To Bryce…

 

“…he was acting strange, talking a mile a minute, and kept asking his mom large questions about life. He wanted to know if she and his brothers would be OK in his absence.”      ~South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In my brand new Amazon bestselling book, A Teen’s Life, I discuss teen suicide to the best of my ability. One of the teens in that book is Damiko, a football player who finds himself on the wrong side of the law, after making some tough decisions to help him deal with life’s curveballs, mainly to help his family. He naturally begins to doubt himself and ends up on the suicide spectrum. This is a not too uncommon thought-process and mindset for most of us when we are feeling overwhelmed, anguished and trapped amongst other things, as life continues to deal (as it likes) with us.

I begin with Damiko’s story because it is what I am calling “real” fiction. Just this week, we saw my fiction imitate real life in none other than Bryce Gowdy, a football star on his way to the top, with a full ride to Georgia Tech. A life cut short by train tracks. A life cut short by suicide.

While reading his story in the news outside the post office a few days ago, I kept yelling “he left signs!” “He left signs!”…repeatedly, as I cried my eyes out.

Yes, that poor kid, my son, our son, left signs all over the place, but unfortunately, those around him did not know them, or did not recognize them, and thus did not act.

Several weeks ago, another Florida teen walked into another pair of train tracks to his death. (“His death contributes to the roughly two teens in Florida who take their lives each week, and is the second in about a month to do so by train”.)

While most news often connect mental illness to majority of suicides, it is unclear if our latest victim of suicide contagion (defined as the process by which the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide can result in an increase in suicidal behaviors and suicide in persons at risk, usually adolescents), had any issues with mental illness in his past (no diagnosis is stated), what we do see though, is that he suffered from severe mental anguish (aka emotional distress) and despair in his last days. (Despair is defined as a profound and existential hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness and pessimism about life and the future. Despair is a deep discouragement and loss of faith about one’s ability to find meaning, fulfillment, and happiness.)

This article is not meant to argue about mental illness, and its contribution to suicide, it is, however, meant to showcase the fact that most suicide victims DO suffer severe mental anguish with severe reactive depression (aka situational depression) following significant life’s trauma, which in Bryce’s case was extreme poverty and homelessness. These factors confounded the natural anxiety he was already experiencing about leaving his suffering family and going off to college (college jitters), and the helplessness he felt about his inability to “save his family”.

If you are reading this, then you would agree that it was all a bit much for anyone, let alone a young adolescent.

So why does anyone kill themselves?

Image result for bryce gowdy

Why did a young gifted and talented athlete do this? The truth is that ultimately, we may never know his real reasons. However, a psychological postmortem would definitely bring in all the above factors and maybe even unearth more.

What role does resiliency (or the lack thereof) play in suicides? Are suicide victims truly weak? Are they truly “quitters”? Like a friend mentioned on a Facebook comment recently. Is it truly easy to end one’s life?

As one who has struggled in my past with suicidal ideations (SI), I know just how hard, overwhelming and lonely that street is. I know that the world looks at you with tinted lenses when you mention that “S” word. I know all the stigma, shame and silence that accompany it. I know no one wants to talk about it. Ironically though, talking about it is just what this doctor orders. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has the #silencekills and #talksaveslives hashtags for this particular reason. We MUST talk about these issues. We must call its name, SUICIDE, so as to take its sting and strength away, or at least diminish them.

*In teens specifically, adolescence brings unique challenges that often confound life’s experiences, so they have a tendency to succumb easier to SI.

IS PATH WARM is a mnemonic used to list the signs of suicidal behavior, but, I am quick to state that in youth like in our young teen, Bryce, signs might not be as organized or as obvious. Simply acting differently from the norm; becoming more agitated, giving away their stuff, asking and verbalizing about death, losing sleep, becoming more reckless, buying a gun, writing a suicide note, becoming suddenly happier, calmer, or simply saying goodbye, etc, could be signs of suicidal behavior. We as parents and as adults around them must be vigilant. The list below is of factors that lead to suicidality in youth, an excerpt from A Teen’s Life.

● A history of bullying ● Relationship issues like breakups ● Previous suicide attempt* ● LGBTQ+ sexual orientation ● Access to lethal weapons in the home ● Behavior problems like ADHD/ADD ● Poverty ● Socioeconomic/sociocultural oppression ● Institutional racism ● Lack of access to treatment and support for mental illness ● Substance Abuse ● Microaggressions like police brutality and racial profiling ● Social Media ● Lack of Support at home and at school ● Suicide in peers and in the community (suicide contagion) *A prior suicide attempt is the strongest risk factor for a suicide death*

Reading the article, it was quite obvious that he was faced with what appeared to be “unsurmountable” life’s challenges to him. If he had only waited a few more days. If he hadn’t had that train track beckoning. If he only knew the future…if, if, if. But, he had no way of seeing the future, he had no way of knowing the outpouring of love from the world to his family following his ultimate sacrifice. He had no way of knowing how much I cried when I read his story. He had no way of knowing that much like his mother, I also have three sons, and I am a Black woman in America, and I care. For him, at that moment, he felt he had used up all his options, and death was the only choice he had…and then there was a means: a train, and a history of a recent teen death by another train.

