psychotherapy

“All The World’s A Stage . . . “

anxiety-memeI just had to post this anxiety meme, and like larger than life, because as soon as I saw it I laughed so hard I almost choked on my coffee. It’s so totally true. Every time I’m ever with my therapist and we’re talking about something that makes me anxious, or we try to do something on the fear ladder and I get anxious, she immedately goes for the “Okay. start your breathing. Try to take yourself down to at least a three.” Right. I must’ve been breathing wrong before!  If that worked all the time, psychiatrists would be completely out of business.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I would be a court reporter right now if it weren’t for perforance anxiety.  And, I absolutely loved that job, even more than teaching, and teaching was pretty darn cool. See, the skill of stenography came pretty easily to me because I also knew the skill of braille from when I was a teacher for visually challenged K-12 students in Columbus, GA. Braille is a combination of keys on a machine that amount to much like chords, piano chords is what it made me think of. Court reporting shorthand is similar, so I was able to adapt quickly.

When I graduated, I worked on a temporary license until I could pass the state exam. Only . . . that day never came. Although I did very well in school and often surprised both teachers and students with my speed and accuracy, when it came time to take the test, I felt lost. We were given three five minute timed tests and one hour each test to transcribe them afterwards: 225 wpm for testimony, 200 wpm jury charge, and 175 wpm hard literary. I froze. I just froze.

It didn’t matter how much prep time I had given myself before I walked through those doors. It didn’t matter what I told myself about others who had gone before me and passed.  The first two times I made it through all three timed tests and tried to transcribe all three parts. The second time I managed to transcribe two parts. The third time, although I took all three tests as per usual, I was too disgusted with myself to even read through what I had taken down. Mind you, each time I entered the test in Lansing, it cost fifty dollars; not exactly something to sneeze at.  After the third time I resigned myself to performance anxiety and gave up. I gave up a chance at a career I know I would absolutely love for the rest of my life.

Any time I walked in those doors in Lansing, Michigan, even before the actual test began, my heart would start beating faster, I’d start sweating, I’d get this horrible, unshakable feeling that every other person in the room is staring at me, my hands would shake, and I’d have trouble catching my breath. I talked to psychiatrists and therapists about possible hypnotherapy for this so that maybe I could take the test and pass it, but so far no one has been able to help me.

I’m so sorry this has gone on so long. There are causes and solutions for performance anxiety. I’ll write about those next time.

Until then, be well and be happy!

good performance
Fino a domani, I miei amici!

Self-harm

cuttingSelf-harming, or cutting, serves many purposes. If you talk to eight different cutters, you will most likely get eight different reasons why they cut. It is as much individual as is the individual who engages in the practice.

Take me, for example. I used to cut on a regular basis. In fact, I attended the S.A.F.E. Program (Self Abuse Finally Ends) in Chicago several years ago to help me stop. I cut for several reasons. I hated myself, felt numb, invisible, was angry, felt soooo much pain and cutting relieved it, was intensely sad, and intensely anxious. I did not yet know any other coping skills, and cutting filled all those holes for me. Oddly, I usually didn’t feel any pain when I was in the actual act of cutting. I felt pain as it healed. Either way, the point was relief, which was greatly achieved with the act of harming myself.

There are other ways of self-harm besides cutting, some  much more extreme and dangerous. I used to get more of a rush and release from burning myself than cutting—but, after years of self-abuse and scars up and down my arms and legs, I finally had enough.

  • Other types of self-harm include:
    –Branding, burning self with a hot object
    –Friction burn – rubbing a pencil eraser on your skin
    Picking at skin or re-opening wounds (dermatillomania) – an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one’s own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused which relieves stress or is gratifying.

