Reframe on “Mental Illness”

I am grateful that there is a shift in language from “mental illness” to “mental health.” I have yet to meet an individual who was diagnosed with a “mental illness” that was not surrounded in environments or relationships that were loaded with emotional, social and chemical toxins or had a significant negative event occur during critical and sensitive periods of development. Unprocessed toxins build up, dysregulate our systems, create dis-ease, leads to disconnection, disorder, and trauma, then passes on through generations until processed. Our society tends to promote toxins and violence as well as grossly neglects getting vital needs met which would best support us at times of stress and greater need. I believe this is a systematic problem and subversive dynamic which strongly contributes to the development of a “mental illness” so why should the individual bare the weight of a diagnosis and stigma?

Levine truama quote

On the flip side, I also remember what weight that was lifted when I realized I was experiencing “depression”, “anxiety”, and “C-PTSD”. It gave a name to the battles in my mind, body, and heart as well as helped me to see that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. My central nervous system was responding as it should under great stress, keeping me in a heightened state of alert to process all the toxins and perceived threats. The names gave me something to target and fight against instead of myself. I am grateful for the people who saw my light, empathized, and supported me. They responded lovingly and did not react or shame me for my intensity and sensitivity as now I can truly appreciate all the trauma I had to process as it has made me a more wise, compassionate and resilient soul.

The saddest part and why issues with mental health are so pervasive is all the surrounding shame, stigma and negative judgment and reactions by others when one is vulnerable and reaches out. Consequently, this is highly likely exactly how the initial wounding occurred in childhood (i.e. being vulnerable and needing a safe, loving response yet getting punished or ridiculed instead). It is only after I felt I had healed from these “disorders” for a substantial period of time – a decade plus – before I finally started to feel less shame around sharing openly about my journey.

To be honest, a part of me is still afraid to share this post and of other’s reactions. Fortunately, my secure wise mind is stronger but this is only more proof on how insidious the toxicity of other’s judgment and reactions affect us to our core. This often makes the hardest parts of our suffering to be endured alone, steeping our mind/body/heart connections in stress hormones, deeply ingraining the negative pathways, beliefs, and destructive habits, and heightening all the symptoms all because it feels scarier to reach out… judgment and silence are violence to the soul.

Of course, there is no one perfect way to address all these issues and meet vital needs as everyone is unique. Yet, I have found that unconditional love, kindness, attunement, compassion, understanding, safety, and assertive, non-violent communication in our relationships, especially in the parent/child relationship and our partnerships, to be the most effective for cultivating mental health. #endstigma

“Shame is an epidemic in our culture. And to get out from underneath it, to find our way back to each other, we have to understand how it affects us and how it affects the way we’re parenting, the way we’re working, the way we’re looking at each other….
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too. And so I’ll leave you with this thought. If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path…” ~ Brené Brown

Please take wonderful wonderful care of yourself and each other. Every moment is a gift we get to choose to love or fear, judge or accept, fight or connect, heal or wound. Choose wisely as you do not know when your last moment will be.

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or visit your local emergency room

Call 1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA https://www.crisistextline.org/

Outside of US, check out: http://www.defyingmentalillness.com/worldwide-suicide-help…/

Please take wonderful care of yourself… It may not feel like you can or it doesn’t seem worth it yet I know that the world needs you and what you have to offer. You deserve a safe and non-judgmental place to process your pain and discover your gift and wisdom.

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

“I was spanked and I’m fine!”

I understand how anyone who has been physically punished would have to make sense of being hit in some way. You would need to believe that there must be some value in it… I mean why else would the person you love and trust the most hit you and make you suffer more…You must have deserved it, Right!?!

It is a step in healing when you take the time to reflect on your upbringing. The heartbreaking part for me is that the majority of people have been trained to dismiss their suffering and believe “they are fine” and that we are getting what we “need” to learn lessons and respect, then stop there as their conclusion. They don’t even know that they have other options to reconcile the conflicting messages. Stuck to rationalize it and pass on the suffering to the next generation.

