Monday, June 20, 2016

Finding Your Voice

Holy Hiatus Batman! First let me apologize for my absence, assuming anyone follows this closely enough to notice lol :). Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and things suddenly get put on the back burner. But I think things have calmed down and I should be back to my regular schedule of Monday posts. So with that said, thank you for your patience and let’s move on to today’s post.

So I did a thing. . .

I offered to be a guest on a friend’s podcast and to share my story of self-harm. And THEN my friend agreed. *gulp* So this week I spent about an hour discussing my story of self-harm from the beginning and through the journey out the other side with my friend, Duff the Psych (I’ve mentioned him once or twice before). He was absolutely wonderful and made the experience as comfortable and safe as possible and he really is a good guy. However when the interview was finished I had a moment of “What the hell did I do”.

Luckily the interview was about 12 hours before the release of the episode so I didn’t have too terribly long to stress, fret, and question my decision, because once it was out there, there was no taking it back. Even though this was a story I wanted to share this is an inherent risk in putting yourself out there and exposing the tenderest parts of yourself. But the response was positive, and I even asked a few close friends to listen, and their response was super supportive and positive as well.

We are now a few days away from the initial release of the podcast and I've survived the waves of panic and nothing catastrophic as happened as a result, so ya know, that's good. And in fact there have been some REALLY positive results of me taking this step. One, I managed to NOT sound like an idiot in the interview, always a positive start and something to be proud of. Two, it has helped me integrate that piece of my life into my life story in a more salient way than it has been before. And three, and what I want to focus mostly on, is that I found my voice.

Most of my life I have struggled to find my voice, there have been times particularly when it came to my self harm, in which I literally could not speak about it. I would open my mouth to say something and no sound would come out. The fear of judgment by others for what I had been dealing with and struggling with was SO great that I LITERALLY could not speak about it. It's a very strange feeling when your brain wants to say something and your mouth just refuses.

We all have a story, we all have events (good or bad) that have shaped us and made us into who we are. And we should all be allowed to tell that story and have that story honored and valued by others.  At many points in my life I have felt with in myself, and been made to feel by others that my story didn't matter. Events weren't traumatic enough, or weren't good enough to warrant getting to tell the story. And that if I did I was being dramatic about the negative things or I was bragging too much about the positive things. So at some point I stopped telling my story, and eventually lost my voice all together.

But here is the reality for you and for me. ALL of our stories matter. Our trials and struggles shouldn’t be compared to other people’s to determine if they are worthy of being heard. Each of us is worthy of being heard simply because we are humans. Our stories deserve to be told and honored by those we chose to share them with.

It has taken me more years than I would have liked to find my voice. But I have found it now and I will share my story, not only for my sake but in hopes of helping others as well. I hope that if finding and keeping your voice is a struggle for you, that you continue to grow strength in that. I hope that you have people in your life that will honor and respect your story. You are worth that and so much more!!! You have a right to share your story!!! If you don't have those people in your life I STRONGLY encourage you to find some, whether that is making an effort to meet new people and build new relationships, or finding a therapist to help you through that journey (my therapist has been INVALUABLE on this journey), or maybe that means you just need to ask people in your life. Sometimes we (that includes me) keep people at such a distance that we don't realize we have support at our finger tips if we would just ask.

Taking any one of those steps is challenging, and at times can rise to the level of terrifying. I know I just shared my story with anyone who wants to click on a podcast link.  But I PROMISE you it's worth it, YOU are worth it. I have received nothing but positive support from friend, family and strangers alike. And more importantly I for one of the first times in my life I feel like I am walking around WITHOUT secrets, I don't have to worry about hiding anymore, everyone knows, and even though everyone knows. . .I'm okay, I'm still me, and I'm still worthy of love. And so are you, NO MATTER WHAT.

I have included a link to the podcast below, check it out if like. Please know that it is a very candid interview in which I do talk about when I was actively self-harming. If you chose to listen please make sure to take care of yourself if this is something have or currently struggle with.
Finally, you should just check out Duff's podcast in general, you can find it one his website or on itunes. He alternates between doing an interview style episode like this one and answering questions he receives from people via twitter (@DuffThePsych) and email etc.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Internet is Weird!!!!

If you have gone a day in the last month where you haven’t used the internet raise your hand. That’s what I thought, none of you. We use the internet every day whether we are on social media, checking email, reading the news, or have fallen into one of the other thousand rabbit holes you could fall into on the internet. In the last 6 months I have been spending more time on the internet, mostly due to increased time on social media, and the jury is still out on whether or not that is a good or bad thing. However, one thing is for sure.