    • Many compulsive skin picking causes are emotional or mental. Emotional trauma can lead to feelings of helplessness When a child is being traumatized and bullied, he or she loses the feeling of being in control of their environment

–Hitting (with hammer or other object)
–Bone breaking
–Punching
–Head-banging (more often seen with autism or severe mental retardation)
–Multiple piercing or tattooing – may also be a type of self-injury, especially if pain or stress relief is a factor
–Drinking harmful chemicals

Well, sorry for such a serious and, um, kind of depressing topic of conversation so early in the day. But it’s very real, you know? It happens more and more. Some people think that anorexia nervosa and bulimia are types of self injury but this is a falsehood. Anorexia and bulimia are stubborn, dangerous disorders and illnesses. They couldn’t be further from self injury.

Anyway, a small announcement. I’m chucking the plan for the rest of the month. That carefully detailed plan where I was going to write a certain topic for each day until the end of May? Yeah, that. 😉 You’ll just have to wait and see, and be surprised.

Love, me. Mmmwah!

Ciao, Bella.

Positive Psychology

comic-positive-psychologyTo prepare for this blog post, I read Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness in two days. It was a pretty major feat for me, since I’m usually a slow reader, especially when it comes to nonfiction material. This book, minus the index pages, notes, and acknowledgements, came to 260 pp. But I was excited about it, especially since my sister had recently begun therapy again with someone who used only positive psychology techniques. She had recommended this book to Carol, and when I tried to get two copies at B&N, they only had one, so I read it as fast as I could.

I have a few criticisms, mostly that it’s so non-measurable. Positive psychology believes in emphasizing a person’s signature strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses, and I can get behind that for sure. There are 24 signature strengths, but if you take the test, which you can, at the Authentic Happiness website, you’ll find 250 separate questions. It takes some time, but be as honest as you can. When you are all done, it will spit back your strengths to you. For instance, mine are: appreciation of beauty and excellence, kindness and generosity, creativity, ingenuity, and originality, humor and playfulness, and forgiveness and mercy. My top strength is appreciation of beauty, so I’m supposed to use that as much as I can, but all of them really.

“Authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths and using them every day in work, love, play, and parenting.” — Martin Seligman

What I really didn’t like was the chapter on love. It was all about romantic love. Now, honestly, I’m not against romantic love, truly, I’m all for that, you know? But there are other kinds of love that deserve mentioning. What about familial love? What about mother daughter love? Or Father son love? What about friendship?

And Seligman seems to believe the bedrock of all this is some sort of faith. Sorry, but faith and I parted ways a while ago. I’ve been Roman Catholic, then Protestant by way of Presbyterian and lastly Southern Baptist. I haven’t been to any church at all in years. I don’t even think I remember how to pray. If I have any faith at all, it’s in nature, that the sun will rise every morning and set every night.

According to Seligman, we can’t blame our past for the fact that we are on welfare, or that we have become unemployed, alcoholic, or whatever. If we were abused, or our parents divorced, it’s history. What we make of our lives today is on us. 

In the end, I think we could all do with a little more positivity in our lives. I’ve been to too many therapists where the first question out of their mouths was, “What can you tell me about your childhood?” AAAUUUGGHH!

Have a great and productive day!

Ciao Bella.

The Crack Heard Around The World

computer brain“There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
― Jim Morrison

Maybe it began while you were sleeping, in those pre-dawn REM hours. You thought you heard a noise, sat up for a second, but there wasn’t another sound right afterwards, so you turned over and went back to sleep. Before you knew it you were in an earthquake. The books were falling off the shelves, the bed was clattering off the floor, and you were holding on for dear life.

First it wasn’t there, and then it was: cognitivism. Cognitivism tries to understand the mind in terms of the information it processes and the ways it stores this information. It rejects psychoanalysis, which is mostly about myth, and behaviorism, which is mostly about — well, behavior.

Really, cognitive theory looks at people like great big computers, with our minds being the hardware and our brains being the software. I guess that’s why I hate it so much. It seems….impersonal. It’s supposed to be this wonderful thing, really progressive, so helpful, right? But the fact is, it doesn’t work with everyone. Studies have shown it works best with people who felt their situations were uncontrollable from the start (like, say they were grieving or something–one can’t very well control death). But with people whose situations are controllable, that they could maybe change or do something about, cognitive work actually made them more depressed afterwards.

