therapy

Another headache 

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I just discovered this post in my draft. It’s almost three years old, and it is strange to read about my life back then as it’s so different now. So, this is flashback to when my life wasn’t completely what I wanted, but I got there in the end.

I have had a headache since I woke up this morning. Is it due to not sleeping too long ? I don’t think so, it wasn’t THAT late! Have I been sleeping with my head twisted in a uncomfortable position ? Might be! What it can’t be, however, is happiness. This Friday was the last work day before I’m having one week off. I am now in the car on my way home, to see my family again. I will ‘babysit’ my two small brothers together with my sister, and absolutely can’t wait. I haven’t seen them for some months, so it will be lovely. I will stay home until Monday, when I’ll drive to the city I’ve worked in for 5 years before I moved to Bergen, to see some of my former colleagues. I talked with one of them (a kind psychologist) today. He tried to call me yesterday, but since I was with a friend I did not talk properly with him before today. He told me a former patient of mine, wanted to inquire if it was still possible to get some therapy sessions even if I’ve moved away. That stabbed my heart a little. I miss seeing my patients so much. Especially since the last six months has been so far from the clinical work I did before that I almost have forgotten how it is to do therapy. Working with learning disabilities and school problems is important, but it’s not what I am good at or where I get the time to really get to know somebody. So might my headache stem from something different entirely? Might it be that I miss helping trauma patients? Miss feeling alive and engaged every second I’m at work? 

I will have one week off now, before I go back to work for another two weeks. After that I am having three weeks off, and I will use my free time wisely. I will engage myself in something I enjoy and that will provide me with much needed energy.

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The sound of running water

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How old was I when water became a source of calm? Today I work at a clinic where mindfulness has a great focus. For a long time I thought this therapeutic approach was not for me. I have always been busy, often with several projects at once. Doing nothing has not been for me. Either I sit with a book, listen to music, watch a program on TV or do something useful.

This week I started on my maternity leave. When I woke up I felt anxious. This was reinforced as the morning continued. Just before the children go to school, there is chaos. So much that must be done in a hurry. I tried to not be too affected by it, making breakfast and sitting down with a cup of coffee. But I felt irritated, especially when my boyfriend let his stress show by scolding the girls for not being fast enough. I commented, even though I know this would not make the situation better, and he said something back that I did not like to hear, especially when it developed to a brief interchange about our different ways of parenting. I ended the discussion by saying that we should try to not let our different approaches to childrearing become clear in front of the kids, and then I also apologized for bringing this up right then. I sat down and tried to focus on breakfast. 20 minutes later, they drove away to school.

When they had gone, I found a crime novel I like. The problem was just that my attention wandered. I was at a critical moment in the plot, so I should be drawn into the story, but I had to reread sentences and take deep breaths. This made my irritation worse, and it was even more annoying that I had no reason to become stressed by this. I also tried to understand what was going on. When I think about the last few days, this has been typical. My concentration has been bad and I have also had problems with controlling unpleasant emotions. I have also felt restless. I know what I would try to ask my clients about: What can these symptoms be? They would wonder if they were depressed.

I managed to finish reading the book and realized I had to do something. The feeling I had was comparable to a form of claustrophobia, just that I needed to get away from myself and not a physical space. I decided to go for a walk without my cell phone. I wanted to notice the surroundings and be mindful. I understood that I needed to just be present, since trying to do something now would just make my mood worse.

When I came out, I began to breathe while studying the surroundings carefully. Mindfulness is about taking in what the senses capture, and just be aware. When I also focused on the steady influx of breath, the restlessness calmed a little and it was easier to get out of my head. I zoomed in on the trees, felt the wind and noticed the sensation of my scarf caressing my skin. After a short while I came to a river, and only then did my body really calm down. The sound of running water combined with the slow movements caught my attention and there was less space for discomfort. Instead memories from my past surfaces, and I remembered, among other things, how I used to stare at the water in a stream when I was young. I was fascinated by the movement of the water and loved how clear it was. I don’t know how many times I went to that stream and just studied the water, but I never got bored of it. One of the first stories I wrote as a teen was about a girl who fell into a river and ended up in a new world. Running water is like a balm on my soul, and I find it endlessly fascinating.

The walk really helped. Although I was unable to be completely present, I was certainly more present than just an hour ago. I tried to focus on details around me that I hadn’t seen before, and listened closely to sounds like birds chirping. Sometimes I was distracted by car sounds or by thoughts I didn’t want, but it is better to be aware of everything that goes on than to know that something is wrong without you knowing what it is.

Hopefully I can now have a relaxing day, where it is a bit easier to concentrate. I am happy I listened to my body, and will try to honor it further by being vigilant and observant.

By a waterfall two years ago


Where I grew up

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Preparation

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Three nights with little sleep is hard. This is the third night I`ve woken up early, trying in vain to catch more hours of blissful nothingness. Luckily my boss is very understanding, so I can call work in some hours and tell them I must be home. The main reason for my unstable sleep, is probably my pregnancy. My baby is now 7 months, and he is growing faster and faster. My stomach is finally getting bigger, but still you don`t always see there is a baby in there if I wear baggy clothes.

