Is Someone You Know Mentally Ill?

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Discovering that someone you love has a mental illness can feel awful. It may seem as though the person you have known has gone away and someone you don’t really know has taken their place.

Being around someone who is mentally ill may even cause you to doubt your own sanity. Anger, loneliness and shame may haunt you, as well as questions like is their problem a mental or physical illness? Is your behavior driving them crazy? Can trying harder to help bring your loved one back?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, known as NAMI, is a great resource for the families and friends of mentally ill loved ones: https://www.nami.org/

NAMI’s website offers a list of symptoms that someone you know may be mentally ill. A few of these that I have seen from my practice are:

  • Excessive worrying or fear

  • Feeling excessively sad or low

  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” - euphoria

  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

  • Changes in sex drive

  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

  • Thinking about suicide

If you are having doubts about someone in your life, please get support for yourself to sort out what is going on for you and what steps you can take. Don’t wait for the mentally ill person to get help first. They may not have the insight or willingness to see what they are doing to themselves and those who love them.

What is Maturity?

Maturity

Maturity

Eleanor Roosevelt's book "You Learn by Living" has a chapter on maturity.  Below is a paragraph from that chapter that I think nicely sums up maturity:

 "One must be willing to have knowledge of oneself.  You have to be honest with yourself.  You must try to understand truthfully what makes you do things or feel things.  Until you have been able to face the truth about yourself you cannot be really sympathetic or understanding in regard to what happens to other people.  But it takes courage to face yourself and to acknowledge what motivates you in the things you do."

How true!  Especially the part about courage.  But with courage comes contentment, and that is the best present you can give yourself.

When Love Feels Bruising. . .

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When love feels bruising, it can be easy to want to just shut down. Yet heartache can illuminate one’s life in many new and positive ways. Strengths, goals, weaknesses and fears, both reasonable and unreasonable, are closer to the surface of our consciousness.  Longstanding obstacles may no longer seem as daunting.

Keeping one's heart open allows space for new, positive people to come into your life. It can grant you to the humility to consider options that that you would not have seriously looked at in the past. A bruised heart can respond more easily to spiritual experience, friendship, therapy and new learning It can allow you to connect with creativity and energy you may have not even realized were yours.

So when love feels bruising, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to let new, healing energy into your life.

Mental Poverty

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Mental poverty is a state in which one feels a lack, or inadequate.  Emptiness can also be a sign of mental poverty, as can avoidance.  

Mental poverty is a rut that can begin in many ways. Perhaps one's parents passed on a negative view of the world, or had a propensity to addiction. Or maybe one's sense of capacity may be impacted by a dreadful job, or through a regretful choice of mate.   Depression and anxiety can make one feel like they have nothing to give to themselves or anyone else.  These are but a few examples.

Mental poverty can be reversed. If this blog post reminds you of someone, know that they are not bound by the trap of mental poverty for the rest of their life.  The past can only control the present if it is allowed to do so.

Start today to examine the areas of your own personality that may be affected with mental poverty.  These might be reflected in such areas as gossip, fearfulness, complaining without changing, destructive habits or ignoring opportunities.  Procrastinating, or automatically feeling negative about people who are different than you are also signs of mental poverty.

To be a person means you have the gift of volition - the capacity of changing at any time. You are not a product of your past.  If you have a pocket or two of mental poverty in your life, shake them out! By doing so, you will create or and increase the abundance of your life.

 

 

 

 

Spring Is Coming

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There is a joy out there as Winter slowly begins to release its grip into Spring.  How much can one bear to notice?  Is it tolerable to tear oneself away from everyday thoughts and anxieties long enough to notice the subtle and not-so-subtle moments of change?

No matter how important our worries seem today, no matter how pressing our problems, there is a part of us that remains separate and calm.  Take a moment to find that inner stillness, that inner beauty.  You will know you are seeing joy when you really notice a crocus, the sunset, or a raindrop.

Is Someone You Know Taking Advantage of You?

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It is sometimes hard to see that someone you know is taking advantage of you because you may have many all sorts of feelings about them. And It can be hard to confront someone who may not realize that their behavior leaves you feeling exploited.

Perhaps you may feel sorry for someone who has a difficult past, or you may be a naturally emphatic person. You might have a pattern or care taking in relationships, but realize this person is taking it too far. Why it is happening is not as important as ending the behavior!

