When Your Anxiety Doesn’t Have a Trigger

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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It’s very common for Kristin Bianchi’s clients to tell her that they’re feeling anxious, but they’re not sure why. They say they recently haven’t experienced anything particularly stressful or anxiety provoking, so it doesn’t make much sense.

Consequently, “they frequently become worried about the meaning behind these seemingly random feelings of anxiety,” said Bianchi, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in treating OCD, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and depression at the Center for Anxiety & Behavioral Change in Rockville, M.d.

In other words, she noted, “they become worried about worrying, or frightened of fear.”

When many of Regine Galanti’s clients initially start working with her, they, too, describe their anxiety as just happening. Galanti is a licensed psychologist and director of Long Island Behavioral Psychology, where she specializes in using evidence-based treatments for anxiety and related disorders in children, teens, and adults.

Many of us believe our anxiety comes out of the blue. It just feels so random and sudden—startling us like the siren of a smoke alarm, or a squirrel jumping out of the bushes.

But this is rarely the case. Rather, we simply don’t notice our triggers. What we do notice is our anxiety, because it tends to be blaringly, glaringly loud. “When we feel something strongly, we often zero in on it and discount all the information leading up to and surrounding it,” Galanti said.

And the information that leads up to your blaringly, glaringly loud anxiety might be a thought, feeling, or behavior. Galanti noted that anxiety, and really all emotions, consist of those three parts. For instance, you might feel horribly anxious the morning after going to sleep past midnight, she said. You might become anxious as you notice your heart beating faster, she said.

Bianchi noted that it’s very common not to recognize that our thoughts are a significant trigger. “Thinking happens so quickly and automatically that we often don’t realize that we’re having stressful dialogues or creating catastrophic narratives in our own heads.”

For instance, she said, you might not even realize that you’re revisiting a recent conversation that caused you some stress. Maybe you’re replaying how your coworker was gossiping about your boss, which made you very uncomfortable. Maybe earlier this morning you and your spouse fought over your monthly budget (or lack thereof). Maybe your mind drifted to the sarcastic remarks your date was making (and how annoying they were).

The catastrophic narratives your head is spinning might include: “wondering whether or not you turned off certain household appliances, then imagining your house burning down if you forgot to do so; worrying that something bad will happen to a loved one, then imagining your reaction if that type of personal tragedy were to occur; creating ‘worst-case scenarios’ involving academic, career, or financial ruin when thinking about a recent disappointment or setback in any of those domains,” according to Bianchi.

Panic attacks also are a prime example. They seem sudden, but there are usually specific triggers, Galanti said. It might be a thought, “I can’t easily escape this situation,” or a physical sensation, such as your heart rate speeding up, she said.

And then there’s our digital culture. “We reflexively hop from tab to tab, app to app, and website to website, generally giving very little thought to the process,” Bianchi said. But while we might not notice that we’re doing all this hopping and scrolling, we’re still responding emotionally to what we’re consuming, she said.

That means that we are responding emotionally to sensationalist news headlines, flawless Instagram images, and emails from colleagues and clients, all of which can trigger anxiety. However, we’re too hyper-focused on these stimuli to notice what’s brewing inside our bodies.

“Even low-level anxiety reflects that we’re experiencing a fight-or-fight response,” Bianchi said. “When we finally notice it, it can come as a surprise to us, as we hadn’t been paying attention to it up until that point.”

So what can you do? What are your options when your anxiety seems to arise out of the blue?

Below, you’ll find a few tips on identifying your triggers—even the subtle ones—and reducing anxiety when it starts. It’s especially helpful to practice the relaxation strategies when you’re not anxious. This way you’re familiar with them, and maybe even created a habit.

  • Act like a scientist. Galanti tells clients that the goal is to help them treat their anxiety like a scientist: to “take an outsider perspective on their insides.” To do this, she suggested readers use a journal or the notes section on your phone to record your anxiety. That is, whenever you feel anxiety coming on, she said, ask yourself, “What just happened?” “literally, what happened immediately before and then try and pinpoint [your] thoughts, physical feelings, and what [you] do.” Maybe you downed a huge cup of coffee. Maybe you thought about your to-do list. Maybe your thoughts shifted to your child’s first big presentation. Maybe you read an email from your boss. Maybe you said yes to an invitation (that you really, really didn’t want to accept). Maybe you started sweating because it’s so hot. Tracking what triggers your anxiety helps you to spot patterns, and “those patterns can help people come up with solutions,” Galanti added.
  • Slow down your breathing. Bianchi suggested “breathing in slowly through your nose to a count of 4 to 6 seconds, holding your in-breath for 1 to 2 seconds, then slowly breathing out through your mouth to a count of 4 to 6 seconds.” When you’re breathing out, it helps to “imagine that you’re blowing fuzz off a dandelion or blowing a stream of bubbles,” she said.
  • Practice this grounding technique. According to Bianchi, find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. “This shifts our focus away from the anxiety and helps us to reconnect to the present moment using our five senses.”
  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This involves scanning your body for muscle tension, and then “unclenching” tight muscles to release that tension, Bianchi said. “When doing this, it’s important to remember to relax your jaw, open your mouth slightly, and make sure that your tongue is positioned at the bottom of your mouth (versus flexed against the roof of your mouth).” You also can use an app that offers a guided practice, such as Headspace; Stop, Breathe, and Think; and Pacifica, Bianchi said.
  • Face your fears. Avoidance only amplifies and strengthens our anxiety. Facing your fears, a skill known as “exposure” in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is incredibly effective in reducing anxiety. Galanti suggested devising a list of small steps to help you face your triggers. For instance, she said, if caffeine triggers your anxiety, you might “start drinking a little bit of coffee a day, and see what happens. Even if you do feel anxious, maybe you can handle it better than you think you can.” Another option is to work with a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety with CBT or other successful treatments. Bianchi suggested starting your search at a professional organization, such as https://adaa.org, and http://www.abct.org.

Anxiety can sometimes feel like it has zero rhyme or reason, which can be exceptionally frustrating. It can feel like you’re going about your business, and BAM! an object falls from the sky and smacks you on your head.

But when you delve deeper, you realize that there’s a thought, feeling, or behavior that sparked that bam! And that’s valuable information. Because now you can focus on the root of the issue and try to resolve it, whether that’s a conflict with a loved one, difficulty saying no, the fear of fear, not enough sleep, or something else altogether.

When Your Anxiety Doesn’t Have a Trigger

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How an Innovative Therapy Technique Made Me Feel like a Superhero When I Was at My Worst

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

See credits below.


“Take another deep breath, hold it, and let yourself feel like you’re drifting and floating.”

The voice overtook me as I felt my body slip into that weightless feeling between consciousness and sleep. It was as if someone wrapped my body in memory foam and filled every corner of my mind with white noise.

“My jaw is slack.”

“My shoulders are relaxed.”

“My neck is loose.”

These were some of the phrases that I was told to repeat to myself in a recording made by my therapist and given to me during our first session together. Each one focused on a different body part, meant to make me feel warm, heavy, and unconstrained. This was the beginning of my biofeedback training.

Just Relax

I chose my therapist because he’s an expert in biofeedback, a psychology technique where a patient learns to control their body’s functions, like heart rate or palm sweating. Biofeedback was first introduced in 1969 as the crossroads of traditional whitecoat psychologists and those interested in a higher consciousness.

Before I could reach a higher consciousness though, I had to master just being relaxed.

A few weeks prior to my first appointment with him, I was trapped in a horror movie in my own mind. I couldn’t shake this one single thought that replayed itself incessantly for a week straight: that of the top knuckle on my right ring finger snapping backwards and breaking.

It’s a disturbing thought on its own to anyone who prefers their fingers in tact, but imagine it popping into your mind over and over — and over and over — until you want to check yourself into a psych ward. I was consumed. I could barely talk or sleep or work without wanting to slam my head against a wall. I was desperate for any advice, so when my dad recommended biofeedback, I made an appointment immediately.

The technique he employed in the recording is called autogenic relaxation. Through the self-induced relaxation akin to hypnosis, my doctor coaches his patients to cure themselves of ailments like depression, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and anxiety — my personal woe. Learning to relax your body was just the first part, though.

Anxiety by the Numbers

At my next appointment with my therapist, he hooked me up to a slew of sensors as I reclined in his plush leather chair. Three cold metal circles stuck to my forehead measured my muscle tension in millivolts, a small wire taped to my pointer finger took my skin temperature, and two more sensors on other fingers measured my sweat production. Once I was connected, the doctor quizzed me.

