Growing up with a Mentally Ill Parent

Photographer Melissa Spitz has created a powerful photo essay, You Have Nothing to Worry About , which tells the story of her mother’s mental illness and how it impacted the family. In Melissa’s words:

“By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. The images function like an ongoing conversation. ”

It’s moving to see how she’s used images and words to explore her relationship with her mother and share it with us in such a vivid way.

 

Increased Depression and Anxiety amongst Young Adults

by Judy Koven, WTRS Coordinator

The last few years, I’ve noticed an increase in young adults seeking therapy for anxiety and depression. These college students, as well as recent graduates newly in the work world, are overwhelmed by both internal pressure and external stresses. For many there’s an underlying paralyzing perfectionism–a need to excel to do the best and the most. Clients come in noting, among other symptoms, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, distorted body image and unhealthy eating, a sense of hopelessness, and crippling negative self-talk.

The 6/7/17 New York Times special section on Higher Education included pieces on how some universities are responding to their students’ mental and emotional health problems. These articles provide an overview of the complex issues and challenges students face, and detail strategies for responding to their struggles.

Colleges Get Proactive in Addressing Depression on Campus

A Climb Out of Depression, Doubt and Academic Failure

The On-Demand Culture and Therapy

by Judy Koven, WTRS Coordinator

We in Seattle live in a busy city, with its strong economy, burgeoning population, changing demographic, and the many challenges these bring. The corporate technology culture that’s become predominant in central Puget Sound exerts a powerful influence on our sensibility, values, and priorities. I call it the “on-demand culture”.

Want to buy something? Order it from Amazon Prime and it shows up in a few hours. Hungry? Find something that looks good on your restaurant app and a delivery person is at your door with an insulated bag, dinner at the ready. Need to get somewhere quickly? Get on your smart phone and Lyft will be there.

As someone who educates and matches clients looking for a therapist, I often see the ripple effect from this on-demand worldview. People now come to the search for a therapist with similar expectations, foregrounding convenience and immediate results. These are understandable requests but not necessarily realistic, nor are they reliable determinants for successful therapy.

Therapy entails a different mindset. Research has repeatedly shown that a good match in a therapist is essential for a positive outcome. When we’re in distress, it’s understandable that we want relief now, and it takes courage to reach out for assistance. But convenience doesn’t guarantee productive and successful therapist-client collaboration over time.

An on-demand culture may work efficiently for meeting practical needs but doesn’t translate well for our deeper well being. In fact, it is a significant source of stress. Therapy provides an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and create new ways of understanding and interacting with the self and the world. The result is deeper, more lasting transformation.

Self-Care in Turbulent Times

by Brandy Parris

In the current political climate, many of us find ourselves switching between wanting to know everything that is going on and desiring nothing more than tuning out all political news and conversation.  While there are multiple factors that can contribute to such mixed feelings, we can point to few elements.

First, as social beings, we are all susceptible to anything that hints at or announces expulsion from a community, also referred to as “belonging threats.”  A broad range of groups have been targeted by the current administration — women, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, disabled people; none are welcomed in the new version of America, and many feel their rights and safety are threatened.  Disenfranchised groups are suffering more.  Some are fighting with conservative family members, others are facing increased hate in the streets, most are consuming news about such threats.

In addition, the new administration’s rhetoric, with its “alternative facts,” and the preponderance of fake news have the same effect as gaslighting, a device of psychological control common in abusive relationships.  Gaslighting involves manipulation to induce heightened doubt in the victim.  Creating multiple untruths and promoting them as true causes people to question their own sense of reality.  Adding to that fear and confusion, the rapid and dramatic changes being implemented may create a frantic desire to track every new dictum, appointment, or tweet.

Fear of the unknown and a sense of overwhelm can result in heightened anxiety while feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness can lead to depression.  No matter how much or little you may be struggling yourself, you can counter these effects by experimenting with some of the following recommendations.

