Category Archives: Mental Health

From binge to balance

Binge has become a common word these days.  I most often hear it in terms of Netflix, as in “I binge watched House of Cards all weekend.”  The idea is that you get to watch several seasons (or at least one full season) of a show, in a set period of time, getting up only to order food, go to the bathroom and occasionally make sure the Earth is still revolving.

In clinical terms, “binge” has a more serious connotation. Clinicians often associate it with two activities- binge eating or binge drinking.  Binge eating disorder is an actual disorder, meaning you can be diagnosed with it.  Binge drinking is also a disorder, but falls under Alcohol Dependent Type II.  There were some revisions to this when the DSM 5 came on the scene, but either way, binge drinking is bad news, whether its a disorder or a symptom.

I had a patient make a statement yesterday that stuck with me.  She was talking about how overwhelmed she was with work and other activities (preach it!) and she said “I found myself trying to binge relax over the weekend.”  That’s when it hit me.  We have become a people of extremes.  Many of us binge work- whether it’s actual work, house work, side work, etc.  Then on the weekends we are left to try to binge relax- binge eat, binge watch, binge drink.

Finding a work/rest balance would be the key.  We wouldn’t feel the need to “binge relax” if we weren’t working ourselves to death (for some, literally) every week.

Take a page from those that have found self care to be an every day thing.  They take a 15 minute walk, they watch their favorite tv show (ONE episode), they meditate, they take a hot bath, they work out- whatever is part of their self care routine. But they do it daily.

Finding this balance would make life a lot easier on our bodies and minds.  That’s not to say we can never binge watch Netflix.  It just won’t seem like it is our only option on the weekends.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health, Uncategorized

Lunatics

lunatic (adj.) late 13c., “affected with periodic insanity, dependent on the changes of the moon,” from Old French lunatique, lunage “insane,” or directly from Late Latin lunaticus “moon-struck,” from Latin luna “moon” (see Luna). Compare Old English monseoc “lunatic,” literally “moon-sick;” Middle High German lune “humor, temper, mood, whim, fancy” (German Laune), from Latin luna.

This weekend 19-21 September, we had a full moon, as well as the Fall Equinox (21-22).  I also had to do my first commitment, since going into private practice, for a patient who was displaying suicidal and homicidal behavior with a plan. Scary.  I had 2 other patients schedule emergency appointments this weekend as well.  I blamed the moon, jokingly.  In all seriousness though, all three patients had similar themes to their emergencies, and I wanted to address that here.

It is OKAY to have a crying meltdown.  It is OKAY to need a day off for mental health reasons.  It is OKAY to say “no” to someone you love, if you don’t have the time/energy/ability to do what they are asking.  It is NOT Okay to keep neglecting yourself, driving yourself to a nervous breakdown/psychotic breakdown, whatever you want to call it.

As a therapist, I am seeing this trend more and more- people refusing to take care of themselves holistically- body, mind and spirit.  Instead, we pop a pill, drink another energy drink and “push through”.  I know I sound preachy, and trust me, I’m guilty of some of the above.

My recommendations- stop ignoring your red flags. Your body or mind will tell you when you need a break.  When you get that warning- take a break! From as  simple and inexpensive as meditating, snuggling in bed with a book or a movie to as involved as a weekend getaway.  Do what you need to do to stay sane. Learn to say no. People will understand.

***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health

Happy Armed Forces Day. What not to say to SMs/Vets

Image

First of all, Happy Armed Forces Day to all Service Members past and present. 

When thinking of blog topics, I admit that I had thought of doing a “things not to say” post, but figured that would be unnecessary.  We’ve been doing OIF/OEF for what seems like forever and I’ve seen this topic in numerous military related magazines, websites, and seminars.  I’ve seen it in national papers and magazines too.  However, two clients recently told me of Service Members being approached and being asked the “how many guys did you kiil?” question.  Overall, as a nation we say we support our men in women and uniform.  While every SM is different, here are some generalized things you should know.

PTSD

Not every SM has it. 

Not every person that has experienced combat has it/will get it.

You don’t have to have experienced combat or even be in the military to have PTSD.

There is a huge difference in how you treat Combat PTSD and MST (Military Sexual Trauma) PTSD.

