12 posts categorized "Depression" Feed

A simple life-hack to be happier

I live in the North. And it's January. In the North in January, there isn't a lot of sunshine. And a lot of people feel that they are more depressed in the winter at least in part because of that reality.

You leave the house and it's dark.

You leave work and it's dark. IMG_6AEE441FE63F-1

It can feel like you shuttle from one place to another in the dark. It's depressing. And certainly, we have good science to suggest that is true. We have copious amounts of research to suggest that there is a direct link between lack of sunshine and increased depression rates.

So what do we do about it? Well, there is truly a simple hack that research suggest will help us to be happier and more content. As a side note, I believe that happiness can only be a bi-product of contentment.  Most research suggests that people have the same types of interactions throughout the day.  The optimist (happy person) and the  pessimist (less happy person) tend to have the same types of things happen to them throughout a day, week, month and year.

The optimist just has a brain that seeks out the positives over the negatives. I know this sounds overly simplistic, but the research is almost overwhelming. For a quick introduction to this idea, read Adam Grant's book, Originals.

What does this mean for us and happiness? Well, there is another guy named, Shawn Achor who tells us that we can train our brain. You can watch one of my favorite presentations by him here.

How do we train our brain? Force it to look for the positive things in your day. Force your brain to seek out things to be thankful for in a day.

Every. Day.

That's it. It's an incredibly simple hack that once developed can help you be more content and more happy. It can lower levels of depression and some studies even suggest it can help reduce levels of anxiety and depression. 

Take five minutes each night and write our three things that happened that day that you're thankful for from that day. Yes, you can do it the next day but most people who stick with the night time routine do it longer. Over time, your brain will start to look for the good in the day and this will have definitive impact on your outlook for the day.

Change your outlook on enough days, and eventually your will change your outlook on the world and your life.

The evil that is in the world will still be there. I'm a mental health counselor and I see the victims of that evil regularly.

The stupid that is in the world will still be there.

The hard that is in the world will still be there.

But and that but is so big it belongs on a Kardashian Instagram page, if we train out brain to see the positive and good things in the world we can transcend those others increasing our ability to impact our own circles.

Media Monday (1). Suicide Awareness

Media Monday is a series where I focus on something that I have created in another form of media. This month is Suicide Awareness Month and this week specifically is Suicide Awareness week. This video is one I created sharing some of my thoughts. Be sure to check back every Monday for more posts. 

Suicide Awareness.

We lose approximately 800,000 people each year to suicide. Someone you know is depressed and at risk for attempting suicide because of it. There is help. There is hope.

If you had a friend that talked to you like you do, would you still be friends?

I have a serious question for you. 

If you had a friend that talked to you like you talk to you, would you still be friends?

I've talked and written in the past about the importance of talking to yourself over listening to yourself. It's imperative that you take an active  role in directing the thoughts that run your through your head.  My friend and colleague, Marissa Stevens (Nae Freyling) wrote a post about that quote here regarding her journey with cancer and life. 

Which brings me back to my questions for you.

Q. What do you say to yourself when you do something silly like drop a container of laundry soap?  Is it, "I'm such an idiot!" or some other disparaging remark? 

Q. What do you say to yourself when opportunity for success and therefore failure presents itself?

Q. What do you way to yourself when you dream?

Q. What do you say to yourself when someone pays you a compliment?  Do you mentally catalogue all of your shortcomings? 

Q. What do you say to yourself when someone offers you criticism? Do you flat out reject as hate or do you pile on top of it moving well beyond the original thought of the person ?

Your answers matter because your life will be driven by your thoughts. Like a hidden steering wheel, our brain controls much of how our body responds to the world around us. 

This is not a post about some Pollyanna like false talk. It is not a post about some sort of false pie in the sky hope. 

It is a post about being honest about your worth. It is a post about believing you have worth simply because you exist. You bring something to the world that no on else brings it.Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 6.39.18 PM

You're not an idiot because something bad happened like you lost $100 that you can't afford to lose. You're not shameful because someone molested or raped you as a child. You didn't deserve to be raped because you were drunk at a party. Your worth isn't diminished because your father didn't know how to adequately love you. You're not worthless because your mom took every chance she could to remind you that you were an accident that wasn't planned.

