Tips To Fighting Depression While Social Isolating

Tips To Fighting Depression While Social Isolating

This morning I was speaking with a coworker who shared how she was starting to feel depressed with the quarantine and social distancing most of us are experiencing. She stated, “There’s only so much texting and talking on the phone you can do.” A lot of us are feeling that way and as this crisis goes on for (hopefully only) a few more weeks, it can become more and more depressing and anxiety provoking.

To combat becoming depressed and anxious during this time, here are seven of my favorite tips.

Take Care of Your Body

It’s easy to lose focus of our bodies with all the gyms closed and us being forced to stay inside, but working out, eating healthy and getting rest is one of the best ways to keep us both mentally and physically healthy. Your workout can be a simple walk around the block or taking advantage of a multitude of easy workout apps just to keep your body moving and endorphins flowing.

Limit News Intake

We all want to stay informed, but it’s too easy to become overwhelmed with the 24/7 news coverage and nearly hourly breaking news interruptions. I even find myself watching hours of local and national news and have to remind myself to take a break. For people who are prone to depression and anxiety, too much media intake will only make it worse. Stay informed, but limit yourself to how much coverage you follow.

 Create a Routine

Many of us are working from home or perhaps even laid off. It’s easy to stay in bed all day or sit in front of the television for hours. Having a routine helps to break us out of that. We can even create a to-do list of all the things we’d like to accomplish that day. For some us struggling with anxiety and depression, it may be as simple as waking up before noon, taking a shower and eating something healthy.

Don’t Work Too Hard

For those of us who are working from home, it may become easier to just focus on work and even work more than we would if we were actually in a physical building. This can lead to burnout. Try to keep the same schedule and hours you wold have at work, even if you’re at home. Take your lunch breaks and start and stop work as you usually would.

Reach Out To Others

We may not be able to visit friends or go to Starbucks with our best friend right now, but we can still take advantage of the various ways we can still communicate such as the telephone, text, Skype, Zoom, and Face Time. The list goes on and on. Reaching out to others helps us remember that we’re not alone in this even if we may feel like it.

Fight Boredom

Being bored can make everything feel worse than it is. Now is the time to catch up on a series on Netflix you’ve always wanted to watch, finish that 1,000 piece puzzle or challenge yourself in any other way you can think of. I personally am using this time to catch up on some reading and a little bit of Netflix too.

Be Positive

Tony Robbins, one of my favorite motivational speakers often says, “Trade your expectations, for appreciation”. No one wants to go through what we are going through, but we can still find something positive in this moment. It could be getting closer through messaging with a friend we hadn’t spoken to in years or spending more time with our family.

A friend of mine who was laid off used his newly found free time to fix up a boat that had been neglected and sent me a photo of him and his dog out on the lake enjoying the sunset! He could be really sad right now focusing on being laid off, but instead he’s being positive and embracing the insanity. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but finding small things to appreciate will help us get through this.

Remember This Is Temporary

Thankful, like all crisis and disasters, this will come to an end. If we focus on how long it’s been or how much longer it will be, each day will drag by. Take it one day at a time. Focus on today and what’s good about today. We’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes.

5 Reasons Women Pretend To Be Pregnant

5 Reasons Women Pretend To Be Pregnant

I’ve been asked a lot since my post Is Pretending to Be Pregnant a Mental Illness, what are the most common reasons someone would lie about being pregnant. 

I’ve talked to many women who have lied about being pregnant since I wrote that post and have heard many reasons these women pretended to be pregnant. Here are five of the most common reasons. 

