Trauma Answers

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'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 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

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

I feel always unhappy, why is it?

Dear Erin,   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 backwards. However the reality is that the night is always darkest before the dawn. The reason you are feeling discouraged is because 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 a 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 anyways.   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.   I'll pause here so that I can learn from your thoughts.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 05/18/2021

Is quitting my job due to mental health a good enough excuse?

Your mental health is always a suitable explanation of withdrawing from anything, especially your place of employment. We have to take care of ourselves and taking care of our mental health is no different than addressing a physical ailment. It's imperative that you are assessing if your job is adding to or taking away from your life. If you are dreading going into work, scared, unmotivated, detached (floating through), and in tears it seems highly likely that a change in employment is necessary, if you are unable to resolve the underlying causation to your current way of feeling.    To leave a job is a big decision, as it's your livlihood. I would encourage you to assess what you have control over in this situation and to optimize those aspects. If you have not shared with your direct supervisor, or higher ups of your concerns then I'd encourage you to do so. It may be that you need to take a pause in your employment, which can be something that you, your employer, and perhaps your physican could discuss as there are different leave of absences available to most individuals.    I do hear that whatever has taken place at work has been a triggering event. There seems to be a level of new trauma or a triggering event to a past trauma. I don't know the entirey of the details but it seems that it's important for you to become acknowledge how you are feeling, placing a name to the emotion, and to then explore the underlying root of causation. Therapy is a great tool to pull back the layers to ourselves to explain why we respond and react to life, the way that we do.    I hope that you are able to communicate with someone that can assist you directly, to then make a plan of action of your continued employment with this employer. It's important that we let others know how we are feeling, because if the people that need to know don't know how we are feeling, then they cannot do anything to help us in our problems. Please reach out and take care of your mental health, as it's just as important as anything else in life. 
Answered on 04/14/2021

How much does your health as a adult reflect from childhood trauma. I have a 9/10 ACE score.

Hi Tara Lynn, This is a good question! That is quite a list of health issues that must be extremely painful and difficult to endure. I can imagine this list of diagnosis has taken an enormous amount of time, energy and emotional strength to obtain. The discomfort you must experience on a regular basis must be challenging. It sounds like you are wondering if your health issues may be a result of your childhood and adult traumatic experiences. Deveoloping ways to effectively treat and cope with trauma is demanding. I appreciate you reaching out for some clarification on how your past experience with traumatic events may affect your health. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) rating is a way to evaluate risk for chronic diseases.  There are studies that have found people who have survived traumatic events in their childhood or as an adult may have increased risk for diseases or disorders like the ones you listed.  However, this is only one type of evaluation. It does not take into account other factors such as lifestyle (diet, exercise, smoking, substance abuse, etc.),family history, genes, postitive experiences or relationships.  There are individuals with high ACE scores that function quite well. They may have encountered family support, positive relationships, and/or live a healthy lifestyle  that was affective in curbing their long term affects. They may have also engaged in therapy early on that was helpful in coping with their trauma so that their mental and emotional health did not influence their physical health as significantly.  Sometimes, when a person who has experienced trauma is not provided proper support and therapy to treat the trauma, they respond to their trauma by having a physical response such as migraines, IBS, anxiety etc. This is not to say that all of your health issues are a direct result of your trauma but with a list like this, it is something to investigate and consider. I hope this answer brings you some clarification and I wish you well on working toward increasing your overall wellness. BetterHelp is a great resource for addressing your concerns and working through mental health challenges so that you can learn to live a more fulfilling life.   
(MSW, LCSW, CTMH)
Answered on 03/20/2021