5 Myths about Depression

During summer 2018, reports of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths crashed like waves of confusion and agony across the world; social media exploded and conversations about mental illness became front and center. In response, loving and well-intentioned friends and family members shared important posts about being a safe place and encouraging those in their lives who are oppressed by depression and mental illness to reach out. As the days have continued to drift by, however, fewer posts popped up on social media feeds, reporting on NPR returned to normal, and I thought, “We need to keep this conversation going.”

In February 2018, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report from the Nation Center for Health Statistics that stated between 2013 and 2016, 8.1% of our population, age 20 and older, experienced depression in length of, at minimum, two weeks (Brody, Pratt & Hughes, 2018). More recently, the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that one in five Americans suffers from mental illness, including depression, with depression now acknowledged as the leading cause of disability world wide and the greatest contributor to the “global burden of disease” (2018).

One in five. 

This means that it is not only common, it is most likely impacting people near and dear to you. That is why better understanding is imperative to creating safe space for those who battle every day; how we think and talk about depression and mental illness has incredible power to positively impact the lives of those who live with it every day.

Here are five assumptions about mental health that impact the way we view those who suffer:

Someone who suffers from a mental illness or depression is “crazy”: About six years ago I modified my eating habits to eliminate sugar, dairy, and wheat products. I had to plan an extra 20 minutes into my grocery trips to account for the mind-numbing experience of picking an item up off the shelf, locating the “contains” section, and picking out anything that hinted of dairy, sugar, or wheat. I learned many valuable things through this 40 day experience but only one of them is applicable here: check your labels. “Crazy” is a label that culturally we ascribe certain behaviors, attitudes, and attributes toward. Often I’m asked: “Am I crazy?” from friends, clients, and family members when they talk about how they are feeling and how they see the world. Crazy is a heavy burden to carry.

There are two aspects of this myth: first, words hold incredible power to sculpt how we think and feel about something. Labeling those who suffer from mental illness as “crazy” impacts the way we feel about people who experience mental illness and depression, as well as how those who are suffering feel about themselves. The majority of people who experience mental illness continue to trudge through their daily lives with little erratic behavior. Secondly, when we talk about or think about someone as “crazy” due to their mental illness, we are making a statement about their identity: who they are. I think of depression as an oppressor in the life of those who suffer rather than a part of who they are. Addressing our own assumption about those who are oppressed by depression and mental illness will go great lengths in creating safe places for those who do suffer to reach out for support.

Depression sufferers can snap out of it by thinking positively: Depression impacts one’s ability to logically process their experiences. Think about it this way: when you wear sunglasses, it changes your experience of everything that you see; what was once bright and squinty is now tolerable with a subtle blue hue. Depression is like a pair of demon sunglasses: rather than shielding your eyes from harmful UV rays, they prevent you from seeing positive aspects of your life and self. Whether you feel sad, apathetic, or worried, depression colors everything that you experience. According to James Cartreine, PhD, “(Depression) can impair your attention and memory, as well as your information processing and decision-making skills. It can also lower your cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt your goals and strategies to changing situations) and executive functioning (the ability to take all the steps to get something done)” (2016). Thinking your way out of depression is a somewhat impossible task as the oppressor, Depression, manipulates how adaptable and logical your thinking brain can be.

People who are depressed cry all the time: The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual for Mental Disorders, version 5, or DSM-5, is the measure by which depression is considered and diagnosed. The DSM-5 outlines numerous different factors to depression, including but not limited to, persistent sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness, fatigue, significant weight gain or loss, and diminished pleasure in daily life (2013). Depression is more than sadness. Broadening my understanding of the symptoms of depression allows me to better see and understand it in myself and others.

