I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.
Have you noticed that there are times when you feel lethargic, or lack motivation to do things—even things that you usually enjoy? Are there times when you feel like you’re stuck in mud? Even something as seemingly benign as doing laundry feels hard. Yet, you go to work and your performance is exemplary. You may be very active, continue to complete excellent work with the PTA, or while coaching your child’s softball team. On the outside, it appears like nothing is wrong, while what is happening underneath, on the inside, is disguised.
So often when we think of depression, we think of it as a debilitating disorder that makes it difficult for us to function. Low-grade depression, however, is somewhat different. We may experience it on a consistent basis, kind of in the background, or episodically. We may not even know that we have it because we still function, and often extremely well, in our professional and personal lives. We can maintain appearances to our friends and family and do the everyday routine things that need to be done, and we can do them well. Therefore, others may not recognize our depression, and we might not even recognize it in ourselves.
Everyday Tasks Are Harder
The reason I call low-grade depression an ‘invisible phenomenon’ is because there are seldom external indicators like what is seen in moderate or severe depression. We may still laugh, yet not as often. Most of us continue to do daily chores and routines, where with more severe depression, that may be lacking or absent. However, those who experience low-grade depression may notice that it is more challenging to accomplish what we used to.
Low-grade depression tends to be subtle as opposed to more severe depression. Thus, we may be confused about what we are experiencing and it often is mislabeled by us and others around us. We may unintentionally make excuses for our moods and behaviors by saying that we are lazy, getting older, or that we don’t have the physical energy we used to.
Our Usual Energy is Lacking
Functioning with low-grade depression often means that there needs to be an internal push to move forward with tasks, where before it just naturally happened with little thought. We may start to turn down more social invitations than before because participating feels too hard and as if it takes too much energy. Social outings that used to be fun may start to feel more like work than pleasure.
What also sometimes happens is that we begin to beat ourselves up. We start to judge ourselves thinking things like, “What is wrong with me?” Others in our lives may criticize and judge us by complaining that we don’t want to go out, or that we don’t call to talk on the phone anymore, or socialize like we used to. This may begin to wear away at our self-esteem and exacerbate the depression.
For my complete article, and more tips on addressing low-grade depression, please click on the link below.
However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
Stephen Hawking passed away recently. Most of us will remember him as one of the world’s most well-known physicists. We might recall his amazing accomplishments and incredible discoveries that changed the way we think about the universe. Some of us might not realize the odds he had to beat to achieve this greatness. His inspiring story is of how his five decades-long struggle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) never halted the pursuit of his passion. He was a known genius who didn’t let his disease stop him from achieving his dreams. But what if he had?
Some of us tell ourselves stories that hold us back from reaching our goals or dreams. We all have an “it”, or a descriptor, that can become the obstacle. We can come up with all kinds of reasons for not reaching for our dreams, which really seem very legitimate to us. When we begin to explore what gets in our way, it’s vital to make sure that we are not blaming or shaming ourselves for having a hard time moving forward with our goals and dreams or beating ourselves up. It’s about understanding what inhibits us from reaching for what we truly want.
It Doesn’t Have to be a Disability
The word ‘disability’ implies that a person is not able. People use this word so freely, yet on an unconscious level, using that word subtly communicates to ourselves and others that this is true, that we are unable. Perhaps we could instead consider the “it” as a physical or emotional challenge. Is there an emotional, cognitive, or physical challenge, then, that is keeping you from realizing your dreams?
If there’s something we really want to do, whether it be big or small, we might be limiting ourselves because of what we tell ourselves. Or perhaps we don’t try because of what we believe other people are telling us, or what stereotypes say. But it’s about us and not about what other people say.
What’s Standing in Our Way?
Self-limiting beliefs stand in the way of realizing our dreams. It’s potentially hurting ourselves when we say, I can’t do this because…
I’m not capable— or not intelligent enough— or courageous enough.
I don’t have enough money—or energy— or creativity.
I’m obese—or in a wheelchair—or had a heart attack.
I have bipolar disorder—or cancer—or I cannot see.
