Saying No!

My therapist has a few phrases she loves to say, wise and always practical, she will often remind me of two vital components to living a healthy life, ( its been 4 years, and yet she perseveres, got to give it to her, she doesn’t give up) these two things are:

Self Care and the stories we tell ourselves.

I have been asking myself, what was  it that made me land up in the psychiatric ward last week? There must have been a build-up, a pressure boiler getting hotter and hotter, a story  occurring that eventually led me to my massive Bipolar manic episode.

My episodes are usually few and far between, and are usually over within a few hours. So what was different this time? Why, on this occasion was I unable to stop the racing thoughts, the need to be moving, the terrifying (for myself on some level , for others too) manic behaviour I was unknowingly displaying?

I think the answer is in those two words, self care.

The ability to say no is a skill that the sensible among us have learnt, to know your limits, to be able to say ” I would love to help you out, give you that ride, cook those meals for you, help organise the party, be class mum, take out that sick person, babysit your children, etc, but right now I need to focus on myself”

Its interesting, even writing the above, I felt selfish, as I type the thought  kept running through my head, ” but what if they are relying on you, need you to do that, the fact that they asked you means they thought you were the one to approach”.  The saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy lady”. Perhaps that busy lady is indeed so busy because we all keep asking her to do things for us?

Whilst in hospital a close friend came to visit, “Sara” said Abigail in her strictest tone of voice ” You have to stop doing so much for everyone else, do you think that by saying yes all the time, you are maybe covering  up for some kind of insecurity?”. Her perception really surprised me, at first a little hurt by her words but quickly recognising the absolute truth in them.

Do we say yes to people all the time, even when we are falling apart, even when we are crying inside for someone to give to us, even when we are just so tired of doing and doing and doing until we fall, exhausted and worn out in to bed because we have some constant voice in our minds, replaying the narrative that most of us have learned throughout our lives, “good people are the ones who do for others”. We see on all forms of media, the good of humankind, those that risk everything, those that stop at nothing to help the vulnerable, the suffering, the children who are hurting and hungry and that voice will tell us, in order to be seen as “good” this is what you have to do.

No one wants to, or should want to live a selfish life, we all need and aspire to do the best we can with the tools we have been given, but I have learned the hard way over the last few weeks, PRACTICE SELF CARE!

The stress I have been under wasn’t anything radical, we all deal with daily stresses, and need to be able to develop inner strength to cope with them, but it was a drip drip build up, it was a friends illness, a stillborn for someone else, another illness, being confided in about a the state of a friends sadness with her marriage, hearing about loss of finances for another, just doing, doing and doing more.

My body and my mind were telling me to say no, to let them know gently that right now I could not be present, I needed to look after me, but the insecurity inside, the part that drives us to try and please everyone, that part won.

So, what will I do next time? will I be able to say no when that person asks that favour? I hope so, even if it will be uncomfortable, even if my brain is rebelling against the words my mouth is speaking, I hope that I will be able to look deep inside, see what I need to do to be my best self, perhaps take on a little less, indulge in some me time, close the curtains, dont rush to answer those phone messages, learn that, hey, you know what, they will find someone else to do that thing that “only you” can do. Have a haircut, massage, nails done, a day away from everyone an everything.

Most of all, tell, tell the person who loves us most that we need to be selfish, if that person is ourselves, or a spouse, parent or friend, tell. We all need appreciation we all need physical and emotional acts of love.

Please take care of you.

Sara.

 

 

There is no one available to take your call…..

So, its been a while since I have heard those words, speaking to someone on the phone is a rare, strange, antiquated idea.  Why speak, when you can text, instant message, snapchat, tweet, WhatsApp  etc. etc.

Sending someone a message asking if they can talk usually is met with silence whilst they stroke their chin thoughtfully pondering the correct response to such an unusual and absurd suggestion.

Therapists, especially therapists, NEED! to answer immediately to a message, its a thing us in therapy know, if they don’t answer when we NEED them it is to quote Anne (with an E…great Netflix show!) “truly tragical”.

In our minds, at certain times, especially when we are feeling low or vulnerable sending a message to our therapist is our call out, we want to feel remembered, that we are of some importance to them, that they are there for us. Its a little like a child  meeting a teacher outside of school, children worldwide are continuously shocked that a teacher has a life outside school ( who knew… huh !) Surely the teacher/therapist is sitting, quietly awaiting her pupil/client to show up, contemplating everything that was discussed at the last lesson/session. Her thoughts completely focused on that particular person.

Some things a therapist does not have are these:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Shopping to do
  • Chores or other issues to deal with
  • Work
  • Other clients
  • Appointments
  • Their own issues and worries
  • Other places to go/other people to see.
  • Holidays
  • Self care time
  • Illness
  • Childcare

And the list goes on.

