Published in the April 2019 The Beachside Resident
Published in the April 2019 The Beachside Resident
Can psychotherapy change sexual orientation?
*Written for my Psychology 2 reaction assignment
The topic of homosexuality being a psychiatric or psychological issue has become a taboo discussion, criticizing therapists as being homophobic or prejudice. Many homosexuals struggle with rejection, violence, hatred, and shame for their orientation. When a field of professionals label sexual orientation as an illness or deviation as a result of a developmental defect, it is harmful and dangerous.
Research has shown that homosexuality in animals is more common than we thought. There have been discoveries of homosexual behavior in animals in more than 10% of species throughout the world in over 450 different animals (Yale Scientific). The existence of particular animals displaying homosexual behavior is not only prevalent but may also be an evolutionary advantage by strengthening social bonds and reducing competition.
The human species is obviously more complex than animals when you factor our environment, upbringing, and many other aspects make our lives much more diverse. That being said, how can animals exhibiting homosexual behavior be compared to humans? It simply cannot be a logical comparison; therefore stating that homosexuality is psychiatric for a human does not make sense when you include other species. You don’t look at the two beautiful male giraffes necking one another at the zoo and think, “what is wrong with them?” In nature, it is not an obscure thing to see two same-sex creatures together.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) made history by removing homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. However, forty years later, the LGBTQ community is still struggling with achieving that reality as they are denied services, rights, employment and so on. The APA continues to advocate for the homosexual community, opposing conversion therapy and opposing the Trump Administration ban on qualified trans-gender people serving in the military (Human Rights Campaign).
Efforts to change homosexual orientation lack medical justification since it cannot be considered a pathological condition (Gantt). Sexual orientation has a natural variation that is not harmful, nor does it have any effect on those around them. Conversion therapy, a pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation, is a dangerous and discredited practice.
In biblical times, being left-handed was a curse and a weakness. Throughout history, children were forced to use their right hand. Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed and was considered a defect and a carrier of misfortune. Attempts to treat this “defect” resulted in humiliation and learning difficulties (Gantt). When you think about how ridiculous this seemed, consider how ridiculous it is to ridicule any species for their sexual orientation.
Fereydooni, A. (2012). Do Animals Exhibit Homosexuality? Yale Scientific. Retrieved from: http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/03/do-animals-exhibit-homosexuality/
Gantt, E. (2018). Taking Sides, Clashing Views on Psychological Issues. United States: McGraw-Hill Education.
Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Retrieved from: http://hrc.org/blog/flashbackfriday-today-in-1973-the-apa-removed-homosexuality-from-list-of-me
Check off each day as you go. If you miss a day, go back to it and complete at the end.
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I am a firm believer that everyone should have genetic testing done. Genetic testing will show which medication you do or do not metabolize as well as which medications you may have an abnormal reaction to. This includes blood thinners, seizure medications, pain medications and psychiatric medications.
Pharmocogentics testing for CYP450, CYP2D6, CYP2D19 genotypes will show personalized information on metabolism for antidepressants and antipsychotics. The MTHFR gene mutation is common in up to 40% of the population and can also alter the response to medications and actually can be the culprit of mental illness alone. The CACNA1C gene is responsible for flow of calcium into neurons and is linked to 5 mental health disorders.
Doctors treat mental illness like a one-size-fits-all standard diagnosis and treatment. Mental illness can be a result of many factors, such as a biochemical imbalance (vitamin deficiencies) rather than simply requiring SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or blocking certain receptors. You have to ask yourself, “why does this medication’s adverse reactions include reactions that you are trying to treat?”
Some of these medications can increase the risk of getting diabetes, lower sex drive due to hormonal changes, cardiovascular disorders, involuntary muscle movements, seizures and even a drop in white blood cells.
FDA approval of an antipsychotic medication does not mean it is effective. The FDA only sees one or two of the best studies shown for short-term effectiveness. After 1987, doctors were shocked to have to admit that SSRIs could cause fatal reactions and induce psychosis, mania and depression (Gantt 2018). In fact, none of these drugs are allowed to claim that they may prevent suicide.
In Taking Sides: Psychological Issues, it states that at least 90% of the infamous homicidal school shooters were already under the care of a psychiatrist (or psych drug prescriber) and were either taking or withdrawing from one or more psychiatric drug. The other 10% are simply unknown due to their medical files being secured by authorities.
It is safe to say that these medications can do harm and may not be safe for everyone.
Gantt, E. E., & Slife, B. (2018). Taking sides: Clashing views on psychological issues, 20th edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Hypermobility is very common with EDS. There are many, many other health issues that fall under the umbrella due to this collagen defect. Imagine your joints are like rubber, frequently popping out of place from even just a hug or rolling over in bed. Sometimes these joints stay out of place or wear down. It is a painful disease to many.
This does not only affect joints but can also affect your organs.
We are all different and we call ourselves Zebras because in the medical field, doctors and nurses are trained that when they hear hooves to look for horses not zebras. This mentality has caused me to go undiagnosed and medically neglected for my entire life, up until I had genetic testing last year. Despite my heart issues and frequent ER visits, being young and seemingly healthy has had me labeled as drug seeking or having anxiety attacks.