Depression is a sign of weakness or fragility: When I think about those who battle depression, the last thing I think about is weakness. Depression is like a gremlin on your back, constantly telling you to give up, you can’t do it, you’ll never make it, you’re not good enough. Yet so many who have to suffer with the voice of Depression get up and keep putting one foot in front of the other every day. It takes strength and courage to fight off the gremlin of Depression. Self-disclosure: in my own battle with depression, I have had moments where I’ve been able to shut that voice out, moments where I struggled to keep it’s mouth shut, and other moments where I’m so tired from the wrestle that I can’t keep those words out anymore. No where in those three experiences do I see weakness. Exhaustion, sure. Weakness, no. When we take time to listen to the stories of those oppressed by Depression, we are able to hear their strength, their fight, and their courage while also understanding that there may come a time when exhaustion emerges and support is needed.

Depression is a normal response to life’s stressors: There is a big difference between feeling down, disappointed, or sad about the things we experience in life and being depressed. Depression works its way into a variety of different areas in someone’s life: sleep, weight, guilt, shame, etc. And it is not something we can work our way out of one our own.Depression has nothing to do with strength; it can be caused by a chemical imbalance, trauma, genetics, and environment, and more often than not some combination of the four. And it doesn’t care if you’re physically or mentally strong.

Interested in learning more about mental illness, depression, stigma, and combating these myths visit MakeItOK.org or CureStigma.org. NAMI also provides resources, classes, and groups across our nation to support those that experience mental illness and their friends and family.

Check out some of these resources and let’s keep the conversation going! I’d love to hear about resources in your own area as well as how this post was helpful to you. Feel free to leave a comment that supports our encouraging atmosphere. If you have any questions about what comments are not appropriate, please take a minute to read through the Terms and Conditions.

References:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Fifth edition. Arlington, VA.
  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Major depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

Dr. Cartreine is a clinical psychologist, interactive media producer, and researcher. He is an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches CBT to psychiatry residents. Dr. Cartreine is affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Boston VA Medical Center, and is a co-founder of The EverMind Group, LLC.

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Supplemental Material: “Safe People”

Oftentimes therapy can be more effective when clients are intentional with reading supplemental material outside of the therapy session. In my clinical work, I often suggest books, movies, video clips, and music to my clients that support their personal work, challenges them to think differently, and help them feel known and not alone. The resources discussed here are used regularly in my work and are helpful for a variety of struggles. I do not receive any benefits for sharing this supplemental material on my blog.

Title of Material: Safe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for you and Avoid those that Aren’t by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Type of Material: Self-help Book for teens to adults

How to Access it: Safe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for you and Avoid those that Aren’t is available for purchase on Amazon and numerous book stores. I also suggest checking your local library for hard or audio copies of this material.

Publisher’s Book Synopsis: “Too many of us have invested ourselves into relationships where things have gone wrong. You may have experienced being judged, manipulated controlled, or worse. The impact of being with an unsafe person can be damaging to your confidence, your trust in others, and even your health. And what’s more, we either repeat the same mistakes of judgment over and over, or else simply give up on trying to have great, authentic relationships again. We get busy instead. Why do we choose the wrong people to get involved with? Is it possible to change? And if so, where does one begin? Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend offer solid guidance for making safe choices in relationships, from family to friendship, romance and work. They help identify the healthy and growing people we all need in our lives, as well as ones we need to learn to avoid. Safe People will help you to recognize twenty traits of relationally untrustworthy people and discover what makes some people relationally safe, as well as how to avoid unhealthy entanglements. You’ll learn about things within yourself that jeopardize your relational security, and you’ll find out how to develop a balanced approach to relationships.”

How I learned about this material: This book was mentioned numerous times throughout my Masters program as material frequently referred to with clients.

Why I suggest this material: Building strong, supportive relationships makes a huge impact on my clients during their journey through therapy but having that kind of relationship isn’t a given. I have personally been impacted by this material and believe it reveals a lot of truths about who is safe and who is not.

Who may benefit: Anyone who is relationship with another person. Seriously, anyone.

 

 

Supplemental Material: “Braving the Wilderness”

Oftentimes therapy can be more effective when clients are intentional with reading supplemental material outside of the therapy session. In my clinical work, I often suggest books, movies, video clips, and music to my clients that support their personal work, challenges them to think differently, and help them feel known and not alone. The resources discussed here are used regularly in my work and are helpful for a variety of struggles. I do not receive any benefits for sharing this supplemental material on my blog.

