Healing, Not Fixing, PTSD

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often best approached as a chronic condition that may have “flare-ups.” This is true of many other mental illnesses and mental injuries as well.

It can certainly be the case that someone experiences some symptoms of PTSD one time and never again in their life, but for most of us, what it means is that we are vulnerable to experiencing symptoms again during periods of stress (or in the case of activating events).

We are experiencing healing, which means we are able to improve certain things with support and as we learn to attend to ourselves, but we don’t know how much everything will heal nor how long it may take. This is different than “fixing,” which is when we remove a “broken” part and replace it, and then everything is as though nothing ever happened. You are an organism, not a bicycle.

This does not mean “I have PTSD, so now everything is hopeless forever,” it means that we need to learn how to manage our environments, life situations, and our selves in order to reduce the severity of symptoms and the likelihood of recurrence, rather than to assume “I haven’t had any symptoms in a year, this must mean it’s okay to stop attending to myself!”

It means not subjecting ourselves to unreasonable stressors and life-sucking situations, personally and in our work. It means taking our physical and emotional discomfort seriously instead of blowing it off until it blows up. It means not listening to internalized minimizing messages that say “suck it up” when distressed. It means learning to re-parent ourselves where necessary.

It means treating ourselves with support, care, and dignity, and developing boundaries to ensure that others do, too. It means practicing self-care as a habit, not only when unduly stressed. It means recognizing symptoms as symptoms, rather than as some kind of weakness that deserves self-punishment.

It means learning what events, people, and circumstances make your symptoms worse, and modifying those as best you can. It means learning what activities, people, and circumstances help you feel better, and including those more. It means taking yourself to the doctor or the therapist when you need to go. Sounds simple, but it’s not always easy!

Basically, it means learning to take care of ourselves “as though” our well-being actually mattered instead of as an afterthought. Let me repeat: treat yourself like your well-being matters, because it does. ❤

 

“Treating yourself with kindness is a life skill. It doesn’t matter whether you are ”good at” this skill It only matters that you keep going💛” — Jeffrey Marsh

 

 

Immigrant Families Managing Depression, Anxiety

Because of the many layers of stresses and even traumas associated with immigration, immigrants and their families may face high levels of mental distress. This includes things such as traumatic events that were severe enough to make them leave their home country in the first place, as well as the great difficulties in adjusting to a new and sometimes hostile environment.

In some cases, cultural conflict and cultural differences may make dealing with mental health issues even more difficult.  But some members of immigrant groups are working to alleviate this and support mental health of fellow members, such as  Ryan Tanep, in this piece by Malaka Gharibh:

 

Someone Said I Did A Racism; Now What? A Guide

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It’s the final day of Black History Month!
The past month has seen a number of high-profile figures being criticized for saying or doing racist things. In most cases that I saw, those in the spotlight made matters even worse by their responses. Have you wondered how you would respond in the same circumstance?
Nobody wants to think of themselves as racist. But the fact is, being raised in a racist society means that some of the time, we will all do or say some racist things, despite meaning well and often without even realizing it.
So what do you do if someone points out that what you have said or done is racist? Here is a guide.
1. First of all, hold that initial impulse to argue. Before you say anything, take a breath and pause for several seconds. If you must speak, say something like, “Okay. I need to think about this.”
2. On the emotional side, contain your defensiveness: Doing or saying a racist thing doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a bigot or a terrible person. Most people doing racist things are not bigots. It does mean that a piece of (very common!) racist conditioning has come up and it’s an opportunity to work on that and heal. If you are a person with a conscience and a heart, it will probably hurt to hear. That means your conscience and your heart are working! But try not to take this criticism as an attack. (This is hard!)
3. Recognize that your intention doesn’t excuse the outcome: If I run over your foot with my truck, it doesn’t matter whether I mean to or not. Your foot is going to be hurt–possibly broken. The same is true of racist acts and words. The vast majority of racism is unintentional, and it is injurious to others just the same.
So it’s okay if you find yourself saying “I didn’t mean to…” But recognize that is only the beginning, and only a tiny piece of the issue. It’s not an apology.
4. Try simply apologizing unconditionally and without a long explanation. It’s okay to say something like “I’m sorry. I see that was ugly.”  If this sounds hard (it is, emotionally speaking), try preparing by reviewing and practicing before this ever comes up, so you won’t be frozen or outraged if it happens. You may also want to review what not to do!
5. Manage your own feelings: This is really the hardest part.
Most of us, if not all, will feel defensive, hurt, attacked, misunderstood, guilty, sad, scared, angry, or some combination of the above. But those feelings are yours to manage, and you are strong enough to hold them.
Remember, the other person is not responsible for making you feel better for having hurt them, or to give you absolution. It’s especially important to let them have their feelings of upsetness without trying to talk them out of it or to burden them with the emotional work of reassuring you about it. That places additional work on them when they are already burdened with the hurt of racism, and it is unfair.
If you need to vent your feelings about this (which is healthy!) find someone else to talk with, preferably a racially conscious White friend or even a counselor. You may also want to journal, cry privately, read, pray, or meditate, just as you would with any other painful or uncomfortable feelings that you are processing.
6. What if they are wrong? Short answer: they’re not. Even though you didn’t mean it that way.
Think about it: if you are a White woman, haven’t you seen men doing sexism even when they didn’t realize it? Or they dismissed it? If you are a White person who is LGBT: haven’t you seen hetero people being homophobic or transphobic and then saying how much they love LGBT folks? Low-income people, haven’t you heard rich people talk about poor people like they really don’t matter at all in the ultimate equation? Yet if you asked them, they would probably say they like people generally, and had nothing against any particular poor person.
The worst judge of an -ism is the person committing it, and racism is no exception.
7. Don’t be discouraged from working on race issues: Pick it back up when you have healed. Think about your motives. Are you working on unlearning racism because it’s the right thing to do, or to get approval and recognition from people in a marginalized group? Work on race issues because you want to improve society, whether or not any specific BIPoC likes you (or you them). Unlearning is a lifelong process.
8. Develop authentic friendships: It is always more emotionally risky for a BIPoC to have a White friend than the other way around. So make yourself available, be friendly and helpful insofar as you are able, but remember that no one owes you friendship, no matter how nice you are to them. To borrow an analogy, friendship is not a vending machine.
For additional thoughts about interracial friendship, visit this thread:

