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

Steps to Healing Conversations

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.” ~Cherly Richardson

steps to healing conversations

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply.”
~Stephen R. Covey
I synthesized these steps for adult conversations. When applying these steps, please be compassionate with yourself and others. Change is hard, especially as our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy patterns of interaction because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect discomfort, resistance, and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure, conscious connection in your mind/body/soul and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Change is only possible if you take responsibility for your needs and actions as well as consistently make authentic efforts to change and empathetically listen. Everyone deserves to be safe and treated with respect. Deep breaths, baby steps, and trust the process.
You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel
Take Wonderful Care,
blog signature
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 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

Non-Violent Reality

Non-Violent Reality

“Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think depends upon what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our reality.”
― Gary ZukavDancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Every moment is a gift where we can learn to choose how we want to respond. I believe we are all born inherently good and that all negativity comes from a state of stress. Stress results in our brain-body and central nervous system when we perceive a threat to our wellbeing or worldview; have unmet needs; have a build-up of toxins (emotional, chemical, physical, environmental), and/or lack of skill. When we take time to notice our thoughts, feelings, thoughts, actions, and sensations and find positive, safe ways to process them, then we can connect to our wise self and respond in compassionate ways to get our vital needs met as well as ease stress for all those involved. We can transform fear to love, stress to resilience and trauma to wisdom when we choose to expand our awareness and be (a) present. Embrace your fears, love more, and trust the process.

Deep breaths, baby steps and take wonderful care and yourself and one another ❤

Debra

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.

blog signature

“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

“Only Love Today” and Comfort zone

I started reading Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford”. It is an absolutely amazing book. So much so, as I was reading it, I found myself repeatedly saying, “Yes!” “I know!” “I do that.” and so on. I set it down for a few weeks as this way of life is truly etched in my being.

Recently, I pushed my son out of his comfort zone to do something he had never done before and it didn’t go as I hoped. I have learned not to be attached to outcomes but his strong negative reaction and feedback caught me off guard. I sadly, took his reaction personally, causing me to react negatively and I struggled to be a compassionate listener for him. I could even see my overreaction and the negative dynamic I was feeding yet I could not stay connected to my wise mind and heart and be there for him as I usually am. This made me feel even worse.

To put things in perspective, only 20 hours had passed since the initial triggering event occurred till the time it took me to feel at ease with it, and I am going through some physical health issues thus unusually wore out. In fact, I was on my way to the hospital for an iron fusion, when I decided to grab the book, “Only Love Today” as my reading material for appointment and travels. I had a feeling it could help ground me and get me back to my center. As soon as I got on the ferry and opened the book to this oh-so-relevant reminder:

 

 

I love synchronicity! Synchronicity is when events seem to somehow magically connect to one another and take on some meaning that provides guidance as they relate to our current emotional states and inner experiences. So there I was on the ferry, with tears streaming down my face, knowing how every word of this is true and exactly what I have been trying to get my son to understand yet my negative reaction fueled our deepest fears.

The more I sat with this, the more tears came but I was acutely aware I was in a public space. I was uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even more synchronous is this uncomfortable and vulnerable situation relates to my son’s recent experience and journey. I am a female and afraid to cry and be emotional, it is even 100 times worse for him. He seems to have inherited my highly sensitive trait. We feel and process deeply as well as absorb and internalize sensory information at overwhelming rates. We are like sponges and find it to be a monumental task to stop the absorption. The best way I have found to slow it down is to take deep breaths, to non-judgementally notice and connect to all my senses, and send compassionate messages to myself and all those involved that counteract the deep fears and irrational core beliefs.

Here’s another quote I really enjoying during these times of transitions:

“This week I invite you to surrender to the cycles of your life and your reality. Accept the beauty of where you are in your lifecycle, whether you are cleansing, purging and renewing or growing, expanding or even ending. Love yourself as you move through change and transition. There is no ‘perfect’ way to navigate through it all. It’s okay to scream and have a temper tantrum if that’s what it takes to get to the other side. Releasing that energy only makes room for clarity and peace. Each step in your journey is really about growth and expansion…May you remember this week to Trust and know you are fully supported on your journey and may you remember that deep underneath all of this experience is really only the grandest expression of pure, unconditional Love.” ~Karen Curry

Change, even when for the better, is uncomfortable and difficult no matter what you do. Like the growing pains of a developing child, their muscles and bones ache from all the quick growing yet they are getting taller and stronger. You can even do everything “right” and it will still cause distress as there are so many variables out of your control. This is the crux of life, learning how to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I know that all negative and painful events have inherent value in our lives which will shine through in time when we least expect it.  All the reasons why I made the conscious choice to push my son outside his comfort zone were valid. As hard as it is to know a choice I made upset my child, it is impossible to avoid negativity and I am would not be doing my son any favors by overprotecting him and robbing him of these opportunities to struggle through, grow, and learn from.

