The Persistence of Negative Thoughts

I don’t always like to start off my posts with ‘this week in therapy’ but….this week in therapy, I absent-mindedly brought up the fact that my negative thoughts have been more present lately. When I reflect on my negative thoughts, I don’t really view them as something to get rid of at this point. They’re here, they’re not going anywhere, and I need to figure out how to deal with them. However, it bothers me that my negative thoughts are very persistent. They can come and go whenever they want, and the hardest time to deal with them is when I forget they exist.

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The Tunnel Vision of My Mental Health

When I think about the way I manage mental health, I think a lot about tunnel vision. If you’re not as familiar with the concept, tunnel vision is often used as a metaphor when someone is focused exclusively on a singular goal or way of doing things. Even though it’s often used as a metaphor, the literal definition of tunnel vision is a loss of peripheral vision. There are pro’s and cons to having tunnel vision when it comes to our mental health – let’s break down some of the main ways they occur.

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The Difficulty of Putting Mental Wellness First

Mental wellness is one of my favorite things to talk and learn about. Because of that, I’ve learned a lot about the ways that people incorporate mental wellness into their day-to-day lives. From therapy and meditation to physical exercise and coping strategies, there are plenty of ways that we tangibly put our wellness first. However, focusing on mental wellness in our daily lives isn’t as easy at it sounds. Why? Simply put, life happens – and that’s okay.

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Talking About Mental Health on the (Inter)national Stage

TW: This post discusses suicide/suicidal thoughts.

Like millions people around the world, I watched Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah Interview this week. I thought it was very good for many reasons, but since this is a mental health blog I’ll stick to what we do and what inspired this post, which is how Meghan Markle spoke on her own mental health. The way she shared her story and how she connected the dots reminded me of the value of public figures to opening up about their mental health.

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What The Weather Does for My Mental Health

Out of the four seasons I experience where I live, it’s safe to say that winter is my least favorite of all. That’s not to say I dislike it – on the contrary, I enjoy most aspects of what winter brings. I have fond memories of holiday seasons, being a homebody during the cold nights and enjoying a little snow every now and then. But some of the things that make winter an enjoyable time are the same things that make it extremely difficult to manage my anxiety and depression. And while the other three seasons offer brief respites at the very least, winter often feels like a never-ending set of blistery days and frigid nights. It’s a challenge, but every winter I learn something new about how my mental illness functions – and today I’d like to share what I’ve learned this winter.

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The Work of Getting Back to Center

Since the past few weeks of my life had been a lot to deal with mentally, I’ve had to get in touch with my mental health strategies a little more than usual. A large part of this process is what I call “getting back to center,” which is a common term people use to remain calm, stay balanced and relieve stress or anxiety. Also know as grounding yourself or staying present, what it means to get back to center is different for people depending on their personality or specific mental health situation. For me, it is less about being present, and more about making sure I am somewhere near my level of calm. Let me explain.

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The Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Illness

I talk about mental health a lot, I write about it a lot and I read about it a lot. It’s a big part of my life (if you haven’t guessed that already). When you’re learning about a new aspect of yourself, you want to learn as much as possible about that aspect so you can understand how to deal with it. In doing all of that, early on I learned about a few common misconceptions about mental health, and anxiety and depression in particular.

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What To Remember When Choosing a Therapist – If You’ve Had One Before

Last week, I wrote about things you should think about when you’re choosing a therapist for the first time. This week, I thought I’d build on that by talking about choosing a therapist if you’ve been to one before. 

Odds are, your first therapist will not be your only one. Sure, you might strike gold with the first one – you might even find ‘the one.’ But often, life and circumstances change, and we’re forced to see multiple therapists during our mental health journeys. Here are some things to remember when you’re picking a therapist when you’ve had one before.

Know your diagnosis. One time I went to see a medical professional who diagnosed me, after one brief assessment, with borderline personality disorder. They did this after ten minutes of speaking with me, and they were aware I had first been diagnosed with a mental illness three years prior. Still, that one ‘diagnosis’ was hard for me to shake, and it took many visits to other mental health professionals – who all told me that was a rash diagnosis – before I could believe them. If you’ve been diagnosed with something from a professional you trust, bring that with you to your new therapist. It’s helpful for all involved.

Do some research. Sometimes when you’re first looking for a therapist, you don’t get to be picky. You pick the person who’s closest, or the first person you find that takes your insurance. If you’re able, really dig into these new potential therapists as much as you can. Psychology Today has a ‘Find a Therapist’ section on their website and I’ve spent a lot of time on there when looking for someone new. You can see people’s specialties, the issues they deal with and their client focus. It’s been a great help to me and I’d totally recommend it!

You know more than you think you do. I remember the first time I went to therapy. I didn’t know what to expect and to be honest, I didn’t get much out of my first session. But when I went to see a new therapist for the first time, I felt much more assured. I knew myself, and my mental health, much more than I had in the past. That knowledge has helped me going forward, and your knowledge will help you, too. That leads me to my third point…

Confidence helps. While I didn’t have confidence in myself, I did have confidence in my knowledge of my mental health. This is something I remembered when I was going to see a new therapist a few years ago. Since I knew more about my mental illnesses, I was able to take comfort in the fact that at least I knew what I was up against. Having that confidence – even in the fact that I didn’t have confidence – helped me as I got to know my new therapist.

