A Depression Nap…or Just a Nap?

Is there such a thing as a “Depression Nap”? I’ve certainly heard the term through my advocacy. I never really knew what it was. I do know that when I was going through my second major bout of depression in 2013, my psychologist had shared with me that I needed to rest…I needed to take naps. He explained it as a brain injury and shared with me that the brain needed its down time.

Oh boy did I run with that one with my wife. I’d slowly, emotionlessly drag myself off of the couch, where I had been sitting, not knowing what to do or what to say and share with my wife, “I’m just going to go upstairs for a nap…my therapist said I need to rest”. There, behind the safety of my bedroom, door closed to my wife and four small children…and to the world really, I would lie down. I’d close my eyes and I’d roll around for about three hours, wishing so desperately that I could sleep.

I’d finally drag myself back downstairs, trying to convince myself that somehow, even without getting a wink of sleep, I must be rested from laying down for so long. I’d slowly make my way back to the couch. That or I’d follow my wife around at her hip, not knowing what to do with myself. Having taken time off from work, I’d try to create a very short to-do list. Maybe I could clean one bathroom or do a load of laundry. But I couldn’t. So, I spiraled down further into self negativity, beating myself up.

I’d even lay down next to my oldest kid (seven at the time) when it was her bedtime, as I had done when I was healthy. Only, when I was healthy, my wife would wake me up fifteen minutes later, we’d chuckle that I had fallen asleep and I’d go on with my routine for the evening before bed. Not this time. Not these days, these months of a deep, dark depression. I’d lay down by my daughter, she’d fall asleep, and I didn’t want to move. I knew that if I stayed there long enough, perhaps it would be late enough by the time I got up from her bed that I would be able to retreat back to the safety and security of my own room and go to bed (not to sleep, that just wasn’t happening).

It actually got to the point that I would literally feel angst and anxiety just walking past my bed, looking at it, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep next time I’d try. I was actually angry at my bed, as if it was my bed’s fault that I couldn’t sleep. I think at my worst I was getting about ten hours of sleep…for the week.

What’s funny is, I really love naps. I mean, when I’m healthy. As an educator, I typically get summers off. I LOVE lying down on the couch, a warm, fuzzy blanket on my legs and the breeze from the overhead fan on me. Catching a thirty-minute nap or so would feel so comforting to me and I’d wake up rejuvenated. I have no problem admitting that my love of naps could certainly do with me recently entering my fifties.

At any rate, at the current time we’re living in, it’s easy to fall into a depression and I so desperately do not want that to happen. I’ve only had two bouts of major depression and would never wish it upon my worst enemy…no joke. Seriously. So while I don’t live in fear of the possibility of another major depression, I’m surely conscious of the possibility. So…I’m recognizing some of my current stressors. Last December my father passed away. Last February our school district went on strike (I wasn’t on strike, as I’m an administrator), the teachers came back for one day (really in order to be able to receive health benefits, as they could see what was about to happen), we then went quickly into distance learning. Very soon thereafter, George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the police. I live, with my wife and four kids, in Minneapolis only three blocks south of Lake Street and less than a mile from the 3rd precinct (both locations that I would imagine most people in the US have heard of now due to the riots). We’re now starting a new school year, welcoming new staff and students virtually. So…it makes sense to me if I’m feeling down.

And this is where we get back to naps. Just the other day after dinner, my four kids went on their way to do their own things until it was bedtime. I’ve been reading to my youngest daughter and, ever since I once dozed and made up some nonsensical words (not to be funny, but because I was practically dreaming while reading), she’ll let me know I could take a short power nap after dinner so that I don’t fall asleep reading to her. And I’ve done that on a really tired night or two. And it’s felt good and I get right up and read and then continue my evening doing some work (or podcasting). The other night, however, it was different. I know I was feeling down, feeling overwhelmed. I wanted desperately to lay down on that comfy couch and take a snooze. But it wasn’t about getting rejuvenated to read with my daughter. It felt different. I could tell I felt that I needed to escape. To shut myself off from the world and to not think of anything that was causing me stress. I pushed back very hard on the nap that evening. Normally I wouldn’t. But again, this was different. I knew that the feeling of needing to shut myself off from the world was a sign that I could be slowly entering a depression. I could NOT let that happen. Having gone through two bouts of depression and advocating around mental health for four or five years now has given me many strategies. That night, I decided there was no way I was going to lay down. I’m not sure that I would have woken up to read with my daughter. I pushed against my desire to nap and instead took our dog out for a walk. I walked for a good hour, felt rejuvenated and proud that I had resisted the temptation to nap. I knew that had I napped, I would have beat myself up about the nap, especially if I hadn’t been able to get up to read to my daughter.

