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Month: April 2018

Be Your Own Psychologist

Can you be your own psychologist? In some ways, you totally can. You can be your own therapist because the path to healing is different for each person. Think about it, therapy is unique for each person and there are so many different kinds of it. I think the majority of people want to be saved from their pain by a magical or external force. I know there have been many points in my life where I wished that things would just get better. I wanted my boyfriend to save me or my mom or anyone who seemed like they had the answers. I didn’t feel like I knew how to help myself. Later, I began to see that nobody has “the answers.” And there are no answers. There are different questions and answers for each of us. There’s no rule book or instruction manual for our lives. Your life is different from mine and thinking that there’s one way to live life isn’t the case.

If you want somebody to save you, you’re not alone. This is human and natural. When you feel like you need someone to fix you, you are not the only one. Life is difficult and we would like things to be easier than they are but unfortunately, that’s not the case. People seek mental health treatment because they want to be well. However, wellness isn’t obtained instantly. It takes time to get well and it’s important to remember that you are the master of your own mental health journey. Even if you have an entire treatment team of mental health professionals working with you, you’re at the head of that team. You’re leading the way and making it possible for you to heal. Your destiny is defined by what you do.

Your therapist is like your tour guide on the journey of your life. They’re not going to tell you where to go, but they can explain what you’re coping with and how to get better. Their role isn’t to carve out the road for you to walk on. You decide how you get where you’re going to. But your psychologist can tell you what landmarks to pay attention to and what they represent. I like having a personal guide on my life journey. I enjoy that my guide is there to point out places for me to explore. If I didn’t have my guide (therapist) I would survive, I’d be okay, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Your therapist is a tour guide, but once they show you what to look for, you now know. You learn the tools to spot monuments and historical sites along the way. The hope is that once you learn what to notice/observe you won’t need to rely as much on your tour guide, and you can backpack through life without so much guidance. I remember talking to Ari’s therapist and asking her if she thought therapy was a life-long process. She said that she believed that therapy shouldn’t be forever. It should continue until the person in therapy feels like their life is more manageable and they have the coping skills to handle it.

So, you CAN be your own therapist. It takes time to learn how to do it, but one day you’ll be touring your own life and showing other people around.

Repressed Memories Scare Me

Repressed memories are a funny thing and by funny I mean, scary. There are things that I wish I remembered from my childhood, but actually, do I want to remember them? I’m not sure if I could handle those influx of memories. There are memories that I believe are real, based on events that have happened. However, I’m not sure if I need them up in my head because they’ve hurt me. They’ve been causing me pain dating back to so long ago. There’s a memory that I’m pretty sure happened when I was three, but I’m still not sure if it’s “real” or it “actually happened.” It seems so distant. It appears like a rainbow faintly hovering in the sky. It’s not a pretty memory, so maybe a rainbow isn’t the best analogy there.

I have PTSD and some of my triggers are not understandable to me. I can only speculate as to what they’re related to. I do know is that I get panic attacks at seemingly random times and I’m not sure of the actual reasons for them. I have managed to figure out how to cope with panic attacks through medication and therapy but I still don’t understand why some of them occur.

I’ve done a variation on hypnotherapy that incorporates family systems theory. It helped me to get in touch with the things that I may repressed from my past. It also guided me toward figuring out how to heal. I’ve never formally done true hypnotherapy. I am curious about hypnosis as a treatment for trauma. Although there is something the frightens me about doing hypnosis, because I have issues with control. I wonder if there’s anyone who actually does not have control issues. Maybe a person who does mindfulness meditation and lots of yoga has less issues with trying to control things. However, I think as a rule, most people have some sort of control issues. If given the choice they would prefer to be able to control some of what’s happening. Under hypnosis, I would not have control over my actions, and that frightens me to no end.

I wonder if it would be worth it though. Perhaps lacking control would be a positive experience for me. I could figure out how to cope with that feeling of powerlessness and begin to heal from my trauma. There are many situations in which I do not have control. There are a number of scenarios in which accepting that I lacked control helped me to grow as a person.