The internet is a strange place.

Don’t get me wrong I have met some fantastic people through social media, and I absolutely consider them friends even though we haven’t met in real life. You all know who you are. But I have also run into some interesting situations and people on the internet and that is really what I want to talk about. In the last couple of months I have had more than one. . .uh. . .interesting encounter on the internet.

The bulk of these have occurred on YouTube, I have a few YouTubers that I follow pretty religiously and often comment on their videos. Three times over the last couple of months someone has responded to a comment I made with some pretty nasty insults about my character or appearance, which really in no way even relates to the video or the content of my comment. Truth be told I don’t let these types of things bother me that much, although when you aren’t expecting it, it can side swipe you for a minute. And usually the comments are gone by the time I even get notification that they were posted. That being said am I the only one that thinks it’s odd to attack a person you’ve never even talked to let alone met?
The other area, in which I see some of the most hateful attacking comments, are on new stories. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a political story, a tragedy, or a fluff piece about a celebrity. EVERYONE has an opinion, and sometimes people’s opinions are downright nasty. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you politically doesn’t mean they are stupid or unpatriotic. The tragic death of a child in an accident is not a time for you to comment on how stupid you think the parents are for letting the child do X, Y or Z in the first place. And for heaven’s sake celebrities are people too and what gives us the right to tear them apart because of their appearance or the things they do or don’t do?

Now don’t get me wrong there are times that I read a news story that makes me frustrated, and there are times I struggle to understand the other side of an issues. And when I get really worked up I have been known to think to myself or even say out loud and I find something or someone to be idiotic. We all do, we are all human, and we are all flawed. However the absolute vitriol that gets spewed on the internet is disturbing. I often wonder, would these people say these things to another human beings face? Or is it the anonymity of the internet that allow someone to spew such hatred?

I suspect it’s the latter that makes people comfortable with being as audacious as they are with their comments on the internet. That being said maybe if we weren’t so divisive in our daily lives and comments, it would improve our overall way of the seeing other people and maybe we could have a little less of an us versus them attitude. Some would argue with me that it’s the media’s fault for the “us versus them” attitude and they need to stop being divisive in how they report the news. The reality is that the media is a reflection of us. They write and print what sells, if we decided we didn’t want all the drama and hatred in our magazines and papers and stopped supporting media sources that printed stories that way, it would change.

I could go off on several tangents from here but I’m not going to. My final thoughts are these. Maybe when we read a story on the internet we should take a step back and see if we can understand both sides of the argument before leaving a comment. And when you do leave a comment whether on a news story or on a social media format, take a moment and ask yourself, would I say this to a person’s face, even if they were a stranger? If the answer is no, then maybe your comment needs revision. If you answer is yes and it’s a comment full of hatred, well that’s probably a topic for another blog entry.

Be kind to your fellow humans, we are all doing the best we can to make it in this world. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

There's Still Good People Out There

Some days it’s pretty easy to get swept away in the negativity in the world. Politicians arguing in the latest debate, nasty comments left on a post or story on the internet because they don’t agree with each other. All too often these days it seems that we focus on the ways in which we are different from each other rather than the ways in which we are similar. At the end of the day most of us are just humans doing our best to make in this world and make what we believe to be the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and the world we live in. That makes us more similar than anything.

Despite the negativity that seems to fill my TV and computer screen and the lack of friendly greetings when you pass someone on the street, occasionally something happens that gives me hope that maybe this world isn’t as negative as the media would like us to believe. That happened to my office mate, Emily, and I last week. So let me tell you a story.

Emily and I recently purchased new chairs for the waiting room, which left us trying to figure out what to do with the old ones. The chairs we had were actually in good shape except the seat covers had been torn. So we figured we could donate them and someone else could get some use out of them or would may want to recover the seats. The day came to load the chairs up in Emily’s SUV and haul them LITERALLY across the street to the second hand store.

Convinced we can get all 4 of these chairs into her Honda Pilot and get them across the street we start putting them in, then take them out, then put them in, take them out, reevaluate. . .you get the idea, it was like playing Tetris, a game I have never been very good at. Finally we get them all in the back of the car but we can’t close the hatch. Luckily for me I have a father that made sure I was prepared for any situation and had a bungee cord in the trunk of my car. I went and grabbed it and then we started to fiddle with how to strap the hatch down.
 As we struggled through this whole process a guy had come out side and was having a smoke break. As he watched us struggle with the hatch and the bungee cord he said:

“Do you guys need some straps, I’ve got straps in the back of my truck”

I responded “No I think we’ve got it, just need to get this bungee cord hooked” as I said it one of the chairs slipped and started to fall out of the car. Emily and I grabbed it and started packing them back in.