So…is there such a thing as a “Depression Nap”? Is it different from a typical nap? I now say a resounding, “Yes!” I believe there’s quite a difference. How about you?

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. As with all of my posts, questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged.

BONUS Episodes Added to The Depression Files Podcast!

If you’ve never heard of The Depression Files podcast (TheDepressionFiles.com/podcast), it’s a show in which I interview men who have struggled with depression and/or other mental illnesses. The goals of the show have always been to educate those who know little about depression and/or other mental illnesses, to support those living with a mental illness, and to chip away at the stigma.

I believe that sharing stories is powerful. When men (and women) hear men sharing their stories, it helps others realize that they are not alone. It also, hopefully, gives others the courage to share their struggles and, more importantly, to reach out for the help they may need.

For nearly three years, I’ve published an episode every other Sunday. I have recently decided to expand the show. On some of the “off” Sundays, I have begun to publish BONUS episodes. These are episodes in which I have a guest and we take a deep dive into a topic related to mental health. I’m excited to add this invaluable content that allows me to expand the scope of the show.

In July, I published an episode with Michael Pipich, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author, on the topic of bipolar disorder. In August, I published an interview with Dr. Peter Gutierrez, a suicidologist, on the topic of suicide. At the end of September, I’ll be publishing an episode with a former Minnesota state representative and her experience of having a son living with schizophrenia. I will also be publishing an episode with a doctor who administers Ketamine infusions for depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental illnesses and an episode with a woman who has received Ketamine infusions for depression.

I look forward to continuing these BONUS episodes to explore other topics related to mental illness in order to give the listeners additional content. If you have a suggestion for a topic for a BONUS episode, or if you’d simply like to connect, please email me at thedepressionfiles@gmail.com.

Bonus Episodes of The Depression Files

For nearly three years, I’ve been publishing episodes of The Depression Files podcast every other Sunday. These are interviews of men who have dealt with depression and/or other mental illnesses. I believe very strongly in the power of sharing stories as a way of chipping away at the stigma. The more we share our own stories, the more others are willing to share their stories and, more importantly, willing to reach out for the help they may need.

While I was originally planning to interview only men with depression, I soon realized that many of the men I was interviewing were dealing with other, usually co-existing, mental illnesses. While this wasn’t my intention, I’m so glad that it happened, as it has allowed the listeners (and selfishly, me) to learn about so many different types of mental illnesses.

In addition to the plethora of mental illnesses, I have intentionally sought out a vastly diverse group of men to interview. I’ve interviewed veterans, musicians, athletes, therapists, doctors, black men, a transgender man, authors, educators, firefighters, social workers, nurses, movie producers, gay men, tv personalities, and more!

I’ve finally come to a point where I am now expanding the show. I am now producing Bonus episodes. These episodes, published on some of the “off” Sundays, consist of an interview with someone on a topic related to mental illness, but not necessarily a lived story. Last Sunday (July 19, 2020), I published my first Bonus episode. This was an interview with Michael Pipich LMFT. Michael has focused his work on bipolar disorder and has even authored a book on the subject, Owning Bipolar: How Patients and Families Can Take Control of Bipolar Disorder.

I will soon be publishing a Bonus episode of an interview with Dr. Peter Gutierrez on the topic of suicide and another Bonus episode with Dr. Sam Ko on the topic of delivering ketamine intravenously to treat drug-resistant depression. Other topics that I hope to publish include a patient who has received ketamine or a psychedelic for treatment of depression (or another mental illness), family members living with someone with a mental illness, and patients who have received less common treatments for their mental illness.

There are several ways that you can help to support the program: 1) Leaving a rating and review on iTunes (by going to the show on iTunes and clicking on “Ratings and Reviews”), 2) Subscribe/Follow the show, or 3) Donate through my Patreon page to help me offset the cost of the show.

As always, questions and/or comments to this post (or any others) is welcomed and encouraged. In addition, feel free to email me at thedepressionfiles@gmail.com with suggestions of other Bonus episodes or simply to connect with me. Thank you for the support!