If there is anything to be gained from undergoing hypnosis, I would love to give it a shot. But it’s about taking that leap and seeing if I am brave enough to try something new. There are risks involved in being hypnotized. If people have been through serious trauma and there are some core memories that come up during hypnosis, that could be intense. I’ll consider this treatment for myself, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s the right move for me. If I do try hypnosis I’ll let you all know what happens.


I’m Open and Closed

I used to believe that I was entirely an open book. I am honest, passionate, blunt at times and I express myself as much as I can. I do this so assertively because when I was a child, I did not do this. I did not use my voice. I kept silent because I thought no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I feel like I’ve told this story a thousand times in 1000 different ways. It’s getting old now, and I want to let go of it. I can reflect on my invisible childhood, or I could move on and embrace the Sarah Fader I am today. Who is she? She is a bad ass on Tuesdays, sensitive on Wednesdays, exhausted by Thursday and hopeful on Friday. Yes, I am a rollercoaster of emotions and I come in like a fucking hurricane but I am not ashamed of that. It’s the nature of my charm. I’ve been through a lot of challenging times (to put it euphemistically). Traumatic experiences change who we are and literally change the formation of neural pathways in our brains. In addition to changing our brains, trauma impacts how open we are to new experiences. I used to be more open than I am at this moment, but because of my trauma history, sometimes (even though I want to open up) I crawl into my turtle shell and hide to protect myself.

When I think about my brain changing, it creeps me out. I don’t like the idea of my brain morphing because I couldn’t control what happened to me. Nevertheless, there are times that we have control over what happens and there are times when we are at the mercy of outside influences, which can feel scary. When there’s a loss of perceived control, it’s disarming to some people, and by “some people,” I mean me. I don’t like feeling out of control. It makes me incredibly nervous and I want to stop it from happening. However, there are few things in life we actually do have control over. We don’t have control over what happens in a given situation unless of course you are writing a play, story or you’re me writing this blog post right now. Relinquishing control is intimidating but if you can do it; if you can truly let go and embrace the ambiguity of life, you will be in a more positive frame of mind.

I don’t feel as open as I used to be. There are distinct moments when I am comfortable with a person enough to be completely candid, but I’m struggling to keep the doors to my heart ajar. I want to protect myself from further damage or hurt. But you can’t foresee who is going to impact you in that way. I can’t predict the future enough to protect myself from getting emotionally destroyed. If I could, I would be on that! Anxiety whispers in my ear to be careful who I trust, to close myself off until it’s safe to come out of my shell. But the other piece of me, the open part, wants to walk out into the sunlight regardless of the consequences. On Saturday, we’ll see which part of me wins.

The Power of The Mind Body Connection

The mind-body connection is powerful. I often disassociate from my body because it is usually emotionally painful to be inside of it. One of the reasons I do this is that I somaticize my symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s important for me to remember that my mind and body are, in fact, connected. The disassociation I engage in has to do with the fact that my emotional pain becomes intertwined with the physical pain I experience and I can no longer tell the difference between the two. What this means is that I feel emotions within different parts of my body. This is painful to me in a multitude of ways. I’ve been so anxious that I pushed my neck out of alignment. At that point, I was in excruciating physical pain and intense emotional distress. I’ve learned that pain isn’t something that I necessarily need to run from, but rather sit with and embrace. I can be patient with feeling pain because pain is a message that is being sent to my body and mind. Pain is telling my mind and body that something needs to change. It’s communicating that my system needs to adapt.

We don’t know a lot of things about the brain, and we are still researching and learning them with time, but we do know that there is a profound connection between our brains and our physical bodies. Our brains tell our bodies what to do and how to feel. Sometimes I forget that I am not just a head or brain, I am attached to a physical body that grounds me to the earth. There are things that I can do to remind myself that I can stay in my body. There are exercises that help me, such as somatic exercises. These are things like going to acupuncture or even having a dance party in the kitchen with my kids. I know that sounds kind of silly but it does remind me that I have a body that can move and communicate positive things to my mind. When you dance your endorphins are engaged and you start to feel great.

