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Peace, Love & Anxiety

First Time On

by Christy Gualtieri

Here in Southwestern PA, Spring decided to just skip right over us, and we’re experiencing Summer’s high temps and intense storm systems. At the school bus stop in the mornings, it’s meant no sweatshirts, shorts and tees; and on the weekends it’s meant time in the wading pool.  And last week, it’s meant a trip to Kennywood!

If you’re not from the area, Kennywood is an iconic amusement park that was opened in the late 1800s (!) and is only one of two in the entire country to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.  It’s home to a variety of exciting rides, entertainment venues, and a special area just for children, Kiddieland, that features pint-sized versions of the park’s most popular rides.

Although my children were born here, we’d never been to Kennywood, and we didn’t really know what to expect – but once we got inside the park, we had a blast. Well, my son and I did at first. My daughter pretty much lost her mind her first time on a ride (the carousel), and was inconsolable every time we tried to get in line for a new one.

After about a half hour I stood there, daughter in the stroller and son on a kiddie ride, and decided that I’d take her on the next one with us. No other adult was with us to watch her while I went on with my son, and I knew it’d be very boring for all of us to just walk around and watch my son ride alone; and so when we approached the next ride, I told her that we’d all ride together.

And again, cue the screaming.  But I held firm, parked the stroller, and picked her up and carried her into the ride car with us. I strapped her in tightly next to me (her screams had subsided a bit by this point), and as the attendant went around double-checking our straps, I leaned over to her.

I’m right here. Sometimes we just have to be brave, Sweetheart.

The ride began, and wouldn’t you know it, she absolutely loved it. She was a bit uncertain at first, but by the time the ride ended, she was asking to go again. We spent the next few hours riding together and having a great time (I especially loved that she fell asleep almost the instant we got back to our car).  And I was proud of her for trying to be brave, and succeeding.

You can never learn these things too early, but it’s never too late, either. There’s been countless times as an adult when I’ve had to face things that have ranged from mildly scary to intensely terrifying, and those same words have rung true for me. I take a deep breath, look at myself in the mirror, and say it:

Sometimes we just have to be brave, Sweetheart.

What are you afraid of? What do you need to be brave in the face of? And who do you have with you who will be right there through it all?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Existential GPS

Six Ways to Beat the Summer-time Blues

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Summertime blues? Seriously? The answer is yes, and it’s more common than you might think. The kids are out of school and they have two questions on their minds, “Can we go to the pool now?” and “What can I eat next?” Your lawn has taken on a creepy “I will be overgrown regardless of your efforts” attitude. Your neighbors ask “Is it hot enough for you?” at least twice a day.  And if you hear one more person tell you about their family’s vacation plans, you will personally run over their GPS with your lawn mower (should it decide to start today).

The heat is oppressive, the air conditioner is working overtime to make sure your electric bill surpasses the national debt and your “bored” kids are home for 90 consecutive days. In short, you’re miserable.

Ian A. Cook, MD, the director of the Depression Research Program at UCLA discusses five causes of summer depression in an article published by WebMD:

1. Summertime SAD.

You’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which affects about 4% to 6% of the U.S. population. SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But about 10% of people with SAD get it in the reverse — the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms. Cook notes that some studies have found that in countries near the equator – like India – summer SAD is more common than winter SAD.

2. Disrupted schedules in summer.

If you’ve experienced depression before, you probably know that having a reliable routine is beneficial for keeping symptoms in check. But during the summer, routine goes out the window — and that disruption can be stressful, Cook says. If you have children in school, you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of keeping them occupied all day, every day. If your kids are in college, you may suddenly find them — and all their boxes of stuff — back in the house after a nine-month absence. Vacations can disrupt your work, sleep, and eating habits — all of which can all contribute to summer depression.

3. Body image issues.

As the temperature climbs and the layers of clothing fall away, a lot of people feel terribly self-conscious about their bodies, says Cook. Feeling embarrassed in shorts or a bathing suit can make life awkward, not to mention hot. Since so many summertime gatherings revolve around beaches and pools, some people start avoiding social situations out of embarrassment.