“Alright, count backwards from 1,000 by 3s. If you mess up, you have to start over. If you don’t get to 940 in 30 seconds, you have to start over. Ready, go.”

I’m sure my measurements immediately spiked. I’m terrible at math and to add a time pressure to them was beyond stressful. But I got through it. He did it again, but with higher stakes.

“Okay, now you’re going to count backwards from 1,000 by 6s and you have to get to 860 in 30 seconds. Ready, go.”

To prepare for my biofeedback training, my therapist was simulating an anxiety-inducing situation to see what my normal and stressful levels were.

During the following appointment, he again hooked me up to the muscle tension sensors, but this time instead of stressing me out, he walked me through the autogenic relaxation phrases from the recording. But this time, the machine I was hooked up to was now emitting a pulsing sound that correlated with my muscle tension level. The more tense I was, the faster the pulses.

As his voice coached me through the phrases, and then in the next appointments as I walked myself through them, I learned to listen to the pulsing and to my body to see what slowed the tempo. My muscle tension level started at around 4.0 millivolts and he told me some of his patients start out at as high as 10 millivolts. Each appointment, he set the threshold lower and lower on the scale and once I reached it, the pulsing turned off. Each appointment, I was learning to bring myself to a more relaxed state than the time before.

By focusing on the pulsing, I experimented with what autogenic relaxation phrases worked best for me, what my ideal relaxed breath is like, and even how to position my head and arms for optimal relaxation.

Put to the Test

I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember.

As I walked into the doctor’s office during my fourth session, I laid eyes on someone from my past who brings me a great amount of anxiety. My heart rate spiked and my chest tightened. Suddenly, breathing became a difficult task. I immediately turned on my heels and hid in my car until the person left, but the anxiety followed me into my appointment. My newfound relaxation technique was about to be tested.

As I cleared my mind during the biofeedback training, I was able to turn the pulsing off, meaning I brought my muscle tension down to the threshold set by the doctor, but the second the stressful person popped back into my mind, the pulsing turned back on. Over and over I emptied my mind and filled it with the autogenic relaxation phrases and turned the pulsing off, but, again, it’d spike back up once I thought of the person.

Running into my past turned out to be a blessing in disguise; I was learning to control the stressful thoughts and ensuing physiological response with just my mind. It was hard work, but I knew it would be a skill I could turn to my whole life. If I could control my heart racing, maybe it’d be easier to quiet my disturbing thoughts.

In the sessions that followed, I learned to relax myself instantaneously and in any situation without the autogenic phrases, getting my muscle tension level from the original 4.0 down to just 1.7. I’m now able to take a deep breath, let it out, hold it, and find that perfect state of relaxation — like magic.

Biofeedback empowered me during a time when I felt shaken down to my core. I walked away from each appointment feeling like I have a superpower and for the first time in years, I feel like I can finally control the anxiety that seems to rule my life.

How an Innovative Therapy Technique Made Me Feel like a Superhero When I Was at My Worst

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Controlling Emotions: Is it Possible?

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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When struggling with anxiety or depression it’s common to feel like you don’t have control over your emotions. Emotions can feel like they come out of nowhere, and they can be confusing if they are stronger than you think they should be in light of the current situation. For example, if you start crying when you see a prescription drug commercial because it felt so moving. Or when you feel enraged just because you partner didn’t do the dishes, but then again they did them last night.

All people have had those moments, where you feel a strong emotion and aren’t sure why. Emotions are the minds automatic response to stimuli.

When you see an abandoned puppy on a commercial your brain is processing those images on a subconscious level and the feeling of sadness may start to emerge whether you want them to or not. Depending on your past experiences with puppies your emotional response may be stronger or weaker. If you volunteer in a dog shelter once a week, your mind may be used to the situation and you may feel less reactive. If you lost a dog recently, you may feel a flood of emotions. All of these emotions are normal, and they are a signal that you are human.

In a popular therapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), the emotional response is labeled the “emotional mind” and the intellectual or thinking response is labeled the “rational mind.” Either one by itself is not sufficient because it doesn’t really give you the full picture. The combination of the emotional and rational minds is what results in the “wise mind” which is a more balanced response.

When we routinely ignore our mind’s emotional responses we are stifling the mind’s natural way of processing these situations and we miss out on the wise mind approach. It’s only when you accept and notice what your emotional mind is telling you that you can you find the balance of the wise mind.

3 Strategies to Accept & Manage Your Emotions:

1. Emotions are clues:

Try taking the stance that your emotions are clues to something your mind is trying to tell you. Be curious about what you are feeling and why. Your emotion will be a clue to getting to your wise mind, and actually, you can’t accomplish a wise mind approach without it. Emotions are not just clues, they are vital information.

2. Emotions are neither good nor bad:

Everyone’s automatic emotional responses are going to be different based on a number of different factors including past experiences, current context, and how much sleep you got the night before! Your emotional reaction is not better or worse than anyone else’s. Sadness or fear do not have to be negative; emotions are just neutral.

3. Emotions do not equal actions:

While you can’t control what emotions surface for you, you can control how you act. Just because you feel angry at someone, doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to say something to that person. When someone says they don’t have control over their emotions, the bigger concern is usually that they feel they don’t have control over their actions. It makes it okay to feel angry when you know that you don’t have to punch someone every time you feel that way. You can just feel and process an emotion without taking action.

When you acknowledge your emotions as clues to what’s going on and you don’t judge yourself for feeling what you’re feeling, then you have a choice about how to act or respond. You are combining the emotional mind and the rational mind to problem solve and come up with the best decision for you.

So, the short answer is no, you cannot “control” your emotions. But if you follow the strategies to accept your emotions as they come, you will find that you do not have to let your emotions control you.

Reference:

The Wise Mind (Worksheet). (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/wise-mind/dbt/none

Controlling Emotions: Is it Possible?

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Counterintuitive Ways to Combat Anxiety

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Through the years I’ve learned to douse the ongoing wildfire of fear with productive tools such as exercise, meditation, replacing negative, irrational thoughts with positive, rational statements, and tapping into my creativity (studies show that anxious people are often more creative — as it takes a lot of imagination to come up with those what-if scenarios — so it helps to channel that artistry into a positive outlet).

Yet there are other ways I combat my anxiety that don’t sound as constructive. And they certainly don’t sound very positive, either. In fact, some tactics could be construed as downright depressing. But they work. In fact, they work so well, that I feel it’s my duty to share them.

Below are my four favorite counterintuitive ways to combat anxiety, so take a moment to remove any rose-colored glasses you may have on and replace them with some dark-hued lenses. Here they are:

Sometimes It’s Best NOT to Process with Others

I know, I know: those irrational thoughts can be so harsh, you need someone to help remind you that they are ONLY thoughts. Yet, I’ve also found that sometimes sharing my anxieties only sharpens their grip. Why is this?

First of all, I can trigger myself even more by arguing with the poor, well-meaning listener about how this or that fear could come to pass. That is, by discussing it, the probability of that fear happening further “cements” it into my brain.

Secondly, people who don’t understand anxiety may reply in ways that make anxiety warriors feel worse about themselves. You know those trite remarks such as: “Just stop worrying,” or “You need to learn to control your thoughts,” which I guess are well-meaning, but really makes me want to scream.

From what I’ve learned, it’s best to share anxious thoughts with the most trusted and understanding of people. And if it’s going to trigger you to share your specific fears, then, at least, share how much your anxiety itself is affecting you.

Accepting That Anxiety Won’t Go Away

When I was first grasping for answers to “cure” myself of my chronic and acute anxiety, I envisioned a future in which my over-the-top worry would be forever banished. Yet, as I trudged onward, I realized that there wasn’t going to be any kind of fairytale ending. I was and always will be above average on the anxiety scale (a number of studies show that anxiety is genetic).

Anxiety is something I’m able to diminish but never banish. Acknowledging this fact helped me accept that through the better days, some worse ones are still bound to pop up due to triggers, circumstances, and even physical challenges. Once I accepted this, I was better able to utilize my bag of anxiety-reducing tricks, knowing that it would just be a matter of time when I’d be able to tame it from a roaring lion to a purring cat — that is, until the next big worry claws itself into my life.

