How to Let go of Worry and Anxiety

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The other night I woke and thought to myself, “What have I to worry about?” I realised then what I have always known; we are programmed to worry. I had nothing specific I needed to worry about, but realised that I nearly always have something competing for my attention and worry.

The following morning, whilst eating my breakfast, a thought entered my mind: “What if the card machine isn’t charged when I need it?” Able to catch myself, I was able to let go and come back to the present and my breakfast. This is typical of what happens to all of us every day.

Do you worry? Of course you do; we all do, as it is our natural default position.

When worrying gets out of control, it can lead to anxiety and panic. If excessive, it can cause illness. Worry, which could also be deemed “active problem solving,” is the result of the natural evolutionary response known as ‘fight or flight’, as you focus on “what ifs” or “what could happen.”

Persistent or chronic worrying is what doctors refer to as anxiety. It can impact on your daily life to the point that it interferes with work, relationships, sleep and appetite, and it diminishes your quality of life.

Many people who suffer from anxiety turn to smoking, drinking and drugs (over the counter or prescribed) in an attempt to get some relief from their emotions. Some people comfort eat, whilst others starve themselves. In some cases, when worrying and anxiety gets out of control, it can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

What Causes Anxiety?

We humans are funny creatures, always looking outside ourselves for the answers. We look to external reasons for tension and anxiety.

All kinds of worries flit in and out of our minds: whether we will have enough food to eat, whether we will be able to find a partner so that we are not destined to spend our future alone, whether we will have a pay rise, lose a job, whether our car will break down or whether we will be able to afford a holiday. The list of worries is endless.

We look to “things” as the source of our worries. Often, we project our mind to the future and say to ourselves, “when this happens” or “when that happens, I will be happy and have no more worries!”

Look a little closer and you will see that these external things: job, money, relationships, etc, are not the true cause of the negative emotional states of worry and anxiety.

Worries do not come from outside and are not the result of “external circumstances,” they are the result of “internal circumstances”. Worry, stress, tension and anxiety are all the result of our thoughts.

 Accept Worry for What It Really Is. 

A worry is nothing more than a thought. Worry occurs when our mind is “future focused”. For example, if you were confronted by a lion or tiger your worry would not be about the fact there is a lion or tiger in front of you. Your worry would be that the lion or tiger might eat you! When you sit an exam your worry is not sitting the exam, but whether you will do well enough to pass! Worry is all about things going wrong, in other words, threats to our existence. Worry is simply a particular type of thought pattern, nothing more. Stress arises as a result of the internal stories we tell ourselves. Those with good imaginations make wonderful worriers!

By going over things in our minds we get stuck in a cycle of thinking, replaying events, projecting forward. As we ruminate over and over we become tense and experience stress. Many engage in what I call “stinking thinking!” that king of negative rumination that spirals into a very black place and which can ultimately result in clinical anxiety or depression.

Because your mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and your imaginings, the thoughts have the same results on the body no matter what. In other words, imagining an event happening causes the same physiological responses as if it were actually happening!

Those who worry experience ongoing irritability, muscle tension, concentration difficulties, indecision and agitation just as though they were actually experiencing the things they worry about. The result is a constant state of arousal, feeling “on edge,” and unable to relax. Often the mental stress will be accompanied by physical stress, headaches, neck ache, back ache, chest tightness and chest pain and so on.

When you learn to recognize worry and anxiety for what it really is, which is simply “thoughts”, it begins to lose its grip on you. With practice, it can become very simple to let go of worry.

Using Mindfulness to let go of Worry. 

To begin with, it is important to have a clear understanding of what mindfulness is:

“Paying attention to the present moment, experiencing the present moment non-judgementally, with kindness and compassion.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

The easiest way to do this is to use our breath as an anchor. Breathing in and out, paying attention to what is happening in our mind and body, becoming aware of our thoughts – the stories playing out in our minds – as well as the emotions and physical sensations as they are arising. You will soon discover that your mind has a life of its own, taking off into the future or dwelling on some past event. This is totally normal, and when you notice that your mind is no longer on the breath, notice what is on your mind at that moment. Whenever you find yourself worrying about something, note to yourself simply that you’re “just worrying.”

