Thoughtful Therapy

  Helping women find freedom and peace



Tunnel Vision

Posted on 5 May, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (3005)

What is tunnel vision?

According to Merriam-Webster, tunnel vision is an extreme narrowness of viewpoint, a constricted field of vision, or a tendency to think about only one thing and ignore everything else. Basically, your vision is focused on a very small area, blocking out anything in the periphery. This can be a physical problem, but it can also be a mental issue. The mental form of tunnel vision is what I will address here.

How does it work?

Depression is one of the most common causes of mental tunnel vision, based on clients I have worked with, people I have met, and my own personal experiences. Remember that depression is a disease of lies. It tells you things that are not true, trying to trick you into believing you are not likable, you are not worthy, you have no friends, no one wants to hear from you, etc. Well, tunnel vision plays right into that by increasing your focus on the lies in the center, and eliminating any peripheral truths floating around the edges. Everything becomes mentally dark except for the lie in your psychological bull's eye. That lie becomes bigger and bigger, more and more in focus, as it elbows out the truths around it. Pretty soon, you find yourself believing the lie and looking farther and farther into that tunnel. But it doesn't have to be this way.

You can beat tunnel vision

First, you must recognize what is happening. Notice when you get stuck on a negative idea or thought. Knowing is half the battle (see: G.I. Joe cartoons from the 1980s), so once you realize you are perseverating on something unhealthy, you can harness your mental power and change it.

Next, you must decide to call the lie a lie. You decide you are not going to buy into it. You tell yourself, "No. That is a lie. I do have friends and they do want to hear from me."

Then, you expand your view. Open up the tunnel and let the light in. Allow those truths around the edges to float into the middle as you push the lie out and away from your line of vision. Focus on the truths: You are likable; you have friends; they do want to hear from you; they care about you.

The more you repeat these truths to yourself, the more likely you are to believe them. Yes, it takes time. No, it may not feel like it's working all the time, but keep practicing. Do not give up. The reason you believe the lies is because they have been repeated to you so many times, either by yourself or by others. Truths become ingrained in the same way. Through repetition. Start repeating the good stuff, the truths, as much as you used to repeat the bad stuff, and watch that tunnel disappear. Soon, you'll be able to see the light all around you instead of being stuck in the dark and searching for that elusive light so far away.

Four Myths About Counseling

Posted on 14 April, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (8414)

People have varying feelings regarding counseling. For some, counseling is an essential part of life. For others, even thinking about therapy is uncomfortable. There are different perceptions about what it means to go to counseling, and society and culture definitely play a role in this. Depending on your viewpoint, counseling may be looked at as a legitimate way to deal with problems. Or it may be something that only "crazy people" do.

Here are a few myths about counseling and the reality checks that go with them.

If I go to counseling it means I'm weak. I should be able to handle my problems on my own, without help. The reality is that some problems are too big, messy, or painful to handle alone. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to reach out to someone outside your friends and family for an unbiased perspective. A counselor can provide that perspective for you, pointing out things you may not have considered before, asking questions that get you thinking, and helping you identify choices and options you didn't realize you have.

Everyone will know my business. The reality is that everyone will NOT know your business. A counselor has an ethical obligation to keep client information confidential. There are certain exceptions to this, such as a client expressing the desire to hurt herself or someone else, or a report of child abuse, but these exceptions primarily involve people's personal safety, and not the issues many clients bring to counseling. 

Counseling doesn't work. The reality is that counseling won't work if you go into it with that attitude and a closed mind. If you refuse to share, open up, and deal with your issues, you will not get very far with counseling. However, if you believe counseling can help you, and you go in with an open mind, counseling can make a positive difference in your life.

Only crazy people go to counseling. The reality is that counseling is for people who want to make a change in their lives. Asking for help with this doesn't make you crazy. It makes you smart, and it means you are ready for things to get better. It means you are tired of being stuck in a rut and you're looking for something to change. Yes, there are people who have very serious mental disorders, but I don't see many of them in my office for counseling. If someone has a considerable amount of mental disturbance they are more likely to be on strong psychotropic medications, and may not be able to sit in a counseling office to discuss their issues.

These are only some of many myths about counseling, and everyone has their own fears and worries about sharing their issues and inner thoughts with a stranger, but going to counseling doesn't mean you are weak or crazy, or that everyone will know your business. And if you want it to be a good experience, start with a positive attitude and the idea that counseling can help.

Depression is a Disease of Lies!

Posted on 17 March, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (15346)

Depression is a disease of lies! Whoa! That seems a little dramatic, doesn't it? Well, actually, no. That statement pretty much hits the nail on the head. Depression IS a disease of lies. This is something I have come to believe after counseling many clients as they deal with depression, and as I have dealt with my own depression. Depression wants you to think nobody cares about you, that nobody wants to spend time with you, that you are a burden.

