mental health

You Never Hear About Parenting Teens

You always hear about how hard it is having a baby. The sleepless nights, the diaper blowouts, getting peed on, the tears and exhaustion. Everything is all worth when you get that first smile, all the snuggles, and to see the milestones of the tiny human that you created.

You hear about the terrible two’s and the temper tantrums, but you hold your breath until the phase passes. After that, it’s awards and concerts at school, accomplishments, performances, and smiling photographs plastered all over social media.

We just assume from there that everything is going well and that those kids were raised to be happy, healthy adults. The reality is that they stop sharing the details of their parenting. Everyone Likes to appear together on social media so we post our sweet memories and precious times for all to see, hiding the low times. We ask for advice on the best diaper bag but everything else is hidden. No one shares their stress and exhaustion; that’s private.

Nobody discusses parenting teenagers. It’s much harder than having a baby. It’s more difficult than the terrible two’s. It’s going to be the hardest of all. This is when depression, hormones, drug and alcohol curiosity, testing boundaries, wanting more independence, sex, attitudes and disrespect enter the picture.

No one tells you what to do when your baby grows up and tries to sneak out of the house or tells you to shut up. No one talks about those sleepless nights and the newfound anxious feeling that has taken a permanent residence in the pit of your belly.

No one talks about how to get your teenager through their first broken heart or depression from being bullied at school. This is when holding your child in your arms doesn’t make everything okay anymore. This is when you feel utterly helpless and lost, hoping that one day they can see how perfect and beautiful they are; just like the way you see them.

We just hope and pray that our children turn out okay and that they are happy. We hope they are successful and that we did a good job despite feeling like we are crumbling some days.

I can only hope that we discuss the difficulties of parenting more often and make the topic an open subject for others. Therapy is always a great option for your teen or for you, maybe even for the family. It doesn’t always mean that things are bad; it’s a tool to make everyone stronger.

It’s important to break the silence so that others aren’t blindsided when their perfect baby is suddenly a depressed teenager. Teenagers and mental health need to be a topic of discussion. Parents also need emotional support and advice but many are too afraid to reach out or share this side of their life. They are lost and don’t know what to do, because none of this shit is on Pinterest.

Resources:

http://www.taylor4teens.org/

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255

mental health

The 8 Stages Psychosocial Development

*This is an essay I wrote for my Human Adjustment class. 

Abstract

Erik Erikson is a German-American developmental psychologist who developed the theory of the eight stages of psychosocial development. His theories highlight the importance of social relationships rather than Freud’s theory of sexual influence. This paper focuses on the final stage, integrity vs. despair. When a person enters this stage, they will decide if their life has the sensation of satisfaction or failure. It will depend on how each psychosocial crisis from each stage has been resolved and whether or not the person feels they had a meaningful life.

 

Integrity vs. Despair: The Eighth Stage of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development

 

Erik Erikson, born in 1902, was a psychologist and psychoanalyst specializing in developmental psychology and personality development. Erikson is well known for his Psychosocial Development and for coming up with the phrase and meaning of identity crisis. He was born in Germany but later became an American citizen. Erikson died at the age of 91 in Massachusetts. Sigmund Freud and Ruth Benedict heavily influenced Erikson’s theories. Erikson trained under the supervision of Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud. He later won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his book Gandhi’s Truth.

Erikson’s mother gave birth to him out of wedlock and fled; therefore, his biological father’s identity was never known. Though his stepfather raised him, it was kept a secret that Erik was not his biological son until late childhood. This gave him the feeling of being deceived and thus began the development of his quest to discover the meaning of and search for identity, the nucleus of his body of work. The last name Erikson is actually a last name Erik created and changed to, from his stepfather’s last name of Homburger. Erikson’s lifelong feeling of deceit and search for his own identity did not carry on to influence his own behavior with his children. His forth son, Neil, was institutionalized because he had Down syndrome; Erikson deceitfully told his children that he had died at birth (Nevid 48).