I have still not told many of my clients about my pregnancy, but must do so the following weeks. Maternity leave will start the first week of march, so there is really not much time. Luckily the next weeks won`t be too busy, since my client list has shrunk the last couple of months. I also work with a different group of clients now, where it isn`t so much therapeutic conversations we offer, but more practical and social help. I work more together with nurses and other health professionals, so we are more helpers, which means that my role is more relaxing, sometimes being a coordinator rather than a therapist.

I have to start planning my return to work soon. I am not completely sure if I should go back to my former position or if I should ask if I can go back to working with trauma. I will be back in February, and know it will be challenging to start working again, since the baby is only 8 months old and still will need breast-feeding during the night. That would mean that going back to work in the team I`m in now, could make the transition back to work, more manageable. Starting to work with weekly clients again, having a long list of people I have to see, will probably be harder. I will discuss this with my current boss soon, and that will probably help me figure out what to do.

But that is not what I´m thinking about the most at the moment. In two months time, a little baby will be in my life. He will probably drive me insane, and it will be hard. But I can`t wait anyway. I know that when you love somebody, the good moments means so much that the bad is forgotten after a while. I look forward to being there for someone all the time, to know someone inside out.

I will try to go back for maybe one more hour of sleep. Fingers crossed!

Different parts

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This week has been calm at work. I haven’t had many client conversations, but one of them has been very much on my mind. Usually I don’t think too much about my clients between sessions, but when I get worried about a client it’s hard not to. The client has dissociative identify disorder, and one of the parts is suicidal. The part is young and doesn’t trust other humans, understandably so. Life has been unsafe and unpredictable, so the part has done what everyone would do in a similar situation: keeping its guard up. I asked this part if he is familiar with the people in my clients life today, and my client told me he knows about them, but he doesn’t connect with them emotionally. My client has been in therapy for many years, and even if things are somewhat better, my client still suffers every day. Nightmares, lack of sleep, daily dissociative episodes, and at the moment, a feeling of hopelessness.

I wonder, how can I help this part to recognize that his circumstances are different now? That he has people in his life who care and would be shattered if he disappeared for good? How can we work together on ways to regulate the intense pain he lives with everyday, when he has no experience with coping when things gets too much?

Living well with bipolar disorder

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This is a reblog from the blog the bipolar writer. The post if written by Allie, and I found it very informative and inspiring.

Reading it felt even more useful after the first day on a conference I’m on, where Allen Frances, a main contribution to the DSM-IV spoke. He told us more about the American mental health care system, and how hard it can be to get adequate help. Posts like these can help those who suffer from a mental health problem.

1 in 4 Americans suffer from a mental disorder, and out of those millions of Americans, 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, characterized by erratic moods consisting of mania (an elated state of being) and the more familiar depressive episodes. I am one of those 5.7 million Americans.

Bipolar disorder is often considered the “artist’s disease,” from Sylvia Plath to Vincent van Gogh exemplifying the creative bursts of energy, severe depressions, and unstable highs and lows that come with the disorder. There is a range of creative treatments that safeguard mood stability, including traditional medications and therapies that are universally recommended to treat bipolar disorder. Often, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and psychotherapy are the first lines of defense, alongside a good support system, to prevent mania and depression. However, three simple life changes can safeguard against serious bipolar episodes and help those who suffer from bipolar disorder maintain a stable, healthy lifestyle.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise – Healthy and Wise

Sleep is perhaps the most important preventer of manic relapses and a strong source of mood stability. Bipolar disorder is directly related to insomnia. The fewer people with bipolar disorder sleep, the more likely they are to become manic. The Center for Disease Control recommends seven hours of sleep daily for adults. Having a healthy sleep routine, such as an established bed time and avoidance of caffeine after 2:00 PM can help people with bipolar disorder achieve a good night’s rest. As someone who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has worked for years to combat insomnia, I have found that turning off screens (from televisions, phones, computers, tablets, etc.) an hour before bedtime and having a strong sleep routine where I turn in around the same time each night works wonders. If insomnia persists, one can talk to a doctor about sleep aids available by prescription and consider using Melatonin or a Circadian rhythm stabilizer (available over-the-counter).

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Exercise is another great mood booster, especially during depressive episodes and to combat the side effects of bipolar medications that often cause weight gain. The NIH recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. When you are active, dopamine floods your brain and gives you feelings of happiness similar to a runner’s high. This is especially important for bipolar disorder sufferers, whose serotonin levels are often imbalanced. However, staying active can be a challenge during depressive lows. I like to hike or cycle, which leaves me feeling satisfied and helps keep the pounds off from medicine. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it is biking or running, and watch as your mood improves.

Nourishing Your Brain, Nourishing Your Soul

Finally, good nutrition is directly linked to mental health, especially for those with bipolar disorder. Nourishing one’s body with healthy foods like whole grains, veggies, and lean meats, while reducing intake of fatty and sugary foods, and using probiotic supplements can improve mental health, buffering mood swings. I rediscovered my love of cooking healthy meals and have seen vast mood improvements since choosing a diet that works for me, specifically the low carb diet. Perhaps the Mediterranean or vegetarian diets will suit you? Experiment with food groups you like and remember to take probiotic supplements for a happy gut and brain.

