From Linda M. Rio, Marriage and Family Therapist –
So, what is the tipping point where the word “pituitary” will no longer have to be spelled-out and described in its most basic form?
I just returned from driving to San Diego for my 50th high school reunion! There was a time when even thinking of being age 50 was too much to fathom, let alone having graduated a half-century! Our reunion was probably different than most in that we had a very small school and graduating class and I graduated from a girls-only Catholic High School. In addition, we graduated in a very tumultuous time, 1968, of a lot of social unrest and change. Our class began adolescence as proper young ladies and left with one foot into the emerging women’s movement, war protests, changing roles for everyone, and two days after Senator Bobby Kennedy was shot.
To pass the nearly four-hour drive south I listened to one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell. I love all he’s written but thought I’d go back to hear the audiobook of his, Tipping Point. I’d read it years ago but hearing him read his own words gave it an even more different perspective. In hearing his many fascinating stories of entrepreneurs, companies, and organizations who went from nothing, to an explosion of money, exposure, fame, etc. (and then sometimes tipping the opposite direction as well) I couldn’t help consider the pituitary issue.
At my reunion, I was asked about my books. As usual, when I start talking about the strange way I became aware of, then passionate about pituitary and other endocrine disorders, I saw how interested yet completely unaware folks are about such things until they realize how very relevant the endocrine system is to daily life. And, because of having listened to Mr. Gladwell, I began once again wondering what it would take to “tip” the information, knowledge, awareness about pituitary disorders? How can something that is not really all that rare (even though many of the pituitary tumor diagnoses still have that label) still be so unknown?
As now mature women we did a lot of reflecting on the changes women’s roles have undergone as well as our collective strength we feel as women today in contrast to past times. The current #metoo movement has only fueled some of our resolve to affect positive changes in the world! And we did talk about how we can continue to remain positive role models even into our aging years. This also got me, once again, fired-up about the desperate need to get the word out about how many men, women, and children often have their lives are nearly shattered by a tiny tumor affecting the “master gland,” the pituitary! The very recent deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain also heightens the need for us all to understand the vastness and complexity of mental illness, emotional and physical pain, and the importance that relationships can play in the healing process.
Pituitary patients often say following surgery and/or pharmacological intervention they find any life stressors can throw their whole system out of balance and into disarray. So, lots and lots of lifelong self-care strategies are a necessity.
Pituitary disorders can and do often affect mental health. The relationship between the mental and physical sides of disorders of the pituitary gland exists, but the exact nature still remains a bit of a mystery. Major depression, including suicidal thoughts and behavior, can occur for those with a tiny “benign” growth in their head. Intense anxiety reactions, mood instability even to the point of appearing as “bipolar”, mental “fog” or confusion, memory impairments, even psychosis have been documented in addition to such symptoms as rapid weight gain/loss, anger/rage, reduced or loss of vision, physical changes in facial and bodily features and much more.
Of course, for those whose physical bodies no longer resemble anything they or their family or friends knew is so very emotionally challenging. And, even with good, expert endocrine care pituitary disorders can still present challenges to mental health since hormonal “balance” can be quite difficult to achieve, let alone maintain. Pituitary patients often say following surgery and/or pharmacological intervention they find any life stressors can throw their whole system out of balance and into disarray. So, lots and lots of lifelong self-care strategies are a necessity.
So, what is the tipping point where the word “pituitary” will no longer have to be spelled-out and described in its most basic form? What will be the tipping point for primary care, OBGYN, internal medicine and others to be able to regularly consider the possibility of a disorder of the Master Gland? What will be the tipping point be for research money to, not only investigate better treatment for those already diagnosed but also how to get patients diagnosed sooner? When will medicine and mental health “tip” in the direction of working together collaboratively and become aligned to see the whole person not as fitting neatly into the “physical” or “mental” realm?
So, I had a chance to personally, one-on-one to help just a few people know a bit about pituitary disorders. Maybe that is what we all will need to do, and to feel like it matters not necessarily in that exact moment on the scale of changing the world, but in the larger scheme of believing that if enough people connect and talk about this we will eventually reach the Tipping Point for a lot of what really matters. According to Malcolm Gladwell, “In a world dominated by isolation and immunity, understanding these principles of word of mouth is more important than ever.”
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