The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘family’

Influencing Boundaries

I’d like to introduce you to Ellen, a Psychologist from Victoria. She is a blogger, author and mum and loves to inspire others. Here she shares her take on boundaries and how they impact on us and our sense of SELF. I really hope you come and join us again later in the week, as Ellen will be back to help us learn how to establish healthy boundaries and increase our self-esteem. I’d love for you to go visit her website after you listen to what she has to say.

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Recently a friend of mine, apologising for being a bit out of sorts, explained that she was upset about her 20-something daughter.  She and her daughter had always been close but recently there had been trouble; arguments and disagreements, tension.  According to my friend, the boyfriend was the problem.  Well … not the boyfriend exactly.  She had quite liked him and had certainly made him welcome as the two of them stayed with her during the weekends while working away from home during the week.  It was not him exactly.  Rather it was his influence on her daughter.

Apparently he had a lot to say about who she should be friends with and how much time she should spend with her friends and her family.  Apparently little things that upset him became big things to her and if friends and family were part of his issue then she went in to bat for him, causing tension in her own relationships.

Her mother, my friend, was quite distressed.  She sensed a wedge being driven between her and her daughter and she was quite sure that it was not of her daughter’s doing.  She could see the influence that this man was having.  She didn’t like it but she was at a loss as to what to do as any mention of it to her daughter was met solely with defensiveness.

At the time I expressed empathy for my friend, tried to console her and we brainstormed a few ideas and options.  I related my own experience of being in my 20s with a much-loved partner whom, on reflection, I also went in to bat for perhaps more often than was warranted. I tried to solve his problems and appease his worries when really that was his job.

I was pondering this later when I realised that this was perhaps an issue of blurred personal boundaries.  Personal boundaries, in psychology-speak, are the limits – physical, mental and emotional – that we establish around ourselves to differentiate ourselves from others.  They allow us to separate who we are and what we think and feel from the thoughts and feelings of the people around us.

Givers have to set limites ellen jackson

Personal boundaries are critical to healthy relationships but it can be very easy to let them blur, particularly when we’re young, inexperienced, or perhaps haven’t had clear boundaries and healthy relationships modelled to us in the past.

Signs of unhealthy boundaries include:

  • Feeling guilty for saying no
  • Doing things for others that we really don’t want to do
  • Allowing unwanted physical contact
  • Not speaking up when others treat us badly
  • Giving endlessly to others in order to please them
  • Taking endlessly from others because we can
  • Rescuing others or allowing ourselves to be rescued instead of solving our own problems and encouraging others to solve theirs.

Personal boundaries are critical to our self-esteem.  If we forget that we are each unique individuals with our own feelings, need, interests and values – or we were never clear about these things to begin with – it is so easy to take on board the needs, feelings and desires of our partners, children, friends and even the boss.  It is so easy to forget your importance as a special, unique person and to start to feel and behave as though everyone else is more important.  Do that for too long and your self-esteem – your confidence and belief in yourself – can easily disappear.

My friend’s daughter is still young and she has a strong mum.  With time I think – I hope – she will come to realise that she needs to look after her needs and her relationships and let her boyfriend fight his own battles.  If not, her mum and I agreed that a session or two with a good counsellor or psychologist will be the next course of action.

Stay tuned for my next post to learn how we establish healthy personal boundaries …

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ellen jackson

Ellen is a Psychologist, author, mum.  Melbourne-born, she spent most of her 20’s and 30’s in Sydney and now lives in beautiful Ballarat, in the Victorian Goldfields. Ellen writes stuff to inspire and sometimes to challenge.  She knows a lot of stuff about how people work at work, how people are different and unique and how people make the most out of life.  Ellen writes at www.potential.com.au or if you’d like ask a question or share a story she’d love to hear from you! You can email her at psych@potential.com.au.