I do not believe you are an accident. I do believe you have worth.

And at least part of my mission to convince you of the same thing. Our world seems caught between unfettered narcissism and overwhelming self loathing. 

Troubles come for us all, but they do not have to define any of us. 

Which brings me back to my first question. Would you be friends with someone who talked to you like you talk to yourself? 
If they answer to that is no, why do you talk to yourself that way?

What would happen if you started to talking to yourself in a different way? What would happen if you started talking to yourself in an honest and encouraging way?

Why not run an experiment and find out?



Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic coming to West Michigan

In the near future, our office will be opening an Urgent Care Mental Health Clinic. We believe it will be the first of this type of service for our area.  I want to take a moment today and share with you why we are doing this and what we hope to accomplish with such a clinic.

I once heard a clinician brag about charging client's extra in order to see them on the weekend.

That is something we have never done or embraced here at JMCN.  Over the years, I've seen clients in crisis whenever possible, including weekends.  I know that is also true of other therapists in our network.

Just last weekend, one of our therapist came in on a Saturday morning to see a client who was in crisis.

But, we can't all be on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

And yet, there are always going to be times when someone needs help, now. JMCN Urgent Care

We want to attempt to meet that need. This clinic is our attempt to do that. The Urgent Care Center at JMCN will provide urgent care mental health therapy for people who feel they are in a mental health crisis  but cannot see their normal clinician for a period of time. We also want to serve those who do not have a normal clinician and cannot get in to see their preferred clinician in a timely manner.

Take for instance, my friend Bob.*  He and I were talking about this a few days ago. His wife Sarah has a regular therapist that she sees three to four times a month. She is dealing with some significant losses recently in her personal life and the grief that accompanies those losses.

Two weeks ago, a beloved pet passed away unexpectedly. Sarah was frantic to see her therapist. The only problem was that her therapist does not see client's on Mondays. On Tuesday, her therapist left for a two week vacation.

Bob felt that having some place where Sarah could have gone to talk about her grief would have been important and helpful.

Or consider for a moment, if you will Wendy and Dave.*

They've been having trouble communicating lately and late last week they had a fight that they both felt might have put their relationship over the edge into a downward death spiral from which it might never recover.  As they desperately call around the area looking for a marriage or relationship therapist to help them, they discover that they have a minimum of a one week wait.

We see this Urgent Care clinic as a potential resource for all the Dave and Wendy's of the area.

And for anyone who is feeling depressed and lost...or hurt and abandoned. We want to help.

You can find more information about our Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic by clicking here.




*Not real name.

It's time to move past comparative pain and passions

I admit the world is an interesting place to me. I’m not typically someone who laments life.
I don’t always agree with stuff I hear and I’m often willing to engage it with the person. I joke with my friends about poking the bear.  Interacting with others about how they feel and think is sometimes, like poking a bear. Sometimes, we need to poke another bear or we need our bears poked.

It’s how we grow. Face_male_kodiak_bear

But yesterday I saw something I admit I don’t understand. I was sitting in my office and one of our Sr. Associates who was sitting next to me said, “Oh boy!” Of course, I asked what was up.
“Well, this guy’s newsfeed reads, “An actors death has dominated the newsfeed but how about all of the kids dying in _______.”  

This intrigued me  so I went looking at various places in the beautiful place called the world wide web. Sure enough, there were people lamenting all sorts of causes that weren’t getting as much attention as Robin Williams death.  

On one level I get it.

But on most levels, I think those people just come across as jerks. They’re acting like they have the corner on what should be important to everyone.
This happens a lot in Facebook land.
I get it.

But I don’t. Yes, people are dying in the Middle East, 1 in 5 children in America face hunger, there is rioting and looting in the Mid-West over a possibly race motivated killing. All of this is true.
But here’s the thing: Lamenting Robin Williams death doesn’t negate those truths. It doesn’t diminish them.