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development is a theory of eight stages in which people pass through as they go through life. Each stage presents a challenge, leaving them with one of two outcomes, or a blend of both. Erikson believed that adolescence seek ego identity, unlike Freud’s theory, where the focus is more on sexuality rather than identity and who people see themselves as. Erikson also added stages beyond adolescence and into late adulthood.  If a person passes through each stage with a positive outcome, they will have healthy progression through life.

This paper will focus on Erikson’s final stage of psychosocial development, ego integrity vs. despair. Integrity vs. despair is the 8th stage of Erikson’s theory, which is experienced at the age of 65 and older. With each stage, a virtue is developed; for this final stage that virtue is wisdom. Wisdom is a sense of closure that helps with the acceptance of the inevitable end of life. Ego integrity develops when a person sees their life as accomplished and successful. Despair is developed when the person feels dissatisfied with their life, guilt, or unaccomplished. Despair leads to the feeling of hopelessness and depression (McLeod 2018).

Late adulthood begins at the age of 65. Life expectancy for women is the age of 81, and 76 for men, and continues to rise (2012). Physically, males’ testosterone levels lower as they age and for women, progesterone and estrogen decrease. Women have menopause and men have andropause. Decreased energy, lower bone density and muscle mass, cognitive impairment, low libido, and depression are common symptoms for men and women over the age of 60 (RUSH 2018). The endocrine system produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, sexual function and mood. These levels decrease as we age. Life satisfactions tend to increase and then declines after the age of 65 (Nevid 468). According to WebMD, depression is common in late adulthood and can be harder to spot due to the way it presents itself. Depression is often overlooked in seniors because the symptoms are usually the same as general aging.

Cognitive change is part of aging and the brain can be affected in normal everyday tasks such as reasoning and memory. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is at an all time high (NIH). It is important for healthcare providers and loved ones to understand the cognitive changes as individuals age, and to differentiate between behaviors and impairments such as dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death; it is an irreversible brain disease resulting in the death of the brain cells, causing gradual deterioration in the mental processes (Nevid 464). Social changes in seniors may vary based on the outcome of their crises and their cognitive state.

The stage of ego integrity versus despair comes at a very tough time in life. Facing the approach of death or dealing with more and more health issues can be a challenge in itself. At this stage, one may question if their life had meaning. As a person moves through the stages of life, the previous stages and crises may influence how they choose their outcome. For example, the previous stage of generativity versus stagnation takes place during the ages of 40 to 65 years old. Generativity produces feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, such as volunteering, contributing to society or being involved in the community (McLeod 2018). In Generativitiy outcome leads to the sense of finding your life’s work and meaning. Failing to contribute produces the feeling of stagnation, or being stagnant in life with no motivation. The person may feel disconnected or uninvolved at this stage in life. As the person enters ego identity vs. despair, the conclusion of the prior stage can play a large role. If the person was feeling stagnation, it is likely they will feel despair in their final stage.

This final stage focuses on the person’s reflection of his or her own life. A person who lives in a state of despair will feel like they have failed themselves, did not accomplish their goals in life, and may feel as if their life was wasted. People in this stage will likely appear grumpy, miserable, bitter and angry, as they feel hopeless without any answers. In contrast, at the end of life, when a person accomplishes ego integrity, they will likely accept their death and feel proud and accomplished. The person will contemplate whether or not they had a successful and fulfilling life. Wisdom is accomplished when successfully balancing the two stages and ending with a sense of closure (McLeod, 2018).

The good news is that nothing is set in stone. Each person can continue to search for his or her ego identity, to find peace and closure from previous stages, by resolving the crises at a later time. If an individual is 65 or older and feels guilt and regret, making peace with their past and working through their feelings may help accomplish a positive outcome. Volunteering is an example of a healthy way to find a sense of satisfaction during this existential crisis. Erikson’s theory is meant to be a ‘tool to think with rather than a factual analysis,’ and provides a foundation to allow the consideration in which social stage of development a person is in throughout their lifespan.