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Secret Kids’ Business

Sunday mornings like today are commonly reserved for rest and relaxation. But as people wake up this morning they know that for most of the week they are probably pretty exhausted. We all have plenty of demands on our time and energy. And our kids are no different. A lot of the time they finish the week just as exhausted as we do and therefore need down-time also as much as we do. I wrote this post to help kids to recognise when they need to take some time away from “their rat race” and to give them a strategy they can use to take care of themselves. The language is aimed at kids between about 8 and 13, but anyone can use the tips it includes. I’d love it if you’d share it with your kids. If you’d like to share it with younger kids, try simply doing the activity with them. As for the teens, just make a suggestion that they ignore the younger language and take what they need out of it. Hope all your kids get something out of it. I’d love to hear how it goes for them!  🙂 

 

What kinds of things do you do during your day? When I was at school I remember getting up early to make my bed (well, sometimes I did. Most of the time I tried to get away without doing it). I got dressed, had breakfast, did some jobs and then went to school. I did all my work at school, and I concentrated pretty hard to get things right. When I went outside at lunch times I sometimes played games with other kids. I had 2 friends who used to fight a lot and I helped them be friends again. I spent most of the time alone and I got teased and bullied too. After school I went home and did my homework and then did more jobs. Some days I watched my brothers play sports. I read books a lot. It was my way of getting away from all the bullying. I rode my bike sometimes. And I worried a lot. I worried about my friends and about how much people didn’t like me.

sad sun face

What do you do? Do you do sports? Practice a musical instrument maybe? Or do you get tutoring to help with school work? Do you dance or go to gymnastics classes? Do you visit family or friends?

I bet doing all that stuff would make you pretty busy! I wonder whether you get tired by the time you get home?

How does it feel inside your body when you’re tired? Do you feel sleepy? I bet that sometimes you can feel tired but not want to sleep. For me my arms and legs feel pretty heavy, like they don’t want to follow my instructions to move them. Sometimes my tummy feels a bit funny too. Almost like I’m hungry but also like I have snakes slithering around in there. Sometimes I feel really cranky like I want to yell and other times I feel like I want to hide from everyone. Do you feel any of these? Or maybe for you it’s a bit different?

body scan pose

If we listen closely to our body sometimes it’s kind of like it’s talking to us and we can figure out what it wants. It can take a bit of practice, but trying different things sometimes helps discover what makes us feel calmer and happier. Those things will be different for us on different days because we feel different too.

Sometimes we really don’t know what to do when we feel funny and we can end up being cranky with the people we love the most. That can be our mums and dads, our brothers and sisters, or even our best friends. And that’s not always the nicest thing to do. We can feel pretty horrible when we do stuff like that.

It can help to try other things instead. I often suggest that kids make a box especially for themselves. You could call it whatever you want to. Maybe Alice’s box, or Jack’s box if your name is Alice or Jack. Or you could have a little fun with it and name it after your favourite movie character or even make up your own name for it. You could decorate it however you want too.

self care box

Inside the box put lots of different things you could do to help you feel better after a tiring day. Try putting in some of your favourite activities, like a bouncy ball, dancing, reading, listening to music, colouring, riding your bike or playing with your dog. Some things will be too big for the box so you could just write them on some paper instead. If you have trouble thinking of things to put in, you could ask someone in your family for help. And when you try new activities that really help you to feel good, you could put those in the box too!

When the box is ready, on the days you feel a bit funny inside, you could tell mum or dad that you need your box and then choose something that you want to try. If one thing doesn’t work, just put it back in and choose something else.

We’d love to know what’s inside your special box so if you’d like to share with us, maybe mum can help you type them in the comments below. And you may be giving other kids some great ideas for things they can put in their box too!

 

Emma’s experience with OCD

I’d like to introduce you to Emma. She does her best to parent her beautiful children while living with OCD. She copes with constant obsessions and compulsions every day. Hopefully her experiences will resonate with some of you. Please remember that if you are dealing with similar situations you may benefit from some support from a mental health professional. If anything in Emma’s experiences triggers you, please consider calling Lifeline for a chat on 13 1114.

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When my psychiatrist first suggested I might have OCD, I laughed. Of course not! “People with OCD don’t know the things they do are crazy, that’s why they do them,” I told him. “I’m fully aware that these things I do are crazy, I’m just not sure why I can’t stop doing them.”

In my mind, OCD was Adrian Monk, obsessed with hand-washing and germs and totally oblivious to the fact that he’s completely batshit crazy.

