Anchor Your Day ~ a mental health blog by Counselwise ~

Living with Dementia: Article

In a recent article entitled “Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand” by Megan Gillis and featured in the Ottawa Citizen, Gillis introduces us to Keith Barrett, a 59 year old man diagnosed with early onset dementia two years ago. Barrett has become part of the Alzheimer’s Society’s newest campaign to help try and rid the stigma that tends to accompany dementia.

“The campaign — “Yes. I live with dementia. Let me help you understand.” — aims to change attitudes the Alzheimer’s Society uncovered with recent research that showed that one in four Canadians said they’d feel ashamed or embarrassed if they had dementia. One in five admitted using derogatory or stigmatizing language about dementia.”

“It might make people afraid to seek a reason for their own or a loved one’s symptoms like memory loss, changes in judgment and reasoning or mood and behaviour and difficulty performing familiar tasks or expressing themselves. So they don’t get the support and treatment they need. Barrett notes, “That’s what we want people to understand. The moment you get diagnosed doesn’t mean you’re the person who needs a lot of care. The moment you get diagnosed is the moment you say, ‘I’m going to work really hard to keep everything that I have, all my skills, my abilities, for as long as I can.””

Reducing the stigma of dementia is a good first step in understanding not only the challenges of dementia, but its toll on both the patient and their loved ones. To read more about Keith Barrett’s experience: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/yes-i-live-with-dementia-let-me-help-you-understand

Photo credit: http://Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

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Why Are We Afraid of What’s Different?

In yesterday’s post, I featured Christian Picciolini and he noted that “I always say that hatred is born of ignorance, fear is it’s father and isolation is it’s mother.” This got me to thinking about differences and why we often struggle with them; often, sadly, to the point of hatred.

We are pack oriented by nature; it is part of our survival brain and left over from the days when we had to fend for ourselves on the plains. As a matter of survival, we needed our tribe to increase our ability to defend ourselves and be protected from danger.

We can see pack oriented behaviour in any school yard; children deemed as different in any way tend to be teased more, they have an increased chance of being ostracized, and can be bullied for their vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, we only have to look at the news these days to see many examples of this in the adult world too; in many ways, society is still leaning into the fear of differences.

But aren’t differences what also make us unique? I loved Picciolini’s remark that the differences he used to hate about others, now he appreciates, for he sees them in things such as language, tradition, culture, music and food. Perhaps it is our job to lean into the differences, to be curious before placing judgement, to be open to the experience of another person. Ultimately, it can only lead us to a better place; one governed not by fear, but by compassion.

To check out Christian Picciolini’s website: https://christianpicciolini.com/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

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Alan Alda Speaks with Christian Picciolini

In a recent podcast Clear and Vivid with Alan Alda entitled “Christian Picciolini on Escaping the Neo-Nazi Movement and Helping Others Leave it Behind,” Picciolini speaks of his desire to leave the movement even though he was a leader of a group at the time. He recalls opening up a record store as a way to distance himself from the group, and it was the compassion of his customers, many of whom were Jewish and African-American, who helped him realize his full potential:

“Once I started to talk myself out of the bravado, I started to be real with them and over time, it was really their compassion and empathy for me, (that they showed me when I least deserved it) that was the most powerful, trans-formative experience for me. I always say that hatred is born of ignorance, fear is it’s father and isolation is it’s mother. I had been afraid of these people, I hated them because I had never met them, but when I did, I realized that we had more similarities than differences and that the differences were the beautiful things: the language, the food, the music, the culture. It was really their ability to filter out the noise of what I was saying and listen to the words that helped them recognize that I was lonely; that I felt I was capable but didn’t feel respected, and all of those things, including the (childhood) abandonment, pushed me to a place where the only people that would accept me were these bad guys.”

Compassion, empathy and kindness can go a long way in understanding the lives of others; I once again defer to story, as it is in our own story that we will find ourselves pulled to be tender to both our self and others, creating the space for benevolence and grace.

To listen to the full podcast: http://www.aldacommunicationtraining.com/podcast/christian-picciolini-escaping-neo-nazi-movement-helping-others-leave-behind/

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

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A Little Poem About Importance

Sometimes we forget that we can be important to others in subtle ways. I resonated with this little poem:

You might think that you don’t matter in this world, but because of you,

someone has a favourite mug to drink their tea out of that you bought them. 

Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you. 

Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages. Someone’s remembered 

a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus. Never think you don’t have an impact.

Your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of kindness that you’ve left behind.

Anonymous

The kindnesses we afford others are remembered along the way. Some days, we need to read this little poem as a nice reminder of our worth.

PS: The mug in the picture is one my youngest daughter gave me. I love it, Teehee. 🙂

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“Is this Really About You?”

This is often a question that comes into therapy when a client is trying to make sense of something. A few years ago, a woman in her early fifties sought therapy for a work issue; having been employed at the same place for close to 27 years, she had recently taken stress leave due to a “bully-like boss.”  Although she had had her fair share of managers in her work history, this one was clearly taking a toll on her, as she described feeling undermined and questioned on every task throughout her day. She noted that the relationship began in an amicable and friendly manner, but somewhere along the line it changed, and she now felt anxious, insecure and quite frankly, “a wreck.”

As always, we begin with her story. I wanted to hear about her work history, the ins and outs of her position, her accomplishments and the times in her career where she may have faltered. I also wanted to explore the relationship she had with her current manager, from beginning to now. I asked questions about how her boss interacted with the other employees, who was on her good side and who had fallen out of her good graces and why. We explored the client’s current symptoms and how she felt at home versus at work; and if she felt any relief from her symptoms now that she was on stress leave. I suspected that what she was dealing with was a micro-manager type boss with aggressive tendencies, and it was important for me that the client see her from an objective light.

It took about seven or eight sessions for this client to get a better understanding of what was happening for her and what decisions she needed to make. Three years from retirement and a full pension prompted her to want to return and we needed her to be in the driver’s seat. Although a good portion of therapy was in preparing her to return to work, the first step was for her to fully understand that this “was not about her.” Although it certainly felt personal, it was, in fact not, and she was carrying more than she needed to. Her abilities and strengths at work were still in tact, she was a valuable employee; she had simply lost her confidence.

If something doesn’t make sense, we often need to ask ourselves, “How much of this is about me?” If you can’t find an answer, it becomes important to consciously decide to carry only what’s yours. When we are able to lighten our load through objectivity, we feel more like ourselves and are better prepared to deal with what comes our way. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Caroline Selfors on Unsplash

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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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