Roar of the lion

You are taking a leisurely stroll, or a trek through tough wild terrain. Suddenly you see a hungry lion in front of you. He opens his huge jaws with a roar, baring his teeth, how would you feel? (No cheating, you're not a vet and you don't have access to any anaesthetic agents, no restraints, no cage, just the lion and you with your bare hands.)

"The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem..." - Amos 1:2

In Amos God is likened to a roaring lion. Israel at the time was prosperous, experiencing a time of peace and wealth. They had "beds inlaid with ivory" and dined on "choice lambs and fattened calves", strummed away on harps, drank wine "by the bowlful" and used the "finest lotions". They took pride and security in all that they had. They even conducted religious ceremonies, brought sacrifices and tithes; but they exploited the poor, ignored justice, and were corrupt. For their sins God warned that he was about to bring destruction and disaster on his people. Amos urged the people to heed God's warning. I find it strange that I have fear imagining a wild angry lion, or a terrible earthquake, but feel apathetic or dismissive about God's wrath.

The lion has roared - who will not fear?
The Sovereign Lord has spoken - who can but prophesy? - Amos 3:8

If God roared, how would you feel? What's our image of God? Pastors sometimes mention how churches today emphasise (overemphasise?) on the appealing qualities of God. The gentle Jesus, the forgiving Father, the all embracing, all accepting, all loving God. God of the Bible has great love, but also is holy, just, with fierce wrath against sin. Even in the New Testament, "the wages of sin is death".

God is untameable. Consider God's dialogue with Job:

Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron. He ranks first among the works of God, yet his Maker can approach him with his sword. - Job 41:15-19

Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth? Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are'? Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind? - Job 38:31-36

It's easy to picture the grandfather with a long beard, or the good natured Santa Claus - as some authors put it, a "safe" God. And incredibly difficult, in our society, in our time, to see God as God. Perhaps that's why I find it incredibly difficult to understand why Isaiah cried "I am ruined!" when he saw God seated on the throne, or why Moses and later the Israelites hid their face from God because they were afraid. Not being able to understand the great wrath of God, means I often can't grasp the full significance of the cross and the great grace it brings. Why would anyone feel excited about the good news of Jesus if they didn't see their sins, or if they didn't understand how a holy and just God views sin?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. - Proverbs 9:10

On that last point

More on the last point. If you have a hunger for information, have an issue you need to sort out, find me in real life, give me a buzz, write to my inbox, instead of creeping like a coward under the shadows of anonymity.

Rare sighting

In a way, I was mourning and burying the dead all these years. But you are actually alive. I know because I caught a brief glimpse of that ghost after almost three years. Almost like the dream where I saw you through the window of an apartment.

It didn't make me freeze, or cry, at least not at the time. And amazingly it made me walk straight past for the sake of not stirring the brewing bubbling pot. I would have never have pictured that to be my response. Certainly I never responded like that in those recurrent dreams.

I've labelled you these years, said you're emo and weird. But no matter what I felt or what anyone said, I never presented a one sided picture - that is, I've often spoken about both the beautiful and the ugly, spoken about the stupid things you did, and the stupid things I did. In these years I never hated you or had any malicious thoughts. In fact, though I'm a pseudo stranger, I probably have more understanding and compassion of where you're coming from than most. And I guess, that's only natural after what was shared. Ha, and especially able to empathise, when history repeats itself - in that, you are partially right.

I wished so, so, so much that animosity would be replaced by healing and a normal friendship. I haven't completely given up. But with this, I've learnt to be more patient than I could ever have imagined myself to be.

Finally I want to address the friends. All that gossip. Does it make you feel special having knowledge about the secret lives of others? But hey, you know what, it's not a secret. I dare you to ask me to my face, and I'll tell you the story from beginning to end. There's nothing about it that I'm ashamed of - though that's not to say there's nothing in it that I don't regret.

Close to heart

Three weeks of psychiatry and I've had enough. The conditions are interesting and I wouldn't mind talking to more of the patients (consumers?) myself, but sitting in with psychiatrists during those long interviews I've come close to nodding off to sleep so many times. Which always makes me laugh because it reminds me of the referral letter I read about a patient having issues with his previous psychologist who often fell sleep through therapy.