Using Terror-Filled Distractions

When my anxiety needle moves into the red alert zone, my husband often suggests that we watch a disaster movie. No, the man isn’t being facetious; rather he’s acting with complete empathy. Ironically, watching fictionalized stories about catastrophic events helps reduce my what-if fears. Why is this? I’m not sure, but I believe that it has to do with putting my anxiety into perspective while at the same time witnessing a shared calamity, which airlifts me out of my isolated island of despair.

Disaster movies are also action-packed and visually dramatic, which gives my mind a vacation from the self-ruminating dread. And…speaking of distraction, who could take their eyes off Dwayne Johnson when he played a rescue-chopper pilot in the 2015 disaster flick “San Andreas?” I know I couldn’t!

Remembering That We All Die

When my fears dive into the deepest and darkest of waters, sometimes the only way I can breathe again is to remind myself that no matter what, we all die. Although this thought may sound morose, it calms me down because it reminds me that nothing is permanent. Nothing. And if nothing is permanent, then my fears cannot be either.

In death, too, my brain will be caput — so it won’t be around to ruminate on any further worries. In the meantime, then, I’ll keep combating my anxiety with both happily constructive and darkly counterintuitive measures, hoping that my path not only gets better, but that I can help other anxiety warriors along the way as well.

Counterintuitive Ways to Combat Anxiety

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The Dangers of Cyberchondria

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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We’ve all done it, or at least most of us have. I know I’m certainly guilty of it. I’m talking about turning to the internet for answers to our health concerns.

Just type in our (or our loved ones) symptoms and away we go. That rash we have? Turns out it could be anything from contact dermatitis to cancer. Which is it? Not sure? Well, search some more. There is always another website to check. And as many of us know, these searches can be never-ending.

Excessively scouring the internet for answers to our health concerns is known as cyberchondria. One in three people, among the millions who seek health information in this manner, report feeling more anxious after searching for answers than before. Yet they keep searching even as their worry escalates. Cyberchondria has the potential to disrupt many aspects of a person’s life and studies have even linked it to depression. Those with cyberchondria tend to either avoid going to their doctor, or go too much — both out of fear.

What drives people to engage in a behavior that often makes them feel worse than before?

Thomas Fergus, a psychology professor at Baylor University, links cyberchondria to a dysfunctional web of metacognitive beliefs, which are really just thoughts about thinking. We all have these types of belief systems. For example, it is considered normal to believe that deliberating over a challenging problem will lead to a satisfying solution. In cyberchondria, however, metacognitive beliefs morph into a mental trap — people search online health content incessantly.

Dr. Fergus and Marcantonio Spada, an academic psychologist at London South Bank University, have shown that these metacognitive beliefs in cyberchondria overlap somewhat with those of anxiety disorders. People with health anxiety, for example, hold maladjusted views about the role worry plays in maintaining their emotional and physical well-being. It is these same sorts of dysfunctional belief systems, Fergus says, “that send people with cyberchondria back for long sessions at the computer.”

In 2018, Fergus and Spada published research that, not surprisingly, links cyberchondria with features of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD perform compulsions to ease their anxiety, and those with cyberchondria engage in ritualistic searches for health information to dispel their anxiety. In both cases, people will only stop when they feel certain that all is well. As many of us know, online health content is too vast to allow us to be certain about anything. In fact, certainty is not actually attainable when it comes to most aspects of our lives.

So how can we escape the vicious cycle of cyberchondria? Appropriate therapies for anxiety disorders such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and even antidepressants might be helpful. In addition, metacognitive approaches that encourage people to question the value of going online to relieve their anxiety can be beneficial.

There is another solution to spending countless hours on the internet trying to figure out your latest ailment. Go see your doctor for a proper diagnosis — once. Then you can use the other therapies mentioned to learn how to not only stop searching for answers, but to also learn to accept the feelings of uncertainty that are inevitably connected to our health.

The Dangers of Cyberchondria

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Break Free of Your Anxiety and Phobias in 4 Simple Steps

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Anxiety that causes serious discomfort shouldn’t have to go on forever. Yet long-term talk therapy and treatment with medications don’t always free a person who’s suffering. Millions of Americans are dealing with some form of anxiety disorder: according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), each year, 40 million American adults grapple with an anxiety disorder in some form.

One approach that can help you break free of anxiety and phobias is a simple series of steps. Unlike open-ended talk therapy, it’s not expensive or time-consuming, and unlike pharmacological approaches, it has no side effects.

It’s called LPA — Learning, Philosophizing, and Action.

This direct approach enables you to identify the problem, and think about the problem and its affects on your life, relationships, work, and home. After you learn more about your anxiety or phobia, and consider how it’s limited you, you can start taking clear steps to defuse its power over you.

Once you learn LPA, the only tools you need are a good chair, a pen and a notebook. Try to practice what you’ve learned three or more times a week. It doesn’t have to take long — five minutes is plenty. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, or overwhelmed by fear, stop the exercise, get up, and resolve to try again the next day.

Here’s how each step works:

1. Relax

To follow the LPA steps you need to first quiet the mind. There are many simple and effective relaxation techniques for this.

For instance: Find a quiet spot and a comfortable, supportive chair. Next, take a few easy, deep breaths. Feel yourself begin to float on each breath. When you reach a peaceful state of relaxation, you’re ready to start the next step.

2. Learn

In the learning phase, you focus on the nature and details of the problem by asking yourself questions. Write down all the details of what you remember and realize, including how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

If you’re facing an anxiety, ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling?
  • What is making me anxious?
  • How do I feel when I am anxious — for instance, a stomachache, a headache, sweating?

If you are addressing a phobia, ask yourself:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • What does this fear prevent me from doing — for instance, leaving the house, taking the subway, or driving across a bridge?
  • How do I feel in the grip of this phobia?

Now ask yourself about the first time you began to this way:

  • What is my first memory of feeling this way?
  • What else was going on at the time?
  • What did I learn?

3. Philosophize

Once you have learned about the nature of your anxiety or phobia, you have enough information to look at the bigger picture. During this phase, you step back and challenge the thinking to led to this problem in the first place. Your look for the origins of your anxiety or phobia, and think about how it has affected your life, your relationships, your work and even your financial situation over time.

Ask yourself:

  • Did someone else convince me to feel this way?
  • Is it possible I picked up this anxiety or phobia from a parent?
  • What’s the big picture?
  • How did I take this belief and expand on it myself?

Without meaning to, parents may pass on their anxieties and phobias to their children. But this faulty learning can be fixed. You can use a simple math problem to illustrate: A child walks into kindergarten, having been convinced at home that 2 + 2 = 3. It’s only going to take one quick lesson to show that is wrong. This may be a simplified version, but it shows what happens with learned or even inherited anxieties and phobias. The learning passed on to you was flawed, but you believed it.

Dogs, cars, deep water, dentists — Think about how you picked up on other people’s anxieties. Were you encouraged to feel anxiety or fear in certain situations? You may have grown up thinking that feeling anxious was perfectly normal. But now you can change that thinking. Consider the impact this anxiety or phobia has had on your life. If you could undo its power, wouldn’t you?

4. Act

Taking action means unlearning those behaviors. One effective tool for this step is the Probable or Possible exercise. It helps defuse the power of the anxiety or phobia by looking at whether or not something is likely to actually happen. For instance, if you’re phobic about dogs, you may be afraid of being bitten in circumstances when it would be very hard for that to happen. For example: you are on one side of the street, and a dog and its owner are walking on the other side of the street. Yet you’re afraid the dog will bolt, escape its leash, and come and bite you. That’s often the way fear works: it takes a possibility and intensifies it until it seems like a near-certainty. Irrational or not, you believe it. Asking if it’s possible or problem is a way to take that fear and reduce it down to size.

So ask: It many be possible that the dog runs across the street to bite me. But is it probable?

Think about it: what is the likelihood of that really happening?

Investigate all the factors that would have to be in place for the fear to come true. You could even research the statistics, or learn all about dog behavior. Information is often a missing piece of the anxiety and phobia puzzle.

Once you know the different between the possible risk and the probable risk, remind yourself: This is possible, but it is not really probable. Keep reminding yourself that, and see how you feel the next time you encounter a dog.

The LPA brings new perspectives to old faulty beliefs and problems, helping you see your way out of old patterns. It also works in small steps, each just one part of the process. Do these as much as you want. Remember that you are the one in control. But the more you practice, the more effective it will be. That’s because when you do something successfully a number of times, the success-producing behaviors replace your old thought and behavior patterns with positive, productive ones.