It’s too hard— or too scary—or it will take too long.
Live Up to Our Own Potential
When we look at others who have accomplished goals and realized their dreams, it is important that we do not compare ourselves to them. This isn’t helpful because we then often feel bad about ourselves. It’s about seeing them as an example of what is possible despite their challenges or seeming limitations and being inspired by them. Seeing them as a role model might help us as we try to live up to our own potential and not limit ourselves.
For my complete article, and more tips on obtaining your goals and dreams, please click on the link below.
For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness under the carpet…and hoped that they would go away.
Richard J. Codey
When it was announced that there were 18 school shootings for the year 2018, many dissected just what defines a school shooting, and declared that the stunning number was inflated, when in reality, even one school shooting is too many. What will it take for us to really grasp the fact that something is real, that there is a real mental illness issue in our country and that we need to find a way to treat people who are plagued with it?
In the aftermath of the horrific school shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida by Nikolas Cruz, isn’t it time to finally take a look at the implications of mental illness? So many of us are blaming it on guns and the lack of gun control, and even though this is a contributing factor, what we are really addressing here is mental illness.
The Blame Game
It is easy for us to blame this on the lack of gun control, the parents, the manner of upbringing, video games, or on political unrest. However…
Mentally healthy people do not shoot children and adolescents at school.
Mentally healthy people don’t set off bombs at rock concerts.
Mentally healthy people don’t sexually abuse Olympic athletes.
Mentally healthy people don’t emotionally, physically or sexually abuse their partners or children.
Mentally healthy people don’t sexually harass their employees.
This is not to minimize or excuse the actions of those who performed horrific acts. This is instead an opportunity for us to look at what is at the bottom of this so that we can begin to acknowledge that mental illness is real. Then for us to decide as individuals, and as a society, what are we willing to do about it?
A Heavy Stigma for Many
These examples of mentally ill people performing violent and devastating acts are certainly the extreme cases and often the obvious ones. However, in our everyday life there are those of us, and those we love, who suffer with many forms of mental illness that are not always violent, or even recognized.
Some of us are riddled with anxiety that interferes with our ability to live a life with joy and ease.
Others of us experience depression, either low-grade, or severe, and anywhere in between.
Some of us think of suicide on a regular basis as a way out of the emotional pain and many follow through with this action.
Those who suffer with psychosis and hear voices and experience hallucinations in which we see and hear things that aren’t there.
There are some of us who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of serving in a war, being a victim of crime, suffering childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or living through a traumatic event such as 9/11.
Some of us suffer with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which can create havoc within our relationships, our employment, family life and physically.
For my complete article, and more tips on addressing mental illness, please click on the link below.
In the end, perfection is just a concept - an impossibility we use to torture ourselves and that contradicts nature.
Guillermo del Toro
How is your need for things to be “perfect” or “just so” impacting your marriage, or otherwise important relationships? Those of us who suffer with the need to be perfect, or have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or obsessive compulsive tendencies, often need things in our lives to be “perfect” or “just so” or “completely organized”. We need things to be a certain way to feel comfortable and anxiety-free or else we suffer. When I say we suffer, I really mean suffer. The suffering is from the anxiety that ensues if this isn’t just so, or if things are in disarray, or not the way we need them to be. Unfortunately, our need for perfection often inadvertently spreads to those closest to us and can negatively affect our relationships.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…do the thing you think you cannot do.
”If you see something, say something” ought not to be limited to seeing a suspicious package at the train station, the airport, or your neighborhood. It needs to be expanded to speaking up when we sense something, or witness something that may mean someone may be in jeopardy or need help. Even if we are not certain about this, yet our gut tells us something is not quite right. Something about the situation feels off, or uncomfortable.
The recent horrific story regarding the thirteen children abused and held captive by their parents, and the unfathomable number of young women sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, the Olympic gymnastics team doctor, are just two examples that screamed something is wrong here! Something needs to be done! Yet even though there were people who saw something, nothing was said, nothing was done. Unfortunately, in these two situations it took the people who were being abused or victimized to come forth. Something needs to change so that these atrocities that are known by others cannot be ignored any longer.
