Tag Archives: mental health

What Winnie the Pooh teaches us about labels

Piglet, Pooh, Rabbit, Roo, Kanga, Tigger and Eeyore in Disney’s live-action adventure CHRISTOPHER ROBIN.

Over the weekend I went to see the new Christopher Robin film. 

I absolutely loved it and laughed all the way through. 

Before I went, someone had mentioned that the characters were typical of some standard mental health issues, so I had that in mind as I watched.

It was quite a revelation. 

It showed what labels can mean, but more importantly, what ignoring them means.

Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger

Eeyore

I think Eeyore is the most obvious one. Eeyore is always depressed. His expectation is that everything will go wrong for him and all his friends will ignore him. But here’s the thing, none of them do. They totally ignore his mood and include him in everything they do. They don’t care if he’s depressed, the love him for who he is. They don’t try to change him. They don’t tell him to stop being miserable. They don’t tell him he has a great life and to snap out of it. They accept him as one of them unconditionally. 

Piglet

Piglet has anxiety. He worries about everything. He’s scared of doing anything. At one point in the film, all the friends are going through the tree, out of the hundred acre wood. Piglet stops and says he doesn’t think he can go and he should just stay behind. Once more, Pooh doesn’t try and persuade him that he’s wrong and that it’s actually safe. He just takes his hand and tells Piglet that they need him to get through this adventure. Pooh gently leads him by the hand, into the tree, all the while reassuring him that he’s an important member of the team. 

Tigger

Tigger has ADHD. He loves to bounce, is constantly high as a kite, and crashes around without paying any attention to what everyone else is doing. He will sing his song at any opportunity and you just smile when he’s bouncing around (Tigger is my favourite character). As with the other characters, no one tells Tigger to calm down. No one tries to change him. They just accept him as an often welcome distraction from things that could get pretty intense. At one point he is in a taxi and, seeing his reflection, gets a little over-excited about another Tigger existing. This leads the taxi to crash. Does everyone berate Tigger for messing stuff up? No. They just get on with the situation they are in and make the best of it. 

Winnie the Pooh

For a bear with very little brain, Pooh is remarkably wise. 

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something”

He doesn’t flap or worry. He doesn’t get anxious or hyper. He just accepts things for how they are and trusts that things will work out ok in the end. He is a little obsessed with honey and constantly thinking about food. But it’s not a coping mechanism for him. It’s just who he is. 

All in all I thought it was a wonderful film. I didn’t want it to end. The animation and voices were perfect. The characters were exactly as they are in the books. Whether you find the characters fascinating or just immerse yourself in the experience, I highly recommend it. 

Inktober: An ink drawing every day in October

During October there was a challenge set, to do an ink drawing every day.

I added to the challenge to try and do my drawings for each prompt on the theme of mental health.

Some days were really tricky, but I did it!

I will do a series of posts explaining each drawing in the future.

 

Why you should not say you are mentally ill

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noun ill·ness \ˈil-nəs\
Simple Definition of illness
: a condition of being unhealthy in your body or mind
: a specific condition that prevents your body or mind from working normally : a sickness or disease

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I didn’t post anything for it. I believe that we are all screwed up. It’s just that for some of us, at some point, our screw ups get in the way of life. I think it’s normal to have problems. I think it’s normal to not be normal.

The number one phobia in the UK is spiders. That means we either know somebody, or are somebody, that is scared of spiders. When a spider comes into the room, the person with a fear of them stops acting like themselves. They don’t act “normally”. I knew someone that spent 3 hours stuck in their bedroom because there was a spider above the door. If they threw something at it, then they wouldn’t know where it was – which would be worse. So they waited 3 hours for it to move. Is that normal? Are they ill? Few people would think of seeing a therapist for a fear of spiders – it’s not a mental health problem.

Many people are scared of heights. Like many fears, they can justify the risk in their head, but next to someone who isn’t scared of heights they seem weird. Not normal. Most people with a fear of heights will engineer their lives to avoid the thing they are scared of. Most people wouldn’t come and see a therapist about it. A therapist is for when you are ill. When you have a mental health condition. It’s for when you are not normal.

So if we try and classify our problems as a mental health condition; if we call ourselves mentally ill, then we are not normal. And who wants to feel that way about themselves?

What if we looked at it a different way.

What if we said that we are all screwed up, it’s just that sometimes, those screw ups get in the way of life so much that we can no longer ignore or work around them.

What if we went to see a therapist because we are normal; because to limit our lives because of a fear or a worry is actually not normal.

If your car stops running normally do you feel embarrassed about taking it to the garage to get it fixed?

If your phone stops working the way it’s always worked, do you feel bad about getting it fixed by someone who can help?