Guest Post: Where To Draw The Line

It’s the damndest thing, isn’t it? How a mental health condition can take you on a wild ride of feeling worthless to feeling super productive. Feeling like a one on the wellness meter is by no means where I aspire to be. No, I love the moments in time when I feel well. It’s where we all strive to be but, I have to be honest, it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

Take last week for example, what a wonderful period of time. I took the opportunity to spend time with some good friends and even attended a community outing. A gathering that was full of strangers no less.

Sadly, I still fell victim to the powers of mental illness

While being social and getting out to public places is crucial, I sometimes forget that I am still fighting for the resilience required to handle it all. When I am at the top of my game; I stop paying attention to the fact that mental illness is all an ebb and flow.

Self care tips on maintaining mental wellness.

And, like radiation, if exposed to triggers for too long, I slowly start to become symptomatic. The best way to avoid a crash is knowing your tolerances, a skill that I don’t always adhere to. Trust me, it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just feeling good makes me forget.

The trouble with forgetting is, is sooner or later, PTSD will remind me that it was only taking a nap. A sad reality I was reminded of the other day when I was so mentally drained, I slept all day. Oops. As a consequence, I am still feeling its effect two days later.

I have learned to embrace them and see them as my new normal.

Where to draw the line

Sadly, I still fall victim to the powers of mental illness and because of that, I am not ready for the real world; not for eight hours a day, five days a week. While that fact is a crystal clear one, I nonetheless do what I can in these situations to measure any semblance of success. This time, however, I failed to see where to draw the line.

You know what? That’s ok. One of the areas of mass improvement for me is that I have learned not to beat myself up over it. It’s not a regression, it’s a mistake that leads to a temporary setback; one in I will recover from with a little downtime and some good self-care.

Like what you are reading? Check out Why You Shouldn’t Quit

Along my road to mental wellness, I have learned a lot along the way. One of them is that I must accept that there are going to be setbacks. In fact, I have learned to embrace them and see them as my new normal.

So, where does this leave me this week? Well, I have purposefully kept my schedule light and have my to-do list short. My recovery is contingent on a low key, low stimulus environment; loosely translated, I’m gonna stay home.

Well, with that said, get out there and test your boundaries to see where you are at. If for whatever reason you can’t find where to draw the line, no worries; It simply means that you may have to do a reset with a lighter schedule and some “me” time. You know what? It really is ok. No self-blame needed.

Want to help make my book a reality? Donate here: GoFundMe

Contact: The Road To Mental Wellness

Bio: Addictions counsellor by trade, John spent 15 years in the volunteer fire service and nearly 20 years working in a long-term care setting, helping those with mental disabilities and mental illness. Off work because of his mental heath injury, PTSD. He dedicates his time to his blog and his book The Road To Mental Wellness where he is telling his story about his struggles with PTSD, depression and anxiety, hoping it will resonate with others. He is also very active politically, fighting for mental illness at the policy and legislative levels.

He regularly meets with people, both online and in person to help them with their own mental health struggles. He lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with his partner and two children.

 

 

Guest Post: 10 Habits That Can Help Your Mental Health

This past October I turned 50 years old.  That’s half a century friends!  One great advantage of getting older, is actually getting smarter.  The longer we live, the more chances we have to learn.  What I love most, is how much I have learned about myself and how to make myself the best self I can be. This takes work, persistence and the ability to look at our challenges and triumphs and what has helped along the way.  Many of my top life lessons are lessons that are really helpful to everyone, but these habits have truly helped me with my mental health, so I wanted to share. I have also asked friends who live with depression, anxiety or other brain illnesses that can affect or day to day lives.  I thought I would share 10 of the habits that I have found to help me over the years in hopes that someone else will be helped.

Creating a morning routine I have always been a morning person, but having a successful morning has always set my day off to the right direction.  Knowing what helps you start the day off right is important. For me, that means having some quiet time, exercising, making sure my “to do” list is ready and a healthy breakfast.  For years I skipped breakfast.  It was just an easy meal to skip, but it truly does start your mind and body off the right way.  On the mornings that I oversleep or don’t include these activities, my day simply doesn’t go as well. My emotions just don’t stay where they need to be to successfully get through my day.  What is your morning routine? Do you have one? What do you think you might add to your mornings to make your day better.