Sometimes I go through a psych lecture thinking, I don't want to be reminded. We had the talk about suicide. Oh... is it unusual to be preoccupied with thoughts of death, and plan how you might go about it? If society made it easier to access easy, painless, non-gruesome, high "success" methods, I would be long gone. Is a risk assessment forming in your mind now? I've learnt to throw out those thoughts into oblivion whenever they appear. And walking with God these years, there isn't the thoughts of everything being empty, meaningless, weary - that is the most life draining thought of them all.

Still, when my mood and sadness overwhelms me sometimes I wonder why I have to be stuck in this world I don't feel like I can live in. It seems that small things can tip me into a dark place with this drowning sorrow and thoughts that's painful and hard to shake off. It makes me wonder how I will deal with the bigger issues in life - if I have problems with marriage, if someone close dies, if I get a serious illness. At these times I wonder, why am I going to be a doctor (or, why am I talking to psychiatric patients) when I can't deal with my issues. Physician heal thyself.

Maybe the plus side of all this is that I'm constantly conscious aware of promoting my mental health. Often reflecting to understand why I feel and respond the way I do, consider how I can interact better with other people, talking to a good listener (friend, not a psychiatrist yet), praying and fellowship, getting out of the room even when I don't feel like it, caring about other people even when I don't particularly want to care, write or draw to deal with my feelings, make sure I get enough sleep, have a regular schedule, eat something nice when the appetite comes back, don't try to use alcohol to deal with mood problems.

I recognise that they are people loved by God, they often had a tumultuous upbringing, and well, they have an illness. But I find it seriously hard to respond with compassion and patience at angry, threatening, accusatory patients. Just you wait. I'm going to kill you. I don't know how psychiatrists take it.

I can't make my mind whether I really hate Psych, or if I can grow to love Pysch. I'll have a good think about Psych's effects on my psyche at the end of the rotation.

Psych is following me around. Personification, paranoid delusions. Today's topic at Christian medical fellowship was on psychiatry. Part one covers secular and Christian models for mental illness, and part two covers psychiatric therapies from a Christian perspectives, whether voices are demonic. Part two also briefly touches the question "are Christians delusional?"

The arts students

For years I haven't spent any significant time on campus. Unless you count a quick look around the nightclub-like library, or the trip to buy a bubble tea. But today we were on campus for a conference that involved students from across the faculties, including arts, law, commerce, engineering and us medical students. It's a good time to hear about all those issues like carbon market, global warming, and sustainability that I've never understood. And a good time to learn about other students from my university. I can't help but stare at the arts students. The interesting and elaborate hairdos, the strange clothing, and the ideas.

Mum always said that arts students have a different way of thinking to science students and I didn't quite believe that. But we saw a presentation from a visual artist which really demonstrated the leap from idea to idea, the big picture, the abstract thinking that is baffling to us medical students who are bound to reality (after all, would you really want your doctor to have creative and artistic ways to manage your illness?) The artist's approach to climate change was spreading empathy, spreading empathy is what we need - an empathy virus. Or the sustainable fashion talk yesterday. Sustainable fashion, buying boutique non mass production fashion? Involving the fashion industry to sustainable fashion? To me these ideas are too abstract. How about something practical like stopping clothes production altogether and reusing the plentiful items we already have. Finally, in the afternoon I casually flipped through the student publications magazine with a strong arts bias that is so different from the science student publications. I came across an article elaborately describing the life of pigeons on campus, and another with vivid descriptions of good and bad kissers, and other obscure topics that makes me feel like I'm in a different world.

Their worldview is so different it's fascinating. It's the passionate ideas and visions, without solid grounding in reality or an imaginable mechanism that confuses me. Castles in the air. Innovation? And not to be mean but we're sure some of them take marijuana and the likes to get in touch with their creative side. It makes you wonder, what is the role of our arts students and graduates in society? I guess it's a certain skill set. Ideas and creativity are useful, people who can talk with conviction about something abstract and unclear is useful too. These are some of the more vocal people in society, the activists about current issues, world issues. Any arts students there with a different view?

Organic basis

The psychiatrist today talked about how he feels it's important to do a dexamethasone suppression test on patients with depression because if it comes back as abnormal, patients feel better about having an organic evidence of their disease.

How does it matter?

