How To Give Dignity To Your Emotions!

How to Give Dignity to Your Emotions!

Today, I desire to be unencumbered by organizing my thoughts and structuring my paragraphs before my words settle upon this glowing screen. Sometimes writing requires capricious expression, and other times, it requires much mental effort. What I have to say doesn’t need much research. I just want to draw today. I completed a portrait of Sigmund Freud. It’s somewhat minimalistic, but to me, there is beauty in simplicity.

I also want to write today, simply to express myself- not to impress anybody, not to sell anything. And when I write today, I want to say what a special weekend! My daughter turned 14 yesterday. I am the parent of two teenaged creatures!

I’ve been pretty lucky in the parenting stage of life because my kids have remained, by and large, decent human beings, free of any major character flaws. But, I’m weary in this journey. My emotions are tossed about with conflicting feelings. On one hand, I fear the day when they are grown. Conversely, I also can’t wait for the days when they are grown.

Being a parent with mental health issues is a bit different from being a “regular” parent. No doubt, I experience the same dilemmas as other parents. But what makes my job more complex are the following factors:

When my kids have a problem, the first thing I attribute it to is myself. Did my anxiety cause them this problem? Did my depression bring them down? Did I spoil them when I felt guilty about “not measuring up” to societal standards?

One thing is for sure- I’ve been humbled by my illness, and also by the task of parenting. I am well aware of the way my mind working of my brain-

(my psychiatrist noted my thought process as “circumstantial”)-

Circumstantiality- (also circumstantial thinking, or circumstantial speech) – An inability to answer a question without giving excessive, unnecessary detail. This differs from tangential thinking, in that the person does eventually return to the original point

And as an individual with this type of thought pattern, I do tend to elaborate on insignificant details. My mind wanders in many directions, but it always returns to the original point. I’m a little disturbed that somebody that has spoken to me once can make so many assertions. I guess that’s what a college degree empowers an individual to do (not meant to sound snarky, just expressing an observation).

Today, I write because I feel the need to express myself- my hopes and dreams, and my joy and sadness. For without writing, or even drawing Sigmund Freud today, I’d be riddled with the impulse to start purging stuff in my house again. Anxiety, exhaustion, joy, sadness- it’s too many emotions permeating my mind at once.

I could spend the day trying to improve myself through studying or exercise. Or I can simply reflect on the gift of human emotions. I will honor my emotions by giving all of them the consideration they deserve and require. That’s much healthier than suppression or denial.

A woman covered in a blanket sits by the ocean in the morning.

How to Manage the Wave of Depression

A tidal wave- the perfect metaphor for depression. My life seemed like a simple and joyful day at the beach, with no worries. Suddenly, I’m overtaken by this wave of depression, sweeping over me, tossing my feelings around as I clutch to some vague sense of security. Security in what? I try to grab for what I know will calm me in such tempestuous times- spirituality. Yes, at least now when the tidal wave sweeps over me, I can grasp for spirituality.

ben-white-692414-unsplash

I turn my radio stations in between 3 different Christian channels. A renown pastor was preaching on Moody Broadcasting. Air1, the alternative Christian music network, resonated with me as a listener spoke about her personal struggles. On WFHM, I listened to MercyMe and cried as I finished my drive home from Walmart on my day off work. The boss finally gave me a day off after working so many weekends. It was supposed to be so joyful. I went shopping at 7:00 am, right after I dropped my kids off at school. The store was quiet and I was able to shop with relative ease and peace. I spent way more money than I had budgeted!

Signs of Depression

I should’ve seen my depression developing. I was irritable and short with my family last night. After being cooped up every day, listening to my kids chew LOUDLY- the cracking and popping sounds emanating from the bowels of their braces and jaws, I just howled, “Stop!”

For the past week, I’ve felt as though life could never be dismal. My thoughts and ideas swirled around my head- I have felt inspired. Now, I feel devoid of anything.

If only I had been attuned to my emotions better, I could’ve taken better care. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much money at Walmart today.

  • Feelings of hopelessness, as though, no matter what you do, nothing will change or improve.
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that once brought joy.
  • Weight/appetite changes. An increase or decrease of 5% of your body weight in a month is significant.
  • Sleeping too little or too much, or waking up too early, or oversleeping.
  • Irritable and Angry. Your fuse is much shorter, people tend to get on your nerves easily.
  • Self-hate- feeling guilty, worthless, overly-critical of self.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling sluggish, or slow. Tasks take longer to complete.
  • Recklessness- Engaging in risky or dangerous activities or behaviors or abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Unable to concentrate.
  • Frequent physical pains in the muscles, stomach, or headaches.

