I’m trying yet another kind of therapy to help with trauma from the past that is still affecting my present, in the form of anxiety. It’s called ART, or Accelerated Resolution Therapy. It is similar to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in that it uses eye movement and visualization, but the results are much quicker.
I liked it because, while my therapist guided me, I was really the one in control. I didn’t even have to tell her anything I was seeing or feeling unless I wanted to. And yet, the session continued. I was pretty drained and very tired, after, but I also felt lighter, like this weight of burden had been lifted off of me.
There is this tiny of seed of doubt at whether one session could really have worked, but I also have faith because I’ve experienced the true effect of EMDR. My ART session focused on something that doesn’t necessarily affect my everyday life, but rather certain circumstances that sometimes arise, so I can’t say for sure, yet, how much it helped, but I have noticed that when I think of those memories associated with the trauma I no longer feel any sort of anger, frustration, fear, sadness, depression, etc. That, also, is incredibly freeing! And it adds to my faith that ART really does work.
I truly am amazed at how far we’ve come in regards to help for mental illness. When I was first diagnosed with depression as a teenager, over twenty years ago, it seemed like the only thing you could do was take medication or use talk-therapy. Both of those things can work, but there are so many more options now, as well, which makes me incredibly grateful. As always, it’s about remembering that what works for me may not work for you. It’s about finding what does work for you and sticking with it. We deserve help. We deserve healthier lives. Because we are all worth it!
I know I’ve written about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) a lot lately, but I continue to be impressed with it and the results I have seen from it, both on a small and large scale.
A couple of months ago I decided to see if EMDR would work on the waterslide I force myself to go on every summer. It sounds silly, but I thought, “Why not?” There is a waterslide at a waterpark I go on several times every summer as my own form of exposure therapy. A part of the slide is a pitch-black tunnel. Even though I’ve been on it dozens of times it still freaks me out. But I’d go on it anyway to help remind myself to face my fears and that I can do hard things. Well, a couple of months ago I used an EMDR technique I’d learned when I got to the tunnel and I had no fear whatsoever. None! For the first time ever! I went through that tunnel on the waterslide and never felt even a second of fear, panic or anxiety. A couple of weeks ago I went on the same waterslide to test it again and yet again, no fear, panic or anxiety. Now I can simply enjoy the waterslide! And I guess I’ll have to find a new fear to face. (Insert smiling emoji here!)
On a more serious note, I started having a panic attack a week ago. It was the first time I’d had one in a long time. I felt somewhat disoriented because it had been so long, because I’ve been doing so well the past several months, but I remembered my EMDR and used it. My panic attack stopped faster, I think, than any other time I’ve had one. I was able to calm myself down and get in a better head space.
I continue to be grateful for EMDR and impressed with the results. And again, I highly recommend it to anyone who may need another tool to help with mental health struggles. What other tools have you found that have been helpful?
I made a big life change recently. I quit my job. Despite the fact that it had become a toxic environment and is a huge reason my mental health took such a huge hit this last year it was a hard decision to make because I was comfortable there. There have been several other times in my life where I remained in toxic or abusive relationships because, as horrible as it was, it was comfortable. I think many of us have done the same.
There is a fear of the unknown. Sometimes it is easier to stick with what we know even when it is unhealthy for us. It can be toxicity, emotional abuse, physical abuse, lying, manipulation in all kinds of relationships—work, family, friendship, romantic. We may stay because it’s all we know. We may stay because we feel like we deserve to be abused. We may stay because it’s scary to leave. But there is something better. We deserve better. And we can do hard, scary things.
In the end, I’m glad I left because it was the right thing to do. Even though there was a time I loved my job and there are people I am going to miss so much, I needed to do this. For my own mental health I needed it. It takes courage to step into the unknown, even when it is going away from something terrible. But I believe we all have courage within us. We can do it. We can take care of ourselves. And we can be happy.
I started going to therapy again. It has been many years since I’ve gone, but I really like my therapist and think she’ll be able to help me. It feels wonderful having this kind of hope again!