Reasons Women Lie About Being Pregnant

  1. Attention: A lot of women tell me that they like the attention that they get from their partner, their friends, family or just other people in general when they think they are pregnant. They feel that people treat them nicer and that feeling of being treated special can be very addicting. 
  2. To Keep a man:  This is probably the biggest reason Some women claim to be pregnant, to keep a man from leaving them, or in some instances to get him to propose. They believe that a good man won’t abandon them if they are pregnant and will use that lie to keep him around either long enough to actually get pregnant or long enough for her to win back his affection which usually requires more psychological and emotional manipulation. This strategy doesn’t usually work and only prolongs the inevitable break up. However, throughout history it has worked enough times that some women see it as a worthy gamble. 
  3. Extortion: Some women, a surprisingly a large number of them being college students, will use pretending to be pregnant as a money making extortion. Some of are having affairs with wealthy, but married men, some who are college professors or other prominent members in the community who would pay large amounts of money to make the evidence of their infidelity go away. Some women actually do this on a regular basis, conning more than one guy at a time as they rake in the money to pay for college tuition, books, shopping sprees and trips. 
  4. Privilege: There are women who will pretend to be pregnant for the smallest, trivial things. Some to get in the front of a line or use a restroom in first class on a plane. Some lie about being pregnant to get free food, to explain eating large amounts of food, to escape from being judged for being overweight or to get special treatment or time off from work. In her book, Meternity, Meghann Foye writes about a woman who pretends to be pregnant in order to get paid maternity or has she says, “meternity” leave. 
  5. Revenge: Some women use the lie of being pregnant to get back at a partner who has left them. They may lie about the pregnancy to make him look bad, to cause drama in his new relationship or simply to just drive him crazy with anxiety and fear so that he can’t move on because it’s possible he may be having a baby with someone he is trying to move on from. 

There are countless reasons why someone pretends to be pregnant. I’ve heard everything from “to get my roommate to move out” to “to get out of helping someone move”.

Some of the reasons require someone to pretend to be pregnant for a very short time, while others require a longer commitment. I don’t think either one is better than the other, but psychologically, I think women who pretend to be pregnant to people they have to deal with on a regular basis and thus have to continue to lie for longer periods of time are women who are more likely to have deeper personality, mental and emotional issues. Unlike a short lie about being pregnant, a prolonged lie requires a resolution at some point. A baby either has to be produced or another lie about an abortion or miscarriage has to be created. 

In extreme cases, this may cause someone to kidnap or even murder someone else in order to steal and secure a baby.  

Interview With A Hit Man

In my line of profession, I often talk to people who have committed horrendous crimes, including murder. It is not uncommon for me to have spoken to half of dozen people each day who have been convicted of killing someone else. It is rare, however, for me to speak with someone who has been convicted of killing multiple people. A serial killer if you will, but this man, Jose Martinez is a dangerous Hit Man.

I won’t say more as I don’t want to be in violation of his HIPPA rights or violate any other codes of ethic, so here’s a public video showing an interview with Mr. Jose Martinez.

Violence And The Mentally Ill

Violence And The Mentally Ill

Many people believe that all violent, sadistic and dangerous people in our society are mentally ill, thus coming to the conclusion that mentally ill people are dangerous.

The truth is, people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only about 3% to 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals with a serious mental illness.

Many movies depict violent characters as being mentally ill and often the news continuously replays stories of the rare occurrences when someone with a mental illness acted out in violence. We start to associate mental illness with violence.

One of society’s biggest fears are acts of violence that are senseless, random, unprovoked and unpredictable and thanks to the media, we often associate this with mental illness. We somehow take more comfort in knowing a man was stabbed to death walking down the street during a robbery than if he was stabbed to death walking down the street for no apparent reason.

This stigmatization is just one of many things people with a mental illness face. I have often heard people say they were afraid of a suicidal individual or someone who self-injured themselves: “If they would do that to themselves, what do you think they would do to me?” The fact is, most suicidal and self-harming individuals would rather hurt themselves before they would hurt anyone else.

While it is rare, people with mental illnesses, just like anyone else in the general population, can act out in violence. Individuals who have a substance abuse disorder alone are much more likely to become violent than the general public, including those individuals who have a mental illness alone or an associated substance abuse disorder.

