent me to a cardiologist.  I sat in the waiting room.  I finally asked them if they knew I was there.  They said they overlooked me.  I went back into an examination room where a nurse shaved my chest and attached the monitoring equipment.  They found nothing wrong.  The Doctor came in.  He could tell I was exasperated.  He told me my symptoms were stress related and recommended a psychiatrist.  This time I heard the message.

I saw the psychiatrist.  When I told him my symptoms he knew right away what the problem was.  I saw him weekly for about a month and the symptoms started to go away.  This was the first time in my life I began to understand the connection between the mind and physical symptoms.

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