By doing this you begin to witness your thoughts, instead of being in your thoughts. You now have the power to choose to let them go. So notice what is on your mind at that moment and then gently let go, NOT by consciously pushing your thoughts away, but by recognising them and letting them be, as you gently turn your attention back to your breathing, paying attention to the present moment and what you’re doing. Every time you catch yourself worrying – no matter how often – you simply acknowledge, let go and return to your breathing.

Don’t Fight your Feelings

Eckhart Tolle, author of “The Power of Now,” reminds us, “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and whatever you resist, persists.” The emphasis is always on what is happening, not why it’s happening. It is important not to fight your feelings, simply acknowledge in a non-judgemental way without criticism, without trying to push the thoughts away. You don’t need to spend energy fighting your thoughts, but you also no longer need to follow them and dwell on them. Simply acknowledge them, label them, put them down and move on. As soon as you struggle with the thoughts you give them power. Instead, try to observe your thoughts and worries objectively and with calmness. Simply make a mental note, without giving them any more importance or power than they deserve.

Know that you will face each situation as you come to it and deal with it then. Learn to deal with stress and difficulties more wisely, by responding rather than reacting. Learn to let go of the past and leave the future until tomorrow. Let your “future self” deal with tomorrow and let your “present self” deal with today!

Until next time, Steve.

We would be delighted if you visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                             Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Depressed_girl.png

References: 

This post was adapted from “How to Overcome Worry & Anxiety…For Good!”               http://mrsmindfulness.com/how-to-overcome-worry-anxiety-for-good/  [Accessed 14/04/15].

Black. A (2015) “The Little Pocket Book of Mindfulness”, CICO books: London, New York.

Tolle. E (2001) “The Power of Now” Hodder Paperbacks

“Mindfulness of the breath” a meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Should I see a therapist?

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Well, that really depends on why you want to see a therapist. If you are going to see them with the hope that they will solve your problems, then perhaps not. If, however, you are going to them with the hope that they will help you to solve your problems, then that’s another matter. You see, the job of a therapist is not to “fix,” but instead to help you to mobilise your resources. A good therapist does not solve your problems, but helps you to develop the capacity to solve your own problems.

People often look to have therapy when they have a major life crisis, such as a death, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Sometimes people feel empty or inadequate inside, or they may feel that life is not going right and they may feel unfulfilled.

It can take courage to go and see a therapist, after all, firstly the person has to admit they have needs and then they have to face them. Fear of facing painful feelings can prevent people seeking help and many turn to work, alcohol or other coping strategies to push thoughts and feelings out of their consciousness. Therapy does require a commitment from you, but it is worthwhile and talking about difficult emotions in a safe space can be very liberating. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in such a way as to clarify your own situation, come to terms with painful emotions and see your difficulties with greater objectivity can really be helpful.

It is the therapist job to provide you with a space where you can talk without fear of judgement. In other words, a confidential place where you can feel held, secure and safe. For many, the therapy room is a refuge, a sanctuary. I like to think of it as your room, your space within my world. A place where you can return to at any time in your life should you need.

A good therapist will make you feel at ease, they may even feel more like a friend than a professional therapist, someone with whom you may feel you can tell anything. Whilst friendship and friendliness may be an important ingredient, along with warmth, genuineness and congruence they can never be a friend as such. You are seeking their help as a professional not as a chum, buddy, lover or any other relationship.  It is precisely because of the uniqueness of this relationship where warmth and friendship in the therapy space combined with professional integrity come together in the service of your difficulties. Next time you are telling a friend something notice how they will often come back and try to tell you a worse story, or perhaps they will tell you what to do or simply rubbish what you say. A good therapist won’t do this. Of course, there may be a value in the therapist sharing or disclosing something of themselves, they will only do so really if it is deemed to be helpful and supports the therapeutic endeavour. You can be sure of one thing though, unlike a friend or acquaintance, a good therapist won’t dump their garbage on your shoulders!

The term psychotherapist is one that I really like. Not because it is a lovely grandiose title… but because of the original Greek meaning of the word. Here the word therapist literally means “attendant” and the word psyche literally means “spirit” or “soul.” So a psychotherapist is literally a “Soul Attendant.”

