The Not-So-Silver Lining: When Positive Thinking Backfires

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I follow a few different science and psychology channels on YouTube and wanted to share a video from one of them that I just watched on why positive thinking isn’t the absolute “be all” that it’s claimed to be. I’ve attached the video below, as well as the link to an article I wrote in 2016.

My blog post on this topic: “Just Be Positive”

So I wasn’t that far off the mark it seems. 😉

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Getting There

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Yesterday was a better day.

This roller coaster I’ve been on seems to be slowing down. I’m not off the ride just yet, but the slower speed is a relief.

I’m proud of myself for one thing at least. Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is self-medicate with my benzo’s (more than what’s prescribed), I used the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Urge Surfing and Riding The Wave. Just allowing myself to fully experience the urges for self-harm, medication, and alcohol, and feel the emotions that I so desperately wanted to numb.

I managed to cope with those intense feelings and urges by doing some physical activity right in my room, such as push ups. Something I find really soothing is lying stomach down on my fitness/exercise ball and slowly rolling back and forth, stopping for about 30 seconds every now and then to just breathe and feel the pressure and support against my stomach and upper body. It may sound weird, but it helps. I had to use a lot of my coping skills and tools, and I realized again just how important it is to have those.

Another urge I’ve had is to quit therapy (next session and the first of this year is next week Wednesday). Not because of my therapist, but because I’ve been wondering whether therapy in general is still worth it for me. Feeling like I’m sick of doing the work and still having these bad mental health days, to this extent. But I managed to avoid sending those emails and messages.

My main goal during times like these is to get through these moments in less destructive ways as far as possible. And I think I’ve managed that quite well so far.

It’s Not All About Success Or Being The Best

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I just read an article on the Scientific American blog that spoke deeply to me and gave me a better perspective on something I struggle with.

It’s something I’ve spoken about on here before.

Here’s the thing. I’m constantly working on my businesses, trying to make them successful. Sometimes I get so frustrated because it seems no matter what I do, it’s just not working out. I’m limited by finances, so can’t spend much, if any money on paid advertising. As most people know, organic content, marketing and advertising often doesn’t work well enough. It can be a dead zone. The saying “you have to spend money to make money” is pretty accurate. But still, I continue to try new things. Learning new ways to market and reach people.

Life rarely gives us what we want, and sometimes what we want isn’t actually what will make the most impact or difference to our lives. I’m proud of myself for continuing to work hard. I’m always learning. And even if I never reach the particular goals I have right now, I feel I’m not wasting my time by working on these things. Someday, somewhere down the line, it might just come in handy.

On another note, like most of you, and as the title of my blog says, I’m on a journey of healing from trauma and mental illness. This is extremely hard work, and most of the time it seems as though I’m not moving forward fast enough, or even at all. When we’re really struggling it’s difficult to see the progress and the little ways we have moved forward. During these times it seems as though everyone else has it all together and we’re left behind. But the fact that I’m still breathing and writing this right now is an achievement. It’s a result of not only fighting to survive, but to thrive as well. Life is hard, it’s messy, and sometimes even downright shit. But if we put in the personal work, if we strive to be our best selves (not who others want or expect us to be), we can better deal with whatever comes our way, and experience all the blessings that life has to offer as well.

Success isn’t everything. Striving to be the best can be exhausting, and most of the time, not even possible. There will always be someone out there who’s better. At the end of the day, I believe it’s the journey that counts. The end point is just an illusion.

You can read the article I mentioned here:
Working Hard Even If You Might Lose

“Be Kind To Yourself”

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These were the words spoken to me by my therapist yesterday. I’m struggling, a lot, and needed that reminder. It’s times like this that I’m especially grateful for therapy and a great therapist.

My inner critic has been especially boisterous this past while, as have the critical voices from my childhood and beyond. Every attempt at positivity and self-compassion has been met with these negative voices shutting it down. Separating out the voices and recognizing which is my own inner critic, who is ultimately just trying to protect me, and which belong to those people in my life, who due to their own issues and projections have targeted me with their hurtful words, has been helpful.

“You’re useless, a waste of space, and will never amount to anything”, “you don’t deserve love, a hug, attention”. The voice of others. When these kinds of words come from people you love and are supposed to trust, who you are dependent on as a child, they build up and almost become like a part of you. It’s extremely difficult to challenge them.

“You can’t do this”, “it’s not good enough”, “you’re too much or not enough”. My own. To my inner critic I can say “thank you for trying to protect me, but it’s okay if I am unsuccessful at this. I’ll learn from it and do better next time”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s good enough”. This voice is trying to protect me from rejection, shame and pain. See the difference? For me at least, it’s easier to deal with my own inner critic.

When I got home from therapy I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But the critical voices were so loud (“you’re just lazy, you should be working”) and I was struggling to tap into my own self-compassion. I then remembered C’s words “be kind to yourself”. In that moment I decided to pretend that she’s talking to me instead, and to speak to myself the way she speaks to me, with kindness and compassion. And it worked. So I ended up taking a guilt-free 90 minute nap, one I desperately needed. By pretending that C that was talking to me, I slowly started to find my own self-compassionate voice again. So that’s another simple little tool for my coping toolkit.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the voices of negativity. Both those around us and those within us. So if you struggle with this, maybe this concept can help you as well. I hope you have someone whose kind and gentle voice can help guide you in finding your own voice of self-compassion.

