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Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category

Guest post by Suzanne Marie

There are many reasons keeping a journal can be beneficial to those dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar, and eating disorders. The world can be scary for individuals with thoughts and emotions they don’t fully understand. Living in an unrelenting world is hard enough, then add in raw feelings you don’t know what to do with and it makes it even harder.

Most people with mental illness feel “stuck”. They may not like themselves or understand who they are. Their thoughts may race or they may feel void of emotions altogether. It isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere. Finding ways and means to express yourself is key.

This is where writing in a journal can be cathartic. Even if you’ve never done it, it’s okay, it’s not as hard as you think! There are many ways to journal; one may work better than Journal 4the other. First, get yourself a really cool notebook or journal. Then, find your favorite pen and find a quiet place to sit alone. No phone, no computer…

The hardest part of journaling for most people is knowing where to start so I will give you some ideas to help. However, feel free to come up with your own ideas. Remember, no one will see this but you. Be honest and just let the pen flow.

  1. Gratitude List: Write down everything you are thankful for or grateful to have.
  2. Positive Trait List: Write down a list of positive traits you have. Include the things you like about yourself and what you have to offer another person. Dig deep, there are plenty!
  3. A Letter to Yourself. Include the good and the bad. Let those bottled up emotions go, and just write! It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but you.
  4. Self-Care: Make a list of good things you can do for yourself to help you feel better. You may be doing some already!
  5. Let It Flow: This is where you just write. Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. Don’t go back and read. Write about your day, your life, your feelings, a particularly hard time you may be going through. Don’t censor. Just keep going!

Talking about yourself, writing about yourself, even thinking about yourself can be terrifying. Especially when you’ve tried so hard to hide it and pretend it wasn’t there. Writing your thoughts and feelings down can be the easiest way to bring them to light. It can be freeing and therapeutic at the same time.

Learn to journal every day. Even if it’s for five minutes, just do yourself a favor and start. It’s your time. Do it for you.

 

Suzanne
Suzanne Marie is a professional writer living in rural North Carolina. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and anxiety. She looks forward to writing posts for “This Side of the Creek” and expanding her knowledge of mental health.
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If there is one thing I never imagined I’d be able to do, it was travel to another country. Thoughts of having to get a passport, fly for hours, acclimate to another culture, figure out where to go and how to get there, among other things, created a heightened anxiety like none other. Yet, I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience something new and be able to tell my anxiety to screw off!

It was summer 2016 and I was working in a treatment center with some wonderful colleagues who were planning a trip to Europe to attend a Cincinnati Bengals game in the fall. 14980748_753502604464_8118517951997617941_nWhile heating up lunch in the small staff kitchen one afternoon, one of the RDs going on the trip asked me to go with them. “Uh, I mean yeah, totally I’ll go if they approve the time off for all of us.” Anxiety. Set. In.

I texted my boss and then spoke with her in person. I later learned that yes, it would be possible for me to go to Europe with three of my favorite people. I purchased the plane ticket and took a deep breath as I started the process of getting my passport. And just like everything else I’ve felt anxiety about, getting my passport was not as difficult as my mind made it out to be. A few simple steps and now I have the travel book I never thought I would.

The months before the trip seemed to drag on and I purchased more travel items than I actually needed. I had moved from anxious to excited…until the week of the trip! Anxiety settled back in and I packed, unpacked, packed again. I made lists, checked them off, made new lists. I lost sleep and lost my ability to concentrate. And then THE day arrived.

We spent a majority of our trip in London, with one day/night in Paris. Fortunately, one of my travel companions had previously lived in Europe so she knew how to navigate the tube system and was more organized than my anxiety would have allowed me to be. I considered her to be the leader of the trip and it helped me to be able to enjoy my experiences that much more. Our London hotel was next to the London Eye so obviously we had to take a ride up! We visited many additional sites including Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Harrod’s, and of course Wembley Stadium. In Paris, our main goals were to go up into the Eiffel Tower, eat crepes and get breakfast at a pastry shop. We did all of those things!IMG_0090

Fast forward two years and I’m so thankful for this trip and my ability to power through feelings of anxiety and do something I never thought I’d do. Unfortunately, anxiety’s best friend is avoidance and oftentimes we stop ourselves from doing anything that creates this emotion. By not doing, we relieve the anxiety and are back in a comfortable state. Whew!

Had I allowed my anxiety to keep from going to Europe, I would have missed out on one of the most memorable trips of my life thus far. I wouldn’t have grown closer to my colleagues, tested some of my personal limits, or had wonderful photos to look back on.

So, the next time your anxiety wells up, how will you respond?

