Tag Archive | Health

The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive – Stephen Fry

This is such a deeply, insightful documentary about the struggles a person goes through with Bi-Polar. It will go down a more tragic path as the film continues walking through these dark corridors into the psyche of various persons with this diagnosis. In between you hear from various psycho-professionals who treat this disorder. When he says “We do love our manic periods,” this is something I have heard many times from various clients or people I have known. In fact, this is the infamous stage when these people often do not believe they need medication because they are feeling themselves again. This is normal for a Bi-polar and one of the symptoms – not wanting to take their “meds.” It is normal because they don’t want to feel abnormal, which is what the medications cause them to feel.

It is important that he added the genetic aspect to this mental illness. Evidently the DNA researchers he went to and the brain scans don’t show a link from that perspective. However, research does seem to show that it runs in the family. I see this all the time with people and in fact, if they tell me they have it (from reading something online and w/o a diagnosis) but seem to have no family mental illness, I become suspicious. Generally, I will ask people if they ever had a “Crazy Aunt Sally,” or a family member who disappeared for awhile or who was known to be a little off. This is how I can find a possible mental illness connection. In the past, people might have been locked up or family would have joked about it (to avoid discussing the reality). I ask this with all my clients when doing a family history, not just people who’ve been reading about diagnoses online. Most people think “mood swings” mean they are Bi-Polar and generally these are people in their young twenties who are going through a difficult period in early adult hood or even teenagers who are frustrated with their family life.

I was pretty shocked to hear Stephen Fry say, at the end, that he hasn’t been on medications since his first diagnosis many years prior to making this film. Apparently, the end of Part 1 made him realize he should re-think this. What I think is very important is to have a psychological evaluation if you believe your child has some serious mental health issues to find a diagnosis. Then, I think it is important to re-test and get a new psychological evaluation when that same person is an adult. This is because it is often difficult to be sure about childhood mental illness (sometimes psychological professionals have a “go to” diagnosis) and because you test differently as an adult and you are a little more aware of yourself and your symptoms.  If you DO have a mental illness, you should have a psychiatrist that prescribes and monitors your medications (NOT a primary care physician). A psychiatrist specializes in mental illness, a PCP does not. This is why they are called a “general” practitioner. This also can prohibit being wrongly diagnosed and going through an even longer series of trials and tribulations with medications. I have heard stories of a family doctor asking five or six questions and then labeling the person with a diagnosis. A psychological evaluation is generally three sessions and ends up with a 13 page report based on the conclusions from the tests that were run. The “psych eval” as I call it, includes input from your psychotherapist, family, and other support people involved in the child or adults life. Another reason to go to a psychiatrist is that sometimes they will have psychotherapists on staff who partner with them. If not, it is best that you find a psychotherapist who specializes in your mental illness.

 

Stephen Fry has also made a Part II of this documentary, also available on YouTube and I have also seen a “Ten Years Later” after the making of this film.

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The Child of the Narcissist

(Originally published May 2011)

Sometimes I get ideas in my head and know that I must get up and type; otherwise I will never get to sleep.  Having been one of these children and having recently had very moving conversations with another person who also felt this dread, I knew I must write about it.  As a therapist, I feel responsible for airing out all those things which give us torment, so that we have a place to share, cry, and be heard.  For having a parent who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you do not get the chance to do so.

A child who grows up with a parent who has NPD, has no parent at all.  In fact, they have no self as well.  The child’s life is consumed with pleasing the parent in a way that no other child, not sharing the same type of parent, can understand.  Your childhood revolves around this parent.  The opposite parent must revolve around the NPD spouse.  Your needs and wants must be that of the parent with NPD.

If there is more than one child, one will inevitably be the scapegoat.  You know who you are.  The one who takes the blame for everything because the NPD parent will not.  Someone must be at fault for ruining their life.  Another child will invariably be the rescuer for this parent and they are the prodigal child.  This is the one who does all that was intended, perfectly and in the order presented by this parent.  There can also be a child who will have dependent personality disorder.   This is the one who will need the parent for anything and everything because they are so challenged by life and the NPD parent will gladly be needed for their mercy.  Someone who needs the Narcissist to be at their beck and call, is exactly what they want.  The NPD imagines in their head that their brood should be around them at all times, because you are incapable of living your life without them.  This is the bird that does not kick the chicks out of the nest because it does not want them to fly.