The last couple weeks have been stressful, lots of different sad situations coming my way, so obviously am feeling a wee bit vulnerable.  If I messaged a friend and they did not reply, I would (rarely) A. pick up the phone to them. B. wonder if I had done something to upset them, and then pick up the phone and call  them. C. Get mad at them and then pick up the phone and call them. D. Forget about it and then eventually pick up the phone and call them.

The relationship to a therapist is obviously unique, as much as we would sometimes like them to be, or on a bad day even have a little fantasy that they are our friends ( or mother/father… but that’s a whole different conversation) they are not, and they have boundaries which can not be crossed.

It is difficult though to remember that even if your ( or mine.. because ultimately I am actually talking to myself here) therapist does not reply immediately, or one day later or two, or even acknowledges your message at all, that does not mean that they  think you (or me) are:

  • Annoying
  • Needy
  • Demanding
  • Pathetic
  • Have no boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Not important
  • your issues are meaningless ( to those they see with “real” issues).

And any other millions of tangled messages your brain sends to you, hitting you over and over again, bringing down your self love and self esteem.

I know that I and others, will scribble a message and press send, swearing or “shouting ” at the therapist, telling them in our frustration that we don’t need them, want them, they are no good anyway etc, then quickly try to “delete for everyone” in the warped hope that maybe they would have glanced at the message, and seen you have deleted a message, and as a consequence we hope they have thought of us, even if for  a fleeting moment.

So, next time your feeling low, and really really need some care from your therapist, here’s something to try…. write a blog!

 

Mental Health Awareness Day.

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day.

From a personal view every day is mental health awareness day, and not only for me, but for the millions of people who live with a mental health condition.

It is an admirable endeavor, creating a day focused on Mental Health Awareness, but I find the similarities to other times where awareness is heightened and then forgotten about are clear, take Christmas for example where homelessness is the big “thing”, organizations like Shelter campaign tirelessly for the homeless, adverts tell us that £20 can pay for a meal, clothes and a shower for those on the streets, and then, Christmas comes and goes and those campaigns are forgotten about until the next year.

The same goes with Mental Health awareness, in one day we will all experience mental health in some form, whether it is healthy, positive mental health or unhealthy, developing in to illness, or need for some form of psychiatric help.

To a large extent unless a family member/community member/dr or friend takes action when someone’s mental health is suffering a person can go through incredible pain emotionally and physically, the age old stigma we have all heard, when discussing mental health sadly still applies, “why is mental health treated any differently to physical health” we all know that saying, we have probably used it in some form ourselves, yet the stigma is still strong, in fact I have been told not to write about mental health, to keep it quiet, as it is a shameful secret, and I wonder, and ask myself why, why after all these years, with all the information, mental health organizations, and awareness days is it still a shameful secret?

There are positive aspects though, and one of those is the organization I work for JAMI. JAMI is an organization focused on Mental Health Recovery, it focuses on the positive, the recovery rather than the negative. We have social workers, Occupational therapists, benefit advisors, support groups and so much more. I am honored to work for an organization where I see on daily basis clients arriving, feeling welcomed, knowing that no one will judge them, no one will view them as “different”, where people are treated with the respect all humans are entitled to.
It is an honor to work for an organization such as JAMI, and I have learned so much through my position here, I have learned that deep down we are all the same, we all crave care and love and respect for who we are.
Each person who comes through the door at JAMI know they are wanted and welcomed, no matter what stage of mental health they are at.
Mental Health awareness day is of course a necessity but until we all are able to stand up, be counted and accept our own and others mental health, there is still a long way to go.

Therapy anxiety .. Just another anxiety ?

Therapy anxiety is not something I have thought about in any great detail in the past, we’ll that is until I realised I had it! Actually  I think I will have a quick google now and see if the concept exists .. ( BRB )

I’m back. My search resulted in millions of hits for therapy assisting with anxiety but I could not find one site with therapy anxiety as the subject.

Anxiety in general is debilitating, it can cause a person to become a hermit in so many ways, when I was a child there seemed to be a lot less to be anxious about, or maybe I was just clueless. Drugs, terrorisim, etc are massive stress factors.

So, Therapy anxiety, what is it . A therapist often has more in-depth knowledge of a client then their family, friends, colleagues may have . No one goes to a therapist to discuss the weather or what they eat for lunch that day. Therapy is heavy stuff, it takes courage, it takes exposing your most vulnerable insecurities, your soul is laid bare in front of another person.

The relationship is pretty much one sided, of course I know that a good therapist cares about her clients and truly wishes to assist with recovery of mental wellness in any way they can. But being so one sided brings up so many emotions.