One of the problems when deciding that you want to take up therapy is to find the right type of therapy for you. The problem is that there are just so many different types of therapy to choose from. Therapies vary from analytical laying on the couch type therapy, to body therapy, cognitive behavioural, transpersonal to neurolinguistic programming. The list is seemingly endless. I suggest you go to a good bookshop and look for books on therapy in the psychology section, alternatively contact a few therapists and ask them to tell you more about their particular approach.

Probably the best way to find a therapist is through personal recommendation. This may be from your doctor or a friend. The key thing is that the therapists approach has to feel right for you.

These days a lot is spoken about a type of therapy know as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, which is my own speciality. This is an action-oriented as well as word-oriented therapy. It helps people understand what is happening and what they can do to change the way they feel and react. CBT looks at the way thoughts (cognitions) and beliefs affect our emotions and the meaning we give to events. This affects our emotions and our reactions (behaviours). Unlike some other approaches, CBT is a relatively short term psychotherapeutic approach. The length of therapy tends to depend on the complexity of the presenting problem. A block of sessions ( usually six) may often be enough for a noticeable difference to emerge. Improvement to “quality of life” is often the best measure of success. The goal of CBT could be said, to enable the client to learn ways to address problems and difficulties in order to become their own therapist.

If somebody asked me what do you do? I would reply that I do many things, but one of the most important things is”tilting the mirror.” In other words. Reflecting back in such a way as enable the client to glimpse a slightly different perspective. Helping the client gain insight and understanding. This may be helping the client to see how unhelpful thinking traits, such as catastrophizing mind reading, black and white thinking distort their view of reality. We may look at the meaning they give to events creates a huge emotional upheaval and how stepping back and distancing can help. Then together we look at the problem area and the way it impacts on the person’s life. We consider how life would be different if the problem was resolved. We look at what may need to happen or change, then we look at the emotions arising out of the event or situation and talk about them. Together we identify what needs to happen to bring about resolution of the problem area. Then we identify strategies and goals (or aspirations) to aim for. Working within a specific time frame, using measures and behavioural experiments to help us. Through the course of therapy the client and therapist walk “shoulder to shoulder,” addressing the difficulties In a collaborative way.

Some people say, “I felt worse after my first session,” for others, getting it out in the open can be a great relief. Problems rarely resolve themselves without action, and if they do so, it may not be in the way we desire. Having the opportunity to explore them with another person may help a great deal.

Don’t expect miracles, but don’t dismiss the possibility that resolution of difficulties can feel like a miracle. Therapists are not “miracle workers” and if they present themselves that way, don’t go anywhere near them! The therapist is there to guide you to achieve your goals, not to do the work for you or “make” you feel better. Every session you attend is one step closer to feeling better.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

visit us @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com
Like us @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                        tweet @ cbt4you

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Thought-Flipping

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All day long our minds are filled with constant chitter chatter. Most of it benign, some of it worry-some, and some of it down right troublesome.

Research suggests we have somewhere in the region of 65,000 thoughts every day and that on average our mental dialogue is in the region of 50 to 300 words per minute.

Much of this is self-talk, inwardly directed and a good deal of it is unhelpful. Because of the way it makes us feel, it is capable of raising our stress levels and bringing down our mood. In CBT circles we talk of NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) or ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).

Such thoughts are:

AUTOMATIC              They just seem to come into your mind without any concious effort.

DISTORTED               They are not always supported by the things you know to be true.

UNHELPFUL             They are nearly always negative and make it difficult to change.

PLAUSIBLE               You accept them as facts without questioning them.

INVOLUNTARY         You do not choose to have them and they appear difficult to stop.

One of the problems is that we tend to be so identified with our thoughts that we often cannot see them for what they are…just thoughts. Instead, somehow we see them as us, and we feel we have no power over them. Often we give them power, believing them and that we are somehow at the mercy of them. Racing thoughts, obsessive ruminations and irrational fears take over.

How then can we learn to step back and take control? Well, let me introduce you to “thought flipping.”