Title of Material: Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Type of Material: Self-Help Book

How to Access it: Braving the Wilderness is available for purchase on Amazon and numerous book stores. I also suggest checking your local library for any of my resources.

From Brene’s Website: “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness in both being a part of something, and standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

How I learned about this material: Brene Brown’s work has been incredibly impactful in my personal life. Her work is authentic, direct, and real in a beautiful way. I strongly suggest all of her written material to clients, family, and friends.

Why I suggest this material: I believe very confidently that we are social creatures, created to live life in meaningful connection. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Braving the Wilderness outlines four personal practices of belonging that push the boundaries of what we’ve been taught through our families, social structures, and culture. True belonging asks us to be vulnerable, take risk, and be brave. I suggest this material because she communicates the how and the struggle in a way that encourages readers to step into the unknown with hope.

Who may benefit: Those who feel that their relationships lack a sense of safety and authenticity; those who would like to be apart without sacrificing who they are and pretending to be someone they are not.

 

 

#metoo Resources

Here is a list of resources for support persons or those impacted by sexual assault. If you have personally been impacted by sexual assault, please consider contacting a support from the following resources. Your story matters.

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has a National Sexual Abuse Hotline where you are able to chat online or call 1.800.656.HOPE. You are also able to locate local resources through the website as well.
  • For men who have experienced sexual abuse, please visit 1in6.org for more information as well as a opportunity to chat with a trained advocate 24/7 or with a support group.
  • If you think you might be struggling with depression as a result of your experience, the National Institute of Mental Help can help you better understand what you may be feeling. It is important, if you feel like you may be depressed, to contact your medical doctor to report your symptoms and create a treatment plan. Often times, medication and some form of therapy can be helpful to address depression symptoms.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also a safe place for you to shat online or call 1.800.273.8255 and speak with someone about what you’re experiencing and how you’re feeling. The website is also full of resources about suicide and suicide prevention.
  • A Netflix Original show 13 Reasons Why has created a website with links to resources for those experiencing sexual assault, depression, anxiety, drug/alcohol addition, suicide, and bullying. Please consider looking through their resources for additional information regarding the above topics.
  • For those who live in and around Kansas City our local resource is the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA). Through their website you are able to call their crisis line or chat with someone 24 hours a day. MOCSA also has resources and information for those who have experienced sexual assault or know someone who has. Education is important to combating sexual assault and helping those impacted by it heal.

While this post does offer a few organizations that can provide resources for those who have been assaulted, are considering self-harm, or are otherwise in need, it is by no means comprehensive and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If you think that you are a danger to yourself or others or are in immediate need of help/support, immediately reach out to your medical professional, therapist, or emergency services (eg. dial 911) or go to the nearest emergency facility.

You matter. Your experience matters. Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Was this post help

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Motherhood in the Wilderness

When I was in the 6th grade, my class went to a nature retreat for the weekend. The intention of this retreat was to teach us wilderness survival skills: how to start a campfire, read a map, find the north star, identify dangerous plants, etc. Heading up north, I felt pretty confident about my abilities as I am a lifetime tent camper whose mom was her girl scout leader. Even with all my experience, however, when dropped off in the middle of the woods with a friend and a compass, I got seriously lost. So lost that when we finally found our way out of the forest, we were over 30 minutes late to the “meet up” and they’d already sent out throngs of adults to look for us. We had whistles to alert camp staff to our location, but we’d gone so far away, they couldn’t hear. And honestly, that was not the last time I would get lost in the woods while holding a compass and blowing a whistle.

I’m not sure how many of you have ever been lost in a forest but it is a strange experience. One minute you’re enjoying a peaceful stroll down the unbeaten path, the next minute you’re feeling a cold tingle down your spine and the thought pops into your head: “I have no idea where I am right now.”