Risks For Depression

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, have fewer emotional, social and financial reserves. Many people who suffer from mental illness have fragmented social and family ties. As a result of their mental illness, they may be alienated from friends and family. Many of these people may come from an abusive family or have been affected by alcoholism. Certain factors increase your risk of depression.

  • No social support (family and friends, or other support systems)
  • Isolation, lack of mobility.
  • Unemployment or underemployment (not living up to full potential, not being recognized at work).
  • Relationship problems/marital issues.
  • Poverty, crushing debt, not enough money to live comfortably, unable to meet needs.
  • Early experiences with trauma, childhood abuse.
  • Health problems.

Interestingly, this week I’ve experienced several episodes of anxiety. From nearly passing out at work, to the agony of managing my workload, I also recall feeling diminished and invisible at work. It seems everything else is expected to take a backseat to my job. The moments I get to spend with my family seem fleeting, and at times, my aspirations to be a successful writer/illustrator and entrepreneur, seem hopeless. Last week, however, my dreams were soaring. I tried to imagine being successful and getting another job.

Road Rage

Today, I felt an uncomfortable surge of anger when I was driving to Walmart. The car tailgating me rushed over into the next lane when the road changes to two lanes. It had been raining out, my tire treads are choppy (only $500-$600 to get all new tires). When the light turned green, I floored it to prevent the other driver from getting in front of me. The “slippery conditions” icon was activated on my dashboard, yet I persisted. I could see the other driver turned right just after passing through the intersection.

Feelings of apathy, flatness, are dominant when I’m depressed. My body feels aching, my mind is becoming drained. It will soon become that time when I can do nothing more than “reflect”.

On a positive note, my supervisor informed me that he understood my issues because he experiences anxiety too. When I asked him how he manages, he told me he takes Lexapro. He had to stop using Paxil because it made him feel like a zombie.

I think I tried Lexapro when I was in my thirties. I had to stop taking it because I couldn’t afford it. The doctors offered me the generic alternative, Celexa, which upset my stomach. The Lexapro seemed to work okay back then. I didn’t take it long enough to note anything else.

SSRI’s are not effective in treating bipolar depression. I found this out when I went to my doctor in 2017. She prescribed Lamictal, which is used for both bipolar disorder and seizures. The dosing schedule she gave me seemed unusual. I didn’t want to take any more medications, and I failed to follow-up.

I feel drained at the end of the day. It’s after 5:00 pm by the time I remember to call to make appointments. I hate talking to receptionists. So many times, I’ve been talked to in a condescending manner.

I don’t always know when my depression is going to manifest. Who could know, especially when your mind is busy or clouded by other thoughts? Although I feel hopeless, I want to keep fighting. Every battle scar has a story, and every story has an ending. I know I can rewrite it if I make the effort.

References:

  1.  (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm/).
  2. (https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/bipolar-disorder-anxiety-often-follows-mania).

What You Should Know About Bipolar Mania

Know The Difference Between Hypomania and Mania

The symptoms of hypomania and mania are very similar. You may feel more social, excited, confident and creative. However, the two conditions differ in severity and length.

Hypomania is a milder form of mania and lasts a shorter period of time- days, instead of weeks. Mania is a condition that is more severe and lasts longer than hypomania- generally, mania lasts a week or more.

Often, those who experience hypomania enjoy the bursts of energy and creativity. On the other hand, individuals who experience mania may feel quite uncomfortable with their symptoms. A person experiencing hypomania may simply be more friendly and active. The sudden burst of energy often leads them to take on many projects at once, or accept more risks and responsibilities.

Somebody experiencing mania will also feel excited, but it is much more difficult to manage the sudden bursts of energy. Instead of simply feeling more creative, the manic individual has difficulty harnessing their energy. Their words pour out quickly and frequently, thus making it difficult to engage with others and allow them to interject. Accompanying that desire to talk frequently and quickly, they feel overly confident, grandiose- as though others don’t have the capacity to understand their special abilities and talents.

The person experiencing hypomania feels that they can perform tasks more efficiently and better than normal. They feel happy, have boundless energy and creativity, and seem to be able to manage their energy, racing thoughts, and ideas.

When somebody is experiencing mania, however, it is difficult for them to organize and direct their energy.

Key components of mania may include:

  • Jumbled, unorganized and racing thoughts.
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks and/or easily distracted.
  • Lack of insight, which hinders the ability to mania as problematic.
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things others can’t observe (psychosis).

Managing Hypomania and Mania

Boundless energy, feeling more attractive and social- people often enjoy hypomania and mania and seem no harm. Their distorted beliefs about hypomania and mania may lead to an incorrect diagnosis, or they fail to follow-up on their treatment.

The first step should be to get a physical to rule out other potential causes. If you are taking any medications, your doctor needs to assess if these medications are the cause of your symptoms, or if any medications or other health issues are affecting your treatment.