The tutor likened PMS to mini depressive episodes. I thought about that. I have distinct mood changes before my periods (sometimes, not always), but I can have PMS-like mood at any time. So if I feel emotionally unwell, and on retrospect realise it's due to "hormone changes", should I feel better knowing that there is an organic basis for my mental instability?

One of his slides had this amusing Pyschiatric Hotline joke, of which you can find various versions online:

Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.
If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.
If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
If you are depressed, it doesn't matter which number you press. No one will answer.
If you are delusional and occasionally hallucinate, please be aware that the thing you are holding on the side of your head is alive and about to bite off your ear.


Psychiatry is so strange, dealing with illnesses of the mind. A brain is tangible, but we can't even begin to understand what is the mind and how does that relate to the brain.

So, if I'm asked, what do I say tomorrow?

Sorry, I thought it would be more appropriate for me to take time to reflect on my own psychological state and attempt to stabilise that before coming in to hear and learn about the psychological suffering of others?

I'm reading the psych chapter of OHCS and came across a few interesting things:

1. "If this mirrors your own state after trudging through endless handbook pages, shut this book, and have a good holiday."

2. Preventing suicide (some of it is pretty strange) - "less: poverty & dead-end work; alcohol/drugs; isolation; sexual coersion. More: God; family caring; shared meals; justice; sexual equality; poetry."

Great, I'm glad sharing meals last semester was promoting our mental health. Yum yum.

Back from the grave

This is supposed to be dead and buried. But no, somehow it manages to magically crawl and leap through the dirt, up out of the grave, into broad daylight.

It troubles my mind, it troubles your mind, and yours, and yours. Why do we need to go through this (history repeats itself is your explanation?), what are you trying to achieve with your weird comments, your hate is consuming and you need to deal with it for your own health. And you, I'm most troubled, disappointed about you. Why are you:

1. Careless about how you feel, how you make others feel, how you hurt relationships.
2. Selfish about what benefits you, what is convenient for you, and therefore unwilling to make changes.
3. Impulsive and just plain sneaky by invading people's privacy.
4. Stupid. Not intentional, but foolish. Damage doesn't need to be intentional. I've warned you so many times.
5. Stubborn. Too stubborn to listen.

An empty church

A grand church with impressive music and singing. It wasn't a regular service, and it's fine to use the church as a venue, but it amazes me how empty a church can feel. An empty shell, when the focus is on tradition, architectural grandeur and artistic value instead of meditating on God's splendour. Far from a heart of worship:

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” - John 4:23-24

And I wondered as the choir and congregation sang hymns declaring "heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of thy Glory", do you really believe that? I wondered, is it disrespectful to God to offer songs of praise lightly when your mind is turned away from him? Certainly it was wrong for the Israelites to offer blemished sacrifices and complete temple duties with an insincere heart. God told them to stop.

“Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. - Malachi 1:10-11

On a similar note to singing hymns when you don't want to know God, a few weeks ago we discussing why families have weddings and funerals held at churches, for people who are (or were) never interested in God.

Mysterious ways

At least one puzzle has been decoded. I had no idea what you were talking about. Now your cryptic comments still play over in my head. I'm not sure it's something you see and hear, or if it's just what you see through lenses of hate. Out of his hate he says it's your sly schemes, but I'm more inclined to believe you mean well. Of course a friend's word weighs more than yours, but you've planted a seed of doubt and fueled my already heightened sensitivity to such issues. I'm not sure whether to believe your "prophecy" or not. Out of spite I would say no, that's just how you want it to be, that would never happen. But honestly, who knows.

Then there is the mystery that surrounds my friends. It's interesting that I can spend a lot of time with these friends, do lots of activities together, even considering them to be some of my closest friends here. Yet they can give little or no clues at all to what they're thinking, what they think of our friendship. That is, the conversation rarely moves from what is happening, to how they feel day to day. I talk a lot and share a lot with anyone who I have a genuine interest to talk to, and (I can imagine but) can't understand why there are people who wouldn't. In fact it even offends me a little because I'm showing you who I am because I can be bothered, and I'm trying to learn who you are because I care. But you don't want me to know. My guess is that some people are selectively expressive, others are too polite to cause rifts with their opinions, or find it awkward to talk "deep". The mysterious friends, maybe you can enlighten me on your ways sometime.

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