Brick by brick, you can take the actions to face your fears, free yourself from them, change your life. And once you learn LPA and incorporate it into your routine, you can use it to tackle other obstacles. LPA has been proven to be highly effective in dealing with many forms of PTSD and conquering insomnia as well.

Reference:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Understand the Facts Depression. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression

Break Free of Your Anxiety and Phobias in 4 Simple Steps

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Four Steps to Manage Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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When I was a young girl, I struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I believed that if I landed on a crack in the sidewalk, something terrible would happen to me, so I did my best to skip over them. I feared that if I had bad thoughts of any kind, I would go to hell.

To purify myself, I would go to confession and Mass over and over again, and spend hours praying the rosary. I felt if I didn’t compliment someone, like the waitress where we were eating dinner, I would bring on the end of the world.

What Is OCD?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines OCD as a “common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” OCD involves a painful, vicious cycle whereby you are tormented by thoughts and urges to do things, and yet when you do the very things that are supposed to bring you relief, you feel even worse and enslaved to your disorder.

The results of one study indicated that more than one quarter of the adults interviewed experienced obsession or compulsions at some point in their lives — that’s over 60 million people — even though only 2.3 percent of people met the criteria for a diagnosis of OCD at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization has ranked OCD as one of the top 20 causes of illness-related disability worldwide for individuals between 15 and 44 years of age.

Whenever I am under considerable stress, or when I hit a depressive episode, my obsessive-compulsive behavior returns. This is very common. OCD breeds on stress and depression. A resource that has been helpful to me is the book Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. He offers a four-step self-treatment for OCD that can free you from painful symptoms and even change your brain chemistry.

Distinguishing Form from Content of OCD

Before I go over the four steps, I wanted to go over two concepts he explains in the book that I found very helpful to understanding obsessive-compulsive behavior. The first is knowing the difference between the form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and its content.

The form consists of the thoughts and urges not making sense but constantly intruding into a person’s mind — the thought that won’t go away because the brain is not working properly. This is the nature of the beast. The content is the subject matter or genre of the thought. It’s why one person feels something is dirty, while another can’t stop worrying about the door being locked.

The OCD Brain

The second concept that is fascinating and beneficial to a person in the throes of OCD’s torture is to see a picture of the OCD brain. In order to help patients understand that OCD is, in fact, a medical condition resulting from a brain malfunction, Schwartz and his colleagues at UCLA used PET scanning to take pictures of brains besieged by obsessions and compulsive urges. The scans showed that in people with OCD, there was increased energy in the orbital cortex, the underside of the front of the brain. This part of the brain is working overtime.

According to Schwartz, by mastering the Four Steps of cognitive-biobehavioral self-treatment, it is possible to change the OCD brain chemistry so that the brain abnormalities no longer cause the intrusive thoughts and urges.

Step One: Relabel

Step one involves calling the intrusive thought or urge exactly what it is: an obsessive thought or a compulsive urge. In this step, you learn how to identify what’s OCD and what’s reality. You might repeat to yourself over and over again, “It’s not me — it’s OCD,” working constantly to separate the deceptive voice of OCD from your true voice. You constantly inform yourself that your brain is sending false messages that can’t be trusted.

Mindfulness can help here. By becoming an observer of our thoughts, rather than the author of them, we can take a step back in loving awareness and simply say, “Here comes an obsession. It’s okay … It will pass,” instead of getting wrapped up in it and investing our emotions into the content. We can ride the intensity much like a wave in the ocean, knowing that the discomfort won’t last if we can stick in there and not act on the urge.

Step Two: Reattribute

After you finish the first step, you might be left asking, “Why don’t these bothersome thoughts and urges go away?” The second step helps answer that question. Schwartz writes:

The answer is that they persist because they are symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition that has been scientifically demonstrated to be related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain that causes your brain to misfire. There is now strong scientific evidence that in OCD a part of your brain that works much like a gearshift in a car is not working properly. Therefore, your brain gets stuck in gear. As a result, it’s hard for you to shift behaviors. Your goal in the Reattribute step is to realize that the sticky thoughts and urges are due to your balky brain.

In the second step, we blame the brain, or in 12-step language, admit we are powerless and that our brain is sending false messages. We must repeat, “It’s not me — it’s just my brain.” Schwartz compares OCD to Parkinson’s disease — both interestingly are caused by disturbances in a brain structure called the striatum — in that it doesn’t help to lambast ourselves for our tremors (in Parkinson’s) or upsetting thoughts and urges (in OCD). By reattributing the pain to the medical condition, to the faulty brain wiring, we empower ourselves to respond with self-compassion.

Step Three: Refocus

In step three, we shift into action, our saving grace. “The key to the Refocus step is to do another behavior,” explains Schwartz. “When you do, you are repairing the broken gearshift in your brain.” The more we “work around” the nagging thoughts by refocusing our attention on some useful, constructive, enjoyable activity, the more our brain starts shifting to other behaviors and away from the obsessions and compulsions.

Step three requires a lot of practice, but the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Says Schwartz: “A key principle in self-directed cognitive behavioral therapy for OCD is this: It’s not how you feel, it’s what you do that counts.”

The secret of this step, and the hard part, is going on to another behavior even though the OCD thought or feeling is still there. At first, it’s extremely wearisome because you are expending a significant amount of energy processing the obsession or compulsion while trying to concentrate on something else. However, I completely agree with Schwartz when he says, “When you do the right things, feelings tend to improve as a matter of course. But spend too much time being overly concerned about uncomfortable feelings, and you may never get around to doing what it takes to improve.”

This step is really at the core of self-directed cognitive behavioral therapy because, according to Schwartz, we are fixing the broken filtering system in the brain and getting the automatic transmission in the caudate nucleus to start working again.

Step Four: Revalue

The fourth step can be understood as an accentuation of the first two steps, Relabeling and Reattributing. You are just doing them with more insight and wisdom now. With consistent practice of the first three steps, you can better acknowledge that the obsessions and urges are distractions to be ignored. “With this insight, you will be able to Revalue and devalue the pathological urges and fend them off until they begin to fade,” writes Schwartz.

Two ways of “actively revaluing,” he mentions are anticipating and accepting. It’s helpful to anticipate that obsessive thoughts will occur hundreds of times a day and not to be surprised by them. By anticipating them, we recognize them more quickly and can Relabel and Reattribute when they arise. Accepting that OCD is a treatable medical condition — a chronic one that makes surprise visits — allows us to respond with self-compassion when we are hit with upsetting thoughts and urges.

Four Steps to Manage Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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7 Simple Ways to Ease Anxiety

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Anxiety serves a life-saving role when we are in real danger. Adrenaline pumps through our system, and suddenly we can run like Usain Bolt and lift a 200-pound man without much effort. However, most of the time, anxiety is like a fire alarm with a dead battery that beeps annoyingly every five minutes when there is absolutely nothing to worry about. We experience the heart palpitations, restlessness, panic, and nausea as if a saber-toothed tiger were 20 yards away.

Thankfully there are a few simple gestures to communicate to your body that there is no immediate danger — that it’s a false alarm… yet again. I have used the following activities to calm down my nervous system that is ready for an adventure, and to ease symptoms of anxiety.

Exercise

We have known for decades that exercise can decrease depression and anxiety symptoms, but a 2016 study by researchers at the University of California at David Medical Center demonstrates how. They found that exercise increased the level of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, both of which are depleted in the brains of persons with depression and anxiety. The study showed that aerobic exercise activates the metabolic pathways that replenish these neurotransmitters, allowing the brain to communicate with the body.

You need not commit huge amounts of time. Short, ten-minute intervals of intense exercise (such as sprints) can trigger the same brain changes as long, continuous workouts.

Drink Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs and has been used to treat a variety of conditions including panic and insomnia. Its sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Chamomile extracts exhibit benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity as evidenced in a study with sleep-disturbed rats.

In a study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to the patients taking placebos.

Laugh

It’s difficult to panic and laugh at the same time. There’s a physiological reason for this. When we panic, we generate all kinds of stress hormones that send SOS signals throughout our body. However, when we laugh, those same hormones are reduced.

