Sunday, December 29, 2019

ISO Najarian Family Cousins: A 3rd Generation Armenian Genocide Story

I am currently in search of my Najarian family cousins who live(d) in the Pawtucket RI area. What we know is that my Great Grandpa Dikran Najarian came to the US when he was 4, with members of the family, some time around the genocide, and they settled in Pawtucket. As most Armenian stories go, this one is of loss and sadness, but I am hoping it will end in family reunion and healing. Here's what I know: Great Grandpa Dikran and his family were successful bakers and he married my Great Grandma Ruth Abbott (who was very properly British) and had two children whose birth names were Dikran and Haighanoush Najarian (they later changed their names to Dick and Helen Gertrude, md name Crowell). Dikran left Ruth and the kids at some point and remarried. Ruth remarried too, though we're not sure if they were actually divorced. The step-grandfather was incredibly abusive to his two Armenian step-children and there were many stories, corroborated by my great Aunts, of the two being locked in closets and punished just for their skin color and ethnicity.
Grandma Helen and Grandpa Donald Sr
We know Great Grandpa Dikran went on to remarry and were told he had a successful career in the music business, I believe in Chicago, and that when he died his new family refused to allow my Grandma to at least speak with him one last time. We're not sure if it was fear of a challenge to inheritance, or what, but it nailed in the coffin for my Grandma Helen and she wanted nothing to do with being Armenian and would spend the rest of her life trying to erase her heritage til she died a few years ago. Even my Great Uncle joined the military and married briefly after WWII and had a son, Richard, and then divorced and remarried his lifelong wife, Eloise, who is Mexican - and to this day my two cousins I do keep in contact with don't know much about their Armenian roots. George still has the Najarian name and Mary hyphenates to keep it as well, though neither had children, and their other brother died young in an accident. My Grandma Helen would go on to marry my Grandpa Donald Crowell Sr and had two sons, Donald Jr and David. You can see the history of her life during those times and the story of the bakery, Pawtucket Food Specialty Shoppe, here:

Grandma Helen's Bakery, from the first shop in the 1960s to the new shop in the 1970s

Helen and Donald Sr rented the property for the Crowell Pawtucket Food Specialty Shoppe at 122 Waltham St in 1961 and built the place I would spend many summers and holidays as a child til she sold it in the mid to late 80s. When we would visit, we would also visit my Auntie Maebel Najarian, who taught me to cook and basic words in Armenian. I remember meeting cousins a few times, but between my Grandmother's hatred of what happened to her and my Great Grandmother Evelyn Crowell's open racism (ironically, not to her grandson or to me), and various rumors about other things, the only person I remember well is Mae. She had beautiful walnut skin and such deep and kind eyes and hands. I also met my Uncle Ben and his wife, but I don't remember them well.

Grandma and Uncle Dick (above), and me with my Dad and Auntie Mae (below)
A little over a decade after my Grandpa died, my Grandma moved to Arizona and remarried, growing ever more bitter about her heritage to the point that she stopped talking to me when I started teaching my own children to cook and speak the little bit of the language. Without the Armenian family to help me more, I know I cook phenomenal Armenian foods, but I can't speak or read and write it well. Also ironically, most of my Grandma's bakery recipes were handed down from the Armenian side, so technically she taught me more of how to be an Armenian chef and baker than anyone. While the ripples of the genocide and diaspora hit my family hard through the past 3 generations, I've found some hope in rebuilding lineage others tried to break. I'm heartened by the fact that I recently found my first cousin on my mother's side through DNA tests, and that through the death of one of the only cousins I really grew up with, found a new second family with his children. I also reconnected with my two Najarian cousins who live nearby here on the West Coast, though they know far more about their Mexican roots than their Armenian. I have also taught my children to be modern witnesses to our past, but it would be wonderful to be able to come full circle with the family we lost a second time.

<3, ~Jonni Khat (Najarian) Santschi

Thursday, December 5, 2019

"Why the heck are all our kids..."

