The Process of Therapy

How to Talk to Someone who is Struggling

letstalk_43716310Have you ever been at a loss for what to say when someone you know is having a hard time? Show you care by speaking from your heart. Try one of these statements:

  • If you don’t want to talk about it, I’m still going to be here for you
  • I care about you
  • Take all the time you need. I’m here for you
  • I’m available to go with you if you need support (to doctor appointments, to buy groceries, etc.)
  • I’m bringing dinner over (or any other act of kindness that will alleviate pressure)
  • I wish I could take the hurt away. But since I can’t, I’ll just hang out here with you.
  • I’m sorry. I’m here to listen

Show up, be available, talk about the tough stuff.

The truth is, at any time in our lives, any one of us may struggle emotionally. What would you need if it were you? Thinking about what you might need to hear can help you if you aren’t sure what to say.

Remember, not everyone who is struggling will show that they are struggling. As a general rule, treat people with kindness and seek first to understand before making judgments.

Any ideas to add to the list? Please share your suggestions in the comments – helping each other will ripple out to help the people we encounter.

Mindful Parenting

The Whole-Brain Child, by Daniel Siegel & Tina Bryson

canoe3I have so much praise for The Whole-Brain Child, written by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson. The book explains brain growth and brain functioning in children, and ways parents can interact during difficult moments based on understanding neurobiology. There is minimal psychological jargon, and even includes strategies for parents to teach their children about their growing brains!

Something that stood out for me near the beginning of the book, was Siegel’s explanation of mental wellness and unwellness. Please note:  my overview pales in comparison to the explanation provided by Siegel – this book is worth the read!

In order to explain these concepts, Siegel uses the analogy of paddling down a river in a canoe. Imagine, just paddling down the river in a canoe. As you stay in the center of the river, the waters are calm. However, toward each river bank, the waters become choppy.  To one side of the river, the river bank represents chaos. To the other, rigidity. Floating down the center of the river represents mental wellness. Yet, in everyone’s life, there are times when our canoe floats towards the river banks. If your canoe were to float to close to chaos, you would feel out of control, confused, and in constant chaos and turmoil. If you float too close to rigidity, you would begin to impose control on everything and everyone around you. On the bank of rigidity, people become unwilling to adapt, unwilling to compromise, and unwilling to negotiate. Our thinking can be flexible and adaptable, and our emotions accurate for the situation when we are in center of the river. Siegel goes on to describe the analogy in much more detail, explaining how all mental illnesses can fit into either the bank of chaos or the bank or rigidity.

Imagine how you could use the canoe analogy in your life. For example, after a hard day of work, likely feeling emotionally drained and stressed out – start noticing which shore your canoe is veering toward. Do you tend to float more toward chaos, or rigidity? When under stress, if you veer more toward chaos, you might experience a sense of losing control, or helplessness. You might experience yourself cycling through many strong emotions, such as anger, sadness, and anxiety. You may even catch yourself yelling, whining, or on the brink of tears. When under stress, if your canoe floats more toward rigidity, you might experiencing yourself as the task master, acting in a demanding manner and trying to control everything and everyone around you. When they don’t comply, the resulting behaviour might be anger, or anxiety.

Using the image of the canoe, noticing that your canoe is getting off track and visualize steering yourself back to centre. Be gentle with yourself and use positive words to self, such as  “I choose to keep my canoe in the center”. And when it starts to go sideways (as things often do!), take a break: try taking a moment to breathe, and to visualize your canoe moving back to center. It’s a powerful image – and I am grateful once again to Daniel Siegel for his powerful contributions to brain-based parenting.

Reference:
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind. By Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson.

This article was originally posted on September 7, 2013, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindfulness · The Process of Therapy · Trauma Therapy · Uncategorized

Living Life: Even on the Tough Days

On the darkest of nights, when there seem to be no options – no solutions to the despair you feel, how will you find your way? When it seems like there is no hope left, will you hold out hope for your own fire?

I’d like to write about suicide, and the option that takes just the tiniest spark of hope: living.

Ask 10 people for their thoughts on suicide, and chances are you will receive 10 completely different responses. Suicide is a word packed with 100 times more emotion than syllables. And even in sitting down to write about it today, I had to wait for the whirl of emotions to slow before I could hear the one constant resounding  thought: I value life. 

