Inspiration, mental health

When The Head and The Heart Don’t Align

DBT individual session.jpg

I saw this photo recently and it moved me.  It was from Burning Man a few years ago (2015 I believe) and shows that even when two adults are at odds, pushing each other away, their inner children (the innocent, naïve inner self) can still be yearning for the comfort of the other.

What do you think? Do you take a different message?

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To The Family and Friends of Those With Mental Illness

To The Family/Friends of Those With Mental Illness,

You are enough and it isn’t your fault.  I am so sorry that our society, your family member, and perhaps even their mental health providers, have blamed you for your loved ones struggles.  They are not your fault and they are not the ill ones fault.  Mental illness is an unfortunate happenstance that strikes people across all demographic ranges.  I wish I had an answer for why mental illness strikes some and not others; sometimes, it seems as random as cancer.

I am deeply saddened for you, as I know that you are likely traumatized by your experience. Loving someone who is chronically mentally ill and has perhaps even been self-harming and/or suicidal takes a toll on all involved.   Those who have not experienced it do not know the fear of the unknown as it relates to someone you love’s mental well-being.  Not only are family members often experiencing their own trauma, depression and anxiety…they are asked to be the police, detectives, first-responders and therapists of the mentally ill person.

I was recently reflecting on how we are quick to offer help to parents with young children when they are struggling (book recommendations, casseroles, free babysitting) and yet people who have a child with mental health problems do not tend to feel safe mentioning the struggles for fear of judgement.  Think about it: if a friend of yours admitted that their teen was actively self-harming, would you offer them respite? Would you stop by with food? Would you tell them what books and blogs to read?

Current stats show that 1 in 12 youth have made an attempt at suicide in the last year. 17% of high schoolers have seriously considered suicide in the last year, 13% have a plan. Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death from ages 10-14 and 15-34 years old. Yes…TEN-year-olds commit suicide.  Current stats on self-harm shows that 35-40% of adolescents engage in self-harm.  Self-harm raises the risk of suicide 10-fold.  These numbers continue to be growing…

Let’s consider for a moment to band together and love on each other.  We CANNOT ignore this any longer.  If you don’t know someone who is struggling with their mental well-being, it is only because they are too afraid to be honest.  If you know a parent of a teen, there is a very high change that their child is struggling with their stress levels.  Consider giving them a hug and letting them know that they are doing a great job, they are enough and that you love them.

Sincerely, with all of my warmest regards…

Alyx

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I’m inspired by…

Lately, I have been finding myself trying to surround myself with messages of inspiration! I find that our world has a way of being quite negative and I NEED positivity, optimism and energy in my environment to balance it out.  Here is a list of what I have been inspired by recently:

  1. Alicia Keys – Girl on Fire (on repeat…)
  2. Cooking – especially health conscious recipes that require a lot of ingredients. It makes me feel like I am doing something kind for my family
  3. Proverbs 31:25-31
  4. Words with Friends – I love the challenge!
  5. Gilmore Girls – I can only hope that my daughters will want to hang with me as much as Rory wants to hang with Lorelai
  6. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” -Dr. Seuss
  7. Hobby Lobby – in general, this store always inspires me
  8. Christmas Music – ‘Tis the season and I LOVE it!
  9. My friends. I send silly, random messages to them when I am feeling lonely and it cheers both of us up! Memes and puns are the best!
  10. Crafting – There is something cathartic about creating something from nothing. Even if I am copying a Pinterest idea, I feel so masterful upon completion!

What inspires you?

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Sensory regulation      

Did you know that our physical sensations and emotional sensations are hard wired together in the brain? Think about it as the DNA double helix! This has HUGE mental health implications…read on…

Consider the last time you were REALLY upset…emotional…impulsive…I would venture to guess that you were not easily reasoned with at that time? One problem people run into is that their family/friends try to logically tell them how to “calm down” instead of HELPING them sooth themselves.  When your emotions are raw, instead of attacking them directly, you can actually attack them via physical sensations as a shortcut!

Think about how well you do this with a baby or small child: binkies, blankies, stuffed animals, sound machines, visual mobiles etc… The theory I ask you to apply is the same with adult items: lotions, candles, warm baths, relaxing instrumental music, soft blankets, hot tea, etc…

Simple concept, I challenge you to give it a try!

 

What are your favorite sensory soothing items?

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Radical Acceptance

I have been teaching on the topic of acceptance for the last few weeks. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has a skill named “radical acceptance” and I would venture to say it is one of the most difficult skills to convince someone to practice.  It requires…a lot of PRACTICE! Acceptance is not a concept that one grasps overnight.

The idea behind acceptance is that of the classic Serenity Prayer:

“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the wisdom to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference”

·    In life, there are a significant amount of things that occur that we cannot change directly: weather, politics, other people’s behaviors, our physical attributes/genetic traits, costs of items

·    In life, there are a significant amount of things we CAN change: generally related to our behaviors which influence our emotions and thoughts

Dialectical behavioral therapy as a whole seeks to help individuals determine what is in their control and what is out of their control and then take the appropriate action (either accept or change).  I believe acceptance is so difficult because as a culture, we are pushed to things faster, bigger, stronger…more, more, more…thus giving the message that everything IS within our control. This leads to a very anxious society!

Acceptance requires clarity, the ability to discern what is legitimately in and out of our control.  Acceptance is NOT to say that we will never change, it is NOT to say that we approve of it, and it is NOT to say that we like the situation.  Acceptance is to say that we recognize that we no longer want to suffer as a result of fighting reality. 

Let me give you a few examples:

Ex 1: You were bullied in high school and you continue to re-live it, dredge up the memories, look the people up on social media thus torturing yourself with the related thoughts

Radical acceptance means recognizing that you are continuing to keep those memories alive (this is not to say the actual bullying is your fault or that it is something you shouldn’t feel angry about), thus increasing your own suffering.  Radical acceptance looks like: admitting what happened and really allowing yourself to feel sad for your high school self.  You may need to disable your social media accounts as you are no longer going to allow those memories to rule your behaviors.   

Ex 2: You made poor financial choices in the past that have left you with debt and poor credit 

Radical acceptance means that you recognize that you own your past choices and get honest with yourself about their present implications. Often when people are fighting reality, they continue to spend excessively and put more and more on lines of credit. Radical acceptance would challenge you to life as if you believed you were capable of financial control (have a budget, pay more than minimum balance, etc).  Radical acceptance means you are going to change your internal self-talk and cease beating yourself up about past choices as they cannot be changed! 

Once you practice radical acceptance on smaller things: gas prices going up, weather, your paycheck size… then (and only then) you can begin practice radical acceptance on bigger and bigger things…all the way up to accepting past traumas.  I suggest practice with a therapist because this is such a complex topic!