My reaction to disengage from my body because of emotional pain is normal. Disassociation is a common reaction to trauma. When you experience a traumatic event you can check out, and many trauma survivors do this. When you are unable to connect with your body, it’s generally because your mind has gone elsewhere in order to protect yourself.

This is actually a defense mechanism. It’s not something that is intentional, but rather a way to prevent oneself from feeling further pain. People are not seeking out ways to feel pain, because pain is something that we avoid instinctually as human beings.

The mind-body connection is fascinating to me. I believe that the way that we think impacts our physical and emotional health. That is why Traditional Chinese Medicine is valuable because it integrates mind and body together. Western medicine focuses on the physical body but neglects the mind. In Western medicine, mental health is seen as something separate from physical health when in reality they are integrated. We need to shift our thinking and focus more on the fact that the mind and body are connected. When we do this we will be healthier as human beings.


Just when I thought I knew myself

I’ve always prided myself on knowing myself. I know who I am, what I want, and where I want to be in life. For example, I’ve been writing since I was a child and my life goal was always to be a professional writer. When I was little I used to envision myself at bookstores signing copies of my novels. It was exhilarating in my fantasy and I wanted it to come true. For a long time, I believed I could be the person in this vision. Somewhere along the way, I grew up and entered the world and realized that becoming a professional writer that was paid for her work was incredibly hard and people who made that happen were magical or knew something’s cousin or brother or ex-wife, which basically meant that they had an “in.” Anyway, being a writer stayed fantastical and it was difficult to transition the fantasy into reality. Until one day I actually started writing professionally and it made no sense to me at all. But here I am, doing that I guess.

Then there’s love. Love makes absolutely no sense at all. I jumped head first and I fell in love with someone and he fell in love with me. It was messy and scary to be that vulnerable, but it happened and I don’t regret diving into that unknown, except that now I don’t know if I am ever going to see him again because life totally fucked that one up, or maybe I did. Probably I did because I am so great at pushing people away. I want to be loved but I’m afraid that whoever ends up loving me will give up on my neuroses, sigh and walk away, or even run. I don’t leave people, because I know what it’s like to be left and it’s horrible. You’re sitting on that park bench in the dark, wondering how you’re going to get home.

Anyway, I decided to let my freak flag fly but not in a good way, in an unregulated way. I put a lot of pressure on him to understand me when it’s fucking hard to understand someone else, let alone yourself. But the biggest problem was that this: he wasn’t ready for me and I was ready for him but terrified of that readiness. So we were both afraid of love and wanted it at the same time.

Two years – a rollercoaster of passion, love, miscommunication, fighting for him and finally being together only to realize that I lost that battle. He told me he couldn’t, that he wasn’t ready for all that or maybe I wasn’t the one. I don’t know anymore. My love for him was and is real. And I can’t say that I’ll ever love like that again. That love is reserved for him and he didn’t seem to recognize how powerful it was. I wish he could see it. All I wanted to do was hold him close and take care of him. But he wouldn’t let me close enough to do that. He promised to be there for me and he wanted to, but I pushed him away, but that’s another story for another day.

When I go to sleep tonight I will imagine he’s holding me. I’ll remember the times I fell asleep on his chest, comfortably, hoping that moment would never end.

But, I saw things too rigidly, I could have let things go and stopped trying to make it a certain way. He will probably never read this. I wish he would give us another chance because I will never stop loving him. I will remember what we had because it meant something to me. And it always will, he always will.


Breaking The Habit – Compulsive Texting

As someone who has OCD, I have some bad habits that I don’t necessarily have control over. One of them is compulsively texting people, especially dudes, when I am feeling emotional or insecure. This can be a deterrent in romantic relationships. In the long term relationships that I’ve had I get triggered by certain things the guy does and then I cannot stop texting them how I feel.