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Loving someone who is battling an eating disorder (ED) can be quite challenging. You may not know what to say, how to act, or in what way your loved one needs your support. While working daily with individuals with EDs, I get asked a variety of questions from family members who are trying to better understand how they can participate in the treatment and recovery process. There isn’t always information readily available for families, more specifically for spouses, on what things are helpful and unhelpful. Inspired by one of my former patients, I created the following list as a general guide particularly for husbands/wives/partners whose significant other is struggling with an eating disorder and is currently undergoing some form of therapy or treatment. Some things on this list may not work for your relationship so I’d always recommend asking your spouse or partner how you can best support him/her and in what ways he/she is willing to let you participate in their treatment.

  1. First things first, know that at their core, EDs are not about weight. There are many causes for the development of an ED and there are many different reasons why these disorders continue to exist, sometimes for years, before an individual seeks help.
  1. Once your spouse/partner has informed you that he/she has an ED, take time to educate yourself about these disorders before drawing conclusions. This is critical as you begin to navigate the road ahead of you. The more you can learn, the better prepared you’ll be to participate in this journey and to offer support to the person who needs you most.
  1. Reduce or eliminate weight or specific appearance-driven comments. While you may be coming at the subject from a place of love, someone battling an ED can misinterpret such comments and the ED can then utilize this to further the disorder. It may be better to comment on other aspects of your spouse/partner that you like or love. Find non-appearance based topics to talk about and remind him/her of the reasons you fell in love.
  1. Be mindful of the challenges treatment and recovery brings. As if battling the disorder itself wasn’t hard enough, going through this process is daunting, confusing, and anxiety-provoking, among other things. If your spouse/partner is extra irritable in the beginning of treatment, know this may be a result of drudging up many emotional issues that have been buried for years. It may also be a result of stopping the ED behaviors. When the behaviors are ceasing, individuals often don’t know what else to do. They can become easily activated until they learn new skills and new ways of coping with themselves, their lives, and the world.
  1. Respect their personal boundaries. Because those with EDs are dealing with many body image challenges, whether related to past trauma, bullying or another reason, intimacy can be very overwhelming. In addition, individuals can experience several body changes as they are learning to nourish themselves in a new and healthier way. Give your spouse or partner time and space to develop a new relationship with themselves and their bodies without pushing them into intimate situations that may activate a deep emotional wound or trigger an ineffective response. This is an area your spouse/partner will likely be addressing more actively in their therapy sessions and is one way he/she may be able to use their new skills to share with you what they are or are not comfortable with.
  1. Treatment is hard and is necessary. Individuals are encouraged to put as much time and energy as they can on their treatment process. Because of the medical complications that can arise when an ED is present, we as clinicians will often recommend that patients prioritize getting better and work on healing the physical aspects of their EDs in order to do deeper emotional work. As patients progress, they can integrate into their lives more fully and more healthfully. This is particularly important when your spouse or partner is in an intensive treatment program such as residential or partial hospitalization.
  1. Get rid of the scale! Having a scale in your bathroom and readily available can reinforce the urge to step on. We encourage patients to permit their treatment teams to track their weight and to bring their scales to session, destroy it or have someone they trust hide it. If you do hide the scale, it may be tempting to share where it is when your spouse/partner asks. The goal isn’t to exert power, but to assist in limiting the access to a key aspect of the ED, so it is best to refrain from sharing where the scale has been hidden. If you feel you must have a scale for your own purposes, then hiding it may be the best option. Otherwise, I would recommend removing it from the house altogether.
  1. Your spouse/partner wants you to understand. One of the most common things I hear from my patients is that family members “don’t get it.” Some feel like they are being yelled at or told what to do versus being supported. Others feel like they’re not being heard or like their spouse/partner is not making any effort to understand their struggle. The bottom line is that you may not be able to fully understand because you’re not the one with the ED. However, you can educate yourself and follow some of the other suggestions here to at least build awareness.
  1. Recovery is possible and it can take a long time. You may assume that because your loved one has been in treatment or therapy for a few months that they “should be” cured. The reality is that full recovery from an ED can take years. There is no “cure” for an ED. Instead, there are various treatment interventions utilized to assist patients in learning new skills to manage their emotions, experiences, reactions, relationships, etc. without turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Implementing these new skills then requires practice.
  1. By being open to providing support, you’re playing a large role in the journey toward freedom from an ED. I’d encourage you to open the lines of communication with your spouse/partner. Ask how they are doing, what challenges they’re having, and most importantly how you can best provide support. Fighting back against an ED on their own makes things much more difficult. If you’re being asked to stay out of the treatment process, I’d recommend asking your spouse or partner in what ways they are willing to let you in. As he/she progresses, you may be invited in more openly.

While the above is not an exhaustive list, these may good starting points. By letting you into the ED world, you’ve been given an immense amount of trust from someone who may have much difficulty trusting people – guard this with all of your might and simply do the best you can. There is no perfection in the journey to recovery.

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