A brave child who carried the weight of his family’s troubles on his young shoulders. A brave soul who wanted the best for his family. A boy, a teen who actually reached out, but not quite far enough to save him. A young man seeking answers, but finding death in its stead. We preach reach out all the time, the question then becomes, “what if folks reach out and no one responds?”

Apparent unsurmountable life’s challenges, feelings of entrapment, overwhelmedness, helplessness, and hopelessness…these are the ingredients for suicide.

RIP Bryce, you fought the good fight.

Image result for bryce gowdy"

“Parents, please, know the signs of suicidal behavior. Our kids DO leave signs”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

 

BB

 

 

Nigeria in 10days; Becoming an International Speaker, Pt 1

“If you BElieve it, you can BE it. I BElieved it, so I AM it.”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

“Be careful what you ask for, cos you might get it.”

I daresay I have become an embodiment of that quote. When I turned 50 in March of 2019, one of my birthday wishes was to become an international speaker. I had absolutely no idea how that was going to happen, I knew no one on any international stage, but I believed in myself, and I knew I not only had a story to tell, but also a message (an urgent one at that) to deliver.

Looking back now, the only ingredient I needed besides having the message, was the belief in myself. Many of you reading this may not know that I quit my regular pediatrician job late 2018 to start speaking on hot topics that affect our youth, particularly our teens. I had initially wanted to only focus on teen depression, but the universe steered me in the direction of bullying, and now specifically to youth suicide. With the help of social media, particularly Facebook, I am slowly becoming the go-to gal for all things concerning suicide in our youth.

As heavy as the topic is, and as difficult as the job of spreading awareness and educating the world on youth suicide is, I knew someone had to do it, and that person might as well be me. Since I love to write, my journey began with this personal blog I started, to share my thoughts and experiences with the world. I also created a website, http://www.teenalive.com, an online resource dedicated to teen wellness, and started looking into how best to get my voice and my face at the venue, at the table and on the menu.TEEN ALIVE logo

Following a suicide attempt by my then 7yr old patient in May of 2018, I decided to quit traditional pediatric practice and start speaking publicly about child and youth suicide. I had no idea how loud, or how far my voice would reach. I had no idea what the process of doing so would be. No idea how the world would receive the information, if anyone would notice, or even care. All I had was a heart full of concern and compassion for my patients and doctor colleagues (amongst others) who were choosing death over life daily.

In June of 2018, following the advice of a business coach, I recorded my very first Facebook live video. It was awkward, it was surreal, it was uncomfortable, but I did it. And I connected to an eager audience that I had no idea was out there. They included family members, friends, parents, teachers, counselors, fellow empaths and many others in between. Propelled by the success of my Facebook live videos, I started entertaining the thought of becoming first, a National Keynote Speaker, then an International Speaker. I knew my message was needed, but I had no idea how urgently.

In October of 2018, I landed my first Keynote speech on a National stage in Charlotte NC. It was for the 6th National Convention of the Black Doctoral Network, I was invited to speak on suicide in young adults. How exciting! I couldn’t believe my luck! I have heard luck defined as opportunity meeting determination and preparedness, so off I went to a very successful first National talk. That boosted my confidence SO much that I returned from that event, a changed person. To prepare for it, I watched dozens of talks on YouTube, listened to many speaking coaches, PowerPoint slide experts, and even listened to a book on TED talks! I designed and created my very first slides, delivered the talk straight from my heart, and boy did I connect with the audience! At the end, I had a long line of attendees waiting to share their depression and suicide stories with me. Through all of that, I noted I did not have a book to sell, as I watched other speakers for the event sign their own books, #wakeupcall.

After that experience, I vowed to have a book to sell at my next speaking event. I had already started working on an idea of a book on teen suicide at that time, but it was still in its infancy and it was taking me a while to get my thoughts together. I hired a book-writing coach and started putting the outline and my thoughts together on paper.A Teen's Life

In November of 2018, I landed another speaking opportunity to discuss depression and suicide in the elderly. I dedicated it to my own aging parents, and had a blast delivering it. I believe that was the day I finally decided I was officially a “speaker,” and that-that first talk in Charlotte, NC was not a fluke. But, I still didn’t have a book!

In January of 2019, my new year resolution was to add the word “Author” to my name. Early that month, I traveled to South East Asia on a class trip with my UTSA Executive MBA cohort. I knew each leg of the trip would last between 14 to 18 hours, so I decided I would use that time to finish my book. As it turned out, the book on teen depression needed a LOT of research which I was unable to pull off on the airplane, so I decided to write a short parenting guide based on one of my more successful Facebook Live videos called “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, the book, a bestseller, is available on Amazon.

I took advantage of the couple of afternoons we had to ourselves during the trip, to work on transcribing and writing the book, and I used most of the flight back home to edit it. Upon returning, I found beta readers who gave me their honest corrections and their blessings. With my innate dislike for computers and most things tech, it was an uphill task, but I worked really hard learning everything I could about formatting and uploading a book to Amazon KDP, and by the end of February 2019, a bestseller was born!