The reason why is because EDS and dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system) does not show up on routine blood work. I have never done drugs, besides cannabis, and even after open heart surgery and a broken sternum I did not even finish my pain meds prescription. I have been treated as if I were an IV drug user, because in my area that is the only reason someone of my age would have this extent of damage to their heart. I am so incredibly thankful to now be taken seriously with a diagnosis, but it is bittersweet because this syndrome is progressive and for me, my heart is always at risk. In my recent echo, I have developed a dilated aortic root. This is beyond scary to me because EDS, especially cvEDS comes with aneurisms. Dealing with this type of diagnosis as well as chronic pain and illness is mentally exhausting.
I am passionate about awareness is because it took so fucking long to be heard. I suffered for so long not taking proper care of myself and not knowing the correct treatments. I have been called a hypochondriac by exes and have hidden behind a mask for years. I want others to know they are not alone and I want medical professionals to see us.
We are programmed to praise positivity and joy while shunning grief and sadness, which isolates those who need help. As children grow after years of being told to behave and smile, they become adults wearing masks. Our bodies suppress anger, pain, sorrow, suffering and negative emotions that we are not allowed to acknowledge. These buried feelings grow with no release as we walk rampant, showing our teeth to the world to presume only happiness exists within us.
Relationships deepen through vulnerability. People need to open up about their fears, not tuck them away to pretend life is perfect. The world sees strength defined as being tough and resistant to anything other than joy. Sensitivity is seen as weakness.
People need to open up about their sorrows, not hide them with a smile that says “I’m fine.” People need to discuss their anger, not bottle it up. People will explode. People will crumble.
How can anyone heal in an environment that doesn’t allow basic human emotion to breathe?
We are all responsible and need to change our way of thinking so that we can make others feel safe to talk and reach out.
Our culture is designed to suppress half of our basic human emotions, leaving us depressed actors.
It is time to face the reality that life is not perfect and human emotions are not linear. Life is hard and pretending that we are all okay is dangerously exhausting.
Stop telling people to suck it up or that they will be fine. Ask how you can help, listen, and pay attention to the subtle details. Check on your strong friends, your happy friends, and your quiet friends.
Take off your masks and let others know it’s okay to not be okay. It is okay to cry, to grieve, to be angry, to feel lost and to feel frustrated.
We are not robots.
We can’t heal by dreaming of rainbows to swallow our pain and trauma. We heal through a process. We prevent crumbling by expressing emotions. We cannot continue to build a stigma that negative emotions equal weakness. It is time to change the rules.
Toxic positivity is a thing. We are raised to suck it up and smile. Well, fuck that. I want my friends and family to be real. I want to know about your shitty day. We all have those days. I want genuine. Raw. I don’t want you to fake anything for me or anyone else. Let people feel safe! Break the stigma of bottling shit up and autopilot responses like “I’m fine, and you?” Mental health is an epidemic because we all participate in hiding, making everyone feel alone. It’s time for change.
When bad days turn into weeks. When your strengths are suffocating. When your dreams drift too far. When nothing seems fair. When tears turn into fears. When you get lost. When you feel defeated. When you stop feeling. You aren’t alone.
The grey area is a state that doesn’t live on one side or the other. It is nomadic and intermediate; the blurry line.
The grey area is where many undiagnosed, dismissed and neglected health issues live. For some, they got tossed back and forth between doctors and never really helped by any, or are just getting by with the small crumbs of progress over a span of time.
The grey area is also the wait. It’s waiting for the inevitable, irreversible and impending progression of a particular diagnosis. It’s knowing a risks but having no control or peace of mind. Sometimes you float in between acceptance and anger.
The grey area is where the people who don’t fit in the one-size-fits-all category call home.
Many of us only know the grey area, constantly hoping someone will understand us or send out a rescue team to bring us in.
Awareness is for us, in the grey area, looking to fit in somewhere, to make sense, to have answers, to not be neglected or alone.
Share your fire until it lights up the sky, defining a new meaning and growing into a new path where those who were once lost can be found.
As you know, awareness is my passion. February is Black History Month (current read: Maya Angelo Poems) and also American Heart Month. I want to share my heart story in hopes to inspire and educate.
I was born with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, meaning that I had an extra pathway between my heart’s upper and lower chambers. This pathway cause rapid heart rates.
I was undiagnosed until my first cardiac ablation at the age of 19. Most of my childhood, I complained that my heart was racing but my softball and basketball coaches, P.E. teacher and most adults said that it was normal when you are running around. Well, it was normal for me alright.
Eventually, my face started to turn bright red during episodes and white around my eyes and lips. It was exhausting, but once again, it was my normal. I loathed gym class. To get out of it, I would go to the school nurse and tell her I didn’t feel well. At 15, I took my usual stroll to the nurse’s office to get out of P.E. and after looking at my face, she was prompted to take my pulse; it was too fast to count. She called an ambulance but my fast rhythm had converted to a normal rhythm by the time they showed up. It was difficult to catch the arrhythmias so my parents and doctor met and decided an event monitor was best. Within the hour of getting home from the doctors visit, my arrhythmias kicked in and we sent it in right away. I was having Supraventricular Tachycardia with rates over 250 beats per minute, nearing the 300s.
