This resonated with me today

I’m being brave and aligning myself with a particular individual’s approach to helping others by sharing this short video. This is something I try to avoid doing, as I sincerely believe that when it comes to helping one another professionally and personally, we learn most from listening to what works best from those in distress, as opposed to handing out tried and tested ‘models’.

This video is narrated by Brene Brown, a psychologist and I would say, philanthropist, whose vision for encouraging empathy and bravery in all of us is, I believe, extremely relevant in today’s chaotic times. Her take on empathy here certainly resonates with me.

On a practical level, I would sincerely advise leaning in towards those that offer true empathy and taking its counterpart, sympathy, with a pinch of salt, particularly when it often hits far wide of the mark in terms of helping you recover and feel better about yourself.

I’ve commented before about what I believe to be the key component of any healthy healing process, be that a conversation with a friend or a course of therapy treatment, and that is the honesty and integrity of the relationship. The irony is that we all know what it is to feel shame, fear, rage, and heartbreak for example, yet somehow struggle to use this to our combined benefit. To do so is to share and step even closer to one another in a much deeper sense than simply showing concern and offering an ear. Stepping into someone else’s’ shoes, as sincerely and often as uncomfortable as it can be, and walking the line with them through the storm, hail and seemingly endless wilderness, is what it really takes for us to feel loved, worthy and most importantly, to come out the other side in one piece.

I hope this clip is helpful to others. Just a reminder that I am not here promoting any particular individual’s therapeutic model, such as Brene Brown’s; in fact, I think a lot of what psychology has to say, we all already know on a deeply human level, simply struggle to believe in and practice for fear of ‘getting it wrong’.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about this, her website can be found here

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Sleep!

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Sleep is severely underrated, particularly when it comes to maintaining a healthy state of mind. I came across the website below, and hope it is informative for those struggling to get a better night’s rest!

Tuck.com

Self and Health

 

 

 

 

To be on Facebook or not to be? That really is the question that a lot of my clients have been asking themselves.

Personally, I find emails and texts enough to be keeping on top of, but I do have a Facebook page, albeit a rather dusty one. I visit my ‘face’ once every couple of months for a good nosey around, but once logged in, that’s me hooked for a few hours!

Why is it then, that I feel so darn empty afterwards?

Apparently I am not alone. Facebook is a common topic in the therapy room, and many a tear has been shed as a result of ambiguous comments and seemingly ‘perfect’ peers.

Please don’t think me an old stick in the mud, I am after all writing a blog, so can’t really bemoan the advances of social media. It’s just from a professional perspective, it’s hard to praise a platform that can also feed into our primal insecurities and magnify certain unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and others.

“All my friends are having babies, and they look so happy”; “Why can’t I see the world as positively as others, I mean, look at the inspirational quotes they post!”; “Everyone else’s lives are so full, what am I doing with mine?”

My reply – how do you know it’s true? Let’s be honest, not many of us would happily pass around a photo of ourselves looking worse for wear, or publicise our deepest darkest fears for all to see.

As social beings, we are driven to attach to others, but with this comes the danger of comparing ourselves and in some cases, creating false idols to emulate.

So if you do find yourself looking at that selfie and wondering just who that person is, remember it’s a pixelated reflection, not your true self (same goes for everyone else). We are so much more than what we project to the world! Failing that, why not try a Facebook sabbatical? It’s worked wonders for those I know who’ve taken the leap.

 

Borderline Personality Disorder for Family and Friends

This is a link to an interesting site… bpdfamily.com

It offers practical and emotional support to loved ones / family members who are living with an individual who may have the symptoms, and/or a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
The comments regarding diagnosis of BPD sadly mirrors the judgment of some of my peers who fall into the category of clinicians hesitant to acknowledge / diagnose this particular personality disorder.
Working with clients who have BPD can be testing,however, the roots of the disorder and treatment plans are far from complicated thanks to the emergence of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Schema Therapy.  BPD does not have to be a life sentence and some  individuals can and do recover. Challenging historical perceptions of the disorder would go a long way to improving the lives of many individuals and their families.

Am I mentally ill or expecting too much of myself?

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This post is partly inspired by the ever increasing prescription of medications for depression and anxiety. It is also informed by clients who have been told, perhaps by friends or family, that they must be mentally unwell, given the symptoms they present with (fatigue, worry, low mood, tearfulness, etc.). This can be daunting for individuals who have perhaps watched relatives endure mental health problems, and naturally fear that they may be heading down a slippery slope.