I’m sure there is a way that I can stop compulsively text messaging my intense emotional feelings. However, I have yet to discover what that way is. I want to work with my psychiatrist and therapist to create a behavioral aversion to texting motional content. There is no tone in text messages so they can easily be misinterpreted.

I am lucky in the sense that the men that I’ve been relationships with tolerate my excessive texting because they know that is a part of my OCD. At times they ignore the plentiful messages they get from me.  In the moment I feel invalidated by being ignored, however I do understand that it must be so overwhelming and anxiety provoking to receive a multitude of text messages that jump from topic to topic because of my emotionality and ADHD symptoms.

I try to manage my emotions the best way that I can but it’s overwhelming for me as well. So I have asked my psychiatrist
how to deal with the urge to compulsively emote via text message. She told me to turn my phone off put it down for an hour. This is exceedingly difficult when I have emotional response I want to communicate to the man that I love.

I need to listen to her advice, however I find it challenging because placing my phone down and not interacting with it for even an hour requires this intense level of patience that I currently do not possess.

It’s unfortunate that you can just pick up patience on Amazon have it mailed to your house. Believe me I wish however, finding the ability to stay in the moment, even when feeling emotional distress, is extremely hard for me.

That is why I could possibly text person  I am in a relationship with. I want to get my feelings out so I can stop feelings such intense pain. Nevertheless this is still painful for the other person to read on the other end of the tiny cell phone screen. One incentive to stop this behavior is that it puts a strain on the relationship. This is an example of an aversion to deter someone (like me) from compulsive texting and can be talked
about in therapy.

There are so many elements to my as anxiety and compulsive texting. For
example I have an iPhone and the other person has an Android so I don’t know if they read my emotional stream of novels length texts because there is no read receipt. This causes more emotional stress, and so I continue to text.

I want to break his habit. I am working on doing so but I know that it’s going to take some time to get more emotional insight as to why I engage in this behavior. I believe it has to do with PTSD in romantic relationships. I realized  that one of my triggers is from not feeling heard as a child and in other romantic relationships. However it is not fair to take my past out on my new partner. I am working on my triggers and hopefully soon enough I won’t find the need to text message people I’m in relationships with.

How about you? How do you feel about texting.


Facing Fears

Facing fears. I have a lot of them. I was in my therapist’s office and she asked me what I was afraid of. There were too many things to name. I couldn’t even go there. I wanted to figure out what they were but my throat started to close up. I wanted to speak but it wasn’t possible. Well it was, but I was fearful of what I would say. I didn’t want to admit what I perceived as “crazy” or a “weakness.”

I am afraid of going crazy, losing my mind. But more specifically going crazy and not realizing that I am crazy. That lack of awareness terrifies me. I don’t want to be unaware of my “crazy.” There is a hypervigilance about me that (in my mind) prevents me from losing it. I am so aware of my sanity or absence thereof, that I believe that this prevents me from going crazy. But still there’s a part of me that believes that I will go crazy and I won’t be aware of it. And then what happens? If I don’t know that I am losing my mind, I can’t do anything to stop it.

I will be stuck falling down a rabbit hole and I won’t be able to save myself break my fall. It’s scary and I want to run from the fear. I don’t want to face the fear of going insane. There have been many times that I was convinced I was losing my mind and I couldn’t figure out what was real and what wasn’t. That in itself gives me anxiety. I don’t want to question everything.

She means well, my therapist, she wants me to stay still, not run away from what scares me. I don’t want to listen to her, because it feels like she’s telling me to eat healthy and exercise. That’s not fun! I want to eat cake and sit on the couch. The mental health equivalent of eating healthy and going to the gym is talking about your feelings and especially your fears. Not just talking about your fears, but actually looking at them and facing them head on. My therapist and I made a fear hierarchy list. We determined what I was the most afraid of and how to face that fear. Right now, one of the most pronounced fears I have is the fear of going crazy. I want to be aware of my surroundings, know what is happening, understand who I am and what I want.

