Another Bit of Wisdom from Dr. Goldbloom

Building upon yesterday’s blog post which featured the book “How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist” by David Goldbloom and Pier Bryden, he talks about the role a psychiatrist can play in the lives of their patients and I found it to be relevant to all helping professions as well.

He quotes Edwin Trudeau, a nineteenth-century physician as saying, The role of the physician is to cure rarely, relieve often, comfort always.” Goldbloom also quotes his pediatrician father as saying, “The first mission of physicians is the reduction of anxiety and the provision of hope.” 

What I like about the theme of these quotes is that they emphasize the person rather than the illness, creating a space for them to feel validated, supported and safe. It is only with this foundation can therapy move towards helping clients heal; it is an absolute privilege for me to share in their stories. 🙂

“How Can I Help?” is a worthy read.

Photo credit:  http://Photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov on Unsplash

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Wisdom According to Dr. Goldbloom

I just finished reading “How Can I Help? A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist” by David Goldbloom and Pier Bryden. Dr. Goldbloom brings the reader through a typical week in the life of a Canadian psychiatrist, from both a personal and professional perspective. I considered the book to be very fascinating; he touches upon some facts about mental health and although they are from 2016, I found them to be quite relevant today:

  • One in five. That’s the number of Canadians each year who will experience some form of mental illness.
  • Mental illnesses typically hit people in mid to late adolescence and young adulthood, just as they are coming into their own identities.
  • The 3600 Canadians who die tragically by suicide each year, most commonly in the grip of mental illness, represent a small percentage of Canadians who live with these disorders year in, year out.
  • In Ontario, where a third of the entire population lives, the most comprehensive study of illness burden has shown that mental illnesses and addictions represent one and a half times the burden of all cancers combined. (I had to read that one again!)
  • Mental illnesses are the leading cause of disability requiring a leave of absence from work in both the private and public sector. 

These bits of knowledge help to inform us; they help continue to wear away at the stigma of mental illness and move us towards acknowledging the importance of mental health initiatives and the need for increased resources in our country.

“How Can I Help?” flowed like a novel; bringing the reader through the stories of the people Dr. Goldbloom treated that week, whether it was in his own practice, the ECT lab, or the Emergency Room of Toronto’s busiest psychiatric emergency service. “How Can I Help?” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: Me!

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Chasing Happiness

Ever met someone who likes to blame the world for their troubles? Who often attributes luck as a contributing factor in their lives? Someone who tends to chase happiness; looking for that one thing that is going to make them feel satisfied? You may be interacting with someone with an external locus of control.

We know that when we have an overall sense of control over our lives, we have an increased sense of well-being; we have an influence over the direction of our lives. Our perception of where control lies, however, can have an impact on our behaviours, our experiences, the people in our lives and our environment. If we attribute our success or failures to outside influences, we lean towards having an external locus of control. We often feel helpless in the face of challenges and have a hard time giving ourselves credit for a job well done.

If we have an internal locus of control, we tend to have a stronger sense of self-efficacy, feel more confident when challenges come our way and are more likely to take responsibility for our behaviours.  As with everything, locus of control exists on a continnum; defining your locus of control is self-reflective and it provides us with the opportunity to challenge some of the ways we view our ability to have a sense of control over our lives. Moving us from chasing happiness to creating it.  

Photo credit: http://Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

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Resource Guide for OCD

I obsess about causing harm to others through some
unintentional act. I worry that I have hurt someone
with my sloppy or ineffectual words and will cause
them to become seriously unhappy. Or that I have left
a cigarette burning in my house or an appliance on
and that my house will explode and wipe out the whole
neighbourhood. This causes me to check things more
than once before I leave the house, and then to go back
into the house to check again. — Mary W.

This is the quote that is found in the first few pages of the Resource Guide entitled “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: An Information Guide” offered by CAMH. 

We have all experienced thoughts that at times can become intrusive and ruminating; locked into what seems an endless loop. Feeling anxious about something, or trying to process an emotion can bring us to that place quite easily. When the preoccupation becomes so extreme that it creates compulsions; however, you may be experiencing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

OCD  is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and about two percent of the population. The symptoms begin to occur gradually over time, characterized by a cycle of obsession and compulsions.

The information guide covers topics such as causes, therapy, medication as well as recovery and relapse intervention. To read more, follow this link: https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/guides-and-publications/ocd-guide-en.pdf

Photo credit: http://Photo by Tine Ivanič on Unsplash

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The Fine Line between Coincidence and Serendipity

The year my girlfriends and I were turning 40, we took a long weekend to Anna Maria Island in Florida. Before the trip, my friend asked me to bring her a book that she could read; I quickly tucked a coming-of-age type story into my travel bag and handed it over at the airport. Flight went well, we landed and headed to the cottage, courtesy of our driver, Ernie. At some point before the end of the evening, Kim realized she had left her book on the plane.

The next day, we headed over to one of the piers of the island and stopped at a couple of little shops along the way. One of the stores had a small bookshelf out on their front stoop with a sign that stated “Take a book, or leave one; FREE;”  and lo and behold, sitting on the top of the pile was a dog-eared copy of the same book that Kim had accidentally forgotten on the plane.

I like to think that there is a fine line between coincidence and serendipity. Sometimes what appears like a coincidence; a set of circumstances that appear to have no causal connection is tempered by a feeling; one serendipitous in nature, an element of which is hard to define. What often seems to be a stroke of bad luck, ends up to have a different meaning. Perhaps whoever found the book on the plane needed to read it; perhaps they passed it along to someone who found personal meaning in its story. Either way, it moved beyond coincidence and into the realm of the mysterious workings of the universe.