One of the first things she had me do was make a “Crisis Response Plan” card. It’s for times when things get really bad, when I might want to hurt myself or think of taking my own life. It has been awhile since I have thought of that, but I think it’s a good idea to have this just in case.
The purpose of the card is to help me identify warning signs that I’m getting to that bad, low place, what I can do to help myself out of it, who I can go to (who I really, deeply trust) if I need external help and professional help (hospitals, crisis lines and apps, etc.) if it comes to that point.
One reason why I love this idea and am grateful my therapist had me do it is because it’s hard to always remember those things in times of crisis. There are people who have told me I could reach out to them if I get to that point, but when I’m at that point I can barely, if at all, think straight. Remembering this one simple thing–go grab your card–is easier. I also told my husband about it so that if he sees those warning signs he can ask me if I’ve looked at my card.
Another reason I like the card and the idea is because some of the things I can do for myself in a time of crisis are the same as helping me out of a panic attack. I had one at work recently when my PTSD was triggered. Just sitting at my desk, telling myself to power through it wasn’t working. I thought of my card and something on it that I could do even here at work. I went into the bathroom, sat on the floor and played a game on my phone for awhile. Did that fix the trauma or PTSD I have as a result of it? No. That will take more time. But it did help me focus, which got my breathing under control and my heart-rate down enough that I could go back to my desk and keep working.
For anyone who may be at risk for a crisis or who just needs a reminder of warning signs and things they can do to help, I highly recommend having a Crisis Response Plan. It is helpful and hopeful.
Balance. I’m not sure I believe in it. People try to say you need to have balance in your life, but how are you supposed to balance your mental and physical health along with home life, work life, church life, being a wife and being a mother when you literally don’t have enough time?
I’ve been feeling my identity slipping away again. I don’t have time to be me anymore. I don’t have the confidence. It seems like in order to have “balance” you have to give something up. And then you’re not balanced anymore.
How does everyone do it? How do you do everything you have to do and still make sure your mental health is good? How do you maintain your sense of self, who you are, with everything else? I’ve been the victim of identity theft—real identity theft–my first time suffering through severe postpartum depression. I lost it again in a bad marriage. When I found myself after my divorce it was the most glorious thing in the world! I was so happy again. I had confidence again. And now I feel empty again. How is it done? How?
My coworker has this cute daily calendar. This is what was on it the other day:
When the rain is pounding us and the darkness, thick, envelops us it’s hard to always see the rainbow or the stars. But they are there. Sometimes it takes great effort. Sometimes it takes someone else reminding us. Sometimes it takes time—after the storm is gone and the light has come back—to realize we saw them.
I try to look for the lessons (the rainbow and stars) I can learn from the difficult times (the rain and darkness) I go through. Sometimes I can see tidbits as I’m going through it, but more often I don’t see it until after, when I have time to reflect. That’s okay. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel only rain and darkness. But it’s also important to remember the light is there. It won’t always be dark. It won’t always be stormy. We can have light and lessons and growth with time.
I was so happy to see this article, https://www.ksl.com/article/50088066/huntsman-mental-health-institute-at-university-of-utah-dedicated, and learn of this new Mental Health Institute that is opening near where I live. I have continued to feel like mental illness and mental health challenges are getting ignored, and even attacked, since Covid hit last year. The only things so many people seem to care about or show concern over are Covid and politics. I was even attacked and purposefully publicly humiliated by family members for an article I posted on this blog about how the shaming people have been doing has added to an increase in depression and suicide.
It is good to know that there are still people who are actively working to help those of us with mental illness, actively working to make people aware, despite those actively working to silence our voices and harm and condemn us. Keep trying. Keep doing your best. We can make a difference.
I found this quote by Albert Schweitzer. “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Kindness is inspirational.
It was very hard on my mental health seeing how much judging others were doing at the beginning of the pandemic. As someone who’s depression suffered from the isolation, as someone who couldn’t “just wear a mask” because of my extreme anxiety I felt the need let others know how difficult this time was for those of us with mental illness and that things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Their hate and anger did nothing to inspire me. But kindness did.