I’m just saying, if it works for you, that’s great. If it doesn’t, by all means feel free to search something else out. This is not 1984.

Have a great evening!

Ciao Bella.

Welcome and Psychoanalysis

TransferenceWelcome to Mental Health Awareness Month 2015! I have o lot planned for this month, and the focus is, if you haven’t already figured it out, on mental health, not mental illness. Here’s how the month will look, from blog post to blog post:

Welcome and Pschoanalysis

The Cognitive Shift

Positive Psychology

Birth Order

Neuroplasticity

The Bystander Effect

Follow The Leader

The Lake Wobegon Effect

Ericsson’s 10,000-Hour Rule

Consciousness

Rosenhan’s Insane Places

The Principles Of Cognitive Therapy One & Two

Three & Four

Five & Six

Seven & Eight

Nine & Ten

This should prove to be a very interesting and entertaining month, if I do say so myself. I welcome all comments and questions, honestly. Anything I don’t know I’m always willing to look up or find out for you. I’m awfully good about that.

Which brings us to our first topic, fascinating as it is, psychoanalysis. I did an incredibly short stint (he was retiring) at real psychoanalysis with the most gently sweet older gentleman I’d ever met. And, though I didn’t lie down on a couch, I knew I was part of something very old and respected. Now, when I watch episodes of “Mad Men,” when I see Don’s wife enter therapy and it’s during the late 50’s, early 60’s, and seemed automatically psychoanalytical, couch and everything, it just makes me smile. Such a parody, you know?

Sigmund Freud founded psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries as a way to understand behavior. Freud, most of us know, believed the personality is made of three parts: the id, ego, and superego. The id looks only for pleasure and wants immediate gratification. The ego is pulled back and forth by the id and superego, which causes something like personality conflicts. The superego sort of punishes the ego with guilt when the ego gets overwhelmed by the id’s demands, becomes neurotic, and  gives in to them.

As a side note, Freud has been accused of distorting evidence to support his theories. Things that make you go hmmm. 🙂

Have a great day!

Ciao, Bella.

Venting

V (1)When I saw my therapist Wednesday he gave me a homework assignment. He even wrote it down, because otherwise, it would have gone right out of my head.

“Challenge absolute thoughts (All or Nothing thinking). Find 15 cliches that relate to adapting to uncomfortable situations. Practice squared breathing exercise three times per week.”

I’m not saying the assignment is stupid. It’s very worthwhile, actually. It’s just that I have so  much going on right now. Does he not realize that? The A-Z challenge goes until next Thursday (I think), I’m crocheting one very large granny square per day for a blanket I’m trying to complete, and I just had the piano tuned so I could learn “Joy” and “Thanksgiving,” two George Winston songs, for my mom’s 88th birthday in October–it’s been at least 20 years since I played the piano, so it will take a lot of work. That’s not nothing. And let’s not forget Lucy, who needs to go out and potty what seems like every 15 minutes. We don’t have a fenced in backyard, so I need to literally take her out on a leash.

There. I just vented. I don’t do it often on my blog, because what I try to do here is help other people, and it doesn’t help you to know about my troubles. But once in a while, venting helps, because people can relate. It’s certainly better to talk about negative emotions, properly, than leave them bottled up inside. If we vent to someone who genuinely cares about us, it can make us feel better. Sometimes we may need a second ear to make sure we heard what we think we heard right. Venting instead of directly confronting the source of our frustrations is a much safer bet.

I hope you have a grand day, and don’t  be too shocked this is so early! ha ha

Ciao Bella.vent

Therapy

T (1)Therapy can be a very helpful tool to get one from “here” to where they want to be. So much depends on the therapist, and the relationship between client and therapist. There are as many different kinds of therapies as there are grains of sand on the beach, literally. I was going to introduce them all here, but I went on Wikipedia, and they were actually alphabetized, there were too many for me to count.