Your brain, body, and emotions are all linked, bipolar or not, and with these healthy lifestyle changes, supplemented by the proper medication and therapy, bipolar disorder patients can not only survive but thrive.

Stavanger

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I am at the airport right now, waiting for my flight to Stavanger. In Stavanger I will attend a three-day long conference where the main theme is ‘connections’. One of the main headliners is Judith Beck, widely known for her work with developing cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve read some of what she’s written, and am excited to hear her talk about the therapeutic relationship. There will also be other known scientists and others who will talk about their work, and it will actually be hard to decide which mini-seminars I should attend while I’m there.

In addition to getting inspired, I will finally meet some old class-mates again. I’ve kept in contact with both of them since we became psychologists together, but since then one of my friends now has a little baby I still haven’t seen.

It is nice to sit here and wait for the plane. The last couple of weeks has been filled with everyday chores. We recently moved house, and that is a challenge in the best of circumstances. With two kids, it is even more busy and stressful, so sitting here, not needing to do anything, is luxurious.

Easy and complex

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Humans have always been fascinated by what we don’t understand. We love riddles, trying to figure out what we just haven’t grasped yet.

Loving complexity is easy, especially when it comes to people. Hidden layers under the surface are endlessly fascinating. If you discover that somebody turned out to be very different from what you thought, the world stops for a split second. You think: There’s so much I don’t know yet. I was wrong. And strangely enough it feels good, because broadening your perspective is meaningful. Maybe it’s even what life is all about.

Some of the most interesting people I’ve met, have also been the most complex. Different layers that leave you flabbergasted. How can a person consist of so many sides and still have one identity? One girl I know loves unicorns, but she can also be so tough that it surprises me. This contrasts makes me want to know her even more.

Is every person we meet complex? Has everyone we know sides we never knew about, experiences we never thought they could have? I still haven’t met enough people to give a scientifically answer, but I have been taken aback time and time again. Realization has hit me when I see that I really knew nothing about people I thought I understood.

I try to not judge people, both at work with my clients and in my own life. I also try to not be offended when people don’t like me, remembering that they have only seen some parts of me.

Complexity is easy. We crave it, we need it, we feel satisfied when we pursue it. We might not always get the answers we wanted, but we might have learned something new.

Fear of job loss should not stop you from going to rehab

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This post was provided to me by a fellow writer.

Fear of Job Loss No Excuse to Avoid Rehab

If you are a professional with a drug or alcohol problem, it’s likely you haven’t sought treatment for fear of losing your job or setting your career on the sidelines. But it’s no excuse. Drugs and alcohol can wreak havoc not only on your professional life, but can also ruin your personal relationships. The signs of drug and alcohol abuse can’t remain hidden forever and by not seeking treatment you put yourself at an even greater risk of losing your job or worse.

Key signs of addiction

Depending on your drug of choice, you may experience everything from weight loss to hallucinations and physical illnesses including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The more you use, the chances that your addiction will become noticeable become greater with each passing day.

Telling your employer you have a problem

According to U.S. News & World Report, more than 75 percent of addicts are also working adults. And telling your employer that you need time away for treatment is a daunting task. Before you make the decision, look at your company’s policy regarding drugs and alcohol. You may also be able to find information in your company health insurance plan. Schedule a meeting with your direct manager and your company’s HR department and be open and honest about the situation. There is a good chance your company has policies in place to provide protection for those seeking treatment for substance abuse. You may also be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of reasonable unpaid leave to recover from medical conditions.

Handling it quietly

If you choose not to discuss your addiction with your employer, there are ways to skirt the issue at work without negatively impacting your career. If you have vacation time saved up, consider using it to detox at an inpatient drug treatment facility. Start your admission on a Friday afternoon and you can spend an entire 10 days in treatment before returning to work. Once you return, you will need to maintain an open line of communication with your support network, whether it’s mentors, family or friends. You can also use resources that are readily available to you, such as outpatient treatment and exercise to prevent your chances of relapse.

Continuing care

Your recovery efforts will be largely shaped by your willingness to make conscious decisions regarding your addiction each day. You must commit to a sober lifestyle each morning and keep at the forefront of your thoughts your reasons for staying clean. Since stress is one major trigger of drug use, you’ll also need to find ways to lower your stress levels or learn to deal with negative situations without turning to drugs or alcohol. It’s important to avoid other unhealthy ways of dealing with workplace stress such as smoking and overeating, which the American Psychological Association insists only compound the problem.

Psychology Today explains that recovery is built on the pillars of community, purpose, home and health. You can use each of these to your advantage throughout your recovery plan. Your community can serve as your safety net, understanding your purpose will help you continue to contribute to the greater good, your home is a respite from the outside world and your health will give you the strength to continue fighting.

Whether or not you choose to discuss your addiction problems with your employer is a personal decision. However, you won’t do yourself any favors by continuing to go down a path of self-destruction. If you think you have a problem, seek help now or risk losing yourself deeper down the spiral of addiction.

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