After being told I would outgrow SVT (which I had since I can remember), I found they were wrong and it only got worse. My heart would go into these arrhythmias about five times every hour, all day, sometimes lasting up to 30 minutes. At the age of nineteen, I finally have my first cardiac ablation. This procedure lasted six and a half hours! Normally, it only takes 45 minutes to an hour and a half, but they discovered the extra pathway and I was a difficult case. Since it was unsuccessful, we tried again in six weeks. Though my episodes were reduced, I still had arrhythmias and had two more ablations, a total of four cardiac ablations.
My heart would drop into the 30s and 40s and shoot up near the 200s, all day and night, with no rhyme or reason. I always asked what caused all my health issues no one cared to investigate. In my early twenties, I was also diagnosed with (POTS) Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome but never spoke of it again. I had no idea what that meant and was uneducated by my doctor, therefore I never managed it. I didn’t stay hydrated and I was told to avoid salt, when really I needed a high salt diet. I spent my entire 20s with roller coaster heart rates and a lack of education about my health, as well as missing puzzle pieces to what was causing my chronic health issues.
In 2011, at the age of 26, I had open heart surgery. Prior to this, I went to multiple ER visits and appointments but they were looking for SVT and high heart rates, not a leaky aortic valve. I spent years being dismissed as they refused to look further. After finally getting an echo, I was diagnosed with moderate to severe aortic insufficiency. No doctor in my area wanted to touch me and when one hesitantly suggested to operate, I did not trust his confidence. I joined Heart Valve Surgery group online for support and found Kevin Accola, the most incredible surgeon in the area.
Dr. Accola said, “wow, what an interesting case! I can’t wait to find out what is going on and fix it! When is good for you?” I about cried in disbelief that someone cared and wanted to help. We scheduled a date. He informed me that he would do his best to repair my heart to avoid an artificial valve so that I didn’t need to be on harsh meds my entire life. He showed me the valve I would get just incase I needed one. I held it in my hands, the metal piece that could go into my heart… the heart that my doctor was going to have in his hands. Fortunately, he was able to repair a hole in my aortic valve and with a three inch incision instead of the classic nine inch sternotomy.
Healing was tough but pretty smooth. I had almost accidentally overdosed on pain meds. I was supposed to have someone taking care of me for the first two weeks and with a broken sternum and sensitive heart rhythm, I was pretty out of it and couldn’t keep track. I also had a hard time with my breathing and started to get fluid in my lungs but worked hard with my spirometer and by three months, I was feeling back to myself. I did reject the sternum wires and needed to get them removed as they were about to come out on their own!
In January of 2017, I was having scary arrhythmias and my body was going into shock. I was in the ER every other night for two months. My arrhythmias were not getting caught at the ER so they diagnosed me with anxiety and panic disorder, sending me home. I saw several doctors but once you get (mis)diagnosed and labeled, it is hard to be taken seriously. I finally got an event monitor from my cardiologist to record my rhythms for a few weeks. I passed out leaving an appointment and it was caught on the monitor. My doctor ordered a Tilt Table Test and triggered an episode. I was diagnosed with Neurological Syncope, where my heart rate would randomly plummet. With my nighttime heart rate dips into the low 40s and occasional 30s, I finally got a pacemaker in June of 2018. Truth be told, I could have used one a decade ago, when I had documented ER visits with rates in the low 30s. However, I stuck with the same doctor and never got outside options previously.
As of today, my latest heart update is that I have been having tachycardia in my sleep, picked up on my pacemaker checks. My recent echo showed that three of my heart valves leak mildly and my aortic valve leaks mild to moderate. Both my aortic and mitral valve have sclerosis (calcification and thickening). My aortic root is mildly dilated, which could be the start of an aortic aneurism. Aneurisms are fairly common with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
At some point, I will need my valve replaced (at the very least). I decided to go with a pig valve to avoid the meds and because I rejected the sternum wires last time. I also have a genetic mutation MTHFR which can possibly be the cause of metal sensitivities, and another mutation that causes me not to metabolize Warfarin, a common med used to thin your blood after a heart valve replacement. Fortunately, I didn’t need the artificial valve earlier, before I found out about these mutations.
And now we watch and wait. Having a lifetime of heart issues is a scary thing to live with. Knowing that age is nothing but a number for me, and irrelevant, is a hard pill to swallow. Being told I am “young and healthy” is something I hear often. Even with my health history, I still have a hard time being heard. This is why advocacy and being educated on your health, is so important. I truly believe that I would be dead if I hadn’t fought to be heard.
Keep up with your medical check ups and get copies of all of your tests and labs. Ask questions, get second opinions and educate yourself and your family. If you don’t like your hairstylist, you go to a different salon, right? So why do we act stuck with whatever doctor we are handed but will so easily get a new stylist? Find a doctor that you trust and feel comfortable with. Be a teammate with your health plan and don’t give up when you feel dismissed. Find a support group online because you will learn more from them than your physician.
Spread awareness, educate yourself and others, and advocate for your health. You got this!