Depression Answers

How can I deal with feeling of lack of courage to get up or do anything at all or just being alive.

Hi Flora.   Thank you for your question. Feeling like everything is overwhelming is hard, you don’t know why you feel the way you do, people around you don't realize how hard things are for you and, you feel like running away and hiding. It sounds, too, as if you don’t know if you are anxious or depressed but something does not feel right for you- you have lost a sense of caring about what happens to you, though you have also reached out for help.   It might surprise you that it isn’t uncommon to feel this way. Some people might call it something else, or have a name for it, which can be isolating. The most important thing to know is that this is how you feel, it is your reality, and it is valid. At the moment, working out why you feel this way and how to change it is hard, which is why counseling can help.   Your experience could be for a number of reasons- it could be trauma, anxiety, depression, hormonal or grief to name but a few possible reasons. COVID-19 restrictions have made such factors a lot worse, too. These types of issues can be lonely, confusing and disempowering- why wouldn’t you feel something is wrong because of them?   The first step in learning to cope with how we are feeling is to listen to the wisdom of your body. You want to freely admit and be honest, accepting that just because you're struggling with how you feel doesn't mean you're weak, it just means you're human. Perhaps list all your sources of stress and how you might react to them differently and with empathy for yourself. And coming to terms with a problem is difficult, unless we stop denying that there is a problem with how it is responded to. You have been fine up until now, good enough is more achievable than perfect, but if you want to get up and face the day, something needs to change.   The kind of thoughts that we tell ourselves when we feel we can't cope give us permission to continue to stay in denial and not deal with our emotions, because that can be kind of scary, dealing with emotions, because what does that mean? It doesn't mean you don't want change things; but it might mean you may need help to see the resources you have to cope with what you are experiencing right now.   Sometimes, when life becomes difficult, we lose track of ourselves, including the things, people and connections that are important to us. Have a think about the quality of the relationships you have. How do you know your friends are just that and what stops you talking openly about how you are feeling? Emotional intimacy, active listening, support, and companionships are all important. When these are missing in your life, it could lead to feelings of emptiness and loneliness, too. Think about how you would be with a friend if they were going through what you are experiencing. Often, we don’t speak to ourselves the same way we do our friends, which damages our relationship with ourselves.   Likewise, to improve our relationship with ourself, it can be helpful to set goals that feel manageable given where you are at the moment. When we have an expectation of ourselves that is asking too much, it can be aspirational, but unrealistic expectations seem to get in the way of consistency at least as often as they support it.   Sometimes our expectations and plans can be so lofty we forget where we are and don't take into consideration how we feel, it is disempowering. As an alternative, we can create a simple list of things you feel able to do that moves you towards the general direction of your goal.   Organic growth over time helps identify what we can do with the resources we have. It helps to appreciate that our energy levels change and our resilience can ebb and grow. And anything that gets us to happily show up every day is the mechanism- expectations that are too high lead to feeling like we want to shut down.   Other times, it might be we don’t think we can talk openly about the thoughts and emotions that are occupying us; from the past, present or future, with the people around us. If we don’t feel we have the right words to explain how we feel, why would anyone listen? This is where therapy can help. Counsellors provide a third party, non-judgmental approach to what you are feeling, so you can find a language to help express yourself.   Even if it feels overwhelming and painful, thinking and talking about significant feelings, events or thoughts that trouble you may help you process them. Depending on how strong you feel about these events, going through the process with a counsellor is highly advisable.   It might be how you see yourself in relationships with others that impacts your relationship with yourself. It might help to think how you see yourself and who you prioritize. For some people, taking care of others might come first. Consider whether you put the needs of others first and if you struggle to make time for yourself. An aspect of this might be people pleasing. You may feel that making others happy makes you happy, too. Often, when you feel it is OK to meet your needs, you become better able ask for help and support others, too.   Take care of your physical needs. When bodies are run down, you're more susceptible to burnout. Make sure you have a good diet, especially your breakfast, eat something healthy. Avoid abusing yourself with rigid diets. Try to get as much exercise as you realistically can, avoid addictive substances and get plenty of sleep. Attend the basic needs you're not attending- don't work out for hours every day, just your basic needs- eating healthy, not too much caffeine and being mindful of getting enough sleep.   And then you also want to nurture yourself more than others. You need to show up for you as your own carer. You need to have a better balance and you do have a choice, although it is hard, to do so. I want you to always ask yourself, what am I doing today to nurture myself while I'm still there for others and away with my concerns?   It is important to remember that everyone needs support sometimes and care always, including you. Sometimes social media can impact this. Be mindful when you're on social media how much time you spend there and, what type of accounts you follow. How people present themselves is often different to their life- they present their best or worst parts of their day, but rarely show everything, particularly the mundane or things that won’t get them ‘likes’. It can cause comparative behaviour, where one never scores higher than the ones that seem ‘perfect’ or like they have their lives together.   Making time for self-care and listening to yourself is an important part of life. Not taking care of your needs can cause problems of self-worth which could also impact feelings of emptiness, too.
(MA, Counselling, Cognitive, Behaviour, Therapy, Level, 5, PGDIP, Integrative, Counselling)
Answered on 08/03/2022

Do I need a therapist if I just got out of a long-term relationship with someone? or will it pass??

Hey there! Thanks so much for reaching out in regards to your recent relationship loss, that is such a tough road to navigate when emotions are so raw and you may be feeling an immense amount of grief and loss. They say breakups are one of the toughest things we go through as humans, so I am happy you are reaching out to possibly engage in therapy. It is going to take some time and space for you to regain your emotional equilibrium. You have to think about grieving the loss of a relationship but also all the hopes/dreams you may of been planning or expecting to go through with that person. Not sure how your relationship ended but now you are having to rewrite your story with a new character. This can be scary but also exciting because you don't know what lies ahead. It sounds like you are really leaning into friends and doing things you enjoy which is very important, but you also need to give yourself time to feel your emotions and process what went on in your relationship- was there some areas you perhaps need to do some self reflection? Was this partner good for you and your life, did you have shared values and dreams that aligned? If so, taking the journey you had together as a wonderful memory and thing you can cherish but also teach you valuable life lessons about who you are, what you learned in that relationship and what you may want in future relationships as well. I want to share some ideas of things you can do to help take care of you during this hard time, and let yourself grieve your relationship which is a common thing for most when romantic relationships end.  Here are 50 self-care ideas to use when you are having a down day: Call or text someone you love Drink a cup of tea or coffee Journal about how you’re feeling Take some deep breaths Listen to your favorite music Go for a long walk in nature Cook or order in your favorite meal Read a book Light your favorite candle Do a digital detox Go to your favorite place Stretch Try a new face mask Read inspirational quotes Get some sleep Organize or rearrange your space Buy yourself flowers Exercise in a way that feels good for you Write down 5 things you’re grateful for Spend quality time with friends or family Turn on a diffuser with your favorite essential oils Watch the sunset Practice mindful meditation Take a bath or shower Watch your favorite show Turn your phone off for a bit Go for a drive (no destination required) Put on an outfit that makes you feel good Practice yoga Sleep with a weighted blanket Try learning something new Let yourself have a good cry (sometimes we need it) Implement a morning and night routine you enjoy Make a playlist of your favorite songs Write down 5 things you love about yourself Try out an adult coloring book Listen to a podcast or audiobook Do something creative (painting, writing, drawing, etc.) Bake a delicious treat Clean out your email inbox Drink more water Donate to a cause you care about Take a break from the news Start a skincare routine Cuddle with a pet Unfollow people on social media who aren’t serving you Get some fresh air Write a letter to a loved one Sit and be still for 10 minutes Do a full-body scan These are just some of many ideas for how you can practice self-care. What makes you feel the most rested and at peace is unique to you. Still, I hope you realize you are doing what is best for you right now, and whatever that looks like. I say if you are feeling like you are stuck or can't seem to get over these sad feelings therapy is a great place to process all this with a neutral professional who can help guide you and offer support.    Best of luck to you!
(MS, NCC, LPC, CRC)
Answered on 07/26/2022

How can I stop all these bad things? Im seriously over it.

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with so much rejection in your life right now.  It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done. Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.” This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse. So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary. He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his. Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific anxieties you have around being assertive when people wrong you.   Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc." By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself or that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this kind of rejection and overwhelming frustration.    As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and that has been able to get through challenges in your past. Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts. These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments. They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to. Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better. I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to. An example of a centering thought would be, from a client I had that related to nautical themed things, and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy. She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.” To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.” She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others. Hopefully you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and abilities to move forward.       I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this. Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 07/25/2022

How do I stop feeling so depressed and low all the time?