However, when it comes to dealing with mental illness, individuals who abuse substances, have a co-occurring mental disorder and are non-compliant with their medication are at higher risk of committing violence.

Even with the combination of substance abuse and non-medication compliance, the general public are not at high risk of being attacked by someone with a mental illness. People who are in close relationship with these individuals such as family and friends, especially if they have troubled relationships and/or are financial dependence are more likely to become victims of violence.

Some of the most predictive variables for violence untreated psychotic symptoms to include suspicion/paranoia, hostility, severe hallucinations and poor insight into their delusions and the overall mental illness.

A Tragic Example

I recently spoke to a young man who appears to have had his first psychotic episode, at-least as far as he knows. He’s in his early twenties and at the prime age for the onset of many psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia.

One day last week he was home watching YouTube videos and became paranoid that someone was going to come and rape his mother. Alarmed and frightened, he armed himself, first with a shotgun, but discovering the shot gun was not operational, he armed himself with a handgun. He proceeded to guard the house from what he thought were real threats to his mother, some mysterious intruder/rapist. What happened next rocked the whole community.

At some point, his mother came downstairs and he shot her twice in the head. He then shot their dog twice in the head as well before setting the house on fire and rowing a boat across a lake. According to the people who were at that house, he came out of the boat shirtless, walking slowly and looking like Jason from Friday the 13th.  He was chased away by the homeowner and ran off into the woods. Soon after he turned himself into authorities and the totality of his behavior was brought to light. When the authorities went to his burned down home they found the charred body of his mother and their dog.

I have worked with a lot of individuals who were experiencing their first psychotic episodes, but I have never spoken to someone so young that went from apparently “normal” to acting out so violently in response to paranoid delusions and hallucinations.

Most individuals, who develop a psychotic disorder or any mental illness for the most part, start off with small signs and symptoms that if left untreated, can lead to worsening symptoms and rarely horrible things like suicide or violence. Usually this takes several months to years to decompensate to this level. It’s very rare for someone’s first psychotic episode to turn out so violent, causing death and destruction.

Thankfully, situations like that are extremely rare.

Warning Signs

Some warning signs to look out for when dealing with anyone, not just someone with a mental illness include:

  • Pacing
  • Psychomotor Agitation (i.e., leg bouncing rapidly)
  • Combative posturing (i.e., fist balled up)
  • Paranoid or threatening remarks
  • Irritability
  • Talking to self in language that includes violence or paranoia

If you see these behaviors, it may or may not mean that the person has a mental illness, but these are signs that someone is possibly in a volatile state. Stay calm, give them space, avoid intimidating eye contact.

If you have to deal with the person because they are a friend, family member or even a customer in your place of business, use a calm/soothing voice, helpful attitude, avoid loud noises, remove potentially dangerous objects and attempt to give positive reinforcement until you can either get help or get out of the situation.

We all probably know someone with a mental health problem and many of us don’t even know it because most individuals with mental health problems are productive members of our community.

When we destigmatize the violence associated with being mentally ill, we make it easier for those individuals to seek treatment and to talk about it with their family and friends instead of hiding it out of fear or shame.

Overcoming Suffering While Incarcerated

Overcoming Suffering While Incarcerated

Working in a correctional setting, I often find myself reciting my favorite quote by Viktor Frankl; “To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering.” The reason this quote appears to have such relevance when dealing with incarcerated people is that many of them see themselves as suffering. They are imprisoned, away from their families and often facing uncertain futures. Many become depressed, anxious, hopeless and unfortunately, suicidal.

When  I speak with inmates who see themselves and their situation as depressing and bleak, I remind them that yes, they may feel like they are suffering, but that is life. A large part of life for most people includes a great deal of suffering. There is joy, and there is pain. I remind them that they are not the only ones suffering. They are incarcerated with hundreds of other individuals going through similar situations and millions of people around the world who are going through their own struggles.

I encourage them to accept the reality of it. Learn from it. Figure out how to use this suffering to become a better, stronger person instead of dwelling on it and allowing it to punish you even more.