I am not suggesting that changes in mood be dismissed; it is important to inform your GP if you are struggling with fluctuating mood that has gone on for some time with no obvious trigger. Anxiety and low mood often come to the fore when we find ourselves under pressure or faced with uncertainty. In some cases, we may be able to problem-solve issues resulting in an improvement in mood but this requires some detective work in the first instance to identify contributing factors.

Often, individuals are carrying enormous burdens that they have become accustomed to and therefore do not make the link between their responsibilities to others and their deteriorating mood. Exhaustion can have a profound effect on physical and emotional well-being and does not necessarily suggest an underlying mental health problem. In some cases medication can ease periods of extreme anxiety and low motivation but solving the cause of this exhaustion is the only real path to recovery.

I would advise people struggling with low mood to ask themselves if they are stretching themselves too thin, giving to the detriment of receiving, and asking of themselves what they would not ask of others. It can be tough to challenge our norms, especially if we have become accustomed to being the ‘strong’ one who never says no for fear of letting others down. However, the results could be surprising. When we reduce our desire to take on the world we may come to find that others have been dis-empowered by our input and can now start to develop their own coping mechanisms, freeing up more time to look after yourself.

 

Creativity and mental health

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It’s everywhere…search Google for mental health and creativity and a whole host of famous politicians, artists, and activists can be found; each with their own history of mental health problems. Their contributions to society are well documented, but what of the subtext – their own battles with mental health problems?

As Aristotle said; “No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness.”

How often do we acknowledge the link between ‘greatness’ and Bipolar Disorder for example? It is not a word often associated with the highs and lows of emotional dis-regulation. However, there is significant evidence to suggest that these very highs and lows may be a key ingredient in the evolution of social and change, something we all benefit from.

Sadly, many of these great historical figures, such as Winston Churchill, went undiagnosed and unmedicated; forced to seek solace in alcohol and excess. Today, however, with the advent of greater access to psychotherapy and pharmacology, it might just be time to acknowledge and salute individuals who have the potential to offer such greatness to the world. Perhaps, if there was less stigma and negative press associated with mental health problems, we could remind ourselves of the talents that may be lying dormant in many people.

I have seen such talent, intellectual and emotional, in many clients. However, I also hear of their struggles integrating at work when a mental health disorder has been disclosed. If schools taught pupils a more balanced view of mental health difficulties, perhaps we could eradicate stigma altogether and champion all forms of creativity. Similarly, if employers could look beyond the idiosyncrasies associated with exuberance and innovative minds, they might just be privileged to bear witness to the next generation of ‘greatness’.

 

Resilience

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How I wish I could capture and distill the dignity and spirit of clients facing daily battles with mental health problems. It is quite extraordinary how the human spirit to survive and flourish can remain in the face of fear, anxiety and despair.

There is a great deal of research into factors affecting resilience; some point to positive role models, and others to character traits. In my experience, it remains a mystery.

I have met individuals who have endured multiple traumatic events, face obsessive rituals that dominate their days, and struggle with unimaginable inner torment. And yet, these individuals continue to seek answers and solutions to their unwelcome afflictions. It is a credit to them as individuals and a testament to the human determination to survive.

I believe it is near impossible for those who have never experienced a loss of reality or an event that defies belief, to imagine what life might look life in the aftermath of this: darker, more fragile, unjust? And yet, there are survivors, those who have been there and back again.

There is a theory, loosely based on the common dictum: ‘What doesn’t kill us…only makes us stronger’. It is called Post Traumatic Growth Theory. This theory suggests that it is not only possible to successfully treat symptoms associated with trauma but to growpersonally as a result of this. I am not entirely bowled over by this assumption given the perhaps overly positive spin it suggests. However, I would very much like to believe that the human spirit can accommodate significant blows and remain resolute in the face of an uncertain future where appropriate support is provided.

I can testify to what I have seen in my practice; a desire to find meaning where at first there seems none. This need for meaning aligns itself with the metaphor of the brain as an information processing system. If it is possible to locate trauma and injustice within some form of an extended world view, then what occurs to us over our lifetime, good or bad, might have some chance of being appropriately accommodated, along with all the other experiences and memories that we so efficiently store away.

Following successful treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, I have often observed a shift in clients’ perspectives towards the self, others and the world. Where once there was no self-compassion to be found, kindness might evolve. Where there was no purpose, a desire to support others can emerge. Perhaps it is integral to the human mind to find meaning in the face of adversity.

Whatever may be the key to resilience, it must not be overlooked by the symptoms associated with poor mental health. To do so would be a huge disservice to those who have suffered and survived.