Thus, if the child of the NPD is capable of getting away and growing up once and for all, they are the enemy to this parent.  No one is allowed to leave the NPD’s kingdom unless it is to do their bidding.  Most survivors whom I have known are those who have had to push away this parent.  Yet even still they live with the lifelong feelings of insecurity and the threat of a phone call which could come at any time – lest you forget the NPD parent is still alive.  A call which will put all your time in therapy to shame, as you are ridiculed and punished once more for anything that they happen to make up.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any Narcissistic parent who was capable of going into therapy and there is no medication for this mental illness.  Why should they go to therapy when it is your fault after all?  At the same time, therapists couches are filled with the children of the Narcissist; most especially the scapegoats.  Children who cling to the hope that their problems will be cured so that for once in their life, the NPD parent will love, respect and be able to have a conversation with them.  The bottom line that we all must realize is that the NPD parent will never change.  Only you can and then you have to figure out how to be in the same room with this person, with your head held high.  It is a lesson in reclaiming your power, even though the abuser will never leave your life.

Tips (for the Scapegoat): Find what works for you.  The answer is not the same for everyone.

1. Tell this person not to talk to you unless they can say something nice.  Be strong when setting this boundary.  Don’t get caught up in their sarcastic or overly dramatic response.  They have loose boundaries, so you must set high standards to preserve your own.

2. Don’t expect to talk for more than 5 minute sound bites, because they aren’t listening to you anyway.

3. Try to stay out of their way – if you can, don’t attend functions where they are present (unless you absolutely have to).  You don’t want to boycott your whole family either.

4. Forget trying to discuss your therapy sessions and what you’ve learned.  Remember, they aren’t listening anyway.  Don’t bring up the past, it is pointless because it had nothing to do with them.  They were there as an innocent bystander.

5.  Whenever you start thinking about them in your head, start whistling a happy tune.  If you think, you will begin punishing yourself as you remember all the “bad” things they said you did.  You will take yourself down and beat yourself up emotionally.  If you can whistle, you switch focus in your mind and soon forget what you were thinking. If meditating and their voice comes in, tap your feet, put on music, do something to re-focus and think of something else.  It takes time to re-program your mind.

6. Do get into therapy, tell your therapist about your NPD parent.  Learn to meditate, take exercise classes, eat healthy, drink plenty of water. Pamper yourself with massage and other holistic treatments.  Get so focused on yourself that you look and feel good, which will make you strong.

7. If you fail to do at least #6 let me give you a warning – you will end up finding yourself in abusive relationships whether at the office, the home, or amongst the people who surround you.  You have to reclaim your power or be a doormat, or punching bag forever.

8. For young people and adults – it can be helpful to get to know older people who are in your life and whom you can talk to.  This is like creating a surrogate parent.  Everyone does need a parent.  Young people can talk to guidance counselors, grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends of family, whomever seems to take a healthy interest in you.  Adults you can do the same – get to know those people in the family who might have been staying away from the same person you are having problems with.

If you are reading this and you are still a young person, you have my sympathies.  Do the best you can to follow the tips above and remember – it isn’t you, you are not a bad person.  You may make mistakes – all kids do. If you are reading this and you are an adult, remember that – you are an adult and you are free to make choices in your life.  Don’t let them control you and tell you what to do.  You are not an adult child and you must take responsibility for your life.  Of course whatever you do will be wrong (to them), but you must keep in mind that what you are doing is for you, it is your life and you can’t blame anyone for your adult choices but yourself.  Let them go, move forward and keep your distance.

Over time, you will begin to heal and make a life for yourself.  There will be setbacks now and then when you have to be in their life.  You have a mentally unhealthy parent and this comes with the territory.  The only person you can change is yourself and if you are strong and set your boundaries – you won’t get a parent but they will leave you in peace.

