I Feel All Alone

Sometimes, we find ourselves in a place where we feel we cannot go on. The people in our lives do not seem to be enough or we aren’t enough? What are we to do in this #dark place ? Writing or expressing our emotions artistically can help both with getting them out and also with reaching a place of new understanding and awareness. Using poetry, art and music provides a healthy expression of the wide range of feelings (all of which are normal and useful). Artistic avenues also provide some relief and the opportunity to share our grief and struggles with others who may be suffering.

One teen did just that! She sent her poem in to share… with the hope it may help others not feel so alone

#Heavy

heavy eyes
heavy shoulders
heavy weights upon my shoulders
i realize this is not normal.
but what really is normal?
not me, i see, everything around me
smiling happy,
joyful, pleasant.
and happy.
this word.
what is it?
it’s blurred within the space it’s supposed to fit.
what am i doing?
i’m trying, i’m trying
but all i’m doing is colliding
with the thoughts inside my head
they crowd me,
they surround me and i can’t get away
they love me, they hug me and they kiss me & they tell me that everything will never be okay.

i’m running as fast as i can but the truth is i’m not getting anywhere
and i’m jam packed between the voices of society and screams inside my head.
they tear me apart
and i’m aware of every single look and every stare
it makes me crave to know if every little string of hair is in place.
and i know i’m out of place
i’m displaced
i’m misplaced
and i’ll be replaced
but i wont be retraced.

but i’ll put on that straight face
and walk through the crowd everyday.
listen to the voices of society saying everything will be okay.
this word
what is it
it’s blurred within the space it’s supposed to fit
what am i doing?
i’m trying i’m trying but all i’m doing is colliding
with the thoughts inside my head
they crowd me.
they surround me and i can’t get away.
they hug me they love me
they kiss me and they embrace me
and they tell me that everything will never be okay.

        -Teen Girl

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Coping After Breaking Up  –  What Can I Do?

One of the most difficult things to do when a relationship ends is to let go of the strong emotional ties that we may have for our ex-partners. It is hard not to think about what they are doing or thinking, how they are feeling, or whether they are okay or as miserable as we are. We have spent so much time making decisions that revolved around them adjusting that framework afterward takes time as well as intentional effort.

When is it time to stop investing our emotion into a dead relationship? Intentional effort is needed to identify when our thoughts hopelessly gravitate toward our ex-partners overshadowing the fact that most of the evidence points to ‘its over’. Easier said than done so how can we begin to heal and adjust?

Some strategies may include:

  • Allow yourself the right and time to grieve the loss as this is a normal process that is as essential to being human as breathing.
  • Creating and repeating uplifting / affirming statements about ourselves when we catch ourselves emotionally over-investing in.
  • Identify an emotional over-investment in our ‘dead’ relationship and do three push ups, sit ups, squats etc. (consider how fit we might become 🙂 .
  • Take three to five deep breaths (20 seconds each -> 5 inhale, 7 hold & 8 exhale) thinking of a positive during inhaling and a negative when exhaling (e.g. inhale calm… exhale upset)
  • Plan schedules heavily with activities to refrain from having “free-time” for a few weeks or even months
  • Increase self care activities (biking, bathing, reading, music etc.) catering to your personal likes and interests can be helpful distractions.

The biggest steps involve finding ways to intentionally redirect our emotional investments away from our ex-partners toward ourselves and others. Being loving to ourselves is so important even though this is difficult after a break-up. Positive  and caring thoughts and actions can prevent us from slipping into self-loathing, ‘stinkin thinkin’ and hyper-criticism which rapidly increases feelings of despair and hopelessness. Also, finding ways to do loving things for others (also called altruism), volunteering time to family, friends and even strangers is a great way to redirect emotional investment and soften the impact of grief and loss.

Making an investment in counseling is another form of self care. You can discover additional strategies for coping as well as new intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to help build healthy, exciting and enduring relationships. If you want to find out more contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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Much of the work I do as a counsellor is based on one of the core premises of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy [CBT], that how we “talk” to ourselves has a significant impact on how we feel and how we behave. My experience, and the experience of many of the people I work with, is that while this concept “makes sense”, it can be challenging to actually apply it in the moment. This is a reflection about how running has provided me with the perfect platform to develop my ability to engage in adaptive or positive self-talk. It has also provided me with a good metaphor for understanding some of the subtleties of engaging in more adaptive self-talk which I hope will help you the reader better understand these subtleties as well.