We have limited control over things in our lives. When I started talking to my therapist about going crazy I realized (when confronting this fear) that I do have some control over it. I have insight and awareness into what I am feeling. If something doesn’t seem right, I have the ability to speak up for myself and talk to my treatment team. I can let them know that I need help. As a person living with anxiety, it’s important to be aware of my fears and to not let them run my life. I am working on that awareness. I am practicing standing still and not running away. I don’t have to fix the pain, but I can sit with it, feel it and remember that it will pass.


I am terrible at breaking up with people

Let’s face it, breakups suck. I’m not good at dumping people because I hang onto the relationship more than I should. I want to salvage it but sometimes they’re not salvageable. I just feel so bad when I hurt someone’s feelings. I mean, unless you’re a total sociopath you don’t deserve to be hurt like that. And I despise causing people pain because I have so much empathy for people even though they probably don’t deserve it sometimes. Anyway, people usually end up breaking up with me and it sucks. So when that happens I need to process that loss and breaking up with somebody- it’s sort of like dying. Whether I feel like I’m dying or I feel like the other person died because we will no longer be together. It is excruciatingly painful and I don’t wish that pain on my worst enemy.

However we need to move through this pain in order to heal and meet somebody that is better for us. Because breakups happen for a reason; people feel like they are not compatible anymore or something is dysfunctional
in the relationship. So we move on and we find a partner that understands us and their shit is compatible with our shit. We all have dysfunction and flaws and it’s about finding the person who can put up with your idiosyncrasies.

That human being is out there. But in order to find them you need to go through stages of loss or grief
and be able to heal so that you can move on in a healthy way and find the right individual for you. I know that doesn’t sound comforting
right now but I promise you you will get through this. I’ve gotten through breakups many times and they suck but c’est la vie.

Are you going through a breakup right now? Are you terrible breaking up with people or can you easily cut them loose. Let me know what your story is and maybe you can give me some tips the next time I have to dump somebody.

I’m Not An Extrovert So Stop Calling Me One!

People assume that I am an extrovert. According to the Myers-Briggs test that I’ve taken, I am not. I am an introverted individual and fall under the category of INFP. You can learn more about what that means by taking the test yourself, but I’m intuitive and empathetic and I help people get in touch with their own feelings. I can do this because I am in touch with my own. I have an emotional insight for better for worse.  I am married to my sensitivity and it helps me get through my life. For a long time, I was in denial about my sensitive nature. Being introverted and sensitive is a brutal combination for me.  It can be hard having these two qualities. Because I am a highly sensitive person,  it can be draining when I don’t implement proper boundaries. When people see me being wacky, fun and charismatic they assume that I am an extrovert but I’m not. I find being around people to be draining because I have to be “on “all the time. I don’t want to be like that. I want to have a light switch in my brain that I can turn off so I can decompress, hang out, read blog posts, books and watch Netflix for crying out loud.

People, stop calling me an extrovert when human beings make me exhausted. Come on! I’ll admit, it’s probably confusing to people when I have this big personality and feel entirely comfortable rocking out on stage acting or singing. I love to be loud and passionate about words and music. But I am actually a quiet person unless there’s someone around me who makes me feel comfortable enough to be raucous. Another thing is that people are not all one way all the time. We can feel shy at times or theatrical or even histrionic. By the way, histrionic is one of my favorite words. I think of Victorian women fainting.

My performance background is the thing that confuses most people and makes them believe that I am an extrovert. I’m not sure why this assumption is made. There are so many actors out there who have stage fright or are extremely shy. I consider myself to be one of those individuals. You can be a private person and still appear to be animated and extroverted to those around you. When I act on stage, I use the deepest darkest parts of myself that I’d rather not reveal to others. I take them and I hand them to the audience without explanation. They can consume them or discard them. My hope is that my emotions and message will help at least one person.

It’s not so black and white. We are not all shy or all extroverted. One day I might be bouncing off the walls singing to myself while walking down the street and another day I could be hiding in my bedroom crying under the covers. It’s unpredictable and I believe that part of that dichotomy has to do with my introversion. So, what about you? Are you an introvert that people mistake for an extrovert?