Now you can read Part Two of The Child of the Narcissist

And purchase the CD: The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing

Now Available on Download too!

CD Cover

Addition 7/28/12: I found a good book that I want to add to this article. “Will I Ever be Good Enough” by Dr. Karyl McBride. Lots of good case studies to think about.

He Never Says He is Sorry, an article I wrote later about being in a relationship with a Narcissist.

Angry Daughter, Narcissistic Mother written on 1/11/14, is a review of the movie August: Osage County with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

Barre Girl at 55; Do you plié?

Here is a great article for the over 40 crowd!

Madame

If you have ever been one of those women, like me, who has sat by the sidelines for years wishing your mom would have let you be in a ballet class, now there is a new fitness craze created just for you! Barre classes are springing up all over the nation designed to, well, what I call nurture your inner ballerina.

It is hardly a ballet class and yet there is just a hint of it. You will do some plié’s and use first and second position (possibly other positions depending on the instructor) and if you have arthritis setting in, like me, will use the barre more than most people. Mostly you will do planks, downward facing dog, put a ball between your thighs or hold onto it with your back leg in the air. You will do side planks, lift your legs up while in the plank and…

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Choose Chastity Because You Have Self-Respect

The idea of remaining a virgin has always had religious connotations with it because this is where the concept has the strongest need. In our modern society many people are ashamed to associate with a faith, which is very sad because it is important to value spirituality as well as mind and body. Parents are refusing to provide religious instruction through some avenue of persuasion, opting to “let them choose,” which is about as ignorant as allowing a child to vote. So by writing about chastity here, I want to put it in the context of self-respect.  For some reason modern women writers tend to focus on making sex acceptable and I think it is more important to make self-respect acceptable and a priority. This is not a conversation about religion but it is about being a feminist and it is not about hating men.

Not having sex before you are married is a very beautiful step toward choosing the right partner. It takes a certain amount of maturity, wisdom and focus to make this decision. I am always so proud of my female clients when they tell me they have opted to go in this direction. Some make the decision because of religion and some because they are smart enough to know they are not ready. When my female clients have chosen to embark on the path of sex before marriage, I am proud of them for choosing birth control and safe sex (a majority of young women refuse to use birth control). I know these women are not getting any support from their girlfriends because the “in” crowd is focused on their sexual appetites and what brand of sex they choose. The latter is ridiculous because you cannot be sure of your identity until you are an adult and even then, it takes time to adjust to being in the real world. Many people, I believe, are going to rue the day they made drastic changes to their sex and persona as a young person – wait and see. We have already gone through the plastic surgery guilt and the sudden surge in sex changes and sexual confusion is next. We, as psychology professionals cannot even give certain diagnoses to minors and this is because they are going through identity confusion.  So this is my main argument for chastity. Teenagers are going through an identity crisis and it is best to wait until they are an adult to make any sexual decisions. Regret is a painful feeling to deal with throughout your life.

With chastity before marriage so many benefits come with this decision. You are free to focus on your future without any inhibitions or “responsibilities,” [to someone]. In the meantime, it is important to date and befriend lots of people but be very open about your boundary of not having sex. By doing so, you will get rid of the bad people immediately who are only about pulling down your drawers. You don’t have to worry about disease or babies that “accidentally” occur because you have chosen not to use birth control. You can think about college or career aspirations. You can focus on building a financial portfolio so that you can buy a house and a nice car. You can enjoy having fun with friends and dates because you are not tied down to anyone. When you are dating, you are taking the time to get to know one another and finding out what it is you want in a relationship. When you finally do choose to marry, you are wearing a white wedding dress with pride and because you respect the meaning of the color. The long term benefits are that you will have a lot more happiness by choosing to respect yourself and you will be more successful in life.