My personal experiences as a mother and a lost hiker are alarmingly similar. Most days I feel confident about my ability to successfully lead my children through the day unscathed and dressed in pants and shirts that actually match, then there are other days where I feel out of my depth, even with a few solid parenting tools. Where is that damn whistle?!

Then you add the additional pressure of a job to get to, a house to clean, meals to make, and a partner to snuggle; motherhood becomes more like running through the forest being chased by a bear, you dropped the compass a mile ago, somehow you managed to step in a puddle of mud so your feet are wet and dirty, and you’re developing a side cramp.

And there’s bees.

But no whistle.

Let’s be real: motherhood is amazing and it can be tough. One moment you’re being smothered by kiddo kisses, the next you’re scraping poop off of numerous surfaces. They love you. They hate you. The scream, “go away” and “come back” in the same breath. And this doesn’t even begin to tap into the guilt we feel when we’re trying to get some extra work done as they ask us: “Hey Mom, can you help me with my homework?”. Or the guilt we feel for cleaning our house instead of sending that email or writing that report. You stay up way past your bedtime just to finish the last of the day’s tasks…tasks which never end, they are simply completed for a moment then return to the top of the list the next day. Sure, we have tools to help guide us through but sometimes when we’re tired, stressed, and our teenager just got sent home from school for behavioral issues, tools don’t seem to cut it. Exhaustion, annoyance, and frustration can creep in and make an already challenging day feel isolating and hopeless.

Whatever the age and number of your children, whatever work you do, in home and out, whether you do it alone or with a partner, whether you buy all organic and cook your meals from scratch or hit up the Chik-Fil-A drive thru more than you’d like to admit: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Many of us are stumbling through motherhood like a lost hiker in the wilderness, hoping that we find someone else who can help us trudge through the remainder of our journey.

As a clinician, one of the most impactful things I’ve observed in a client’s journey of change is their support system: the larger and more connected it is, the more movement they experience in a shorter amount of time. If this post struck a chord in you, I’d encourage you to take some time to self-reflect: why do you feel this was impactful to you? How do you feel you’re doing as a person, as a partner, as a parent, or as a friend? Have you felt a little lost and alone lately? Do you have a support system that you can tap in to for companionship in your own journey? For me, when I’ve felt my most alone, I reach for those who will sit with me in my hopelessness and just be present. If you read this paragraph and thought, “Well, I don’t have a support system to lean in to”, I would encourage you to look for a local mom’s group. Often times they can be found by searching on social media, calling local churches and community organizations, or even contacting a local mommy and baby store.

If you are local to Kansas City,  a fellow therapist, Teressa Thurwanger, and I are hosting a workshop for mothers titled Motherhood in the Wilderness. If you’d like to join us, you can sign up here! Want more information about this workshop? Check out the information page on my group website for additional info or contact me through the contact page.

Was this piece impactful for you? Feel free to leave a comment! I welcome comments on my posts and encourage open, respectful and purposeful dialogue. I reserve the right to delete comments that insult, degrade, or shame other commenters.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Just Do the Dishes: Self-Awareness

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including YOU. – Anne Lamott

When I sit with my friends and someone brings up self-care, an audible sigh is heard throughout our group. When? Between working and cleaning, making meals, and parenting? Between the gym, coffee, and the friends we rarely see anymore? Between the emails, lesson plans, and all the details that come with the business world? So when I sit with clients and preach the importance of self-care, I’m with them in the wondering: “Where am I going to fit that in!?”

Yet, when we take care of ourselves we are far more capable of loving ourselves, we have a greater capacity to manage daily stressors, and we are able to be more intentional in our relationships. Self-care is important…but how do we start to incorporate it into our lives?

My first introduction to self-care was in graduate school. We were given an acronym for SELF-CARE (sleep, eat, relationships, fitness, etc.) and asked to identify a few activities or changes within each area to implement in our lives. A large portion of this assignment was identifying things that we personally enjoyed and then creating a schedule. While I was in graduate school I was working, pregnant/parenting, and doing an internship. I quickly realized that my structured self-care plan was becoming a to-do list to get a good grade, rather than to help me.

