Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mental Health: Stigma, Dreams, Hopes, and the Cosmos

I've been quite busy, and would have loved to add to my Mental Health series in March for Mental Health Month. In fact, it took me until March 30th to feel like myself again!

I've been stressed. :(

Mental Health is still fresh in my mind, however. Here is a round up of links related to mental health that I have been perusing:

Mark Joyella shares his passion for correctly describing and portraying Mental Health issues and disorders in Journalism, News Media, and combating the stereotypes the media has created with side stories or anecdotes or unrelated pieces inserted into the articles or aired reports. He admits that he has a Mental Illness, and how when correctly diagnosed and treated, he was able to do what he wanted with his life. He describes the hurdles that admitting it has given him, but also it fuels his desire to teach others to overcome them.

My mind has attempted to heal itself, in other words, solve its problems in my dreams. As Richard Wiseman points out, this is a natural process and requires that I get the right amount of sleep, even when stressed. He also tells us the secret to changing recurring nightmares!

Goals for the Future/Hopes:
I wouldn't be able to keep going every day without hope. I'd give up at some point. Sometimes the routine of getting up and going to work everyday, knowing that I have to do it, is enough to force myself to keep going. Just get through the day. One more day. This doesn't have to do with a battle inside me so much as a battle to get through my job. I feel powerless sometimes, when I also feel I should have the power. It is frustrating. I read this tweet, and I found inspiration in a word. Quaintrelle - a woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and cultivation of life’s pleasures.
That is who I want to be when I grow up, passionate about my life's work and charming with time for leisurely hobbies and life's pleasures.

Ponder the Cosmos:
You have to keep questioning and researching and living and learning. Perhaps you find solace in religion and its routines and answers. Perhaps you find comfort in the thought of a divine creator, or the laws of science. Perhaps you want to prove some theories true or untrue. If you are unsure, seek answers. I was struck, not by the content of blog post so much, but by the first comment below:
Scientific inquiry can tell us the age of the universe, the history of our planet, and the way things work. But only faith can tell us why that universe was created or what our individual lives mean.
What does your life mean?

Mental Illness or no, the goal of life is to find a passion and strive after it. There will be good days and bad. We are given a limited amount of time here, so let's use it as best we can.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mental Health: Rest and Organization

I have been exhausted lately. I get home from a stressful day at work and I want to do nothing but watch TV. This doesn't feel healthy.

It's still winter, and the early darkness, everlasting cold, and periods of snow that have wreaked havoc upon school schedules have also created some pent-up aggression in students who need to get out and move, in turn, creating chaos and discipline issues in my job.

(Not my classroom, but at times is has looked like this...)

Mary Kay is starting to look good. Or a career as writer. Or both together. Why did I go into education??

It only takes one student flying off the handle to ruin the tone for the whole day. While I love them all bunches they each have a bad day every once in awhile, some more than others, and when they each take turns, those bad days turn into bad weeks.

It's up to me to create solutions. I reschedule things. I create new lessons. I change plans. I remove items from the room. I intervene earlier, trying to keep the rest of the class going while one student is dealt with. I send emails. I meet with supervisors. Then I get back to the paperwork and daily things that need doing just to keep up.

My body feels the tiredness from the workout of my brain.

So what do I do to chill out and take a mental rest from the grind?

Sometimes I do watch TV. Sometimes I need a hot shower or bath. Usually the drive home, listening to the radio allows me some time to debrief. I can reflect on the day, what worked, and what didn't. I get to plan my evening's homework, which is usually very little because there are so few hours left. I help my children with homework, eat dinner, do my chill out thing, maybe some homework, and then it is bedtime.

There is nothing I need more than rest. I have been googling vacations. Obviously, I desire one.

There is some comfort in a clean, organized space. That kind of space can be a mental breather.
I do not have that right now at home, nor at work, due to time spent catching up. I feel defeated in time management. I can't wait for spring break.

One goal for myself is to organize and clean up one area each day. Whether it be at home or work, I have to get something looking and feeling in control; managed.

Another thing you can do, and I try to do, is to organize your (my) mind. Step one is to take charge of your worry, anger, sadness, and irritation.

I have had to fade some pesky demons in the beginning of this year. I have had to learn when to reach out for support, when to stop kicking myself, and when to accept that I was not solely responsible for the actions of others even if they happen in my space.

The next step is to stop and focus on one thing at a time. I know I get thinking about several things at once. I have to write them down and then conquer them one by one. Even if it's an email I need to send, a note to a parent to write, or pages to copy, all the little things can build clutter in my mind trying to be be remembered. 

While there are more steps, and you are welcome to click the link, these first two are most important. When juggling family, career, personal obligations and goals, and your health, it is best to keep your health at the forefront. You can't juggle anything if you are sick, tired, or mentally exhausted.

I know this post focused on me a lot more than the past posts, however, I need to focus on me. :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mental Health: Self-Abuse: Negative Self-Talk

March is Self-Harm Awareness Month.


What comes to mind when you hear the words 'Self-Harm'? I bet you think of cutting, suicide, abusing drugs or alcohol, or smoking.

But overarching this is a category called Self-Abuse.

Merriam Webster defines Self-Abuse as: things that you do that harm your own body or health

According to Wikipedia this includes:
  • Self-harm, the intentional, direct injuring of one's own body without suicidal intentions
  • Self-destructive behaviour, patterns of behaviour to inflict metaphorical or literal harm on oneself
  • Self-inflicted wound, harming oneself without psychological problems but to take advantage of being injured
  • A euphemism for masturbation (also under self-abuse in the dictionary)

I'm going to take out the last inclusion, because euphemisms are not what I want to discuss.