When choosing a psychotherapist, there are some important things to keep in mind. Like the fact that a therapist can be a social worker, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or someone with religious training. It’s good to ask a person’s credentials (or at least ask for a card) before you get too involved with them.

There are other good questions I always wish I would ask before I got too deeply sucked into a therapeutic relationship. lol Maybe next time. They are:

What theories do you use? Why?
(You’re asking because you want to know why they think it’s effective, not what they personally like)

There are many new techniques and ideas, how do you stay on top of all of it?  (look for “attend training, conferences, reading”)
I’ve read that [X THERAPY YOU ARE NOT PLANNING TO USE] is sometimes used with [PROBLEM I HAVE], what are you thoughts about this?

What role do you think medication plays in mental health?
(You’re looking for an answer like “it depends”. Some psychiatrists think “non-compliance” to medication regimens is like total rebellion)

I know everyone is different, but what is the time-range for this therapy to show some progress?

Have you treated anyone with issues like mine? What was the outcome? What was the likely cause of that success/failure?

How will we measure progress?

When do you start thinking about termination (ending the relationship), and what will that look like?
(e.g. will it be a shared decision, is there a set number of visits and then review etc).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As for anxiety, CBT therapy is purported to be the most helpful. CBT is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

  • Cognitive therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions, contribute to anxiety.
  • Behavior therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety.

Personally, as someone who has gone through and is going through CBT, I detest it. I hate, hate, hate it. I find it tedious and time-consuming. But *sigh* that’s just me.

Have a wonderful evening, my friends.

Ciao, Bella.therapy

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

O (1)Most people, when they think of OCD, imagine the comedic detective, Monk. While he shows some of the fears, obsessions and compulsions that may indeed be typical, I think it’s mainly a caricature. It was still a wonderful way for people to be exposed to this particular illness.

The obsessive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: fear of contamination, having things in order or symmetrical, strong or horrible thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, and unwanted thoughts, especially sexual.

The compulsive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: washing or cleaning, counting, checking, asking for reassurances, following a strict routine, and being very orderly.

The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications. Obviously, the best treatment would be a combination of the two.

I have never heard it called this, but ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) therapy is supposed to be the most effective treatment. It involves gradually exposing the person to the feared object (dirt, etc.) and talking about whatever comes up as you go; being in the anxiety and not running away.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has also been suggested for individuals who don’t respond well to either psychotherapy or medications. People should be warned it hasn’t been thoroughly tested.

Coping with OCD can be difficult. There are things we can do to help us get through, such as: join a support group, find a healthy outlet (like a hobby), or learn relaxation and stress management.

Hope this was helpful. Have a wonderful Friday!!

Ciao, Bella.
bother you

Hardwired

handsH (1)There is some debate as to whether or not one is hardwired to be anxious. According to dictionary.com, hardwired means “pertaining to or being an intrinsic and relatively unmodifiable behavior pattern.” To me, that almost sounds instinctive, something done without thinking. 

In all the research I did, one person asked a question on a site. She explained her psychiatrist told her that her anxiety would be hard to control because after 25 years it would be essentially “hardwired” in her brain. Most people who responded were angry with the doctor for even saying such a thing to her, giving her a sense of hopelessness. One person, however, didn’t hear the hopelessness, but the truth in the statement. It would be difficult, yes.  I learned that anxiety and panic bypass the pathways to our left brain (reasoning and rational thought) and trap us in right brain (memory through the five senses), thereby stimulating the brain stem (fight, flight or freeze). What I do (or try to do) in therapy is an attempt to create and strengthen a new circuit from right brain to left, to bridge my anxiety with rational thought and circumvent that direct route from right brain to brain stem. It sounds complicated, but it’s really simple!

But, the debate. Jeffrey Hull of the Huffington Post (Isn’t it always the Huffington Post causing a stink? 😉 ) contends that our brains are in fact adaptable and changeable. He believes that if we have the thought “I’m hardwired to be anxious,” it’s because some part of our life is getting ready to be renewed, and we should in fact embrace it.