BUT I AM ACTUALLY TIRED ?

At several points during any run, I am aware that I feel “tired” and feel a little tug to just stop. Of course, this makes total sense, given that I am demanding more energy from my body than I do during my other day-to-day activities. I am also likely feeling the tug to stop because I am depleting more energy and doing so rapidly. So, the feeling or sensation of fatigue is real. If I focus on only the ‘Truth’ of the statement, “I feel tired”, I may conclude that “Yes I am tired and therefore I should stop”. However, if I take a “True, but…” approach, I may be able to make an adaptive choice that allows me to meet “higher goals” like being healthier, rather than making a reactive choice that feels better in the moment but one that limits my growth, potentially leading to feelings of regret or shame. A few examples of the type of ‘True, but….’ statements I usually make include:

“Yes, I’m tired, but I always manage to break through that wall.

Maybe I’ll adjust my pace myself a bit and focus on the music in my headphones instead of my energy level right now.

I’m out here now so I might as well stick with it”.

When I engage in this type of self-talk, I am not only much more likely to follow through on my higher goals and finish the run, but I also ‘feel’ better because I have shifted my mental focus. This use of “True, but…” statements is an example of the type of adaptive self-talk that running has allowed me to develop.

MORE THAN ‘TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN’

I think this small example addresses one of the common misconceptions about Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, which is that it simply requires us to “think positive!!!”, using self-talk equivalent to “turn that frown upside down”. However, the CBT approach to challenging and changing self-talk is much more subtle than this. Rather than requiring people to ignore the event in their life which is causing them discomfort, CBT challenges us to talk to ourselves about that event in a way that acknowledges that we are uncomfortable, but places that discomfort in a context which makes us less likely to emotionally respond to it in a reactive way. Coming back to the example of running, I can acknowledge that I am a little tired in my self-talk – and indeed it may be important to do so in order to make a subtle adjustment like slowing my pace slightly. Trying to “turn that frown upside down” by ignoring the fact that I am tired might prevent me from making an important adjustment. More importantly, in focusing on how I don’t want to feel (“I’m not tired…I’m not tired…I’m not tired”), I am ironically keeping my attention on my “tiredness”, rather than shifting my focus to something else – my music in this example. Thus, I try to engage in self-talk that briefly acknowledges my discomfort, but also reminds me of reasons and strategies for not reacting to that discomfort.





















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ADAPTIVE SELF-TALK

An example of how to apply this in day to day life may be helpful at this point. Since CBT is commonly used for addressing anxiety, depression or anger – I will choose an example which could potentially trigger feelings of anxiety, depression or anger in many people. Imagine you apply for a job within your place of work and you do not get that job. How you talk to yourself about his event will have a significant effect on how you feel and then behave. For instance, if you say to yourself the following statements;

“It figures – I’m not really that smart or talented. I didn’t get that job and I probably won’t get any job I apply for…..”, you are of course likely to feel depressed/sad – and possibly even anxious about your future. If you say to yourself, “I can’t believe they hired ____ instead of me! I totally deserved that job and it is so unfair that ______ got it!”,

These types of self-talk, from a cognitive-behavioural perspective, are ‘maladaptive’ because they fuel negative emotions and they really limit strategies for moving forward.

So, a self-talk along the lines of, “I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get the job. Whether I like it or not, I didn’t get it and I can’t change that, but I might be able to learn something from it I wonder if I can contact somebody to see if there’s anything I could have done differently to get the job? ”. This, ‘True, but…” approach acknowledges the discomfort of not getting the job, yet does not get “stuck” in the discomfort and instead moves on to strategies for moving forward. This thinking style can greatly improve employment opportunities.

To summarize, it is important to acknowledge that changing our self-talk is just one strategy among many which we can use to change how we feel and behave. Certainly, CBT is about more than self-talk and CBT is not the magic cure to all of our problems. Coming back to running, engaging in adaptive self-talk will not make up for lack of training, poor diet and health choices nor will it allow me to suddenly run a marathon tomorrow when I have never run further than 10 kilometers. However, learning how to engage in adaptive self-talk can be a very powerful tool to combine with other strategies in the worthwhile pursuit of feeling and behaving healthier.

To further explore CBT strategies for feeling and behaving better, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.


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TV – Mental Health Analogy

If I were to try to explain how I feel it would go something like this.