Touch (And Hugs) In Therapy

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I find it fascinating that when I’m contemplating or experiencing something, that topic keeps showing up in various ways and settings. It’s like that popular example of wanting to buy a new car, and the model and colour you’re especially interested in, seems to show up everywhere.

This time the topic is that of touch and hugs in therapy. I’m subscribed to a few different YouTube channels, two of those of therapists, and found one of the videos particularly intriguing.

There are so many people, therapists included, that believe that touch either shouldn’t have a place in sessions, or that it might even be harmful to clients. I’ve also read a lot of research and opinion pieces on the role of touch in the mental health field. It’s a very grey area. Through this, and through my own feelings and experiences of the matter, I’ve firmly believed (and still do) that touch can be important in a therapeutic setting. And that’s why I found this particular video really great. I’ll link to it at the end of this post.

I can remember a very good example of the power of touch during one of my therapy sessions. I was in a very chaotic state, disoriented and dissociated at the same time. It was a culmination of certain things that happened that day, and something that happened while waiting for my session to start. When we got to my therapists office (she had to take my hand to lead me there, that’s how disorientated I was), she sat down right next to me on the couch and held both my hands in hers as I slowly started feeling better. By her doing what she did, I didn’t feel like I was free-falling and alone in a place I didn’t quite understand anymore. I can’t remember a lot of what was said, but I can clearly remember the warmth of her actions, and how powerful it was for me at the time. I believe it’s what helped stabilize and regulate me much quicker than if she had just sat across from me as usual.

Have you had any similar experiences in your own therapy? What are your thoughts on the role of touch in the mental health field?

You can watch the video here:

 

Struggling

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I’ve been struggling a lot these past few days.

My sympathetic nervous system and good old Amy(gdala) thinks I’m in constant danger. My emotions are all over the place. For a couple of hours yesterday I felt completely empty, then another torrent of emotions.

Reading my previous post back, I’m aware that my current emotions will pass, but then what? It comes back again at some point. Like the ocean and waves, it’s never ending. Like I told my therapist today, using coping tools and skills is hard and exhausting.

My sensory system is even more sensitive lately too. Everything feels brighter, faster, louder, leading to me losing my shit much much quicker. Anxiety is a bitch. And my trusty benzo’s? Well, no effect, they’ve been pretty useless. Although I wonder if they haven’t actually been working, and I would have been even worse without them?

Thank whoever for therapy today. It was intense, and most of it a blur, but C was once again very comforting and helpful. We didn’t do much “work”, as most of the session was focused on helping me get regulated and become present, but I was exhausted afterward. I still am.

At the end of the session I got nice firm hug from her. I needed that so much. Hugging a stuffed toy just isn’t the same as close contact with another human. Just as an aside, we don’t always hug after sessions. It’s only happened about three times because firstly, sometimes I’m too ashamed/scared to ask for one, while other times I just don’t feel the need. I wouldn’t like regular hugs, because then it just becomes like a routine and while I thrive on routine, this is something different.

I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning. Just the thought of another day gives me a sinking feeling. I could take the day off work, but even that feels depressing.

They say struggles make us stronger, but it feels like the opposite is true. I don’t feel stronger. I feel weaker instead.

No One To Take Care Of But Myself

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It’s been such a relaxing day, and I’m feeling pretty good.

On Thursday I felt stressed because it looked like it was going to be a busy weekend. I had plans to meet up with my business partner friend on Friday, go to the dog shelter on Saturday morning, meet up with a lady from group afterward (not the other lady that I’ve vowed never to meet up with again), and spend time with Jasmine on Sunday. But I made a decision on Saturday morning. Jasmine could wait a week, and I would rather go to the shelter on Monday after work when it’s quiet (most people volunteer over the weekend).

I’m so glad I made that decision, because when I do too much over a weekend, especially socializing, I’m left feeling exhausted and am overwhelmed at the thought of work on Monday. My week then starts with me already feeling irritable. So this was a form of self-care.

Yesterday was a good day as well. I met up with M from group, and had a nice time. She’s absolutely lovely. She’s 75 years old (but looks 10 years younger), and had a daughter who shared my name, who sadly passed away a year ago. Yet, M is such a ray of light. She’s calm and positive (not annoyingly so). We spent almost two hours together and I left feeling relaxed and content. She’s definitely someone I want to make time for and keep in my life.

I slept in this morning, which was glorious, and have been feeling peaceful and relaxed the whole day, doing little things I enjoy. I’m content being on my own, and love being in my room the whole day without having to go anywhere. I don’t really get bored. I realized on Friday that I don’t have anyone to take care of anymore. It was never really my responsibility to take care of anyone, but it was a drive I had. It still feels a little strange only having myself as a responsibility, but it’s starting to feel okay.

As I’ve discovered, managing my time, social interactions and activities is so important to my well-being, and I feel like I did a great job with that this weekend. I’m grateful that I get to learn and practice taking better care of myself now and getting my own needs met. I still believe in kindness toward others of course, and helping where I’m able to, but I’m done neglecting myself in order to do this. I matter too. We all do.

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