Sometimes life can make you feel like a rag doll being tossed around from one crisis to the next, one situation to the next and even one emotion to the next.
In this new year, it’s time we finally start taking real control over our lives. The way we do this starts with making a shift within ourselves.
We have to realize that we are in control. That we are unique individuals here to serve a purpose and we all have special talents and gifts to offer the world. We all deserve happiness and success and we can’t depend on anything or anyone outside of us to provide that.
We have to take control of our thoughts, emotions and actions.
I’m never going to pretend to have all the answers or to be someone who has no problems. I have lots of them, trust me. However, I’m on a constant quest to change my life for the better. Sometimes that means taking inventory on my thoughts and feelings and shifting them so that a five minute incident doesn’t ruin the next sixty plus minutes of my day. Sometimes that means truly apologizing for something once I’ve stop trying to justify it and realize I was in the wrong. Other times that means letting go of whatever is holding me emotionally hostage (fear, anxiety, etc.).
The way I do that isn’t always fast and easy, but for the most part it is effective and becomes easier and easier to do. It’s like a switch that goes off. A shift in thought and emotions so that I don’t continue to go down the same path feel irritable, angry, sad, self-doubting.
Anyone can do this and here are six tips to help you start shifting your mind whenever you want to:
- Stay optimistic. I know sometimes that is easier said then done, especially when you are surrounded by so much negativity in the world, but once you start feeding into the negativity, it’s hard to see anything positive that comes your way. You have to remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We create so much of what’s around us and if we are focused on the negative, we will bring more negativity. If we focus on the positive, we’re more likely to bring more positivity into our lives or at least see opportunity in difficulty.
- Be happy! Yes, this too I know can be hard and sometimes we have to work really hard on being happy, but just like optimism, the more you exude happiness, the more likely you are to feel and stay genuinely happy. Force yourself to smile. Force yourself to be positive and before you know it, you will feel better and draw to you energy that will bring about genuine happiness.
- Realize your strengths and utilize them. We all have strengths, but sometimes we focus so much on our weaknesses that we downplay or outright forget about our strengths. When we start focusing on our strengths and looking for opportunities to use them, not only will we fell better, we’ll actually grow stronger within our natural gifts and talents.
- You’re not going to please everyone. Some people just won’t like you no matter what you do so stop worrying about them, trying to win them over or searching for their approval. It’s a waste of time. Instead, focus on people who do like you and perhaps those who don’t like you will come around. Even if they don’t, who cares?
- Stay away from negative people. We all emit energy, just like the sun. Some days it’s positive, some days it’s negative. However, some people emit way more negative energy than positive energy. Stay away from those people, all they will do is bring you down and cast a dark shadow over your life.
- You’re never alone. Sure there will be times when you feel lonely, or like you’re the only one going through something, but remember, you are never truly alone unless you want to be, and that’s okay too. Sometimes we need solitude and there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. When you start thinking you’re all alone that opens the door to all type of \emotional reactions such as depression and desperation as well as poor choices to fill the void.
Sometimes when I am struggling, reflecting on messages that were sent to me like this one helps shift my thoughts and mood and reminds me that I am in control of how I choose to experience whatever is going on around me.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. Sometimes It’s downright hard to attempt to be positive and happy and some times will be harder than others. However, we don’t have to be lead by the world, other people or even our own emotions and negative self talk. We can take control and steer our lives into the direction we want to go even with whatever roadblocks, detours and traffic jam life throws at us.
I watched this TED Talk and thought you would find it interesting.
Isaac Lidsky: What reality are you creating for yourself?
Learn more about watching TED Talks on all of your favorite platforms: https://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives/ted-talks/ways-to-get-ted-talks
There is a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health issues, even common ones like depression. Often times when people feel depressed they feel ashamed, as if they don’t have the right to feel depressed. Many will attempt to hide the way they feel and just say they are doing “ok”. Many more will try to drown their depression with alcohol, drugs and even other people.
It’s okay to be depressed. When you’re depressed that means something in your life is not going the way you want it to go and you need to sit down and evaluate your life so that you can move in a different direction. That may mean making small changes, big changes or accepting something for what it is if you can’t change it at all.
These are some of my favorite tips on dealing with depression:
- You’re not alone. Many people go through depression at some point in their lives. Some people suffer from clinical and chronic depression while others seem to bounce out of it pretty quickly. If you’re feeling down, just know that you’re not the only person who feels that way and it’s actually pretty common.
- It’s okay to seek professional help. Sometimes family and friends just don’t understand why you’re not happy. They’ll say that your life isn’t “that bad” and that there are many people out there who have it worse. Most of them are trying to be helpful even when they leave you feeling like crap. People like me are trained and paid to listen and can help you maneuver your way through the pain.