Deep breaths, baby steps, embrace fears and love MORE ❤

where the magic happens

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

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, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

Rethinking the Easter Bunny…

Oh, Easter…my daughter has been egging me (pun intended) about Easter decorations and festivities for weeks now yet sadly I have felt irritated by her need for all of it. I know I am responsible and for good reason and intent. I have been providing magical Easters her whole life because growing up, the Easter bunny and St. Nick coming were some of my most favorite memories. The special time of the year where all my five siblings and parents worked together to create a magical experience. I have no sad story where I learned they weren’t real. Yet for some reason, when I became more conscious about my parenting and I moved a world away from my family of origin, I started to question everything. I began feeling like I was lying to my son and it felt ingenuine.

I had realized all this holiday hullaballoo was a ploy to get us to buy stuff and it hurt me to play the part. I was just about to tell my partner and family that I was done with the charades. I would no longer take part in the Easter bunny or Santa Claus.  About that same time, my son came home from a magical Easter celebration with his Steiner school. His teacher spent all this time to put “actual” rabbit feet prints on his desk, with a special egg hunt and chocolate eggs. The smile on his face and the joy that emanated from his being was unbelievable. Here was a boy who in the span of three years lost three baby-siblings, three dogs and two cats, his most beloved pets who we needed to rehome for our international move. He moved from the only place he’s ever lived to a new country where they struggled to understand his speech and mannerisms.  Those magical rabbit prints seem to bring light to him where he had been cracked. It made me second guess my decision to end the Easter Bunny and Santa celebrations. I like to make my decisions from a place of love and not fear. I was reminded of what these times meant to me and how I never felt lied to or hurt. I only felt love and joy, so I decided I had no right to deprive my son and future children of this experience, especially when it was so special for me.

My current dread for my daughter’s pressure to perform these duties was coming from a place of fear and stress. I am about to have surgery and a bit wore out. I had lost touch with the magic and was annoyed that it was the consumerism part she seemed to be enjoying most. Everything I do must have meaning so I was conflicted because as much as I love Jesus, we do not celebrate him like how this holiday does. I also now live in the southern hemisphere where it is Autumn so the whole fertility and Spring aspect doesn’t seem to fit. And the eggs here are brown!?…Not the easiest to dye like how I remember. I was processing my feelings aloud with my son, who is now a 13-year wise soul acknowledged my feelings and asked me some reflective questions. Talking with him reminded me why I made the conscious chose to continue celebrating.

So today, I set up the dyes, bought the special treats and made the baskets to “secretly” fill tonight. Now, I still need to align with my beliefs thus I “reduce, reuse and recycle” by limiting what I buy, choose fair-trade chocolate and make the decorations and baskets with my kids. My family gladly pulled away from their video screen to partake. For one hour, we bonded whilst dying 10 eggs and making decorations. It was pure joy and attention. Our tradition is to keep hiding the eggs for endless Easter egg hunts and more family fun. This is why we do this every year… It has become a rhythm of our collective soul, a constant in our life, something to look forward to and count on no matter what. I strongly believe we all could do with more of these mindful moments. This time is precious and worth the extra effort and attention.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun”     –Winnie The Pooh.

Here’s another post I wrote about Negative thoughts, Easter, and Rising Again

Earth Day is every day…

Littering has always been one of my pet-peeves. On a walk back from the beach one day, where we had cleaned up trash, my then 6yr old son raced back home as my 2 yr. old daughter and I lagged behind. My daughter spotted a beer bottle in our path, exclaimed “garbage” and darted to grab it. My mind instantly flooded with worry…what if she cuts herself? the germs? What would people think if they saw her holding a beer bottle!?

Yet, my heart wondered how I could tell her “no”? How confusing the message would be if it was OK to pick up trash at the beach but not here. Was it worth scolding to thwart a genuine gesture? She joyfully picked it before I could finish this internal debate. I thanked her and asked if I could hold it for her. She refused as she was determined to throw it in the bin herself.

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions,then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

I took a deep breath and chose to let it be, yet struggled to stop worrying. I kept thinking about what if someone took a snapshot of this little girl holding a beer bottle. Would they call human services on me? How sad it would be that people could judge me without any context and awareness of the level of introspection that has gone into this moment.  I felt angry at myself that instead of celebrating my daughter’s level of consciousness and sense of accomplishment, I was stuck in fear.

I was reminded of this story when on another outing my kids spent 20 minutes cleaning up cigarette butts from our downtown area. My son was going off on how people could treat the earth like this. I started to worry again but couldn’t get them to stop cleaning so I finally joined in.  We made a game out it and it felt good.

There have been times where I did make some excuse about why we shouldn’t pick up litter and my son expresses, “It hurts my body to see the trash on the ground and have to leave it there.” I get teary-eyed just repeating that statement. Both my children truly understand that the world is not a garbage can and take responsibility to make it beautiful.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Jane Goodall