1)  Limit your consumption of media.  This might mean limiting your news to one or two trusted sources, limiting the amount of time you spend reading the news each day, or some mixture of these.  It might also entail reading only two or three political articles a day and following that up with a palate-cleanser of something more uplifting, such as the features offered on this site — https://www.positive.news/

2)  Limit your social media activity.  While social media can provide a way to connect with others, it can also be a source of intense frustration, fruitless conversations, and fake news.  If you find your interactions with social media are creating more stress in your daily life, consider giving yourself time limits, customizing your feed, reducing weekly use, and/or limiting yourself to one platform.

3)  Stay connected in real life.  Talk to friends, family, and co-workers.  Say hello to people on the street or chat with your bank teller, your barista, your grocery cashier.  This can directly counter those belonging threats as well as keep you grounded in the realities of everyday life.  Some further suggestions along these lines can be found here — http://gratefulness.org/blog/five-small-gestures-gratitude-counteract-fear-violence/

4)  If you are feeling overwhelmed and helpless, choose a cause and spend time connecting with organizations who support that cause:  donate, volunteer, make phone calls.  Trust that there are people fighting on all fronts, so you don’t have to do everything.  You can pick your battles.  Here’s one place you might start — https://loveisaction.us/Resources/

5)  If you are frightened and confused, educate yourself.  Authoritarianism thrives on fear and misinformation.  You can find many excellent resources online that explain our legal system and government structure.  Here are two to get you started: https://www.talksonlaw.com  and  https://www.lawcornell.edu

6)  Keep laughing.  It’s especially important during difficult times to find space for joy, for play, for humor.  Watch videos of baby animals, try laughter yoga, go to a comedy show, read a humorous novel.  There’s a reason satire and political comedy are so popular.

7)  Seek experiences of awe and wonder.  These experiences remind us of beauty and help us continue to find meaning in our daily lives.  Go for a hike, look up in the trees as you walk through a park, read poetry, go to the art museum, see live music, theatre, or dance.  

We all need encouragement and greater self-care when our stress increases.   It can help to write reminders in your calendar or on your to-do list.  However you do it, whether in the forms suggested above or in some other way that speaks to you, make time to give yourself the support you need.

Johnson and Tronick: Love Sense

by Karen Lucas

Attachment theory has influenced the field of psychology and has become the primary undercurrent for many theoretical approaches. This video is about Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), which was created by Dr. Susan Johnson. The video incorporates the “Stillface” video that was created during Dr. Edward Tronick’s studies of attachment with infants and their mothers.

Dr. Johnson labels both infant and adult behaviors initiated when the emotional connection has been lost during the bonding dance. The same patterns we learn as infants and children often carry over into our adult lives and relationships. As Dr. Johnson puts it, “The drama of romantic bonding is an adult version of the bond between parent and child.”

Watching the video, many of my clients have been able to identify with one or both of the adults. Hearing the behaviors named and seeing the dance of bonding from disconnect to a conclusion of repair has helped my clients identify their own core moves. Discussing patterns of rupture that developed in their family of origin helps clients understand why they are repeating old childhood behaviors in their adult relationships.

It is what you do with the rupture that impacts the relationship. The repair between infant and mother and between adults defines the health of the relationship. This video shows the moments of repair and the reconnection as the mother and partner respond on an emotional level.  Bringing mindfulness to behaviors that cause rupture and reconnection can help create healthy change, especially when a therapist is present to facilitate the repair. Watching couples reconnect is like watching them soften and breathe deeply. As Dr. Tronick said, “ We need loving connection like oxygen.”

Worried About the Election? You’re Not Alone.

In a recent New York Times article, “Talking to Your Therapist About Election Anxiety” , therapists weigh in about how the current election is impacting their clients.  People on all sides of the political spectrum are feeling anxious, afraid, and less safe. Our relentless news cycle exacerbates the hypervigilance many are experiencing.

We, too, have seen this happening with our clients; election anxiety is in the air. We find the advice given by the therapists in the article – take breaks from the news and social media – to be especially helpful.