therapy

Hello Again! A 2020 Life Update…

Hello, my darlings!

It’s been all of two weeks since the last time I posted, but in a lot of ways, it feels like much longer. Life has just been so hectic lately. I’ve got half a dozen drafts sitting in my writing program waiting to be finished, but since I’ve been doing more focused posts lately, I thought it would be good to just sit down and have a chat about how life has been going. I guess its not really a chat though if I’m the only one talking. Eh, whatever. Continue reading →

Posted by katharine_marie in Life in 2020, 0 comments

Re-Direct, Re-Frame, Re-Train

Hi beautiful dreamers!

How many of us have thought and speech patterns that we know aren’t that great? Whether it’s a bad habit of mentally putting yourself down after being clumsy or the way we say “sorry!” after everything, regardless of what’s happening – I think everyone has something that they do without thinking that tears themselves down more than it builds up.
Many people can go through life and be just fine with a few negative thought patterns. It doesn’t affect them. I’m not one of those people. I have several very distinct patterns that can quickly turn into nasty spirals if left unchecked.

finn-nJupV3AOP-U-unsplash

Especially since the pandemic hit, my weekly therapy sessions have become a staple of my routine. I even had a minor panic moment this last week when my therapist said she was going to be on vacation. How would I ever survive?!
Joking aside though, I do rely a lot on the accountability and safety of that hour every week. And a big portion of what I work on outside of those sessions is reframing the negative and harmful patterns that I have, both in my thoughts and my words. She helps me find ways to rephrase things and recognize patterns that I wouldn’t necessarily notice on my own.

It’s a lot of hard work!

The longer a particular pattern has been in place, the longer it takes to work through it. These patterns are, quite simply, memorized brain responses, so the process of re-framing a thought really means re-training your brain. Which equals some hard work because thoughts are sneaky and like to creep through when you’re least expecting them. It’s a daily thing and can require lots of conscious effort for quite a while, depending on how long it has been a habit. Just like any other habit that you might want to create or stop, your brain’s habits are also challenging.

Half the battle!

For me, half the battle sometimes is simply recognizing a pattern that I don’t want to continue. This is where a therapist can come in handy because they are listening to you and hear things much more objectively than you do. Plus they don’t have your history with whatever pattern or thought process it is, so they can point out things that you might not otherwise see for yourself.

Some examples might be…

Following a spiral of worst-case scenarios in your head.
Mumbling “stupid” under your breath whenever you drop something.
Judging yourself mentally every time you catch your reflection in a mirror.
Apologizing for being enthusiastic about something when talking to a friend.
Immediately assuming someone is mad at you because they don’t respond right away.

And so on and so forth. There are a million different examples I could give, but I’m sure the ones I mentioned already struck a chord with a few people. It’s hard to acknowledge these things sometimes, but being able to recognize and point out a negative pattern is the beginning of the road.

In my personal life…

I do rely on my therapist a lot to help me recognize when I’m speaking in a way that isn’t positive or loving to myself. Having that outside voice helps a lot. I have found my own patterns though in the past, usually by flipping through past journal entries that end up making me cringe. Sometimes even by listening to someone else and realizing that they’re not being kind or gracious to themselves has flipped a switch for me, causing me to acknowledge that I do the same thing to myself. Ouch.
As I mentioned, acknowledging the pattern as a problem is half the battle. Once I see what I’m doing wrong, I’ll notice it every time and sometimes that’s enough to stop me in my tracks. Other times, especially when its something that I’ve been internalizing for many many years, its a lot harder. In those situations, I usually have to dig a little deeper inside myself and find the root of that pattern. Maybe its something that I was told as a child that I shouldn’t have clung to, but did anyway. Regardless, if I can find the root of the issue, I can start to work through it and make a stronger effort to change my habits, and my heart as well. It’s challenging, for sure, but so very worth it. There are days that I struggle more than others, but that’s what life is, right?
Is there a thought or speech pattern that you notice in yourself that isn’t kind or loving? What is it that you need to begin that change in yourself?


Love, kindness, and lots of light,
untitled

Posted by katharine_marie in Anxiety, Depression, General, mental health, 0 comments

Coping Mechanisms: Thoughts on Meditation

Hi lovely people and dreamers!

I’m so behind with everything right now, but I’m still managing to show up at some point, right? The Tiny Princess hasn’t been quite herself this week, which means I haven’t had much time for anything else the last few days.

2020 hasn’t been the year any of us thought it would be, and it’s not always easy to let that go. I’ve been doing a lot of meditating lately as a way to sift through my feelings and calm my anxiety. It’s not the easiest thing all the time – my brain likes to run a million miles a minute and finding the focus for meditation isn’t always easy.

IMG_2411

Emptying Your Mind is a Misleading Phrase

It’s hard to empty your mind of everything, and often, the way that people talk about meditation makes it seem like that is the only way to meditate: clear your mind and relax, or something like that. And I had a difficult time with that because there is no earthly way to clear my mind – at least none that I’ve figured out yet anyways.

Instead, I’ve found it helpful to find something to fidget with – something with texture to keep my fingers busy is great – close my eyes and just practice acknowledging my thoughts. I don’t focus on anything in particular, I just take note of the things that come through my mind, and then move on. It’s not as easy as it sounds and I’m definitely not very good at it yet, but it’s actually been very helpful in reducing my anxiety on bad days.

On days that it’s hard to even do what I just described, I’ll find an affirmation, Scripture, or inspirational phrase/word and focus on that instead. It gives my brain something to analyze and work on while still practicing that mental focus.