When self-care is a box to check off on your to-do list, it can often fall to the very bottom, behind all of the other things that are causing you more present anxiety. For example, that mountain of laundry that’s been staring you in the face allllll daaaayyyyy long. Or the work presentation you have to give tomorrow at 9am. Or the overwhelming number of other things most of us have happening in our lives at one single moment. Because of this, I begin at a different place with self-care: rather than creating a list of things to do, I believe real, beneficial self-care starts with self-awareness.

Start by paying closer attention to your inner landscape: when you’re doing the dishes, just do the dishes. Turn off whatever screen might be watching, turn down your music and just listen to yourself. Feel the water rolling across your hands. Smell the dish soap. Adjust the water temperature to whatever feels comfortable and comforting rather than muscling through scalding water. And breathe. Take a few deep breaths, filling your lungs all the way down into your abdomen.

When we start to slow down, we start to listen. Western culture is fast paced, loud, and full of distraction: it’s not wonder so many struggle to fully enjoy the lives that they are living. Start by paying attention to yourself as you do every-day menial activities. Take the time to better understand yourself and gain self-awareness. When our awareness grows, we better understand what we need when we need it. We know whether or not we need to go to the gym at 5am or to sleep a few more hours. We know when we need to have that hard conversation. We know when we need to watch some Netflix and when we need to turn it off to finish a project.

If we know what we need, we can meet those needs for ourselves, whether through relationship, activity, community, nature, food and sleep. Increasing your self awareness begins with slowing down and paying attention.

Second, start asking yourself good questions. Are you consuming a caffeine, dairy and sugar based diet when you know sugar makes you angry, caffeine keeps you awake, and dairy makes you boogery? Have you been spending time with people who you love and share life with? Have you recently been through something difficult or challenging and taken a moment to slow down and breathe again? Or did you hustle off into the next thing on your list of to-do’s? Are you consciously choosing things that, while not always easy, can have a positive impact on your anxiety, depression, and frustration?

When you have taken the time to pay attention, increase your self-awareness, and asked yourself good questions about what you need and when you need it, choosing self-care can become less like another “to-do” and more like an active and loving choice for yourself. So if you have been noticing lately that you’re extra tired, more easily frustrated, or just “over it”, take some time to pay attention, ask yourself good questions, and just do the dishes.

Any adaptations to your activity level and diet should be discussed with a medical professional prior to making changes. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it is outside my scope of practice to consult clients and readers on specific physical activities, dietary needs, etc., therefore, consult with their doctor before beginning a new exercise schedule or making changes to their diet.

Participate in the conversation – if this blog post was impactful for you, I’d love to hear about it by commenting below. I encourage open conversation that is honoring, respectful, and encouraging of all readers, therefore, I reserve the right to remove comments that are hurtful, aggressive, and damaging to others.

My Mommy Moment

Today began a lot earlier than I thought it would. My toddler woke up to the sounds of my teacher husband getting ready for work. Teachers start their day pretty early. I should have walked straight to the french press, but got caught up in toddler breakfast, then the next thing and the next thing and then the next.

About two hours into our morning, I felt frustration as tightness in my chest and instinctively shouted at the top of my lungs. This scared my daughter, obviously, and suddenly I was back in the present, drowning in shame for losing my cool. It hit me: I had spent so much time regulating my daughter’s emotions that I neglected my own. So rather than stay in the house, battling it out all day, I decided we would go on an adventure. When I started backing my vehicle down the driveway, I had no idea where we were going to go, but I knew it needed to be outside and involve coffee.

After making a split second decision, we headed to Parkville, MO, to walk around downtown. Having only been to Parkville a handful of times, I wasn’t incredibly confident in my decision, but I knew there was a coffee shop and a playground.

