Hi, everyone. Here is a video post on the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Distress Tolerance skill of “Distracting.”
“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal…Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited
This quote kind of blows my mind. If I understand it correctly, Huxley is saying that those who are normal, or well-adjusted to life, are actually the abnormal ones, and those of us (myself included) who are “neurotic” or according the psychoanalytical theory have a:
“poor ability to adapt to one’s environment, an inability to change one’s life patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying personality” as evident by mental illnesses such as depression, acute or chronic anxiety, obsessive–compulsive tendencies, specific phobias, such as social phobia, arachnophobia or any number of other phobias, and some personality disorders: paranoid, schizotypal, borderline, histrionic, avoidant, dependent and obsessive–compulsive
are the normal ones.
What do you think about this? Do you agree with this view of what is normal versus abnormal? Do you think that those of us with mental illness are more sensitive to the tragedies and injustices of the world? If so, why are those who aren’t as sensitive considered to be “normal” in the sense that they are mentally healthier than those of us with mental illness? Who are really the sick ones here?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Any type of discussion this quote may spark is appreciated.
“Sometimes we just can’t, and that’s ok. Sometimes we kind of can, but the energy trade-off just isn’t worth it. Society demands that we keep overcoming, overcoming, overcoming. But we don’t have to. Nowhere is it written that to be a really real human you have to brute force your way through your limits. Nowhere is it written that not doing so makes you less worthy.” ~ Author, unknown
It is Easter Sunday and I am experiencing guilt for not being able to take my kids to church (and not getting myself there as well.) The crowds, parking, and stress of it all is more than I can bear, I know from experience. Plus, my husband is working which makes it all the more difficult to handle since I am on my own.
On top of that, we will be with family later on this afternoon…loud, excited kids, my siblings and their kids, my parents, all cramped into a tiny house for the evening…need I say more?!
Here’s another kicker – a mess up with my medication refill leaves me with no anti-anxiety pills this weekend. Kind of a WTF? moment…
Thinking about it all makes me want to shut down OR fall into a panic attack. I feel like my body doesn’t know which one to choose.
What I am choosing however, is to try and sit back and observe all of these thoughts and feelings as I would if I was watching another person go through them.
Acknowledging them, not fighting them, but also not making them who I really am…separating my thoughts and my feelings from my true self (who is simply a consciousness/higher self comprised solely of peace and love) seems to really help.
Maybe some would call this a form of detachment, and in a real sense I suppose that is what it is. Reminds me of that saying “Go to your happy place” – the place in your mind where no one or nothing can hurt you. Only this place isn’t in my mind. It is outside of my mind.
I picture it floating directly above my mind. Although, it is not a place but more of a presence, an aura so to speak.
And in this entity I am not escaping from reality but rather engaging in it as an observer…not a fighter or a victim or any kind of participant, but simply as an observer that knows – believes – deep down that all is ok, that I am ok no matter what thoughts and feelings are happening inside my mind.
It truly is a peaceful phenomenon on this joyous Easter morn. I do hope you are having positive thoughts and feelings today. And if not, I pray you can access your higher self – that space outside of your mind but still within you that can sit back and observe and know that it is safe, it is happy, and it is pure love.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts today. I would love to hear yours. Feel free to leave a comment if you are so compelled. Until next time…
I found this helpful article on causes and solutions of having dual diagnoses (substance abuse AND mental illness.) I wanted to bring to you some interesting facts and highlights. To view the handout in its entirety click here to download the Hazelden Foundation’s pdf.
Factors involved in the development of psychiatric disorders:
1. Vulnerability (determined by genetics and early life experiences)
2. Stress (challenges faced in life)
Factors that can help reduce symptoms and relapses:
1. Abstaining from alcohol and drug use
“Avoiding alcohol and drug use can reduce biological vulnerability in two ways. First, because substances affect the brain, using alcohol or drugs can directly worsen those vulnerable parts of the brain associated with psychiatric disorders. Second, using substances can interfere with the corrective effects of medication on vulnerability. This means that somebody who is using alcohol or drugs will not get the full benefit of any prescribed medications for his or her disorder, leading to worse symptoms and a greater chance of relapses.”
2. Take prescription medications according to your doctor’s orders
3. Learn to use positive coping skills
4. Develop social support systems
5. Engage in meaningful activities
Which factors are you incorporating into your life to help reduce symptoms and prevent relapses? Which factors do you need to add?
Is mental illness a hot topic? I am not sure, but you all have been doing an awesome job at reading and sharing my posts because according to blog industry experts, the more popular your blog becomes the more s-p-a-m it is likely to get. Thank God for Akismet!
Next month is Write into the Light’s 2-year blogiversary!
…which has me reflecting on my current goals for this blog as well as for Turtle Way’s blog (Turtle Way is a compilation of works submitted by artists and writers who have mental illness or have been affected by others with mental illness.)