I want to focus on a form of self-abuse that is mental. Negative self-talk. This is a form of Self-Destructive Behavior.
Negative self-talk can be a runaway train. Your mind goes around in circles replaying a negative event or your own shortcomings. You may think that you're getting in touch with your true feelings, but bad feelings have a way of getting worse the more attention you give them. -WebMD

Anytime you feel like you want to just give up, that something is too hard, that you aren't 'good' enough, you are abusing yourself.

"I'm not cut out for this."

"I'm not creative enough."

"I can't believe anyone would find me attractive."

"I should curl up in bed and stay all day."

An important aspect of self-destructive behavior is the inability to handle the stress stemming from an individual's lack of self-confidence. -Wikipedia

Thoughts like these are harmful and abusive and often lead to other forms of self-abuse. Convincing yourself that you have no friends, should stop eating, are worthless, or have no reason to be here is the first step on a path to disorder, most commonly, depression.
Self-destructive behaviour is often a form of self-punishment in response to a personal failure, which may be real or perceived. It may or may not be connected with feelings of self-hatred.
In a project by photographer Gracie Hagen (link NSFW) to speak out against the 'Hollywood' view of the perfect body, women were asked to pose for pictures with bad posture and then good posture. Her subjects go from sexy to awkward simply by hunching their shoulders, sticking their stomachs out and contorting their bodies. The difference between the two photos - which are taken in exactly the same light and from the same angle - is staggering and could easily be mistaken for portraits of two different women.

When you believe negative things about yourself, you show it on the outside, too.  Your posture, your words, your attitude, your expression, your wardrobe, your 'aura', so to speak, will radiate to others 'stay away'.

Let's say you think you have nothing interesting to say. If you keep telling yourself that, other people are going to see you that way, too.
In fact, people who think negatively tend to be less outgoing and have weaker social networks than positive thinkers. Multiple studies link positive emotions with more satisfying relationships, more romance, and lower rates of divorce. -WebMD

How can you love others, find happiness, or enjoy yourself if you don't love yourself and allow yourself to have fun, laugh, and enjoy the day?

The opposite of negative self-talk is self-confidence. Now, you can't go saying positive things when you feel self-abusive, because your internal lie-detector goes off and makes you feel worse for lying. (#2 Power of Possible Thinking) So, you need to think that things are 'Possible'. "I know how to do this." "I know what the first step is."

With any process, there are steps. Small and big ones. Sometimes they are scary and unpleasant, but they need to be done and you can do it. Remember how good it will feel to do them, and reward yourself when you do get them done.

What about me?
I have had a rough February. I have experienced some negative self-talk. For me, my husband has been able to help me see reason and quell my fears. Those fears were not entirely irrational, but there was a step to take, a simple one, that I was taking and continue to take, and he needed to remind me that it would protect me from what I feared. I was taking down written data and that could stand for me. I had backup. I had proof. Though I am not perfect, I was trying, and I had proof that I was following protocol and trying whatever I had to do to get through the rough patch. 

I had to stop telling myself that I was useless or stupid or incapable of getting through this. I had to stop thinking that I was going to fail or quit. I had to take solace in the fact that I was doing what I was supposed to and I had a team who would help if they could. I saw my flaws, and I had to figure out how to deal with them. There are so many people I need to thank!

Do I still have flaws? Yes. Do I have a plan for dealing with them? Not quite yet. I will have to tackle my lack of assertiveness one battle at a time. One step at at time. I have to get comfortable with my role and my limits and the room I have to express myself without stepping on other's toes. I'm still stumbling around in the dark and I haven't found the light switch to make everything clear and bright.

And that's okay.

For now.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Month of Marriage: Compliment Each Other

I have been married for 11 years, to the same man, and while times are not always perfect, we are still together and still in love. He is my best friend. That is the most important thing. I trust him. We communicate. We share.
Tip #4 Compliment Each Other

This doesn't mean you pick matching outfits or agree with everything he or she says. That would be complement.
Take a second to tell your partner what you like about them, what they did right, and to praise them. Think how much we all love hearing 'good job'. Here are a few ways to compliment your love:

  • Write love notes, 
  • Buy gifts for no reason, 
  • Pick a feature or trait and tell them how much you like it, 
  • Why did you marry that person? Maybe they need to hear it.
  • Cook their favorite meal
  • Watch their favorite movie together
These are beginning to sound like dates, aren't they? Well, they can be mini dates. If you can take small moments between the kids fighting or when you both happen to be in the same room to share a spoonful of ice cream, do it. 

And smile.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Month of Marriage: Date Night!

I have been married for 11 years, to the same man, and while times are not always perfect, we are still together and still in love. He is my best friend. That is the most important thing. I trust him. We communicate. We share. 
Tip #3
Keep dating!

Remember how much fun it used to be to go out, just the two of you.. Why did that stop?
Did life get in the way? Don't let the humdrum of every day spoil the fun of one night off! Make date night a priority. Plan it like you used to. Block off a space on your calendar just for the two of you. 

Maybe all you have time for is a drive into 'town' to get groceries. I don't know how many times my relationship was strengthened just by holding his hand across the seats while we drove. Talk to each other in the car. Since communication is Tip #1, here is a way to incorporate it! You are seatbelted in, you can't run, so tell him your feelings and thoughts. Tell her your dreams and plans for the future, near and far.

Half the fun of dating was sharing dreams for the future, wasn't it? Talk about house projects, where you'd like to see yourself at the end of the year, your fitness goals, your spiritual goals, or even what you would do if you won the lottery. It may open up a pathway towards compromise, understanding, forgiveness, renewed faith in your relationship, and hope.

If you have a regular date night, what do you do? If you don't, will you consider one?