Silence, Sounds, Solitude

It’s hard to find uninterrupted time to myself right now with a 9-month-old baby roaming the house. I’m very lucky that she takes fairly consistent naps, so at least I can time my 10-15 minutes of meditation more easily. But I still have the baby monitor in the room and just knowing that its there can take away from my focus. It’s not easy, and that’s just the season I’m in right now, but it’s still important to take care of myself, so I’ve been trying to make it happen anyways.

The baby monitor we have vibrates when she starts to cry, so I’ve been able to turn the volume all the way down while still knowing that I won’t miss anything if she needs me. That helps quite a bit. Locking the cats out of the room helps too since sitting still always looks like an invitation for them to come and sit on my lap. Claws in my leg are not exactly helpful!

But even perfect silence is still not always the best. I think it causes me to start listening even harder for something to disrupt my mental focus – the irony of that is a little annoying. I definitely do best with some sort of sound, whether it’s white noise or music. I use an app called Insight Timer, and it allows me to add a gong or bell sound at preset intervals throughout my meditation session – sounds like a weird thing maybe, but I’ve found that hearing a specific noise every 30 seconds or so helps me refocus my mind again instead of accidentally getting lost somewhere along the way.

Practice and Forcing It

I’m the worst when it comes to just relaxing and letting things go at their own pace. I have to see improvement quickly or I get frustrated. This is something I’m working on in a lot of areas of my life, but I find that it’s more difficult with certain things. Meditation is one of them – it sounds too easy when in fact, it’s quite difficult.

It took several attempts over several months for me to actually understand that this was something I was going to have to practice as well. Just like drawing: my hands don’t automatically know how to create a recognizable picture. My brain doesn’t necessarily know how to focus and find the clarity that I’m looking for. So meditation is something that requires practice as well. And practice can not be rushed or forced.


This week I’ve been brainstorming and researching some new coping mechanisms beyond writing – I have a tendency to rely solely on the one and it doesn’t always work out so well. So I may be writing more on different self-care and coping strategies in the near future as I experiment and try some new things out!


Love, light, and a heaping dose of kindness,

untitled

Posted by katharine_marie in Anxiety, Depression, General, Life in 2020, Lifestyle, mental health, 2 comments

Therapy Experience

Hello beautiful humans and dreamers,

I’ve spent the last week in a lot of thought, taking in the social situations that the world has been dealing with. I’ve been listening, learning, understanding more and more about other people. It’s been fascinating, saddening, enlightening, and a whole host of other things, but I’m happy, in a way, that people are actually having hard conversations and standing up for other people. I have felt the need to stay quieter than normal, to allow others the chance to speak while I listen, and it’s been a much needed time period. I’m going to return to my regular posting schedule now, with a lot more awareness and empathy.

The easiest way to describe my blog lately would be as a mental health platform. I use it mainly to talk about ways to deal with mental health issues, to advocate for better care, break stereotypes, and create more dialogue about these chronic issues that plague our society. Just under 50 percent of all Americans will experience mental illness in some form during their lifetimes, yet there is still an immense amount of stigma surrounding their experiences.

One of the starting points for most people dealing with mental illness should be to see a counselor, therapist, or psychologist. But less than 35% of people will actually take that step. And many people, even if they do see a counselor or psychologist, will avoid talking about it to others because they are afraid of being judged.

IMG_1868

I saw a mental health counselor while I was at university. I went almost every week for about four months. I was finally referred to a wonderful facility after the Tiny Princess was born, and started seeing my current therapist approximately 2-3 months postpartum.

Even though I had been in therapy before, it was difficult to go back. It was just as hard for me to take that step and accept that the extra help was actually needed. Now that I’ve been going regularly for almost 6 months, it’s a lot easier to discuss with others.

Going to see someone is not a cure. Not in any way, shape, or form. Some psychologists or psychiatrists do prescribe medications or other therapies that can help, but right now there are no true “cures” for mental illnesses. That is a whole different topic, however…

There are plenty of times when I don’t feel like going (or logging on, in the current COVID situations, all my sessions are through video chat) or I think that “oh! I had a good week, I don’t need to talk to her yet.” In reality, sometimes those are the most productive and important sessions of all. When I’ve had a good week, it can be incredibly insightful to talk to someone who can decipher what was different and how I can replicate that in the future. On the days I “don’t feel like it,” she can encourage me to work through those feelings and come out on the other side with new strategies and fresh motivation. It doesn’t really matter what mindset I have going into a session though because it’s always good to be able to talk to someone who is there to listen without judgment and is 100% focused on helping me find a way through it.

It’s easy to think that going to see a counselor or therapist means giving up on yourself. It’s easy to think that you’ve failed and can no longer do things on your own. In reality, it’s the complete opposite. It takes strength to say “I need help.” It takes courage to face the issues in your mind and work your way through them and having someone to coach you through that struggle can only help.

Everyone faces different struggles and each of our minds work just a little bit differently, but I can honestly say that seeing someone who is trained in mental health can be the first step towards understanding yourself a little bit better. I might not have regular panic attacks or be drowning in depression like I was in the past, but the benefits that I’ve seen from my weekly sessions are enormous nonetheless.

I’m going to write up some more informative posts in the future about finding a therapist and possibly tips for getting the most out of a session, but for now, I simply wanted to share my experience.


Love, light, and kindness, particularly to those currently being oppressed,

untitled

Posted by katharine_marie in Anxiety, Depression, General, Life of a Writer, Lifestyle, mental health, 0 comments