Remembering Carolyn Dobbins, PhD


Years ago I interviewed Carolyn Dobbins, PhD when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral SZ website.

Recently I was fortunate to have Carolyn write a chapter for the career guidebook I expect to publish shortly.

Alas, she is no longer here. It wasn’t the SZ medication that killed her it was something else.

A bright light snuffed out too soon.

Won’t you join me in honoring her legacy? At the end of this blog entry I link to another testimony to her life.

Obituary for Carolyn J. Dobbins

Dobbins, Carolyn J., of Knoxville, passed away on Thursday, February 1, 2018. Born in Memphis, TN on March 1, 1960, Carolyn grew up in Memphis and Denver, CO. An avid alpine skier, she graduated from high school at Stratton Mountain Academy in Stratton, VT and was on the Junior Olympics Ski team during this period. She graduated from Vanderbilt with a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Clinical/Community/Counseling Psychology. She served as Director of Larry Simmering Recovery Center in Branson, MO for over 12 years. She was also in a private practice there for a number of years. She published several professional papers and wrote a book, “What a Life Can Be”. Carolyn enjoyed many activities including alpine and cross-country skiing, tennis, swimming, and family camping trips. In 2009, Carolyn moved to Knoxville to be with her parents, Dr. and Mrs. William Dobbins. She is survived by her parents, a sister, Dr. Connie Lehman of Boston, and two nephews, Grace and Sam Lehman. Carolyn’s heart went out to the forgotten and less fortunate people and she worked to make this world a more compassionate place for all. She will be remembered by her kindness, her faith, and her beautiful smile.

People Have the Power

Individuals with SZ are seen as interchangeable with no identities of our own apart from the illness and its symptoms.

The reasoning goes: we’re not able to recover so why bother trying to help us do this if it’s impossible?

NO. That thinking doesn’t fly with me.

We should be trying to help people recover.

I don’t accept chronic disability as the fate of any human being.

My point exactly is that getting the right treatment right away can enable an individual to bloom–to do better–to be able to have a full and robust life.

I’m not a fan of the all talk and no action to create solutions MO of so-called normal people. They don’t have a vested interest in my life and health and in yours and other people’s who have MH issues.

I titled this blog entry “People Have the Power” because we have control over the dialogue. It’s also the title of my favorite Patti Smith song.

I’ve written before that I think no one we elect in government can ultimately ever do things to remedy societal ills.

So it’s up to each of us to take action to create the kind of life and health we want for ourselves.

It’s up to each of us to help each other.  Martin Luther King called this creative altruism.

I ask you:

Are you willing to remain silent?

Are you willing to accept chronic disability?

Are you willing to accept the status quo?

I’m NOT able to buy into the myth of helplessness and hopelessness.

There’s a better way: having the courage to speak the truth to power. Telling our stories.

Doing something to help those of us who WANT to recover have the OPPORTUNITY to recover.

Talking About Treatment Choice

In my Google Alerts yesterday I received a link to a revolutionary article posted on The Sun website. Now I don’t know the politics of The Sun, yet you can bet I’m more than willing to link to the article that appeared in my inbox.

I stopped taking SZ medication in 1992 under a doctor’s supervision. Yet even though I had a mild form I relapsed within 3 months and had to go back on the Stelazine. It’s why I choose to take a maintenance dose of Geodon every day.

It’s why I’m going to link at the end of this blog entry to an article in The Sun online.

My ancestors arrived here in the 1890s from Italy. Yes, mental health issues have run in my family since the 1890s–no kidding, this is a fact.

The quote is: “Genetics is the gun. Environment pulls the trigger.”

We each of us deserve better than to be told we’re wrong for choosing how we want to live. This choice might include taking medication for those of us who need it. We each of us have the right to choose recovery in whatever form our recovery takes.

Here’s the link to the revolutionary article in The Sun:

Neurotypicals Need to Cool It with the Advice

Women with SZ and Menopause

I find myself drawn to wanting to write about health topics.

Yet again I’m going to be the first person to write about a hot topic in recovery.

NAMI isn’t doing this and neither is MHA.

No one except me has dared to focus in detail on SZ and recovery at mid life. We need to have this conversation now.

For women, you’ve hit menopause when you’ve gone 12 months without your monthly period. As you approach 50, your primary care doctor can test your hormone levels.

Reading the book Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving through Mid Life by Tamara Allmen, M.D. might be helpful.

It’s a short book yet has vital information. You can also read Body-for-Life for Women by Pamela Peeke, M.D.

Women as we age gain fat in our abdomens–the dreaded “menopot” according to Peeke.

Her book talks about the 4 stages of a woman’s life and how to cope with the changes we experience in each stage.

It’s possible to not have it so hard when you’re in menopause. Taking 400 mg of Vitamin E is thought to help with hot flashes. You can ask your mother what kinds of symptoms  she had at menopause if you’re able.