I would like you to imagine that you are now going to install a “negative thought alarm.” As soon as a negative thought crosses your mind a silent alarm sounds. You then step in with absolute authority, grab hold of the thought and flip it on its head, by thinking the exact opposite.

Yes, expect a little battle at first, when your rational programmed mind tells you that such a practice is ridiculous and could not possibly be true. But like the Master you are, you use your authority and power to respond back in a direct and commanding way. The mind is reminded that it’s former thought was, at the very least, as lousy and ridiculous as the new flipped one. As you are the Master you will choose what is true.

Here is an example of thought flipping where we rewrite the negative mental script.
You find your mood dipping and you notice you are feeling angry with yourself. Your thoughts are as follows: “I am useless and have no sticking power, I missed an entire week at the gym.” By flipping the thought we create a different perspective and this can halt the negative mood slide. “I have been kind and listened
to my body and taken a break from the gym, so I am going to have a really good workout today, because I am truly committed to my goal of feeling good and honouring my mind and body.”

What you need to do is change the wording, in other words rewrite them. Which one do you want to be true? You choose?

It can be really helpful at first to get into the habit of writing down any serial negative thoughts that continue to pop into your mind. Do this when you notice the drain on your emotions and you start to feel down, depressed or anxious:

Write down your thoughts on paper and take a good look at it.

Do you know this thought is a fact, is it true?

Is this a helpful thought, does it serve you?

Write down a counter thought that opposes the negative thought

Change the wording of the thought to something more positive

Now each time the negative thought wants to dominate your thinking, assertively replace it with the new positive alternative.

So here we have it, thought flipping, tackling negative thoughts by re-creating positive alternatives with deliberate intent. Planting positive thoughts this way ensures that we take back control and create the reality we want.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

 

Adapted from: “Thought-Flipping: A guide for Taking Charge of Your Mind-Stuff,” by Leigh Donovan, 30/06/12, Spirit-full, a personal transformational blog.

Ref: “Negative Automatic Thoughts,”  Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS TRust, Clinical Psychology, 2002

Image ref: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Mr_Pipo_thoughts.svg

Managing really upsetting thoughts and feelings

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As a CBT practitioner I would be the first to point out that avoidance of upsetting thoughts and feelings only serves to perpetuate and strengthen the power they have over you. There are times however, when the sometimes overwhelming nature of these thoughts and feelings can simply be too much. Having intrusive and upsetting thoughts while your taking your child to school, or when faces around you become distorted, due to a painful flashbacks, is not to be recommended. I hope to give you a few tips to help you manage, so that you can go about your life with relative ease, until such time as you can address the causes of these upsetting thoughts and feelings safely in therapy.

The first technique I would like to share is adapted from the “Drop Anchor” exercise by Russ Harris (Harris, 2009).

This exercise will help you centre yourself and connect with the world around you.

1. Place your feet firmly on the ground.                                                                                   2. Now push them down firmly.                                                                                                 3. Become consciously aware of the floor beneath you, feel it supporting you.                       4.Notice the muscle tension in your legs as you push your feet down.                                 5. Become aware of your whole body, as if your whole body now is engaged in pushing.     6. NOw look around you, notice what you can see and hear.                                                  7. Notice where you are and what you are doing.                                                                     8. Breathe!

Grounding techniques

These are very helpful techniques to learn, particularly if you are prone to upsetting intrusive thoughts, memories and images. THey are also good to employ if you are feeling detached and unreal.  Rather like mindfulness, focusing all of your attention on sounds in the environment e.g. birds in the trees, waves on the beach or even the sound of your breathing can be very helpful.

There are many different grounding techniques and I have listed some of my favourite “sensory” grounding techniques below:

Visual: Select an object or perhaps a photo, picture or landscape to focus on.  Study it intently; describe what you see out loud or in your head.  You may choose to focus on something around you, like the wallpaper or even a spot on the carpet or ceiling. Really focus on the detail, shape, colour and pattern.  Counting the grain in wood or fabric will really heighten your “in the moment” awareness.  Use flashcards, with a message to yourself such as, “these dark days will pass” or “I can tolerate this.”