In a study done at Loma Linda University in California in the 1980s, Lee Berk, DrPH and his research team assigned five men to an experimental group who viewed a 60-minute humor video and five to a control group, who didn’t. They found that the “mirthful laughter experience” reduced serum levels of cortisol, epinephrine, dihydrophenylacetic acid (dopac), and growth hormone.

Take Deep Breaths

Every relaxation technique that mitigates the stress response and halts our “fight or flight or I’m-dying-get-the-heck-out-of-my-way” reaction is based in deep breathing. I find it miraculous how something as simple as slow abdominal breathing has the power to calm down our entire nervous system. One way it does this is by stimulating our vagus nerve — our BFF in the middle of a panic because it releases a variety of anti-stress enzymes and calming hormones such as acetylcholine, prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin.

Three basic approaches to deep breathing are coherent breathing, resistance breathing, and breath moving. But really, all you need to do is inhale to a count of six and exhale to a count of six, moving the breath from your chest to your diaphragm.

Eat Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has one of the highest concentrations of magnesium in a food — with one square providing 327 milligrams, or 82 percent of your daily value — and magnesium is an important mineral for calming down the nervous system. According to a 2012 study in the journal Neuropharmacology, magnesium deficiencies induce anxiety, which is why the mineral is known as the original chill pill. Dark chocolate also contains large amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin, and theobromine, another mood-elevating compound. The higher percentage of cocoa the better (aim for at least 85 percent), because sugar can reverse the benefits of chocolate and contribute to your anxiety.

Color

Use anything that can distract you from the fire alarm going off every five minutes in your head—from the distressing thoughts and ruminations. Many people I know use coloring books to divert their attention. I now see them in doctor’s offices and acupuncture centers. A study published in Occupational Therapy International demonstrated that activities such as drawing and other arts and crafts can stimulate the neurological system and enhance well-being. This is partly because they help you stay fully present and they can be meditative. They are especially helpful for people like me who struggle with formal meditation.

Cry

You have to be careful with crying, as it has the potential you feel worse. However, I’ve always felt a huge release after a good cry. There’s a biological explanation for this. Tears remove toxins from our body that build up from stress, like the endorphin leucine-enkephalin and prolactin, the hormone that causes aggression. And what’s really fascinating is that emotional tears — those formed in distress or grief — contain more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (like onion peeling). Crying also lowers manganese levels, which triggers anxiety, nervousness, and aggression. In that way, tears elevate mood.

I like Benedict Carey’s reference to tears as “emotional perspiration” in his New York Times piece, The Muddled Track of All Those Tears. He writes, “They’re considered a release, a psychological tonic, and to many a glimpse of something deeper: the heart’s own sign language, emotional perspiration from the well of common humanity.”

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Psychology Around the Net: April 6, 2019

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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This week’s Psychology Around the Net dives into how to stop worrying about what other people think of you, ways to defeat procrastination, why pets can help boost physical and mental health (especially in older adults), and more.

Enjoy!

Stop Worrying About What Others Think of You: 7 Tips for Feeling Better: The fear of rejection is at the root of caring what someone thinks of you. Learn how to understand what “rejection” really means, use rejection (when it actually happens) as a brilliant opportunity for growth, how to embrace your individuality, and more to overcome your fear of rejection and truly stop worrying what other people think about you.

How to Defeat Procrastination with the Psychology of Emotional Intelligence: A step-by-step guide to overcoming procrastination by using the psychology of emotion regulation and emotional intelligence, with some extra tips and tricks to boot? Sign me up! (Additionally, you might want to find out how anxiety affects procrastination.)

Here’s One Big Way To Help Working Mothers Thrive: This new study tackles how to reduce a mother’s work-family conflict and employment-related guilt.

Why It’s a Problem If ‘Joker’ Connects Mental Illness to Villainy: While most portrayals of The Joker have involved a character backstory that’s mysterious, if not outright nonexistent, there are hints that this new Joker will include not only a backstory, but a backstory that includes mental illness linked to becoming a violent criminal. However, shouldn’t we pause and determine whether the story links mental illness in general with violent and criminal behavior, or whether the story features one character who has a mental illness that drove him to violent criminal behavior?

Poll: Pets Help Older Adults Cope with Health Issues, Get Active, and Connect with Others: According to a recent national poll, pets can help older adults deal with physical and mental health issues; however, for some (18 percent of participants), pets bring various strains (for example, financial burdens and problems that arise from putting a pet’s needs before your own). Which is it for you?

What We Know and Don’t Know about How Mass Trauma Affects Mental Health: Researchers are working to figure out who is at most risk of suicide and other types of self-harm after mass trauma events such as wars and political violence, natural disasters, and — especially prevalent in today’s troubled climate — mass shootings, including school shootings.

Psychology Around the Net: April 6, 2019

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Podcast: Dwelling on the Past Mistakes Caused by Mental Illness

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Once we reach recovery from mental illness, we tend to dwell on the mistakes of our past. Thoughts of failures and people we’ve hurt ruminate inside our head and make it difficult to move forward.

Why do we think about these things? Does it protect us, make us feel better, or is it way to keep us from moving forward? In this episode, our hosts discuss their past failures in the hopes it allows our listeners to realize living in the past only really accomplishes one thing . . .

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“It just creeps into the deep dark depths of my head and it just goes around, and around, and around.”
– Michelle Hammer

Highlights From ‘Ruminations’’ Episode

[2:00] We are talking about ruminations today

[4:30] Ruminations feed delusions

[6:00] Gabe dwells on his past wives

[8:20] Michelle ruminates about how her brother treated her in the past

[11:00] Gabe tried to set up his brother to get in trouble

[13:00] We want Michelle to make amends with her brother

[18:00] Why ruminating is detrimental to your health.

[19:30] Gabe dwells about his biological father

[21:00] Why can’t we just get over things and move on?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Dwelling on the Past Mistakes Caused by Mental Illness’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: [00:00:07] For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and A Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: [00:00:19] You’re listening to a person living with bipolar, a person living with schizophrenia, and a digital portable media file. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m a person living with bipolar disorder.

Michelle: [00:00:28] Hi, I’m Michelle Hammer and I’m a person living with schizophrenia. Are you guys happy now?

Gabe: [00:00:33] Yeah. See we changed it for everybody.

Michelle: [00:00:36] My god, don’t write any more letters. Please stay off our social media. Person first language, okay?

Gabe: [00:00:43] I think we did it. I think, you know, by doing it this way, though we have now wiped out discrimination. We’ve wiped out stigma. There’s enough beds for everybody. Homelessness due to mental illness is gone. There’s nobody incarcerated in prisons. By using person first language we have solved all of those other problems, right?

Michelle: [00:01:04] We must of. That’s why person’s first language is always number one comment we get. Absolutely.

Gabe: [00:01:09] Hang on. I’m getting a weird text message.

Michelle: [00:01:11] Oh. Oh no, what happened?

Gabe: [00:01:13] Yeah. It turns out we didn’t do anything. We didn’t do anything. Like a person first language. It didn’t. It didn’t solve any problems. No. Now people are mad at us for mocking them.

Michelle: [00:01:22] Oh, no! We mocked people? We never make fun of anything on this show.

Gabe: [00:01:27] We were always so polite and professional and educational. We never say fuck.

Michelle: [00:01:32] We never say fuck, or suck my dick, or your –

Gabe: [00:01:37] [Laughter]

Michelle: [00:01:37] God, Gabe, what are you laughing at? I’m being really serious right now. I’m a person living with schizophrenia. I am a person living with my past.

Gabe: [00:01:45] You’re a person living with your past?

Michelle: [00:01:46] My past that I dwell on with my ruminations. Now I’m going to ruminate about this situation: that I couldn’t make the world better. I need to make the world better. Gabe, I need to make the world better.

Gabe: [00:01:58] This is the worst segue in the history of our show. And that, that’s saying something. Because we’ve had some mighty awful segues.

Michelle: [00:02:08] What are we doing?

Gabe: [00:02:11] In case you haven’t figured it out, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about things that we have ruminated on both before we were diagnosed, during like the recovery period where we’re trying to get better, and things that still kind of haunt us today and we are going to desperately eke 20 minutes out of this.

Michelle: [00:02:26] Desperately.

Gabe: [00:02:28] So Michelle what are some ruminations that like today think the last six months as longtime listener of this show know we’re in recovery. You are doing quite well despite the fact that you’re a schizophrenic. I am doing quite well despite the fact that I’m living with bipolar disorder we’ve gotten over mania depression psychosis and everything in between. But we still ruminate on things because one everybody does. We should probably start there. Do you think that ruminating about things is the domain of only people with mental illness or do you think that everybody ruminates?