 

References:

 

McLeod, Saul. Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Simply Psychology, 2018https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

Nevid, Jeffrey S., and Spencer A. Rathus. Psychology and the Challenges of Life: Adjustment and Growth. Wiley, 2016

 Hormones as You Age. RUSH, 2018.http://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/hormones-you-age

Harada, Caroline N., et al. Normal Cognative Aging. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 2014. http//:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015335/

 

Previous Blog Post: Drunk Dad also covers Erikson’s theory in a more personal way.

 

 

mental health

Bars, Friends, and Mental Health

My story and opinion may be different from the experiences of others, but it’s my story.

Friendship isn’t tapping your glasses together in a smokey bar. It isn’t a love that revolves around a bottle of booze. Relationships are deeper than a pint glass. It took me most, if not all, of my 20s to figure that out.

I found that when I removed alcohol from the equation, many friendships crumbled. There were no phone calls asking how I have been. No one checked up on me to see what was new in my life. I didn’t see any of those people anymore. Many people whom I considered friends were nothing more than strangers sharing blurry stories that would be forgotten the next morning. The only time spent together outside of drinking was to fill in the gaps while keeping a consistent flow of having reliable drinking buddies.

When the bar scene was ditched, gone were the calls, texts, visits and hangouts. Even after countless times of trying to establish friendship outside of bars, I was consistently stood up. No one wanted to get up early; they were nursing a hangover. No one wanted to go see a movie, there was a party going on somewhere. The “friends” only came out at night. I soon realized who my real friends were, and they weren’t at the bar.

Depression was something I ignored for a very long time. I never acknowledged it. I never considered that I had this huge dark cloud weighing me down, drowning me at times. I was barely hanging on and sometimes I even wondered, “what is the point?” I masked it all behind being social and pretending to be okay. My smile and laugh mimicked a good time, light and love. In reality, I was trying to forget the pain and trauma by floating in an alternate reality of being buzzed and numb with all my fake friends.

As the morning came and I faced myself in the mirror, I felt even more alone. I felt more lost and buried deeper into my state of depression. The wounds grew and I never ever asked for help. I had no intentions on asking for help. No one usually does.

I am fortunate to live to tell the story about how and why I stopped drinking. I hated me. I hated the choices I made and the way my body was starting to look. I hated how I felt the next day. I hated the regret and embarrassment. I hated the emptiness. So that was it: I chose that day to stop creating memories in a bar and to change the environment that I put myself in. I focused on the people who mattered and the ones who cared, even when I couldn’t see it at the time. The people I thought were my friends continue to live the same night every night, in the same bars with the same stories. I was out of sight and out of mind, replaced by another seat-warmer.

If you worry about someone’s mental health, ask them to meet you somewhere else. Check on them outside of social events. Hang out with them before the sun goes down. Misery loves company. Are you just with company or do you really care? Will you still be around if they trade the bar scene for their living room? If your friends are depressed, get them out of the bar.

If you worry about your own mental health, please evaluate your friendships and where you are hanging out. Ask for help because it’s likely that no one can see your pain behind the masks. Change your surroundings and change your scene, because it’s all going to be the same years from now. No one there wants to pour into your soul, they just want to pour you another glass.

At the end of the day, no one can help us. There are no magic words or healing advice that can save another. It’s up to you to spark a change in your own life. It’s up to you to seek help. No one can force you to get help. I still struggle but I make my mental health a priority and cut the toxic elements out of my life.

Suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I am not strong

I am not strong.

I am not this tough, battling warrior that some may see me as. I am scared. I am depressed. I am angry. The cards I have been dealt leave me no choice but to try to roll with the punches. I may do so gracefully on the outside, but on the inside I often find myself questioning, “why?” as I carry around the grief of living with a chronic illness.