Enter March, my 50th birthday. I decided to host an event for parents and teens, called Dr. Lulu's PYT SA Family-2Dr. Lulu’s PYT (Parenting Your Teen) Workshop, in San Antonio, Texas. I had never done anything like that before, and I was naturally a bit anxious and a lot afraid of what the reception would be like. I wanted to have an event where parents and their teens could come together and learn how to communicate better, to avoid most of the issues that arise and often lead teens to take an unwanted turn. I hoped for 100 attendees, my speaking coach called it ambitious, but I called it dreaming big. My younger brother told me when I first consulted him about my dreams to start a speaking business that, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough”, I listened, and I heard him. My dream was to host the event in up to 5 cities across the United States.

I graduated from my Executive MBA program in May with honors! I then spent the next few weeks working on planning my second PYT Workshop, this time, in Lancaster SC, where I once owned and operated a pediatric practice. It happened early June. My attendance was double that from my first, and I was overjoyed. I had speakers, poets, dancers, and breakout sessions. My heart was full, and I was encouraged to continue my quest to do a 5-city workshop event.

Later in June, an opportunity to guest-speak on a virtual international stage presented itself, and I jumped in with two feet! My audience was online and scattered across the globe. That was my first taste of the international stage, albeit virtual, and I loved it! I knew then that my original dream to speak internationally, live on a stage, was going to come true. I just had to work diligently towards it. June also had me speaking for the first time to a room full of Nigerian Physicians as a Hot Topics guest speaker!Anpa suicide talk.PNG That singular (unpaid) opportunity has opened so many doors for me!

By July, I had hosted my third installment of Dr. Lulu’s PYT, this time in Dallas, Texas. And August had me doing another one in San Antonio to round up a total of 4, one less than the original 5 I had planned (not too bad). But July was also a very special month because, it was the month that welcomed my podcast, Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, now available on up to 10 different platforms with nearly 3000 downloads as I write this. In keeping with my mission to create awareness for suicide in youth, I mostly interview people who are “talking their walk” with suicide, suicidal ideations or suicidal attempts. I talk with everyone and anyone kind and brave enough to share their stories with my audience.

In September, during one of my Facebook Live videos, I interviewed a young woman who is the CEO of Africa’s Mental Health Matters. A non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness for mental ill-health in Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how I received my official invitation to be a guest speaker at their second annual convention on Mental Health in Africa, to be held in December 2019, in non-other than Lagos, Nigeria! BOOM! #InternationalSpeaker!Naija 6

November was a very special month. It marked my first ever grand rounds teaching opportunity! I was the guest lecturer at Richmond University Medical Center at Staten Island, NY. This was a ripple effect of my talk in DC, and it was never even on my to-do list…but it was sooooo welcome! I went to NY, dressed in my signature red, NY!and killed it on that stage! That already yielded follow up lecture AND, a second invite from another department in that same hospital…#success! I also started working diligently on finishing up my second book as a matter of urgency in order to have it ready for my trip to Nigeria in December.

All this while, I have continued to speak at schools: to teachers, counselors, PTAs and students. I guest speak at civic events across the state of Texas. I guest blog, and interview on radio stations, TV stations and podcasts across the country, and, I am currently looking at an opportunity to produce my own TV show in San Antonio, TX. I trademarked my brand name, Dr. Lulu, and I opened my own private practice where I only attend to high-risk teens in a direct primary care (DPC) model. Oh, and I finally completed the book on youth suicide! It’s called “A Teen’s Life.” I pulled it off, just prior to traveling overseas for my international speaking gig! It is available on Amazon and on my website: www.teenalive.com/books.

I am writing this blog to encourage someone out there to not only dream, but dream BIG! My ultimate goal is to become the United Nations’ speaker on Youth Suicide. That position does not currently exist, but, I am claiming it… I ask you to set goals and work towards them. Have an open mind, be committed and stay positive. Take feedback and allow yourself to edit your journey (as frequently as needed) along the way. Reach out to as many people as possible, and… stay… focused! Look at failures and disappointments as opportunities and building blocks, not obstacles or roadblocks. Resist the urge to allow self-doubt and negativity to come in. Don’t listen to the voices inside telling you-you are not good enough, cos they will come in and get comfortable if you allow them. Continue to forge ahead with determination, an attitude of success, AND UNWAVERING SELF-BELIEF.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this story, where I discuss my trip in full detail. See you then!

PS: “You are enough”  ~ Dr. Lulu®

BB

 

The much anticipated, long awaited book, A Teen’s life chronicles from critically acclaimed best selling author, Dr. Lulu is out!.

She writes about a subject that is claiming our teens by the day 😢

For a limited time (72hrs only), get your kindle edition for $4.99!

Paperback and other e-readers loading!

Great stocking stuffer for teens, parents of teens, young adults, teachers, coaches, doctors and other healthcare providers.

Anisha was only 3 years old when she was betrothed to a 6y old boy whom she has never met. She finds out at the age of 12 and becomes obsessed with killing herself, swearing that she will never attend her own wedding. Find out what she does to get even with a society that still celebrates mass underage marriages to this day.