I value life.

I didn’t always though. I was once an impulsive and shy kid with few friends, the target of ridicule by classmates – once or twice even by teachers. I knew rejection. I knew loneliness. I even knew the pain of grief when cancer claimed my mother . I knew feeling directionless. Feeling unsure of myself. Of having no one to turn to who would truly have my back.

One day, during my Masters degree training, I took a class on suicide risk and intervention. After learning crisis intervention and theory, we were required to demonstrate our suicide intervention abilities by role playing client and clinician. When it was my turn to play the role of the ‘client’, I  harnessed those many years past from my youth, when living another day felt unbearable. And while I could still acknowledge the pain of those days, I could barely get the words out in order to “act” suicidal in the moment. And that was when it dawned on me: I value life. I could not even pretend for one moment that I didn’t want to be alive.

I have bad days and sad days. I have lonely days and grumpy days. But I also have good days and joy-filled days. I have peacefully quiet days and blissfully calm days. I have days when I feel invisible but I have so many more days when I love and value myself. The thoughts and emotions that awaken thoughts of suicide are a signal that you are in pain. That you are hurting and feel powerless to create change yet that you desperately need to create that change in order to be ok. Sometimes it might feel as though that change is impossible. Sometimes it might feel as though the energy required to act on creating that change is just too much. So what can you do?

We need to get out of our own heads. The view one takes of the world when feeling depressed or anxiety-ridden can become a habit and can breed more thoughts that are characteristic of depression or anxiety. We need to really look at the people in our life and ask the tough questions. We need to turn towards the people who care and we need to let them care. We need to be kind – even to ourselves. We need to listen. We need to be present. And in doing so, we can ignite the tiniest spark of hope to keep going, to find your fire – because this life really can be good.

If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out for help. Call, text, email, talk. You have more worth than you know.

If there isn’t someone you can talk to, or a Crisis Line in your area, check out The LifeLine App in the App Store.

SG blog

 

Affect Regulation · The Process of Therapy

Treading Water

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I have never been a strong swimmer. Despite many years that my parents insisted I take swimming lessons, I rarely advanced to next levels and struggled grasping the basic skills. I remember, from all those years ago, the importance that was placed on treading water. We would be taken into the deep end of the pool, and taught how to keep our heads above water. The rational was always should we ever find ourselves in deep water, we needed to be able to keep our heads above water. With our legs and arms moving rhythmically to the point of exhaustion, sometimes sinking under but popping back up again, we kept our heads above water. The exercise always ended before the point of complete exhaustion, when the instructor would throw us a life preserver of sorts. We would make our way to the side of the pool in relief, letting our exhausted limbs be still.

Today is World Suicide Awareness Day. Despite awareness programs in many communities and schools, suicide largely remains a difficult topic to discuss – shrouded in misunderstanding, denial, and secrecy. Those contemplating suicide often feel unheard, sensing help unavailable. (Please read on for resources that are available.) Those wanting to help often feel powerless, unsure of how to proceed – sometimes reacting in anger or panic.

When I think about the emotional turmoil someone experiences at the point when suicide becomes an option, I think about treading water. I think about the utter exhaustion they are feeling, often building overtime, of not being able to keep their head above water. When a life preserver isn’t thrown at the moment it is needed or when it is thrown but it seems just out of reach. When they feel there isn’t an once of strength left to keep their head above water. This is the reason I write this blog – to help even just one person grab that life preserver, and connect with a glimpse of
hope.

If ending your life is starting to make sense as an option, please reach out for help. Suicide is a permanent solution that we cannot turn back from. All other options may not seem adequate enough in your moment of despair. So many of us are conditioned to be self-reliant and self-sufficient and reaching out for help can seem like a weakness. It might even feel as though you are not worthy of receiving help, or that if you ask for help it will not be given. “Once you choose hope, anything is possible”. If there is no one you feel you can reach out to, please call the helpline, or use an on-line anonymous suicide prevention chat site. Suicide is not the only way out. 

quote_-far-better-things-aheadHere is a list of options if you are feeling suicidal right now: 

 

Reference: the quote “Once you choose hope, anything is possible” is from Christopher Reeve