None of Our Business
What is it that keeps some of us from saying, doing, or reporting something when we believe something is wrong, or suspect that someone may be suffering an injustice? Is it our fear, anxiety, or confusion? Is it because we do not want to get involved, or we believe that it is not our business…or is it that we do not know what to do—so we do nothing?
When people are being abused or neglected, or sexually assaulted, there is such trauma that they are not always able to speak for themselves, or reach out for help. What I am encouraging us to do is to explore within ourselves what stands in our way of saying something, or reaching out to someone who could do something, when we know or sense someone is being hurt in some way.
Is there something in our own histories that prevent us from saying something?
Were we told it’s not our concern and that we shouldn’t get involved?
Did we grow up in a dysfunctional family environment and now believe that loyalty means keeping secrets?
Were we taught that it is not okay to speak our truth or express our feelings and thoughts?
Do we assume that someone else will speak up, or that it’s not our responsibility?
Were we taught that if we say something we will get in trouble, so we don’t?
Could it be that some of us were raised in alcoholic, or otherwise dysfunctional, families where what we saw or experienced was minimized, ignored, distorted, or we were punished for saying something about it?
Is it Possible That We Don’t Trust Our Own Perceptions?
Sometimes in dysfunctional families children’s perceptions are called into play. We may base our expectations of how others will treat us from our early experiences.
For more tips on addressing emotions that keep us from acting, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
Some of us continue to set ourselves up, once again, by setting New Year’s resolutions, which we have been unsuccessful in keeping in previous years. Some of us feel so discouraged about not being able to keep our New Year’s resolutions, or our intentions, that we abandon them totally, thus making ourselves feel even worse by not setting them at all.
The truth is all of these goals or New Year’s resolutions are important to work toward and can produce potentially life-changing patterns. Yet, they may be the same ones that we set in previous years and have had trouble incorporating into our lives.
Same Goal, Different Year
Sometimes we approach the New Year with lofty expectations that this will be the year we succeed with a huge or almost impossible goal, or multiple goals. We set goals such as, “I’m going to…”
Lose 30 pounds this year
Exercise every single day
Stop smoking, drinking, or compulsive overeating
Organize all my paperwork
Give up sugar and salt
Only eat healthy
Stop shopping compulsively
Make new friends
Be less negative
Cultivate my spirituality
Save more money
Argue less with my partner
Spend more time with my children
Get a better job
And we are going to achieve one or more of these goals…immediately.
It is only the second week into the year and here at Nassau Guidance and Counseling we are already hearing about the guilt our couples and psychotherapy clients are experiencing over their goals. Depression and anxiety around this has already begun setting in and for some a sense of hopelessness has developed. We have noticed that people are beating themselves up and are riddled with guilt because they have broken their New Year’s resolutions “already.”
So what do we do about this?
Do we not set New Year’s resolutions for ourselves and determine goals that we want to accomplish? Is avoiding resolutions and goals the answer to not feeling depressed, anxious, guilty, or angry with ourselves? Or do we need to approach this differently?
Perhaps if we set more realistic goals, such as focusing on losing 10 pounds instead of 30, or eating healthier as opposed to total diet restrictions, we might have a better chance at success. Even small changes, one behavior at a time, and not focusing on everything we want to improve in our life at once, can provide us with a taste of success to help us meet our goals.
Set an Intention. There tends to be an all-or-nothing approach or thought process that often accompanies setting these resolutions that many of us have, which really sets us up emotionally. I have always found that the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions” has a rigid feel to it, where instead setting an intention has a softer, gentler, more flexible feel.
For more tips on working toward your goals with a positive mindset and without feeling guilty, please click on the link below for my complete article.
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.
Our country has never been so divided in so many areas in modern times. This division has expanded even beyond what we have experienced pre and post election. It is no longer just about which political party is right or wrong for us. There is also infighting within each party itself. These, and other issues, have also arisen beyond the political arena, which have further divided us. This division has gone beyond the media and the office and has now entered our homes. During the holidays there naturally tends to be more stress than other times of the year, thus adding political tension has a real impact on family gatherings and the enjoyment of the holidays.