The cons that come with sex before marriage are that once you have gone down this road, it is hard to turn back. You can with perseverance and strength and a willingness to start over though. Sex at a young age often becomes a place to perform. Young people get caught up in size, quantity, positions, acting, what they are able to do, and how great they are. This is a very shallow path toward a future because you become focused on your statistics and performance rather than your life. Many people, I have spoken with, who start out at a young age get so lost that they forget who they are. I spend time in sessions coaching them on how to find the human being that rests within. Of course because our society has decided it is not politically correct to discipline a young woman or the young man, for not using birth control, so many women have determined they can take the chances. They see these hideous reality shows where women have multiple partners, have babies before marriage and men see that it is practically acceptable to abandon a woman once she is pregnant. Our society is more focused on feeling sorry for than teaching values. Celebrities have no sense of their role in society and how they are ruining our young people by setting poor examples. It is great for a wealthy person to have a baby at 16 because they have nannies to take care of the unwanted child. The average person has nothing financially to contribute and this can end up leading to social services intervention and/or the public welfare system.

Sex is not a bad thing; it is a very wonderful way to be with a person that you love. It is icing on the cake but much more worthwhile when you have taken the time to get to know someone. Building a friendship and having trust and respect with your partner is foreplay. Foreplay is not a conversation on a first or second or so on date that you end with sex. It takes time to build this emotional connection and once you have a commitment, don’t end this by having sex. Wait to get married to do this, you’ve gone this far so why not? Young people are not able to make a decision that they are in love with someone when their friendship is about sex.

Emotional instability is often the very reason that women end up being unfaithful to their partners because we have “emotional infidelity” (before the act is performed of having sex) whereas men have physical infidelity upfront. When women don’t have a strong emotional connection to their partner, they seek someone else to fulfill this wish. You can’t love someone just because you have had sex together. That is infatuation. You can’t expect to build a relationship on a one night stand or a fling. Most women try to do this and they fall short or end up pregnant hoping to force the issue. Obviously none of this works. To quick to jump in bed is behind so many failed marriages.

The degradation of our current society is at an all-time low that I often wonder if it will ever be possible to repair it. So many inappropriate messages are being thrown out into our culture which unfortunately is witnessed by everyone, including the very young. When I grew up these topics needed to wait until after the nine o’clock hour which was reserved for adults. Even then, the topics were hardly an issue of concern to young people, not when you compare this with our world today. The focus on death by suicide and suicidal ideation is really missing the point. It is not about encouraging people to be sexually open; it is about encouraging self-esteem and abstinence as a way toward a happier and more successful life. I wonder if the rate would be so high if minors were not so focused on coming out or having sex in general? If we made the priority in schools about academia and goal planning for the future rather than passing a test and getting out of school. The idea of focusing on bathrooms rather than education when a person should not be choosing their sexuality as a minor (especially changing the gender) is so harmful to the young psyche whose brain doesn’t even stop developing until they are an adult. Young people won’t need to worry about bathrooms and sexuality if they are focused on their academic future. When they are out in the real world and beginning to see what life is all about, than they can make choices with a clear mind that is not intimidated by peer pressure, family, or religion.

Young people, often, do know what their sexuality is at a very young age but it is more important that they behave like a child and have fun. It is more important that they are groomed for adulthood and are taught principles to grow on. This means learning about religion – with their parents there to instruct as well as the religious sector. It means getting a good education – with their parents taking this seriously and being involved with the school. It means the parents need to teach values, i.e., work ethics and family beliefs. The only thing a young person should be choosing is which sport or type of dance to be in or which school club to join or which elective they want to take. Even then, this should be a decision agreed upon with the parents based on finances of course.

By not focusing on sex a child will have a much stronger and healthier sense of self. Being chaste will more than likely cause a child to be better educated in the long run and this will help them to make better choices in life. It is time for us to take a step back and reflect on the values we, as older adults, were taught growing up and realize how great we had it. Then we need to re-think the messages we are sending out on the Internet and how it is affecting the young minds. A young woman is more of a feminist by respecting her mind, body and spirit and a young man respecting feminist ideals when it is not about getting her in bed. Wait to have sex or to determine your sex and focus on your future. You will thank me one day.

How Do I Know When Therapy Is Done?