Every day I wake up in pain and discomfort. Some days it is just my normal everyday life and I accept and move on. I get up and start my day, tucking the pain away. I ignore my reality of a failing heart and the dozens of risks that hang over my head. I sweep under the rug all of my nervousness and worries and I focus on what is good in my life. People think that may be admirable but really, it isn’t healthy. Also, what other option do I have?

We are always told to focus on the positive, while ignoring the dark and negative aspects of life that exist for all. For me, the only way out is through. Acknowledging and dealing with the darkness is healing. Society teaches us to suppress ourselves and our feelings, which leaves us depressed, hiding behind a smile. We are pressured to be put together and strong no matter the circumstances.

Other days, when I wake up, I can’t tuck away the pain. I can’t pretend that I don’t have this horrible genetic condition that eats away at me, that I forever have to live with. I look in the mirror, before my exhaustion is covered up with makeup, and I see how how hurt and tired I really am. I see how sick I look. I begin to hide it, first with my morning meds and then with makeup. I cover it all up.

You wonder how I am so busy? I have to be. I have to keep myself so distracted because the moment I sit down and stop moving, I feel it all: mentally and physically. When my mind has no distractions, I cannot help but feel the storm come. I think about, “what if I die?” and “I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It’s not fair. My mind will go into dark places. And I just have to tuck it away. I have to “be strong” because that is what everyone wants to see, right? No one wants to see someone complain or pity themselves.

I don’t give up because I fight for my kids. I fight for my husband and my family. I fight for others that may one day be in my shoes. I fight for advocacy and healthcare equality.

I still have someone in my life who haunts me, tells me how much of a burden I am. “You always have something wrong with you. I can’t keep up with all your surgeries. What, am I supposed to carry around a calendar?,” he screams over the phone just 5 minutes before surgery, due to a delay and miscommunication in last minute changes (with the schedule with our child). Sometimes I let the past (and ongoing) emotional abuse of this ex get to me. I find myself questioning how much of a burden I am to others. This is often a question the chronically ill deal with. There is always someone without empathy that has a heartless opinion about you and your health.

Then, you have those “healers” who have the cure for you. “Try this holistic approach if you want to cure yourself and be free of illness and magically live healthy forever.” Apparently these people don’t know that I already eat a strict, clean diet without preservatives, dyes, additives, artificial ingredients. I am a certified herbalist. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. I take herbs and supplements. I am very knowledgeable on natural remedies, which I use for most ailments. What people don’t understand is that their basic education does not cover a vast amount of information on the human body. Sure, you can change your lifestyle, diet, and start supplements to reverse or mend many issues. But at the end of the day, it is not going to fix my heart and it isn’t a one size fits all answer. My heart is anatomically unable to be altered by herbs. This isn’t a lifestyle thing, stress or cholesterol induced issue. PLEASE FUCKING STOP sending your unsolicited “cures” to me and others. It is absolutely horrifically disrespectful and insulting.

——

It’s currently noon. My neck is stiff and I have yet to brush my hair or teeth. I glare at my heart meds on the dresser that I still need to take. My back is in pain, spasming and out of place. I am dizzy and know that my heart rate will shoot up and my blood pressure will drop as soon as I get up. Nausea and headache to follow, as I hold onto something to keep from falling. But, I will put myself together. I will suck up the pain, anger, frustration, sadness and make myself look strong with a pretty dress and red lipstick.

But I am not strong.

This is just my life.

Health, mental health

Psych Midterm on Obesity

Abstract

Obesity rates rise more and more each year, impacting over one-third of the American population. Health issues are prevalent in patients with a high BMI, also linking to earlier death. Mental illness can contribute to obesity and obesity can contribute to mental health issues; the two go hand in hand. It is suggested that the body is looked at as a whole, rather than individual units, to see where the domino fell first. The rising dangerous trend in obesity needs careful attention and a solution. With a lack of education, resources, and funds, there is little hope for change. Communities need create resources and advocate for the needs that are not being met.