There is a popular saying in prisons that goes, “Do time, don’t let time do you”, which means to use your time incarcerated to better yourself, to live life even in the bleakest circumstances and to not just be miserable and unhappy counting down the months, years or even decades until you are released (if ever). Have something to look forward to and remember that suffering doesn’t have to last forever. This situation doesn’t have to be permanent. People find ways to live good, happy lives even while imprisoned for life.

I ask every inmate I evaluate, “What do you have to live for? What are you looking forward to?”  I want to know what will motivate them to not only survive the stressful environment of being in incarcerated, but also what will give them something to hold on to when they start struggling with depressing and negative thoughts.

Many will say they have kids to live for, or they’re young and have their whole lives ahead of them, or their family or goals they want to accomplish. These individuals tend to be much less likely to both get in more trouble while incarcerated as well as are less likely to attempt suicide compared to those who struggle with or can’t find a reason to live.

Lastly, I also try to help inmates to stop seeing themselves as victims. Many inmates think that they are being punished unjustly, or they keep getting arrested because they have bad luck. They blame the system, their friends, society. These inmates are more likely to deal with depression, suicidal thoughts and to become repeat offenders.

Instead, I try to help them see that things happen for them, not to them. Yes they got arrested and it sucks, but maybe this is going to save their lives by getting them off drugs, stop them from associated with that criminal element, teach them that they really do need anger management classes or that they really need to take their psychotropic medications. Hopefully this experience will help them reexamine their lives and make better choices.

When people see things as happening for them, instead of to them, they do time better, easier and even happier. They become inmate workers, earn GEDs and even college degrees while incarcerated. They tend not to look like the typical depressed, angry, bitter inmates that I encounter far to often.

The things I try to teach these inmates are invaluable to helping them survive being incarcerated and they can use it when they are released to hopefully live better lives and to not come back. It can also help all of us understand that we’re not special, things happen, life sometimes sucks, don’t take it personal, don’t dwell on it, learn from it and grow from it. It’s when we get stuck feeling down, victimized, hopeless, worthless and negative that we stop fully living life and start suffering though life. That’s when we start living in a prison of our own construction regardless of if we are incarcerated or not.

Get In To The Habit Of Asking Yourself: “Does This Support The Life I’m Trying To Create?”

Get In To The Habit Of Asking Yourself: “Does This Support The Life I’m Trying To Create?”

We create the lives we want by the things we think, the things we do, how we spend our time and the people we spend our time with.

The problem is, many of us mindlessly do things and spend time with people that do not support the life we are trying to create. We say we want to raise our standards and make positive changes in our lives, but our habits show otherwise.

This is a very common theme with the inmates I work with in the jail. I see some of the same inmates re-incarcerated over and over again. Many of them are generally good, caring and intelligent individuals who could do anything they set their minds to.

They have goals and dreams that don’t include being behind bars, yet when they get released from jail they tend to go back to the same neighborhood, hang around the same people and end up doing the same things that landed them in jail to begin with.

They are holding themselves back, just as many of us are holding ourselves back by wasting time and energy doing things and associating with people who are not going to get us to the lives we want for ourselves.

We may be in relationships with partners who don’t believe in us, don’t support our goals and dreams or worst, attempt to sabotage our goals rather it be weight-loss goals, financial goals or our happiness.

We may be at jobs that don’t offer room to grow, that doesn’t offer training courses for professional improvement and career advancement or simply requires so much of our time and energy that at the end of the day we have none left for much of anything else, let alone to pursue our passions and talents.

There are countless ways we can be in situations that are not supportive of what we are trying to create for ourselves. It’s real easy to get stuck situations and habits without thinking much about it, which is why I think it’s important for us to take a step back from time to time and become mindful about what we are doing and to remember what is it we really want.

