About Mental Health, Serious Illness and Palliative Care
It’s time for us to talk about mental health! I’m so grateful for the counselors at Mettle Health for their teaching. I’ll be sharing my learnings in bits and pieces alongside my regular interview format episodes.
After helping Mettle Health and BJ Miller establish their YouTube channels, offering some tips and tricks around social media (in August 2020-September 2021), I find myself now as a client of their wonderful services. There’s so much I’ve learned in just one session.
About Mettle Health
Counselors at Mettle Health can help us deal with issues ranging from the practical, to the emotional, to the existential.
You may find some of their resources helpful:
Too often, people are left to plan for the future without a roadmap.
Our team of doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains provide hour-long confidential consultations to help you reframe the way you think about the road ahead, for yourself, or someone you’re caring for.
About Mettle Health Founders
BJ Miller, MD
BJ is an established thought leader in the area of serious illness, end-of-life issues and death. He has been a physician for 19 years and has counseled over 1,000 patients and family members. This vast experience has led him to understand what people really need when dealing with difficult health situations.
BJ has given over 100 talks, both nationally, and internationally, on themes of serious illness and dying, and has given over 100 media interviews, including podcasts, radio and print. His TED Talk, What Really Matters at the End of Life has been viewed over 11 million times. He also co-authored the book, A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death, which was published in 2019.
Sonya came to work in the field of hospice and palliative care after the death of her mother. This loss and the experience of being a caregiver greatly influenced her career trajectory and she left the world of event management for hospice administration. Her experience at a non-profit hospice included working with teams of clinicians, patients, family members and outside vendors to provide care and services for hundreds of patients on a daily basis.
Her work with hospice, coupled with caregiving for her mother and being a breast cancer survivor has given her a keen awareness of what the healthcare system provides and where it is lacking.
Hey guys, this is Fei from Feisworld Media and thank you for tuning in on another episode. Now in this one I want to talk to you guys about mental health and in particular this company I’ve been working with and someone I really admire. BJ Miller started Metal Health, by the way, that is mettle alongside a long time assistant and partner of his name Sonia Dolan. They’re amazing team together. And there is a group of clinicians, palliative care, doctors, social workers working alongside and I must say that after I actually worked with him a little bit, but not recently, what I have learned is the fact that when you work with such quality professionals, the transformation is just monumental at a personal level.
And I not just saying avoided the practice or the service even I had this misunderstanding of thinking, okay, maybe when I or my loved ones experience a medical issue or emergency, that’s when I reach out. And I don’t know why I have such limiting thoughts in terms of mental health and who to seek out for. So I decided to give it a shot. This is after many of my friends, four or five friends I recommended to the service at Mental Health. By the way, in case you’re curious, my friends are a group of people who have one in particular was diagnosed with cancer recently.
She’s quite young, in her 40s. My other friend who has a disability and several of the others that I refer to the practice are also living with either their caregivers themselves or their, what they call it, existential questions and explorations. And for some reasons, because I was really curious too about what we can learn from popular places like Talk Space or Better Help, which I have also pursued and explored. On that quick note, in case you are considering different services, I would say that everybody’s outcome is different. And I’m not trying to record this episode to be sponsored by any company.
And this is purely coming from my experience of now in my late 30s. I’ve been in therapy on and off since I’m mid twenty s and you’re going to find out why in a second. Because I lost my dad when I was 26 after caring for him for two years of on and off at the hospital. Very little time really at home, which was such a detriment to both my mom and myself. So a lot to explore and reflect there and I want to take this opportunity to talk about what I have learned after just a single session.
And for that reason I will not mention the adviser or counselor by name. But I really have such an incredible experience working with people at Mental Health and I really would encourage you to check out their service that’s once again me T-L-E Health h E alth.com forgot to mention one of my childhood best friends, Wendy, is also with the service. I tried to not mention everybody by their first and last name here, but yeah, childhood friend is now working also with one of the counselors at Metal. The crazy thing is that she lives in Beijing and we have been apart, not living together, not hang out on a regular basis for 20 years and actually a little more than 20 years. I left Beijing when I was still in high school.
So for all the years apart, we love and care about each other, but we haven’t really been talking to each other on a regular basis until through a recent conversation, I realized that she could definitely use some help after losing her dad a few years ago, not so long before the pandemic started, I believe, in 2019. And there’s just so much that she’s still caring in her psyche. And I wanted to help her and I talked to her for a long time. It became very clear that a professional such as one of the counselors and mental health would just be able to do so much more for her. And we couldn’t be more right about this decision.