Touch: Carrying round a stone or crystal that you can get out of your pocket when you need to ground yourself is an easy way to bring yourself back to the present. Find yourself a special object to use at such times.Look at the colour, the shape, how solid it is, the temperature of the object and its texture, and whether it is rough or smooth.  You can even use foodstuff like a sultana, banana or mushroom.

Look to your environment, for example by feeling the grass under your feet or the bark of a tree. Take a shower and become aware of the stimulation of the water on your skin, or perhaps slap your hand on the surface of bathwater.  Pinging an elastic band on your wrist, rubbing a comb over your arm or an ice cube over your face can be helpful.  The latter are particularly helpful as an alternative to acts of self-harm.

Sound:  Use your voice, making different sounds and shapes with your mouth.  Select a piece of music, preferably something up-beat, and listen to the sound, in particular, paying attention to the beat, rhythm, the different instruments and vocal harmonies and become aware of any feelings evoked.  Listen to the sounds of birds, the ticking of a clock, or simply listen to the sounds around you, noticing how loud or soft they are.  Notice those in the foreground, mid-ground and distance – now categorise these into groups.

Scent: Scented candles, oil burners and incense are all good for grounding.  I burn incense before I see my first clients each day to help me to focus and put me in the “zone”, ready to attend to the issues they bring me.  It can be helpful to carry round a small bottle of perfume, or putting a dab on your wrist to smell.  A particular favourite of mine is the scent of patchouli, however, my Granny used to carry round a bottle of smelling salts to ward off the “vapours.”  I can only think that this latter, rather pungent scent would be good for managing panic attacks!

Taste: Take a glass of water (with or without ice cubes) and drink it very slowly, savouring the taste, imagining it cleansing and washing away your tension or distress.  A selection of herbal teas with different flavours can stimulate the taste buds.  Be aware, however, that herbal teas have certain therapeutic properties and so should be taken with this in mind.  If you want to find out about the beneficial effects of herbal teas consult your local health food store.

I hope you find these helpful.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

 

Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGl%C3%BChwendel_brennt_durch.jpg

Sources:

Russ Harris – “Simple Ways to Get Present” – 2009. www.actmadesimple.com 

Steve Clifford – “50 Tips to Beat Depression” – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tips-Beat-Depression-Steve-Clifford-ebook/dp/B00ILV965A

10 tips to improve your child’s emotional health

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Are you worried about your child’s emotional well-being? Well here are some tips that you might find useful. Happy children have good mental health, secure family relationships, enjoy good relationships with their peers and are emotionally balanced.

Here are ten suggestions worth following:

1. Encourage emotional expression.

Allow your child to express their emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, worry or fear. Do not laugh, ridicule or humiliate them. Even if they are expressing emotions you find difficult to handle, do not withdraw or withhold your love.

2. Be consistent.

Ensure that your child knows what you expect from him or her. Try not to send confusing and unclear messages. Remember, children are not mind readers. If you have a partner make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet.

3. Rules are rules.

Set clear rules and boundaries. We all like to know where we stand. Do not make idle threats. If you do impose sanctions, make sure you always carry them through, that way your child will know you mean business and they will learn to trust you.

4. Do not compete with your child.

In other words do not try to get one better over your child. When they are upset do not try to outdo them and become more upset than they are. It is not their job to comfort you.

5. Do not put down your child’s other parent.

If you have broken up with the child’s other parent, do not say unkind, hurtful or critical things about them. No matter how unkind they may be, or how much you may be hurting. Fighting and point scoring can be a major source of anxiety to a child.

6. Foster independence.

Sooner or later all children will express thoughts or emotions that are different from your own. Encourage them to be inquisitive and to explore new things, meet new people and have experiences that you may never have experienced. This is how they learn.

7. Try not to bask in reflected glory.

Your self esteem should not be linked to your child’s appearance, behaviour or how well they do academically. Their performance does not reflect on you as their parent. By all means, give praise for things well done, but do not punish or withhold love and approval if they do not do well.

8. Their friends are not your friends.

Try not to get overly enmeshed in your child’s friendships. Make their friends welcome without becoming overly involved. When they get older try not to interfere with their love relationships.

9. Bad behaviour, not bad children.

When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.”All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning.