- Medications can help if needed, but they are not the only answer. When people start feeling depressed, many of them will immediately want medication to make the bad feelings go away. Most people going through depression do not need antidepressants, but even if you do, they may only help so much. Antidepressants are good for getting people out of deep depression so that they can intellectually and physically function enough to actually process what’s going on in their lives and attempt to make changes to feel better.
- Remember to take care of yourself. Even if that means writing notes to remind yourself to do simple things such as taking a bath or eating nutritious meals. Doing the self-care things you don’t feel like doing will make you feel better in the end.
- If you really don’t know what might be making you depressed consider getting some blood work done. Anything from vitamin D deficiency, low iron and hormonal issues to blood sugar problems can cause you to feel depressed and lethargic. Curing your depression can be as simple as correcting an imbalance in your body.
- Learn and practice daily mindfulness and meditation. Start with something as simple as focusing on your breathing. Imagine breathing in slowly through your nose to smell a birthday cake and exhaling slowly through your mouth to blow out the candle. Focus on your breathing, try to keep your mind from wandering to all the bullshit and just be in the present moment.
- Stay away from emotional vampires. You need all your energy when you’re going through the depression. You don’t have any to spare so stay away from anyone who will drain what little you have left. Instead, try to surround yourself with people who can help you refuel your energy.
- Don’t envy others. Everyone is, has or will go through their stuff. You’re just going through yours. Even if someone looks happy, well put together or whatever, they still have things they are dealing with that you might not know about. The grass is not always, or even usually greener on the other side.
- If you can find the energy, go for a walk. Exercise, fresh air and sunlight are great for depression. Even small steps help.
- Learn to let go. A lot of times depression is about the past. Past guilt. Past disappointments. Past hurts. Learn to let go and you will reclaim so much of the strength and energy you are given up. As the saying goes, let go or be dragged.
There are so many great tips out there on dealing with depression. Hopefully this will get you started, but definitely find tips that work for you and know that you can come out of depression a stronger person.
When it comes to avoiding certain types of people, even in jail, child abusers, child molesters and pedophiles usually make the top of the list.
At my job I deal with these individuals everyday. There is no way around it and on top of that I have to try to remain unbiased and nonjudgmental which isn’t always easy. I have a three year old son so sitting across from someone accused of killing a toddler and showing unconditional positive regard has at times been one of my greatest challenges.
As a mental health professional, I had to learn how to separate my personal feelings from my professional job and one way I’ve learned to do that is by intellectualizing the situation. That allows me to look at the situation in a rational, interesting, matter of fact way and remove all personal emotion.
That’s what I did today when I sat across from yet another pedophile. It was towards the end of the day and I really did not feel like doing the assessment, but it had to be done so I asked myself, what made this man sexually attracted to children?
Interviewing A Pedophile
This individual was one of the more forthcoming and open pedophiles I have ever talked to. He wasn’t denying his issues or charges, nor did he seem to minimize his actions like most. For the most part, he seemed to take responsibility for what he had done.
Most pedophiles I talk to either deny everything despite the insurmountable evidence proving their guilt. Or, they blame the victim for seducing them, like one married man I spoke with who blamed a 10 year old for causing him to leave his family and run off to another state with her where they were caught in a hotel room.
Talking to this particular man reminded me of the first time I met someone with schizophrenia who was insightful enough to tell me about her hallucinations and how she was able to distinguish what was real and what was not. It was an eye opening experience, better than any book on abnormal psychology I had ever read and it helped me work more efficiently with other clients suffering from psychosis.
What Is A Pedophile?
When most people think of a pedophile they envision a creepy old man or some other odd person. However, from shows like To Catch Predator, we know that most pedophiles are regular neighbors, friends, religious members, family members or even teachers like the individual I spoke with today.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), pedophilia is defined as intense, recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months.
In most situations, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child.
It doesn’t have to be acted on to be considered pedophilia and generally it causes the person a lot of distress or interpersonal difficulties.
This man says he took a fondness to the young girl he ended up abusing because she came from a troubled background and he wanted to help her.
He says that he became emotionally attached to her and then sexually attracted. While that may be true, I believe he had a sexual attraction to her to begin with.
He went on to have sexual contact with her several times over the course of a school year before he was caught. He would keep the girl after class, after school and even give her rides home.
Her parents (an abusive, yet inattentive father and schizophrenic, disabled mother) weren’t the ones who caught on, but an observant teacher who had her suspicions and once she approached the young girl with her concerns, the girl was able to give numerous details of their sexual activities together including times and locations as well as details of his naked physical appearance.
He was arrested, yet plead guilty to lesser charges and served only a couple of years in prison before being let out on probation as a sexual predator.