We found out after just one session how much Wendy’s able to really benefit from their wisdom. So I wrote something, I think a blog post. I try to reflect on things that I have learned and I’m yet to publish this blog post, but I think it’s it’s fascinating. Now, looking at these bullet points, there is just so much I want to share with you guys. And I thank you for the time and the space that you’ve given me to talk about the things I’ve learned.
So first is the reflection. I realize it’s not about just about understanding something or understanding someone else or a relationship. There’s so much I am surprised by is the learnings about myself. And I’m focusing here on my recent session as someone in her late 30s, someone who was an immigrant from China, so Chinese American. And there’s something really unique about our experiences.
And I don’t think that’s so we all think our struggles are massively unique. And I know that sometimes it’s not so different than those around you. So I learned with my counselor about creating a new place for myself. And I love the fact that he warned me that’s going to be a little hard because our habitual behaviors are there for years, for decades. We are so used to operating in a certain way and it’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to change sometimes.
It’s funny. Now, I’m saying this because earlier on today I listened to an episode with guy what’s guys last name? But in conversations with Ryan Holiday and talking about Stoicism, talking about Ryan Holiday’s daily practice. And the question is, do you believe that you’re going to actually change yourself? Or do you believe anyone can fundamentally change their personality, change themselves for who they are?
And the answer is really interesting is no matter what the answer may be, we all like to talk about the possibility of being able to change ourselves. Yet I think everybody truly is wired differently. So you may be able to change yourself more quickly than some of the other folks. Which is precisely why I think therapy and counseling is so important. There are so many blind spots when you’re on your own, even if you feel like, oh, I’ve meditated all day and now I’m living a happy and pretty controlled life here, I’m happier than ever before.
Still, you have blind spots. Which is why and what I have realized in a single session just after 1 hour. So the second area that I’ve learned is about making a habit to create a space for myself. So it’s not so much of an event, but rather it’s a process. So the counselor gave me ideas of choosing the time and place and getting into the habit and where I get to be.
You not who I am to my mom, who I am to my partner, to my friends, to anyone, to my colleagues, my clients, is just me. For me. What does that mean? If you ask yourself that question, I would love to know. If you’re listening to Anchor, just leave me a comment or where you can find me on social media.
And knowing that the process can feel really difficult because you’re not familiar with this process of finding a place for yourself or finding a space for yourself actually helps with the process because getting in there may be difficult. But once you’ve found it, you can nurture it, you can pivot, you can make it better. You can find a process not just trying to be more productive. I think that word is so overused. How can we be more productive?
How can we know for sure that we’re making progress? But I think building that habit is even more important. And sometimes for us, coming from a very sort of academic background or working in corporate for a long time, we’re always looking for names and words and acronyms and sometimes it’s hard to put words to your feeling of the progress you’re actually making. So another area that I have learned growing up in a household where there’s a lot of screaming, a lot of fighting constantly when I was living with my grandparents, that experience is deep into not just my energy, but how I care of myself, how I live my everyday. I am pretty well aware these days that in my childhood, teens, 20s, that I have been a people pleaser.
I didn’t want to be. But it was just very innate to me that for a long time I had to look at my grandparents. I have to figure out what if they’re having a good day? If they are, I might be okay. If they’re not, for whatever reason, often I didn’t realize it had nothing to do with me that I was expecting a rough day.
So I was super sensitive, kind of in tune with other people’s feelings and emotions. And I often neglected my own. So letting the process be is another really important lesson that I’ve learned recently. I’ve kind of opened up this conversation about living with my grandparents. For instance, some of the struggles I’ve had earlier on as an immigrant.
And my mom became very emotional. So she tried to hide it for a while. And then a couple of days later I found that she was kind of crying and she was getting really emotional. As you can imagine, I was kind of over. That where my mind may have gone on to something else.
Having or watching her cry, it was really heartbreaking to me. And of course, what do we do as human beings? We’re trying to be there for them. Trying to fix it, trying to stop it, trying to fix it, trying to make it better. And then I’ve realized it’s actually part of the process and I shouldn’t stop her.
Shouldn’t even stop her short, right? Your timeline isn’t your mom’s or somebody else’s timeline. Sometimes they need to be able to feel and to connect. And that was so profound, even though it seemed so trivial. And we also talked about the relationship now I have with my body.
And I use this thing. I mentioned this thing to my counselor about appreciating myself. Finally, in my late thirty s, I tried something recently during the pandemic, which is as I’m brushing my hair, I’m thanking my hair, brushing my teeth, and thanking my teeth. It becomes part of the process. Try that tonight.