Serendipitous moments are a part of our comfort system; they feed the soul. We can chalk it up to coincidence or we can lean into the feeling that  there was something deeper in the experience, though perhaps left unexplained. By the end of the flight home, Kim had finished the book and  handed it back to me; albeit a different copy. I put it back in her hands and stated “Pass it along, this story is on its own journey.” 🙂

Photo credit:http://Photo by Link Hoang on Unsplash

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A Poem About Worrying

What a gem to be found in this little poem about the perils of worrying:

I Worried by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow in the right direction, will the earth turn as it was taught, and if not how shall I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows can do it and I am, well, hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, am I going to get rheumatism, lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang. 

Thanks to my friend Darlene for sharing this one with me 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Jacques LE HENAFF on Unsplash

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Language of Therapy

Starting therapy can be an intimidating process for people. Part of my job is to normalize this process for the client; to earn their trust in order to be a collaborative part of their healing and to create a space for them that becomes theirs to share their story. Very often, the language we use as therapists can be a contributory factor and can soften the process. Here are some of my top examples:

  • “Sounds like we need to spend a bit of time unpacking this one.”
  • “When we tease that out, separate it from its parts, it may not seem so scary.”
  • “Sounds like you are at a point when you need to roll up your sleeves and dig in.”
  • “Sometimes emotions can overload our circuits; its okay to recognize that you’ve become flooded.”
  • “Perhaps it is time that you steer the ship in a bit of a different direction.”
  • “It’s okay to take some space from this situation/person.”

I also use the words “lean into” or “land” quite a bit, such as “Where does this land for you?” or “How are you leaning into this one?” as ways to ease clients into self-reflection. Very often, the phrases bring along with them a visual that also heightens the capacity for change; to recognize that there is a possible choice in the matter. I have come to notice that language matters; not only in the therapy office but in our healthy relationships as well. Bringing in these types of phrases to our loved ones can be a supportive gesture; leaving them feel supported, cared for and held.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Diomari Madulara on Unsplash

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What it Means to be Alone

For a full year after my ex-husband and I separated, I was alone. I had made two goals for myself in the after months; my first one was to keep my girls protected by making sure their emotional needs were being met and the other was to let my ex go. I knew instinctively, that after being with him for 23 years, I was going to need to healthily detach from him before moving forward in another relationship.

Being alone is not easy; we are a relationship species, driven to connect. I learned in those first few months that time could fluctuate from normal, to busy, to excruciatingly slow at times. I learned pretty quickly that if I didn’t build my weekends, the blues would set in. And so, I would plan; activities with the kids, with my sister, with friends. I learned that being a third wheel wasn’t so bad (my couple friends were so amazing!) and on days when no one was available, I’d say to my Great Dane, “Let’s go for a ride in the car,” and we’d head to a local village for a walk along the water and an ice cream cone. She was my faithful companion.

Eventually, I worked myself around to feeling that I was ready to go to dinner with someone, and my goals for finding a new relationship were formed (that is a whole different post!) Looking back, I can honestly say what a valuable time “being alone” was for me in my own journey of healing. And yet, I was far from alone. I had my village, my peeps, my tribe. I had me 🙂

“Being alone doesn’t mean that you’re by yourself. It means that you’re in fulfillment – in joy, in satisfaction – with you.” -Iyanla Vanzant

Photo credit: http://Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

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The Benefits of Laughter

In an article entitled, “Give Your Body a Boost — With Laughter” and featured on WedMD, author R. Morgan Griffin writes about the physiological benefits of laughter:

  • We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
  • When laughing, blood vessels expand and contract more easily.
  • Using humour may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.
  • A study of people with diabetes demonstrated that laughter lowered blood sugar levels.

Griffin goes on to say that the science of laughter is early in its stages, with more studies needed in order to back up its true effects.

Until then, perhaps we can rely on the way laughter makes us feel as our own proof that it does our body good. Laughter opens up the face, produces a warm and welcoming smile; we feel lighter, brighter, connected to others and more relaxed. Sounds like a great prescription to me 🙂

To read the full article: https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#1

Photo credit: http://Photo by David Calderón on Unsplash

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Should I Get Diagnosed?

That is always a question that clients wrestle with at times. As a Registered Psychotherapist, I am not qualified to diagnose, yet I am able to recognize symptoms that are often indicative of an underlying mental illness. It is part of my job to suggest to the client the option of referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist for diagnosis as a potential part of their treatment plan.

Getting diagnosed for some clients is validating; they finally have a name to what they have been experiencing and can recognize themselves in the listed symptoms. It can be an empowering process as they begin to read about their diagnosis, join support groups online and have an avenue to express their own struggle with it. Suddenly, it just all makes sense.

Other clients have experienced a diagnosis as a label they can’t shake. They can feel stigmatized and defined by their mental illness, becoming even more burdened by its mark.

Getting diagnosed is a choice afforded to a client; in either case, therapy’s greater aim is to treat the person. That includes their symptoms, but it also includes their competencies and strengths, their core beliefs, patterns, interests, what they are passionate about, their self-care regime, their coping strategies, their support system, their history, their story. As a therapist, I am ever mindful that with or without the diagnosis, It is the relationship that heals.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

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