Volatile Political Views
People have always had varying views on political issues. What seems to currently be different is the intensity in which people are feeling around what is happening in the world and their beliefs surrounding things such as:
What is considered sexual harassment and what is not?
What is racial profiling and what is not?
What is acceptable behavior and what is not?
What is acceptable, and appropriate, to say to someone, and what is not?
The calm, productive, and sometimes passionate, interactions around these kinds of conversations seem to be something of the past. The old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” seems to have almost disappeared. Many of us who have strong feelings and beliefs seem to have lost our filter and just spew out whatever we think and believe without making space for, or having respect for, the other person’s point of view. This lack of respect and care can become destructive to our family and personal relationships.
Previously people might have been able to have healthy discussions, but now people are so passionate about their views that it has become problematic. Arguing erupts between spouses and partners, brothers and sisters, parents and their adult children, and yes, friends. A hostile division can arise between family members because of conflicting viewpoints, which can affect what were once healthy relationships. People who experience anxiety often suffer by these issues further exacerbating their symptoms, and those who don’t generally experience ongoing anxiety are starting to develop symptoms around this division.
Conflicting opinions abound on issues such as:
What we need to do about North Korea
How to address terrorism
Division around gun control and sale of guns
Here at Nassau Guidance and Counseling, and the therapy world in general, we have seen a significant increase in individuals, couples, and families seeking to help resolve the conflicts and to heal the wounds made by this division, which is wearing away our relationships.
Just Add Holiday Stress
It seems that many of us have less desire to make space for someone else’s view, even during the holiday season. The holidays are often stressful with sometimes unreasonable expectations of our busy schedule and this passionate division in viewpoints may further exacerbate this stress.
For more tips on maintaining happiness during the holiday season, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
William Arthur Ward
Some of us are struggling with finding gratitude and things to be thankful for during this tumultuous time in history. With all of the shootings, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, political discord, sexual harassment and sexual assault, intolerance for difference and hate, it is sometimes really hard to focus on anything else that is positive. It almost seems unnatural to focus on gratitude with everything negative occurring all around us. Although it can be challenging, it is possible to find things to be grateful for, it sometimes takes a lot of work to identify and embrace what is right in our lives instead of what is wrong.
We Have Much To Feel Grateful For
Most of us, however, have a lot to feel grateful for. If we really take the time to sit quietly and tune into ourselves, and what we already have in our lives, most of us will be able to come up with many things to be grateful for.
It might be that we are grateful for our…
It is less about what we possess and more about those people or things in our lives, including our own good qualities that fill our heart and feed our soul. It might be that we feel grateful for living on Long Island, the joy of reading, and our love of music, dance, yoga or art. Perhaps it is our creativity, our love of nature, our sense of humor, our athletic ability, intelligence, or our ability to problem-solve or our spirituality that fills us with gratitude. If we take the time to be mindful, our list can be an extensive one that we continue to add to.
Getting In Touch With Gratitude
Putting attention on what we feel grateful for does not mean that we are ignoring or minimizing what is emotionally painful in our life, whether it is personally or more globally. It just means that it is important for our wellbeing to take the whole picture into account to find the balance between what makes us feel good in our lives and what does not.
There have been many studies that talk about how getting in touch with our gratitude can enhance our feeling of wellbeing, increase happiness and may decrease depression and anxiety. We might also experience a reduction in some physical symptoms such as headaches, gastric issues, and muscle tension if we focus on gratitude. Better sleep patterns; improved coping skills and interpersonal relationships could also be experienced with a shift toward embracing feelings of gratitude.
Discover What Makes Us Feel Grateful
Everybody is different and different things work for different people. The Thanksgiving and holiday season is a wonderful time to begin observing what we are grateful for. To begin this process, however it is important to continue this process throughout the year.
For more tips on embracing gratitude, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent.