The average age of getting menopause for American women is 51. I’m 52, and I have 2 months to go. So far, I’ve had no hot flashes, I’ve been the same weight (because I strength train), and I still have a photographic memory and no fuzzy thinking.

It’s a joy not getting your monthly period.

Yet if you’re having sex, make the guy wear a condom and get tested for HIV/AIDS. People diagnosed with SZ have a higher risk for HIV/AIDS, according to research I reported on when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral SZ website.

A More magazine news article years ago reported that a significant number of women over 40 develop HIV/AIDS. If I remember right the statistic was 1 in 4 women over 40. They’re not having a guy use condoms, and they’re at higher risk.

I’ll end here with what I think makes sense:

If you have to take SZ medication, or thyroid pills, or whatever you have to take, do this to have a better life at 40 and beyond. You shouldn’t have to be in any more mental, physical, or emotional pain than is absolutely necessary.

A therapist told me years ago: “Suffering for the sake of suffering is bullshit.”

In coming blog entries I’ll feature a guest blogger–a guy who’s a peer in his fifties–to talk about mid life from a male perspective.

I’ll report more about the female view of mid life in the coming months.

Rude Coworkers

I want to talk about the topic of rude coworkers. I might have talked about it before.

The November issue of Elle women’s magazine has an interesting feature about workplace dynamics between men and women.

The bottom line is: I’ve found from real life experience that there’s very little you can do about rude coworkers.

In effect management turns a blind eye to how people treat each other in the workplace.

You can’t tattle on your coworker like you’re a kid ratting out another kid to your teacher. It doesn’t work that way in the world of work.

The November issue of Elle reported on male coworkers who reported to a female boss. Yet instead of giving her their work directly they went above her head to the male supervisor.

I just don’t get this: how a lot of people in America seem to be only in it for themselves in how they interact with other people.

I used to say that you should limit your involvement with rude coworkers.

Yet unfortunately this particular coworker might call the shots where you work.

It also comes down not only to gender in terms of how a woman might be treated on the job.

It comes down to whether your mental health diagnosis is out in the open where you work.

For this alone I don’t recommend disclosure on the job.

I would say: be professional. Stand your ground. Be polite. If you show you can’t be rattled, the rude coworker just might give up. They might give up when they see it’s not worth their effort to be rude because it’s not getting a rise out of you.

Often, people act that way to get a rise out of another person. Yet when they see they can’t get a rise out of you that might just deflate their efforts.

My experience is that I’ve been the victim of verbal abuse in the workplace.

The manager wouldn’t do anything about it. That’s been my experience: you’re left on your own to bear the brunt of a coworker’s rudeness.

Perhaps some of what I’ve said in here will make sense.

I recommend female readers buy a copy of the November issue of Elle to read about various types of workplace dynamics.

The magazine also had an interesting article about mentoring.

Doing Lunch with a Coworker

I’d like to talk about doing lunch with a coworker.

It’s a social exercise that can be awkward when you’re starting out after getting your first job.

The drawback is having to be “on” even when you feel like you’re not up to conversing fluently.

Some observations might help:

Simply observing manners will buy you time.

It benefits us to take careful bites and place the fork down before taking another bite. Pausing between forkfuls or between bites of a sandwich will give you time to plan what you want to say.

Thinking through your response will help you choose your words carefully too.

It’s also a good segue because you have time to actively listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting. Waiting your turn to speak is a great social habit.

Years ago–too long ago to count–I bought the Kate Spade book Manners.

Checking out of the library a modern etiquette book could be a great strategy after you’ve been made a job offer and accepted it.

For us ladies I recommend the Michelle Phan book Makeup: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success Online and Off.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about another way to arm yourself for success on the job.

This could most of all benefit first-time job seekers.


Choosing Goals

It’s clear to me that you and I won’t succeed if we succumb to thinking we have to do what other people tell us is the only right thing to do.

It’s 2017 and we have more and better options for living in recovery.

You’re only going to make yourself miserable and have ill health pretending to be someone you’re not just so you can please other people.

We should not be puppets–either of our government or of anyone else who attempts to pull the strings to get us to conform to a so-called norm.

We will only succeed if we are invested in the goals we set and have the starring role in deciding what we want to do with our lives.

When a person says another person has a ton of self-determination that really means that this individual had the courage to go after getting what they wanted without being deterred by whatever obstacle they faced.

Self-determination sounds like a fancy word however as I define it it’s simply the right of everyone living on earth to determine how they want to live their life and the direction they want to go in in their life.

No other person should be telling us what to do without soliciting our feedback on this course of action. Any treatment plan needs to be created with our input.

Choosing our goals should be up to us first of all. Yet really we shouldn’t set the bar so high that we can only fail. The dilemma is that historically for people diagnosed with mental health conditions the bar wasn’t set at all. We weren’t expected to be able to do much of anything.

2017 is here. It’s time to challenge this status quo. It’s time to speak out on the things that matter to us.

I say: engaging in goal-seeking behavior can make all the difference in a person’s recovery.

Choose your goals with care and attention. Choose goals that make sense to you.