And me? I just have a bit of a thing for even numbers and I’m fussy about how I hang the laundry. Eccentricities. Quirks. Not a disorder.OCD Emma profile1

It wasn’t until the psychiatrist pointed out just how much time these little ‘quirks’  (or as he called them ‘rituals’) take out of my day, and how much of the in-between time I spend feeling anxious about them, that I began to concede that he might be right. In fact, OCD is by definition egodystonic – sufferers are well aware that their actions are irrational and that awareness is the basis for a lot of the anxiety that comes with it. The hand-washing and obsessive cleanliness? A common symptom but not definitive.

When my OCD it was at its worst, I spent most of my waking hours either performing rituals (that’s the compulsive part), or thinking about performing them (that’s the obsessive part). I couldn’t have the volume on my television or radio set to an odd number. I couldn’t take my baby out of the bath unless the digital clock above the bench where I bathed her read an even number. If I arrived home and the clock in the car was on an odd number, I’d pull over to the side of the road just outside my driveway and wait for them to tick over to an even number. When I did the groceries, I had to buy two loaves of bread or four, not three, although I rationalised in my head that one wasn’t technically an odd number because it’s just one. See, totally irrational!

Why did I do all these things? Because in my mind, I believed that if I didn’t do them, bad things would happen. The bad things were rarely directly related to the rituals themselves; I think the rituals were more just a way of keeping my hands and mind busy and in doing so, keeping the churning anxiety at bay.

Perhaps even more distressing than the obsessions and the compulsions however were the intrusive thoughts – thoughts which had no basis in reality but which came crashing into my conscious mind in the most upsetting manner. Perhaps most vivid is the night I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep when I suddenly thought, ‘I’ve never wanted to harm myself because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone else raising my children. But if I kill myself and the children I don’t have to worry about that’.

OCD Emma 3

 

I’d never, not once in my entire life, ever consciously thought about hurting myself. And the idea that such a thought had even occurred in my mind, regardless of how completely ridiculous it was, made me so desperately upset that I lay awake for the rest of the night, terrified to go to sleep lest I wake up to find those crazy intrusive thoughts had invaded my reality.

That was my tipping point, the point where I realised that the OCD was controlling me and not the other way around. I started on medication, and while I was skeptical about whether it would work – in my mind, I still saw the compulsions as behavioural and I couldn’t see how altering the chemicals in my brain could fix that – it did. After about three days, I suddenly found my anxiety levels dropping. That in itself was disconcerting. I’d worn the anxiety for so long like an old familiar coat that living without it took some adjustment. At a fundamental level, I still believed that I needed the anxiety in order to provoke the rituals which prevented the bad things from happening.

In addition to the medication, I also started regular CBT sessions with a psychologist who specialised in OCD. These sessions taught me techniques for living my new, medicated life without the anxiety cloak. I don’t know that medication or the therapy would have worked as standalone treatments, but the combination of the two was incredibly effective.

OCD Emma 2It’s been nearly seven years since I was diagnosed with OCD, and while it’s still there affecting my life in little ways, the medication and therapy combo continues to help me keep it somewhat under control. I’ve also learned some creative ways to avoid the compulsions – for example, I have a lot of rituals around hanging the laundry on the line. The washing must come out of the machine and into the basket in a certain order. It must then be hung on the line in a certain order, the pegs must all match and certain items require specific combinations of pegs. It can take up to an hour to hang a single load, and with five small children, there’s simply too much laundry and not enough time, so instead of battling with my head to try to combat the rituals, I avoid them altogether by drying all the washing in the clothes dryer. Yes, it’s an expensive exercise, and no, it’s not great for the environment, but if there’s one thing that living with OCD has taught me it’s to save my energy for the big stuff and not sweat the small stuff.

I’m open with my friends and family about what it’s like to live with OCD, and it’s even been the source of some amusement – my husband regularly tells people that he got ripped off because I don’t have the obsessive cleanliness thing going on. He reckons that if he has to live with the darker side of the condition, the least he deserves is the perk of a clean house!