I am a TV. I have many channels. During a day my channels get changed. A few channels come in clear without a lot of “fuzzy”. Some channels I’m not sure have been seen.

I think that each channel has a job and an emotion. Some of the channels seem functional and rational and carry on in a somewhat normal way. Some channels don’t even seem to be in the right language for me to understand. Some are just crazy with distorted images and ideas. Some are really boring. (great for sleeping)

I am not always aware of what channel I am on. I think when an emotion happens to me, my TV flips around looking for the right channel to be on. If the right channel isn’t available fast enough it either just KEEPS FLIPPING or stops on the BAD channel.

Flipping constantly is one of the worst feelings. It causes headaches and exhaustion and panic. This feeling of “flipping” makes me look for a “quick fix” to make it stop. I’d definitely unplug myself if possible, or reboot or refresh. This channel isn’t even a channel…it just keeps going and going and makes me want to run and cry. It sometimes makes me speak out of turn or out loud and makes me hear way too much noise at once.

Landing on the BAD channel is my worst fear. It’s the channel NO ONE SUBSCRIBES TO. It’s run by the devil I’m sure. It’s all violent with twisted images and loud annoying noises. It has dinosaurs and creatures without faces. It has trees that whisper bad things and babies that cry out for help. It has shadows in the corners watching from unknown places. The good people are actually bad people who will get you. It’s an extremely scary channel and makes everything feel not real. It gives nightmares and night sweats and other bad things I can’t even mention because they are too bad. Suicide is always a good option that makes sense on this channel.

The religious channel is my favorite. It has great love (and music). This channel has hope and calmness and meaning to life. It has God in charge of all feelings and beliefs. Everything is beautiful and simple. Things move at the right speed. If I could just pick one channel this would be the one. I pray every night that I wake up on this channel. If I am on this channel I don’t want to do ANYTHING that will make the channel change. I find myself avoiding life sometimes in fear it will get changed. Sometimes I get really excited to die while on this channel or just become too overwhelmed with the beauty of the world.

The cartoon channel, a mostly good one, filled with Muppets and laughter and games. Everything is a cartoon and not real. Everything is funny and seems silly. People seem puppet-like and voices change. Everyone is an actor and backgrounds are just pretend. People can’t really die but they might explode once in a while. It can be a confusing channel but it’s one I actually like. Caution to myself not to hurt myself while on this channel. It’s easy to be impulsive on this one and make bad decisions. Laughing inappropriately makes a person look crazy so a lot of self-control is needed.

Some channels are set for days at a time. They are like “sub channels” These include:

  • Food channel – vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, meat-eater, eat by colors, eat by food groups, don’t eat, overeat, make yourself sick, nuts and seeds only, junk food only etc.
  • Sex channel – female attraction, male attraction. No attraction, attraction to objects, attraction to pain
  • Sexuality channel – male, female, both, neither, gay, bi, non-human
  • Relationship channel – not sure this one is included

Someday I’m going to find the remote.   When I do, I’ll get to pick any channel I want. I will also change my package to not include the bad channels. They are such a waste of time and energy.


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 Can You Relate?

As one person struggles with recovery from severe childhood abuse (multiple kinds), she writes here about her view of alcohol throughout her journey. In the absence of effective coping strategies or when the stress becomes overwhelming, we tend to turn toward less healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. These can unfortunately offer temporary relief which itself become desired, yet, over the long run, poorer coping choices contribute to worsening thoughts, feelings and of course behaviours.

Check out the following list of pros and cons for alcohol use and you can determine if any of these may apply in your way of thinking…

PROS

  • I feel like I am close to being human
  • I’m not scared of noises I can’t identify
  • I’m not paranoid of people
  • I laugh and I can feel happy
  • I can walk in public around other people and feel like I almost blend in
  • I can express my feelings better or at least some
  • I can’t feel my constant anxiety, worry and stress
  • Flashbacks don’t stress me out as much
  • I eat…because I need to….
  • I dance, sing, swim, listen to music, roller blade , bike ride, play with the kids, jog because it’s fun
  • It tastes so good and feels warm inside my body
  • I don’t focus on anything bad… I just enjoy floating around with no inside pain
  • It feels familiar and comforting
  • I don’t feel so alone and hopeless

CONS

  • That makes me an alcoholic = not a nice label
  •  My liver probably hates it
  •  My moods, emotions, memories, identity can change quickly
  •  I have less control over who is in charge… if any….
  •  Past experiences have led to many undesirable consequences, eg. abuse, jail, loss of a child, suicide  attempts, car accidents, homelessness, etc.
  •  Shows a bad example to my children so it must be hidden and it makes me a liar
  •  I can’t afford it
  •  Sometimes it makes me not human
  •  Sometimes it makes me forget my body belongs to me and I don’t care about it
  •  I can be too impulsive
  •  I can find myself places I don’t want to be
  •  I forget who I am or where I am and where I belong..