10. Children are children.

Finally – Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                              

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist                                                          Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Tweet us @ cbt4you

Ref: “8 Surefire Ways To Emotionally Screw Up Your Kid,”Julie de azevedo Hanks, 8 March 2012, www.psychcentral.com [Accessed 29/03/14].

Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFace_paint_girls.jpg

 

Make a Comfort Box – Beat #Depression

50Tips 

Tip 3 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s often hard to remember the good things in life when you are feeling low in mood.  At such times happiness and positive memories can seem far away.  Stimulating positive memories and associations can be invaluable in helping to keep us grounded in the real world and help lift the spirit.  Creating a “capsule” containing mementoes from the past can help to evoke feelings of comfort, warmth and personal security during difficult times.

A shoebox, biscuit tin or similar can be used to house objects to inspire hope.  I have a comfort box and mine includes a variety of objects: photographs and even “thank you cards” which I can use as “evidence” to support my being a worthwhile person.  I recommend any of the following:

CD, LP, MP3 of favourite music, chill-out, relaxation, etc.

DVD of favourite film with uplifting, or feel good theme, etc.

Photograph of a loved one or of something or somewhere of importance

Memento of a holiday, postcard, seashell, souvenir, foreign money, flight ticket stubs, booklet or programme from places visited

A note, card or letter from a loved one or write a letter to yourself when feeling well, offering encouragement and re-assurance that you will come through this difficult time

A favourite poem, statement, prayer or article that inspires hope

A favourite book, magazine or colourful picture

A favourite object, i.e. a small stone, crystal, lucky charm or something that is tactile

A sketchpad with crayons or watercolour paints

Aromatic oils for massage, scented candles, bath bombs or bath oils/salts

Herbal teas such as Chamomile, known for its calming properties

Favourite item of clothing, warm jumper or a blanket

A hot water bottle

Vouchers for a massage or beauty treatment

A list of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses of family or friends to whom you can turn for support (try to look for support from more than one person).

A list of national help lines e.g. Samaritans, Sane, MIND, etc. .

Any object associated with feeling happy and well.

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                                Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime at: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

It’s good to talk

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Sometimes life can seem very overwhelming,  especially if you’re suffering with a mental health problem. For years I have suffered with anxiety and depression. It has affected every aspect of my life from my relationships with partners, friends and family, to my work and even my physical health. My chronic low self esteem has led me to walk with my head down for so many years that my neck and back have slowly deformed and I now have a small hunch. It’s just one more thing to hate about myself, and another reason why I felt I couldn’t live anymore, why I felt I didn’t deserve life.
When I planned my suicide the first time I was at an all time low, but strangely I didn’t recognise that. I felt calm and in control. I made meticulous plans and took my time stockpiling prescription and over the counter drugs. I cheerfully strolled into the supermarket and purchased alcohol. The checkout girl could be forgiven for thinking I was having a party, because in my head I was. I was finally going to be free of all the agonising feelings, the torturous thoughts and the confused state my mind was in. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks and had all my affairs in order. I went home, made sure I left the door unlocked, fed my cat, put on my favourite album and poured myself a large glass.
When I woke up in hospital initially I was devastated, how could it have gone wrong? But as I looked around at the tear stained worried faces I began to realise that maybe people did care about me. Maybe their lack of warmth and comfort towards me was really lack of knowledge and understanding. The question I was continually asked was “why didn’t you tell us that you felt so bad?” Well I thought it was obvious! But apparently it’s not obvious.
When you suffer from depression for a long time you can get very good at keeping your brave face on in public and the inner turmoil you’re feeling may not show on the outside. It’s only once you express that turmoil that people can begin to understand and maybe even help.
Unfortunately this revelation was not the end of my depression and I did wake up in hospital on another 3 occasions. However it did start my journey onto talking, writing and expressing the pent up feelings I had inside of me, which helped other people understand more. I am still suffering with my mental health but I am on the road to recovery. Letting the thoughts and feelings out rather than keeping them hidden in my head has taken the weight off and I feel a little freer of my illness every day.

Thank you anonymous

With all good wishes

Steve

Please email your submission posts to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

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