Hello there, I want to send over some information on depression and anxiety. If you believe any of these things apply to you, I highly encourage you to seek out support from a therapist. You can do that through an app like BetterHelp, call your insurance company and see who is in network, or search for therapists in your area and see if they offer reasonable rates or a sliding scale fee. What is Depression? Depression, otherwise known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common and serious mood disorder. Those who suffer from depression experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Aside from the emotional problems caused by depression, individuals can also present with a physical symptom such as chronic pain or digestive issues. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.   Depression DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria The DSM-5 outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down). Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide. To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition. Associated Features Major depressive disorder is associated with high mortality, much of which is accounted for by suicide. As a result, if you think someone you care about may be suffering from depression it is important to know the warning signs of suicide and to take suicidal statements extremely seriously. An active statement by someone with suicidal ideation might be something like, “I’m going to kill myself,” but other passive statements such as, “I wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up,” are equally worrying. If someone with depression exhibits these verbal markers, encourage them to consult a mental health professional immediately. Depressed individuals also present with irritability, brooding, and obsessive rumination, and report anxiety, phobias, excessive worry over physical health, and complain of pain.   New Specifiers for Depression in DSM-5 The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the DSM-5, added two specifiers to further classify diagnoses: With Mixed Features – This specifier allows for the presence of manic symptoms as part of the depression diagnosis in patients who do not meet the full criteria for a manic episode. With Anxious Distress – The presence of anxiety in patients may affect prognosis, treatment options, and the patient’s response to them. Clinicians will need to assess whether or not the individual experiencing depression also presents with anxious distress.   How is Depression Different from Sadness? What is the difference between depression and sadness? Given that the primary symptom associated with depression is sadness it can be hard to know how to make a distinction between the two psychological states. But depression is more than just sadness, and not simply by a measure of degree. The difference doesn’t lie in the extent to which a person feels down, but rather in a combination of factors relating to the duration of these negative feelings, other symptoms, bodily impact, and the effect upon the individual’s ability to function in daily life. Sadness is a normal emotion that everyone will experience at some point in his or her life. Be it the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one, sadness is usually caused by a specific situation, person, or event. When it comes to depression, however, no such trigger is needed. A person suffering from depression feels sad or hopeless about everything. This person may have every reason in the world to be happy and yet they lose the ability to experience joy or pleasure. With sadness, you might feel down in the dumps for a day or two, but you’re still able to enjoy simple things like your favorite TV show, food, or spending time with friends. This isn’t the case when someone is dealing with depression. Even activities that they once enjoyed are no longer interesting or pleasurable. What’s more, when you experience sadness triggered by a certain something you’re still able to sleep as you usually would, remain motivated to do things, and maintain your desire to eat. Depression, on the other hand, is associated with serious disruption of normal eating and sleeping patterns, as well as not wanting to get out of bed all day. In sadness, you might feel regret or remorse for something you said or did, but you won’t experience any permanent sense of worthlessness or guilt as you might with depression. One of the diagnostic features of depression is this kind of self-diminishing, negative thought patterns. Finally, self-harm and suicidal inclinations don’t arise from non-depressive sadness. Those struggling with severe depression may have thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide, or have a suicide plan. If you’re feeling suicidal or just need to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free at 1-800-273-8255.   Depression and Loss Although there is a clear distinction to be made between depression and sadness, it is possible for major depressive disorder to occur in addition to sadness resulting from a significant loss, such as bereavement, financial ruin, or a serious medical illness. The decision as to whether a diagnosis of depression should be made will depend on the judgment of the clinician treating the individual.   How To Get Help If you think you or someone you care about may be suffering from depression, we encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. The following online directories can be consulted to find a therapist in your area: • PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/find-help/• Psychology Today: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms• GoodTherapy.org: http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about someone else, or just need emotional support, the emergency Lifeline network is available 24/7. You can call 1-800-273-8255 or go to their website for a live chat. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be a challenge to diagnose. People consider panic attacks a hallmark of all anxiety disorders, but GAD is different in that there are generally no panic attacks associated with the condition.1         As a result of this misconception, without the experience of panic attacks, a person may think they are "just worrying too much." Their struggles with constant worry may be minimized or dismissed and, in turn, not properly diagnosed or treated.1    Most of us experience worry and situations that can cause us to feel anxious, so what are professionals looking for to help determine if someone's worry and anxiety are related to GAD?   An evaluation of symptom criteria, as outlined in "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," 5th Edition (also known as the DSM-5), is the first step. Mental health professionals look for factors like excessive, hindering worry paired with a variety of physical symptoms,2 then use proven diagnostic assessments to make a diagnosis and rule out other possibilities.   Verywell / Cindy Chung   Symptoms The DSM-5 outlines specific criteria to help professionals diagnose generalized anxiety disorder. Having a standard set of symptoms to reference when assessing clients helps them to more accurately diagnose mental health concerns and, in turn, create a more effective plan of care.   Criteria for Diagnosing GAD When assessing for GAD, clinical professionals are looking for the following: The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive. The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another. The anxiety and worry are accompanied by at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one of these symptoms is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD): Edginess or restlessness Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others) Increased muscle aches or soreness Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep) Excessive worry means worrying even when there is no specific threat present or in a manner that is disproportionate to the actual risk.3 Someone struggling with GAD experiences a high percentage of their waking hours worrying about something. The worry may be accompanied by reassurance-seeking from others.4   In adults, the worry can be about job responsibilities or performance, one’s own health or the health of family members, financial matters, and other everyday, typical life circumstances. In children, the worry is more likely to be about their abilities or the quality of their performance (for example, in school).5 Many people with GAD also experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea, or diarrhea.6   The anxiety, worry, and other associated symptoms make it hard to carry out day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may cause problems in relationships, at work, or in other important areas of life.7   In order to give a diagnosis of GAD, these symptoms also must be unrelated to any other medical conditions and cannot be explained by a different mental disorder or by the effect of substance use, including prescription medication, alcohol, or recreational drugs.8     Assessment During an assessment, your clinician will use the diagnostic criteria, standardized assessments, and their clinical judgment to make a diagnosis.   Generally, they will ask about your symptoms in an open-ended way, but you may also be asked to complete self-report questionnaires. These typically brief measures can help determine the diagnosis (as the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale-7 does) or severity of symptoms.9   In specialized care settings, like an anxiety disorders clinic, standardized assessment tools are sometimes used to evaluate symptoms. In this case, your clinician conducts a semi-structured interview. The interview is likely to include a standardized set of questions, and your answers will help your clinician to make an accurate diagnosis.   Commonly used and well-validated diagnostic interviews for adults include the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM Disorders (SCID) and the Anxiety and Related Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-5 (ADIS-5). There is a child version of the ADIS, in which both the parent and the child are asked about the child’s symptoms. These interviews also evaluate the presence of other associated conditions such as depression.   Your Visit Remember to be honest with your provider at the first visit—both when filling out forms and discussing your symptoms face-to-face. Being upfront and honest can help determine what is happening and put together a plan of care specifically tailored to your needs.   Self-Assessment If you are wondering whether you or your child might have GAD, you can consider completing a brief online self-screening tool for adults or for children provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).10 If you do this, you should still speak with a mental health professional or your physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment.   When to Seek Help  Many people who struggle with GAD experience symptoms for a long time before seeking help. Reaching out for a diagnosis can feel challenging, especially when anxiety feels so constant and widespread.     Only around 20% of people who have symptoms of anxiety seek treatment. In 2020, a national coalition of women's health professionals recommended that all women aged 13 and older should be screened for anxiety.11 The lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders is approximately two times higher in women than in men, so preventative screenings may be helpful in ensuring that women and girls receive appropriate interventions to improve health and well-being. Contacting a mental health or other clinical provider is a courageous step that can help clarify what is happening and, in turn, lead to creating a plan of care that can help you find relief and regain a sense of well-being.   When deciding to seek help, something to consider is how difficult it is to feel any sense of calm, comfort, and reassurance around your worry.   If you find yourself constantly seeking reassurance from others, or repeatedly trying different methods of stress management and relaxation to no avail, it may be worth contacting a professional. Also, know that not experiencing panic attacks is another primary reason people don't seek help for their anxiety. Their worry may be chronic and concerning but, because there are no periods of acute panic attacks, they simply chalk the challenges up to being a "worrywart."   They may even be told this by others when seeking reassurance or trying to find comfort. Remember, however, that GAD is different in that panic attacks aren't typically present, so don't let this factor stop you from seeking help.   Additionally, take note of the physical symptoms that are accompanying your worry. As the anxiety continues, you may find more and more challenges with things like headaches, digestion, restlessness, and fatigue.1 Should you find that your worry feels excessive and begins leading to other physical symptoms, you may benefit from talking with a mental health or other care providers.   Finding a Clinician Take time to research and seek out providers who specialize in the treatment of anxiety. Because anxiety is present in so many mental health conditions, you will want to talk with someone who understands the specific criteria required so you can be accurately diagnosed and treated.   Primary care physicians can often provide referrals to trusted and specialized mental health providers. Otherwise, to find a psychotherapist in your area, consult referral resources such as:   Anxiety and Depression Association of America Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Association for Contextual Behavioral Science   The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is a national organization of psychiatrists that can also provide recommendations for local providers who are able to provide psychiatric evaluation and prescribe medications.   Another option is to try an online therapy program.    The Best Online Anxiety Support Groups   Differential Diagnosis Anxiety symptoms can be found in many categories of mental health conditions listed in the DSM-5, such as within mood disorders, eating disorders, and cognitive disorders. Within the category of anxiety disorders, there are many symptoms that will overlap and anxiety conditions can sometimes be confused with one another.   While sitting with a mental health provider, they will be seeking information that will help them to best diagnose your condition. To give a differential diagnosis means to distinguish one condition from another when there are symptoms that overlap.   Some conditions that may need to be ruled out include:1   Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Panic disorder Social anxiety disorder   Although some of these conditions are discussed more casually by the general public, there are specific criteria that would need to be met in order for one of these (or other conditions) to be properly diagnosed.   There can be other behaviors and symptoms that can be present with anxiety. For example, when someone engages in self-sabotaging behavior, such as procrastination, they can be perceived as struggling with self-regulation and behavioral conditions. Overlooking elements of anxiety related to this behavior can end up creating an obstacle for someone to receive effective treatment.     Sitting with a qualified professional to determine an accurate diagnosis is key. Having the willingness to reach out for help, being honest with your provider, and participating actively in treatment can help you regain a sense of well-being.  
(LPC, NCC, CEDS-S)
Answered on 11/02/2021