Current Goals (in no particular order:)
- I toyed with the idea of stopping Turtle Way’s publication until I reviewed the recent stats and saw that the issue released back in January is still receiving a great number of views. Yay! I love that people continue to (hopefully) gain strength and support from the artists and writers published there.
- This brings me to Write into the Light’s original and primary purpose which is to offer understanding, strength and hope to all persons sufferring from mental illness.
- In that light (no pun intended ), I am going to place a lot of time and effort this year into finding a publisher for my daily meditation book. The daily reflections are written specifically for persons who have mental illness.
- The newest and final goal I have to share with you, thus far, is to assemble a list of subscribers who would like to be part of a pilot audience for my book. This would involve receiving sneak-peeks of my daily reflections and providing feedback as necessary on how they affect you…if they help you cope with your illness or not…if they make sense to you or not…etc.
I have yet to finalize the logistics on this, but I am thinking of doing it either by email or password protected posts.
If you are interested in being a part of this pilot study and are willing to provide honest feedback (like serious critique) on how helpful or not-working-for-you-at-all these writings are, please email me at email@example.com or leave a comment below.
Have you ever stepped outside of yourself and observed or paid attention to your thoughts? What are you usually thinking about?
If you’re like me then you are often thinking about stuff that has happened in the past or about things that will or may happen in the future. Maybe a conversation you had with someone yesterday. Or how that work meeting will play out tomorrow.
When we are engaged in these kinds of thoughts, we are not living in the present moment. To live in the present moment we must direct our thought (one thought at a time) only to what we can currently observe with our five senses.
For example, “I see clouds in the sky. The sky is light blue. A single bird is flying across the sky. Now another one is following.”
Notice that there are no judgements in these thoughts. No mention of the sky being beautiful or the birds being cute. Only thoughts based on observations of facts.
The mind will naturally gravitate towards creating a story about the facts- giving meaning to what is happening or opinions about what should be happening instead; judging the facts as good or bad, etc.
The mind will also form associations with what we are observing, which will pull us out of the present moment.
For example, yesterday I was driving in my car, practicing mindfulness, focusing on one thought at a time about what my eyes were seeing. My thoughts went something like this:
I see a tree. Its branches are bare. The concrete street is rough looking. It is beige on color. I see a bicyclist ahead. What a terrible thing about Lance Armstrong. How could he lie all those years? What must that have felt like? How disappointing! Is he embarrassed now? I would be humiliated if I were him…
Do you see how easily my thoughts got off track due to the association it made with the bicyclist I saw on the road ahead of me?
As soon as I realized that my thoughts were no longer about what I could observe in the present moment, I simply acknowledged that fact and then redirected them back to my current physical surroundings.
What do you see right now? Name one thing at a time – not in a check list type fashion, but using a full sentence for each thought.
In other words, don’t say, “I see a chair, a table, a window, a wall, a blanket.”
Instead say something like, “I see a chair. It is brown. I see a table next to the chair. The table is cleared and clean. I see a window. It has dried rain spots on it. I see a wall. It is painted beige. I see a blanket. It is an afghan comprised of the colors, red, blue and green.”
Get the idea? The more we can engage in mindfulness, focusing our attention on one thought at a time, on thoughts that are based on observations of our current physical environment, the more calm and peaceful we will feel.
Now, give it a try and then let me know how it works for you.
The holidays bring with them extra family, travel, food (usually the not-so-healthy kind), money-spending, crowds, and stress. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time managing my stress on a “normal” day.
I require a low stimulating, non-demanding environment in order to remain relatively sane. I call it the “Princess and the Pea syndrome.” If you recall the children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen, there was a princess sleeping on a dozen or so soft mattresses, and the only way to know if she was a true princess was to test her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under the bottom mattress to see if she felt it while trying to sleep.
If you are like me and the princess, then keep reading as I share the ways in which I limit stimuli to my hypersensitive system, thereby managing my holiday stress:
Show up late. Leave early. Tell them you have diarrhea. Who’s going to try guilting you into staying if you say you have diarrhea? Ha ha! Just kidding – don’t lie.
What I say is that I am not feeling well, which is true if my body and mind have reached their limits. Fatigue, tension in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and chills or sweating are all signs that I am beginning to experience anxiety and it is time for me to scadaddle.
If in the car or airport for any length of time, make sure you have ways to block out extraneous sensory input, which to me is anything beyond someone honking their horn at you for weaving into their lane, or at the airport, the attendant calling for finally boarding on your flight.
Some ways I block out extra stimuli when traveling include listening to relaxing music through earphones. Sometimes I leave the ear buds in even when there is no music playing because strangers or even my kids are less likely to make small talk or bother me if they think I am listening to something.
Bring sunglasses! I don’t have a problem just shutting my eyes no matter where I am – in the airport, a restaurant, or on someone’s couch. Closing my eyes, even if just for a minute or two, really keeps me from becoming visually overstimulated.
Eat a carrot for every cookie you inhale. Do I do this? No. But it’s a good idea, right?