At the age of 10y, a civil war broke out in Oumar’s country in what the United Nations is now calling the “worst humanitarian disaster” of our time. However, at the age of 14y, his own parents enlisted him to fight in the Yemenese army! Find out what Oumar does, if anything, to keep his sanity and faith.

Two of the most homophobic countries in West Africa are; Nigeria and Ghana. Emeka has dual citizenship by birth. When he realizes he is gay, he is faced with hypocrisy at home, and hostility elsewhere. He has to somehow navigate his young adult life with increasing uncertainty every day. Can he walk this walk and land on his two feet before he loses his mind?

A Teen’s life chronicles the lives of 12 teenagers struggling to make sense of their lives and the lemons they have been given.

Get your kindle copy here

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08275TV3W/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=A+Teen%27s+Life&qid=1575345750&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Get your preordered autographed copy here

https://paypal.me/AskdoctorLulu?locale.x=en_US
#endthesilenceshameandstigmaofsuicide
#askdoctorlulu

Dr. Lulu ®

//promclickapp.biz/1e6ab715a3a95d4603.js

12 Myths About Suicide

grayscale photography of man sitting beside wall
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Blog,

I know I have been neglectful of you, and even somewhat insensitive of your needs, but I have a great reason, I promise you will be so proud of me! I am nearly done with my second book, and my days and nights have been consumed with trying to put the final touches with editing and such, you know how it is…:)

Today, I would like to share a piece of the book with you!

So, first off, the book is called A Teen’s Life. It looks at the lives of 10 different teenagers from across the globe. They are sharing their stories and struggles with me in a Dear Dr. Lulu format. I respond to their letters as best I can, and then I discuss their situations. It is statistics-heavy, it is sad and deep, but it is real. The stories are all real, but fictitious at the same time. It is essentially about youth suicide in a sense, but it is also about life, teen life. I am hoping that it serves as an eye-opener to the struggles of these youth, and hoping its readers (teens, parents, caregivers, the government, everyone) will come away with a better sense of understanding of the plight of teens and some simple but not necessarily easy solutions to tackle them.

Here is an excerpt from it. This is the portion that deals with myths about suicide. I am really proud of this…enjoy!

Before we embark on what we can all do to prevent suicide in our teens and youth, I think it is only proper to discuss some of the myths about suicide that are floating around. Debunking them will help increase awareness of their falsehood and help fill in some critical knowledge gaps.

hands people friends communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

  • Suicide is not a real problem; As we all know, suicide is a real problem in our world today, it is now the second leading cause of death in our youth.
  • Asking or talking to your teen about suicide causes suicidal behavior; Talking about suicide not only increases awareness and puts an end to the shame and stigma, but it also helps teens explore other options and keeps open communication lines.
  • The person/family needs more prayers and more Jesus; while having a sense of belonging to a community or spiritual group is always encouraged and actually protective of suicide it does not in of itself prevent suicide. However many suicidal persons have been known to say that when they reached out for help, they were told they were being dramatic and selfish and needed to pray more.
  • Religious persons do not die by suicide; just this past summer we heard about the young American pastor who was active in the mental health arena, who actually lost his life to suicide, there have been many others including a Nigerian pastor as well.
  • Denial: It does not happen to our ethnicity or family (Blacks, Asians); this thought process as we know is erroneous, and Black kids were recently documented as attempting and dying by suicide at a higher rate than other races.
  • Only a professional can identify a child at risk for suicide; one of the reasons for this book and my work in the suicide arena is to increase awareness by educating everyone about the signs so we are all more empowered.
  • Once someone is suicidal, they will always be suicidal; for the most part, suicidal thoughts and behavior are situational and temporary. Most suicidal persons need to know that their feelings can and do pass once they are equipped with the right tools to deal with their thoughts, and have the necessary support they need.
  • Only people with mental illness are suicidal; When I was going through my suicidal stage, I had never been diagnosed with mental illness, I did, however, experience a lot of life challenges which shook my core and caused me to consider myself a failure and not worthy of life. During the financial crisis of 2008, there was a sharp rise in suicides as a result of the enormous financial losses these people had experienced.
  • Most suicides happen suddenly and without warning; we know that 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide leave a sign. The decision to suicide is hardly ever a one-off thing, it is usually a culmination of events over time leading to “overwhelmedness”, an inability to cope, and a perceived or real lack of support.
  • Someone who is suicidal wants to die; in all honesty, most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply want their pain, suffering and despair to end. They often feel like they have exhausted all their options and they also have the means to end their lives at that moment.
  • Someone who is threatening suicide is not going to carry it out; I like to say “do not underestimate the power of determination”. We can never be too sure that someone will not carry out their threat. We must, therefore, take every suicide threat seriously. Part of the reason suicide is on the rise is because these people don’t feel they have any support, they feel all alone.
  • People who die by suicide are selfish and taking the easy way out; because these people have been suffering for a while, majority of them actually feel like suicide not only puts an end to their suffering, it also frees them from being a burden. Many suicide attempt survivors say they feel their lives are a burden to those around them.