We walked up and down the streets, learned a little about trains, met a few new people, and I got my glass of iced coffee. She held my hand as we walked along the sidewalk and she listened when I told her she needed to stay close. When we braved an antique shop, the only time she struggled to listen to me was when she saw a package of gum. She didn’t climb on any of the furniture or pick up any breakable items. She honored our family rule: use only one finger to touch.

By the end of our adventure, I knew that I’d made the right decision in getting us out of our home and in a new environment. I needed a change of scenery to help me regulate my own stress and internal, shame-filled, dialogue. I needed a cup of coffee to take a deep breath. I needed a space that allowed me to get centered again so that I could connect and parent in a meaningful and intentional way.

My reason for sharing my story is this: as parents we sometimes forget our own needs because of the needs of our children. As much as I’d like to think that doesn’t impact my ability to parent my daughter, sometimes it does. There are times when I can white-knuckle it to bedtime but some days I can’t. Taking care of myself is just as important as taking care of my children.

If you’ve experienced a parenting moment like this one: I HEAR YOU! Take some time to consider how you process your own emotions. Is it pretty easy for you to do manage your own anxiety in the moment or is it challenging? If you’d like more information on how to develop greater awareness around your own personal emotional landscape, I’ve written an article that may be helpful to you: Just Do the Dishes: Self-Awareness.

Was this piece impactful for you? Feel free to leave a comment! I welcome comments on my posts and encourage open, respectful and purposeful dialogue. I reserve the right to delete comments that insult, degrade, or shame other commenters.

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

Supplemental Material: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck”

Oftentimes therapy can be more effective when clients are intentional with reading supplemental material outside of the therapy session. In my clinical work, I often suggest books, movies, video clips, and music to my clients that support their personal work, challenges them to think differently, and help them feel known and not alone. The resources discussed here are used regularly in my work and are helpful for a variety of struggles. I do not receive any benefits for sharing this supplemental material on my blog.

Title of Material: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living the Good Life by Mark Manson

Type of Material: Self-Help Book on boundaries

How to Access it: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living the Good Life is available to purchase on Amazon as well as numerous book stores. I also suggest checking your local library for any of my resources.

Publisher’s Synopsis: “There are only so many things we can give a f*ck about, so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.”

How I learned about this resource: I was looking for a new resource to address having boundaries and was told about this book three times in one week by three different clinicians.

Why I suggest this resource: This book is honest, somewhat crass, and a good reminder to care deeply about things that matter to you, and create boundaries around or separation from those that don’t.

Who may benefit from this resource: Those who struggle setting boundaries in their life and find that they are prone to being pulled in different directions emotionally. Also, as someone who often finds herself battling with perfectionism, Manson reminds his readers that without struggle we do not grow and avoiding problems only create more problems. His willingness to say the hard things is refreshing.

If you’ve already read this book, what was impactful for you? I’d love to hear about it! If you want to share, please leave a comment below with your own experience. Remember to check the Terms and Conditions for guidelines on commenting.

Supplemental Material: “Daring Greatly”

Oftentimes therapy can be more effective when clients are intentional with reading supplemental material outside of the therapy session. In my clinical work, I often suggest books, movies, video clips, and music to my clients that support their personal work, challenges them to think differently, and help them feel known and not alone. The resources discussed here are used regularly in my work and are helpful for a variety of struggles. I do not receive any benefits for sharing this supplemental material on my blog.

Title of Material: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Type of Material: Self-Help Book

How to Access it: Daring Greatly is available to purchase on Amazon as well as numerous book stores. I also suggest checking your local library for any of my resources.

Oftentimes therapy can be more effective when clients are intentional outside of the therapy session. In my work, I often suggest supplemental material to my clients that support their personal work, challenges them to think differently, and/or help them feel known and not alone. The resources discussed here are used regularly in my work and are helpful for a variety of struggles.

Publisher’s Synopsis: Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation. Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.

How I learned about this resource: During a particularly raw part of my own life, someone shared Brene Brown’s original TED Talk with me. Since that moment, I have been impacted by her work and the power of her words on numerous occasions.