When I found out I would have to wear a mask when I went back to work at the end of summer, I panicked. The first time I even tried to put a mask on I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I’d have to find a new job—one I could work from home where I wouldn’t have to wear a mask. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. I opened up to my coworkers about my anxiety, and they were so loving, accepting, understanding and kind. They all started suggesting things I could try and ways they might be able to help. Their love, support and kindness is what really inspired me to find my own solution so I could keep my job. That’s what led me to the silicone mask inserts that I wear beneath my mask. It is the only reason I can wear a mask.
Similarly, my daughter also struggled to wear a mask because of her anxiety. We tried so many different kinds of masks. We tried the same inserts I found, but nothing worked. Then I saw a coworker with a mask I’d never seen before. I asked her where she got it, and she told me she’d made it. She told me about her claustrophobia, and how these were the only masks she could wear without panicking. I told her I’d been looking for something for my daughter, and she volunteered to make her some masks. Pure and simple kindness, but such an inspiration!
Kindness, understanding, love and open-mindedness inspire, help, build up and allow “hostility to evaporate”. I think the only way to do this is to allow ourselves to see beyond our own perspective. We don’t have to change our beliefs, but we do need to try to understand each other and understand that we are all different. We have different experiences that have shaped who we are. We are not a one size fits all world. No matter how much we might think we understand someone else, until we really are walking their shoes we don’t see the whole picture. That’s why kindness is so important.
Sometimes we learn from our own mistakes and experiences. Sometimes we learn from other’s mistakes and experiences. One thing I learned from someone else was how holding onto grudges and pain from the past destroys joy. I learned I don’t want to hold onto grudges.
There’s this woman I knew who could hold a grudge like nobody’s business. She was the queen of grudges! There were times she would talk to me about things people said to her in high school that really hurt her. She would talk about it as if it were yesterday and still held onto all that hurt, pain, resentment and anger 40 years later! I consistently saw her using up so much energy holding grudges and holding onto things that had happened long ago. I saw how it turned her into this bitter, unhappy person. I realized life is too short and precious to waste any of my time or energy on that. That doesn’t mean I never get hurt or upset, but I let things go and move on. This has helped me maintain a better state of mind and more happiness and peace in my life.
This goes hand in hand with forgiveness and what forgiveness is and is not. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. I once heard someone say that short of brain surgery there’s no way you can just forget a hurtful or horrible thing someone has done to you. What it does mean is that the original feeling associated with that person dissipates until we no longer feel it.
Forgiveness does NOT mean going back to or staying in an abusive or toxic relationship. The relationship I had with this woman was very toxic and unhealthy. Since getting out of that relationship I am a much happier, more independent and confident person. I think remembering what this person did to me is important in keeping me from going back and getting abused and misused again. However, when I think of this person I have no negative feelings. I never wish anything bad on her. I don’t feel sad, angry or hurt when I think of her, and I even pray for her and those around her. I have forgiven, moved on and also kept my mental and emotional well-being in tact.
Holding on to things can eat away at us and feeds into anxiety, depression and OCD. Talking things out or being able to step away from our own self-interests to look at things from someone else’s perspective are great ways to move on and rid ourselves of grudges. This also helps with forgiveness, which really can do wonders for our mental health.
Do you ever feel like giving up? Do you ever feel like it’s just not worth it because it’s not making a difference? That’s how I have been feeling about this blog and my desire to shed light and knowledge on mental illness. With the amount of guilting, shaming, judgement, ignorance, assumptions and condemnation going on lately I feel like mental health has not just been put on the back burner, it has been ignored, forgotten and screwed over all together. It’s like we’re still in the dark ages, where those of us with mental illness are still being cast aside and not given a thought at all. It’s like we don’t matter because all of the stigmas attached to mental illness must actually be true. It feels as though no progress has been made and no progress will be made. It’s not just that other things are more important, it’s that other things are the ONLY things important. Again, we don’t matter. Maybe it’s time to admit defeat, roll over and die.
Walking through that door makes the blue a little lighter. She holds space as I gently spill. We sit, we talk - we water, dig and bury. Nurturing a shoot. Aiding it in light - to find its path through thorns - Malan Wilkinson