Michelle: [00:02:59] I think everybody ruminates to a certain extent. It’s fine ruminating, you just can’t stop it is when it really gets out of control.

Gabe: [00:03:07] I like that we’ve challenged ourselves to put the word “ruminating” in this show as many times as possible.

Michelle: [00:03:13] How do you spell this word?

Gabe: [00:03:15] I have no idea. I have no idea that that’s really a problem for the show

Michelle: [00:03:19] Should we define ruminating for people?

Gabe: [00:03:20] Do it.

Michelle: [00:03:21] Ruminating is when you can think of the same thing over and over and over again you just cannot get it out of your head. It just goes around and around and around. Usually it drives you nuts.

Gabe: [00:03:33] So, for example, Michelle’s mother, who has absolutely no mental illness to speak of, ruminates about why Michelle is a failure.

Michelle: [00:03:42] Hey.

Gabe: [00:03:42] It just she can’t get it out of her head.

Michelle: [00:03:44] I’m not a failure.

Gabe: [00:03:45] I didn’t say that you were. I said that your mother ruminates about it.

Michelle: [00:03:47] She does not.

Gabe: [00:03:48] I mean maybe a little bit?

Michelle: [00:03:49] She doesn’t.

Gabe: [00:03:50] Okay well my mother despite having no mental illness whatsoever ruminates on whether or not I’m going to throw her under the bus on a podcast.

Michelle: [00:03:58] Does she?

Gabe: [00:03:58] I mean, probably.

Michelle: [00:03:59] I don’t know.

Gabe: [00:04:01] Yeah, I don’t think she gives a shit.

Michelle: [00:04:02] I often ruminate why I was fired from any previous job.

Gabe: [00:04:05] Do you ruminate about being fired from the job as a symptom of schizophrenia? Or is it just something that you wish you could go back in time and figure out?

Michelle: [00:04:14] Well it’s more like different situations that happened and how I wish I could have handled them differently.

Gabe: [00:04:19] But doesn’t everybody do that? Like do you ever do this? And be honest, I mean sincerely be honest. Remember we value honesty. Do you ever get in a fight with your girlfriend, and like you’re fighting, you’re yelling, you’re screaming, and then you retreat to separate corners. All is quiet. It’s over, you’ve made up and you think, “God, I wish I would have said that?” Or like you run through it in your mind?

Michelle: [00:04:40] But that’s different than ruminating.

Gabe: [00:04:42] Well, how is it?

Michelle: [00:04:43] Different for me? Because ruminating just doesn’t stop it. I’ll go around and around and around and even when I’m walking through the street walking through anything I almost will turn delusional and think I’m with those other people having that conversation start getting angry just start making the whole situation 8 million times worse than it was because I keep thinking about it over and over and over and over and over and over again. It won’t go away and if they hate it so much.

Gabe: [00:05:08] In your mind ruminating and delusions they feed each other?

Michelle: [00:05:13] Yes absolutely.

Gabe: [00:05:14] First you’re thinking about the thing. I got fired. They fired me. H.R. called walk me down with the seventh time I got. By the time you’re done you’re back in that time and place. You’re feeling it again and it’s like it’s happening right now. Even though it was three years ago.

Michelle: [00:05:26] Yes.

Gabe: [00:05:27] Wow. Does that still happen to you like in 2019? Does this still happen to Michelle Hammer?

Michelle: [00:05:32] Yes.

Gabe: [00:05:33] What’s the coping skill to get around it? Because you’re right. You’re a well accomplished person. Why do we care?

Michelle: [00:05:38] Honestly, talking about the ruminating thoughts. Because when you talk about the ruminating thoughts usually the person you’re talking to is going, “Why do you care so much about this?” You maybe talk it out a little bit, and then you’re like, “Wow. You’re right. Who cares about this dumb stupid person or this story or anything about the situation. It’s so useless why am I thinking about it so much and you can’t change the past anyway. You’re right. I talked it out. Now I feel better.

Gabe: [00:06:03] But can’t you kinda change the past? Can’t you remember it differently? You can’t you edit it in your mind, can’t you fix the things that have gone wrong previously in the future just like with different people?

Michelle: [00:06:16] You mean like learning from your past?

Gabe: [00:06:17] No. Learning sounds mature and we don’t really like that here.

Michelle: [00:06:21] OK. So then I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Gabe: [00:06:23] Here’s a good example. I’m on my third marriage. My wife is wonderful and I love her and this marriage has stood many many years. And I have no complaints. I want to say that right now. But I’ve been divorced twice. Not nasty divorces, but, you know, things that didn’t feel good. And I’ve been through breakups etc.. So every now and again my wife will do something and it will remind me of something that my ex-wife did and I’ll think. “Wait a minute. You know I let that go when wife number two did it. So I have to fix it with wife number three.” Even though they’re a completely different person. It’s a completely different time and nothing is the same except for maybe like one little thing. Don’t you ever do that? Like don’t you ever try to set a boundary with your current friend that you didn’t set with your last friend that is now you’re like mortal enemy?

Michelle: [00:07:10] No.

Gabe: [00:07:11] No?

Michelle: [00:07:11] No. Something that I do I know I do with my anxiety but I put on other people, is that I’ll start asking them a million questions about things. And then they’re like, “Why are you asking me a million questions?” And I’m like, “Oh, it’s my anxiety. I just wondered at the time? I just wondered if you know the place? I just wanted to know what you’re going to do after? What you are going to do before? I’m like, I’m just anxious. I’m sorry. I wanted to know.” If that makes any sense.

Gabe: [00:07:33] I certainly do that, too. You know like that constant time checking thing? That you don’t wanna be late?

Michelle: [00:07:37] Yes.

Gabe: [00:07:38] So what time is it? It’s four o’clock. OK. We have to be there at four thirty. What time is it? It’s four or one. OK. We have to be there at four thirty. What time is it? Dude ,it’s still four or one. But you know some of the things that are trapped in my head that I just can’t get out are just what a bad friend I was, or what a awful son I was, or what a terrible family member I was.

Michelle: [00:07:58] Yeah, yeah.

Gabe: [00:07:58] And sometimes I get mad at the people around me because I assume that they’re still mad at me because I’m still mad at me. Does stuff like that ever happen to you?

Michelle: [00:08:09] I mean, I still hold a lot of vendettas against my brother, which I owe to him. Right? Everyone says that I just dwell on the past. Even he says that I just, like, stay on the past. About when we’re very young. Me and my brother, and how mean he was to me and everything. We would see each other in the hallway of high school, and he wouldn’t even say hello to me. Yet, when he went off to college, and we were still using AIM, and he would instant message me, I would not reply. So he wouldn’t speak to me when he saw me in high school in the hallway, yet I stopped replying to him when he went off to college. And that was not OK. Which makes no sense to me. Yet, now we haven’t seen each other in a long time because he lives in another country. And when he comes back, I now have to be nice to him. Because I guess he’s a different person now? Yet, I never got any kind of apologies or anything like that, but I’m supposed to see that he’s a different person now. I don’t know why. And we’re supposed to be good friends now or something like that. I guess, just out of curiosity, why? I’m just wondering.

Gabe: [00:09:12] Is your brother a different person now?

Michelle: [00:09:14] Apparently, he’s a different person now. I don’t know. But-.

Gabe: [00:09:18] He had to leave the country to really get away with you.

Michelle: [00:09:20] I don’t know where it changed, but I’m supposed to treat him differently now. I’m supposed to forget everything from the past, all of the abuse from the past, and I’m supposed to like him now. I don’t know why.

Gabe: [00:09:31] I haven’t heard described any abuse. What you described is a couple of adult siblings that do not talk to each other.

Michelle: [00:09:36] No. Well okay.

Gabe: [00:09:37] What’s he mean to you? Did he call you names? Wait, did he pull your pigtails?

Michelle: [00:09:39] Well, he went to karate, and he would practice all of his karate moves on me. Constant wrestling, slamming my head into the ground until my nose bleeds. Calling me Michael instead of Michelle. Calling me a boy. That kind of went with Michael. Slamming the door in my face. Not letting me play with him. Like when we’re very little. Try to use his toys, not allowed to use his toys. Actually, when my mom and dad came home with me from the hospital when I was born, and they said, “Oh, Seth, here’s your sister.” He threw a stuffed animal at me. Yeah. I don’t know why they told me that story.