From my experience, we are not fine. Seriously, look at the divorce and crime rates, suicides, homicides, the addictions and growing list of diseases… If you don’t know how these are related, then you definitely need to do your research. Start here at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The reality is the majority of our vital needs are neglected, abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed which is detrimental to our wellbeing and humanity.  The fact that one thinks it is normal and completely acceptable to hit a child during the most critical and sensitive period of human development is proof in itself that they are not fine. Even if one was “fine,” often times there are contextual variables affecting outcomes so naturally,  as humans, will find some way to rationalize and find ways in which spanking seems effective, oblivious of the resiliency factors at play or the future negative consequences.  I assure you that no matter what resiliency factors may be present, disconnection at some level has occurred, whether it be emotional, mental, physical, relational or spiritual. Spanking does to a child’s development what hitting a partner does to a marriage…

To me, we are all born inherently good and those who act ‘bad’ are those with less vital needs met and more pain to heal.  Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they are aware of, have access to, or what was literally beaten into them. Fortunately, we can heal past negative events and discover new resources. I have found that secure attachments, co-regulation, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication are the most effective ways to nurture human beings and discover mutually satisfying solutions.

Consciously choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. Ease stress, nurture needs…

Here are some resources to support positive, peaceful, and conscious parenting:

http://nopunish.net/

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.ahaparenting.com/

https://www.handinhandparenting.org/

https://www.teach-through-love.com/

“By understanding and increasing just this one capacity of the human brain, an enormous amount of social change can be fostered. Failure to understand and cultivate empathy, however, could lead to a society in which no one would want to live—a cold, violent, chaotic, and terrifying war of all against all. This destructive type of culture has appeared repeatedly in various times and places in human history and still reigns in some parts of the world. And it’s a culture that we could be inadvertently developing throughout America if we do not address current trends in child rearing, education, economic inequality, and our core values.” ― Bruce D. Perry, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered

To learn more about the side-effects of spanking, click the following links:

The effects of spanking confirmed by 50 years of research

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/05/health/spanking-dating-violence-study/index.html

http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/spanked.html

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

 

 

Listen to what I do instead of punishments…

 

I know that every parent is doing the best they can with the resources they were given or are aware of. I also believe that everyone truly has good intent yet may lack the know-how to get their needs met in calm, respectful ways. We all can very easily feel overwhelmed and unable to express ourselves. This is extremely true for children. Even if you have told them a hundred times, they were likely overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts or emotions or some other variable and didn’t absorb the message fully. They are also learning. Learning is messy, repetitive, and challenging process at its best. It may sometimes feel that our children are out to make our lives difficult, that something must be wrong if they haven’t got the message yet, or that they are purposely not applying themselves. I assure you, they are learning. Slow down to actively listen, empathize, assert yourself and problem solve together. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to cooperate when they feel heard, empowered, and trusted to do so.

trust based responses

Here is a great article on active listening with kids:  https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/healthy-communication/the-skill-of-listening/

Here is a link to my recommended Parenting Resources

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my posts reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only as this online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

Victims, Bullies or Response-able?

I first wrote this blog in 2010 and sadly, more and more tragedies are on the front page…

It is bitter-sweet for me to read all the talk about “bullying.” Great that people are seeing that it is a serious problem, but I know like after Columbine, it will fall off our plate and another tragedy will take its place. I am tired of talking. I am sick of running into walls and double-edged swords. Emotionally, I liken going to school like heading into battle naked with no triage on site, and I went to a private school in a nice suburb.

bullies-are
Image by Lori Petro http://www.teach-through-love.com/

This is a typical bullying scenario through my lens: If an adult is sensitive enough and not stressed or distracted by other things and catches the barrage of insults, they will call attention to the Bully. The adult will threaten or cast some irrelevant punishment which will insult the Bully and add more pain to an already stressed soul. A soul who clearly does not have resources to cope and will take it out on another vulnerable soul. If the Victim gets any attention at all, it is to the tune of “Oh, don’t let it bother you” or “toughen up.” Then everyone is expected to get back to their task or whatever they were doing and pretend everything is fine.