What, though, do you say to the seven or eight year old anxious child? I wasn’t raised in an exactly normal environment, so I can probably point to reasons for my anxiety. But there are many children in loving homes who have anxiety. How would Mr. Hull explain this, I wonder? How are these children’s lives getting ready to be renewed?

I’m so sorry this is so late getting to you. There are good days, bad days, and worse. I had some sort of muscle spasm in my back. I took a muscle relaxant for it, which helped a bit, but made me very sleepy. Hope you had/have a wonderful day!

Peace out. 🙂

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

G (1)I saw one of my favorite therapists (of which there have been many), Heather, for two years. Each and every time I saw her, because I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, she gave me a seven-point assessment test called the GAD-7. These are the statements it included:

Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Not being able to stop or control worrying? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Worrying too much about different things? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Trouble relaxing? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Being so restless that it is hard to sit still? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Becoming easily annoyed or irritable? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen?

I didn’t know it at the time, but of course now I know. It’s scored 0-3, where “not at all=0, several days =1, more than half the days=2 and nearly every day=3. So, like, the higher you score, the more challenges you are facing.
Anxiety-girlIn the beginning, when I first took the GAD-7s,  I fudged my answers. I didn’t know it was for my benefit, and that the more candid I was, the better Heather was able to help me. But the weirdest thing about GAD, for me? How often it comes from out of nowhere, BAM! 

I can be in a safe place, with safe people, feeling somewhat relaxed, and suddenly I feel my heart start to pound, I begin to perspire, and my hands tremble. I get that urge to flee, which is what usually happens when I get too anxious. But the worst part? There’s absolutely. No. Reason. Why. I’m. Anxious. I just know that I am, and I have to go about calming myself.

That’s GAD, in a nutshell.

Cheers to an anxiety-less day!

Peace out.

Coping

C (1)We all know what the word coping means. We could also refer to it as dealing, handling, confronting, or grappling.  With anxiety, it can take coping skills, which merely refers to the knowledge of what we’re dealing with, the ability and practice to handle it, to get through the situations we are faced with on a day-to-day basis. I guess I’d like emphasize the knowledge and practice part, because as long as we know our enemy and practice successful ways to defeat (him), we’ll get there–in my opinion.

There are as many varied plans for coping skills as there are the people who design them. One talks about coping statements — like “So I feel a little anxiety now, SO WHAT?  It’s not like it’s the first time.  I am going to take some nice deep breaths and keep on going.  This will help me continue to get better.”

In the articles I researched, I did not see this, but I really find that hobbies or something else constructive are important to distract oneself from anxious, troublesome thoughts during the day. For myself, it’s mainly crochet, but I also enjoy Zentangle, drawing, adult coloring, writing, and things like that. When I do these things, I find that I can concentrate just long enough that the rest of my mind can go away.

Other coping skills may include exercise, getting enough good sleep, talking to someone, exposure, staying positive, and getting involved or volunteering.

What works for you?

Cheers to the day! Peace out.
balls

Love Yourself Through the Process

exercise-cartoon1When I saw this cartoon it made me laugh so hard, and I was drinking coffee at the time. 😀 Then I realized it’s all about expectations and how what we think about things make them difficult. I hope that makes some sense. We dive into recovery and expect so damn much from ourselves from day one. God forbid we don’t meet those expectations. So when we can learn to laugh at ourselves it’s f***ing fantastic!!