Please guys, give it a shot. You don’t have to scream out loud. You don’t have to teach your partner, your kids to do the same. Just try to do it on your own. The reason I think that’s so important is that we are ourselves worst enemy.
We judge ourselves without even thinking. So whether it is another pimple on your face, whether it’s that you feel bloated. But sometimes I just immediately go to what did I eat? What? Did I eat that?
Why couldn’t I eat something else? Why is my body this way? I’m doing something wrong. So definitely prevent yourself from constantly judging, deciding when and if you should love yourself and just give yourself that unconditional love and taking a moment to actually say it, to actually feel it was so important. Obviously that’s only the beginning of my practice.
Meditation is another great route and pathway into connecting with yourself. I would highly recommend that you consider this app that’s completely free called Insight Timer, available on iOS and also Android. Funny that I’m talking about this because in a couple of days on Saturday I believe, April 2, also April 9, I will be hosting and moderating a session for Sarah Blunden. And she’s from British Columbia and is pretty very amazing meditation teacher. Her voice is just incredible.
So I’m really thrilled to be there and I would love for you to check out different teachers from all around the world on Insight timer. The next area that I have learned is really a statement that we feel that we have control, like too much or too little control. And sometimes I feel like we are so fixated on the wrong things. I remember when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, my mind immediately and then later on more than once went back to the time and space and trying to figure out how come I didn’t see it and how come I didn’t see it coming, how come I didn’t warn him, how come I didn’t do anything to stop this from happening. And as ironic as it was, I was again when living and working in the US where my dad was living in China, so I wasn’t there in his daily lives still I felt really not just obligated, I felt responsible.
And I learned from mental health counselor that remember there are so many forces bigger than yourself, so much bigger, the universe, the earth and all that energy in between that. And I’m not trying to get all philosophical in this area, but there are forces beyond you and there are so many things outside of your control. So living day to day is a fantastic advice. I need to remind myself earlier today before I recorded this and standing here in my studio, I too felt like oh, how was my day? And I had some struggles emotionally and I couldn’t really quite put my finger to it, frankly.
But I think something else I want to remind you of as a wonderful side effect of mental health as counseling therapy is that you become much more in touch with yourself because you’ve taken that time to meet, to speak with a person. You chose to do that instead of doing something else. Now your body is energized, is activated again. It takes maybe different time, moments for people to feel this way or another way. But I am fairly in tune with my body these days.
I’m very lucky to work from home, be surrounded by love, understanding and doing what I love to do. But back then, my goodness, in my twenty s and my early thirty s, I was not in touch with my body, not until I became a freelancer. I didn’t realize what I was missing out. I didn’t realize so many things I didn’t even see right around me, right in my neighborhood, in my zip code. So another area is about letting go of structures.
I noticed that so much of working as a project manager and as an entrepreneur, my life is about structures. All the YouTube videos are about having structures and productivities. But sometimes we just have to let go of all of that and even if it’s temporary and having that be what I consider as a mini vacation, right. A lot of people over plan their vacations. I think we’ve all been there.
But sometimes when you let yourself go, walk off the map and go to places that you’re unfamiliar with, you learn so much more because you’re actually paying attention. So that’s all said, and really what I realized is I had a lot of unpacking to do. I think the work choices by your counselors or therapists are really groundbreaking to your process. Something that you can relate to that’s not too raw, right? Like that’s not too brain.
Building unicorns is really important. I realized I had a lot more than one thing to unpack from. I’m still grieving my dad. I’m still thinking about and be reminded of my time, four years spent with my grandparents that shaped me into who I am today. There’s some baggage, there’s some negative energy and the psyche that I need to be aware of and overcome.
I need to think about all my experiences now as part of aging will change the way your perspectives and your perceptions around the people around you, the things around you, all these events, and how am I able to acknowledge them and be able to access them? My good friends and colleagues, Michael Lucky and Gustavo Serafini recently talked about the idea of learning to learn. How can you learn something so brand new that you don’t know anything about? How are you able to break that apart? How are you able to learn to have an opinion, have a point of view, and be able to teach others?
And not that whether you’re qualified or if you’re willing or if you’re able to share the idea. How could you do that if you don’t know anything? You have no fundamental knowledge. There’s no foundation to this piece of new information. I’m so intrigued.
So thank you so much for listening, guys. Please let me know if you share any reflections, thoughts along the way, and I would love to hear from you. And thanks again for spending time and I’ll see you next Friday. Bye.