The most heartbreaking part for me is that majority of people think we are “fine” and we getting what we “need.” We are not fine. The majority of our vital needs are neglected and abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed. I will read more headlines tomorrow about how could someone do this horrid act and how it came out of nowhere. I could reflect a truth yet the truth hurts and we are not allowed to feel pain or cry. Yet to feel compassion, you must heal, and to heal you must cry, or at least process through our negative thoughts and feelings but we are afraid to feel or share. So where does that leave us?… Sadly, on the front page again.

I plead for people to open your minds, your hearts, and your souls. Bullies aren’t born passing down abusebullies, they’ve been bullied. Social interactions and emotional intelligence amongst kids (and most adults for that matter) are atrocious. Yet, I am even more disgusted when I hear adults belittle and disrespect children on a constant basis. How can we expect kids not to bully when their instincts are perpetually defied and they are manipulated to meet the needs of whatever adult has power or control over them. And then when we are tired of fighting or nagging, we let media take over.

I have been just a guilty as anyone. I can cite many examples of my own hypocrisy and human errors. Our society is full of traps, luring us to fill someone else’s pocket and boosts another’s ego whilst draining our own soul. It seems we care more about how things look than how they feel. I am sick of putting my fate and my children’s future in someone else’s hands. I choose to act in every moment I am blessed with. I have made a conscious choice to stop (as humanly possible) reacting, shaming, blaming, yelling, name-calling, and choose to respond to others how I would genuinely like to be comforted when I feel hurt or stressed or upset, especially to my children. Their feelings, their suffering, and tears are just as valid as my own even though they are small and some of their plights may seem trivial. My favorite definition of “responsible” is being able to respond appropriately in any given moment to get vital needs met = response-able. My children’s’ souls, and everyone I engage with, are in my hands and I take this very seriously.

I don’t believe there are bad people, only people with less vital needs met and more pain to heal. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, nurture, heal and grow…

victim, bully, responsible meme

I recommend turning off media/technology for at least one hour before bed and read stories as a family. Take time every day to truly connect with your loved ones. Create your own healing rituals to get vital needs met.

Changing habits is hard and scary; LOVE yourself and everyone else through it!

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

For more resources check out:

10 habits to strengthen parent/child relationship by Dr Laura Markham

FOSTERING EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT CHILDREN, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES by John Gottman 

Natural Born Bullies by Robin Grille

3 Steps for Parents from Nonviolence Activists

Heart Transplant http://vachss.com/av_novels/heart.html

 

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Self-Regulation VS Co-Regulation or Both?

Human bodies are amazing and self-regulating. We each have a unique homeostasis that our bodies need to feel balanced and function optimally. Dependent on our environment, interpersonal neurobiology, genetics, temperament, exposure to toxins or trauma, we each need a variety of nutrients, needs met, and level of stimulation/arousal to function well. When we are pushed out of our window of tolerance or are deficient in anything, we will automatically react with symptoms and signals to get what we perceive we are needing. The body will actually shut down certain functions based on how vital the functions are to staying alive under the current conditions we are perceiving.

You may have heard the term self-regulation which refers to being able to control oneself in order to find balance and calm within our internal and external systems. When it comes to emotions, self-regulation often means having the ability to:

1) Notice and identify that you are having an emotional reaction;

2) Know that the emotion signals a need;

3) Express needs and emotions in respectful, clear, and direct ways;

4) Manage emotions in a productive way that you start to feel calm; and

5) Be emotionally, physically, psychologically calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected in times of stress.

These abilities are aspects of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). When it comes to children, I believe there are some big misconceptions about self-soothing and regulating emotions which are causing our society great dysregulation and devastating negative consequences, like domestic violence, crime, child abuse and neglect, epidemic levels of drug abuse, bullying, and suicide.