I’m also realistic about the fact that I’ll probably need to keep taking medication for the rest of my life. I’ve had a few breaks from it over the years and they’ve generally not gone so well. Without the medication, the anxiety is simply too overwhelming for the CBT techniques to touch. Do I love the idea of pumping my brain full of drugs? Of course not! But it keeps the playing field level, it gives me the upper hand over my OCD and that makes it worth it.

I own my OCD, I will not let it own me. 

OCD Emma 1

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OCD Emma profileOne-time high-flying journo turned SAHM, Emma blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about parenting on the edge of sanity – navigating her own personal mental health minefield while raising five girls, one of whom lives with chronic illness. You can find her blog here.

 

The Realities of BPD

Following the focus this week on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Tegan Churchill has kindly put together her own experiences living with this illness. She explains how it has impacted on her life and now how she copes with a young family. Very brave and resilient woman!

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 I remember the first time I knew that a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was on the cards. I was sitting in the waiting room of my small town doctor, my chart on my lap because there was no computer system yet. Curiosity got the better of me and I flicked through the pages. Nestled in the back was a letter from the psychologist I was seeing at the time, in bold letters were the words Borderline Personality Disorder. I was confused, on the borderline of what? I committed the term to memory so that I could look it up on the internet when I got home.

I didn’t like what I saw, the checklist of symptoms read like a list of ‘how to suck at life’. I knew that I ticked most of those boxes and I was ashamed. I was 15 at the time but a definite diagnosis was not made until I was 18. Doctors decided that I had, had enough time to grow into my personality and this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life.

I sought out support in online forums, losing myself in an online world. All around me my life was falling to pieces. I dropped out of university, I was living with my grandmother and spending most of my days in bed. My GP told me that I was a 9 year old trapped in an adult’s body. I was horrified at the time, unable to process the comment. Looking back now, it’s true.

BPD

I was on a destructive path. A suicide attempt lead to my mother moving with me to a larger center with more mental health services. It didn’t matter, I was hell bent on destroying myself. I was reckless and failed to see the consequences. After ending up in jail for 2 months, my mother moved back to our hometown. I stayed in the city and moved into single’s accommodation for women. I had everything I wanted; I lived in a large town where nobody knew me.

I didn’t know what to do with my thoughts. They were all consuming, every emotion felt like a thousand knives were piercing my skin. I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I lashed out at anyone who tried to help me. I was like a stubborn child. The professionals who were supposed to help me wrote me off as an attention seeker. Therapy was stopped after another suicide attempt and I found myself floating through a system that seemed hell bent on keeping me unwell.

Having Borderline makes making and maintaining relationships difficult. I find myself going between loving a person more than anything and hating them with everything in my being. I often turn people off without a second thought to repair the relationship. I find myself in screaming matches with people who I love, feeling a rage that is so all consuming that I worry that my veins will burst through my skin. I turn into the hulk and it takes me days to calm down.

For years I turned to self-harm to help fight the feelings. I self-harmed to make me feel and to stop feeling too much. Each time I cut it had to be deeper than the last time. I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to destroy myself, to punish myself for the perceived wrongs that I had committed.

bpd 3rd deg burns

Now I have a child to consider. He is counting on me to be there, and he is the reason that I looked into better therapy. I let my moods and my coping skills get a lot worse again before I admitted I needed help. I had put on a mask, hidden behind a wall and didn’t let my feelings out anymore. I was afraid that I would lose my son. The mask was so good that my current psychologist was skeptical that I had Borderline at all.

I have recently completed a course of Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and found it immensely helpful. It was a relief to have someone take me seriously, who saw that I was someone worthy of treatment and had the time to spend working on my issues.

I’m a different person to when I first received the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I still struggle to express my feelings, and to interpret others’ intentions but I am making progress. I still catch myself wandering down the destructive path, but I know that I have so much more to live for. I still feel like I’m walking around with no skin, taking in every slight, every glance, every word but I am getting better at processing the thoughts.

Borderline may be something that I will always struggle with but I am happy that I am filling my toolbox so the good days begin to outweigh the bad.

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tegan churchillBlurb: Tegan can be found at http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com where she talks about mental illness, parenting and everything in between. She hopes that by sharing her story and knowledge that she can do her part to help rid the world of stigma. Joining her on the journey is her partner Paul, a 4 year old bundle of energy and a puppy with an attitude.

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