Many patients are advised by their doctors to take antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. If you are taking medications, it is essential that you take the medicine as prescribed and follow-up as needed with your doctor.

In combination with taking medications, or instead of taking medications, many people are advised to participate in therapies that involve talking.

Talk Therapy includes:

  • Family-Focused Therapy, which involves working with members of your family to identify certain behaviors and traits that need attention. Problem-solving methods are employed as part of therapy.
  • Interpersonal Therapy examines your relations and how to improve and interact more effectively.
  • Psychoeducation is a type of intervention that helps people learn to cope, either on their own or as part of a group.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)- Therapy that focuses on living in the present and becoming more attentive.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- A type of therapy program that is practical and short-term, that helps people identify and change behaviors associated with hypomania and mania.

How To Help Yourself

Learn to identify triggers:

  • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Not allowing yourself downtime to enjoy rest, pursue recreational activities, or enjoy time with family, friends or solitude.

Make a plan to manage hypomania/mania episodes.

A management plan may address your triggers. An example of a management plan may include:

  • Keeping track of your moods. Record the day, time and other factors important to the event.
  • Avoiding situations, places, and people that may put you at risk to engage in dangerous behaviors (such as taking drugs, spending too much money, etc.)
  • You may opt to avoid places that are over-stimulating, or too chaotic, busy or crowded.

Apply daily routines to help manage episodes of hypomania and mania.

  • Get plenty of sleep and try to go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Practice proper nutrition and eat regular meals. Avoid skipping meals.
  • Keep balanced! Avoid taking on too many responsibilities. Seek relaxing activities to counteract the stimulating/stress-inducing activities. Relaxing activities include meditating, journaling, reading, working on puzzles, etc.

Support System As Part Of Treatment

Many people who suffer from mood disorders lack quality relationships with family or friends. Take steps to correct this if possible! Many family members or friends don’t have specific knowledge about hypomania and mania, and they may reflect this lack of knowledge in the way they deal with their loved ones!

Clearly, but kindly, express your frustrations with them. Educate them on your symptoms so they don’t falsely attribute every “good” day to hypomania/mania. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to make sure you are getting enough sleep, nutrition, etc.

Family and friends can play an important role in treatment. They may be able to let you see your blind spots (this theory can be applied to all people- not just individuals with mood disorders).

Conversely, if you lack quality friendships or family relationships, you may prefer to find a group that deals specifically with mood disorders. Such groups can be found locally, but more often, people with mood disorders enjoy connecting with others online- for example, online forums, or online therapy (if covered by insurance).

Simple Ways to Balance Work and Life

Work/Life Balance

“Live To Work, Work To Live” was once a popular credo associated with high-achievers, while others referred to the phrase in a tongue-in-cheek manner to express negative feelings towards work and life. We now realize that in order to maximize our potential in the workplace and in our personal lives, we must find our own “work-life” balance. However, “work-life” balance is still a misunderstood concept.

The notion of a work-life balance isn’t a simple formula, but it can be simplified by stating that it is a balance of positive and negative aspects of an individual’s life. Personal, professional and family life- a harmonious balance in all aspects of our existence, can help us achieve a healthy “work-life” balance.

Make Time For Your Social Life

In your quest for economic and vocational satisfaction, making time for family and friends is an important part combatting feelings of loneliness and actually, promote resiliency. Social support enhances the quality of life and provides a buffer against adverse life events. (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/social-support).

Set Goals

Making the most of the time we have for work and life is dependent on the types of goals we set. If we fail to set goals or impose superficial or vague goals, it is much more difficult to find purpose in our work. A goal such as, “make more money” is too broad, thus, it will be much harder to maintain mental and emotional stamina to accomplish a goal that offers no method to focus our energies. A better alternative to a broad goal is to set a smaller goal, which provides smaller steps, smaller action plans on our part, to manifest a more meaningful and realistic goal.
(https://www.wanderlustworker.com/setting-s-m-a-r-t-e-r-goals-7-steps-to-achieving-any-goal/).

Determine and Reduce Distractions

The “garden” of your life requires much pruning- it is essential to be mindful of the things that are consuming your time and energy that may not be necessary at that moment.

Technology and Smartphones, although a necessity in the workplace, can hinder our attention. It is better to know what time of the day you are most productive and when to maximize getting work done at that time. Avoid checking emails every time you get a notification. Instead, set aside specific chunks of time to read and reply to messages.

Noise is another common distraction in the workplace. White noise, such as the humming of a fan, can help mask other noises that may cause you to become distracted. You can find many white noise apps that enable you to block distracting conversations and noises in the workplace. You can also avoid such distractions by simply wearing noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.