Obesity in America

Obesity is a condition involving excess body fat, increasing the risk of health complications. Obesity can be influenced from a genetic or behavioral aspect. It can lead to multiple health complications and additional health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sleep apnea. Eating too much and exercising too little can increase your chances of becoming overweight.

 

food french fries fries catsup
Photo by Marco Fischer on Pexels.com

In the past few decades, obesity has rapidly risen in America, becoming the leading cause of preventable death. It is presumed that $150 billion dollars are allocated towards the obesity burden in healthcare costs per year (2010). Obesity is not just an epidemic in America, but it is a global concern. Studies show that chronic medical conditions and early death are linked to elevated BMI. Fast food and conveniently long shelf-life foods have contributed to the epidemic. High trans-fat foods and poor eating habits are not the only contributing factor. American culture has long ago established habits for large portions, processed foods, high sugar content, additives, dyes, preservatives, and diets rich in meat, carbs, and dairy.

Together, mental health and obesity can create a morbid combination that worsens the other.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The same question can often be asked when it comes to mental health and obesity. Stigmatization and bias are experienced in both mental illness and obesity. The risk for developing the other goes hand in hand. There is also an apparent link in the statistics for obesity and disability (Littleberry 2017). The statistic may be influenced by poor diet and little exercise due to low income from being unable to work.

adult biology chemical chemist
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Viewing each patient as a whole is crucial in making an impact. Rather than focusing on just mental illness or just obesity, the entire picture needs to be examined. Emotional fat and physical fat are equally destructive (Littleberry 2017).  Serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a contributor to the feeling of well-being and happiness. It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract (Caltech 2015). The human body is fascinating in the way it functions, everything working together to create homeostasis. However, if there is something off or not working properly, there can be a dominos effect. The intestinal tract has its own biosphere with microbes that modulate metabolites, playing a huge role on health and disease. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and other digestive issues can cause issues with serotonin production.

The emerging field of biological sciences is continuously exploring the link to the digestive biome and serotonin. Though serotonin plays a big role on mental health, there are other nutritional factors that can contribute. Having low vitamin D, for example, can cause symptoms like depression. Vitamin B deficiencies can contribute to anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity can increase many health issues, which include gastrointestinal issues.

The highest rates documented from American Medical Association are in 2018, approaching 40% of Americans being obese, with Mississippi and West Virginia being the highest rated. According to the American Diabetes Association, high-income countries are associated with higher obesity rates, whereas in America it is the opposite. In America, if a person has low income, chances are fresh and healthy food options are not affordable. Organic healthy food options are far more expensive than processed nutrient-dense food choices.

men and women standing infront of dining table
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Another factor to consider in obesity trends is nature vs. nurture in the sense of obesity in families. While genetics can play a role, so can intermediate family culture. Food choices, traditions, and styles are passed on from parents to their children, and so on. A meal can be considered comfort food because it is comforting; perhaps the meal is associated with a memory of being cared for by a loved one while sick. This begs the question: if a family who historically ate rich in carbs and fats were hypothetically raised to eat fresh healthier meals instead, would their weight have been affected had they been in a different culture, setting or environment? Do we pass on a particular gene or do we pass on the traditional family eating habits and food culture?

There are several ways to work on losing weight. Some are invasive, difficult, and hard work. Losing the extra pounds is well worth the result and will reduce health issues. Bariatric surgery is a procedure performed on patients with obesity by reducing the size of the stomach. This created the feeling of being full. Many high-risk patients are having bariatric surgery in order to lose weight. Mental health counseling is a great way to dive into what may be causing a person to over-eat or turn to food to cope. Some cases of obesity can be linked to trauma. Lifestyle change is an important part of reducing BMI, even if other methods are used to treat obesity. Lifestyle changes can keep the weight off and encourage healthier behavior long-term. Changing old habits that may have contributed to gaining weight is also important for the future generations, as habits can be learned and passed on.

vegetables stall
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

It is crucial that the numbers and rates of obesity do not continue to rise, but lower. If Americans take a grassroots approach to changing the rising obesity risk, there may be more hope. Communities can help by offering fresh, healthier foods at food pantries. Crowd sourcing and funding could benefit low-income families by creating local programs that offer discounted or free fresh foods. Local community gardens with fresh produce would be a great community service or volunteer program that also provides families fresh produce. The community could also offer free healthy cooking classes and education on diet and lifestyle modification. Free local exercise programs should be offered to people of all ages to keep the community active and fit. Many gyms and fitness programs are unaffordable, even to the middle-class families.