For one, children under the age of three cannot emotionally self-regulate as the co reg Dr Shankerdevelopment of brain functions that even allow for this ability do not come online until age three. Secondly, the ability to self-regulate is actually first developed through the process of co-regulation, especially from conception to age seven. Co-regulation means having the consistent and dependable presence of a caregiver who can self-regulate and is safe, nurturing, and responsive, especially in times of stress. Thus to learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, we need someone to reliably soothe us during our most critical, sensitive, and distressing times of development. Sadly, many caregivers don’t have the skills themselves to emotionally self-regulate so they react negatively to the child who has less ability to process and cope. A third misconception occurs most often when kids appear to be self-regulating and controlling themselves, yet what is likely happening is that they have learned to shut down connection to their own emotions and needs and are complying out of fear of upsetting caregivers or others.

Needing someone is normal and expected based on our biology. Human beings are wired to be in relationship and connect. As humans, we function better when we are surrounded by others who are calm and nurturing. This is why family, communities and committed partnerships that are consistently safe, loving and trusting are huge resiliency factors and cultivate optimal growth and well-being. Realistically, life will always have stressors and filled with big conflicting emotions so it is advantageous to have reliable safeguards.

Even when the presence of a safe, trusting relationship is established and secure, and one can self-regulate well, any new variable or stressful event out of one’s window of tolerance would still require the presence of another to help calm our central nervous system, regardless of age and ability. Children are constantly being exposed to new experiences and information so they need this reliable presence in order to integrate the experiences and information into their mind and being. Considering the alarming rate at which information is streaming at us and how fast technology is advancing, the risk of being pushed out of our windows of tolerance and not getting our vital needs met is extremely high and constant.

Think about when you are in distress, do you prefer your partner or support persons to minimize, react negatively or abandon you in your distress? Or do you get calmer faster when at least one person is there who is calm and trying to understand you, who is validating and supporting you through? … It amazes me how few adults realize that when they react negatively or how dismissing their children’s negative emotions, that this signals their own dysregulation and tolerance level. How can one expect a child with less experience, skills, and resources to regulate themselves especially when they are feeling the added distress of their caregiver? An angry or upset caregiver is perceived instantly as a threat to a child as their livelihood depends on the mood and presence of their caregiver.

Most of our problems come from having an experience that is confusing, overwhelming, conflicting and we have no safe places to process the negative energy, related emotions and thoughts. The negative energy and tension build up, then we’ll end up we acting it out or shutting down. Not getting our vital needs met, like having food, water, fresh air or not feeling safe or connected to others, as well as lacking skills leads to a build-up of stress and trauma.  Most don’t even realize they have a homeostasis or what they need to function optimally let alone be able to communicate those needs to others so we keep getting stuck in deregulated states and create negative feedback loops within our bodies and relationships. We get overwhelmed by big conflicting emotions and stressors, can’t access our resources and default to hyper- or hypo-aroused state which causes more negative emotions and stress, feeding a vicious, depleting cycle.

To stop the cycle, try taking a few deep, controlled breaths now…Notice what you are thinking and feeling…What sensations do you notice in your body? There is no right or wrong way here, just notice what comes up for you. After taking sometime noticing what you are thinking, feeling and sensing, next visualize a time or place you last felt really safe and happy… Go through all your senses: what do you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste at this special safe/happy place? Notice where you feel sensations in your body while visualizing this safe/happy place?  This exercise will naturally stimulate your parasympathetic system, eliciting a relaxation response so try this next time you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions. When feeling calm, take consistent steps to fill your life with safe, nurturing, joyful and trusting relationships and environments because, on the bright side, we can learn to self-regulate no matter how old we are or how negative our relationships have been.

To learn more about my online services, please visit Debra Wallace MS LMFT at WeCounsel .

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you connected and full of joy.