Eating healthy foods and stay away from processed foods.  I started eating mostly plant based two years ago in the summer of 2017.  I have always eaten a pretty “clean” diet.  One that didn’t contain fried foods, highly processed food or other junk food.  Sweets are something I also tend to stay away from because the sugar really wears down my emotions. Healthy food simply helps improve our mental health.  We need to feed our bodies with good nutrition.  Remember, the brain is an organ, so be good to it.

Exercising in some way at least six days a week.  Many people feel they don’t have time to exercise.  I have learned over the years that I don’t have time NOT to exercise!  It can be even something short like a 20 minute walk, or a mini yoga video on YouTube.  Make it a priority.  It will help get that serotonin pumping in your brain and release all the happiness that sometimes gets stuck!

Reading motivational books.  I love to read.  I love to learn, so most of what I read tends to be non-fiction.  Motivational books can give you a new perspective on how you can live a better life.  You can ask friends and family for some book ideas but I have a few of my favorites that I will list here.  The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod.  This is an excellent book if you are looking to start a morning routine!! Big Magic, by Melli’s Gilbert, You Are A Badass, by Jen Sincero, and anything by Brene Brown are a great place to start.

Meditating for at least 5 minutes a day.  This was a hard one for me to get started because my mind is always racing with ideas or thoughts.  Meditating has taught me how to sit still and clear my mind.  It took quite a few months to get this and also to get used to sitting still for 5 minutes.  Now, you can meditate for longer, but 5 minutes is my max before I get too restless. Sometimes I meditate in private and other times I play some soft spa music. There is a ton of benefit of learning how to be still and quiet.  Give it a try.

Drinking plenty of water.   Staying hydrate can be difficult if you work certain jobs but it is so important to our physical and mental health. I have a large cup with a lid that I refill all day long.  Again, your brain is an organ so you have to make sure it gets what it needs.  Drinking water throughout the day, will help you to be able to think more clearly too. Water flushes out toxins and makes your body work better.  This includes your brain.  So, grab a large drinking container and start drinking water tomorrow.

Journaling almost every day.  Ideally, you should journal daily, but realistically if I journal for 5 days out of 7 days, then I call it a successful week. You don’t need a fancy journal.  One of those Composition Books you can get for a dollar or two at the store will work just fine.  You can find journal prompts online but one thing I write down daily is at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.  Sometimes it is simply for the weather.  It is another great way to clear your mind so you can better focus on what you need to do.

Getting some fresh air daily.  There is nothing better for your mental health than getting some fresh air.  Now, this may be harder if you live where it can get extremely cold, but even just a few minutes of breathing in the fresh air can do a lot of good for your brain.  Take a short walk or just take a couple of deep breaths. Now that I live in Florida, I am able to get outside every day and it has made such a huge difference in my mental health.

Watch, or listen, to only positive, uplifting shows and music.  I do my best to stay away from upsetting shows or depression songs.  I try to stay away from the news.  I will watch a national morning news show to get informed, but the humor and other stories they cover make it less depressing.  Comedies are my favorite shows to watch when keeping my mental health in check.  Then upbeat music is just good for the soul! Dance to it and you can count that as your exercise!

Talking about your emotions.  I learned the hard way at age 17 that keeping your hard emotions to yourself will only slowly destroy you from the inside.  See a therapist. Often they can not only help you process the emotions, but also give you techniques to handle them when they arise.  It is also just so therapeutic to be able to talk about what is bothering you.  There are now online/virtual therapists too, so it is easier than ever to see a professional.  If therapy isn’t your thing, then just have a “go-to” friend or family member with whom you can vent to when you need to vent.  Whatever you do, just don’t hold in those emotions.  Your mental health will thank you for it.

What kind of habits have you created to help your mental health stay strong?  I would love to hear them.

Debbie Brady has over 20 years of experience in the mental health field in both the inpatient and community setting, including school, homeless shelters and as an advocate. In addition to her personal and professional experience, she holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling.

As a result of her own personal experience of living with long-term depression which began during childhood, and then also battling anorexia in college, she has developed many techniques that have not only helped her personally, but have helped countless others during the past 20 plus years. She loves to share with others all that she has learned in order to help them live a more full life in spite of depression. In addition to her personal experiences, she has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Counseling.