Why I suggest this resource: Brene Brown’s work has been so impactful, I believe, because we needed to hear it.

Who may benefit from this resource: Anyone can benefit from reading her work.

Have you read this book? If so, feel free to share how it impacted you in the comments!

Together on the Journey

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

About six months into my relationship with my husband we went with his family to California to camp in Yosemite National Park. One afternoon he took me on what he described as a “pretty easy hike”. Prior to California, my definition of hiking was limited to the rolling hills in northern Minnesota, so a “pretty easy hike” in my book looked more like a leisurely stroll down Nicolette Mall in Minneapolis on a sunny June afternoon.

At the beginning of the hike there was a sign that stated the hike would be about three miles there and another three miles back. What I was not made aware of was the dramatic incline at the very end of the hike and it was ALL STEPS. About halfway up the staircase my legs started to buckle. My first major hike at a completely different altitude than I was used to and I was struggling. Hard. There were many times I looked at Kyle and said, “Nope. No further. I’m done.” He would smile, encourage me to take a seat, and wait with me until I seemed a little less exhausted. Then he would calmly ask me: “Do you want to keep going?” With his patience and encouragement, I made it significantly further than I thought I would at the beginning of the incline.

Truthfully, I don’t think I would have made it half as far on that hike by myself. I’m pretty sure I would have walked back down to the base the minute I felt the first side cramp: nope, not today muscles, not today. Can you picture it?

Throughout my life, I have observed in myself and others, that when the road gets rough, choosing to lean into trustworthy and meaningful relationships can be incredibly powerful. Hearing, “Yea, I’ve been there, too” or “I had no idea you were carrying so much. Thank you for telling me”, can bring some light back into a dark and hopeless place. We simply cannot do it alone.

I’m not going to say it isn’t scary though. What if Kyle wasn’t a patient person? Or was having an off day? What if he would have left me behind out of boredom and I’d gotten hurt? The “what ifs” can be staggering, filling us with fear that doing something challenging, risky, or hard with someone else might cause us more pain than if we’d done it alone. Yet, walking through life with those that love us well has the power to deepen those relationships beyond our wildest dreams and help us grow.

As a therapist, I have the honor to sit with clients at various places in their life. We talk, listen, laugh, and cry, knowing that being together on the journey gives significance to the pain and challenge. We wrestle with inner-dialogue and question lifelong beliefs about self and others together. We create new experiences and we write new narratives together. We work together because in relationship healing happens.

Who in your life would walk slowly with you up the side of a mountain only to turn around and head back down with the end in sight but not reached? Who would you want to join you on your journey, whatever the journey may look like? For me, those people look like a ragamuffin mix of friends, family and a therapist…or two. I often lean into each of those relationships for support, encouragement, and real, straightforward, honesty.

If you find yourself thinking, “Who in the world could be that for me?” I hope you know that is a really great question. For me, my journey of finding and developing these relationships began in a therapist’s office. He helped me see, with compassion, that I had the ability to influence the relationships I was in; my life is forever changed. If you’re asking yourself who could be that for you, think about the relationships in your life:

  • Can they sit with me without trying to fix my problems, change me, or exert their influence over me?
  • Are they someone who shows compassion and empathy in a variety of relationships and situations?
  • Do I trust them to protect my story and keep me safe?

If you feel like you want to develop that kind of support but aren’t sure how, therapy may be a helpful relationship for you. One way to locate a therapist in your area is through websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy. You’re able to access numerous therapists based on your needs within a certain distance from your home. Thousands of therapist uses these site to provide easy access to their contact information. Another resource I refer clients to as they navigate and develop relationships is the book Safe People.

Was this post helpful or encouraging to you? If so, please leave a comment below. I encourage open, honest, and authentic dialogue and, therefore, reserve the right to remove any comments that demean, degrade, or insult other commenters as stated in my Privacy And Disclosures page.

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash – while this picture is not of me and my partner, it is of the hike that we were on all those days ago – way before the stairs.