How do I cope with loneliness?

It seems as though something deeper is brewing beneath the surface that might be causing the feeling of loneliness. As I read this question, my thoughts are what is the duration and frequency of the feeling you are experiencing? Moreover, I feel that this should be explored more with a therapist in a clinical session. A therapist can assist you with  how to express your emotions in a healthy way and show you ways to practice sitting with your emotions to be present with your emotions. You can can also learn to reflect and accept your emotions. Have you done journaling or doodling as a way to express yourself? You can also let your family know you're struggling with loneliness. Perhaps, this will allow them to identify how they might be able to help you feel less lonely. I also recommend joining a group, specifically meetup groups. These types of groups are online platforms that provides access to various types of groups and club activities often founded on common interests and hobbies-depending on your residing Meetup groups can give you things to do when you feel lonely as well and, it's a great way to make friends. Keep in mind, building quality relationships should be a priority over the quantity of relationships because building genuine bonds with people can help to combat loneliness. If you already have good relationships; work on strengthening those relationships. You can also consider volunteering if you are able to in your area. Volunteering is a good way to meet people and help with feelings of loneliness. Research shows that helping others can really help improve mental health and well-being. Check your local organizations for volunteering opportunities.  Remember that loneliness is a part of being human. You are allowed to open up about how you feel and it by no means a weakness, it is taking the act of courage to express how you feel to help create connection with someone you trust. You are in control: you can use the power within yourself to make positive change this feeling of loneliness. Again, I encourage you to speak with a therapist.
Answered on 10/14/2021

Why do I feel so lonely? Is it something I can prevent or do I need extra help?

Aly, Thank you for your question. I am glad you are here.    First of all, the loneliness you are feeling after a move is completely normal. Moving and adjusting to a different space is stressful for everyone. Three months is not that long of a time to have adjusted to the new place. However, you should start to adjust as time goes on. For the feelings of being down at night, I will list a coping skill that you can use as you battle those feelings:   Peace Begins With Me There is a quick practice that is involved with Kundalini yoga, which involves a breathing exercise that can be done quietly and anywhere that you are. This technique can help you stay centered when you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Press your thumb into your index finger, then your middle finger, followed by the ring finger, and lastly the pinkie finger. Practice this a few times. Go slowly. After you get the hang of this, practice saying these words as you touch thumb to index finger- “Peace,” thumb to middle finger, “Begins,” thumb to ring finger, “With,” thumb to pinkie finger, “Me.” Breathe deeply and fully as you practice this technique.   Another coping skill that you can use when dealing with feelings of loneliness and depression is cognitive restructuring.    Cognitive Restructuring Cognitive Restructuring is a process of identifying your negative and irrational thoughts. A negative or an irrational thought is called a cognitive distortion. EVERYONE has cognitive distortions; however, if you are a person who has a lot of cognitive distortions, it can contribute to developing a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety.   How can you identify and challenge these cognitive distortions?   Step 1: Understand how powerful cognitive distortions are in influencing your mood. For example, it's your birthday. Your friend does not call to wish you a happy birthday. Your thought is, "My friend doesn't care about me the way that I care about them; I called them on their birthday." Your thought makes you FEEL hurt. Your feeling of hurt turns into the behavior of avoiding your friend for the next month. The cognitive distortion of "My friend doesn't care about me the way that I care about them" yielded the chain of events that led you to feel hurt and to behave by avoiding your friend.  Thoughts are POWERFUL; they start the chain of events to everything.    Step 2: Increase your awareness of your thoughts.  Learn to identify your cognitive distortions. Look for negative emotions and try to pinpoint what thoughts started those feelings.    Step 3: Keep a Thought Record/Thought Log. Break down your experience into a record. For example: The situation was ______________, My thoughts were ________________, My emotions were ________________, My behaviors were ___________________. An alternate thought could've been __________________________.   I hope the above tips help.   The second thing I wanted to address was the sexual trauma that you have endured throughout your life. It would be beneficial for you to work with a trauma-informed therapist to address these incidences that you describe. I am sorry that this happened to you. Trauma can mimic symptoms of anxiety and depression, among others. Trauma can also restructure the brain and the body essentially keeps score of the trauma. I encourage you to do some research on your own about the effects of trauma on mental health and on physical health. I'd like to discuss this with you further, if you are interested.    I wish you well and trust you will have a wonderful week ahead.   Sara Lacaria, LPCBetter Help Therapist
(LPC)
Answered on 10/03/2021

what do I do when I feel tired of my life?

6 Tips to Help You Regain Your Zest for Life 1. Picture Your Ideal Life You’re tired of the life that you’re living now. But if you think about it, is there a life that you imagine that you would absolutely love? This won’t be a picture you can imagine instantly. Give yourself time to figure out the aspects of life that come to your mind when you think about the ‘ideal’ lifestyle. Is it a life in the same place but with a different mental state? Or do you picture a completely different physical environment? What kind of people surround you? Whatever you idealize, note it down. 2. Look Back on the Life That You Enjoyed the Most Nobody gets tired of life as soon as they are born. They live a good life before they get to a point of exhaustion .Look back. Think of the times when you lived your life to the fullest. It could’ve been your time at school or when you had different relationships or you lived in a different city. Also, think about the hobbies and activities you had at this time. You may have had a different passion back then. List down the factors that you think made your life worthwhile back then. 3. What’s Missing From Your Life Right Now? Now, you’ve got a list of things that either made your life amazing in the past or you think will improve your life. It’s time to point out exactly what’s missing. Since you’re tired of life, you probably don’t have anything from the list in your life. However, look closer. Maybe you’re the one who has pushed those factors away. Whatever the case is, pinpoint what you feel like is missing from your life. Once again, list them down so that you have written proof of how your mind perceives all this information. This isn’t a list that you should or have to make within a day. Give it some time. Refine your list so that it has the things that you really think will make your life better. Add to it, remove from it, and once you think everything on the list is exactly what you need, it’s time to move to the next tip. 4. Highlight the Things That Are in Your Control By this point, you know what you want in life, what you’ve already got, and what’s missing. So, naturally, the next step to fix your life is to add the things that are missing. Usually, when we’re trying to improve our lives, what we tend to do it focus on the negative. So instead of finding out what would make us feel better, we point out the negatives and try to eradicate them. But if you’re tired of life, you’re probably going to perceive in your current life as bad. Therefore, instead of suggesting you get rid of the negatives, you should first add some positives. From the list you made in the previous tip, highlight the things that you think are in your control. For example, you can change relationships, work towards a different career, shift homes, etc. If you think it’s in your control, get on with it. Devise an extensive plan on how you can achieve it. Work every day on your plan to achieve one thing at a time. With your mind on the road to what you think will be a better life, it’ll be way easier for you to regain your enthusiasm. 5. Make an Effort in Areas That Seem to Be Out of Your Hands  The difficult part of the list is where you think you’re not in control. You may not have the money to shift to the city that you want to. You may have lost a loved one that you can’t bring back. Whatever the case is, remember that there’s always a second option. You can always find a second-best alternative that is quite possibly in your hands too. This is a time-consuming step. You’ll have to convince yourself, get content with the idea, and then work to achieve it. 6. Set Goals Remember how not having anything to look forward to was a sign of your exhaustion from life? Well, guess who’s got the control to fix it? Yes, it’s you. Really think about it. What are your goals? Why are you even living? What’s the point of your existence? If you haven’t got anything that you’re constantly trying to achieve, you’re basically living a purposeless life. This is one huge factor that makes you want to give up on life. So it’s only right if you set some goals for yourself. These goals can be a way to achieve the life that you idealize, work on your health, strive for a better lifestyle, and anything else that you think is worth fighting for. What you set as a goal isn’t important. But how you define that goal impacts your progress. You might have heard of SMART goals. That’s what you’ve got to keep in mind so that you can actually work on them without losing more motivation.   How to Regain Motivation A major contributing factor to your will to live is your motivation level. Once you start wanting to do little things in life, you’ll start enjoying life in general, too. It’s something that you have to try and test yourself to figure out what works best for you. Start by assigning one day of the week solely for yourself. This day, do anything that you have the slightest will to do – paint, dance, meet someone, or just sleep all day long. For the other 6 days, continue your normal regime but add in some motivational stepping stones here and there. Wear your favorite perfume, dress comfortably, exercise, stay hydrated, eat well, and stay away from things that drain you mentally or physically.    Bottom Line  Being tired of life isn’t a feeling you should ignore. Try out these tips to feel better and don’t shy away from seeking professional help. Pay attention to your mental health, work hard for your happiness, and stay enthusiastic about the life that you’ve been gifted!
(LPC, LAC, NCC)
Answered on 09/29/2021