Here are three tips for stopping someone from using you:

1) Get over the fear you will be disliked for speaking your truth. It is more important that the behavior stop, and the person will probably respect you more in the end. Be prepared that they may initially react to what you tell them but that the reaction will likely pass.

2) Set firm boundaries about the behavior that feels wrong and don't give in.

3) Refuse to let yourself feel bad because you have to confront an issue you may have been avoiding. Sometimes people tell me they feel stupid or ashamed for letting the situation go on so long, Sometimes they feel guilty for their part in cultivating a relationship that doesn’t work for them. These feelings are can obscure reality. The reality is that when you stand up for yourself you are changing how you relate to the world and yourself in a healthy way.




When Ego Gets in the Way

Ego Can Puff One Up But Everyone Eventually Lands

Ego Can Puff One Up But Everyone Eventually Lands

An out-of control ego is blind to its destructive power, causing pain for both for its owner and others. Here are three symptoms that one is under the influence of the ego:

1. A lack of insight into how indulging one’s thoughts, words and deeds in the present moment leads to pervasive pain as well as rejection by others.

2. Unwillingness to consider the advice of those who care about you.

3. Urgency to get what one wants immediately, despite longer-term, healthier options. “I didn’t have to do it this way, but” is an example.

There are many factors that can lead to an unregulated ego.  Depression, family dysfunction, mood swings and addictions are but a few. The good news is that alternatives to behaving poorly do exist. The bad news is that under the influence of ego, those alternatives can seem insulting, dull or tedious. If a person caught in the endless pain of egotism is finally sick enough of its results to change, here are a few of the ways help regulate the ego:

1. Be willing to ask for then accept support and advice from others.

2.  Realize that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone makes a fool out of themselves sometimes.  It is part of being human and people can forgive those who can admit mistakes.

3.  Become someone you would trust to act well on your behalf.

4.  Accept professional help when needed.

5. Accept that people already see us as we are, not as we pretend we are.

6. Cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is the underpinning of the sort of humility in life that helps us learn to fall, get up, and learn from our mistakes.

Why See a Therapist When You Can Talk to a Friend?

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Therapists can take you places your friends can’t go. The relationship you have with a therapist is a professional association with someone who supports you based on your own agenda.

Therapists train for many years to listen to and help people who are in distress. They deal with their client’s trauma as well as the mundane trials of the human condition. They are trained to be emotionally and mentally present. They give thoughtful feedback about problems that would worry or even frighten a friend. They keep confidentiality. They don’t have an agenda based on a personal relationship with you.

A therapist’s only job is to help you grow.

When Life Feels Like a Series of Unfortunate Events. . .

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Sometimes life can feel like a chapter out of Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events".  There may be a theme to the events, or your challenges may seem random.  This rather overwhelming state can appear to be an endless swamp that will entrap you, but in the end it seldom turns out to be that way after all. In the meantime, though, slogging is sometimes overwhelming. Here are three tips about how to get through this kind of time:

1)  Think about other times in your life when you were discouraged.  How long did they last?  How did you resolve things, or did time just sort them out for you?

2)  Detach.  Step back from the fatalistic story about what is going on, even it it is as compelling as a train wreck.  In Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" the most sticky and uncomfortable of journeys were in the end tests that encouraged personal growth in the characters.

3)  Don't do it all alone.  Call friends, see a therapist, go to self-help meetings or follow a spiritual path more closely.  Suffering is often lessened from something as simple as talking to another person.

To you in Your Journey,

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764

7 Ways to Make Friends with Your Mind

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A mind turned against its owner is a sad sight. The person may see all the good in the world in others, but be unable to see the good in themselves. Even when others point it out their good, they do not believe it is true.

What causes a mind to be one's enemy? Often, a past and present condition, and sometimes even a person's physiology. However, a lot can be done to change these sad circumstances.

Below are a few steps one can take to make friend with one's mind:

  1. Take care of one's physical body. Eat, sleep and exercise can go a long way to righting one's frame of mind about oneself.

  2. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling - especially if you feel down on yourself.

  3. Take a break from the people who bother you. A walk in the woods, a mental health day, or other solitary activity can allow you time to make better friends with your mind.

  4. Meditate. If you don't know how, sit by yourself in quiet for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, breathe, and allow your thoughts to stream by without getting caught up in them.