“Do you want some help?” They guy says

This time I said “That would be great, if we just had an extra set of hand I think we can get it”

He came down and we started evaluating how to make this work. He was trying to think of ways to help us get them in the car without using the bungee, but we were trying to avoid removing the car seat from Emily’s back seat. We told him we were LITERALLY going across the street so it didn’t need to be perfect just secure enough. Then it happened. . .

“If you are just going across the street why don’t you just take my truck?”
Keep in mind we had never seen or talked to this guy before. We didn’t even know is name. Neither Emily nor I said a word we just stood there and stared at him. I don’t think either of us could believe what we had just heard. Finally I mustered a “Are you sure?” He laughed a little and said “Well unless you planning on stealing it, yeah I’m sure.”

Not really knowing what else to do or having a better plan, Emily and I agreed. We pulled the chairs out of Emily’s car and she moved it out of the way while Daniel (we finally did introductions) ran upstairs and got his keys and pulled his truck forward and helped us load them in the back. Then simply said, “have fun” and disappeared back into the building.

Then Emily and I just looked at each other like who is going to drive this thing. See what he neglected to mention was that his truck was a Toyota Tundra. Far bigger than any vehicle I have ever been in let alone driven anywhere. In case you were wondering I got the honor of driving by default since after Daniel went back in the building Emily made a bee line for the passenger’s side.

We had a pretty comical ride over to the second hand store as we joked that we hoped Daniel wasn’t calling the police and reporting his truck stolen. And making guesses as to what my dad would say about this whole situation. You see my dad is a little high strung about things and often gets worked up over nothing so it is kind of fun to guess what he would say.

At the end of the day our efforts to be good people and donate these chairs failed as the second hand store wouldn’t take them because of the tears, so we did all that and ended up hauling them back to our office building and putting them in the dumpster. But the impact of Daniel’s generosity has and will stick with me for quite some time.

So as you start your week off and we are bombarded with the latest political infighting, or hear about some awful thing someone did to someone else on the news, or even in your own backyard, experience someone being rude at the grocery store, remember this story. In a world that can seem so negative and uncaring at times, you never know when some very nice stranger will see you struggling and offer assistance in the most generous ways. These are the things that make this country and this planet great. The day to day interactions of everyday people helping everyday people. We don’t need to be made great again, we still are and always have been great.

Monday, February 22, 2016

F**k Depression, Duff is back!!

Alright everybody, gather round. I am here to tell you all about the second installment of Hardcore Self Help. F**k Depression. Written by one of my favorite people Robert Duff, Ph.D. Now if by some bizarre circumstance you have missed one of the many times I have mentioned Duff and/or his first book F**k Anxiety or his website I suggest you do two things before reading the rest of this blog. First, check the review I did on F**K Anxiety and second, scurry off to buy yourself a copy, here I’ll even give you a link. Don’t worry I’ll wait. . .
Now that we have that taken care of let’s talk about F**k Depression. I could literally break this book down chapter by chapter and give you about a thousand reasons why you should buy it, read it, and share it with your friends. However, I’m guessing most of you don’t have time for that (and if you did you should just buy and read the book) and truthfully I don’t have time to write all of that. So I’m going to do my very best to break this down into some overarching points and a few specifics I most appreciated in this book. So let’s do this.

Starting with general thing I find to be awesome about F**k Depression (Some of these will sound familiar from my review of F**k Anxiety, I mean it was written by the same dude so the style is similar):

  • Easy to Understand – One of Duff’s many talents is that he can take a subject and break it down and explain in a way that is easy understand, not overwhelming, and does away with all the professional jargon we, the professionals, love so much.
  • Feels like a Friend – Just like in F**k Anxiety the tone/voice of this book is that of a friend. Someone who understands that where you are at the moment sucks and genuinely cares about you getting better. And just like any good friend he knows how to use humor to lighten the mood and bring a smile to your face. As I read through the book, I laughed or smiled frequently and even found myself talking back to the book or making comments in agreement, out loud, talking to a stack of paper. No I am not crazy (most of the time) it’s that vibe of talking with a friend that bring it out in me.
  • Awesome Suggestions – From easy wins to logic barometers (no I won’t tell you what either of those means, read the book) F**k Depression is full of suggestions on how to get started and  take care of yourself. And he explains EXACTLY how to do them step by step and even includes pictures (Who doesn't love pictures)
  • Ain’t No Fillers Here – This book is roughly twice as long as F**k Anxiety (about 150 pages) but it keeps with the idea that Duff says what needs to be said and then moves on. He doesn’t write extra just for the sake of making it longer or for the sake of proving to everyone that he knows how to use big words and professional jargon. Part of the reason this book is a little longer is that there isn’t the same urgent feel to this book as there was in F**k Anxiety. Duff himself has said that he took more time writing this book than he did F**k Anxeity. I think that intensity worked for F**k Anxiety and having a little less of that works REALLY well in F**k Depression.
Okay those were some general things I liked about F**k Depression, now let me dive into some specific things I value and appreciate.