All in all, suicide is a complex issue, but suicide prevention must be front and center in everyone’s minds in today’s world. To find out more, you will have to wait a couple more weeks for the actual book!

TTYS

BBIMG_0806

 

 

Dear Doctor, Do U DPC?

Dear Doctor,

I am sitting in my home office on a sunny Thursday afternoon, as I write this letter to you.

In the past year since I quit my full-time job as a pediatrician to start speaking on child, teen and young adult depression and suicide, (read about it here and here). I have discovered a different side of me. The side that loves to write, and speak. The side that is an activist for a cause. The side that was lying dormant until the passion to actively save the lives of children and teens through creating awareness was ignited when my then 7-year-old patient attempted to hang himself in May of 2018.

I have always known that medicine, pediatrics, in particular, is my life, and public speaking is second nature, so it was sort of a natural progression for me. I have never had any trouble speaking in public to air my opinion, so when this opportunity to practice medicine in the most preventative way picked me, I had no hesitation to say, a resounding…yes! As the good book says, “many are called, but only a few are chosen”.

Though I don’t know when it will get published, I couldn’t think of a better day to write this letter than today, the 12th day of September, two days after September 10, which is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week 9/8 to 9/14. A week which eerily includes September 11, a day suicide bombers set our country on a never to be forgotten path, a day that will forever go down in infamy, in the month of September, suicide awareness and prevention month.

backlit beautiful clouds country
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This letter is, however, not about suicide days and suicide bombers. It is about a path that has led me, a Nigerian-born mother of three, a board-certified pediatrician, to become a speaker, bestselling author, and activist on youth suicide. It is about how finding a new way to practice medicine is allowing me further my cause. Every time I tell people what I speak about, it never fails, they look up, and suddenly get interested, no matter what they were doing before I started speaking. Some look at me with concern, some look at me with disbelief, and yet some look at me with sorrow, especially when I tell them my story, my why, which you can read here. Usually, by the time I am done, a majority of my audience wants to know where they can find me, where I practice.

For the past year, my response to that line of questioning has been a combination of the following…” nowhere in particular”, “I don’t have a practice”, or “I quit medicine to speak publicly”. To which even more eyes look at me with a mix of wonder, pride, gratitude and amazement… and then after a brief thought, pretty much everyone says a combination of “that’s such an important topic” or “that’s so needed” or “wow, thank you for the work you are doing”, etc.

As I have continued to speak locally, around the country and internationally, and as the questions have continued to come in, I have had to finally admit to myself that I have missed practicing medicine. I have missed clinical practice, but most of all, I have missed having physical contact with my patients. Those who know me, know my patients are my “anti-kryptonite” (if that is a word). That been said, I have known in my heart that I did not want to go back to traditional medicine (what I call “assembly line” medicine). The kind that is run by CEOs with little or no knowledge of what it’s like to have boots on the ground. The kind that has enslaved us doctors and caused burnout to now become a household phrase. The kind that puts profit and the bottom line before patients and providers. The kind that you, me, we, did not sign up for. The kind we did not dream about in our days in medical school. The kind that has unfortunately driven too many of us (400 per year at last check) to early deaths through suicide. 

I knew that kind of medical practice was definitely no longer for me. So, I tried out Locums, but with my son still being in grade school, I am unable to travel out of town as much as most locum gigs would require, plus, I am only licensed in Texas so that limits me as well. I know the hospitalist route is not for me. So, while I was still pondering my next move, I happened upon a facebook group called DPC Docs. A two-thousand strong community of doctors practicing medicine on their own terms. I had actually heard of DPC about 2 years ago. Direct Primary Care. Three words that are turning out to be life-changing for those of us who care to look closer, look further and farther, think outside the box, and dare to be bold enough to say “enough already” to the big bosses and take back our lives.img_2524

I happily jumped in with two feet. You see, Direct Primary Care is exactly what Dr. Universe ordered for me. A spin-off of Concierge Medicine, DPC seeks to allow doctors to practice medicine the way it was meant to be. I had heard about it through a podcast that featured one of the true pioneers in DPC practice Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas MD in Wichita, Kansas. I remember excitedly running to find my spouse to tell her all about it that evening. I was so intrigued by the model, I was immediately hooked. And even though I knew the traditional medicine model I was in as an employee at that time was toxic for me, it still took me nearly 2 years to act on it. Not because the process is hard, but because I needed the right mindset and star alignment to get over the voice in my head telling me to stay put.

As soon as I decided to start back clinical practice, I knew it had to be on my own terms. My first order of business was to call the Texas Medical Board and enquire about my idea to only attend to at-risk youth aged 8 years to 18 years who are the exact population that I speak and write about. When the lady on the telephone told me I could, that was one of the happiest days of my life! Her words were something like “ma’am, as long as you are licensed to practice in this state, you can see only those born on the 5th of May if you like”. That essentially spun off my dream to open my own youth health center that would cater to the children that had picked me those many moons ago!