Each case of PTSD is different- different symptoms, different reactions.  Don’t assume.

 

Things NOT to say to SMs or Vets

What was it like over there?

Did you kill anybody? How many people did you kill? Did you see any dead bodies? (or any variation of these)

It’s not like you were in any real danger.

But you got extra pay.

That’s nothing, my dad/uncle/grandpa. was in Vietnam/Korea/WW2.

I don’t believe in the war/ what are your beliefs on the US’s involvement/any anti-war sentiments.  (Many SMs and Vets don’t agree 100% with the politics behind the war , but they have no choice but to serve. Your opinions don’t add anything positive to the conversation.)

Are you glad to be home?

Let me buy you a drink!

 

I want to say that many people don’t understand that what seems like an innocent question can actually cause triggers, guilt or bad memories for someone that has served.  If you have small children, it’s best to explain to them before the arrival of a SM that it’s not polite to ask about dead bodies/killing people, etc.  Even the youngest of children have been de-sensitized to violence and won’t understand that their questions can cause problems.  What they think is “cool”- dead bodies, blood/guts, etc. could trigger an SM.

I don’t want the tone of this post to seem that we have to walk on eggshells around Veterans. Treat them normally, just be aware of what you’re saying.  If you’re not sure what to say, it might be best not to say anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health, PTSD

Love Yourself- It’s Sanity, not Vanity

imagesCABXD2MT

This week on Square One’s Facebook page (have you liked it?) I’ve been focusing on self love.  Yes, the teenager in you wants to snicker when you hear “self love” but I’m being serious.  Something that amazes me is how poorly we tend to treat ourselves.  I’m not just talking about toxins and physically stressing our bodies, I mean how we treat our selves- our souls, our spirits, our minds.

If I walked up to you on the street, as a stranger, and told you that you were ugly, stupid and a jerk you would most likely want to punch me.  I don’t blame you! If a stranger said that to me, I would have to really hold back not to attack.  So why would you hit a stranger for calling you an “ugly, stupid, jerk” when you often say MUCH WORSE things to yourself? 

Negative self-talk is emotionally damaging. I see it in a lot of ways- sometimes it’s sarcastic, sometimes it’s muttered under your breath.  Sometimes it’s even proclaimed loud and proud in front of a group of people, “Wow, I really am an as$h*le!”.  Admitting your mistakes, taking blame when blame is due is one thing.  Negative self-talk is an entirely different thing.

 

So love yourself this Valentine’s Day.  Start small. Be aware of how you talk to yourself.  Treat yourself like you would a friend.  If a friend screwed up, you wouldn’t yell at them harshly (I hope!).  You would explain the problem, offer a solution and help them.  Do the same for yourself.

Take a self inventory.  What frustrates you the most about your self?  Is it something you can change? If so, make steps to change it.  If it’s not something that can be changed, explore why it bothers you so much.  See if you can come to peace with whatever the issue is.  Many issues that can’t be changed are something you’ve done/experienced in the past. If that’s the case, you need to forgive and forget.

Love yourself- there is only one You!

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health

Grief- there is no timeline.

grief2

Death and dying, grief and loss are all things that everyone will encounter at some point in their life.  People’s individual reactions to grief are unique. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope, and that is something I often bring up in session with clients that are grieving.  Something I also stress is there is no timeline.  If you lose your mother, for example, and one of your siblings is “fine” and back to work in two weeks, another sibling cries daily for three months and takes a leave of absence from work and you don’t get out of bed for a week, you are all reacting to the loss of your mother. 

 

The Kubler-Ross model of grief is well known.  The “Five Stages of Grief”  (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) are often discussed in support groups, therapy sessions, and amongst the general public when the subject of grief is brought up.

Did you know that Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief are NOT referring to what a grieving person experience but what someone that is FACING DEATH experiences.  This is a little known fact, and too often people try to classify their grief over the loss of a loved one into these five stages. Kubler-Ross later expanded her theory to include grieving people, and now it has been applied to everything, to include divorces, break-ups (relationships) and loss of a job.

 

So what are some examples of healthy coping skills of grief? Crying, talking to the person in spirit, memorializing the person, contributing or volunteering to a cause that was important to the person,  expressing your emotions to others, etc.