In July 2019, she published her first book titled, Depression Survival Guide: Your Path To A Joy-Filled Life. Her book hit number 1 in multiple categories on Amazon. In addition to her new book, she also has a mental health blog where she shares her experience and knowledge about mental health issues and concerns. Her website is www.EndingStigmaTogether.com. In addition to her writing, Debbie spends her time advocating, educating, speaking and sharing to help others live their best life.

She currently lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, 4 sons, 3 dogs and their cat. She is a proud Philadelphia native but moving south has been the absolute best thing for her mental health.

You can learn more about Debbie’s mission by visiting her website at www.EndingStigmaTogether.com. You can reach her at dbrady1021@yahoo.com.

Debbie Brady

Al Interviews Logan Lynn | American Musician, Writer, Producer, Filmmaker, TV Personality, Mental Health Advocate & LGBT Activist.

If you haven’t yet checked out my podcast TheDepressionFiles.com/podcast, please do! I interview men who have struggled with depression and/or other mental illnesses. This is my 56th episode! I publish a new episode every other Sunday. You’ll hear interviews with an incredibly diverse group of men, from an NFL offensive linesman, to a black male advocate, to an ER surgeon, to military vets, first responders, a Hollywood producer and many more. You’ll learn about illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, dissociative identity disorder, bipolar 1 & 2, borderline personality disorder and more! Register/Subscribe now and don’t miss a single episode!

My latest episode is an interview with Logan Lynn, American musician, writer, producer, filmmaker, TV personality, mental health advocate, and LGBT Activist (recorded 9-9-19). Logan shares his incredible story of surviving childhood sexual abuse and the impact it had on his entire family. He describes being outed by a therapist after sharing with him that he was gay. Logan also shares how the music scene and his early popularity fueled his 16-year addiction of cocaine, alcohol, and crack. It wasn’t until he suffered a TIA (a mini-stroke) and entered a program specifically for dual diagnoses (addiction & mental health) that he was able to finally become healthy.

Logan received the prestigious 2017 Award of Excellence from the National Council for Behavioral Health for his advocacy work in music, TV, film and community, and for founding the Keep Oregon Well campaign to fight the stigma of mental illness. In 2018 Kink FM named him one of The Portland 50, honoring the people who “dreamt, built and championed the innovation, growth and uniqueness of Portland”. His “My Movie Star” is currently up for three Grammy Awards.

You can find out more about Logan on his website. You’ll also find him on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

If you enjoyed this episode, please click the ‘like’ button. Also, please take a moment to comment and rate the show on iTunes. Finally, don’t miss an episode! Click the subscribe/follow button now!

In addition to The Depression Files podcast, you can find Al’s blog at TheDepressionFiles.com. There, you can also find out how to work with Al as a coach or schedule him for a public speaking event. You will also find Al on Twitter @allevin18.

 

Guest Post: The Language Problem in Mental Illness: A Threat to Progress, Compassion, and Understanding

“Of course everyone has challenges in life, but not everyone has a mental illness. That shit is hard.”

I wish I could remember the name (or at least user name) of the wise soul who fired that rebuttal into the Twitterverse in response to one of the many attempts that I’ve witnessed to downplay, oversimplify, or even reframe another person’s lived experience with mental illness. Mental illness is different for everybody, but what I like to call “the language problem” makes is very difficult to move past, what I thought, was this fairly self-evident and uncontroversial statement.

Let me explain.

The language problem in mental illness is very much an extension of humans’ imprecise use of language in general. Definitions and intent are necessary to construct meaning; otherwise, communication between becomes challenging, if not downright impossible. This problem is compounded when discussing mental illness, because it is hard to find another illness where this problem is encountered. Even in this introduction, when I describe mental illness as an illness, there will be people who challenge it. Indeed, a person can have poor mental health and not have a mental illness, but what delineates the two? Is it symptom duration? Quantity? Severity? The presence or absence of a formal diagnosis? The person’s choice (or lack thereof) to identify with the mental health community? The four quadrant model of mental health is based on this very distinction.