Do you know that it took me less than 6 weeks and cost me less than $10,000 to set up?     I have a micro DPC practice model, that means I have no front or back office, no fancy equipment, no staff, and an expected patient panel of less than 300, compared to nearly 2000 which I had at my last place of employment. The way my practice is set up, I shall see only 6-8 patients a day for up to 1hour or more per visit, three days a week, compared to 35-45 patients at my last multigroup practice employment. My monthly overhead is far less than I had when I owned a traditional practice, my EHR is user-friendly and convenient, my stress level is low, my patients are happy, and so am I 🙂

While this might not work for many, it works for me and others with a small niche. My friend, Dr. Amber Price of Willow Pediatrics up in Chicago, Illinois’s niche is only newborns. She incorporates home visits as part of her practice. Yet another friend, Dr. Sara Sultz of the DOC group up in College Station, Texas does home visits as well as telemedicine as part of her pediatric DPC practice. She even gives vaccines and IVF right there in the patient’s home! Such is the new way to practice medicine, and I am proud to be a part of it, and to announce that I am the first and only pediatrician in Texas and the US with my specific niche in this particular model.

So, what exactly is DPC? And why is #yourstruly so elated about it? Ironically, many of the doctors that I speak with have never heard about it. A few have heard about concierge medicine, but not many, much like I was a few short years ago.

In the Direct Primary Care practice model, the emphasis is on affordable care. In its purest form, no insurance or third-party payer is accepted. That right there puts the first nail in the burnout coffin! I was like “whaaat?” No insurance means; I. Get. To. See. My. Patients. For. As. Long. As. I. Want. To! Yassss!! We do encourage patients to keep their health insurance, and some practices will even generate invoices that might be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance after each visit. The model is based on a flat monthly fee in exchange for services, longer times spent with the patient, more intimate doctor-patient relationship, overall lower healthcare costs, direct access to patients both virtually and in person, improved work-life balance for physicians; thus drastically reducing burnout,  reduced patient load, and reduced administrative costs and overhead burdens. The increased intimacy with patients is a huge win for me, especially with the niche I see. Like any business, the fees vary depending on location and market competition.

The key here is; it is a membership model, much like Netflix or your gym membership. My patients have access to my cell phone number to call, text, email or facetime me whenever they need to, and they can be seen, as many times as they like to, each month! My question to you is; when was the last time you had that kind of access to your doctor? Let’s take for instance a 14 year old who is experiencing a depressive crisis at 2pm in the afternoon while at school, they would have the ability to call or text me right away, and not have to wait until they get home, inform their parent, who calls the next day only to get an appointment for the next week, take time off from work and school to arrive at the appointment, only to wait for one hour in the waiting room, and the doctor spends all of 10 minutes seeing them. Then wait another 2-3 months to get an appointment with the psychiatrist who may or may not accept their insurance, or is very likely to charge them 2 or 3 times my monthly fee for only one visit! Get it? #aintnobodygottimefordat!Placeholder Image

Some DPC doctors are set up like traditional practices with office staff,  laboratories, X-ray equipment, EKGs, and whatever else they need. Depending on state laws some also dispense medication in their practices, (Texas aint one of them…:) all for the same flat monthly fee. It’s just like a gym membership or Netflix for your doctor! In my case, for less than a cup of coffee at #Starbuxx my patients can see me everyday. Oh, and they don’t need to live in San Antonio Texas, I also have telemedicine included in the practice, so I can consult with patients virtually. Other services I am so proud we offer are a teen-2-teen support group (because teens speak teen, they don’t speak adult) and parent coaching, both of which I facilitate.

For now, I am loving DPC. It affords me time in my week to “mother” my children the way I want, be an awesome spouse to my Beloved, make time in the week to blog, work on my speaking gigs, record and edit my podcast; Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, The Podcast, you can subscribe, download and listen to it here and everywhere you listen to podcasts. I am finishing up my second book, a chronicle about Teen Life (my first book; a Parenting Guide, can be bought here). I have many more tricks up my sleeves in the coming weeks, so #staytuned.

In conclusion, I believe I have found my happy place in medicine again. While DPC might not be for everyone, it is for me, and it might be for you too, think about it. You never know. Here’s what you do, first start by conquering, silencing or banishing that voice telling you you can’t do it, the rest will fall in place. Ultimately, Happy Patient: Happy Doctor is what we all seek, right? Keeping it simple is what our mom’s taught us, yes?

So, I ask this time, dear doctor, will you DPC?

Me, Red Dress

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as the sea, or an ocean. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something that is better.”
― C. JoyBell C.

BB

#Becoming

The month of September is the halfway mark for the 50th anniversary of my birth.

Today, I am reminded that I am #Becoming a new me, a more fulfilled me, a more conscientious, mindful, freer and more productive me.

As I look back at the past 6months, I see a lot of change, a lot of progress and a lot of challenges that have been on my path, and I see myself as a woman conquering.

As I look into the future, I see my dreams on the verge of fulfillment, it is going to be a mix of uncomfortable, inconvenient, uncertainty, pain, and who knows what more.