It is challenging to talk with our children about the tragedies happening in the world. The Las Vegas shootings, the Baptist church in Texas, the car bombing in Times Square and other natural disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Maria are only a few of the recent tragedies. Even if we tried to shield our children from these events, we cannot escape what they hear on social media, and from their peers. We may want to try to protect our children from exposure and believe this will keep them safe, yet we can’t avoid these conversations without risking leaving our children feeling confused, anxious or unsafe. They need to know they can talk to us when something bad happens. But when we may be scared out of our wits, how do we talk with our children without transmitting this fear to them?
Start by Examining Our Feelings
If we first examine our own feelings then we can be prepared to deal with our children’s feelings and questions. To be able to talk with our children in a way to be helpful, we must find ways to release and express our own fears in healthy ways. It is important to let our children know that we too are feeling scared, yet not to the point that we are transferring our fear and anxiety to them. Not allowing our stuff to spill into our conversations with our children is probably the biggest challenge. Although we are parents and want to do what is best for our children, we are only human. Working through our own fear and anxiety around this is most important before we have these conversations. While it is okay to let our children see us sad, they may not be able to understand extreme emotional reactions.
When our children ask questions about these events, no matter what is happening, we need to be able to respond to them as close to the time they ask the question as possible so they don’t carry it with them throughout their day. Even if they are going to be late for school, or it is bedtime, it won’t benefit them to delay or postpone answering if they are asking questions.
Don’t Hide the Truth under a Blanket of Lies
They hear what’s happening on television, or from their peers, and they are also hearing what their peer’s parents are saying which may have been approached differently from your parenting style. There is such a delicate balance between not lying to our children about what is happening and what could happen and sharing the truth without scaring them further. They need to be able to trust us in order to feel safe. In order to gain this trust we need to tell the truth. We clearly do not want to lie to our children. We want to help them to understand that it is natural and human to feel afraid and not minimize this, yet not cause them further distress.
For more tips on talking with our children about tragedies, please click on the link below for my complete article.
What I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse.
Sexual harassment is not just about sex. It is really more about power and control. Although sexual harassment and sexual assault does also happen to men, more often it happens to women. Reportedly 1 out of 3 women experience sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace and seventy-five percent of those women who file a complaint of sexual harassment experience some type of retaliation.
It is no wonder then, that sexual harassment is sorely underreported and all pervasive. If it wasn’t awful enough to experience the fear, violation and trauma from the sexual harassment itself, then to be retaliated against by the perpetrator and others is just unfathomable.
Don’t Blame The Victim
There are individuals who don’t understand the paralyzing effect of sexual harassment or sexual assault or comprehend that the person responsible for it is the harasser. That he or she is fully responsible for the harassment and the person being harassed is not. It’s not their fault. It’s nothing they did. They are not responsible in any way.
Fashion Designer Donna Karan initially defended Harvey Weinstein by stating that women invite sexual harassment by how they dress or present themselves. She later repented and apologized and referred to her comment as a huge mistake. Unfortunately, the reality is one does not make such a statement without it being part of their true belief system. Large parts of the population, including women, really have the belief system that somehow the victim is to blame. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, it’s still present. Thus further complicating a women’s desire to share about their sexual harassment or sexual assault. Furthermore, this makes it even more difficult for women to share with a friend, or someone close, even without reporting the harassment. This causes further alienation of the victim.
There Isn’t Usually A Simple Solution
It is distressing to have to walk into work each day and not feel safe and not know if the harassment is going to happen again today, or not. Some might suggest that the victim, “Just get another job”, or “Just tell them, no”. If it were so easy to just get another job, or just say no, then most women would do just that. It’s not that simple. The lack of understanding or minimizing that so often happens has a devastating effect that might make women stay silent.
Most women need their jobs. It might be the only way to pay bills or support their family. The concern of ruining future career prospects, the fear of retaliation, damage to reputation, or enduring the embarrassment of reporting the incident and risking becoming a pariah in the workplace might make women hesitate to report. When we have been sexually harassed and those around us such as friends, or coworkers, that we might have shared this with, minimize it or negate the experience, it is further traumatizing.
For more tips on coping with emotional pain from sexual harassment and sexual assault, please click on the link below for my complete article.