I want to say here “What is the meaning of life?” though that question doesn’t completely relate to my topic above. On some measures it does though. Therapy is different for every single person. On a spiritual level, I know that you will know when it is “done” when you feel ready to leave. This does not mean that therapy is “done” as in forever if you are someone who really appreciates self-awareness and continuing to do in-depth work on yourself. If you are only there for a minor concern, such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program, aka short term therapy) type matter, often times people get to a place where I know and they know, that there is really nothing more to say.  When I work with couples, I either know that I can’t really do much more for them or things are going really well and they are feeling great about themselves or a change is made and then the choice to continue becomes individual.

When it comes to a traumatic injury whether it be current or long-term (childhood), it is much more intense. Sometimes therapy is for the first time and then I am working with the client to help them to have a voice. It feels good for people to be able to finally say “This is what that son of a bitch did to me…” and for them to hear “That was terrible, OMG, I can’t believe someone would do that…” It is the first time they are getting validation. The wounded child is being soothed and nurtured. I watch them begin to stand up for themselves over time, in their personal lives, as they continue to be heard and acknowledged and respected in a safe environment. This is extremely rewarding for me as a therapist and obviously a huge break through for them. Then the client will at some point walk away from therapy for a bit – to take a break. Sometimes I know that the process is on hold for a short time until they are ready to return to me, or to someone else.

I am happy for a client to choose someone else, if they want to, once they have gone through a breakthrough with me. It is good for a client to get a different voice, a new method and from the place they are at now. Even if they haven’t had a breakthrough but still choose to go to another, it is okay too because this is what they need to do. It is the soul searching process that brings us to enlightenment on some level. The answers are there for you, as you continue to search and when you are ready, it will come.

When I get a client who has been with another therapist, I try to check in with them first, to see what worked and what didn’t work. This is important for me and for them. One, it helps them to have some closure if there was a negative experience and two, it helps them to celebrate the work they have already accomplished. This also builds trust as I am again giving them a voice right up front about being in the psychotherapeutic process.

When I work with someone who have been working on “this issue for years,” I acknowledge that now we are going to work from a different place than where they started. I listen to what they have already learned and accomplished but at the same time I am finding out where it all began (so that I am clear). Sometimes, I hear things or “see” things that maybe someone hadn’t put together before. This is because, when a client tells their story more than once, it changes (with their new voice, new insights they have had since then) so it makes sense that I will or might see things that another therapist did not see (and the same goes for one of my clients seeing a new therapist).

This is why it is important to not be frustrated with yourself when you find yourself needing therapy “once again.” Life impacts us hard and over the years, more things happen to us, we begin to see patterns of our own self-destruction, our mistakes, things we didn’t see at 20, become much more realized at 30, 40, 50, 60, and so on. I could not have told you any of this at 20, nor could I have been the therapist I am now at that age. When I become 70, I will be a much different therapist than I am now. Thank goodness! I hope I will learn something in the next 20 years. The same will happen with the client. We grow and we evolve. What we could expect in 1980, we most certainly cannot expect in 2015. That is sad on so many levels. Yet, this is something that people from the 1890’s would have said in the 1920’s as we see with Violette (Maggie Smith’s character) on Downton Abbey. So this creates depression, frustration, realization, awareness, many mixed emotions that at first can be quite daunting.

Therapy will end when you feel it is time to end. You are in control of your life and making this decision is one that should be made clearly and consciously and of sound mind. It should be made because you are satisfied with the results, though if you are not and find you need a different therapist this of course makes sense too. My only caveat is not to leave because you are confused or frustrated about what your therapist has said. Tell them and if the answer you get doesn’t agree with you intuitively, than you should move on. This has come up for me in the room on a few occasions and I try to deal with it head on. It is important for the therapeutic process, for trust and for the client to determine whether they are going forward with me or someone else. I have so far, only had positive results in these circumstances, except on a very rare occasion. Even then, I knew that it was not meant to be as I was not the right person for the job. I don’t believe in accidents in life. Things happen for a reason.

Finally, it is never wrong to be in therapy. If you are curious, questioning, concerned, unsure, frustrated, grieving, upset, unhappy and what to make a difference in your life…than therapy is a great place to be.