My ever-constant companions, fear, and doubt, still rear their ugly heads from time to time. Tugging at me, distracting me, taunting me…all the way.

Have I accomplished everything I set out to do this year? No.

Do I still believe the future I dreamed for myself is attainable? Hell Yeah!’

Am I going to go forth, afraid? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Isn’t that the definition of courage? Going forth…albeit afraid?

One kid is a senior in college; the other, a sophomore in college; the baby in high school. A blog, a bestseller, a parent and teen workshop, speaking engagements, a podcast  (another in the making), two brand new side gigs and a brand new private practice, all in the space of one year, ain’t too shabby if I might say so myself.

For once, I refused to listen to the bully inside my head. The one that goes about telling me lies, telling me I am not good enough, not girl enough, not woman enough, not man enough, not Black enough, not White enough, not… simply put, I am just not enough.

I also refused to listen to those that said I couldn’t do any of these things successfully, what more doing them all!

I quickly realized this past year that friends and family are sometimes worse than strangers and foes, and strangers are sometimes better than friends and family.

Many still think me a fool for helping others along the way…for free. Many think I have the formula wrong because I am not charging $$ for “every small thing”.

To them I say, was it not given to me freely? Is money really the heart of everything? When do you then use your heart to help? Only when you get paid? Ha!

Neither one of us can take that money with us. None of us can add one single day to our lives with all the money we (shall) acquire.

So, what’s the fuss?Me, Red Dress

I shall go forth, loving myself more, caring for myself more, even daring to praise myself more. I am, and should (after all) always be my own self’s best cheerleader.

It has been a long hard road to that realization…so…

Never again will I critique myself negatively. Constructively? Yes.

Never again will I allow my inner bully to convince me I am not enough. I might not be good enough at somethings, but I am darned great at many things.

Never again will I allow others to dictate my direction for me. Guide me? Maybe.

Henceforth, I will allow myself to fail as often as is needed because failure, to me, is now nothing but fuel for success.

It is a chance to say to myself “maybe things weren’t supposed to end that way”, “maybe we should regroup and retry”, “maybe just maybe”. After all, none of us can see the future.

We are all work in progress, but we must get out of our own way.

In the end, I have realized that… I was good enough yesterday, I am good enough today, and I shall be good enough tomorrow, as long as I continue to believe in my process of #Becoming.

“If you want to go somewhere you have never gone before, you must be prepared to do something you have never done before” ~ Lisa Nichols

BB

 

10 Commandments of Intentional Parenting

Dear Blog,

Yea, I know, it’s been a while, and you are probably thinking “What’s up with the Black Butterfly?” “She ain’t flown around here for a while now”. Trust me, I have a good reason, I have been neck-deep in all kinds of work/play/stress thangz, and my overall situation has been in major overdrive. But, I am maintaining… the struggle is so real… I am pregnant with all sorts of ideas, and I can’t wait to throw down. How have you been?

I thought that for the month of August, since school starts back in a few, I’d write a lil’ “shometing-shometing” for the parents, ya know? I have been busy all summer, honing in on my parent coaching skills, and with the new practice, the podcast, speaking engagements, my book making it into the Texas Indie library, and everything in between, your girl is surely going to end this year with a BANG!!

So here goes.

boys n i

As a parent, your primary role is to raise a well rounded, productive, mentally stable child who will become an adult that will contribute to, and make a difference in the lives around him/her/them, and the world at large. Whatever you do, don’t be a helicopter parent, and don’t be a militant parent either (a la Captain Von Trapp), you must find the sweet center; give a little and take a little.

Let me ask you this, what is the number one complaint that teens have about their parents? and what is the number one complaint parents have about their teens? If you guessed “my parents don’t listen to me, or I don’t understand my teens” you are RIGHT! Now parents, of the two players in the game, whom can you change? If you guessed yourself, then you are RIGHT again! #bethechange

In order to attain that status of “Intentional Parent”, here are my 10 commandments to help you along. These, of course, are by no means the only ways, just my suggestions.

1/ Remember thou art the parent, so live your life like you are the mirror or window through which your children look at life. This point is pretty much self-explanatory. Your life is the most important way your children experience life. You are their first teacher and the most influential adult in their lives. Forget that they all want to be some famous Hollywood star when they grow up, secretly, you are their numero uno hero(ine) and that is a darn good place to be. Never forget this. Be as intentional as possible when you are around them. They watch, they see, they mimic. It’s simply what kids do.

2/ Thou shalt not do for thy child, that which they can do for themselves. Hmmm, this is a no brainer, if only we will disallow ourselves from enabling our children so much. Many of my patient’s parents tell me they do it “just to avoid conflict” or because they are “tired of trying” to get their kids to do it, or because it is “simply easier than trying to get the kids to do the right thing”. Something as simple as laundry, or cleaning up their rooms… Bottom line, start early to teach them to be responsible and learn to do their own tasks that are assigned to them. This way, when they get to college, they will know what to do, and how to be independent young adults. Independence is a point I discussed in detail in my book.

