(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Right now I want to turn to the phones and invite Mary. Mary, you're dealing with some crying? You're crying a lot.
Mary: All the time.
Dr. Kenner: Tell me what's going on?
Mary: It seems like my emotions are so out of control. I get very, very angry or I'm crying all the time. I don't know what's going on.
Dr. Kenner: The screener said you're going through menopause?
Mary: I don't know. I had a total hysterectomy when I was 33 years old.
Dr. Kenner: How old are you now?
Dr. Kenner: First, it's always a good idea to just get a medical check out. If the doctor says you have a clean bill of health, there's nothing wrong medically with you, then that's fine. But let's take a closer look. Assuming you get checked out medically, let's see if there are any possibilities that it could be psychological. Because that would be good news, why?
Mary: Because it can be fixed?
Dr. Kenner: You can fix it. It's in your control then. So what goes through your mind that would make you angry or crying out of control?
Mary: Well, I had a very rough year.
Dr. Kenner: What happened?
Mary: I lost my brother unexpectedly.
Dr. Kenner: What happened there?
Mary: He was killed. He was hit by a guy that wasn't paying attention. He was riding his bicycle. So he got killed. Then my father has cancer and my mother told me today that she accidentally took too many of her Ativans, so she almost OD'd. Ever since she told me that, I just can't stop crying. I've always been the strong one. I've always been able to handle stuff in a positive way and now for some reason, I either get extremely angry and go into a rage or I cry. I'm so tired of crying. And I did go see a psychiatrist, but they want to put me on these pills that make me zombified and I don't want to not feel. I want to be normal.
Dr. Kenner: Okay, so what you're doing is, you want to value your own mind. You don't want to just be - they say pills don't teach skills, so you don't want to be doped up. If it was something where you definitely needed pills, I mean, I almost got shingles and man I needed a pill. No psychiatrist or psychologist could help me with that. I just needed to take a pill. Obviously you use the medication. But when you don't need medication, when you can see that there's a cause, then you want to be able to address it. Number one, you need to know that every emotion has a theme. Sadness is our subconscious, our mind's way of telling us that we have experienced a loss. And the bigger a loss, the bigger the sadness. If, as you tell me, you have been traumatized multiple, multiple times this year by the horrific loss of your brother on the bike accident. Sudden, he was healthy I'm assuming? He was out there riding a bike. That is an unanticipated death and it's also an untimely death. When people die when they're 95-years-old, that's considered a timely death. It's at the end of their life. But when you have someone relatively young dying when they're healthy, that is trauma. That is huge trauma. And if you don't give yourself permission to go through the grief and then simultaneously build a parallel world for yourself - there's nothing mystical about that, it just means connecting to the good things that remain in your life - that's important to you Mary. It's important to grasp that that's what sadness is. So you have a father who has cancer. You have a mother who made a decision, I don't know what happened, but it certainly sounds scary to me. If my mother called and told that to me I would wonder about her stability and I would wonder what was going on with her psychologically or medically. And if she's dealing with the losses too, I mean, it's really hard for a mom to want to go on after they've lost a child. She needs you desperately, I'm assuming, and you need her.
Mary: She has six others. I mean, come on, what about the rest of us? I feel like I just didn't lose him but I lost her too.
Dr. Kenner: And when you feel that things are not fair, guess what emotion we feel when our subconscious evaluates a situation as not fair?
Mary: Crying. Or anger.
Dr. Kenner: Yes. Anger is, "It's not fair." Big anger. Big, huge.
Mary: Yes, it's very big.
Dr. Kenner: Big anger is rage. That's what you said. That's saying something your mind is picking up is not fair. It's not fair that your brother died. It's not fair that this guy hit him. I mean, even if the guy was doing what we all do, some distracted driving. It still is not fair. It's a huge loss in your life. It's not fair that your father has cancer. Obviously these are medical things, so it's not like someone is doing anything. It's not fair that your mom took Ativan. Was she suicidal?
Mary: She takes it normally. She takes a lot of it normally.
Dr. Kenner: But I think she needs to monitor things because that burdens you and the other children in the family?
Mary: It doesn't matter, she doesn't know how to cope without it.
Dr. Kenner: She needs therapy asap. Good cognitive therapy.
Mary: She has therapy.
Dr. Kenner: A good cognitive therapist, and you could use it too. The sooner you learn how to read your own mind - which is what we're doing with the anger and the sadness - this happens for every emotion. For guilt, for happiness. Happiness is the achievement for values and believe me, Mary, you need a huge - you need to overdose on that right now. You need to connect with any friends or anything that you enjoy, whether it's music or hobbies or something, while you're also grieving. Not simultaneously, but you need to take breaks from the grieving and reconnect with your life.
Mary: I'm so disconnected.
Dr. Kenner: Listen, thank you so very much for calling. You may not need to visit the doctor about menopause, but -
Mary: I was hoping it was menopause!
Dr. Kenner: But go to my website and pick up some cognitive therapy books, especially Mind Over Mood. Drkenner.com. Thank you for joining me. I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner on The Rational Basis of Happiness.
Female: When I was in seventh grade, I was the fat kid in my class. I was the one that all the pretty girls used to make fun of. Everyday after school, I would come home and flip through the pages of my mom's Vogue and Glamour and I'd look at these women, these perfect, beautiful, just unbelievable skinny women. I couldn't understand why I didn't look like them. I just didn't get it. So I became bulimia.
Male: You can read minds?
Dr. Kenner: And bulimic doesn't mean you can read minds. Bulimia is an eating disorder, and you can just feel what it's like. It may have brought you back to times in your life when you just felt so sad. You just see that you're not perfect the way you think perfect should be, but you need to rethink that. Because if you want to be thinner or have a better shape or be more exercised, those are legitimate values. Not an eating disorder. Not binging and throwing up or taking diuretics and just starving yourself or doing things to your body that are not healthy. But really, truly valuing yourself and pursuing those values, whether you want, as I said, a good body or to feel fit. Those are values that are worth pursuing.