Using alcohol comes with risk. Why do I sometimes feel like it’s worth it? It’s not. I know that. It’s just so nice to have a break from my dysfunctional exhausting brain.

 

Meta-Communication and Assertive Communication Skills


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The following post is submitted by a young man in his mid-twenties. He describes meta-communication and assertive communication skills and how he has applied these to turn around his poor communication learned from very violent, abusive and negative childhood experiences.


Meta-communication is communicating about how we are communicating: how a message or information is delivered, and is meant to be interpreted. It is based on the idea that the same message accompanied by various verbal and non-verbal deliveries can make a message mean something totally different, including its opposite, as in irony. For example, two people may discuss certain body language such as rolling the eyes, frowning or a shrugging of the shoulders to determine what message is being conveyed.

Assertive Communication uses both verbal and non-verbal communication to respect the boundaries of yourself and others. It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. Examples of this include people who are able to maintain long-term comfortable relationships with other people and and are able to effectively express thoughts and feelings.

I was raised in a family where violence was present unnecessarily. It seriously got in the way of me learning proper assertive communication skills.

It was difficult to grow up having a father figure because of how my father was to my family. I was never taught proper social skills or had any examples provided to me. Because of how my father was, I knew everything about him was negative and I did not want to be like him at all… one bit.

In a way, it is hard to describe but I became a better man because of how my father acted. I learned how to treat others with respect and how to properly communicate. It is good to know that I have seen what the negative outcome will be without proper communication skills and to learn from that bad example.

Recently, my mother and I have been beginning to communicate better. I am now expressing more of my true thoughts to her by opening up, by using a more friendly approach to topics that usually would cause stress between the both of us. We are both using more positive expression and more positive body language.

Less nagging has been occurring leading to more different approaches to conversations that we ever really had before.”

I hope you are as inspired as I am in this young man’s story of pain and recovery, of his striving to overcome horrible experiences and learn more caring, loving and effective communication. Just because we may have grown up in families where violence and abuse existed doesn’t mean we must repeat this behavior. We can, with reading and good guidance, confront our way of interacting with others, learn new ways of communicating and develop meaningful, satisfying, long-term, loving relationships with others.

 

Social Connections Reduce Stress


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Stress is an inevitable occurrence in our lives. Sometimes we can manage easily. We may remain focused with our daily tasks, take a couple extra work breaks, exercise, joke around or eat a few more snacks to help us through the day.

However stress can also be, at times, too overwhelming to push aside with our usual coping strategies. We may have so many stressors we may not see a way out or can’t find enough outlets so our stress levels can subside. We may feel like the walls of stress we are surrounded by are narrowing in on us.

Then we get a phone call from a friend who would love to spend some time together. We may, at first, want to respond; “No, now is not a good time.”, however, what better time than to escape this reality for an hour or two? So we agree to meet up with our friend, and after five minutes of small talk, we take in a breath of relief.

When we push aside relationships because we are “too stressed out,” we may feel more stress and even a little anxious. Thoughts of being unsupported can fuel feelings of loneliness and isolation leading to even less motivation to seek friendships.  Limited social support has been associated with depression and cognitive decline (Harvard Women’s Health Watch).

Social relationships:

  • Provide support, encouragement, empathy, and humour
  • Encourage our physical health. “Social connections help relieve harm to the heart’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system (Harvard Health Publications).
  • Help us feel a sense of belonging, that we can relate and share similar life stressors (work, school, family, spouses, and/or children).
  • Build opportunities to engage in the same activities of interests (sport, music, artistic, etc.)
  • Provide stress-relief, financial aid at times and helpful advice

Professional counselling can assist you to better manage stress and develop improved interpersonal skills.  We can also help strengthen existing social skills and strengths helping you overcome challenges with friends and build up satisfying social connections. Contact us today.


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