These lies, and others, keep you from reaching out to people. They keep you from doing the things that could help you feel better and less depressed, such as exercising regularly, spending time with friends and family, eating nutritious foods, and keeping a regular schedule. Unfortunately, the very things that can counteract depression are the very things that are so difficult to find the motivation to do. And then there's that little voice whispering in your ear (or that huge voice screaming in your face, depending on the day) telling you not to bother, that no one wants to be your friend, and you should just give up. Because, you see, when you feel depressed you believe anything depression tells you. It's when you are feeling better that you are able to logically recognize the lies as such. That's why it is so important to become aware of the lies and call them out when you are feeling good. If you wait until the next bout of depression strikes to try to identify the lies, you will buy into every single one.

You must internalize the truths that combat the lies depression tells. Of course, the lies are endless, but below are some examples. I'll add statements addressing these lies, but please make them your own by using words that are meaningful to you. Remember, you must use logic to power through.

I'm not worth it, I'm not good enough: Good enough for what? Why are you worse than other people? Have you done something so horrible that the rest of humanity should shun you? That really seems unlikely. It's okay if you aren't perfect. Nobody is. We're all just going along in life, doing our best to have a good one. You can do that, too. Give yourself a break from the comparisons and just be who you are.

No one cares about me: Really? Not a single person in the entire world cares about you? Start listing the people in your life (parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coworkers, babysitters, children, etc) and truthfully consider that statement. "Does my mom care about me? Yes, of course she does. What about my boss? My sister? My husband?..." This is an example of All Or Nothing Thinking. All Or Nothing Thinking tells us there is either perfection or failure, with no in-between. It only recognizes 1 and 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, leaving out 2 through 9. Allow yourself to consider the middle of the spectrum.

No one wants to be around me, no one wants to hear from me: Why not? Why wouldn't people want to be around you or hear from you? Again, what have you done that would make people want to shun you? Probably nothing. We all like to spend time with our friends. Assuming you have chosen nice people as friends (if not, that's a whole other issue we should discuss), they would like to spend time with you, too. When someone you like contacts you, you feel excited/glad/happy. Just like when you realize all your mail isn't junk or bills: "Hey! There's a personal letter in here!" Same with a phone call, text or email from a friend: "Hey! Susan just texted me! Wonder how she's doing? Maybe we can get together and catch up." Reach out, and allow yourself to be "reached out to," too.

Keep on checking what depression tells you. Often, you will find, it tells you lies about who you are and what others think of you. Don't buy into this. Don't believe the lies. Always search out the truth.

Simple Tips for Better Sleep

Posted on 1 February, 2015 at 23:35 Comments comments (5531)

Sleep is essential to our well-being. You know how you feel the day after staying out too late. It might even take a few days to get back on schedule. Where you used to regularly pull all-nighters with few consequences, you now have serious functioning problems when you miss out on your beauty sleep. You feel tired and cranky. You're sluggish. Your brain is in a fog. It's difficult to process information, hard to focus on the task at hand.

For some people, a poor night's sleep is a rare event, and easily traced to the previous evening's activities. For others, bad sleep is the norm. You long to get more than an hour or two at a time, but are plagued by the dreaded insomnia. This can be due to various reasons, such as a medical or mental health issue, or possibly because of poor "sleep hygiene." Below are some suggestions for improving your sleep.

1. If insomnia is a persistent problem for you, consulting your physician is a wise choice. There may be a physical or medication issue that could be dealt with that would promote better sleep.

2. Avoid caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda) at least six hours before bedtime. You might even include chocolate in this list, since it has caffeine in it as well.

3. Do not drink alcohol to help you fall asleep. While it seems like alcohol helps you relax, it actually inhibits REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This is the sleep stage in which we dream, and the one considered to be mentally restorative. When you disrupt your REM sleep, you feel drowsy the next day and have poor concentration, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.

4. Avoid taking naps during the day, even if you missed sleep the night before. As delicious as naps are, they can really interfere with nighttime sleep, making you anxious when you have difficulty falling asleep that night, which only keeps you awake longer.

5. Develop a relaxing before bed routine. This could include things like turning off screens (television, computer, smart phone) at least an hour before bedtime, taking a shower or bath, drinking a warm cup of milk, or reading a book. Choose things that are relaxing to you, and start winding down before your head hits the pillow.

6. Make sure your sleeping environment is comfortable. A quiet room, comfortable room temperature, and comfortable bed are essential to good sleep.

7. Do not try to sleep with the television on at night. This is extremely disruptive to sleep. If you feel like you can't sleep without noise, get a fan or white noise machine that produces a steady sound, instead of the lights and distracting sounds of the T.V.

8. Relax your body when you go to bed. Practice deep breathing or try tightening and releasing your muscles from head to toe.

9. When you are in bed is not the time to worry about problems. This only makes you feel anxious and makes sleep even more elusive. Keep a pad of paper on your nightstand and write down any worries or tasks for the next day so you can turn them loose for the night. Have a positive attitude about sleep and expect to go to sleep when you lie down in bed.

10. Exercise early in the day, or at least three hours before bedtime. Heavy exercise right before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep due to the endorphins you just released. Your body is stimulated and is no longer ready to sleep.

Sleep is so important to being a functional human. Many of us give it short shrift, not realizing we are walking (and driving!) around like zombies, not fully aware of our actions. If you have ever driven somewhere and not remembered how you got there, you know what I mean. That is scary.

Prioritize your sleep at night and notice what a difference it makes in how you feel during the day.