Frustration

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

A lot of feelings will draw your attention elsewhere where your attention doesn’t do you any good. The feeling of frustration is this way. When you’re feeling frustrated, your attention is on the object of your frustration when it should be on yourself.

You’re trying to be on time for an appointment and two elderly drivers are traveling ten miles below the speed limit, side-by-side on the highway. If you’re feeling frustrated, your attention is on those two drivers because they’re in the way. It appears that you will feel better or worse depending on whether they let you by. Your feelings are in their hands. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take control if you pay attention to what you’re doing instead of paying attention to them.

Let’s be clear about what frustration is. The feeling of frustration is what you get when you expect or try to do the impossible. Continue reading

The Ambiguous Picture

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Continuing my series of the objects I keep in my office, today let’s look at a picture I keep in a frame on the bookcase facing the couch. It’s a well-known image.

Ambiguous picture

If you look at it one way, you see a young woman with a big hat, turned away from the viewer. If you look at it another, there’s an old woman in profile. It’s impossible to see both at the same time. If you’re seeing the young woman and want to see the old, you have to locate a prominent feature and redefine it. Find the young woman’s necklace and think of it as a mouth. The rest of the image of the old woman will fall into place. Then, once you see the old woman and want to see the young, go back to that feature and call it a necklace. The young woman will return.

The reason I have this image in my office is because it illustrates a problem many people have when they come to therapy. Their thinking is stuck. Often, it’s negative thinking they’re stuck in. Things are actually better than they think they are. They’ll admit they don’t really have anything to complain about, but they complain, anyway; they are unable to do anything but complain. They are like the viewer stuck on seeing only the old woman (or, if that sounds too ageist for you, the young woman). How can they switch? Continue reading

Shame

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

We have no emotion that’s not useful in some way. Everything is there for a purpose, even an emotion that undermines its purpose.

I’m talking about shame. Its purpose seems to be to help us fit in with others. Shame, and its milder version, embarrassment, comes up when you violate a social norm which might get you expelled from the group or, at least lower your status. Continue reading

Mental Illness Happy Hour

shrinbks-links-photo1If you have ever thought you were the only person who thinks the thoughts that you do, in the way you do, I would recommend that you listen to the Mental Illness Happy Hour. There, you will hear yourself think.

The weekly, hour-long audio podcast of interviews with artists, friends and the occasional doctor is hosted by Comedian Paul Gilmartin.

Paul hopes that you hope, that the show and its website give you a place to connect and smile. So look at the website, listen to the show, fill out and read the anonymous surveys, and watch for hope returning on the horizon.

Click here to start.

What’s the Best Form of Therapy?

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The easiest method of doing something is not always the most effective; but it is the easiest, so that’s saying something for it. Easy is more effective than the most effective if the most effective is impossible for you to do.

When it comes to treatment for mental illness, if I were to rank the forms of therapy in order of effectiveness, meaning how thoroughly and reliably they can solve your problems, I would put it like this:

  1. Group psychotherapy
  2. Individual psychotherapy
  3. Medication
  4. Reading self-help books

But, if I were to rank them the easiest to hardest, it would go like this:

  1. Reading self-help books
  2. Medication
  3. Individual psychotherapy
  4. Group psychotherapy

Continue reading

Project I am Not Ashamed

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If you have a mental illness, you know stigma. There’s stigma in the shame you feel if you say you have a mental illness. There’s stigma in the way people react if you say you have a mental illness. There’s stigma in the way mental health coverage is still something that needs to be fought for. There’s stigma in the way people blame you for your illness as no one would ever blame you for any other illness. When people with mental illness are blamed for every bad thing we can’t do anything about, you know there’s stigma.

We know a lot now about how to overcome stigma. We can see the way people who are gay, for instance, once stigmatized, are now more accepted. When I was a kid I thought homosexual people were strange and unnatural. I didn’t think I knew any. As I got older, and Gay people came out of the closet, I recognized homosexuality was really quite common. I knew dozens and, in knowing this about them, I discovered they weren’t strange or unnatural at all.

The same thing could happen with mental illness if mental illness came out of the closet, if the people who were mentally ill could be brave enough to say, this is a part of me. Then we could see how common mental illness is. We would see that people with mental illness are not raving lunatics, or scary gun-toting maniacs, but ordinary people with struggles. What person doesn’t have struggles? This is just a particular kind.

It is not my job to out anyone, nor is it to reassure you if you are afraid to out yourself. It’s a brave, brave thing to come out of the closet. It some circumstances, it may be dangerous and foolhardy. It may actually be crazy to say you’re crazy. But, for some people, it may be the right thing to do and the only way they can overcome their own shame and self-loathing.

That, apparently, is the case for Ross, a 38-year-old mental health advocate with Borderline Personality Disorder. Ross has come out of the closet to some extent (we, on the web, don’t know his last name). He has a plan to end stigma. Here’s his plan:

On Saturday, August 18th, 2018, we will go to the streets of our own community for 4 hours with a sign that simply reads “I have (your mental illness) and I am not ashamed. Break the Stigma #ProjectIAmNotAshamed.”

This is unquestionably the right thing to do for our society, but you’ll have to answer for yourself whether it’s the right thing to do for you. If you would lose your job, custody of your kids, or suffer any of a hundred other consequences of coming out of the closet, then please don’t do it. Other’s can blaze this trail. But, if the only thing that stopping you is fear or shame, then consider setting that fear and shame aside for a few hours on August 18th. It’ll be good for you.

If you don’t have a mental health diagnosis, but care about those who do, you can help, too. In the same way that family and friends helped to fight the stigma of homosexuality  by admitting they were connected, you too can come out of the closet. Just don’t violate the privacy of the person you’re trying to support.

As Ross says:

This event is not limited to those with mental illness. If you are not afflicted, your sign can read “I am a supporter of those with mental illness and I am not ashamed.”

For more information, go to Project I am Not Ashamed