What happens in our brain when we try to decide

It was Saturday morning and I was on my way to meet Caroline for brunch. It had been a while since I saw her and in order to express my apology for being such a ghost, and such a terrible friend, I told her I’d save her a trip on the bus and that I’d pick her up in my Suzuki; I wanted to provide the best door-to-door service. As we sat down at the table in Apertif in Bayside, Queens, the waiter arrived with our water, as well as.. *play dramatic music* our menus. I knew this feeling all too well. Oh, what it meant to be paralyzed by indecision. There I sat, intimidated by a list of food items, and the complimentary croissant that was placed on my side plate remained untouched.

“Should I get the flatboard or the sandwhich?,” I thought to myself. I wondered if it was possible to get mushrooms on the sandwich, instead of ordering the flatbread. “Then again, there’s brie on the sandwhich, would mushrooms go well with brie?,” I pondered hopelessly. I wanted to design my own sandwich and then I thought about what a nightmare of a customer I’d be. This wasn’t a deli. Dare I be so inconsiderate? My order didn’t require many changes (although please, no onions), decision making just pained me. I didn’t have the stomach for it nor enough time to weigh all the options. What was my belly in the mood for? I hate to say but I wasn’t sure.

This was where the work came in. The work I started five years ago. I had to talk myself into making a decision. I had to force myself. How much of my own life could I possibly miss due to this absurd anxiety? When the waiter arrived with our mimosas, Caroline and I said a toast. When he asked if I was ready, I had decided: “Two minutes.” (Intro by Cheyenne Burroughs)

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What is the ultimate formula for success?

The question of what allows a person to be successful is a question that has been asked of many people, who have sought the answer that would allow them a long, prosperous life. The answer is rarely simple, since what defines success is difficult to measure. Whether one talks about financial success or popularity or perhaps some other goal they seek to achieve, how one would be able to attain this goal would probably be the underlying definition of what it means to be successful. What creates a successful person? Their innate personality or their environment? To answer that question, one has to look at another old question, often asked in psychology:

Nature or nurture?

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You’ll never believe what I found in a psychiatric emergency room

College was coming to an end and I needed some type of volunteer or internship experience. I found a program in a hospital where you had to feed patients, as well as keep them company (and out of trouble). The day of the interview my interviewer and I chatted away and it’s true when they say “it’s all about who you know”. Because I knew a good friend of hers she wanted to offer me something better than the feeding program. I left the interview with an opportunity I could never pass up: Shadowing a psychiatric doctor in the psychiatric emergency room. The thought was nerve wrecking and far more than what I bargained for. I tried to keep my mind off my expectations and fears until I was to begin the program. Sleep refused to take me and the hope of escaping my anxiety before my first day remained unmet. And so, I got into my business casual attire the next morning and somehow ended up in front of the hospital. I arrived earlier than expected and decided to find the psychiatric emergency department and get acquainted.

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The opposite of addiction is not sobriety

My best friend in high school was addicted to pot. He kept it a secret from me for close to a year when he went off to college because he knew I had a strong aversion to drugs. I was an innocent teenager who was terrified of illegal substances and could not understand his addiction, as hard as I had tried to. The addiction worsened despite his claims that he was improving. I could see the pain in his eyes when he witnessed my upset, and I could hear the truth in his words when he spoke: “I want to quit.” This drug was slowly turning my best friend into someone I no longer knew. I desperately tried to reach the funny, caring, hardworking guy I once knew, but this lazy, withdrawn college dropout had taken his place. The ensuing fights destroyed the haven of comfort we once shared and the tension between us transpired into compulsive lies with tearful nights. I often wondered if there was anything I could have done to save our friendship. Every vein in my body wanted to reach his heart and free him from his internal prison. Looking back at this experience, I realize how things could have been different. Not with just him, but with all of us.

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Does one ever truly heal?

Some say that they have healed and live better lives for it meanwhile some are perplexed as to how they ever could heal. But what does healing really mean and how much time does one actually want to dedicate to it?

Augusten Burroughs, who has written countless memoirs of his very traumatic childhood, believes that heal is a “TV word,” and that while sounding pretty and ideal, that it is in fact forced and plastic.  The definition of healing is to get better, not to be cured and despite common belief, even to be cured does not imply to be rid of, rather, it implies to be relieved o the symptoms of a disease or condition. It seems as though people have adopted an overly idealistic perspective of what being emotionally healed really means and some will travel far and wide to attain it.

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Why our fear cripples us and the thrill of change

What does one do with their underlying fear? Some chose to hide it under makeup and fabulous clothing. Others through allowing their work to become their life. Some chose to live the way society has shown them prior, their values fed on plastic spoons by main stream media and nuclear family TV. Things like college, a spouse, a child, and a mortgage all supposedly confirming that they are on the Right Path. Some of us zombie-gaze into the computer screen well into the wee hours of the night to find ourselves in the morning with more than just bags under our eyes. The questions finally begin to surface as the sun breaks through the blinds or perhaps at the sound of a very irritating alarm clock: “Why do I do this to myself?” and “What the hell am I doing with my life?” Some of us take drugs or shoot them up, some swallow insane amounts of food until they reach nausea. You know, anything to distract us from what’s really going on. Some feel driven mad enough (some call it inspiration) to transform these feelings and turn them into art in hopes that the pain has all been worth something. It had to mean Something. But even paintings that hang proudly from their walls and grand pieces of artwork or literature are not indicative that we have shed this emotion, or healed the burden it has created.

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