 

Link with references:

Obesity in America

 

mental health

Phobia of Cows

Psychological disorders are mental processes connected to distress or trauma, behaviors, and impaired functioning. Phobias are the fear of an object or situation. My entire life growing up, I had an intense fear of cows. Yes, cows: the fuzzy fat creatures that are completely harmless. I never understood why, but I knew cows triggered my anxiety when I saw them. In a psychology class that I took when I was 19, I learned that phobias can be triggered by an event, having a source that causes the irrational fear. When thinking back into my childhood, I remembered that when I lived in Missouri we lived on a highway and had cows on our property. One evening a cow got loose and ran into the busy highway. My parents and brother ran outside to the road and suddenly a large semi-truck slammed on the brakes after hitting something. I remember falling to ground screaming, thinking the truck hit my family. Unfortunately, the cow was hit but fortunately, my family was fine.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem like an overly traumatic event as an adult. Everyone was fine, right? However, as a child, it was very traumatic. Learning that this event had caused me to subconsciously fear cows inevitably cured my phobia. Cows were suddenly not so scary anymore. Understanding the source of your anxiety or phobias can help manage your mental health by learning what your triggers are. Working with a therapist can also help with coping skills and the tools you need to get through stressful situations.

 

Links:

https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/phobias

mental health, Podcast

How To Work Through a Problem – Listen Now!

Podcast Link

Hello! This topic is important to me because so many of us go through life struggling and stressed, never learning the proper tools to work through an issue.

The original post How To Work Through a Problem has inspired the topic for episode 5 on my podcast, The Misti Blu Days of Our Lives.

Please be sure to subscribe and leave 5 stars so that others can stumble upon my podcast and blog! It is available on Spotify, iTunes, and iHeartRadio, or you can listen on the RSS feed link.

mental health

What Anxiety and Depression Feels Like

Anxiety is not being nervous over a big presentation at work. It’s not the butterflies in your stomach while you stress over what to wear. It’s not the feeling of having a hard time because you have too much on your plate.

Anxiety is a wave that towers over you, consuming your entire body. You tremble and shiver, your throat closes up and your palms sweat. Your heart races like a hummingbird. Many times it can be for no reason at all. It is out of your control. Your body is temporarily not yours. A state of panic sets in and you feel like you might die. Anxiety is neurotransmitters out of balance. It is the feeling of melting into quicksand. It’s feeling as if something terrible is about to happen. It feels as if you are about to implode.

Depression is not feeling bummed because you had a rough day. It’s not feeling sad because things didn’t go your right today. Depression is not being sad about that mean comment someone made towards you. It is not something that you can just suck up and get over. It is not cured by a simple attitude adjustment. It is a thick heavy blanket that drowns you. Sometimes it is devastatingly painful. Sometimes it is pure numbness, and other times it is the feeling of doom buried deep within you. It is like you are grieving the biggest loss you have ever felt. Even when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, this feeling can sink you. Oftentimes there is not even a reason. It’s like you’re missing a limb. Something is missing but you can’t place what it is.

Anxiety and depression does not make you weak, nor does it mean that you are weak. Mental health disorders are greatly misunderstood by a majority of society. The stigma must end and something needs to change. Generations are losing many to this epidemic. Addiction grows from mental health disorders and the need to self-medicate to escape from suffering.

