Time: The Coin of Your Life

Peter Ashenden Health Guide
  • The American poet Carl Sandberg said that "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."


    Time's an important concept in our lives. We don't have enough time, so we talk on the phone while we drive and multitask in all kinds of other ways. For those of us with depression and bipolar disorder, our moods can influence the way we experience the passage of time. Depression sometimes makes us feel as if time's slowing down or standing still. If we're affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), those mood variations can also color our experience of time. For those of us with bipolar disorder, a manic episode can accelerate time or make us feel as if we've completely lost track of it. The way we experience time is an integral part of our lives and our recovery.

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    In the world of health care, time takes on an entirely different meaning. For example, primary care providers often say that their workload is so heavy, and they see so many patients, that they don't have enough time. When it comes to insurance companies, the treatment or number of psychiatrist visits authorized often is based on time...or a time limit. And patients, in any kind of doctor's office, often experience the frustration of spending a good deal of time waiting for our appointments.


    In the world of mental health care, time seems to be measured differently. For example, a typical session with a psychologist or therapist is described as "the 50-minute hour." The duration of a medication appointment with a psychiatrist has evolved to a "15-minute med check" (occasionally even less). And we have these 50- or 15-minute visits spread out over a weekly, monthly, or quarterly time schedule.


    Time definitely plays a role in our lives, our health care, and our recovery. Effective treatment should be efficient and make good use of our time and our providers'...but effective care shouldn't be limited by the constraints of time. Helping and healing relationships should be ongoing...continuous.


    We each need to take the time every day to attend to those things that keep us well. We need to preserve time for the things that matter...and not waste time on things that don't. And we need to spend time with people who are important in our lives and give time to others who need our support.


    How do you spend the "coin of time"...for yourself and those you love...especially during this busy holiday season?


Published On: December 18, 2008