I have been working as a therapist for coming up 8 on years (And I just made myself feel old). Working with individuals struggling with anxiety and depression has been a passion and focus of mine since the beginning, so I’ve seen it a lot. And while these jerks often like to hang out together, and can often be dealt with using similar techniques and interventions, there is one thing that sets them very far apart from each other. Motivation. Depression can become particularly tricky to deal with because it just ZAPS the motivation right out of you, and you’d just as soon lay in bed in the dark and not bath for a couple of days as you would get up and do something that might make you feel better.

Let me put it this way, you remember that time you had the flu and spent 4 days in bed and the sheer act of walking to the bathroom and back took all your energy. Yeah it’s like that only instead of a virus it’s your brain being a douche. Duff does an excellent job of tackling that particular challenge, and gives some ideas on how to get the ball rolling. It’s like the physics principle, an object in motion stays in motion an object at rest stays at rest. This book can be the force that gets things moving again so you can be an object in motion.

One of my favorite things about both of Duff's books, the letter to support people to help them understand the ins and outs of depression and what your loved one may need in terms of support and patience. All too often when talking with clients I hear about how their family and friends suck at being supportive. That doesn’t mean that they are bad people it just means that they don’t get it and that can be frustrating when you are having enough challenges getting yourself vertical in the morning, let alone explaining why to other people. This letter is something you could easily give, as is, to a support person in your life, or could serve as a jumping off point for you to write your own or start a conversation.

Two chapters in this book, I believe, are possibly the most important chapters. The first is on treatment. Not only does Duff talk about various treatment options but also gives you a little bit about what to expect with each and how they can be helpful in you learning to kick depression’s ass.  I often here from people during our first session "I've never done this before so I don't know what to say". Luckily for them the first session is a lot of questions and information gathering which gets the ball rolling. But I think this chapter helps people have a little better idea what to expect, particularly from therapy, to take the edge off that uncertainty of going to the first session.

The second chapter that I think is of vital importance is regarding Suicide. Duff says right in the beginning of the chapter that we tend to treat the word suicide like Voldemort or Beetlejuice and if it is said aloud that all hell will break lose and someone will decide to kill themselves. This is not the case AT ALL, and sometimes I wonder if our lack of conversation about it actually contributes to the problem. In this chapter Duff makes this topic seem not so scary to talk about while not diminishing its importance. He also talks some about the process of hospitalization and what that experience is like, taking some of the fear and feeling that hospitalization is a punishment out of the equation.

I will let you read that chapter for yourself but I will say this. I have had a handful of clients over the years that either think I would enjoy sending them to the hospital, or if they are completely honest with me about their thoughts and feelings that I would "ship them off" to the hospital because they are "nuts". Neither of these statements are true. Hospitalization is, and should be the option of last resort. Meaning there is NO OTHER way to keep you safe than to have you in the hospital.

Finally, a personal note. Many of you probably know from previous posts that I have had a personal battle with depression and anxiety in addition to my role as a mental health professional. Reading this book struck a chord in a way I didn’t expect.  As I read this it brought back some very unpleasant memories, but it wasn’t a bad thing, I mean it wasn’t fun but it turned out to be good.  Memories would spring up from the worst depressive episode I've ever had (waaaay back in college). As I sifted through the memories that came up and felt the emotions that came with them, it gave me an opportunity to be reminded of how far I have come, and all the things I have overcome to build a life I am very happy with. That all to say, regardless of where you are in your battle with depression this book can be informative, touching, or helpful for lots of people.
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Okay that’s it, that’s everything. I know this is one of the longer blogs I have written lately, if you have hung in this long, gold star for you. Please check out F**k Depression and all things Duff related. He really is one of the most genuine, caring, smart, funny, compassionate, (that’s probably enough adjectives although I could go on) all around good guy I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, with a lot to offer to world. And he's written another phenomenal book.