My Amazon Recommendations

Little ways to make a small difference:

  • Listen when someone needs to talk
  • Don’t tell them it will “get better” or to “suck it up,” as these are dismissive comments that are not helpful
  • If you don’t understand, then try to empathize
  • Toxic positivity can be harmful. Pretending to be okay is not productive or healing.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours everyday

Health, mental health

Drunk Dad and Mental Health

Father’s Day is not always the easiest day for everyone. Some have lost their father and some have had an absent father. It can be an emotional day for many.

Today is a day that I think about my dad, who has his phone turned off so that his kids can’t call and wish him a happy Father’s Day. The last time we spoke was the previous week. I make sure to keep in contact daily but lately he forgets and sends hateful messages my way. When we spoke last week, everything was fine at first. As he drowns his mind in his fifteenth can of beer, he turns into a broken man. His self-hatred consumes him to the point of misery.

My dad gave up on himself years ago. Each year that passes by, his mind and body transform more and more. Once a lean, handsome and charming man to an overweight and grimy shell. He never made it to my wedding and he can’t even make it to the end of his driveway.

In Eric Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, Generativity vs. Stagnation is when a person between the ages of 40-60 either volunteer, raises children, mentors or contributes to society; generativity is finding your life’s work and meaning. If you fail to accomplish this stage, you reach stagnation. Having little connection with others, lack of self-improvement and no motivation can be qualities of stagnation.

As my father transitions from that stage, into the next stage, I realize he is clearly coming from stagnation. The next stage is Integrity vs. Despair, from the 60s till the end of life. Reflecting on your life at this age, you feel a sense of accomplishment or failure. My dad lives in a state of despair. People in this stage feel as if their life is wasted.

Though my dad has children and family who love him unconditionally, he takes his misery out on those he loves. I know when he calls me the worst names imaginable and repeatedly tells me that he hates me, that really he just hates himself. I know that he is a hurt man that feels hopeless with no answers. Maybe he carries regret for the years he was not sober; years went by where we lived with a growing pit in our stomach of what the night would bring as he sucked the whiskey out of his mustache. I believe he is a prisoner to his own mind and body.

Though he damaged my brother and I throughout our lives, we still remember our sober dad. We remember the road trips, Sunday breakfast, camping trips and his great laugh. He has always been a Jekyll and Hyde. His soul felt the sunshine and other days he felt cold darkness.

I blame everything on the ignored mental health crisis that no one talks about. I blame it on alcohol and how it can poison an unstable mind. I blame it on the world for looking the other way while others suffer, because they don’t understand. As this elephant sits in the room, crushing others, we pretend to be fine.

My dad lies on his disintegrating bed, drinking his sixteenth beer as his body gets sicker. His hate burns in his belly while he curses life. I don’t know how long he will be around but I already grieve idea of not having a father. I grieve that he won’t let anyone help him and that we have to watch him slowly kill himself from afar, while his lasts words are that he hates us.

We just respond, “I love you too.”

mental health

How to Work Through a Problem

Life can be unpredictable, chaotic, stressful, out of balance and just straight up crazy. It is vital to our mental health to be able to manage the stress in our lives in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, we are not born with the knowledge of balancing mental health and the inevitable stressors that life throws our way. We surely did not learn this in home economics class either. We are thrown to the wolves and some of us figure it out, while others are hiding in their bathroom with chocolate and tears.

People naturally gravitate towards a way of relief from the lemonade raining in our lives. For some, that relief is alcohol, drugs, shopping, gym, sex, and so on. Addictions come in many forms and with many masks. You may not even realize that you have your own demons because it is packaged neatly in a decorative glass that says “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.” Your addictions may be something with healthy attributes, like going to the gym. Only, you work out more than you do anything else and you have developed an obsession with your workout routine, schedule, nutrition and progress to an unhealthy level. Or, maybe you don’t self-medicate but you isolate yourself from your friends, you stop doing the things you enjoyed once, and maybe you started having anxiety attacks.