I define the language problem, at its base, as the ability for two people, both describing a poor mental health experience, to use the same words and terms, diagnostic or otherwise, and have remarkably different experiences – and both be right. Using DSM-IV-TRcriteria for Major Depressive Disorder, for example, Zimmerman et al. (2015) showed that there are 227 possible ways to meet the symptom criteria for diagnosis – though only170 combinations occurred in practice.[1]I am not a diagnostician, and do not believe that the DSM is the only way to categorize mental disorders; but using this one example, how close are we to describing depression, let alone understanding, adequately treating, or curing it, if you can be diagnosed with it in 170 (227) different ways? (As an aside, I suspect the wide variation in antidepressant treatment response rate stems from the equally wide variation in symptoms subsumed under the overarching construct of ‘depression,’ but I digress.)

I’ve always admired the work of Therese Borchard, and in one of my favourite pieces on the subject, she  writes: “I wish people knew that depression doesn’t happen in a vacuum and is part of an intricate web of biological systems (nervous, digestive, endocrine, respiratory), that depression is about the gut as well as the brain, the thyroid and the nerves, that we would have better health in this country if we approached depression with a holistic view.”[2]

Stated another way, your depression is not my depression. Similarly, your anxiety is not my anxiety. Your schizophrenia is not my schizophrenia. There was a time when all mental illness was classified as either “hysteria” or “melancholy.” At least we’ve added a few more terms to our vernacular since 6500 BC. At least we’ve become a little more precise.

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body; theoretical physicist Michio Kaku even called it “the most complicated object in the known universe.” In 2019, we all have to get along with the language we have, until something more precise comes along to aid in our understanding and treatment. In the mean time, be compassionate, and seek understanding. Progress will follow. It’s already happening.

And just remember: everyone has challenges, but not everyone has a mental illness. That shit is hard.

[1]https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.09.007

[2]https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/what-i-wish-people-knew-about-depression/

Derek Chechak (August 2019)

Dr. Derek Chechak is a manager employed with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Ontario, and a sessional instructor with the School of Social Work at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He is a Registered Social Worker, having earned his BA in Psychology (2008), Bachelor of Social Work (Honors; 2008), and Master of Social Work (2009) degrees from King’s University College at Western University, and his PhD in Social Work (2015) from Memorial University.

Dr. Chechak`s experience includes over ten years of experience in community-based health care, specialized mental health care including forensic social work and assertive community treatment, work in the developmental services sector, and a clinical leadership role for an employee assistance provider. He is a published peer-reviewed author in the areas of workplace violence, workplace wellness, workplace health services, social work value conflicts, alcohol regulation, and mental health case management.

Dr. Chechak is also the sole proprietor of #FixWorkFirst, a consulting service that helps employers foster workplace wellness using a comprehensive foundation based on workplace health assessments, a multifaceted approach to addressing areas of concern, and a focus on psychological health and safety.

He is also a person with lived mental health experience, who openly shares his experiences living with treatment-resistant depression and chronic anxiety since 2006.

Guest Post: It’s Manly to Address Emotions

Men out there: when was the last time you checked in with yourself? No, I don’t mean the last time you had a guy’s night out or spent time in your man cave; I mean really looked inward and assessed your emotional health. In my professional practice, I have found that men tend to skip this incredibly valuable practice and, in doing so, threaten not only their emotional health but also the health of their relationships. Repressed emotions can lead to self-dissatisfaction, relationship turmoil, and even the destruction of relationships with infidelity. To avoid these pitfalls, men can make use of techniques of mindfulness and selfishness to improve their relationships and gain more satisfaction in their daily lives.

Men and the Tendency to Suppress Emotions

One of the root causes I have discovered that can make men disconnect from their relationships is avoiding or ignoring their emotions. Wanting to be the stereotypically strong figure in the relationship, these men often work not to tap into how they feel and what they want, but rather to simply make the relationship work. Some are even afraid to share how they feel because they think it is not their place in a relationship to do so. When these feelings are not addressed, though, the self is left to find other ways to cope. It’s a slippery slope: some small, unresolved emotions can easily snowball into frustration and hostility because, no matter how hard you try to tuck those feelings away, they won’t disappear until they are acknowledged or addressed. Without the appropriate processing or response, these feelings are left to fester and can ultimately result in a disconnect from the relationship, growing animosity with a partner, or even a wandering eye to an affair with someone else that seems “easier” than solving issues at home.