Today's Mental Health Theme was "Why the heck are all our kids..." My response, about 7 times, if not more (not kidding you), was:
1. Most of my clients have zero ability to sit in their emotions (distress tolerance) and they use negative coping skills which are easy and cheap temp "fixes" that spike dopamine and oxytocin (food, social media, video games, etc...) but do not have long term positive effects.
2. They ALSO share in that they confuse self judgment with self critique (even though they can talk you through the difference, logically) which means they live in a negative feedback loop of self judgment, which makes them distressed in their emotions, and loops back to more judgment... which, unlike critique, means they can never assess mistakes and change.
3. They ALSO, ALSO all share in that they are high achievers who crave positive attention but can't give it to themselves (self soothing).
4. Our entire society has become unconsciously curated and judgmental (note how even the initial question was phrased).
5.They get almost no respite from the constant deluge of judgments by themselves and others which means they are all in a state of prolonged distress; physically and mentally.
6. Their interaction with the world is majoratively brief bytes of technology based communication with others, which means their sense of social interaction is changing despite our brains being wired for real world social interactions.
7. We are all way too busy working that we have developed a skewed sense of "productivity", even in what's supposed to be our rest time.
Then, I followed with... I WONDER WHERE THEY LEARNED THAT FROM?!?! 
Fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, much as we'd all like to say differently of ourselves as kids - and as parents. Myself, included. I am guilty of all of the above and teaching it to my own kids to one degree or another.
So, what do we do?
Well, there are many things I can suggest (and am trying to do, myself...) but the most important in my mind are:
1. Be kinder to ourselves and our kids. I don't just mean buy them things or giving in to them; but HUGS, QUALITY TIME, TALKING and LISTENING... models real life interactions we all need. Plus, it gives us back the physical time we need with others.
2. Schedule family "no tech allowed" time in which you do things like go outside, play games, eat, BE PRESENT with who you are physically with.
3. Find family activities that are physically and mentally active in ways that are play and not work.
4. SHOW them how to relax without distractions or "medications". Positive coping skills like taking a bath, listening to music with the lights low, chilling out over a good meal and then watching a fun movie together, going out for a night time drive with the windows down... you know, like we used to back in the 80s. 
5. Teach them (and maybe yourself) to sit with emotions - especially the ones that suck to be in - and learn to sit with them long enough to assess WHY you have the emotion and what it is telling you (a WAY other post).
6. TELL yourself how amazing you are, even if you don't believe it, but also spend more time praising those around you (including your kids)... there will always be times you are sad, mad, or disappointed with them (and yourself), so shore up the positive.
7. Work on feeding less into the judgment and more on offering and working through critiquing yourself and others.
 ~ Jonni Khat

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Why Bipolar Disorder is Being WIDELY Mis-Diagnosed and Treated (and What You Can Do)!

{Serious Mental Health Ed Share} 🎓 In my many years of practice, I have seen WAY too many people misdiagnosed and treated for either anxiety or depression when they should be treated for bipolar disorder. There are a variety of reasons for this...
👩‍🏫 People don't go to the doctor when they are in manic episodes because they feel amazing and even the down side of extreme mania doesn't catch up til they hit the low.
👩‍🏫 Anxiety and depression can "hide" in alternate symptoms - anger, extreme elation or sadness, behavioral pushes (this is a whole other post - but think of self harm or excessive use of chemicals or other behaviors to "self soothe"), or situational events.
👩‍🏫 Many still believe there is "something wrong with me not being normal like everyone else seems to be" and the concept of Bipolar has been turned into a label that makes us appear stupid, weak, and unable to cope "like everyone else is".
👩‍🏫 Many people go to their general practice doctors and not psychiatrists when they experience these mood symptoms... and/or our medical profession consists of folks with degrees and training who do not fully assess, do not communicate with fellow colleagues who work with the patient, or are using old data and resources to diagnose and treat.
🤕 The problem is, you might not think the changes are worth being bothered by because our society has "normalized" anxiety as "Type A" and depression as "being tired or lazy".
🤕 The BIGGER problem is that being treated for only one symptom and not the other can cause extreme moods and behaviors, and sometimes leads to tragic ends.
1. How to spot the signs you need to chat with your Psychiatrist about your meds:
🧐 Anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds don't work or stop working.
🧐 Anti-anxiety meds start to bring out the depression (you might not notice it as anything other than being tired or burnt out).
🧐 Anti-depression meds either stop working or you notice you're doing pleasurable things to excess.
🤔 Get CURIOUS about your symptoms and journal, research, and ask others with knowledge and experience.
🌎 Gather a SUPPORT network who can watch for symptoms you might not spot, and help them get resources to teach them about your symptoms and treatment options.
🥰 LOVE yourself like you love your besties and have patience that the process of healing isn't easy, but it's worth it!!!
👩‍⚕️Find (or get referred to through your insurance, or other trusted local pros) a peer respected Psychiatrist or Psych NP who will listen to you and ask you (and other providers) MANY questions to get to the right first course of treatment.
👜 Find or get referred to a Mental Health Counselor who can help you work through the process of learning to live with moods and integrate them into who you are! #BestLife
>>> FOR MORE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH INFO LIKE THIS... feel free to email me your questions at, or post here and I'll post my answers on my BLOG or possibly on LIVE video chats so we can interact.
 ~ Jonni Fit Khat