Some examples of unhealthy coping skills would be: drinking excessively, drug use, excessive tranquilizer use, bottling up your feelings, ignoring your feelings.

So when should you worry about your grief or someone else’s? What about the above example, with the person that stays in bed for a week, or takes a three month leave of absence?  My answer is that grief becomes a problem when it interferes with your daily life.  There is no time table to give as an example.  No one can say “crying afer a week is depression” or “anything after six months after the loved one has passed is a problem”.  People heal at their own pace.  The important thing is to experience and deal with the grief as it occurs. If not, it can re-surface years later or turn into a chronic resentment, problem, or addiction.

Checking in with a therapist, a support group or a trained clergy person is a good way to see where you are in your path of healing and allow them to help you build healthy coping skills.

If you’re currently experiencing grief, I’m sorry for your loss.  Do yourself a favor and don’t let anyone put you on their grief timeline.

 

***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

Leave a comment

Filed under grief, Mental Health

Goal for 2014: Less Bipolar, more rational

calm down

First, let me define Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.  (National Institue of Mental Health)

Second, let me explain.  When I say “less Bipolar” I’m not saying I want less people to be diagnosed Bipolar (although,  that would be great) I want everyone’s reactions and moods to be less severe. People with Bipolar disorder suffer from mood swings and extreme “pendulum swings” in their lives.  Most things are wonderful or terrible, very little gray area.

 I’ve witnessed in many people over-reactions to everyday situations.  Dinner burning is not cause for a five-alarm melt down with cabinets slamming and food getting thrown around.  Someone cutting you off in traffic (intentional or not) is not cause for screaming, speeding up, flicking them off, or threatening them. Don’t let one “wrong” comment from a signifcant other escalate into a three day arguement.

Do you find yourself over-reacting frequently? That’s a symptom of a bigger problem.

Try these tips to avoid turning your reaction to a glass of spilled milk into the next Valdez oil spill:

1) Learn and utilize a new breathing technique: square breathing, triangle breathing. alternate nostril breathing.

2) Look into yoga.  There are free videos all over the internet if you don’t want to take a class in person.

3) Distract yourself.  Look at a picture of a loved one, your pet. Sing a silly song.

4) Pop a peppermint, spearmint or ginger candy for relaxation and refreshment.

 

Feel free to leave what works for you in the comments.

 

 ***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health

Do we, as a nation, have PTSD?

broken flag

I was asked this question at a conference two weeks ago. It took me a minute to respond.  No, I don’t think we, as a nation, have PTSD.  I think many more people have PTSD than are reported.  Many people have PTSD that don’t even realize they have it.

If I had to “diagnose” our nation, I’d say we suffer from Secondary Trauma.  What is Secondary Trauma?

Secondary Trauma used to be only associated with those in the helping professions- Therapists, Doctors, Clergymen.  Secondary traumatic stress can cause symptoms similar to the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which may include: feelings of fear, hopelessness, horror, anger, and rage; sleep disturbances; changes in memory; difficulty concentrating; and estrangement and detachment from others and from daily life. Thoughts about a client’s experiences may begin to intrude on a professional’s daily life.[had to hear about traumatic events over and over.  (Santa Clara University)

 

  Now, there is focus and research placed on family members of those with PTSD. Several schools of thought think that spouses of those suffering from PTSD have Secondary Trauma themselves.

 

How many people cringed after seeing planes take off the first few weeks after 9/11? Especially when those planes appeared to be approaching buildings.

How many people change the channel when they see the traumatic pictures of the dogs, cats and other animals paired with a sad Sarah McLachlan song, askinng for donations for the ASPCA?

 

The media and the internet give us instant and repeated access to trauma.  We need to examine what these images and sounds are doing to us, even if we aren’t “at the scene” of the trauma.

 

***This blog is for information/entertainment purposes only and is
not meant to be a substitute for mental health therapy. If you believe
you are suffering from a mental or physical illness see the
appropriate mental health/medical professional as soon as possible. If
the situation is life threatening dial 911 or proceed to the nearest
emergency room.***

Leave a comment

Filed under Mental Health, PTSD