Many workers don’t have the option to shut a door to block interruptions. Body language is an important tool to signal to others you have little time for talk. Be mindful to discern what is relevant information and what is idle chatter. When you feel the conversation falls into the latter category, kindly tell your co-worker that you have to attend to a very important task and don’t have much time for talking right now.
(https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/distractions.htm).

Good Health Improves Productivity, Morale

Getting enough rest, exercise and good nutrition will help you have more energy at work. When employees have more energy, production increases and accidents decrease. Morale and engagement also appear to be higher when workers are healthier. Less absenteeism also assures that coworkers aren’t burdened by picking up extra slack from a sick colleague, which may inadvertently affect company morale and productivity.
(https://www.gohealthhero.com/blog/10-benefits-of-healthy-employees/).

Take Time To Nurture Your Dreams

This is something many busy people take for granted. Unfortunately, when you fail to feed your dreams, you have less to give in all other aspects of your life. When we simply forge ahead, neglecting our dreams, we lose the ability to infuse joy into our work and relationships. Sometimes “life” happens and we lose focus, or our ambitions become less-important. When we don’t have much time to pursue our dreams, we need to find ways to allocate even a small amount of time to dream regularly. This can be achieved by taking on hobbies or side projects that utilize our talents and abilities. When we realize our happiness is the sum total of our work and lives, we may start to find more ways to obtain a better work/life balance.

 

man standing beside grocery rack

Finding Emotional Support When You Feel Marginalized

Traditionally marginalized people– (e.g., women or people of oppressed racial/ethnic groups; people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as older people and individuals from lower socioeconomic classes)- and any person that is underserved, disregarded, harassed, ridiculed or ostracized need to find ways to feel supported despite their environment. Each group of marginalized people has specific needs that are not necessarily understood by those in the community, thus, they must serve as their own advocate in finding such social and emotional support.

Fortunately- or unfortunately, we have become a society that has become more reliant on the use of the internet and social media. In one regard, this reliance on the internet and social media engagement have made us into socially-awkward creatures in the real world. Conversely, these tools can help some people- individuals who feel marginalized, in particular, by mental illness. Often, the stigma attached to mental illness cause people to feel ashamed or distrustful of others, as is the case with people suffering from schizophrenia.

Women, especially those who live with the fear of being abused, have varying reasons as to why they can’t obtain the social or emotional support they need. Victims of domestic violence must be vigilant when speaking to others, either in person or online, about the issues they face. These women live in fear of their lives and the lives of their children- they fear losing custody of their children and perhaps, they wonder how they will support themselves and children alone. (http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay).

Three forms of social support are noted: (https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/) and they include:

  • Socioemotional support- The ways in which you feel validated, or (the ways) “that you are loved, cared for, esteemed and connected to other people in a network of communication and mutual obligation.”
  • Tangible support- Money, transportation, and housing.
  • Informational support- Describes the ability to obtain “advice, personal feedback, expert guidance”

While much research tells us the benefits of having a strong support system, the truth is that marginalized people from all walks of life do not have access to such social supports. The reasons for this include:

  • Lack of money
  • Lack of mobility
  • No support systems in place within the community
  • Mental or cognitive impairments that prevent individuals from seeking help
  • Lack of supportive family, friends or co-workers
  • Lack of knowledge or lack of education about such help
  • No affiliations with community groups or churches

In many cases, “social support” may only be available from government or nonprofit agencies. While these agencies can offer many resources- such as referrals to legal or mental health resources, people still lack socioemotional supports.

Many marginalized people might be able to obtain a support network, and information, through the internet. One may be able to access the internet at the public library so long as they have the means to get a library card (proof of residency, driver’s license or ID). In many cases, the librarians can offer patrons a “guest” username and password in order to use their computers. Once online, they can connect to a plethora of online support groups, or they can locate community resources.

(http://www.reachout.life/)
Reachout is a Support Network for patients and caregivers fighting chronic conditions. By connecting with other patients with similar ailments in specific support groups, users are able to find support, gain self-confidence, develop coping skills and reduce loneliness and depression.”

(https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/613)
“The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grant funds to states and territories to provide families with financial assistance and related support services. State-administered programs may include child care assistance, job preparation, and work assistance.” Users may search for benefits and grants for various causes.

(https://catholiccharitiesusa.org)
“At Catholic Charities we help people who are struggling by addressing the often complex issues at the root of their need. Through our national office’s advocacy and disaster relief programs — and its support of our network of member agencies — we’re making tangible progress toward better serving and loving our neighbors all across the country.”

 

References:

  1. Understanding Why Victims Stay. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay
  2. Strategies To Reduce Anxiety and Stress. Psychcentral.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/