So if your life isn’t going the way it’s always gone, why should you feel bad about going to someone who can help you get it back on track?

To learn more about the way our subconscious works and where screw ups come from, read my book “The Caveman Rules of Survival

Different realities

colour blind

Some people can’t see certain colours. Some people can’t see reds and greens. It’s hard to understand what they see, when we can see them fine. But we accept that some people see colours differently.

The thing a lot of people don’t realise is that it’s not the eyes that see. It’s the brain. We all see things based on our own reality. We all see things differently.

So why is it so hard to accept that we might see other things differently? Why is it so hard to accept that the way we see ourselves may not be the same as others see us?

You don’t know what you don’t know. Until you see things in a different way, no amount of explanation from anyone else will shift your perception. A person who is colour blind will not realise that they see things differently until someone points it out to them. Even then, they still won’t truly understand until something helps them see differently. A person who is experiencing depression will not be able to hear what other people tell them. They are living in a restricted reality in their own head.

This video of a baby getting glasses for the first time is a great example. She doesn’t know that there is anything wrong with her eyesight,  until she sees the world for the first time through glasses.

Baby sees with glasses for the first time

When people leave their first session with me, they mostly look bemused. They know themselves pretty well, and have no reason to believe an hour spent talking to me will change a thing. But as they go through the weeks after that session, they begin to see things differently. Their reality begins to shift. The more evidence they gather of how things can be different, the more it brings into question everything they thought was true about themselves.

It can be both unnerving and exciting.

In time, they stop accepting their emotional state as a black and white truth. They begin to realise that it is a temporary reality that can be changed. Until they do, I am there. I remain the objective observer, finding the right glasses to allow them to see the world as it is, rather than a filtered version based on past experiences.

It’s a wonderful journey and I am honoured to be part of it with so many people.

You can’t talk someone out of depression

shutterstock_113875279

Don’t ask someone why they are depressed

This is what you read in the mental health forums. People talk about the Black Dog. It is a metaphor for the state of deep depression that people experience. The Black Dog represents a state that is out of their control. It represents an illness.

But what is depression? As a label we all have an idea what it means. In fact most of us, if we are honest, will be able to say we have had a period of our lives where we could have been classed as depressed. For some this period extends out to span their whole lives. There is a perception that you will always be prone to depressive spells.

Labels comfort and constrain us

You are unique. No two people will experience depression in the same way. How can a label possibly represent this?

When you have been battling for a long time, you can feel like you are going mad. Everything can feel out of control. Then you go to your GP and they give you a label. They have to because once they have labelled you they can treat you.

At first a label can be a comfort. You can read around. You can find other people experiencing the same thing as you. You feel part of something. You feel like you are not creating your own problem. You experience the catharses of talking and letting out a big secret.

But you are unique. In time you might realise that you are not the same as everyone else. You may realise that it’s not enough to know that others have a similar problem. Because all those people are now constrained by their label, in the same way that you are.

Medication for depression is not a cure. Medication for depression balances the chemicals in your brain to stop you going too low. They have a value for this. Chemicals in the brain can be very powerful for influencing our state. However medication is a sticky plaster. A plaster doesn’t heal a wound, it just stops it getting worse.

If you want to get over depression, you need to get rid of the trigger.

In my experience as a therapist, there is a reason for depression. The thing that people get wrong is they use their current reality to try and explain why they shouldn’t be depressed: “I have a great life”, “I have great family and friends”, “I have a good job and I’m really successful”

The reason for depression doesn’t come from your current reality. It comes from your past reality. It comes from childhood.

In my experience, the state of depression comes from a mismatch between expectations and reality. Expectations that you should be somewhere in life that you are not, or expectations that you should be able to cope better than you are.

This is why you can’t talk someone out of depression. They are living in a different reality to you and won’t be listening

Moving on from depression

So if you want to move on from a depressed state, instead of addressing current reality, amazing change can be achieved by addressing the source of the expectations

You are not as in control of your thoughts as you think. At least 90% of the time your subconscious is in charge. This part of you is a primitive and emotional part of your brain, but it means well. It’s job is to keep you safe from harm. This goes beyond keeping your heart pumping, fighting off viruses etc. The subconscious also protects you from stuff in your environment that may cause you harm, both physically and emotionally.

Because we are all unique, we all have different rules for what might harm us. This is why some people are scared of spiders and others aren’t. This is why some people are scared of picking up the phone and others don’t even think about it.

These “rules for survival” are created as we grow up. As children we are learning many things. A tiger cub will learn from its parents how to hunt safely, how to sleep so nothing can hurt it, etc. In the same way, our subconscious learns lessons on how it can keep us safe once we are adults. Those lessons go into a rule book.