Online, baby! Unless your lap is overpopulated.
I hope some of these suggestions help you manage your holiday stress this week. What do you do to decrease stress during the holidays? Please share in the comment section below.
I am experiencing extreme anxiety right now. It started yesterday in anticipation of my first DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) group session, and now, I am reeling from the after-effects of the stress of being in this new situation. I also had to drive a good distance to get there last night, in the dark, both of which increased my anxiety.
I learned all the DBT skills on a one-to-one basis with my therapist over the past year and a half, but felt that I needed to start going to the group to stay focused on continued use of the skills.
The DBT skills, developed by Marsha Linehan, are categorized into four topics:
2. Emotional Regulation
3. Distress Tolerance
4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
Right now I am having a hard time regulating my anxiety, so I got out my DBT notebook and took the following actions:
Spent about 10 minutes in quiet mindfulness, focusing on my heart in a meditative kind of way in order to get out the racing thoughts in my head; paid attention to the physical sensations of my body to identify the emotion I am experiencing. Sensations I noticed included tense muscles, racing heart, shallow, rapid breathing, and nervous tics such as tapping my foot or finger.
I also took note of my urges which included, to run away, to numb with drugs or alcohol, to sleep as an escape, to stuff or ignore my feelings by compulsively cleaning the house – all things that I know from experience only make matters worse, so I refrained from doing any of them, and instead started writing this blog post – started “writing into the light.”
I am now looking at a DBT handout on how to stay out of “emotion mind” which suggests six ways to reduce vulnerability to negative emotions:
1. Treat physical illness: I did take an anti-anxiety pill before I started writing this and that is helping. I will pick up a prescription I need from the pharmacy even though I don’t want to leave the house.
2. Balance eating: I binged last night on Fritos. Today, I will try to eat healthier and drink lots of water.
3. Avoid mood altering drugs: Haven’t had any of those in over eight years.
4. Balance Sleep: Sleep was rough last night because when I am anxious I have strong, disturbing dreams, and I awake in the morning feeling unrested with tense muscles and a headache. Some things are just out of my control.
5. Get exercise: I will take a walk.
6. Build mastery: I will work on a creative project.
I will also call my husband and a trusted friend to talk about my struggles today. And maybe I’ll take a hot bath to relax my muscles.
When was the last time you experienced anxiety? What do you think caused it? How did you handle it? What positive coping skills did you use or could have used?
When the conflict of others does not directly involve me, am I able to stay out of it? At times, it is difficult to let the adults in my life fight their own battles. Also, it is harder to distance myself emotionally than physically.
Physically, I can go for a walk or a ride, sit outside, visit a neighbor, put on head phones and listen to relaxing music, or take a break from my surroundings in some way.
Emotionally, however, my thoughts obsess over the conflict, causing anxiety, depression and fear to overwhelm me.
If I am able to expel these thoughts from my mind in a constructive way, like talking about them with a trusted person who is a neutral party, the negative feelings leave me. Then I am able to detach with love from those waging amongst themselves.
I have the choice to try a different action; to walk a different path. Today, I can choose to know peace.
Last week was glorious! (being pain-free will do that, I suppose) How to have such wonderful days regardless of the pain levels – that is the current puzzle of my journey in the thralls of mental illness.
Today, I am recuperating from a knock-down, drag-out migraine which means tomorrow is basically wasted as well. The day after, I am always still too exhausted to function.
I fought with my thoughts all weekend. They (my thoughts) wanted to think about my friend who committed suicide this summer. I, on the other hand, did not want to sit with the grief that comes along with those thoughts.
It is possible that my migraine today is a result of ignoring those thoughts all weekend (in an attempt to avoid the subsequent emotions.) When will I ever learn? Is that really the cause? I don’t know.
Either way, I am sure it is not healthy to ignore or refuse to experience such difficult emotions. However, my instincts often win out over my knowledge. Why? FEAR! Fear of what?
I am not going to die from grieving, although sometimes it may feel that way. Furthermore, I always feel better when I tell someone about it and they walked through it with me.
Ah, therein lies the problem: telling someone about it and letting them walk through it with me. Such a choice does not come easily for me and definitely, not naturally.
My natural response is to ignore, deny, stuff, repress, and run away from painful emotions because as a child I had no one around to walk through them with me, and as a child, I believed I would die from them.
I now know this won’t happen but like I already said, knowing often takes a back seat to those ingrained primal instincts that were established so early on in my life so that I could survive. Will they ever subside, and if so, when?
In reality, I have only been working on changing my natural response to difficult emotions for the past five years. The thirty something years before that, I knew no other way. I suppose I should cut myself a little slack. It takes a long time to unlearn something that I have been doing for eight-five percent of my life.
I may be writing daily this week to prepare for the Holiday weekend. Many triggers are beginning to present themselves and I really do not want to ignore them. The migraines just aren’t worth it.
What happens to you when you ignore your feelings?