It doesn’t impact them at all.  It just makes you look grumpy and mean or worse.

An ancient writer wrote that there is a time and season for everything. I agree with that thought. I don’t think the time to get your personal passion out there is by juxtaposing it against someone else’s tragedy.

You sound like you’re trying to minimize their pain. Sometimes, it sounds like you're trying to invalidate their pain. Arguing with someone about their pain rarely works. When we essentially say, "well, you're in pain but this thing over here is worse and you should care about that..." we set ourselves up as some sort of judge. It's always a sketchy when we're trying to balance out why our cause should be more important than someone else's, especially when they are experiencing a new wound. Scales-295109_640

Be passionate about those other causes. Our world needs that passion. But, to be effective we need it to be done at the appropriate time. We need you to have real, genuine empath for the pain other people are feeling.

To paraphrase another ancient writer, “If you have your great cause, but you don’t have love you have nothing.”

Come down and sit in the pain of the people around you. Allow them to feel their pain. When the time is right, share your passion with them.

Thanks for reading. As always, if you like this post, please feel free to share it via your preferred social media experience.

Robin Williams, and our Societal Obsession with Happy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty-four hours, you probably know that Robin Williams has died in what appears to be a suicide.

Like many, I was shocked by the news. At first, I thought it was  hoax. The idea that we live in a world where for many the first thought when they hear about someone dying is a hoax is probably fodder for another post in the future.

But what about Williams? Robin_Williams_2011a_(2)

Williams isn’t the first celebrity to take his own life or accidentally end life while trying to numb something through drugs or alcohol usage.  And yet, every time we see shocked by it. I think there are a couple things to learn from Williams death.

I think we need to learn from it or else we waste it. His death is tragic. It is terrible. It is senseless. It leaves behind a grieving widow and fatherless children. It also highlights our false belief that money, success and things satisfy.

1. We have to accept that money, success and happiness will not bring us happiness. I wrote about this when Whitney Houston died. We create a false narrative in our head that we’ll be happy when _____________ (fill in the blank) happens. Of course, that is patently false and broken. We have a plethora of data to prove this to us and yet we functionally live in a way that denies and ignores this fact.  Those things aren’t wrong, but they simply don’t satisfy.  
We have to stop chasing things that don’t matter.
2. We have to realize that there probably a lot of people we know, who are in our close circle of friends who are struggling with depression and anxiety.
Someone you know is probably struggling with the thoughts of ending her life today.
We have to realize that there are far more people than we are comfortable admitting who struggle daily with the idea of ending their lives.

We tend to create caricatures in our head of what a depressed person looks like and how he acts.  Sometimes, those caricatures are correct. Most of the time they are dead wrong.
People truly bent on killing themselves rarely tell anyone overtly. They communicate it ways that are often almost impossible to see looking forward. Usually, they are brought into clarity when they are seen looking backward but by then it is too late.

So if you think you might know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, ask them. Ask them how you might be able to help. Ask them if they are thinking about hurting themselves.

Depressed people often feel stuck because they need to move in order get unstuck but the depression causes them to feel like moving is hopeless so they stay stuck.
They may get mad at you. Your own narrative may tell you that it’s none of your business, but push through that. Reach out.

The thing is, with people contemplating suicide, they are working on a plan. They are not seeing clearly.
They are hurting and stuck. What they are not, is typically logical. Their world is bent by their disease. Applying the logic of those of us who do not suffer from this disorder is not only unfair, it’s silly.

Robin Williams death is a tragedy for his family and loved ones. I am afraid it will be more of a tragedy because as a society we will once again fail to learn how to handle those around us who are depressed.
In our society, we seem to have no place for people who aren’t happy  all the time. Many depressed people learn to just fake it because as a society we want people to be happy all the time and we typically see what we want to see.

May we find the courage to see what it is,not simply what we want to be.

If you are feeling suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Do Anti-Depressant Meds work?

One of the most common questions I get is "How do you feel about drugs?" My answer is almost always that I have complicated feelings about them. What I often tell clients is that they should do their own research. What I have below is an excerpt from a book that I think everyone who is remotely interested in this topic should read. It is controversial and will probably upset some of those who read it for one reason or another. But we have to engage this conversation deeply. We need to talk about the risks associated with this medicine and the benefits. Mostly, we need to look at our assumptions on a societal level about how we deal with problems.

What the published studies really indicate is that most of the improvement shown by depressed people when they take antidepressants is due to the placebo effect. Our finding that most of the effects of antidepressants could be explained as a placebo effect was only the first of a number of surprises that changed my views about antidepressants. Following up on this research, I learned that the published clinical trials we had analysed were not the only studies assessing the effectiveness of antidepressants. I discovered that approximately 40 per cent of the clinical trials conducted had been withheld from publication by the drug companies that had sponsored them. By and large, these were studies that had failed to show a significant benefit from taking the actual drug. When we analysed all of the data - those that had been published and those that had been suppressed - my colleagues and I were led to the inescapable conclusion that antidepressants are little more than active placebos, drugs with very little specific therapeutic benefit, but with serious side effects.

Kirsch, Irving (2010-01-26). The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth (pp. 3-4). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Death sucks. Why June is often hard for me and a question for you

June is a hard month for me.

It is both the month that my mom was born (the 7th) and the month that she died (28th). To be honest, I don't remember much about the month that she died.

I was vaccuuming the house when my Dad called to tell me that she had died. I knew as soon as he said my name. At the time, I was working at a restaraunt to supplement my rather meager income and I still went to wait on tables that night (my wife and I were living four hours away from my parents at the time and my wife as actually at her job).

I didn't last the whole shift.

Now, almost every year, I am torn asunder inside when the end of school comes. I walk around with this low level fever of depressed/grumpy. Stress that I normally tolerate fairly well in the other eleven months sits up inside my emotional head that is difficult for me to describe and for the most part, that's what I do for a living.

When my daughters do something amazing in school, I want to call my mom.

When my son crawls down the hallway at work and begins to indignantly bang on my door because he can't believe I would close him out of a room, I want to call my mom.

I miss her.

I know it's life. I do. People die. It's up to the living to get on with living because death comes for us all. I get that.

But man, do I miss my mom.

Sometimes, I'm afraid I'll forget what her laugh sounded like or that my only memories of her will be those last seven months in hospitals and other medical facilities.

To be sure, I have been blessed with an amazing family. And I am far from dejected. But I think sometimes, it is easy to think that helping professionals don't have any real emotions or pain to process. Believe me, we do. We are human. We bleed. We hurt. We laugh. We have to have mechanisms to process pain, loss and depressions.

So here's my question. How do you handle loss in your life? How do you handle grief and depression? What are your "pick me ups"? Tell me in the comments, I'd like to know.

Raising Mental Health Awareness Changes Lives

This is a post that I did for our blog at Creative Solutions. I felt it should be shared here with you.

Yesterday I  talked about how 75 million people are suffering from mental illness. That means that if you know three people, there is a good statistical chance that at least one of them is suffering from a mental illness.

If one third of the people you know are suffering from mental illness think about how many people you know who have been affected by loving someone who is struggling with a mental health issue. How many people do our lives touch? How many parents are struggling because their son or daughter is struggling with an anxiety disorder?

The next time that you are in a public space where there is a gathering of people going on look around you. Estimate the average number of people and divide by three. That will give you a rough estimate of the number of people dealing with a mental health issue, then multiply by  say 1.5 (I'd go with two but it's probably a little less than a full two times. That will give you a rough number of the amount of people who's lives are being touched by mental illness.

This is why raising awareness is so important. Of course, this is also why I think seeing a counselor is also important. What we are hoping to achieve at Creative Solutions is to increase the number of people who can find help. We realize that we won't be able to help everyone but we would like to see the number go higher than it is. We would like to see the number of people who are suffering go down because there is more access to help.

Ultimately, we believe that better access will help people achieve success over their mental illness. That will allow them to change their lives.

Ultimately changing lives is the goal here. That sounds good to me.