Example, today I took my child to see my therapist, my therapist works with children and my child needed help. Before we left home I made sure my child’s : hair was brushed and neat. Clothes were clean . Teeth brushed. Hands washed and on and on ! Because I care so much how  my  therapist, knowing the insecurities I have about motherhood would view me as a mother .

Before I see my therapist I make sure I look ok . I often leave her hoping that she likes me, wonder what she thinks about me.

When we have a session where nothing major comes up, and it’s just day to day worries that are discussed, I worry that she feels I’m not worth her time or care as much as other clients , I worry that she thinks I am wasting her time, and I worry that she would not want to see me anymore. I worry that she thinks I am fat , I worry if my nails are not done and on and on.

I hear you ask, is this what therapy should be? How can it be helpful if you are this anxious about it, and isn’t it just adding to the so many anxieties you already have ?

The answer, I believe that a lot of people who are in long term therapy have these worries, but you, if you do have therapy anxiety know that the positives, the work towards building you as a confident, emotionally healthy person, the care shown by any good therapist outweighs the anxiety to a huge extent.

So, if your experiencing my new term ( which I will make sure is added to the Oxford dictionary!) Therapy anxiety know that you are not alone !

Lots of love

Sara

The finish line in the distance…

Its been around 4 years since I met my therapist, living in a tight knit community it was important to me that my therapist have some idea of the life I had led and the intricacies of community life, luckily a friend happened to be a friend of the person who would become my support, my crutch and my advisor for the next approx. 4 years.

She has been the one I have turned to whilst in shock, she has been the person whom I have trusted to hold so much of my pain and hurt.

When choosing a therapist I would advise seeking someone who understands your background and your way of life, although it can cause complications, my therapist for example has family in my neighbourhood, we have friends in common and so on, this can cause issues with boundaries, and can cause the client to become to attached and lines can be crossed. There have been times where I knew she was aware of things happening within my family, for example when a family member went missing and she was receiving messages from the community to keep an eye out for him, or when I am aware of certain things going on in her family, but it can be a great source of comfort and can make the whole therapy journey easier.

Seeing her for so many years on a regular basis, pretty much every week, sometimes every other week,  I have grown to feel very close to her ( In a purely therapeutic way!), that is why what is coming up is so very hard, but so necessary. I think the longest I have gone without seeing her is around 2 months, and it was so very hard.

The aim I feel, of therapy is to get to a point where you can end it, where you can say, the work has been done, I may have times I need to come back, but now I have the tools and skills to do this without my therapist.

It can be, and usually is a very scary thought for anyone who has been in therapy for a while to feel that the journey is nearing its end, you have opened your heart and soul, have bared your deepest thoughts and feelings and trusted this person with things you would not share with anyone else.  The feeling of closeness a person has with their therapist is so complex, it is a one sided relationship in the sense that whilst you may know basic things about your therapist, you will never spend time socially with them, you can never give back emotionally to them and will never be a part of their lives. Yet I am sure, that most therapists, who have been seeing a client for many years will naturally feel a closeness to the client, and I have for so long clung to the hope that this is how my therapist views me, and when the time comes to part, maybe, just maybe she will miss me.

There are signs to look out for that can point you in the direction you need, for example, when a person is not feeling great, whether they have a mental health issue which is affecting them, or living through a stressful time, they may automatically think about their therapist more, may even obsess about the therapist, especially with issues such as  bi polar which often causes obsessive thinking. At such times it is probably best not to be considering ending therapy as the thoughts if not dealt with in the correct way can escalate quickly, but, if on such occasions you are able to live with the thoughts, think about them in a rational, non emotional way and let the thoughts pass, you are probably on the path to reduce or end therapy.

Feeling anger at your therapist is also a good pointer, recently I have felt some anger at her, which is oddly enough a good thing, it means you are able to view your therapist as a human, realise that they also make mistakes and are not some other worldly, angelic figure you may have spent years idolising.

Another sign to look out for is feeling that the world is not coming to an end if you do not see your therapist for a couple of weeks, that you will not be sending him/her message after message and that even though you may think about them, may even send the odd message, the thought is ok, the feeling is not one of desperation, of feeling you will not cope until the next time you see them.

I will not be seeing her this week, and I did not see her last week, the thought is worrying me, and yes I am already storing things up to tell her, but I know that I can do it, the Bi Polar part of me is stable, I have learned and have the tools to deal with any near episodes, and whilst I know that I am not yet ready to completely bid her farewell, its a great feeling knowing that I am slowly, very slowly getting there.

Please do not end therapy if you are not 100% sure you are ready, take it slowly, figure it out together, and know with certainty that you can do this.

This one is dedicated to Her….

I have spent the last 24 hours thinking about this post, how to format it, how to write it and what to say. There is so much I can say about this, but it will get sooooooooooo boring, the subject I want to chat about is Therapy.