PS: Whatever you do, resist the urge to do a “not all White People,” –no really, do not do a “not all White People.”

 

Our First “From You”: “Belonging to Yourself”

 

 

From time to time, our clients bring in articles, books, essays, or other materials that they have found especially helpful in work we are doing. Since one of the most valuable reviews is from someone who has been there, we’d like to share the helpfulness with others who may need it!

Today’s link is an article by Celeste Scott. It features an aspect of self-parenting: learning to belong to yourself instead of waiting for permission or approval from others.

To learn about other aspects of self-parenting (or self-re-parenting) in adulthood, read more on our blog here.

 

Depression and Mood Screening Clinic 2/28-3/1

 

Wondering if you have depression or a mood disorder?

Give us a call or email to set up an appointment with one of our caring mental health professionals for a brief screening during our depression and mood disorders screening clinic.

Depression can be treated–it’s not “laziness” or a character flaw!

Give yourself a chance to be involved in your own life (and enjoy it more)!  ❤

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Practice Loving Kindness for Mental Health

 

Be loving to yourself and to others: Mental illness deserves as much care as any other illness or injury. It’s not “laziness” or being “weak” or flawed in character. Practice acceptance and support instead of criticism.

Mental illness is usually unlike the movies. Cultivate loving kindness to yourself instead of judgment and criticism. [Try Loving Kindness meditation by Tara Brach to spread love to self and others.]

Remember that mental illness often affects every aspect of a person’s life and health.

Alternatives to Insurance for Mental Health Care

 

It can be hard to access competent mental health care when you need it most.

While some progress has been made in requiring insurances to cover mental health needs, it can still be difficult to find good practitioners who are in your network. And even in those cases, insurance plans may have a high deductible, which can mean you will pay out of pocket for mental health services for months. And because of high administrative burden coupled with extremely low coverage rates, a considerable number of practices do not participate in insurance coverage networks.

As one practice put it, “reduced rates, extensive paperwork and rigid restrictions that are imposed on therapists by the insurance companies has pushed many of the most talented therapists away from working on insurance panels.”

So how can you get the mental health care you need?

Reimbursement: this is similar to the model used by many dental care practices. You do have to pay up front, but then your insurance company reimburses you or at least puts your payment towards your deductible for the year.

How it works: You pay your session fee at the time of service, and your therapist’s practice gives you a receipt that you send to your insurance company. Some companies also require a form or set of forms to be filled out. Some practices offer reimbursement service, that is, they will send in the receipt and forms for you.

While our practice does offer reimbursement services, not every psychology practice does. If your therapist does not, you can call your insurance company for instructions, or you may even want to try a fee-for-reimbursement app service such as Better.

Need-based programs: This may include sliding-scale fees such as community clinics may offer, which usually means clinicians are donating their time. This model may also include a discount clearinghouse service such as Open Path Collective, which allows low-income patients to find a therapist who is able to offer some sessions at a discount. Some practices also offer scholarships for those who are in financial need and do not have access. There may be a waiting list for free or nominal-cost services.

How it works: Services such as Open Path require signing up online. It’s a good idea to make sure there are therapists with openings in your location (usually our practice does have a few!) before paying a membership fee. For in-house sliding-scale or scholarship treatments, practices may require you to show that you are in financial need; there may also be a waiting list.

Professional Discounts: Practices may have agreements with local organizations such as businesses, schools and colleges, or medical facilities, so that their employees or students can get a discount. Sometimes this may be in the form of an EAP (employee assistance program) and sometimes it may be a different kind of arrangement.

How it works: If your workplace has an EAP (our practice participates with Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP as well as Quest EAP), ask what mental health services may be available. Often you can get 3-5 sessions for free. If your college has a counseling center, you may attend sessions there, or they may offer referrals to local practitioners. Otherwise you can ask your therapist directly what professional discounts they offer. Usually this will involve filling out a form of some kind. (Our practice offers certain professional discounts that are listed at the bottom of our financials page.)

Bottom line, if you are not sure what discounts may be available, please ask your therapist!

Online Services: Some practices may offer online sessions or may even specialize in only online services for somewhat of a discount. It’s important to carefully review any online therapy service you use to make sure they are legitimate, licensed, and well-reviewed. Online services are usually not appropriate for those under 18 except in rare circumstances. (Our practice does not currently offer online services.)

Support Groups: Most areas have a number of support groups for various issues that are peer-led, that is, you’re talking with others who may be experiencing similar issues as yours. You may want to look at Healthfinder, for example.

 

 

For more in-depth discussion of how to use out-of-network benefits, see wellbeing.com‘s page.

 

 

Birthday of Rosa Parks

Today is the 106th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks.

Dolly Chugh reviews The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks for Forbes. She describes why this should matter to your organization (and everyone’s!)

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