  5. See a doctor. Sometimes your unease is caused by a physiological disconnect happening in your body. Depression and anxiety, forgetfulness can be due to physical conditions. Even a vitamin deficiency can wreck havoc with your mood.

  6. Thought stopping. Just say to yourself the next time you find that yourself picking on yourself: “I choose not to have this thought”, and change the dialog with your mind. You can actually do that. Try it!

  7. If you still find that you are down on yourself after all these suggestions,  it may be time for you to see a professional therapist, psychologist or counselor.

 

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, poet, was native to Ohio. She passed away on January 17. 2019

Mary Oliver, poet, was native to Ohio. She passed away on January 17. 2019

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Ending Procrastination, Part II

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I am going to give you an exercise designed to help you to end procrastination. First, think about something you are currently procrastinating about. Don’t pick the most difficult problem you have, but one that is not so complex. After all, you are learning a new skill.

1) Before doing anything, break the problem you are procrastinating about down into steps. Write the steps on paper in a list form.

2) Assign a timeline for completion of the steps. If certain steps cause you more anxiety than others, break them down into smaller steps.

3) Along with each step, write down a small reward you will give yourself for completing that step. Make the reward tangible and time limited. For instance, a piece of chocolate, a ten minute break or a short walk around the block. Do not reward yourself with activities that are hypnotic in nature, such as going on social media or watching TV.

4) Cross off the steps as you do them until they are finished. Then reward yourself in any way you want.

5) Start again with some new problem you are procrastinating about. Again, it doesn’t have to be that big a problem. This is about habit change, not completely reorganizing your whole life.

Keep repeating this this process for a month. Note that it takes a minimum of 28 days of continuous practice to change a habit. After a month of working on this method, you should begin to see that other areas of procrastination in your life are becoming less troublesome.

If you feel discouraged, please remember the words of Mark Twain:

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs gently, one step at a time.”


Are You a Procrastinator? Part One

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Putting things off doesn’t feel as good as one might hope. This is because the defenses used in procrastination, such as numbing and denial, kill the fun you might get out of avoiding doing something unpleasant. Plus, when you eventually have to do the thing you avoided, there is so little time left that high anxiety or even panic ensues in order to get it done. Your end product will not be as good as it could have been.

If you are struggling with procrastination, please know it is a habit, and that like any habit, it can be broken. Part of getting rid of this of this self-debilitating habit is examining what might be driving it. Some common reasons people develop the habit of procrastination include:

  1. Perfectionism – the fear of things not coming out the way that you plan.

  2. Fear of Failure – of making decisions you might regret.

  3. Authoritarian parents – Attachment theory postulates that adults who had authoritarian parents often resist outside regulation, while at the same time not having much of a sense of internal control either.

  4. Self-esteem issues – the feeling that what you do doesn’t really matter and that you can’t change it anyway.

  5. Depression and/or anxiety - either of these can make focusing on difficult tasks feel impossible.

Creating an awareness of why you developed the habit of procrastination in the first place can be a first step to moving away from it. In my next blog I will talk about an approach to ending this habit. So stay tuned!

In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

In times like these, as our country struggles with backwards-looking leaders and divisive politics, Dr. Martin Luther King's example of persistent, non-violent change is needed more than ever in this world.

As it was in the 60’s it is now. We must know who we are beyond the false and destructive politics of identity and exclusivity that limit our viability as a species. If we allow our value to be determined by external factors such as race, ethnicity and social class, we will never know our own humanity and will not know peace.

As a therapist, I believe that when individuals face the truth about themselves, even when it is unpleasant, it makes our world a safer place.. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, take a moment to remember that as humans we all want the same opportunities and the same peace in this world. It may not seem like much, but it is the truth.

Codependency and Anger

A brief definition of codependency is someone who tries to take care care of adults who actually should be taking care of themselves. By this definition, they will grow more and more angry because this is an impossible task. Yet they may not even realize they are angry!

To others, codependency is unlovely. The codependent person may talk as though they are put upon. They may snipe and complain about other people to the extent that others wonder what is being said behind their back. Codependents want to control things that are not always theirs to control. And when a codependent person's anger oozes out sideways, no one wants to get too close!

However, the codependent person may think of themselves as a nice person who is not consciously angry at all. They feel that other people are disappointing them and although this might make them feel depressed and anxious, or affect their self-esteem, they don’t feel anger. They feel disappointed because they try so hard to be helpful to unappreciative people.

Anger is often suppressed by codependent people. If their anger was faced head on, major changes in the way they think about and organize their lives would be in order. So irritable outbursts are soon forgotten. If anger does boils over, guilt and fear follow because they don’t want to risk pushing away or harming someone they care about. Its a tough life.

The good news is codependency is that it is a habit, not a character disorder. It may be deeply ingrained but it can be unlearned with the right tools and the right kind of support. If you suspect that you or someone you care about may be codependent, call me today. The journey away from this self-destructive - but reversible - habit is always worth it!

How To Feel Comfortable About Yourself

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If you are comfortable with your own self, you will also find yourself being much more comfortable with your family, friends and coworkers. Mark Twain once said, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself”.

Here are four ways of becoming more comfortable with yourself:

1) Take care of your body. Eat, sleep and exercise in a conscious and consistent way. You will see a big difference in two weeks.

2) Remember times in the past when you have been content and things have gone well. Everyone has a share of sorrow in their lives, but no one has to stay there. If past negativity refuses to leave your thoughts, it is time to talk to someone safe about your thoughts or see a therapist.

3) Set goals and fulfill them. Taking care of business will help you to feel good! Even if it is just making a list of minor things that need to be done, crossing them off your list will give moments to experience your own competency.

4) By all means, go inward. Take time to contemplate, journal, take a walk, or otherwise focus you on you instead of others. This is the fastest and easiest way to become more comfortable with yourself.

Whatever you do, remember to focus on the present moment. In this way you will not regret the past or have anxiety about the present. Give yourself permission to focus entirely on what is right in front of you today and you will feel better now.

When Working Too Hard Feels Normal

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Careers can fill dimensions in one's life that they were never intended to fill. When this happens, other parts of one's life begin to suffer. If this continues, burnout will ensue because work will be done with less and less heart, spirit, time, clarity and sense of self worth.

Anxiety and avoidance and even depression are common signs that one is putting too much emphasis on work. Someone struggling with overworking may try to find relief through diversions such as going on an overdue vacation, buying things or even drinking too much. Diversions may seem to help, but when the novelty wears off, work is waiting and so is that exhausted and “hollowed out” feeling at the end of the day.

By utilizing professional support, one can begin to see the roots of the problem. For instance, was anxiety or high achievement prominent in one's family growing up? Is one's home life unhappy or even non-existent? Does one's depression have a biochemical component? Or is the job basically so demanding that any reasonable person would have to work too hard?

Getting support for working too hard outside of one's work environment is a good idea. Many employers tend to reward overworking - that is until the person becomes so negative and exhausted that they become a liability.

Other tools for coping with overworking may include reading books such as “Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy” by David Burns, or “Dare, the New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks” by Barry McDonagh.

Feel free to call me if you would like to discuss how your job might be getting the better of you.

The Liberation of Letting Go of a Secret

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Letting go of a secret can take the weight of the world off one’s shoulders. Bu holding an unfortunate secret out of fear, shame or social embarrassment is corrosive to one's mind, body and psyche. Secrets can literally make you sick! They affect how one sees the world, others and oneself.

Finding a way to talk about secrets can be liberating.  Finding acceptance for your truth can be curative.

Are you holding a secret?  Find someone safe to share it with.  A trusted friend, therapist, clergy person or other safe person can help rid you of your secret's power to victimize you.  Do it today!

Inner Worth

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It can be easy to lose touch with one's inner worth. Indeed, some people live their entire lives never experiencing what they are worth, and believing they are less than they are.

When a person becomes lost in the people, places and things around them, it drains one's capacity to find inner worth. No amount of outer worthiness – not social capital, a respected career or all the money in the world – can create inner worthiness or its corollary self-esteem. That is because self-esteem flows from a sense of inner worth, not the other way around.

A sense of self is developed through learning to use tools designed to cultivate it. A few of these are:

1) Down time, meditation, getting away, contemplation and spiritual practice.

2) Therapy, keeping a journal and deep conversations with oneself. Listening to oneself.

3) Respecting one's body - for instance, being moderate with alcohol or drugs or stopping them altogether, eating right, sleeping right and exercising.

If you are afraid of finding out who you really are, that is understandable. But few spectacular opportunities ever comes to a person who doesn’t get to know themselves. Find the support you need to begin to get a sense of the most important parts of yourself – the inner worth you were born with.