trauma

A Celebration of Therapy, In List Form

No treatment method is for everyone, but I think talk therapy gets an especially bad rap, considering the profound upsides.

So today – a little celebration of therapy, in list form:

1. It turns out that there are a lot of treatments out there that work really well and really quickly. EMDR can take as little as one session and can considerably lessen the excruciating feelings left by a traumatic event. Treatment for anxiety and panic has come very far too. Therapists with the right certifications might be able to ease your pain a lot more quickly and easily than you think.

Young at Heart Portrait2. Therapy can reduce your blind spots. There’s nothing like talking to the same person every week about your wellbeing to make you realize things about your wellbeing. And if you’re not seeing clearly when it comes to how you feel (and so many of us aren’t), then you’re working with a huge handicap when it comes to feeling better.

3. Even if you have a fantastic support system, chances are you need more support. Depression attacks the very things we need to see ourselves through the recovery process – motivation, energy, hope. Sometimes I think of therapists as expert advocates – trained professionals who have been through it before, who know the ropes and can help us navigate this crushing disease.

4. Let’s face it, talking helps. Being listened to helps. Having someone who won’t recoil at your dark thoughts, who won’t shun you your jealousies or be scared by your fears – it’s priceless. It allows you some space to have perspective, to welcome in the META THOUGHTS and learn some ways to cope with all. those. overwhelming. feelings.

Here’s to your health.

 

Photo by Nevil Zaveri on Flickr

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Thoughts Are Not Convictions. Feelings Are Not Beliefs.

I have felt the need to answer for my thoughts. Big thoughts – about what others should do with their lives. Little thoughts – that the woman walking slowly in front of me is a moron. Thoughts that I don’t act on because I know they are unfounded.

Mean thoughts make me ashamed. Hopeful fantasies are embarrassing. So I try to unwind them, to sort them out and figure out their meaning. I have conversations, sometimes fights, in my head with the objects of my thoughts, defending them, apologizing for them, trying to explain myself.

It’s a lot of work and you know what? It sucks.

Thoughts are not convictions. I didn’t tell my friend what to do with his life because I know that if someone knows what’s best for him – it’s not me. I didn’t so much as scowl at the woman on the street. I just had a thought. If I’d let it, it would pass into the ether, surrounded by billions of thoughts, true and untrue. Valid and ridiculous. Lovely, silly, sad, and sane.

There are things you can do to improve your internal monologue, to make your mind more peaceful or kind. But you will never control every thought. And you do not have to answer for things you cannot control.

Your thoughts and feelings are valid. Note them. Try not to push them down or drink them away. They also pass. They’re not laws of physics. They’re not character traits or even stances. They’re just thoughts and feelings.

Choose the ones you like. Choose the ones you like and pursue them. Hang on to them and learn about them. Do things to help them happen again.

The rest? Take note, then listen to the “singsong wisdom in the sound of letting go.”*

 

Let Go

 

Quoted from the poem Wish by J.M. Morea in her book where the ending begins

Photo by David Goehring on Flickr

Can I Just Say #6 – A Note on Psychiatry

Operating SystemI am grateful for the work that medical science has done on depression. I am grateful (really!) for the medicine, which I’m taking and which is helping. But can I just say that I would appreciate some humility from the psychiatry crew?*

Your science is very young. You have no idea of the actual mechanism of most of your tools, and most of your interventions work only in the short and medium term. You don’t know my body better than me. You don’t know my mind better than me, and you don’t know which meds will work.

You ask me to track my symptoms and then ignore me when I say that it’s driving me crazy. (Are these thoughts worse than yesterday? These feelings? Oh. That was a bad one. Is this anger or anxiety…).

What’s the point of a bunch of painfully collected data if you can’t even begin to infer causality? Am I more anxious than a week ago because of the meds or is it because I just started a job at a call center where customers tell me to go fuck myself? Please stop acting like we have a counterfactual, an alternate Mfupi who didn’t start that job. Another Mfupi with my biology and history who’s not on the meds you recently switched me to. Just stop.

Also, there aren’t that many drugs for depression. You should be familiar with them.

I appreciate your help. I believe you have my best interests at heart, just have some humility. Please recognize that “everyone is different” means that you don’t actually know how to help me.

So don’t act like my doubts = noncompliance. This isn’t a relationship in which one person should comply. This is a partnership. You bring your imperfect understanding of my condition. I’ll bring my imperfect interpretations of my thoughts and feelings. And we’ll figure it out together.

Thanks.

 

*I’m a huge fan of psychology, where PhDs and other experts provide talk therapy. This post is about the medical field of psychiatry, which, for depression, mostly concerns itself with managing medication regimens.

Photo by Mark Anderson on Flickr

Mind Monsters on Spring Break

Scary BirthdayThe best thing about anniversaries is that they pass.

It is totally common to have parts of the year that fuck you up. Birthdays, New Years, the anniversary of a death. It happens to depressed people. It happens to totally healthy people who’ve suffered a traumatic loss. It happens to a lot of us who would normally have a very clear mind about whether the anniversary of a person’s death makes them more dead.

It doesn’t.

The date is a trigger. Like funerals, like violence, like anything that takes you out of where you are and thuds you down in the middle of some shitty past event. Then the anniversary itself is kind of traumatic, and, for me anyway, the date amasses bad experiences and connotations until the month or two leading up to it are filled with an overwhelming sense of dread.

That kind of anniversary becomes a fucking beach party for all sorts of unresolved little mind monsters. It’s spring break and they’re out in force, shocking their parents and appalling their more responsible peers.

The mind monsters are myriad and you can’t tackle them all at once. It can be impossible to even approach them when they’re all riled up like that. Sometimes the anniversary is the worst time to address the underlying issue. (I’m not thinking clearly right now. I don’t have to solve this today.)

This year I’m working on letting the anniversary pass. Then, when the monsters are back home, in bed, surrounded by calmer thoughts, we’ll sit down, as gently as possible, and we’ll have a chat.

In the meantime, the anniversary will pass.

 

Photo from TheMetaPicture

The old “My mind is breaking” problem

I’ve struggled with depression for years, but there have only been a few times when I felt as though my mind was breaking in two.

These moments tend to happen during and immediately following serious trauma.

A friend recently told me a saying she used to repeat to herself during her very worst days:

“I’m not thinking clearly right now. I’m not going to fix this today. Maybe I’ll think more clearly tomorrow. I don’t have to fix this right now.”

I don’t know how I remembered, but I tried it during an acute episode recently and found that it removed a huge amount of anxiety. It lessened my perceived need to act, to fix. My panic receded.

And it’s true. You can’t think clearly when you’re panicking.

What works for some won’t work for others. What worked for you once might not work again, but I really love this saying. I feel like it acknowledges your struggle while letting you off the hook.

It helped me to stop thinking so much, which helped me to stop feeling so intensely.