So get into the habit of asking yourself, especially when you get that gut feeling or you know deep down you shouldn’t be doing something (i.e., going out drinking when you should be home studying): “Does this support the life I’m trying to create”.

At least once a week, get into the habit of taking a quick inventory of your life. It doesn’t have to take a long time or be complicated, but check in with yourself:

  1. How is my life going? (take a quick look at all the important areas of your life and how satisfied you are in those areas)
  2. Make a note of the areas that need adjustment (areas where you are not so satisfied) and then commit to making changes in those areas.
  3.  Get to work making changes in those areas and repeat this check in again in a week or so. Little adjustments add up to big changes and you will realize you’ll start living more mindfully and intentional in creating the life you want and deserve.

Parenting Your Inner Child

Parenting Your Inner Child

Most of us think we are adults because we have reach a certain chronological age, but psychologically , we are often pseudo adults. We are children in adult bodies, trying to do adult things. I think this may in part be where the term “adulting” comes from. We may be 35 physically, but deep inside of us is a five year old trying to navigate through adult life, attempting to maintain relationships and cope with adult stress. Every now and then the pressure becomes too much and our inner child is forced to make their needs and fears known.

What Is An Inner Child?

Inside of all of us there is a part that is frozen in time, stuck in the past. As therapists, especially those of us who deal with trauma, we call that part of us our inner child. Everyone has an inner child (at least one), but we experience our inner child in different ways.

Some of us have an inner child that is relatively well-behaved and quiet. He or she may be barely noticeable and only make their needs, concerns and fears known subtly and infrequently. It could be the anxiety we feel whenever we are talking to our boss, or the explainable way we suddenly feel small and unsure of ourselves when we have to give a presentation.

Others have an inner child that is more boisterous. He or she may make themselves known often and show up as a temper tantrum when we are frustrated with our partner (sometimes complete with yelling and throwing things), shutting down when we can’t find the words to express ourselves or a panic attack at the thought of being alone if our relationship fails.

Many of the destructive behaviors we have in our adult lives from infantile neediness, fear of abandonment and dependency to self-sabotaging behaviors, impulsivity and irresponsibility can be attributed to our inner child.

Why We Ignore Our Inner Child

Society tells us that when we become adults, we put away childish things. We are forced to ignore our inner child, the good and the bad. Our inner child not only holds our childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers, but it also holds our innocence, awe, playfulness, sensitivity and wonder.

Remember the things you loved in childhood, the things that made you happy? When adults would ask you what you wanted to grow up to be maybe you said a pilot or an artist. As we grow up, most of us end up going into jobs and careers that have nothing to do with what made us happy or what we wanted to do as children, in large part because many of us were told that those dreams were childish and we needed realistic, more “adult” goals.

One way or another, we were taught to ignore our inner child almost completely which is why most adults are unaware of this unconscious part of them that sometimes throws their lives off balance seemingly out of the blue.

Because most adults are unaware of this inner child, they do not know how to meet his or her needs. This unawareness is what allows the inner child to take over and sometimes ruin relationships or cause us to act in ways that as adults, we know we shouldn’t.

In order to address our inner child and meet their needs appropriately, we have to first acknowledge and accept that he or she exist, and then take responsibility for parenting and loving our inner child.

When we are inattentive or neglectful to our inner child, we may find ourselves in situations where we are unconsciously looking to fill his or her needs through other people. We are basically asking someone else to parent our inner child and that can come in the form of dependency, toxic relationships and even substance abuse.

Our inner child most likely is looking for something he or she felt neglected of when we were children and as adults we can’t expect our parents or anyone else to go back and fix that. We have to do it. We have to attend to the needs of our inner child through love and support as well as set up boundaries and structure just like a parent would with a physical child.

Having a symbiotic relationship with our inner child will allow us to meet their needs in ways that are mutually beneficial to our adult side as well, instead of meeting their needs through ways that are inappropriate, impulsive and childish.

Explore your inner-child. Get to know them. Listen to them and find out what he or she needs.