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“A healthy, balanced life requires connection and community, as much as self-regulation and autonomy. Seeking soothing in sorrow, or validation in victory, invites those around us to share their wisdom and love. Like the mother/infant loop, we give and receive regulation when we’re in caring relationships with others. Co-regulation is what makes love, and the world, truly go around.” ~Alexandra Katehakis

If you’d like to learn more about self-regulation, here are some more resources:

Self-regulation doesn’t exist!

How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation?

Calming together: The pathway to self-control

7 more myths about self-regulation

Why-self-regulation is most important thing in world

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-differentiation-why-it-matters-in-families-relationships-0831174

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Negative effects of toxic stress

All negativity comes from a state of stress within our central nervous system. Stress can be an emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming to our body and mind. Stress can come in the form of having big and conflicting emotions at once, lacking skills and not knowing how to handle the situation appropriately, or having unmet needs like nutrition, rest, connection, etc. Any stress that goes on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood can become toxic and traumatic.  Naturally, experiences that involve actual or perceived death or serious injury increases the potential for toxic levels of stress and trauma. Toxic stress and trauma lead to dysregulation which is being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s window of tolerance and does the following:

  • Alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections;
  • Creates unconscious emotions of fear;
  • Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions;
  • Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem-solving, planning, language, knowing right from wrong etc.)
  • Decreases our tolerance level and increases sensitivity to stress
  • Creates more rigid, inflexible, incoherent, temperamental and chaotic reactions
  • Click the following link for more information on Effects of Toxic Stress

Our natural stress response exists on a continuum from hyper-aroused to hypo-aroused with mild to extreme reactions. Hyper-aroused is when we are over-active, on alert and in fight or flight mode. In this state, we may act out aggressively or feel anxious. Hypo-aroused is when we shut down and are in a state of freeze or collapse mode. In this state, we tend to withdraw and feel depressed. Just as we are all different, so are our responses to stress. There are many contextual layers that influence the variance in our responses and the likelihood of negative effects like our window of tolerance, temperament, environment, genetic expression, the availability of protective and supportive relationships along with the presence of risk and resiliency factors.

Our experiences, especially the ones in childhood, create our templates and filters for how to process stimuli and stressors and how to respond. The first three years of life creates the blueprint for all future relationships. Most caregivers do not realize how impactful their reactions, mood, and behaviors are on their children. Children depend on caregivers for everything so if a caregiver is unavailable, angry, depressed, neglectful, out of control or acting in a way the child doesn’t understand, then the child will perceive this as a threat to their livelihood which will activate their stress response system. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter if the stress is a real threat or not as our central nervous system just has to perceive it as a threat. Our perception and interpretation of a current event instantly get filtered through our past lens of experiences and developed belief system. I highly recommend learning more about how Adverse Childhood Experiences affect our health.

From my experience, negative consequences such as conflict, “disorders” and “diseases” are the result of an overstimulated, fearful and dysregulated central nervous system which manifests itself through different reactions and symptoms dependant on our interpersonal neurobiology. This is why they’re so many new diagnoses, disorders, and diseases as they keep evolving along with the dynamics and increase of toxins within our minds, bodies, relationships, environment, and our world. As a society, we have failed to promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get our vital needs met. We all have vital needs to feel safe, connected, heard, and understood. When we meet these needs, then we can naturally calm our central nervous system which allows us to access our higher brain functions and innate intelligence as well as integrate new positive experience and coping skills and even heal past trauma. When we consistently meet these vital needs, our central nervous will become securely integrated. When our brains are well integrated then we can optimally process stimuli, self-regulate, connect as well as enable more intricate functions to emerge like insight, empathy, intuition, and morality. This in-depth level of integration results in greater kindness, resilience, and health.

To learn more how you can promote sustainable, compassionate ways to get your needs met in your family, check out my post Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

You can learn more about me and my online therapeutic services at WeCounsel

Take Wonderful Care,

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seeking referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA