Think Positive

yingpis-kalayom-133680Today I’ve decided to try something new.

Over and over again in the past, I’ve been told “You’re just being pessimistic.  You just need to think positive.”  It makes sense, right?  All of my mental and emotional problems are in my head so I can just think them away with positive thoughts.

So today, I have a toothache.  It’s a nasty one that lingers there without provocation, without the insult of hot, cold or sweetness.

I lay in bed this morning wondering if I should take some painkillers and book myself in with my dentist to have this taken care of.

All of a sudden, it hits me.  Why would I need to go to a doctor that specializes in this particular problem, diagnose, medicate and treat an issue with my teeth when my teeth are literally inside of my head?

So I attempted a different approach.  I started to think positive.  I built up the self-esteem of that tooth so much that it really should have swelled up to the point of shoving my other teeth right out of my mouth.

“You’re a great tooth.  You’ve always been there for me.”

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.  Without you, I couldn’t complete the first stage of digestion and I couldn’t get the nutrients that fuel my body.”

“You are strong!  I believe in you!”

“You can do this.”

“We’re in this together.  I love you.”

Can you guess what happened?

That’s right!  My tooth healed itself and the pain just simply disappeared.  Score one for the power of positive thinking!

…Just kidding.  It didn’t magically cure my mental health and it didnt solve my tooth problem either.

Parenting A Difficult Child – Tripping

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Kevin and his mother are sitting in the living room watching television.

Joel, Kevin’s little brother comes in to watch television as well.

As Joel walks by Kevin to sit on the couch, Kevin lifts his leg to trip Joel.  Joel falls on his face and starts crying.

“What?”  Kevin yells at him.  “Why are you crying?  Shut up!”

Kevin’s mother has just seen Kevin trip Joel.  “Stop yelling at your brother.”  She scoops up Joel to comfort him.  “He’s crying because you hurt him when you deliberately tripped him.”

“I didn’t trip him.”  Kevin yells at his mother.

“I just watched you trip him.  Don’t lie.”  His mother responds calmly.  “You don’t get to bully people, yell at them because you hurt them and then lie about it.  That’s not how life works.”

“I didn’t trip him.  He just fell.”  Kevin continues shouting.  “And I’m not lying.”

Kevin’s mother has had enough of the yelling and the lying.  Why won’t he take responsibility for his own actions?

“That’s enough, Kevin.  You’ve earned yourself a time out.”  She says.

“Why?”  Kevin demands.  “I didn’t do anything!”

“You can have a time out for hurting your brother, lying about it and yelling at everyone.  We don’t treat each other that way.”

Kevin crosses his arms with a defiant expression on his face and says, “No, I’m not going to.”

“Alright then,” his mother responds, silently boiling at the blatant disrespect, “You’re not getting your snack until you’ve taken your time out.”

Time passes and Kevin still refuses to take his time out.  Snack time rolls around and everyone but him is provided with a snack.

“Where’s mine?” Kevin demands, anger dripping from his words.

“You’ll get yours once you’ve taken your time out.”  His mother calmly replies.

Kevin stands up and throws his chair to the ground.  “Ugh!  I hate it here.  This place is so stupid!”  He slams a cupboard door and picks up an item off of the counter and throws it across the room.  “It’s your fault that I hate it here.  You’re always so mean to me.”  He kicks the wall and storms upstairs yelling about how it’s Joel’s fault that he’s in a time out because Joel hurt himself.

His mother gives him a few moments to himself before reminding him that if he wants his snack, he must first take his time out.

“I am in time out.”  Kevin yells as he whips toys and books around the bedroom, although he clearly is not taking his punishment as he should be.

Now, there are some things to understand about Kevin.

His actions and the things that he says come off as immature, defiant, disrespectful and abusive.  He is often impulsive, he will argue about anything and everything, and he seems to refuse to accept any sort of responsibility for his actions.

But the thing is that he’s not a bad child.  Nor is he the product of bad parenting.

Kevin’s behaviors can fit the diagnosis of Opposisitional Defiance Disorder (ODD), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) although it’s not diagnosed in childhood,  or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) ; just to name a few.

Whichever diagnosis he actually has is irrelevant to this article.  What is important is that Kevin really does have legitimate reasons for his explosive behaviors even though they are invisible reasons.

When we assume that a child is being willfully defiant, disrespectful, dishonest or manipulative, then we feel a need to discipline them for their actions and force them to want to do the right thing.

Let’s break the scenario down.

1.  Kevin trips Joel:  Kevin is impulsive because he lacks the skills to think ahead before he acts or says something.  He is unable, in the moment, to realize that he is going to cause harm to another person or think of the consequences that will follow  his actions.  Impulse control is a skill that needs to be taught to him.

2.  Kevin yells at Joel:  Kevin knows that he’s done something wrong and he lashes out at Joel out of guilt and out of fear that he will be punished.  Kevin has very poor emotional control.  Every time he is hungry, tired, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, feels guilty or he feels wronged in some way, he reacts with explosive anger.
He reacts with anger because his emotional age is not lined up with his physical age.  He has not yet learned to successfully interpret, balance or communicate his emotions or his emotional needs.  It is a skill that needs to be taught to him.

3.  Mom makes accusations and Kevin lies:  The accusations that Kevin’s mother make Kevin feel more defensive, and Kevin’s defense is offensive.  Kevin is feeling very overwhelmed by his emotions right now and doesn’t know how to handle it so his anger increases.  He lies because he is afraid of being punished.

4.  Mom says “Time out.”:  Kevin is being punished for things that he could not control and he simply shuts down and refuses to listen to anything.  Shutting down is a common defense mechanism for people who struggle with emotional control.  They simply cannot deal with the emotional overload anymore.

5.  Kevin has a tantrum:  When Kevin is reminded that he has to take a time out, he throws a tantrum because his extreme emotions have been ignited again.  At this point he knows that he must be punished for his inability to control his actions and he has become enraged.  He is also exhibiting black and white thinking; where things are either all good or all bad.  After his time out, his mother could give him his favorite snack but in the moment he still feels as though she is the worst mother ever who is always unfair to him.

Kevin often feels as if he is a bad child because he struggles so hard to control his behavior and often fails.  His self esteem is low.  He wants to be a “good” child, but he doesn’t know how.

When we look at why a child is explosive or unruly instead of focusing on the actions and the age of a child, we can better understand that the behavior is that of someone who has lagging skills and not that of someone who is intentionally attempting to inflict pain and misery on the family.

Then that begins us all down a path to solutions and healing.

Why Are You Tired?

Chances are, you know someone with a mental disorder or disability and you’ve probably asked them this or thought this before.

This statement, “I’m tired” is not a complaint or pessimistic.  It’s merely a fact of life.

Allow me to explain why a person who is constantly battling their own brain and societal expectations feel so drained.

These are people whose brains are stuck in overdrive and have a great amount of difficulty unwinding to fall asleep at night.  For the average person, it takes 7 minutes to fall asleep.
Imagine crawling into bed exhausted and it takes an average of an hour to fall asleep instead of 7 minutes.  Every nap and bathroom break and the brain relaxation delay begins again.

These are people whose sleep is frequently disturbed and who spend their nights tossing and turning instead of resting.  Sometimes they’re awoken by noises, pain, an inability to keep body parts still, by loud noises inside of their heads, vivid dreams and many other reasons.

These are people who wake up feeling, at best, slightly more rested than they were when they crawled into bed in the first place…like a battery that has been damaged that never seems to recharge properly.
These are people, who for decades, don’t feel rested after their slumber.

These are people who put an immense amount of effort into focusing on the task that they’re supposed to do or perform while their minds are trying to carry them down other paths or while they are struggling to remember just what those tasks are.
These are are people with working memory issues who from school age on into adulthood, lack the skill to remember multi-step instructions in a world where they’re just expected to know how to do it.

These are people who are in a constant war with their own brain.  People who are battling their own thoughts and fears; hearing every day from their brains that they aren’t good enough, strong enough, skinny enough, that people don’t like them, or that they should have done better…just to list a few things.

These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgement and lack of understanding.  Who are often asked questions or who hear comments like “Why are you always tired?”, “Just suck it up and deal with it.”, “It’s just a lack of discipline.”, “It’s all in your head.”, “Stop being so pessimistic.” and “Stop being so lazy.”

These are people who experience sensory overload that mentally exhausts them.  From the clothing they are expected to wear, the food that they are expected to eat, the noise around them, the sights engulfing them and the odors surrounding them, these people’s senses are constantly under attack.

These are people who are exhausted from self-advocating to people who don’t understand and don’t care to understand.

These are people who spend most of every day dealing with fears that others find silly and irrational.  It’s like living on a rope bridge swaying in the wind over a canyon while you’re afraid of heights and hearing “I don’t understand what you’re complaining about, the bridge is secure.  Suck it up and deal with it.  I can do it, so you can too.”

These are people who are struggling to communicate their experiences because communications is a skill that needs to be taught and exercised.  It’s like those who don’t have a strong artistic talent being instructed to create a sculpture using the items around you to present how they currently feel within the next five minutes.

These are people who expel a large amount of energy trying to understand body language and emotions which is another lagging skill.  It would be like showing you a picture of my cat and expecting you to identify what he’s feeling based on his facial expression and pose within minutes, multiple times a day.

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How is this kitten feeling?

These are people who are tired from the side effects of medication or self-medicating to cope with the symptoms of their diagnosis and the expectations of society.

These are people who are struggling with their brain to differentiate what’s real and what’s not because their brains present everything to them as reality.

These are people who are likely to be struggling with relationships, drug abuse and alcoholism.

These are people who have physical manifestations from their mental struggles because being on high alert takes a physical toll on a person.
These are people whose muscles ache constantly or whose muscles are tired from being tense too often, who get frequent headaches or migraines, who’s appetite is affected and whose immune system becomes impaired…just to name a few things.

So please, dear readers, the next time someone with an invisible disability says that they’re tired, don’t treat them as if they’re lazy or irrational.  Instead, imagine living your life on a rope bridge over a canyon, or imagine how you would feel if someone jabbed you and woke you up several times a night for just one year and the physical and mental impact it would have on you.

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Is he about to attack?

I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic.  Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.

 

I’m certain that I’ve left out many reasons as to why someone may often answer “How are you?” with “I’m tired.”  If there’s more examples you can think of, please feel free to mention it in the comments.

 

Hallways of my Mind

I am trapped in my own mind, and it’s my fault.

Come with me as I walk through the hallways of my mind.  Please stay close by and I’ll do my best to ensure your physical and mental safety.  And remember, if you see something that scares you, that it’s all in my mind.

This hallway is the hallway of knowledge.  The one above us is the hallway of spirituality, but you don’t want to go there.  Some of it is wonderful and artfully designed, but mostly it’s cracked and very fuzzy.  I’m afraid it’s not nearly done yet.

You’ll see the walls are covered with quotes that define or amuse me.  Don’t bother trying to read them all, you don’t want to be in here that long.

To the right there’s a room labelled English.  No, no, don’t bother going in.  If you can understand me, than you already know all of that language that you need to know.

All along here you’ll find your typical school subjects; Mathematics, Home Economics- that’s a small room, and Science.  That door opens into another hallway that has rooms off of it with different sub-divisions; Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy…that sort of thing.

This stretch is for History, Geography, and politics.  It’s a little dim here, so please watch your step.

You see, how it works on this floor is when I need information on any of these topics in particular that I already know, I come up to this floor and open the door.  Usually the answer will jump out at me after it’s opened.  Sometimes though, I need to go in and dig around a bit before I find it and I have to be very careful not to mess things up.

I’m a bit short on memory.  If you know any places that sell memory I’d appreciate it if you let me know.

Please follow me down the stairs.  The floor below us has rooms labelled “Family”, “Sex and Sexuality”, “Friendship” and so on.  Don’t get too excited, we won’t be walking down that hallway, though I’m sure many of you are dying to do some snooping in there.

Please, down this next stairwell.  This floor is not a hallway.  It is just a room.  To the left I’ve gotten my thoughts and thought processes organized and it looks much like a library.

I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to this room.  I’ve mixed in all of my knowledge of psychology in here as well as yo ucan see by the back wall there under the big sign “Psychology”.  It is there because I’ve been studying my own thoughts and their patterns.  Once I can isolate the problem thoughts I can work on correcting them.

I’m sick, but I’m getting better.

This chalkboard in front of you is the Board of Debate.  I can come in here and write out a thousand reasons why I believe what I believe so when the debate is on I can argue my point effectively.  It’s large so I can take notes as I’m debating.  I come back to the notes and reason out a new opinion if necessary.  I am not completely closed minded after all.

But alas- I should have invested in a Board of Arguments because once the discussion takes that big step over the fine line into argument and away from debate, the damn thing erases itself and I can’t, for the life of me, remember what was on it.

And if that’s not enough, it will write out the other person’s argument- not all…just one hurtful phrase.  And then of course, that’s all I see for the rest of the argument.

You see those messy bookshelves, overflowing boxes and stacks across from my library of organized thoughts?  Those are my unorganized thoughts.  Many of them aren’t worth keeping, but I need to sift through them all so I don’t throw away the real gems.  That is why I spend so much time in here, but there are always thoughts falling out of thin air.  Constantly, as you can see.  There’s just no real way of sorting them out without hiding inside myself for the rest of my life.  And as much as I hate the clutter and confusion, I’d like the alternative less.

But enough of this room, as intriguing as you guys seem to think it might be.  Our destination is not here.  Please follow me down another staircase.

YOU may have noticed that the staircases have become a little more twisted and misshapen each floor we go down.  I’m sorry about that, I had no control over the construction.  I merely shaped the rooms.

This floor, another room of course, is dedicated to creativity.  I tried building rooms, but I found that I couldn’t label the art properly, so I stopped trying.  I kept most of the walls though, so I could hang up as many pictures as I could.  Many beautiful paintings.  I put in a lot of shelves too, for all the items I find appealing.

Why yes, that is a houseplant.  Isn’t it delightful?  Please don’t touch those rocks, I found them when I was very young and they have sentimental value.

Over there is my written creative section.  All of the good creative ideas I have upstairs get copied and brought down here.  There are also many writings that I’ve done myself and the most wonderful ideas from other people.  In them, I find inspiration.

And over there we have music and entertainment.  The music section is larger of course, as it fuels my passion much more than entertainment.  It’s probably good I don’t know how to play any instruments.  I think it’s too crowded in here already.

All throughout this room are my works mixed in with other people’s.

I like this room the best.  It’s so…motivating.  I can spend hours in here just soaking up the energy.

Pardon my sigh.  It’s just that I never look forward to walking away from this room.

Alright, down another staircase.  Please be very cautious on these stairs.  They are very deformed.  Hold onto the wall, not the banister or you will end up with nasty splinters.stiars

I apologize for the odor, but that’s part of what you came here for.  Don’t mind the noises.  I know they set off a wave of panic, but they are utterly harmless.

We descend now into the basement…the dungeon.  This is where I keep my demons…when I can capture them.

Don’t worry, I did a walk-through before you got here to ensure that they were properly caged.

Behind this door, you’ll find Greed.  He’s always hungry.  He’s a slippery creature.  Every time I think I’ve found a good way to chain him down he always seems to find a way to break out.

This is Anger.  Even if you opened the door- which I don’t advise- you wouldn’t see him.  I’ve lost track of the number of walls I’ve built around him.  Still he pulses through from time to time.

The room with the open door is Guilt.  it seems he got out again.  I can never keep him locked up for more than five minutes.  He is definitely a hassle.

No, don’t be concerned.  He can’t hurt you.  He’ll only attack me.  I’ll lose of course, but there won’t be any gore for you to see.

There’s many of them, as I’m sure you can see for yourself.  And my, they do love to feast.

On their own they are often no more than annoying, but when they gang up on me; Anxiety and Fear, Depression and Laziness, Hate and Jealousy….in whatever combination they decide to attack, it gets rather unpleasant.

Some days it’s just impossible to battle them.  I’ve had most of them at all once before.  It took me a long time to recover from that.

My friends, what you have come here for today lies behind the door at the end of that hall.

I’ll thank you in advance for not opening the doors.  I’m afraid she’ll get confused if she sees you.  She can’t see you through the glass, it’s a mirror on her side.

May I now introduce you to the real me?

What she is doing right now is removing her face.  She’s worn many different masks- all in the shape of her own face.  All of which she honestly believed was her own face.

No, she hasn’t discovered herself yet.

She spends all day trying out new things, reading organized thoughts and wandering through the creative room, spending hours in the family room.  Once in a while I see her up on the spirituality floor, but not often.

She’s been in here all day today trying to find herself.  Who she is, what she wants, how to be better, and so on.

Why down here?  You ask.

Yes, this is the deepest, darkest section of my mind.  She is here because of the demons.  I need to deal with those before I can find myself.  I need to face them.  Keeping them caged isn’t enough.

She is down here so she can study them, so that she can defeat them.

But I’ll have to ask you guys to leave now.  Anxiety has broken out and is pulsing through me at this moment.

I’m going to soothe him with a cold beer and a couple of hours in the creativity room.

Thank you for stopping by.  Any time you need a change from your drab, sane world, I’ll be here.

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