How do I cope with feelings of loneliness and hopelessness?

Loneliness and hopelessness are two pretty strong emotions that are often associated with depression.  Depression can be a short term thing that is triggered by an event (such as loss of a loved one or a break up as in your case), or depression can be a longer-term chronic condition that lasts because of an initial triggering event but then difficulty coping or a series of events that maintain the depression.  Loneliness is not related to the number of people that we know or are surrounded by but is more related to the people (or lack of people) that we connect with and relate to.  Hopelessness is a feeling of intensity that tells us that we don't see an end in sight or feel like things will ever change.  The key to hopelessness is remembering that when we are in a situation or it is recent, we become so focused on being in the situation that we can't see any way out or anything else as possible.  Imagine if we were in a dark room, we probably wouldn't see anything else except the dark. Even when we don't see light at this moment, we need to be able to believe that there is a door or window somewhere that leads to an outside world that has light. A few keys to remember about your situation here is that just as you pointed out; 1) you recently started grad school which represents a lot of adjustments to possibly a new location, new people, and new routines such as classes; 2) you are probably missing the support of family and friends that aren't as readily accessible, and familiar places that you are comfortable being in 3)  you just had a breakup from someone that you were very connected to, and the most common reaction to that is to feel rejected and question ourselves and our abilities. The key to overcoming loneliness and hopelessness in your case is multi-layered.  Step 1 is integrating old routines with new ones by looking at what routines and self-care you can maintain despite being in your new environment; this is often basic self care such as eating the same, keeping the same exercise routines, and engaging in the same hobbies or activities such as playing music or sports.  Step 2 is integrating opportunities for new connections while creating opportunities to maintain old connections.  In addition to meeting new people, getting a routine for talking or visiting regularly with old friends and family can be important for support as well as connectedness as it may take time to develop new relationships and build trust.  Lastly, step 3 involves being kind, realistic, and patient with yourself by realizing that you are currently going through a lot of changes and the things you are feeling are normal emotions that demand attention.  All emotions, even negative feelings of loneliness and hopelessness are actually very helpful as they are merely messages that tell us that we need to change something (so we need to pay attention to them and not ignore them and hope they go away).    Like many things, grad school can be both exciting and scary at the same time because of the many changes, but paying attention to our feelings (just as you are) helps us to adapt to any situation to get the most out of it and hopefully even truly enjoy it.  Good luck with your studies!
(M.Ed, LMFT)
Answered on 09/23/2021

How to deal with the feeling of emptiness?

How to deal with the feeling of emptiness? You shared what should you do when you wake up on a random day and feel that gnawing empty feeling and nothing feels pleasurable and life does not feel worth living? You also questioned how can you avoid feeling that way in the first place, when there are no obvious triggers for why it happens? You questioned how to deal with the feeling of emptiness at this time. Based on your statement, “What should I do when I wake up on a random day and feel that gnawing empty feeling and nothing feels pleasurable and life doesn't feel worth living?” I am very concerned with you sharing that you have suicidal thoughts. I do want to share with you that being suicidal is considered a medical emergency. When you share that you have thoughts of suicide, I recommend that you get an assessment from a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health professional therapist immediately. If you are not sure who you can go to, you can go to your local emergency room or call 911.Please understand that the services provided through BetterHelp are not intended for crisis situations such as individuals who are having currently thoughts of suicide and or urgent needs. In a crisis situation, please call 911 or your local emergency services or you can also visit the nearest emergency room. Once you have sought the proper mental health treatment to discuss and process your suicidal thoughts. Then, I would highly recommend that you start seeking mental health therapy with a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health professional therapist or that you continue seeking treatment from a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health professional therapist if you are seeing someone at this time. Based on your question, I would highly recommend that you seek help from a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health professional therapist to discuss your thoughts and feelings regarding what you should do when you wake up on a random day and you feel that gnawing empty feeling and nothing feels pleasurable and life does not feel worth living. A licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health professional therapist can help you discuss and process what triggers you to experience a gnawing empty feeling where nothing feels pleasurable and life does not feel worth living. A gnawing empty feeling and nothing feels pleasurable and life does not feel worth living can help you learn to implement effective coping skills to reduce your feelings of emptiness in regards once you seek proper help for your suicidal ideations. Emotional distress is a huge factor in possibly adding to some of your current feelings of emptiness and loss of pleasure that can easily manifest into depression. It is quite beneficial to have a licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health therapist to discuss your specific thoughts and feelings in a safe and conducive environment of your choice. Taking the time to find the proper licensed professional counselor and or licensed mental health therapist is very important, so you can feel comfortable in working to making the necessary changes to improve your mental well being as a means of decreasing your emotional distress at this time that may have manifested into depression. Depression can be treated with the use medication and therapy combined.  Behavior interventions, Psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have all been beneficial in treating individuals who have struggled with feelings of emptiness. A gnawing empty feeling and nothing feels pleasurable and life does not feel worth living can assist you in learning how to effectively implement coping skills to decease your feelings of emptiness. A licensed professional counselor and or a licensed mental health therapist can provide you counseling in a safe and confidential setting without feeling judged or ridiculed. A licensed professional counselor and or a licensed mental health therapist can also introduce you to deep breathing techniques, stress relaxation techniques, calming techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding techniques positive interpersonal social skills and imagery as a means of decreasing your feelings of emptiness at this time. In an effort to decrease your feelings of emptiness, you can also try to commit to changing the way you think. It will take a lot of practice, dedication and determination to alleviate increased feelings of emptiness. However, trying to do this will help you feel better and it can lead to your feeling much better and becoming more productive. You can recognize when it is happening and when you find it happening you can choose to think about something more productive. You can also look for solutions by committing to learning from your mistakes and solving your problems so you can productively move forward, set aside time to think when you notice you are not feeling productive outside of that scheduled time, remind yourself that you will think about it later, distract yourself with a self-care activity and you can practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key to living in the "here and now." When you become mindful, you will be completely present in the moment. It can be like a form of meditation that takes a lot of practice, but over time and with consistency, it can be very beneficial in decreasing thoughts of not being productive in an effort to help you experience an overall healthier mental well-being at this time. Overall, I highly recommend that you seek help from a licensed professional counselor and or a licensed mental health therapist to properly assess your thoughts of feelings of emptiness in regards to your current emotional distress at this time. Emotional and mental distress can look different for everyone because mental health is not a one size fits all. Therefore, it is very important to get personalized treatment for your specific and current mental and emotional needs in regards to decreasing your feelings of emptiness in that is currently causing you emotional distress at this time. Best regards to you!
(EdS, LPC-S, NCC, BC-TMH)
Answered on 09/23/2021

How to overcome the mental stress and pressure and find a path to focus on. Study