Top Signs this Suppression is Occurring

Having worked with a number of patients grappling with these issues over the years, I’ve uncovered some telltale symptoms of an untapped well of feelings bubbling behind some men’s facades. One is that they make statements that hint at deeper anxiety underneath the surface. Phrases like “my wife complains about my Sunday golf games every week, but I don’t let it bother me,” tell me that such comments actually do bother the patient but that he is unaware of how to resolve them. Another sign is that a patient will displace his personal or relationship frustrations onto things or places. When a patient tells me, “I cannot stand our couples’ Florida vacations – there are too many people,” I tend to dig deeper and often discover that his dislike is not of Florida or vacation; it is the stress that he feels in his relationship that he is projecting onto these trips. As with other relationships, it is much easier to cope when we can assign our frustrations to things or places rather than the people we love. A final sure sign that my male patients aren’t getting to the root of their problems is when they qualify every statement they make. “I find my wife’s attitude a little annoying during conflicts,” should not be shrugged off as a passing irritation but rather should be read as if it is the tip of the iceberg: if a male patient has held on to this “little” annoyance, it obviously is of a much more substantial proportion underneath the surface.

Why Men Should Make Space for Selfishness

If any of these patients sound like something you have said in the past, the good news is that there is a simple salve for these scenarios: tap into your self, let those emotions out, and make space for you by setting healthy boundaries. This is where SELFishness comes in: if you can pay attention to yourself and your feelings and respond to them directly, you can resolve conflicts before they even begin. By attending to your feelings, you bring the whole you to your relationships; you are no longer distracted by those repressed points of anger but rather have tapped into your true motivations and can be your genuine self. With that self revealed, it is equally crucial that you set realistic and healthy boundaries in your professional and personal relationships. This means that, beyond assessing your self, you should also set limits for yourself in the workplace and at home. You should strike a balance between professional goals and personal pleasures, and you should also explore your relationships – whether fraternal, familial, or romantic – to ensure that you are engaging in them all with your true self.

From My Experience

I know, you’re probably saying to yourself that this is easier said than done, and I wholeheartedly agree. I can appreciate that sometimes we want a relationship to work so very badly that we abandon our true feelings and emotions thinking we can make any scenario work. Having worked with numerous patients who come into my practice in that frame of mind, I can safely say that tucking these feelings away never ends well. Many relationships in jeopardy that come to my couch are in such a perilous state because emotions were not addressed and the self was lost in a larger quest to keep the relationship on an even keel. This is where we begin the work together to tap into the self, and typically soon after my patients begin to realize that by being selfish they actually become better people in the other relationships in their lives.

Be a Man . . . and Be Mindful of Your Emotions

It can be hard to admit that our feelings hold such sway over us, but what is easy is tapping into those emotions and rediscovering the self. The more we are in tune with our self, the more we will be able to give back to those around us. Regardless of whether this means a healthier working environment or a more positive home life, it’s time to man up and mind those emotions.

dr dDr. Laura Dabney has been in practice in Virginia Beach for almost twenty years and has treated patients in more than a dozen cities across Virginia. Her psychiatric expertise has been featured on radio and in print media, and she consults for a number of large institutions, including the Virginia Veterans Administration Medical Center. She received her MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School and has been Board Certified in Psychiatry. Laura Dabney, MD has made a career of taking on psychiatry’s toughest challenges from treating complex, combined medical and psychological conditions, to ensure the absolute privacy of powerful, high-profile patients. Dr. Dabney has, for decades, helped her patients change their lives and relationships for the better. And they recognize her for it.

Guest Post: 9 Reasons Mental Health Matters

May is Mental Health Month. Here are nine reasons why you should be paying attention to the Mental Health Movement.

Mental Health Month

Created by the organization Mental Health America, Mental Health Month was first observed in the United States back in 1949. The idea was and still is today to raise awareness and educate the public on issues on mental illness and the challenges faced by the millions of Americans who battle mental illness.

For 70 years Mental Health Month has been observed, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Because there’s more work to be done other non-profits like NAMI also engage in outreach work in May.

9 Reasons Mental Health Matters

Check out the powerful stats below from the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI

Image result for check mark gif  1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental health condition

Image result for check mark gif  1 in 25 (10 million) adults in the United States lives with a serious mental illness

Image result for check mark gif  43.8 million people in the United States face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness

Image result for check mark gif  Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24, but early intervention programs can help

Image result for check mark gif  African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about half the rate of whites in the past year, and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate

Image result for check mark gif  90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, but suicide is preventable

Image result for check mark gif  The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90% of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with the right treatments and support

Image result for check mark gif  Additional facts and citations are available at Mental Health by the Numbers

Then there’s the elephant in the room, which is the ninth reason mental health month matters, and that is the stigma. Navigating life while battling a mental illness is not an easy task. You can check out some of my personal stories here where I share what it’s like to face that stigma.