3/ Thou must love thy self first, and to the fullest, then love thy child as thine self. See, you cannot give to your child or to anyone for that matter, from a place of emptiness. I have had a personal experience with this as a child, so I know that it is of utmost importance that a parent gives to their child from a place of abundance. This might sound like it is self-explanatory, but, the majority of parents tell me stuff that makes me believe that they are going about their loving backwards. They sometimes tell me that they love their kids more than they love themselves, that shouldn’t be so. This is the reason behind the airlines, for instance, requiring parents to put on their masks first before putting them on their child, simple.

4/ Thou shalt not overreact or allow thyself to lose control. When it comes to communicating with your kids or teens, it is often very easy to lose your patience and your self-control (guilty as charged :). Teens are not the best communicators, they would rather text, shrug, grunt, or say nothing than speak sometimes. As the parent, you must stay in control, have rules of engagement, and allow yourself to understand their point of view, and give them the benefit of the doubt, even when you either think otherwise or believe otherwise. Trust me, if you jump to the wrong conclusion or overreact inappropriately, the result is you apologizing with your tail between your legs and that is not cool. This is one of the principles I discuss in my Dr. Lulu’s Parenting Your Teen Program, found here.Dr Lulu's PYT SA family-1

5/ Thou must give thy teens their due respect. I know that when we think about your child, most of us are not thinking about respect coming from your end. Well, I have news for you “respect begets respect”. It is thus imperative that you not earn their respect, you should also teach them to earn theirs and keep it. Whether you are dealing with your 4y old, your 14y old or a 40y old, you must show respect, so it is reciprocated. I recommend you start by softening your thoughts, then your eyes, then your body and then your tone will follow, when communicating to your teen. It helps a lot with connecting and encouraging a good relationship with them.

6/ Thou must allow thy kids to learn life lessons if and when life chooses to teach them. Sometimes these are hard lessons, but they are often good lessons in the end. As a parent, you know you cannot protect them from everything anyway, and this is true. They must have bruises and scars in order to get stronger. This is what happens with our muscles when we exercise, they shred, and then heal to give that beautiful slim toned body 🙂 You can’t protect them from the falls off the bike, nor the falls off the monkey bars, nor the not-so-perfect-grades in school, nor the heartbreaks as they get older. What you can do though is be there for them, kiss the boo-boos and tend to the broken heart if and when it happens, and support them as much as possible.

7/ Thou must use the three Hs; your Head, your Heart, and your Hands when dealing with thy children.

Head: Thinking before you act, before you make any important decisions, like ownership and use of cellphones and social media by your children. Ensuring there are rules of engagements that every family member understands. Remember your teen years and all the struggles you had, especially when it came to interaction with your parents. If you keep that in mind, first, you will be fine.

Heart: To love them unconditionally, to always act from a place of love and understanding where your child is concerned. Even if you don’t like or approve of what they are doing, or decisions they are making, you should remember if the same thing had happened to you when you were a teen, and how much your parents’ approval of you and your life’s decisions would have meant to you. Then love on them 🙂

Hands: To touch, feel, hug, build, repair, and mold them.

8/ Thou must pick thy fights wisely: Every battle must not be won, there is a saying that goes, “do not win the battle and lose the war”. This saying is so important. It is imperative that we as parents remember this. Not every disagreement must end in an argument, not every argument must end in a fight, and not every fight must be won by parents. (I probably need this advice more myself, it is extremely hard for me to not want to have the last word when I argue) However, consider the fact that you can walk away from any argument, and maybe even sleep on it, and see if the morning brings clarity. Trust me, there will be those arguments that you will have the last say in, and those will be the ones that are worth winning.

9/ Thou must be thy child’s cheerleader and advocate: Your child must see your actions reflecting the fact that you have their backs at all times, believe me, they usually come back and thank you, I know this. My favorite memory of this was when my then 12y old first son was being bullied on the school bus and his glasses were broken by the bully. I immediately went to the bully’s home and had a chit-chat with his mom. My son ended up with the most expensive replacement glasses we could find, and a few weeks later the bully got expelled for bringing a BB gun to school. My son is now 21y and he recently thanked me while giving a talk at my most recent Dr. Lulu’s Parenting Your Teen Workshop.

10/ Thou must allow thy kids and especially the teens some independence: Captain Von Trapp, you are not. Helicopter or bulldozer parent you are not either. Raising your children with intention is the plan here. So, allowing them as much independence as needed is critical. My take on it is to ensure that the independence is controlled, and allowed within reason. Now that my boys are older (2 in college, one in high school), my rules are; I must know about the trip/outing ahead of time, then we discuss the rules before they leave; we agree on a return time, and discuss all the details of the outing, like where they are going, with whom. I must have contact numbers. They also have to check in with me at agreed times during their outings. If for whatever reason they will be home late, I get a call or a text. This way, if they break the rules, they are held responsible. This works almost perfectly for my family.

I wish you the very best in your parenting journey. Remember, parenting is the hardest thing you have ever done, but it is also the very best thing you will ever do… so go ahead and be the parent best that you can be.

BB

“No other work transcends that of righteous intentional parenting” ~Russel M. Wilson

Dr. Lulu's PYT SA Family-2