Gabe: [00:10:11] So he’s your older brother?

Michelle: [00:10:12] Yes.

Gabe: [00:10:12] Because you said that he threw a stuffed animal at you when you came home from the hospital and they told you that story and you’re putting this together with all of the other issues that you had with your brother growing up when you were kids?

Michelle: [00:10:27] Yeah and my like broke my necklace too, and then blamed me for it because that I was being annoying. So he had to push me and my necklace got in the way and it broke.

Gabe: [00:10:36] This is fabulous that you bring this up and here’s why. Because in my brother and sister’s world, I’m your older brother. I was the oldest. I was incredibly jealous of my brother. One time to get him in trouble when we were kids, I took syrup out of the pantry and I dumped it on the floor so that I could frame him for doing it. Knowing that he’d get in trouble. My mother just happened to be moving faster than normal that morning and watched me do it. And even though she saw me do it, I still tried to blame him for it. Absolutely, unequivocally, just hated having him as a brother. I was a top dog. I was the oldest. I used to live with Grandma. Then my mother remarried and nine months later I got this bastard in my house and I treated him like absolute garbage. Absolute garbage.

Michelle: [00:11:22] My favorite was when he would say, “You’re stupid.” And I would say, “No, you are stupid.” And then he would say, “Well, I’m smarter than you. So if I’m stupid, how dumb are you?

Gabe: [00:11:30] You know you’re an adult now, right?

Michelle: [00:11:31] I know. But obviously I can not get over this because I don’t understand why I’m supposed to like him now when I never received any kind of apology.

Gabe: [00:11:38] What kind of apology do you want when you were growing up?

Michelle: [00:11:41] Maybe just, “I’m sorry I was a horrible asshole to you, and ignored you for years and everything like that.”

Gabe: [00:11:47] Listen I never ever ever told my brother and sister, “I’m sorry. I was a horrible asshole to you.” Ever.

Michelle: [00:11:55] So that I don’t understand, why do I have to accept him back in my life?

Gabe: [00:11:59] I mean you don’t. But do you feel good right now?

Michelle: [00:12:01] I’m being told by everybody in my family that I need to accept him back in my life.

Gabe: [00:12:06] Okay. Well fuck them. Don’t. Just sit around and think about how pissed off and angry 8, 12, and 15 year old Michelle was.

Michelle: [00:12:13] Hang on one second, we’ve got to hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: [00:12:16] This episode is sponsored by betterhelp.com secure convenient and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to betterhelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. Betterhelp.com/PsychCentral.

Michelle: [00:12:44] Want us to answer your questions on the show? Head over to PsychCentral.com/BSPquestions and fill out the form.

Gabe: [00:12:54] We’re back, still trying to say the word rumination as many times as humanly possible. You’re 30 years old, you’ve moved on with your life. But you’re still thinking about shit that happened to you when you were literally eight years old.

Michelle: [00:13:06] Ok, I see where you’re going with this.

Gabe: [00:13:08] How is that working out for you?

Michelle: [00:13:08] I don’t know. I don’t see him. I don’t have to speak to him. And then my mom says, “Have you spoken to your brother? Have you texted him? Have you spoken to him?” Yeah. “I don’t like that you guys don’t have a relationship. Why do my children hate each other?”

Gabe: [00:13:23] Well, I mean you articulated why y’all hate each.

Michelle: [00:13:25] I know, I’m just saying, that’s what she says.

Gabe: [00:13:27] I mean, has he done anything to you as an adult? Let let’s establish that like right out. In the time that you both became adult grown people, has he? Or has he been fine?

Michelle: [00:13:36] Well, when I graduated college he was working at kind of in the design agency kind of area. His boss, the creative director, he wanted to give me some advice. So he brought me in and he looks at my portfolio and his boss said to me, “I like your stuff. I want to give you some help. I wanted to offer you like a part time internship here, but your brother said no”.

Gabe: [00:13:54] Well but you don’t know that’s true.

Michelle: [00:13:57] His boss said it to me.

Gabe: [00:13:58] Yeah, but so what? People lie all the time.

Michelle: [00:14:00] No that’s 100 percent something my brother would do. Why would he lie and say I would offer you an internship here, but your brother said no? Because why would he invite me to come there and look at my portfolio and see all of my work and give me advice? Why would he offer to do that?

Gabe: [00:14:16] If he was gonna tell you no, why did he do it at all?

Michelle: [00:14:17] He was just giving me advice. And he just said that he wanted to offer me an internship, and that he would totally do that for me, but my brother said no.

Gabe: [00:14:25] So your brother was the boss of his boss?

Michelle: [00:14:27] My brother said do not hire her as an intern.

Gabe: [00:14:31] Then why did he talk to you at all?

Michelle: [00:14:32] Because he wanted to give me advice.

Gabe: [00:14:34] Did you ask your brother about this?

Michelle: [00:14:36] No I wouldn’t want to start a fight.

Gabe: [00:14:39] But, I kinda smell a rat here.

Michelle: [00:14:41] No I don’t smell a rat here. Obviously, Gabe, you don’t know my brother if you don’t believe this story.

Gabe: [00:14:46] It just doesn’t have the ring of truth.

Michelle: [00:14:47] Actually, it does very much ring true.

Gabe: [00:14:50] Okay. Let’s say that that is completely true. It’s 100 percent.

Michelle: [00:14:52] Okay.

Gabe: [00:14:52] Let’s say it rings true?

Michelle: [00:14:54] Say it rings true? It’s 100 true.

Gabe: [00:14:55] Right, it’s 100 percent true. I agree. How long ago was that? How many years?

Michelle: [00:15:00] I believe I was 22. Okay so it was eight years ago.

Gabe: [00:15:04] Eight years? Everybody, Michelle Hammer is 30 years old.

Michelle: [00:15:04] You said adult life, Gabe. I was bringing up something in my adult life that’s it. So you know, it’s just so you know, you said something in my adult life.

Gabe: [00:15:14] I don’t know. I do not. You’re very upset about this.

Michelle: [00:15:17] He didn’t want me to work in the same place that he was working. You said adult life there you go or not.

Gabe: [00:15:25] But you keep repeating that.

Michelle: [00:15:26] Also, my brother lives in Colombia. Colombia the country, not the college. People have gotten that very mixed up before.

Gabe: [00:15:31] Did you throw your brother out of the country?

Michelle: [00:15:35] I’m glad he left.

Gabe: [00:15:35] Okay.

Michelle: [00:15:38] Meanwhile, you know who’s never been invited to Colombia to come see him?

Gabe: [00:15:40] I’m gonna go with you.

Michelle: [00:15:41] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:15:42] Do you think the reason you’ve never been invited is because you hate him?

Michelle: [00:15:48] He’s never invited me.

Gabe: [00:15:48] Because you hate him.

Michelle: [00:15:50] Well, he’s never invited me.

Gabe: [00:15:51] Because you hate him.

Michelle: [00:15:52] He’s never invited me.

Gabe: [00:15:53] Have you invited him to your house?

Michelle: [00:15:55] He’s been to my apartment. He’s been there.

Gabe: [00:15:58] You’re upset about this aren’t you?

Michelle: [00:15:58] Well, we’re dwelling on the past, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:16:00] You want to have a relationship with your brother, don’t you?

Michelle: [00:16:03] We do not get along.

Gabe: [00:16:05] I didn’t say do you get along. I said do you want to get along?

Michelle: [00:16:08] I want him to acknowledge what he’s done.

Gabe: [00:16:13] But why do you want him to acknowledge what he’s done?

Michelle: [00:16:16] Because he acts so innocent.

Gabe: [00:16:17] I’m being really serious.

Michelle: [00:16:19] Like look, he acts like he did nothing wrong. And then the past is of the past and I should ignore it.

Gabe: [00:16:24] Listen here’s what I’m saying, you think about the things that happened as a kid and as a young adult. A lot. And it brings it up. You are clearly unhappy about this and other members of your family know that you’re unhappy about this and try to fix it. Albeit apparently poorly. And I completely agree that all of these things are true. The question that I have for you this is the only question that I want you to answer. Do you want him to apologize because you want an apology? Or do you want him to apologize because you miss your brother and you want to mend the relationship?

