Why seeking help is not crazy?

By help here I am referring to any form of treatment for your mental, emotional and relational health. This could be called psychotherapy, counseling, couples therapy, family therapy,  mental health counseling etc. (I do agree that lot of these titles do a good job of scaring people awayJ )

Do you think you are crazy to seek a doctor’s advice when you have been suffering from chronic back pain? I hope not. Of course, we all have among us our friends and family who love to self-medicate & or live in pain. Perhaps there are temporary cures that do work and hey, I am a big believer of natural therapies too. However there is a point when you and everyone around you knows that you are only being in denial or being too willful. It is at this point when you have been living in excruciating pain everyday that you do consider visiting a doctor and seek help.

Applying the analogy of physical debilitating pain to emotional dis-order , the first issue that arises is acknowledging it. We all know when we are not functioning according to our ‘normal’. Every person has a different point where he/she knows that they are doing well. Similarly there are times when we are:

1) Feeling stuck

2) Feeling overwhelmed

3) Overcome by fears / worry

4) Feeling unheard/unsupported

5) Feeling hopeless

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Golden Gate, San Francisco

 

The challenge here lies in not only being able to acknowledge it but assuming responsibility for your health/wellness and approaching a mental health professional. Our friends and family can help us a lot and they also come loaded with expectations. In all fairness, they cannot be expected to hear you out non-judgmentally and support you. Do not listen to people who ask you to ‘get over it’, ‘move on’ or ‘be more strong willed’. What intrigues me here is that we do not have such expectations of ourselves or of other people when someone needs treatment for a fracture, cancer or a condition like diabetes. Yes one can choose to ignore these too and you know how it ends!

The next time you know of someone who looks dis-ease d (not at ease/harmony), keep it simple and encourage him/her to seek help. Perhaps your loved one could use a non-judgmental listening ear who can provide support through their period of transition.

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Five stages of Grief

This video covers a portion of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s work on grief, death and dying. The video talks about an individual’s response to death & dying.

Five stages of grief include:
1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

I draw from her work to support my clients through the process of grieving surrounding various life transitions.

What we hide does find a way out!

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My desk mirror

Don’t ask me why but today while reading the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) I came across a whole spectrum of disorders that originate from not wanting to acknowledge the negative that exists in and around us. This could be negative emotions i.e. fear, jealousy, anger, insecurity, feeling blue etc. or undesired life circumstances i.e. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical illnesses etc. When we look around we are taught to always keep smiling, push things under the carpet, ‘sleep it over’ or ‘drink it over’. The sad part of it is that sometimes the people we love cannot see us in pain longer than what they would expect. This subtle expectation stems from a place of love but leads to us choosing unhealthy coping so as to pose perfectly in front of our loved ones.

Using computer parlance, all of this data does not get deleted on its own or leave the system. It exists in there, somewhere. If we continuously keep storing files in the system and never delete cookies or unwanted files, what does it do to our system? Well, we know it, it slows down. Being a human being and not a machine adds several other complexities and in addition to slowing down, we tend to find ‘releases’ or compensate our pain with temporary pleasures like drugs, meaningless sex and series of addictions.

Our culture today does not teach us ‘Emotions 101’ and we find ourselves battling with them day in and out. Emotions have been portrayed as something that needs to be controlled just as man has attempted to conquer Mother Nature. It is not a war unless we make it one. Akin to our physical ailments where we know the ‘symptoms’ and treat them, emotional symptoms are ignored or the person with the symptoms is looked down upon as ‘the problem’. This is where the individual goes to a doctor and gets prescribed some pills to alleviate the symptoms. The negative emotions continue to stay inside and we just don’t realize they exist, similar to pain killers where pain is numbed not cured.

Emotions need to flow just as water flows. When we try to block the flow of water, it only forces itself out through some opening. How do we maintain this flow? Being open to experiencing emotions, acknowledging them and not to judging will help. Expecting not to feel a certain way is counterproductive. Journaling on a regular basis will help increase awareness. Once we have an increased awareness, the shadows of blocked waves from the past cannot take us by surprise. Seeking professional help to manage emotions also works. I personally love using Dialectical Behavior therapy which draws from Buddhist philosophy of acknowledgment and acceptance.

On a side note, more often than not, our emotional symptoms point to greater unresolved issues i.e. unhealthy interactions in family, societal disparities, cultural incongruities etc. Our individual systems are constantly interacting with the environmental influences..let me save that for another blogJ

Let it flow!