Hey there! I’m so sorry that you are struggling. It sounds like you have been set on a path that you are not enthusiastic about. You are studying a field that you may not have interest in, it seems. You mentioned that you are depressed, don’t have many friends. Being isolated can absolutely increase depression. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for how to deal with it. So what now? Well, therapy would absolutely be a good place to start, whether it’s through Betterhelp, or another agency! If cost is a concern, put your location + community mental health into google, and a low cost agency (who often works on a sliding scale with payment as low as zero), should pop up. I wish there was an easy, overnight magic wand type answer for you. I would also recommend seeing a psychiatrist! Doing therapy and medication management can help you learn about your symptoms and develop skills to heal. It’s not an easy path, but neither is the one you are on if I’m reading you correctly. If you need help right away, the crisis text line at 741741 might be a good place to start. You just text that number “start” and someone talks to you pretty fast. It’s a great way to get some help in the short term, and you don’t even need to be in crisis in that moment. The National Suicide Hotline is also a good resource, and again, you don’t have to be in crisis to reach out and benefit. And both are open 24 hours a day! And are free! Their number is 1-800-273-8255. Betterhelp does have financial aid available if you qualify, and you can reach out to them at contact@betterhelp.com.   So what is therapy? How can therapy help you? Well, a worksheet that I like to use has the following information. Psychotherapy is a process that many believe is shrouded in mystery, but it doesn't have to be that way. Therapists are normal people who usually chose their profession because they care about other people, they're good listeners, and they want to help. What does a therapist actually do, and how can they help me?Therapists act as a neutral party who can listen and try to understand without judgment. Therapists help you learn about yourself by pointing out patterns and giving honest feedback. Therapists teach specific techniques and strategies to deal with problems. Therapists can refer you to additional resources in the community that might be helpful. Therapists provide a safe place to learn and practice social skills.You won't be annoying your therapist, whomever you choose, by being present and working to change and grow as a person. It sounds like you have a lot going on, and therapy really can help you sort through everything.  Every therapist on Betterhelp has a different theoretical orientations. Some use CBT. Others use REBT, EMDR, or other various evidence based practice.   What are the limitations of psychotherapy?Therapists should not tell you what to do or try to direct your life. Think of the proverb: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for life." Therapists will help you learn to solve your own problems, rather than solving them for you. Some mental illness cannot be managed by psychotherapy alone. If medication is recommended, it's probably important. Benefiting from psychotherapy does require work on your part. Speaking to a therapist for an hour a week, and then pushing it out of your mind, probably won't do you any good. Complete homework, practice your skills, and legitimately try the recommendations you are given. Therapists cannot be your friend after starting a therapeutic relationship. Therapists generally like their clients, and would love to get to know them better, but ethical rules prevent the formation of relationships outside of treatment. It isn't you, it's just that the therapist could lose their license! Therapists cannot read your mind. If you hide information, or are dishonest, you're wasting your own time and money.Therapy is a great way to help you sort out the why’s and how’s behind what you are experiencing. A therapist can help you figure out what you want to change, and work with you develop a plan for change. It’s okay to seek help. You can change. It takes a lot of time and there isn’t a magical wand. You probably have a lot of deep seated core beliefs and values that drive your being. Learning to address and change them, and process them is a lot of work, but it can get done, and you can get better. You deserve to find happiness in your life. You deserve to be relieved of the burdens that you are carrying alone. Therapists are there to listen.  A therapist can really help you process what is causing your thoughts and feelings and help you develop coping strategies. Something to remember when learning coping skills is that they are skills. Skills are something we develop over time and sometimes, new skills that we are still learning don’t quite work effectively, and that is okay! The more you practice, the better you get! An alternative to therapy might be downloading an app like Mindshift (which is free) or Unwinding Anxiety (which is subscription based). Both of these apps contain tools to help you learning calming skills to manage your physical symptoms (such as rapid breathing) and learn to quiet your mind. Google also contains a wealth of information on coping skills. While these apps won’t do much to challenge your cognitive distortions, or core beliefs, they can help in teaching you those important emotional regulation skills. Ultimately, it’s hard to help you figure out what to do without knowing more about you and the situation. You’re in a tough spot, but you will get through this. You are not alone. Remember, you’ve survived 100% of your toughest moments so far in life. It’s okay to need some help to move forward. Therapy can really help you figure out how to change your life for the better. It can really help you change what you are experiencing. Luckily, Betterhelp makes getting matched to a therapist pretty easy, if you want to go this route. If you don’t click with the first therapist you match with, it’s easy to switch counselors until you find one that really works for you and your needs. Finding the right therapist is key. I wish you the best of luck!
(LMHC, MCAP, (FL), LMHC, (WA), LCPC, (ME))
Answered on 09/20/2021

What's my mental health issue?

What is my mental health issue? Hi, you shared that you suffer from numbness to crying excessively. You also shared that back in 2019 you and your mom lived alone and that your mother had suffered from kidney disease. You shared that one morning you saw her dead on the couch. You also shared that in order for you to move on currently you moved out of your hometown and started college. Now, you shared that the pandemic came and you had to move back and it made you feel the pain you felt in 2019 again. But after 9 months you shared that you went back to your college neighborhood and at first it was so happy and stress-free. You also shared that you met a new best friend which made you so happy but now things have changed. You shared that you do not know why but you feel so alone. You also shared that you feel so worthless. You shared that your past still haunts you, and now your best friend will not talk to you, your girlfriend will not respond to you, your dad has cancer, and your siblings always invalidate what you are feeling. You also shared that you are indeed tired and that you give up. You questioned what is your mental illness. Based on your question, I would highly recommend that you first start with seeking mental health therapy from a professional counselor and or professional therapist locally in order to effectively get a proper diagnosis. A professional counselor and or professional therapist can properly assess you for an official diagnosis. Along with a diagnosis, a professional counselor and or professional therapist can support you in assessing your specific mental health needs in regards to creating a treatment plan specifically for you. Licensed Professional counselors and Professional Therapists on the Betterhelp platform are not able to diagnosis you because we cannot see you in person to get a thorough assessment. Therefore, I highly encourage you to continue to search for a local Licensed Professional Counselor and or Professional Therapist in your local area who can properly diagnosis you to help you find out what your specific mental health issue is at this time. A professional counselor or therapist can be very beneficial in supporting you with discussing and processing what happened when you were a child. Traumatic experiences can cause psychological trauma which can cause damage to an individual's mind as a result of one or more distressing events. The distressing event can cause overwhelming amounts of stress that can surpass the individual's ability to cope or understand their emotions which can lead to serious long-term negative consequences. With the help of a professional counselor and or therapist, you can receive adequate help in regards to your counselor and or therapist providing you with effective and or appropriate skills and techniques to learn how to develop and implement effective skills and strategies for you to effectively deal with the traumatic experience that you experienced as a child that continues to cause problems and or concerns for you as an adult. Behavior interventions, Psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have all been beneficial in helping people to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in regards to a traumatic experience that you experienced as a child that continues to affect your relationships as an adult. A professional counselor and or professional therapist can assist you in learning how to effectively implement coping skills, techniques, and strategies to decrease your panic attacks in public. A professional counselor and or professional therapist can introduce you to deep breathing techniques, calming techniques, stress management techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding techniques, positive interpersonal social skills, and imagery as a means of decreasing you're mental and emotional distresses. Based on your statement, “I give up.” I am very concerned with you sharing that you want to give up. I am not sure if you have suicidal thoughts at this time. However, I do want to be upfront and honest with you by letting you know a little more about the Betterhelp platform. I do want to share with you that being suicidal is considered a medical emergency. When you share that you have thoughts of suicide or wanting to give up, I recommend that you get an assessment from a professional counselor or therapist immediately. If you are not sure who you can go to, you can go to your local emergency room or call 911. Please understand that the services provided through BetterHelp are not intended for crisis situations such as individuals who are having currently thoughts of suicide and or urgent needs. In a crisis situation, please call 911 or your local emergency services or you can also visit the nearest emergency room. Once you have sought the proper mental health treatment to discuss and process your suicidal thoughts. Then, I would highly recommend that you start seeking mental health therapy with a professional counselor or professional therapist or that you continue seeking treatment from a mental health professional counselor and or mental health therapist if you are seeing someone. In an effort to decrease your current mental and emotional distresses, you can also try to commit to changing the way you think. It will take a lot of practice, dedication, and determination to alleviate what triggers your mental and emotional distress. However, trying to do this will help you feel better and it can lead to your feeling much better and becoming more productive. You can recognize when it is happening and when you find it happening you can choose to think about something more productive. You can also look for solutions by committing to learning from your mistakes and solving your problems so you can productively move forward, set aside time to think when you notice you are feeling mentally and emotionally distressed outside of that scheduled time, remind yourself that you will think about it later, distract yourself with a self-care activity and you can practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key to living in the "here and now." When you become mindful, you will be completely present at the moment. It can be like a form of meditation that takes a lot of practice, but over time and with consistency, it can be very beneficial in decreasing your mental and emotional distress in an effort to help you experience an overall healthier mental well-being. Overall, I highly recommend that you seek help from a professional counselor and or professional therapist and a medical provider if needed for medication management. The help of a mental health professional counselor and or professional therapist can be quite beneficial in helping you to properly get a better understanding of what triggers your mental and emotional distress, as it can look different for everyone. Also, please remember that mental health is not a one-size-fits-all, so it is very important to get personalized treatment for your specific and current mental and emotional needs in reference to your current life transitions that are causing you to be mentally and emotionally distressed at this time. I hope this helps. Best regards to you!  
(EdS, LPC-S, NCC, BC-TMH)
Answered on 08/29/2021

How can keep myself without being sad?