Michelle: [00:16:56] Yes, I would like to mend the relationship.

Gabe: [00:16:58] Ok, well then say that. Say that the reason that you think about this so much is because you’re sad that you’re fighting with your brother.

Michelle: [00:17:05] And I’ve had friends who’ve met my brother on multiple occasions and have told me your brother’s a dick.

Gabe: [00:17:11] Yeah, he sounds like a real dick. Listen –

Michelle: [00:17:13] I’m just saying. I’m just saying.

Gabe: [00:17:14] I am not saying that he is not. Your brother’s a dick. I’m saying that you need to understand your own motivation because until you do I don’t think you’re gonna get over it. And I think a lot of our listeners have somebody in their life that they feel this way about. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, in some cases it’s like a parent or a guardian. It’s somebody who helped raised them or an authority figure and they’re all ruminating on this day in and day out. And if they don’t fix the relationship or get over the relationship it either a handcuffs them in the present like it’s handcuffed to you because you’re thinking about this right now and it is occupying way too much of your space for some dude who doesn’t even live in the country. And two, you just need to let it go and decide hey look this relationship isn’t for me and stop thinking about it. Frankly I don’t think any of this has anything to do with schizophrenia. I don’t think it does. It has everything to do with the fact that familiar relationships our family our friends, that’s the kind of stuff that fucks you up.

Michelle: [00:18:10] I think what it has to do with schizophrenia is the fact that I’ll think about it and I’ll just scrape into my head and it creeps in the deep dark depths of my head and I’ll just go around and around and around and around.

Gabe: [00:18:22] You want to know who my big brother is? You want to know who does that for me? You want to know who creeps into my head and just turns around and around and won’t let go ever? My biological father. The dude is dead. He is dead and I think about him the exact same way you think about your brother.

Michelle: [00:18:41] Really?

Gabe: [00:18:41] Yeah he’s dead. He can’t apologize. He can’t make up for it. It’s over. I won because I didn’t die of alcoholism.

Michelle: [00:18:49] I can get why.

Gabe: [00:18:50] Why did you hate me? That’s all I can think about, why did he hate me? And now you’re gonna do the exact same thing that I just did for you. You’re gonna be like, “Dude, he didn’t hate you he was a dick. He was an alcoholic. He abandoned his kid.” This is the level that we torture ourselves.

Michelle: [00:19:02] I get that though. When a parent chooses alcohol over a kid. I can understand why the kid feels very upset.

Gabe: [00:19:10] Oh, look I don’t think he chose alcohol over me. I think he chose literally anything. I think he would have chosen like a blowing leaf over me.

Michelle: [00:19:18] Sometimes, a father is just a sperm.

Gabe: [00:19:20] Yeah. You know I call on my sperm donor.

Michelle: [00:19:22] Yeah. That’s sometimes just what a father is.

Gabe: [00:19:25] But this is the biggest rumination that I have because I wonder how did he know? On the day that I was born, that I was broken and worthless? How come he knew what nobody else can figure out?

Michelle: [00:19:37] He didn’t know that.

Gabe: [00:19:37] But, I mean –

Michelle: [00:19:38] He knew he was broken.

Gabe: [00:19:41] He didn’t know that. He had a good life. He was happy. He died fine.

Michelle: [00:19:44] No, he wasn’t happy, he was an alcoholic.

Gabe: [00:19:46] Yeah, a happy one.

Michelle: [00:19:47] No, there’s no happy alcoholics.

Gabe: [00:19:50] You know that whole self medicating thing it doesn’t play sometimes. I don’t think he was self medicating at all. I think he was just a guy that did whatever he wanted and said whatever he wanted and behaved however. He was just immature.

Michelle: [00:20:00] Then he wasn’t ready to be a dad.

Gabe: [00:20:03] I mean he was very young. My mother got pregnant in high school and he was also in high school.

Michelle: [00:20:07] So ok, that makes a little bit better.

Gabe: [00:20:08] But he never made up for it. I saw him on his deathbed. He was in hospice. He had jaundice, his eyes were yellow. They told me had less than two weeks to live. And I’m like, “Do you have anything to say to me?” And he was like, “It’s your mom’s fault.”

Michelle: [00:20:23] That’s what he said?

Gabe: [00:20:23] That’s pretty much what he said.

Michelle: [00:20:25] He’s a dick.

Gabe: [00:20:26] Oh, yeah.

Michelle: [00:20:26] Like he’s a dick. Your biological dad, he’s a dick.

Gabe: [00:20:29] But why can’t I get over it?

Michelle: [00:20:31] Because he’s your dad.

Gabe: [00:20:33] Yeah I got a dad. He’s alive. He lives in Tennessee. He’s cool.

Michelle: [00:20:35] Because he’s a part of you.

Gabe: [00:20:37] And I’m not trying to be crass here, but he’s just a guy who had sex with my mom. I appreciate the DNA and all

Michelle: [00:20:45] But if you can say that, then why can’t you get over it?

Gabe: [00:20:48] Exactly. And that’s why it ruminates because the intellectual part of Gabe Howard thinks –

Michelle: [00:20:54] So are you mad at your mom for boning this dude?

Gabe: [00:20:57] No. Well, I mean, I’m mad at my mom for giving me life but that’s like a whole ‘nother episode. I don’t understand why I got to be born and why I have to be born broken and why I’m here.

Michelle: [00:21:08] There’s a reason why you’re here and there’s a purpose here and it’s.

Gabe: [00:21:12] I don’t I don’t believe that.

Michelle: [00:21:13] Purpose. I believe that there’s always a reason why you’re here.

Gabe: [00:21:17] You believe in vape pens.

Michelle: [00:21:20] You believe in Diet Coke. Maybe there’s a universe of no diet coke.

Gabe: [00:21:23] That’s mean.

Michelle: [00:21:24] You’re not there. That’s near here.

Gabe: [00:21:27] That’s mean.

Michelle: [00:21:28] You’re here to drink Diet Coke.

Gabe: [00:21:30] Michelle, seriously. Seriously, none of this is serving either one of us so why do we do it?

Michelle: [00:21:36] Because it doesn’t go away.

Gabe: [00:21:39] And why doesn’t it go away?

Michelle: [00:21:40] I don’t know why it doesn’t go away.

Gabe: [00:21:42] Exactly. Judging by our emails a lot of our listeners have this problem where they just have this thing that they just can’t get over. And if they have learned nothing by listening to this show it’s that they’re not alone. A lot of people have these things that they just can’t get over and I think that anybody listening to me and you for the last 20 minutes would think wow these two need to get over that because it’s not serving them in any way.

Michelle: [00:22:05] Just a little bit. Don’t you think?

Gabe: [00:22:06] But we’re not letting it go. I hope that maybe they listen to us and they realize how unhelpful this is to just not get over and they think wow I don’t want to be like them and they let go of their anger and the things that they’re just ruminating on and can’t get over. But I suspect that a lot of people are gonna hang on to that rumination and I hope that they find some way to minimize it because at the end of the day Michelle we have minimized it. It is not impacting us the same way at our current age. That it probably did 10 years ago. Do you think you think about this less now than you did five years ago?

Michelle: [00:22:44] Oh definitely much less.

Gabe: [00:22:45] So there really is some wisdom in time heals all wounds.

Michelle: [00:22:49] And you know living in another country.

Gabe: [00:22:52] So I had to kill my biological father. You had to send your brother to another country and now suddenly we’re getting better. That’s fantastic. That is definitely actionable advice. Everybody is excited that they listen to this episode of a bipolar schizophrenic podcast because now they can beat their own ruminations with death and deportation.

Michelle: [00:23:15] Yes.

Gabe: [00:23:16] Not every episode can be a winner ladies and gentlemen but we hope you got something out of it. Thank you for tuning into this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Don’t forget to hop over to store.PsychCentra.com, there is a few shirts left. This is the last time. Literally the last time we will ever pitch the “Define Normal” shirts on this show. So if you have been hanging on wanting to buy one, now is the time. Thank you everybody. Please like us everywhere and we will see you next time.

Michelle: [00:23:45] He’s a dick!

Announcer: [00:23:50]You’ve been listening to a bipolar a schizophrenic kind of podcast. If you love this episode don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe rate and review to work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups. Head over to PsychCentral.com Show’s official Web site PsychCentral.com/bsp you can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.Podcast: Dwelling on the Past Mistakes Caused by Mental Illness

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