Between the age of 14 to 16 your brain switches to following the rules in the rule book rather than writing them.

Time travel

So let’s look at depression differently. I said that it is about expectations versus reality. It is the expectation part that’s the problem not the reality. If there are no expectations then you are able to accept your reality.

When I work with clients who have symptoms of depression, I seek out the point at which the expectations were written in the rule book. We time travel through a web of memories to find the significant moment where a lesson was learned. Did you know there a 7,363,282 minutes that you experience by the time you are 15 years old? Any one of those minutes can be taken by your subconscious as significant enough to learn a lesson from.

Try this. Think of the most recent time you laughed. Got it? Now think of the very earliest memory where you felt happy. There is a web of memories and your mind will automatically make the right connections if you just touch on the right strand of the web.

Summary

There is a reason for depression but that reason does not come from your current reality. It comes from expectations versus your current reality. If you get rid of the expectations you can accept your reality. If you change it this way, then you will not keep on going back into that depressed state. It frees you up to accept your life without risk of sinking into extreme lows when life gets on top of you.

To learn more check out my book “The Caveman Rules of Survival”

Semi Colon Tattoos

A semi colon is used by an author to indicate that a sentence is not over.

A semi colon tattoo is used by a person to show that they didn’t give up and that their life isn’t over.

A tattoo. A permanent mark on your skin that you will have for the rest of your life.

A permanent reminder for the rest of your life of a time where you were so low that you nearly took your own life.

It is supposed to raise awareness of mental health issues and suicide.

A lot of my clients want to get past the lowest part of their lives. They want to move on from that state where they can’t enjoy life. They want to move on from feeling like there was no hope.

A tattoo is a constant reminder.

You know how you can hear a song and it takes you right back to a moment?

You know how you walk past a cafe and the smell reminds you of a childhood memory?

A tattoo like this would do that same, in my opinion. It would never let you forget that you felt so low that you wanted to end it all.

Whilst I recognise that it is intended as a positive sign – I survived, I fought, I was strong enough to keep going – the reality is that in 20 years time when your life has moved on so much, this will be a reminder of the bad times.

Personally, I think a semi colon tattoo limits your freedom to move on with your life. And I believe everyone can, and deserves to,  move on with their life, with the right help.

Invisible reality

If what other people thought of us really mattered and was material to our sense of who we are then Robin Williams would still be alive today.

Why do I say that? Well today I woke up to the news of his suspected suicide. It was well known that he struggled with depression. But the reason for my opening statement is based on the response to his death. People are showing nothing but love, kindness, respect, sadness and understanding.

We feel a sense of loss for a person we feel connected with but never truly knew.

But even if we did know him – even if we shared a beer with him every week – would that mean that we would have more of an insight into how he was feeling? Unlikely.

Depression (if that’s what led to his death) is invisible. It happens inside of a person’s head. It happens in their version of reality that rarely bears any resemblance to the reality of the world around them. If it did, then they would be able to see the love and respect of the people around them. They would be able to see how much they would be missed.

But it’s invisible. So often even closest friends and relatives have no idea. And it makes you blind, so you can’t see a way out. You feel hopeless. You *feel* hopeless but that doesn’t mean things are hopeless.

There is one simple thing anyone who is stuck in that dark place in their heads can do.

Talk about it.

That’s it.

Just talk to someone. Tell them what is happening in your head.

It’s like opening thick curtains, just a crack, on a bright sunny day. By talking the light shines right in through that opening. Just by talking the darkness begins to disappear.

You are not alone. You are never alone. If you don’t feel you can talk to a friend or relative talk to The Samaritans 08457 90 90 90 (UK).

Open that curtain, just a crack, and let the light in.

The good stuff is always there

It seems to be human nature to ignore the good stuff that has happened in the day in favour of the stuff you are not so happy with.

If you are trying to lose weight and get up and go to the gym in the morning and then in the afternoon you have some cake, you will almost definitely delete from your mind the fact you went to the gym and focus only on the fact that you had cake.

We delete the good stuff and focus on the stuff we are not happy with.

But you can change this. It is amazing how powerful it can be to your mental health and general wellbeing to reverse your behaviour and make sure that you focus on the good stuff that happens in your day. How?

At the end of every day write down 3 positive things that happened in your day

Let me explain why it’s important to write it down.

Have you ever been buying a new car and noticed that car everywhere? It’s not that there are more of that car on the roads it’s just that you have primed yourself to notice it.

Have you ever been trying for a baby and found that everyone in the world is pregnant or has a baby? It’s not true it’s just that you have primed yourself to notice it.

By writing your positives down at the end of the day you have to notice the good stuff that is always there and because you are writing them down you can’t delete them. Also, because your brain knows you need to write down 3 at the end of the day it will go looking for them. You are priming yourself to see the good stuff.