Think about your goals. Why did you decide to see a new therapist? I had to see new therapists because I was in college, so I was constantly switching between therapists at school and therapists at home. It got hard to keep track of what I was trying to achieve in therapy and made me sometimes feel like the visits were pointless. Yes, it’s okay if you don’t know why you’re there – getting help is a good step to take. But if you have time, take a minute and see what you’re trying to achieve. It can help in the long run.

I know there are plenty of other tips but these are some of my favorites. Have any to add? Leave a comment below.

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Chinese Proverb.png

What To Remember When Choosing a Therapist

Picking a therapist isn’t easy. Whether it’s price, compatibility or nerves, sometimes it takes longer to find the right person to listen to our thoughts and feelings. It’s especially difficult if you’ve never been through therapy before. When I first started therapy there were plenty of things I didn’t think about that would have helped. Here are some important things to keep in mind if you’ve never been to therapy before.

Pick someone you like. This is an extremely important, and often underrated, point when selecting a therapist. Not only are you going to have to be with this person for a significant amount of time, but you’re going to have to share a lot of yourself with this person. If you don’t mesh with them at first that’s one thing, but don’t routinely go see someone who you actively dislike. It doesn’t do you – or that person – any good.

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable…at first. Look, therapy is weird. I won’t pretend it isn’t. The concept of paying someone to listen to you talk about your life is, as far as humans go, one of the weirdest things we do. But it can also be one of the most rewarding, worldview-changing things we can do. You might feel a little strange about it at first but trust me, that goes away. And if the worst thing about therapy is that you’re not willing to be as vulnerable as you could be, maybe you could bring that up…in therapy.

Insurance, Insurance, Insurance. Whether you like it or not, this can be (and often is) a dealbreaker when deciding what therapist to see. You should not only rely on my experience, but there are many therapists I’ve crossed off my list because they didn’t take my (or often any) insurance. Know what your insurance allows you to do and act accordingly. And yes, some might say that the perfect therapist is worth it and that you should pay out of pocket to see them. I don’t agree with that because I believe that these people are here to serve YOU – not the other way around. Therapists can be wonderful, but they are still people. And no one is perfect, no matter how much they cost.

It’s a process. I cannot repeat this one enough because of how true it rings. Therapy really is one of those things that takes – unfortunately – takes time. You won’t see some insane change in yourself after your first session, though I suppose that is possible. It’s more likely that you’ll see a change in yourself, or in your life, over time. As Sixers fans say, #TrustTheProcess and continue to put in the work. You can’t get better if you don’t put in the work!

Everyone is different. This is something that took me a bit longer to learn, but it’s vital to personal success in therapy. Just because someone is doing amazing after a few weeks or months in therapy, that doesn’t mean the same thing will happen to you – and vice versa! Just because you feel better after a short time in therapy, that doesn’t mean that someone else’s experience should be the same. Understand that your experience is unique to you – once you do you’ll begin to approach this time in a much better way.

There are tons of other tips I have for people who are just starting therapy, but in my opinion, those are some of the most important ones. Have any tips for someone starting therapy? Let me know in the comments!

What lies behinds us, and what lies before us are by tiny matters compared to what lies within us

Happy or Healthy?

Happiness is an interesting word to me. Some days it’s all I’m looking for; other days I don’t even worry about it. I have a complicated relationship with happiness and ‘being happy’, and for a good reason. I feel like it can be a buzzword in the mental health community that is overused and misunderstood. So instead, I’m more concerned with being healthy rather than being happy.

I know I’ve done this before, but I feel like Google search results speak a lot so here is some more fun info again. When you Google ‘how to be happy’ you get more than 4 billion results. When you search ‘how to be healthy’? One billion. Sounds like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of what ‘how to be happy’ has. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because people have a tendency to place a priority of being happy over being healthy. And yes, I’m one of them. But hopefully not for long.

When you think about being healthy, what’s the first thing you think of? Probably your physical health. I don’t blame you. Physical health is supremely important and your wellbeing depends on it. But it’s not the only type of health you should take care of – not by a long shot. Dr. Bill Wettler came up with the Seven Dimensions of Wellness in 1976 and they include:

  • Social Wellness
  • Emotional Wellness
  • Spiritual Wellness
  • Environmental Wellness
  • Occupational Wellness
  • Intellectual Wellness
  • Physical Wellness

Yes I know, I’m going to want to push mental health, which in this case is encapsulated in Emotional and Social Wellness. But each type of wellness is important in leading a productive life – and can certainly lead to a happy life. Instead of worrying about if we’re happy, why don’t we worry about being healthy? And I’m not just talking about exercising a few times a week or meditating more. We need to attack each part of our health as if it’s important as going for a run – because oftentimes it is. My friend Pat wrote a great guest post a few months back about flexing your ‘mental muscle’ and it is indeed a muscle. A muscle that we must work at and strengthen, same as any physical muscle we have.

So yes, I would advocate for practicing being healthy over being happy. Because more often than not, if you are living in a healthy manner, in every facet of the word, happiness is sure to follow. And if it isn’t, that’s okay. I haven’t stopped trying, and I hope you won’t either.