Becoming sad from time to time is a natural human emotion. However, when sadness begins to happen too often, lasts too long or takes over your life and relationships, it can cause a strain in many areas of your life. You have to find new ways of coping. Sad feelings don't have to take over your mood or ruin your day. It seems that you tend to worry a lot about your relationships with others and expect a great deal of attention from them. It is good that you have recognized your feelings when you don't get what you want. Knowing your emotions helps you to better understand and accept yourself.  Now that you have identified why you are sad, it is time to start working on ways to feel better. It is time to start doing things that make you happy without depending on the help of others. Positive thinking is a great way to get started. Even if you are sad, think of one or two good things about yourself or your situation. Next, try thinking of solutions to getting what you want. Sometimes our friends and family are unaware of what is going on in our lives unless we tell them. Remember, they have busy lives and are dealing with many things too. So, an example solution would be to give them the attention you want from them. Ask them how they are feeling and how their day has been. This will lead to interaction on both sides and them asking about your feelings. Last, put yourself in a good mood! Do things that you enjoy! It could be something as simple as playing a sport, riding a bike, dancing, running, taking a walk, reading, or listening to your favorite music!  Overall, learning to deal with sad feelings takes practice. It doesn't just come overnight. You have to work at it! We shouldn't depend on others for our own happiness. When you do things to take care of yourself, think in positive ways, and show that you care and have concern for others, you then begin to make room for a more positive and happy you!
Answered on 08/26/2021

How to cope with childhood trauma in adulthood

Dear FoxyMoron,   Thank you for your message and diving deeper into reflecting the traumas and the abuses that you have gone through, and what they meant to you and affecting your life at the moment.   This is indeed a painful process that can cause some emotions rising on your end, that is also because for a very long time we have been simply coping with these wounds through our defense mechanisms, rather than actually looking at them and processing them. Therefore it's important that you practice the tools that we talked about before (how to make yourself feel safe and grounded when these emotions rise) so that we can practice living with and manage these emotions rather than going back to our defense mechanisms.   As you have said, perhaps we have learned to deal and cope with these abuses and traumas by making explanations for them, validating them, and even accepting them as a part of our lives. While we have learned to move on without processing these traumas, we could still the effects they bring especially in the form of anxiety and even panic when we are being reminded or triggered by events and people who have inflicted these wounds on us.   To truly move on and not let these traumas affect us, we need to learn to bring closures to these wounds and bind them up. I am glad that you are aware of the need to bring closures, I'll explain more here when it comes to closure.   A lack of closure frequently prevents people from moving forward with their lives and achieving all that they could. It makes it more difficult to reach goals, find self-happiness or make meaningful relationships. For this reason, it is important to find a sense of closure with any situation that you feel is holding you back.   Closure is any interaction, information, or practice that allows a person to feel that a traumatic, upsetting or confusing life event has been resolved. The term has its origins in Gestalt psychology, but it is more commonly used to refer to the final resolution to a conflict or problem.   Closure means finality; a letting go of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.   People seek answers and explanations: They want to know why. However, finding answers does not necessarily end the pain. Sometimes a person who seeks closure finds that an explanation makes no difference, or that it actually worsens their pain. Others find that closure may simply be a starting point for moving past a painful event. Though the trauma is not resolved, the person is better able to work through it. Seeking a definitive way to finalize grief and move on belies the importance of the grieving process. Simply putting an end to one's painful memories may be more harmful than helpful.   In some cases, though, closure is a profoundly transformative experience that does allow the person to move past the traumatic event. For example, a victim of abuse may need to confront the abuser and see them imprisoned before he or she can begin to feel safe again. In acknowledgment of this, the criminal justice system is increasingly recognizing the need for closure by instituting programs allowing victims and their families to meet with offenders in a controlled setting.   Unfortunately, there are times when the closure is simply unattainable. This may be true in situations where someone moved locations or passed away before being able to resolve a problem. In some cases, the other involved person is simply unwilling to engage. In times like these, it can be easy to become bogged down by the lack of closure. It can be easy to cover up the underlying problem with meaningless coping mechanisms like substance abuse. With time and effort, there are many ways to move past unattainable closure to live happily once more.   The most important part of moving on from a lack of closure is taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally. This is also why we have begun our therapy process with a focus on self-compassion. Self-compassion is the core of why we want to bring closures and bind up these wounds because they make us feel better and they are the best decisions we can make for ourselves.   When we bring closures to our traumas, we need to keep in mind that we are doing this not because we have to, but we want to. When we practice forgiving those who have wounded us and let them go, we are not agreeing / accepting / acknowledging what they have done and not holding them accountable, we are simply letting go of the bitterness, resentment, and hatred that we have to hide with us all these years.   As for our physical health, engaging in adequate active exercises could be helpful. Improving your physical health through diet and exercise can help to improve self-esteem and emotional well-being, both of which are essential to moving on from unattainable closure.   Meditation, hobbies, and social interaction are all great ways to nurture your mental health and find the inner happiness that makes a lack of closure bearable.   While self-care is essential to moving on from a lack of closure, it is often not enough to resolve the problem altogether. One great exercise to help you move forward is to write a letter to the individual that you have not received closure. In this letter, you can describe all of your feelings about the situation and how you wish things had ended. Once the letter is complete, you can bury it, burn it, or simply throw it in the trash. Writing an unsent letter can help you get those feelings out that are hiding painfully inside and find a sense of self-resolution.   Forgiveness is another essential component to finding a sense of closure at times that closure cannot otherwise be achieved. Forgiving a person that caused you pain can sometimes seem like an impossible task. However, it is possible with daily efforts. We can go into details later regarding forgiveness, one step at a time.   To move past unattainable closure, you may also need to forgive yourself for anything you feel you did wrong in the situation. If you blame yourself for a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or anything else, it will be impossible to move on and find inner happiness.   I'll pause here to learn from your thoughts, looking forward to talking with you more. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 08/20/2021

How do I start healing from childhood trauma? It feels like two steps forward, one back.

Dear Audge1995,   Thank you for your message and diving deeper into reflecting the traumas and the abuses that you have went through, and what they meant to you and affecting your life at the moment.   This is indeed a painful process that can cause some emotions rising on your end, that is also because for a very long time we have been simply coping with these wounds through our defense mechanisms, rather than actually looking at them and process them. Therefore it's important that you practice the tools that we talked about before (how to make yourself feel safe and grounded when these emotions rise), so that we can practice living with and manage these emotions rather than going back to our defense mechanisms.   As you have said, perhaps we have learned to deal and cope with these abuses and traumas by making explanations for them, validating them, and even accepting them as a part of our lives. While we have learned to move on without processing these traumas, we could still the effects they bring especially in the form of anxiety and even panic when we are being reminded or triggered by events and people who have inflicted these wounds on us.   To truly move on and not let these traumas affect us, we need to learn to bring closures to these wounds and bind them up. I am glad that you are aware of the need to bring closures, I'll explain more here when it comes to closure.   A lack of closure frequently prevents people from moving forward with their lives and achieving all that they could. It makes it more difficult to reach goals, find self-happiness or make meaningful relationships. For this reason, it is important to find a sense of closure with any situation that you feel is holding you back.   Closure is any interaction, information, or practice that allows a person to feel that a traumatic, upsetting or confusing life event has been resolved. The term has its origins in Gestalt psychology, but it is more commonly used to refer to the final resolution to a conflict or problem.   Closure means finality; a letting goes of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what's finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.   People seek answers and explanations: They want to know why. However, finding answers does not necessarily end the pain. Sometimes a person who seeks closure finds that an explanation makes no difference, or that it actually worsens their pain. Others find that closure may simply be a starting point for moving past a painful event. Though the trauma is not resolved, the person is better able to work through it. Seeking a definitive way to finalize grief and move on belies the importance of the grieving process. Simply putting an end to one's painful memories may be more harmful than helpful.   In some cases, though, closure is a profoundly transformative experience that does allow the person to move past the traumatic event. For example, a victim of abuse may need to confront the abuser and see them imprisoned before he or she can begin to feel safe again. In acknowledgment of this, the criminal justice system is increasingly recognizing the need for closure by instituting programs allowing victims and their families to meet with offenders in a controlled setting.   Unfortunately, there are times when the closure is simply unattainable. This may be true in situations where someone moved locations or passed away before being able to resolve a problem. In some cases, the other involved person is simply unwilling to engage. In times like these, it can be easy to become bogged down by the lack of closure. It can be easy to cover up the underlying problem with meaningless coping mechanisms like substance abuse. With time and effort, there are many ways to move past unattainable closure to live happily once more.   The most important part of moving on from a lack of closure is taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally. This is also why we have begun our therapy process with a focus on self-compassion. Self-compassion is the core of why we want to bring closures and bind up these wounds because they make us feel better and they are the best decisions we can make for ourselves.   When we bring closures to our traumas, we need to keep in mind that we are doing this not because we have to, but we want to. When we practice forgiving those who have wounded us and let them go, we are not agreeing / accepting / acknowledging what they have done and not hold them accountable, we are simply letting go of the bitterness, resentment, and hatred that we have to hide with us all these years.   As for our physical health, engaging in adequate active exercises could be helpful. Improving your physical health through diet and exercise can help to improve self-esteem and emotional well-being, both of which are essential to moving on from unattainable closure.   Meditation, hobbies, and social interaction are all great ways to nurture your mental health and find the inner happiness that makes a lack of closure bearable.   While self-care is essential to moving on from a lack of closure, it is often not enough to resolve the problem altogether. One great exercise to help you move forward is to write a letter to the individual that you have not received closure. In this letter, you can describe all of your feelings about the situation and how you wish things had ended. Once the letter is complete, you can bury it, burn it, or simply throw it in the trash. Writing an unsent letter can help you get those feelings out that are hiding painfully inside and find a sense of self-resolution.   Forgiveness is another essential component to finding a sense of closure at times that closure cannot otherwise be achieved. Forgiving a person that caused you pain can sometimes seem like an impossible task. However, it is possible with daily efforts. We can go into details later regarding forgiveness, one step at a time.   To move past unattainable closure, you may also need to forgive yourself for anything you feel you did wrong in the situation. If you blame yourself for a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or anything else, it will be impossible to move on and find inner happiness.   I'll pause here to learn from your thoughts, looking forward to talking with you more. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 08/02/2021