4. Financial worries.

Summers can be expensive. There’s the vacation, of course. And if you’re a working parent, you may have to fork over a lot of money to daycare, summer camps or babysitters to keep your kids occupied while you’re on the job. The expenses can add to a feeling of summer depression.

5. The heat.

Lots of people relish the sweltering heat. They love baking on a beach all day. But for the people who don’t, summer heat can become truly oppressive. You may start spending every weekend hiding out in your air-conditioned bedroom, watching pay-per-view until your eyes ache. You may begin to skip your usual before-dinner walks because of the humidity. You may rely on unhealthy takeout because it’s just too stifling to cook. Any of these things can contribute to summer depression.

So, just what can you do about the summertime blues?

1. Get on a schedule.

A month or so before school year ends, get out your calendar and start marking it up. The kids will go to this camp during this week. I will be able to work from 8 to 3 on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. I will swim in the morning on these days. You get the point.

2. Plan something fun.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. Plan something enjoyable every few weeks to keep motivated and moving forward. Something that can give you an ounce of joy can also carry you through many hot summer afternoons.

3. Sleep.

It’s important to maintain a steady sleep schedule in the summer. That is, even though the day’s events are changing from week to week, make sure to keep your sleep schedule the same: go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, and don’t sleep much less than 7 hours and no more than 9 hours a night. When depressed, it’s common to want to sleep as much as you can, to kill the hours. However, extra sleep does increase symptoms related to depression.

4. Exercise.

During the summer months it’s easy to abandon any exercise program that you’ve been disciplined enough to start since the oppressive heat can be dangerous, if not terribly unappealing. So before the heat sets in, design a plan you can stick with that won’t make you literally stick to everything else. I will run early in the morning during the summer, before the humidity sets in, and I will try to swim more often.

5. Be around people.

As tempting as it is to isolate in the cool comfort of central AC during the summer, forcing yourself outside to be around people — even if you don’t join the discussion — is going to assist your mood and especially the ruminations that get your into trouble. If you don’t want to leave your air-conditioned home, at least make yourself call one person on a daily basis — a sibling, friend, or co-worker — to stay connected to the world.

6. Stay Hydrated

This seems like a no-brainer, but dehydration occurs more often than you think. Avoid caffeinated sodas, coffee, teas, and sugary sports drinks. H20 is the way to go. It boosts your immune system by flushing out toxins and promotes balance in your body’s natural chemistry.

In good health,
Don

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Two Secrets

by Christy Gualtieri

It never really goes away, you know.  I think that’s what I want to tell you the most.

Have you ever seen those pharmaceutical commercials where the person (usually cartoon-animated) has a chronic illness, and that illness is personified somehow? Like it’s a creature in the shape of a bladder or an elephant or a cloud.  And it suffocates the person, or sits on their chest so they can’t breathe, or they’re pulling the person endlessly toward the bathroom (that would be the cartoon bladder). After the person gets fed up and takes whatever medicine the commercial is promoting, the chronic issue is still there. It might be smaller, or have a smiley face, or is now led around on a leash (that would be the elephant), but it’s always still there.

Anxiety always is, too. I don’t know what my anxiety would look like, if you asked me to personify it. But it comes and goes, too – it’s not that special. It’s like any other chronic illness. When things are going well and I’m on top of my self-care game, then it hangs back. But when I’m angry or tired or something stressful occurs, it’s like it’s gotten the signal from the coach to jump back in the game, stronger than ever. And the feelings are the same: near panic. Aching body. Shorter breaths. Quicker tears.

It is better now that I know what it is. Before I knew I had anxiety, it would scare me, not being able to control it. I’d despair because I’d put the work in – I’d go to sessions, I’d try changing up my diet and exercising and drinking more water, I’d take deeper breaths and stay off my phone more – but it wasn’t going away.

But that’s the secret. It doesn’t ever go away.

When I realized that, I felt free.