Recently I had a conversation with someone, it went something like this:

Me ” I have just finished reading this really good book about therapy, I highly recommend it”

Her ” Na, I don’t really believe in therapy for adults, you can always speak to a friend, rav, or your husband”

Me ” hey, don’t knock it till you try it”

Her ” well, a person only needs therapy if they have really bad emotional difficulties”

Me “ok, whatever” ( yup- great comeback I know)

I am a proud therapy goer for approx 15 years, ( yes I must have so many deep, crazy, psychological issues). I believe that everybody should have a therapist, and THERE IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. In fact the opposite, a therapist, in my humble opinion is the same as a dr, just for the mind.

It happened on Friday that I cut off a chunk of skin from my thumb, now a well meaning friend happened to be in the house, try as she did we could not get it to stop bleeding, I texted my friends and family in a panic, whilst blood went everywhere asking what to do, yet it still did not stop bleeding. So I called Hatzola (the jewish paramedic service), the Hatzola guys are all trained and know exactly what they are doing… my point… all the well meaning friends, all the concerned family could not help, only someone trained with knowledge of the issue managed to fix it. Should it not be the same with emotional issues, which in general are so much deeper and have more impact on our lives then a cut thumb.

A quote from the above mentioned great book I recently finished ( Therapy Shmerapy by Mindy Blumenfeld) the quote is not exact as I do not have the book with me, she writes of a scenario, a young newly married couple are having issues with financies, they can not seem to agree how to mange their money, so they pop along to their local friendly Rabbi/priest/Iman/ bar man/ Scientology leader / postman … for a chat. He advises them how to open up joint accounts, or how to save their money, they leave big smiles on their faces, all is peaceful. A week later the couple come back with another issue they cant agree on, and so it continues.  The  Priest /Rabbi … ( You get the idea) try as he may can not get to the bottom of the problem, and may realise that there is something far deeper then not being able to sort out financies or how to run their home. For the deeper, root cause of the issue they need to see someone who is trained to do exactly that, get to the bottom of the issue, someone who knows through her training what to ask, what to do etc.

A friend, no matter how close, no matter how deep your friendship Has her own views and can not be objective due to her relationship to you. Do you really want to discuss matter close to your heart regarding your children, husband/ partner, family, knowing that she will come in to close maybe daily contact with all those people?

A few years ago, I met a family relative, he runs the Relief organisation in Canada, he said something that I found to be so on the mark. Whilst talking about therapy, he said “we have come to a point where people would say without shame that their child is in therapy, hopefully in a few years we will come to a point where people could admit without shame that they are in therapy”

So why the shame? why the secret? Think about what therapy enables us to do, it enables us to delve deeper in to the workings of our mind, it frees our thoughts from the prison it can create for us, it opens up a deeper understanding of our relationships, and our daily struggles.  When a person takes the step and sees a therapist for whatever reason, she should never be ashamed, she should be proud, proud that she is seeking the answers, proud that the anxiety, the depression, the fear, the suffering she is experiencing is going to be explored. Proud that she refuses to sweep the issue under the carpet. Proud that she will become a deeper friend, a more loving wife, have more patience, time and love for her children or co-workers.

Before I end this to long post I want to slip in a few words about my therapist… if there was a way of making clones, there should be a clone of her in every town in the world. Once a week I sit in her room, it used to be the big room with the amazing mirror which looked like a hundred shattered mirrors put back together (oh I do miss looking at the mirror…to me it represented what therapy is) but now we are in the smaller room, the cosier room, with the walls lined with holy books, the bottle of water I know will always be there even though I never drink, the tissues which I thought I would never use (how wrong I was) Often my eyes scan the books, and I wonder, does she think I am being nosy, I am not ( really …I’m not) I sometimes find it hard to meet her eye, as I am afraid of what I may see in them, but in reality all I have ever seen, is care, concern and the want to help me be a better self.

My therapist has been the oxygen where there is none. She has been the sun, straining to be seen through the clouds, she has been the home where I can park all my worries, all my fears, all my doubts. She has gone above and beyond for me, she has shown me that I am a person of worth, a person who has something to contribute to society. She has seen me cry, cry in a way that I never dreamt I would in front of another person. She has seen me at the worst of times, and never have I felt judged by her… shouldn’t we all want such a person in our lives.

To all those people who say “I don’t need therapy” “only people with no friends, family etc need therapy” “therapy is for people with severe emotional issues” this post is for you. YOU are the ones that need it the most, because you are missing out on changing your life from a shallow, false living to a real, wonderful and deep life.

And so, to my lovely therapist  this post is dedicated to you.

 

lots of love

Sara 

 

 

 

 

 

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