How do I know if I'm depressed or it's just something else?

Hi there, first of all, thank you so much for reaching out with this question. From what you say it seems this is something you have struggled with for a long time so reaching out for support is such an important step. I'm so glad you did.  As you probably know, to get an actual diagnosis of depression or any other mental health condition, you would need to be evaluated in person by a mental health professional. That said, I think psycho-education and learning about different conditions can be a very powerful way of building your understanding of what is going on with you so that you can start to work on improving your quality of life. It can help you to put a container around what you have been experiencing and start to create a plan for how you would like to move forward, as well as how talking to a therapist could be supportive and help you create change in your life. Some of the common symptoms to recognize depression include a persistent feeling of sadness and a lack of interest in doing things, especially things you might once have enjoyed or gotten pleasure out of. There is a sense of inertia, lack of energy, and lack of motivation. A lot of people describe having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, even if you might have slept long hours, you still wake up feeling tired and heavy and dreading starting your day. You may also experience insomnia and anxiety at night that prevents you from sleeping. That lack of energy and motivation may last throughout the day and also may be paired with a lack of appetite, or eating more than usual. Other symptoms of depression can include difficulty concentrating and focusing, as well as negative thoughts about yourself and low self-esteem. When depression is really severe and persistent it can also include thoughts of self-harm and suicide. If that is something you have experienced, please reach out to a professional as soon as possible. If depression is something you think you may be experiencing, please know there are many effective treatments and things you can do to get better! Talking to a therapist has been proven to be effective, and sometimes can be even more powerful when combined with prescription medications. Also, the concept of opposite action can be really effective- if you feel like being isolated, then reach out to connect with a friend. If you feel like staying home on the couch, then go out and do something. If you feel low energy, go exercise. If you don't feel like eating, eat anyways. Sometimes if you can swing the pendulum away from inertia it can stimulate some movement and help you climb out of the mood you are in. I wish you all the best in getting the help you are looking for!
(LMHC, CCTP, ATRP)
Answered on 07/28/2021

Dealing with porn addiction as a way to avoid difficult situations and confusion.

Struggling to cope with any type of addiction--whether it be to pornography, alcohol, drugs, or whatever--exacts a tremendous toll on a person over time. I certainly want to thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. I have myself personally struggled with addiction at various times in my own life, and I vividly recall the feelings of guilt, loss of control, and anxiety, that come along with it. Addictions are a sort of Trojan Horse, though: they are merely the outer façade, which hides a deeper pain and insecurity. They are the means, by which we attempt to cope with those intensely uncomfortable feelings.   Indeed, I heard some of this pain and insecurity in your story, and I am deeply regretful that you find yourself having such difficulty at this juncture in your life. While I am not making a diagnosis in responding to your question, I wondered if you might perhaps be experiencing some depression and anxiety (the two tend to often appear together)--both of which can affect concentration, memory, energy level, motivation, etc. If so, there are some highly effective treatments available for both conditions. Both are treated typically with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a structured form of talk therapy aimed at teaching you how to think systematically about your own thinking, so that your mood and behavior change, as well. A course of CBT typically takes 12-16 weeks, but most people begin to feel better about 4-5 weeks into the therapy. CBT typically involves weekly 45-50 minute sessions with a psychotherapist, as well as homework assignments between sessions to help you practice the skills discussed in therapy.    Also helpful are certain antidepressant medications, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which are newer medications with relatively few side effects or risks. A psychiatrist--a physician with specialized training in behavioral health--can make recommendations about what, if any, medications might potentially benefit you. These medications can require several weeks to begin producing the desired effect, so it is extremely important to take them as directed by your doctor.    In terms of addiction itself, addiction behaviors tend to continue because of a neurotransmitter (a chemical released in our neural pathways in the brain) called dopamine. Dopamine is released upon engaging in an addictive behavior, giving us a sort of "rush" and sense of relief, once we engage in the addiction. Unfortunately, the end result is that the dopamine rush reinforces these behaviors--makes them more likely to recur. Consider, for example, a habitual gambler, who promises himself that he is only going to spend $50 at a casino slot machine. He might initially enter the casino with this mindset, but what happens when he wins even a small amount of money? This is rewarding, and dopamine is released in his neural pathways, giving him a sense of relief and reward--so why not spend "just a little bit more"? Before too long, he has spent a small fortune, trying to ride the evasive dopamine wave.   I might encourage you to consider finding a group of supportive peers, who understand the difficulties you've encountered in your pornography addiction and can help to hold you accountable. Porn Addicts Anonymous (https://pornaddictsanonymous.org/) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (https://saa-recovery.org/) are two excellent resources for finding such support. Both groups offer a safe, confidential environment, in which members come together to support one another and to work toward a life free from addiction to pornography and harmful sexual behavior.    I do hope that whatever course of action you choose to take in working toward your own recovery that you will not lose hope. I am living proof that people can break free from the constraints of addiction and live a productive and fulfilling life. You're worth giving such a gift to yourself, aren't you? Be well. 
(MS, LPC-S, NCC)
Answered on 06/29/2021

Is procrastinating part of mental health can it be fixed ?

Procrastination can be influenced by both depression and anxiety. Oftentimes when someone is feeling depressed it can feel like even small things feel like an insurmountable task to accomplish. Having a lack of motivation is a symptom of depression and can feel like something as small as washing a coffee cup feel like someone asking you to run a marathon the day after having knee surgery, it just feels impossible. Oftentimes our thoughts like "people will think I'm lazy" can add even more to our poor sense of self worth or thinking that there is something inherently wrong with us, which can then make us feel more depressed and even less motivated. Therapy can help you learn new ways of thinking to help break this cycle, exam some of the automatic thoughts that you are having and look at ways that you can change patterns of behaviors that may be contributing to getting stuck in the cycle of never being able to complete things.  Similarly, with anxiety when there are so much to do it is hard to know where to start and we can get stuck in our heads not knowing where to start or trying to figure out what the best approach might be that it just all becomes overwhelming and hard to want to start at all. When we get stuck in that cycle it is very easy to feel defeated before we even begin. In these situations it can be really helpful to try to look at things in smaller sections. Imagine that you are looking through a microscope it will only allow you to see one small thing but will keep you focused. There are times we need to focus in on one small thing so that we can get it done and there are other times when we need to look at the bigger picture. When you feel paralyzed with anxiety it is helpful to break things into smaller sections and celebrate the successes. Knowing that you need to clean the whole house can feel very overwhelming and unmanageable, even focusing on one room may feel like too much so focus on one thing in the room. It probably feels better to say I'm going to wash this cup than it does to say I am going to clean this house. Once the cup is washed move to the plate and so on, and give yourself some grace as you do it. Far to many of us also set out to do 10 hours of work on our to do list with only 2 hours allocated and then feel disappointed that we can't do what is quite literally impossible to do. Therapy can be helpful in working to eliminate both depression and anxiety and it just may result in the side effect of changing your procrastination habit too. 
(LMFT, CHC)
Answered on 06/16/2021

how can i stop overthinking?