__

When my mother passed away, I read somewhere that grief “never stops hurting.  Over time, it hurts with the same intensity, just less frequently.” And so it is with my anxiety, too. I know the signs. I have strategies ready for when it gets really bad. And when it does, I rely on grace, those strategies, and the love of my family and friends to get through the days. And I get through to the other side.

That’s the other secret. There is another side. Maybe you don’t think there is one. Maybe you think it’s going to be like this forever. And I understand that; anxiety and depression can trick you into thinking it’s always going to be terrible, that you’ll never see the light. But you will. There is another side. There is a way out. It’s going to take work, but most things that are worth anything do. Is it fair? No. Is it your fault? No. But it’s reality, just like it’s a reality that you can and will get through it.

We’re wrapping up Mental Health Awareness month, and if you’ve been looking for a good time to reach out to someone to get you back on solid ground again, I really encourage you to try. If you’ve been in therapy for a while, keep going – keep pushing, keep talking, keep striving.  Drink that water. Get that sunlight. Create those strategies, and pull them out when you need them. No shame.

When you’re feeling better, encourage others. Shine your light on them. When you’re in darkness, rely on others to pull you through, and accept their light. And know that we are with you, every step of the way! Thanks for reading and being a light to me, too.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Hello Universe

Was It Something I Said?

By Aurora Starr

I rarely apologize anymore. Why? Because saying you’re sorry is the new black. “Sorry” means nothing if it is overused, disingenuous or a faux plea of ignorance. Today so many feel compelled to apologize ad nauseum. “I’m sorry for eating the last slice.” No, you’re not. “I’m sorry, BUT…” Wow, that’s heartfelt. “I’m sorry for hitting on your best friend.” No, you’re sorry you got caught.

So, when a person commented in typical social media fashion (one or two brief sentences with no backup or backbone) on one of my recent posts, I was not surprised. I was called: “Petty, immature and unoriginal.

Well, my first reaction was to reply to her comment with an old and timeless classic of my own: “F**k you.” Perhaps my manners won out, or maybe the Vodka hadn’t kicked in yet, but my sober mind prevailed and I refrained from joining her in verbal fisticuffs. Then came the second and final sentence of her insightful manifesto, “I can’t believe this person is a therapist.” First of all, I never claimed I was. Had she bothered to read the entire blog or any number of my other posts, she would have figured that one out all on her own. However, her uninformed remark did force the editors of this blog to post a disclaimer about my non-therapist credentials. I don’t blame them. It seems people are overly sensitive these days. Or are they?

I WILL STATE THE FOLLOWING IN BIG LETTERS SO THE TROLLS WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL POST.  DO NOT WASTE MY TIME OR THE EDITORS’ TIME BY TRYING TO MAKE IT ONE. I’m not treading on your First Amendment Rights, either. You have an opinion? Wonderful and good for you! Now go share it with the people who already think like you. There, I’m done. Happy places, everyone. Happy places, I say!

Maybe it isn’t that people are more sensitive these days. Maybe it’s that people have bigger and multiple platforms with which to tell you the effects of your actions and words or at least their opinions about them. People haven’t suddenly become more sensitive, they have suddenly become able to let you know how they feel or what they think in real time. Opinions are not inherently bad, but they aren’t facts either. This isn’t new and it isn’t groundbreaking. What is interesting is that opinions are like apologies, they mean nothing if they are not thought out, contain less than three actual sentences or consist exclusively of preconceived talking points.

The world hasn’t changed, but the amount of meaningless fodder you have about it has. Regardless of what your opinion is on whether or not people are overly sensitive isn’t much more different now than it was before. It’s just that now Bob in Kansas (#Sorry Bob and Kansas…) can co-opt someone else’s platform to spout off whatever he likes or dislikes, and it may not be something we agree with or, in fact, may be misinformed, racist, sexist or just plain stupid. Thanks, Bob.