Categories of Pedophiles
While most people think of pedophiles as adults attracted to prepubescent children, there are also adults who are attracted to children who are right on the cusp of puberty and adults who prefer children who have already gone through puberty.
Hebephilia describes adults attracted to pubescent 11 to 14 year old children and while not considered pathological, ephebophilia describes adults attracted primarily to individuals aged 15 to 19.
Some pedophiles are called exclusive pedophiles because they are only attracted to children while non-exclusive pedophiles are attracted to both adults and children.
It’s hard to get an accurate number of how many pedophiles are exclusive pedophiles because most of the research comes from pedophiles who have been arrested and they tend to over-exaggerate their attraction to adults in order to appear more “normal”.
Most male pedophiles are homosexual or bisexual when it comes to their attraction to children.
The guy I saw today is married and has adult children. He has an attraction and compulsion for young girls under the age of 13.
How Do They Gain Access To Children?
Pedophiles will go through great lengths to gain access to children. They will volunteer at churches to lead youth groups or offer to coach youth sports.
Ninety percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know. That includes a large percentage of family members, caregivers, family friends, neighbors, clergy, coaches and teachers.
This man was an Exceptional Education teacher who worked with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children. I can’t help but to think, at least on some unconscious level, that he choose both his profession and specialty in order to gain excess to vulnerable children.
The other 10% of abused children are usually preyed upon through sex trafficking and the internet. This is how he got his second offense.
After being arrested once for inappropriate sexual contact with a child, he violated his probation by being caught soliciting a child for sexual contact online.
While he claims he knew better and wanted to put his life back together after his first arrest, he admitted that his compulsion to have sex with little girls caused him to act upon them.
This compulsion or urge is what drives pedophiles. Many of them, like this man, will attempt to live normal lives and fight their sexual attraction to children. Some may be successful at this and never break a law or offend. They will keep these urges and fantasies a secret and suffer in silence for as long as they can.
Most of them will isolate themselves out of fear of the stigma and consequences of being sexually attracted to children and will not seek professional help out of shame and fear.
But can pedophiles be helped? We’ll talk about this in part II.
What It’s Like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder
- Shock– most people experience shock or a sense of emotional and physical numbness as the first reaction to learning someone they care about has committed suicide. It’s the mind and bodies natural way of trying to slow things down until it can try to make sense of what happened.
- Anger– people often feel anger, either directly or indirectly. They may be angry at the person who committed suicide, angry at themselves for not being able to prevent it, or angry at the persons therapist for not being able to “cure” the person.
- Guilt– Loved ones, in an attempt to find answers to why a person killed themselves often ruminate on signs they may have missed. They may blame themselves for not expressing love, for being too distant, for not believing the person when they said they were depressed for the 1ooth time. The “what ifs” can go on and on.
- Fear– Once someone has committed suicide, it’s not uncommon for family members to become afraid that they will lose someone else to suicide or that even they themselves could possibly commit suicide.
- Relief– It’s also not uncommon for family and friends to feel a sense of relief, especially if the individual suffered from chronic mental or physical illness (i.e, intense pain) or even if they person had been on a long, steady decline of self-destructive behaviors such as drug addiction.
- Depression– While it’s natural to go through grief when you’ve lost someone close to you, it’s not uncommon for grief to turn into depression if that loved one took their own life. The person may experience sleep disturbance, lose of appetite and loss of energy. This can translate into feelings of life being worthless and losing joy in things one once found enjoyable.
- Stay Close to family and friends– having a good support system is important to keep an individual from isolating themselves and ruminating on the suicide, especially in the first 6 months. The person may not feel like being around others and may not be ready to talk about their feelings, but they still need to have supportive contact.
- Give children special attention– Children especially may have a hard time coping with a loved ones suicide. They need special attention so that they can express their emotions and talk them out. They need to know that grief is a normal process and need the adults in their lives to model healthy grieving for them, including open communication, sharing feelings and reminding them that they are loved and supported.
- Be aware of special occasions– holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., can all be very stressful times.People may need extra support or checking up on.
When I worked as a high school mental health counselor, I worked with a lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens who struggled with telling their parents about their sexual orientation.
Many of them felt like they had to keep their sexual orientation a secret which of course caused them a lot of anxiety and even depression. Most of all, they were terrified of not being accepted by their family.
Some of them were so scared that they would be disowned by their parents that they contemplated suicide. This was especially true when the youth came from a really religious family/background.
Luckily none of my students ever went this far, but I did help do grief counseling at a high school after a teen committed suicide due to the guilt and fear he felt about being gay and not being able to come out to his parents.
Some of the teenagers I worked with turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with their feelings. while others turned to self-injurious behaviors like cutting themselves or acted out behaviorally (running away, skipping school, etc.).