Hi EJ Thank you for sharing what is going on in your mind. The reason we in the mental health community use the word automatic a lot is that most people live their whole lives with negative feelings. You need to practice accepting your thoughts however pleasant they may be. I encourage my clients to think of their unpleasant emotions as neither right but rather as helpful or unhelpful. You are having to holding back auamatic emotions that you know that if you expressed to those closest to you would hurt the feelings of those around you this is a noble struggle but there is no shame in needing someone to help you sort out those emotions due to your nervus system. It takes a toll on your mind and Body to do so this is an unhelpful cycle. You need to set some ways of setting some boundaries with your family and develop a way of navigating the world that works for you and them. I recommend setting some measurable realistic goals for yourself. The reason siting boundaries   is easier said than done is that your brain may make you feel like you have a flee or fight it usually happens in the form a passive assertive or an aggressive remark when having an unpleasant conversation. If what you have described has been going on for longer than few months, I would recommend that you consider going to see a doctor of some sort and tell him or her the symptoms that you have disclosed in your question.  In some medical circles Emotional deprivation that has been going on for longer than two weeks is considered a depressive episode longer than three months is often considered a major depressive episode.  A few things to consider is if your speech is very rapid and you experience high and low over a period of weeks, months or days. These are things worth telling a doctor about as well. Any counselor should be happy to help evaluate what is going on and what might be the next steps to heal from overthinking that you brain and body causes you to feel . Thanks,  Bryan
(MA, LPC)
Answered on 06/14/2021

I am emotionally dependent on my partner. What can I do to help myself?

Dear Luna,   Thank you very much for your message.   I understand that we are going through some fluctuations with our emotions and often it can feel like we are going backward. However, the reality is that the night is always darkest before dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is that you are trying to move forward in this healing process, therefore when you do experience any kind of anxiety or depression you begin to doubt yourself in this process.   Meanwhile, as human being we will always have times when we feel anxious or depressed. That is normal and natural. Just like there are days that it rains, there are also days that the sun shines. This isn't a problem to be fixed.    We will only feel more depressed if we constantly compare ourselves with our old selves in the past that seemed to be happier, while we forget that back then we did not have this much on our plate to worry and we did not experience what we have experienced recently that gave us hurts and pain. Therefore it isn't fair to our current self if we always think about how to go back in time, that isn't possible anyway.   To further recover from feelings of depression and anxiety, we must constantly be thinking about how to develop a healthy, positive interaction with ourselves.   Happy relationships all depend on how happy we are with ourselves. So how happy are we?   If you feel like you're on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn't you have learned it by now?   Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you're certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.   If you haven't noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person's need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don't hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can't change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Here are 5 lessons that I learned (still learning) to find peace within ourselves and enjoy true happiness that does not depend on others.   1. Forgive Yourself   Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else's life. You can't go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you're freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.   2. Understand That You Are Complete   And understand that, "You complete me," was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too... for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don't feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we're waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.   First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren't, no one else would be able to complete us anyway - it's impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else's hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don't realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.   Does this mean if you're unhappy it's your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you're a part of something, not just half of something. The whole "my other half" thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?   3. Get To Know Yourself   When do you feel you're at your best when you're alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.   Here's a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn't feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn't believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.   What are your favorite parts of yourself - your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.   4. Take A Good Look At Yourself   Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don't go thinking you're the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you'd like to change. I've always been shorter than most other people and would have given anything to be "normal" height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)   What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven't done yet? What is the best thing you've ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we're asking ourselves.   5. Ask Yourself Questions   To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it's OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.   Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with." I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn't have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other's company as well; we don't just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).   Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it's done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/26/2021

Why do I suddenly feel lonely when I'm alone despite me being a loner for a long time?

Dear Pretty,   Thank you for your message, also your courage in acknowledging the loneliness you have been feeling. I hear you and I feel you. Through your words, I could feel how lonely you are and how depressing it is to feel trapped in loneliness.   If you allow me to, I would like to connect with your loneliness by also sharing my loneliness as well. When two people share their loneliness, perhaps we would not feel all so alone. :)   I moved across the ocean a few months ago, to be precise from the US to Japan. A one-way ticket of a few thousand miles away from my friends, soulmates, and the city I've lived in for more than a decade. For a while, I was distracted by the excitement, the settling in. But the mild hum of anxiety underneath it all alerts me of what I've been most afraid of since deciding to leave my comfortable life: loneliness.   Loneliness used to terrify me, it still does at times. I think I feared that if I felt lonely, I'd lose my mind and develop an attachment to an inanimate object or something, like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. I couldn't sleep alone until I was 10 (hold the "Attachment Issues" remarks). I couldn't spend more than a night away from my family until I was 18. My understanding of loneliness was conflated with rejection, inadequacy, and worthlessness. It meant failure, and worst of all, it meant I had to be with myself and only myself.   Loneliness was mixed with boredom. When I felt lonely I suddenly forgot what I was supposed to do. Everything feels so empty and time seems to have stopped. I struggled to find anything that would motivate me or give me excitement.   It's not like loneliness has transformed into a totally benign feeling for me, but I am learning to do things like move across the country alone and not have a panic attack (yet!). And although I'm tempted to pack my schedule and text my friends until I develop carpal tunnel to avoid feeling lonely, I know that would just be a recipe for anxiety and shame.   So rather than trying to prevent loneliness, I'm going to try using the techniques and reminders I have for the past few years to cope with the discomfort. Here they are and I would like to share them with you:   1. Every single person on the planet feels lonely sometimes.   Loneliness, like most other feelings, is there to tell us something important. It's there to say, I yearn to connect. I want to love and closeness.   Our society tends to pathologize it by portraying lonely people as flawed, weak, or not enlightened enough; yet these are unhelpful products of our independence-valuing culture. Loneliness is normal, healthy, and universal.   Remember that the family member you see as the most independent, and both counterparts of the couple you perceive to be in the healthiest, happiest relationships, feel lonely at times. They also feel sad, angry, hurt, anxious, and inadequate at times. No matter what you're experiencing, I promise you there are hundreds of thousands of others feeling that same thing at that same time.   2. Actually, everyone is alone.   I remember a therapist once told me, "The longest relationship you'll ever have in your life is the one with yourself. So why not try to have a better relationship with yourself?" Romantic relationships end, people, die, but you're with yourself always.   Hunter S. Thompson said, "We are all alone, born alone, die alone...I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important." So remember that: you may be alone, but you are also the only person who can fully be on your team.   3. We are all connected after all.   In Buddhist philosophy, there is no self and no separation between you and me and the air we breathe and the food we eat. OK, I know this might be a tough one to grasp, but hear me further. Think about it: one moment, a plant breathes in carbon dioxide, which becomes part of the plant, which then expels oxygen, which becomes part of the air, which we then inhale, which then becomes a part of our blood. Similarly, one-moment lettuce is part of the ground, then we eat a salad and it's part of us, then.... you get the idea.   We're all connected to each other and to the rest of the universe. Perhaps this is too abstract for you to swallow, and that's fine. But don't dismiss it just yet. Observe your environment for yourself and notice how everything is connected. It will make the loneliness less acute.   4. Loneliness will always pass.   Loneliness makes each second feel longer, heavier: it feels like time is frozen and our pain is eternal. But loneliness, just like any other thought, feeling, or sensation, is impermanent. Uncomfortable as it is, remembers that it will come and go. Remind yourself of this when as you breathe through the discomfort.   5. I can make space for loneliness and practice being kind to myself.   When I'm feeling lonely, I'm tempted to turn my back to that loneliness — to beat myself up for feeling it, telling myself that I'm pathetic. Then I run away from it, perhaps to Facebook or the fridge or the nearest form of chocolate.   But sometimes, if I can catch myself on autopilot, I can look inward and offer myself a soothing statement. Something like, You're hurting right now. You want to feel something else. It will pass, but remember it's OK to feel lonely and means you're human.   In doing so, we create enough space to do react to and ease the pain of our loneliness in a more serving way, perhaps by listening to music, journaling, practicing yoga, or calling a loved one if the loneliness is momentary; or by volunteering, joining a support group or class, or reevaluating the relationships in our life if the loneliness is chronic.   Pema Chodron says, "Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in...When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down." So invite your loneliness in.   Thank you for sharing your loneliness with me and allowing me to share my loneliness with you. Although I am unable to take away the feelings of loneliness for you, I can and I am more than willing to be here for you to share your loneliness with you.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/25/2021