If the current trends in our culture have taught me anything it is this, we have ignored each other for far too long. I want a fair exchange of ideas, not talking points. Discourse and civilization thrive when we engage in respectful dialogue, and not through impulsive reactions to a blog post written from personal lived experiences. In short, you don’t get to throw shit on my “wall” and then walk away. Can we instead talk and learn from each other? If your answer is yes, then I am in. And for this I will never say “Sorry.”

Shine brightly,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, not a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own. However, if you are easily offended then Aurora’s blog may not be for you. 

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Existential GPS

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 3

Read the SUMMER 2018 edition of The Accidental Existentialist now or download it to read later. In this issue you will find great articles and new works by mental health professionals Dr. Chloe Paidoussis-MitchellMorgan Roberts, Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk and Don Laird. We would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below – Enjoy!

The sun struggles up another beautiful day,
And I felt glad in my own suspicious way,
Despite the contradiction and confusion,
Felt tragic without reason,
There’s malice and there’s magic in every season…
— Elvis Costello

TAE_JanFeb18_Issue1
Click Cover to Read or Download PDF

In spite of the sunshine and best of intentions, the summer months can sometimes feel like a glass half-empty, glass half-full question. It is the noontime of our seasonal clocks and, in my case, a faint reminder of the noontime of existence. Seasonally we are poised to reach our yearly zenith of sunshine, warmth and outdoor activities. Yet, at fifty-two years of age I am situated well into the second half of my life. With luck, I might have another 30 years, but the reality of it is, and existentially speaking, there are no guarantees. For all intents and purposes the shadow of death grows just a bit larger with each passing day. Unlike when I was in my thirties, I feel it now. It’s not a concept, theory or construct; it’s physical and it can haunt my thoughts at the damndest times. The words of Nietzsche seem to echo for me these days in a different, but comforting way, “We would consider every day wasted,” remarks Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, “in which we had not danced at least once. And we would consider every truth false that was not followed by at least one laugh.” May your summer be long and filled with as many hopes, dreams and fulfilled wishes as you can imagine.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


(Smultronstället) Wild Strawberries: Therapy and the Art of Aging
by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineSince their inception, motion pictures have allowed us to explore the human condition through an amalgamation of sound, lighting, editing, musical score and performance, coupled with traditional storytelling. To claim that one film more than any other illuminates the arc of human existence that it has become a standard by which all other films of its type shall be measured may seem like an overstatement. Yet, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries manages to accomplish this in 90 minutes of postwar beauty. Read more…


Love Wins: Groundbreaking LGBTQIA Leaders Through History  
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

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Every June, there are Pride Parades throughout the country and world, celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual individuals. Nevertheless, there are many who continually attempt to invalidate the lives of those in the LGBTQIA community. More conservative states frequently pass legislature hindering the community which contradicts public opinion. The Human Rights Campaign reported in 2014 that 59 percent of Americans support marriage equality, with 61 percent of people favor allowing same-sex couples to adopt. Read more…


Grief Matters: Living with Loss
by Dr. Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell, Cpsychol, UK Chartered Counselling Psychologist
(Follow her blog at https://dr-chloe.com

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As a Grief Psychologist, I have the privilege of working with people from all over the globe who are struggling to find a way to embrace life meaningfully again after a very painful loss.

Grief is inevitable. All of us will experience it at some point in our life and how we respond to it is unique to us. Grief is a personal, psychological response to the death of a very loved one and when it happens – whether expected or sudden – it is painful, disorientating and knocks our sense of who we are, how we are and what feels relevant and meaningful again. In grief, our regular way of being is no longer relevant. People often talk about feeling lost and alienated. Read more…


The Impact of Chronic Stress
by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

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Stress is difficult to contend with for many. Chronic stress has the potential to impact an individual’s physiological and/or psychological health and well-being. Long-term, the probability exists for stress to spillover into important facets of daily life, and affect an individual’s capacity to function.

HPA Axis
Health related issues begin systematically, many times, prior to an individual having awareness of physiological and/or psychological issues being present or the associated long-term effects. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis has an important role in fighting and managing stress. Read more…


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.