In a nutshell, stress makes us do weird things. It makes us sick, or sicker. It steals the joy out of life when it is not under control. It tears relationships apart. It throws hurdles in our way and derails our plans. It imprisons us in a haze of distractions while our problems pile up.

In my Introduction to Healthcare class, our first assignment involved the problem-solving process. I am sharing what I learned so that you can apply this five-step process to areas in your life that may benefit from finding a solution.

 

Problem:

 What is your problem? Maybe it is something huge and overwhelming or it could be something small and petty that could get swept under the rug. Regardless of the size, every issue should be dealt with because they add up and they grow. They fill up your cup and overflow. The next thing you know, you are drowning.

Tip: Keep a small notebook. Create lists of goals, tasks, issues, solutions, progress, failures, etc.

Fact: It is okay to fail. Think of it like you just took one for the team and learned something from it; now you can share your failure and knowledge with others so that they can grow from it like you did. Failure is awesome. It builds character and wisdom. It’s a challenge and it comes with lessons and stories. It is far from boring and it fuels fire and births bravery… if you allow it. Perspective is everything. Many successful people would not be where they are today without the failures that happened throughout their journey.

Step One – Identify the Problem

Observe the full picture. What is the root of the issue? What is the cause? Are there other factors involved? Look beyond the obvious.

 Example: I hate my job and it makes me miserable.

Step Two – Gather Information

Decisions influenced by opinions and emotions may result in poor outcomes. What are the possible solutions and outcomes? What are the facts? What do you feel? What do you want? What or who would be a reliable source of information in reviewing options? What could be the consequences or risks? Ask yourself some questions. Write it down if you need to.

Example: Why do I hate my job? Is it the environment, coworkers, boss, career field or the hours? What is causing me to be unhappy at my place of work?

Step Three – Create Alternatives

We are finding solutions to our problem, not problems with our solutions. Create a list of options, both positive and negative.

Example: Ask for a raise. Go back to college. Update your resume and actively search your job field for opportunities. Find out if you can move to a different position; perhaps you don’t feel challenged or fulfilled in your current position. Do some soul-searching: are you depressed and your job is affected by your mood instead of the other way around? Try changing up your environment by promoting weekly group challenges to boost morale, or doing squats before lunch while answering phone calls, or getting to know coworkers better by planning a night out.

Step Four _ Choose an Alternative and Take Action

This is an important step. What is the point of steps 1-3 if we aren’t going to actually get our hands dirty and make a real effort to resolve this issue? If some of your alternatives are extreme or risky, try the other options first if you want to be on the side of caution. Multi-tasking solutions is also a possibility since some alternatives may take more time than others. Some alternatives may be a quick fix while you work on another alternative that may be more of a long-term solution.

Example: “I really want to go back to college and change careers but it would be a huge process, expensive, a lot of work and a big challenge. I am going to try to make friends with my coworkers and build those relationships and then ask my boss for new responsibilities and a raise.” This is a great start, but keep in mind those were problems for the first solution. Going back to college may be a big challenge but it could be worth it and it could be the best solution. Don’t create problems to scare off a possible solution. However, working with the other alternatives first is a great idea while you investigate the other options.

Step Five – Evaluate and Revise as Needed

Now it is time to review your results. What has been effective or ineffective? At this point, you can adjust your alternatives or fine-tune them. Revise your plan until you sort out the best solution.

Example: You decided you are just not passionate about your job and your boss can’t afford to promote you. You decide to go back to school but this will be a process, so you enroll in online classes. To make the long-term process more enjoyable, you build relationships with your coworkers and convinced your boss to allow casual Friday pizza day to boost morale. You also started listening to podcasts while you work and got a cat to help improve your mood when you go home.

 

*Hopefully this outline has helped or inspired you to work through stressful situations or problematic times in your life. If you still find that you can’t manage stress, look into getting professional help like seeing a therapist. There may also be local resources in your area to help get through certain issues. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.