When I told the brilliant Dr. Walker this morning (therapist) that it wasn’t fun making paper cranes anymore, and I told him the whole story about how everyone on Facebook (yes I have that much power) knows about my promise to make 1,001 paper cranes in the memory of an old cherished professor. So now it felt like a crushing burden, and it wasn’t a joy any longer. I kept putting it off each day until I was too sleepy. So he said “Why does it have to be 1,001? Why can’t you just make as many paper cranes as you want, keeping the fun in it, thinking of your old prof while you’re making them? The gift is not in the quantity of the cranes, it’s in the gifting of them, it’s in the meaning of them.”

forgiveHow’s your mood lately? Me, I’m ever working on irritability. 😦 I’m a work in progress. Mania is still at an all-time high, so it would be better if I could be in a rubber room right now, but it’s not an option. LOL  

Not so happily, I got in an argument with my sister again on the telephone this morning. Two bipolar people trying to both be right at the same time is so not good. We made up a safe word for when either of us feels things are getting out of hand: orange. Yes, orange. As in: “Orange you glad I asked you to stop talking?” 😉

After that conversation I got off the phone and just wept. But post-therapy, I decided the conversation belonged right here, along with my bad feelings, because I was being way too hard on myself: crapThen I walked away from the crap, literally turned my body away, wiped the stupid tears from my face, walked outside and looked into this:

beauty (That’s me ecstatic about the sunshine and higher temps of an impending spring day.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: no matter what you are recovering or healing from, it’s a tough process. To borrow a phrase, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We didn’t get damaged in a day, and we’re not going to get stronger, healthier, more empowered in a day either.

The biggest take-away I want for you to keep in your head with this post that took me forever because I kept nodding off (It’s so not you or the subject matter! Lack of sleep and problems adjusting meds is all. It’ll pass.) is this:

beautiful1

Be careful who you give your power to. Peace out. xx

Anticipation…..it’s making me wait!

dr. walkerIt was hard to wait all morning to meet my new therapist, Dr. Walker. Anticipation and expectation had my mind going in all sorts of directions. “Will he want me as a client? Will he decide I’m just too much to deal with? What if he gets sick of me?….What if..he can’t fix me?”

Then I got lost. There are only two things that can terrify me more than anything. Getting lost and not finding my way or, worse than that, when a spider drops off the ceiling without my knowledge and lands on my person. I think the spider is scarier. ‘Cause I found my way to Dr. Walker.

What do I like best about him? He’s funny and has a great laugh. I told him how my irritability from the mania has spread to strangers. You know how people will sometimes pull right up to the gas station door if they just have to run in to buy cigs or a Pepsi or something? Even though there are perfectly good parking spots for just such a reason, including handicapped spots? Now, I know it’s really cold out, true. But I park in the spots and, by extension, so should every other person on God’s green earth.

Yesterday, two people were pulled up in front of the gas station when I parked and went in. As each of them came out of the door, I said (I still can’t believe this), “Is it that cold out? You see there are parking spots to park. In fact, I’m in such a spot.”

And you know how Dr. Walker reacted? He laughed. LOVE that. Because by the time I was done telling the story I was laughing too. I normally would shrug off people who park there. What’s the big deal? So what? Walk around them. They’re in a hurry; there’s a fire. 😉

The other thing I like is his approach to treatment, although I only remember two things he said, one of which is above. I made a quote meme out of it. The other thing he said at the end was, “I need you to contract not to suicide, because I can’t treat you if you’re dead.” Ha ha ha ha

Peace out. xo

Distraction, distraction everywhere and not a point to land on.

bipolar-bear-meme-6014The good news is I’m sleeping better. Five and a half hours of sleep last night.

Bad news is I’m still flitting from thing to thing to thing like a bird in a cage who can’t decide on a perch to settle. As I’m writing this post, I am surrounded on the table by origami papers (for the 1,001 paper cranes, of which I have yet to make one), a jigsaw puzzle, and a book on anxiety. I’m reading all at the same time (picking whichever book fits my fancy at the moment): The Husband’s SecretWhen Panic AttacksThe Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, and The Most Beautiful Girl (for Netgalley). What are you reading?

I have another appt with my psychiatrist at 3:15 tomorrow afternoon. I made an appointment with a therapist (it’s been soooo long since I really got to talk to someone professional) for Wednesday at 12:45. Oh. Oh look, shiny! (I’m joking because otherwise I’d be crying.)

That’s all she wrote. Wish me luck.m

Have a safe and happy Monday. Peace out. xo

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