Whenever I could, whenever a teen was ready to come out, I always encouraged them to bring their parents in for a family session. Many of them were too afraid to talk to their parents alone and wanted to do it in an environment where they felt safe.
Unfortunately this was something that rarely happened as many of the teens hadn’t yet worked up the courage to come out to their family.
However whenever it did happen, I always discussed the session beforehand with the teen so that there would be no surprises.
I wouldn’t tell the parents anything the teen didn’t want me to tell them, and I always encouraged the teen to lead the conversation while I would be there primarily as guidance and support.
Most of the parents who came to these family sessions already had some clue that their child wasn’t heterosexual. Many more were in denial. Luckily only a very few were visibly upset or angry.
What I wanted the parents to understand is that they didn’t make their child gay nor can they make them not gay.
This was especially true for male students. Sometimes a single mother would blame herself for not making her son “a man” or the father would blame himself for not being “tougher” on his son.
Parents do not make their children gay and “praying the gay away” or “reparative therapy” only works to temporarily change a child’s behavior at best, while risking permanent damage to their self-esteem and mental health.
It doesn’t work.
Parents often feel angry, sad, and scared when they find out their child is gay. For many of them, they have to grieve over the loss of their ideal child. Maybe little Johnny is not going to marry Suzy and have 2.5 kids. Maybe Little Johnny will marry Billy and they will adopt 2.5 kids.
Many of them fear what their child will have to deal with from society on top of any other prejudices they may already be predisposed to (i.e, being Black and gay). It’s important that parents surround themselves with supportive people including support groups like Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
While it’s important for the parents to get support, it’s most important that the parents support their child.
The world can be tough enough for the LGBT community, but it’s even tougher for those whose parents reject them.
The teens I’ve worked with who fared the best mentally and emotionally were the teens whose parents supported them when they came out despite their own personal and religious views.
With the support of their parents it made it easier for them to deal with any other negativity they had to face such as depression and bullying. It also allowed them to blossom into the amazing young people they already were.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, being homosexual was once listed as a mental illness. We now know that it is not. It is not something to be cured or prevented. It doesn’t go away if we ignore it.
Get over it.
So this is a delicate post to write about so I will try to do it without giving too much detail. This week I came face to face with a highly suicidal person in possession of a firearm.
As the Director of Mental Health at a county jail I deal with suicidal inmates everyday, but they of course are never in the position of anything as lethal as a firearm.
This individual was very distraught, hopeless, felt worthless, overwhelmed and had a history of mental illness. It was an intense situation because of the firearm and the fact that this person repeatedly said that they wanted to die and had nothing to live for.
What made it more intense is that there were officers near by waiting to see if I could diffuse the situation. The number of officers quickly grew from two to at one point as many as six before I was able to get them to give us some space, yet at least two officers remained nearby at all times.
The funny part is that I was never scared. I think I was shocked when I saw the firearm and at times afraid that I was going to witness someone kill themselves. I was more afraid that this person was going to get shot by the officers either accidentally (by the way they were handling the firearm) or on purpose (suicide by cop).
It definitely was a stressful situation that played out over the course of over an hour in the Florida heat. It was a situation that tried my patience, skills and instincts as a therapist.
I was appreciative that the officers on the scene were also patient and allowed me to pretty much take control of the situation. I knew that I was the only one there who could get that close to the person without feeling threatened myself or causing them to feel threatened.
During this “standoff” of sorts, we talked about everything from this persons depressing home life, dysfunctional childhood, isolation from family and friends, and frustrations at work.
We talked, but mostly what I did was listen and attempt to encourage this person to live just one more day. I said, “If you are convinced you want to kill yourself then no one can really stop you, but don’t kill yourself today.”
One day at a time.
After sometime I convinced this person to contact someone in her family over the telephone, something they had been unwilling to do because they were convinced that they were going to kill themselves that day.
Eventually this person agreed to relinquish position of the firearm and was willingly taken into custody where they were transferred to a mental health hospital for evaluation. The situation ended peacefully. That was all I could ask for.
I received several “thank yous” from the officers involved who were also happy that the situation ended peacefully. They didn’t have to shoot anyone. They weren’t shot at. They didn’t have to notify a family member of this persons death.They told me multiple times that they were worried about my safety, but I never was. I never felt threatened or in danger.
I don’t feel like a hero and I don’t feel like I was brave.
What I saw was someone in emotional pain who needed someone with a level head to guide them and that’s what I did. It almost came natural. It’s something I do at work nearly everyday. The only thing that was different was the firearm and the fact that his person was out in the community and not in jail.
I don’t know what happened to this person after they were taken away. I may never know. What I do know is that at least for that day, they chose to live.
One day at a time.