Often people who have a mental illness do not receive the help they so desperately need. Worse yet, people with mental illness are often the victims of bullying, harassment, and much worse which perpetuates a vicious cycle. It’s crucial we end this stigma so that people can heal.

NAMI’s Got Your Back!

Please consider visiting the NAMI website to get involved with Mental Health Month! NAMI has a particular page dedicated to Mental Health Month where you can download graphics, share your story, and even find partners and events to take your advocacy to the next level.

If you end up changing your profile picture on social using one of the graphics or share your story, please send me a message letting me know! Let’s all work together to educate others and to end the stigma around mental illness.

Charles-Minguez-PhotoBrief Bio:

Charles Minguez is a practicing Buddhist and meditation teacher sharing his experiences cultivating positive mental health to give people hope that you can too!                      

To find out more about Charles, you can visit his websiteYou’ll also find Charles on Twitter @CharlesMinguez and on Facebook. Finally, you can hear Al’s interview with Charles on The Depression Files podcast here.

Guest Post: Struggling with Serendipity

My three kids were teenagers when I changed the course of our lives with one mistake. I fell asleep at the wheel and caused a car accident that my daughter Beth could not walk away from. The spinal cord in her neck was cut by broken bones, leaving her with quadriplegia. In that pivotal moment, my family started on a new path to a new normal.

My new memoir, Struggling with Serendipity, launched April 9 with a small press (not self-publishing). It starts with the accident and aftermath: a heartsick mom battling depression and guilt while a shy but determined teenager fights the harsh limits of quadriplegia. Beth, fourteen years old, believes everything will be okay. I feel sure that nothing will ever be okay again.

Unexpected adventures carry us from our small town in Ohio to Seattle, Harvard, Capitol Hill, and around the world. Together, we find serendipity in unlikely moments, including Beth’s invitation to join the Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving team, the first with a visible disability.

Along the way, I learn to stop denying my depression and to seek professional help. Beth also taught me that everything really is okay.

Today, Beth is a health policy lawyer. Her clients and pro bono work include companies and nonprofits in the disability community. She shares my passion for volunteering and giving back.

A lifelong disability advocate—even before Beth’s injury—I ran a nonprofit, managed group homes, and worked at an institution. I actively volunteer for disability and mental health nonprofits. I’m passionate about sharing the power of hope and connection.

I never would have believed it the night of Beths’ accident, but I’m happy to share that 19 years later, we are truly grateful for where we are today. I learned that it really is possible to manage depression and find ways to thrive.

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An excerpt from Struggling with Serendipity follows:

A sludge of sad emotions filled my aching head. I acquired the diagnosis of depression at 23 as a new mom, but my Ohio doctor didn’t tell me. He wrote it down instead. When I read the diagnosis later, I thought it labeled me weak and ungrateful. The doctor had to be wrong.

Over the years that followed, I realized he was right. Extended times of melancholy brought more than just sadness. I lost interest in reading, sewing, walks, and other things I usually enjoyed. Most episodes began with no apparent reason. Others had a trigger, like when my favorite grandma died. My headache also flared, a band of pressure around my head and aching across and behind my eyes. I drove to Columbus to my first pain clinic.

A doctor at the pain clinic diagnosed me with a mental illness, again. Still, I rationalized it away. My excuse for depression? The headache. And vice versa. I felt like I needed an excuse since the diagnosis created a conflict in my mind. How could I be depressed when I cherished my family and felt loved? I also had a meaningful job and many other reasons to be thankful. 

Part of me understood the connection between body chemistry and depression. I ignored that part and clung to the belief that I’d be fine—as soon as all my ducks lined up in a row. Better sleep, better food, better exercising, better relaxing, better thinking, etc., etc. Healthier, tougher, wiser. Or something. 

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Image result for cindy kolbe

More information about Cindy’s book, blog, and coast-t0-coast book tour may be found on her website:www.strugglingwithserendipity.com Find her on Twitter @cindy_kolbe and her Facebook page is Struggling with Serendipity.