And it doesn’t have to be big things. It can be someone making you smile, noticing a bird singing in the morning. They are always there. The worse the day is the more effort you should make to write them down too. It can make the difference between a good and a bad day if you stick to it!

Hypnosis–meddling with mental health

When you say hypnosis most people have an image that comes to mind. People on stage doing stuff that makes everyone else laugh.

When you suggest someone goes to a hypnotherapist, in many ways they expect a similar experience. To be put into a deep trance, have their problems sorted and to walk out ‘fixed’.

Belief number 1 : You can’t be hypnotised

Because of the association with stage hypnosis many people would not come to see someone like me because they either believe they can’t be hypnotised or they are worried about the loss of control of being in a trance.

But you see I don’t hypnotise people. In fact I’m not sure I would know how. I am more a de-hypnotherapist

Cognitive Hypnotherapy works on the basis that trance states are part of everyday life, and include daydreaming and fantasising. Science indicates that we are in these kinds of states 90% of the time. For example, have you have you ever driven somewhere and not remember anything of the journey?

If you are scared of spiders (or know someone who is) are they being ‘themselves’ when there is a spider is in the room? No. When they are ‘doing’ the behaviour that relates to the fear of a spider then they are in an alternate state. A trance. I need to de-hypnotise them to stop them going into that trance state to get them past that behaviour.

So lets say you believe me and get over the whole trance worry. I don’t need to hypnotise you so you don’t need to worry about not being susceptible to hypnosis. So now what?

Belief number 2 : As an ‘alternative therapy’ I am not a qualified mental health professional

Maybe you think it needs a medical professional to deal with mental health conditions. Maybe you think it is dangerous for a non qualified alternative therapist to tackle issues like depression and anxiety.

Well I am a qualified professional. These are my qualifications.

DipCHyp : Diploma of Cognitive Hypnotherapy

NLP ( MPrac) : Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming

CNCH (Acc) : Accredited Member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy. The NCH is also the governing body who’s Code of Ethics I abide by.

HPD : Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma

It took me over 10 months to get them plus an exam at the end. I am registered with the NCH and I am covered by professional insurance.  

We are also trying to get Cognitive Hypnotherapy accepted on the NHS and as a result I complete the NHS research forms for every client (for those in the know these are GAD7, PHQ9 and SWEMWEBS). I measure the success of my therapy using these forms and they go into a database that will form the basis of an article in a medical journal later this year. I have seen 100% improvement over 2 sessions using these forms with a few clients but my average is 40-60% improvement over 2-3 sessions.

I am also under on going supervision and have completed risk training. I will not take on certain clients with mental health conditions that have impaired the cognitive function such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar…to name just a few.I ensure that all times I look after the wellbeing of my client and of myself. If I feel there is a risk to that I will not take on a client.

Belief number 3 : I am not qualified to diagnose and give medical advice

You are right. But then I don’t diagnose and I don’t cure.

I work with my clients model of the world to understand where their problem comes from and remove the trigger. I don’t need to diagnose to help I just need to understand the subconscious purpose of the behaviour so I can guide you to change it.

Cognitive Hypnotherapists can see four clients in one day for something with the same name, however it doesn’t mean the same thing will work for them. People experience their problem based on different miscalculations, so clients need to be treated individually – not just have the same ‘script’ read to them because they share similar symptoms.

Do you think every person that is depressed is depressed for the same reasons? Do you think we all experience our symptoms of depression in the same way? If you came to see me to lose weight and I said “ah ha I know all about that, I struggle with weight too…what you need to do is eat less chocolate” then I would be labelling all overweight people as eating too much chocolate based on my labels and diagnosis when actually it you might not like chocolate at all.

Cognitive Hypnotherapists believe that the everyone has the resources they need to make the differences they want in their life. It’s an interactive therapy where the therapist acts as a guide. The principle is that the client can find their own solutions with skilled assistance. It does not involve the therapist as a ‘controlling’ agent, or someone who dictates what is ‘best’ for the client. A Cognitive Hypnotherapist works within the clients model and experience of the world, not the other way round.

I work with you to guide you to your own solution. My personal experience is irrelevant to helping you deal with your problems. For me, what my personal experience does is give me an absolute belief in the power of Cognitive Hypnotherapy to help overcome anything – no matter how traumatic or fundamental to who you are that thing has been .

I believe I can help you. If you come to me willing to believe the same then anything is possible.

If you want to give it a try, drop me an email to dawn@thinkitchangeit.com and tell me how you think I might be able to help. And remember, I do my therapy both online and face to face so it doesn’t matter where you live. I can still help you.