Loneliness- The Un-Named Diagnosis

Did you know that if you tell Siri you want to kill yourself, she will connect you to the national suicide hotline? This is remarkable and potentially life saving, yet it makes me sad that in our darkest hour of need, we might reach out to our phones instead of another human being.

We are starting to name a growing mental health crisis in our nation, which marks progress, but we are only beginning to scratch the surface of its causes. While loneliness doesn’t get mention in the DSM 5, it can be a causal factor in anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, substance use disorders, and eating disorders. What is happening to our ability to connect with each other in a meaningful and substantive way?

Psychology Today, in March/April 2018, addressed loneliness as an epidemic in America. Feelings of alienation and rejection lie at the heart of the issue and impact all social groups, whether old or young, married or single. New research indicates that loneliness causes genuine hurt, impacting the same part of the brain that registers physical pain. Yet it is the quality of connection most at stake, for we can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. Conversely, we can spend time alone and still feel deeply connected, if we have relationships rich in quality.

Human beings are relational creatures. We learn and grow via inter-connectedness. While highly individual, we thrive when feeling supported and validated by core people in our lives. In the program I teach, Mental Health First Aid , we have a term called “ministry of presence,” which describes a quality of being with another person without pushing an agenda, judging, or giving unsolicited advice. This is vital because we all want to feel a sense of acceptance, respect, and love. Like a parent lovingly holding a child in his/her arms, ministry of presence requires nothing more than showing up with quiet focus on the moment shared. However, demands on our time and attention pull us away from these types of interactions. We’re also putting focus on external validation (i.e. how many likes did my post get on Instagram) vs. the sense of security that comes with genuine acceptance for simply being.

In order to connect more fully we others, we need to take a little time to connect with ourselves. Otherwise, we’re running on empty and don’t have much in terms of energy or internal resources to give to others. We can sit with ourselves in quiet meditation, or go for a walk, or journal write. Although these are solitary activities, they actually can decrease feelings of loneliness because they increase a sense of connectedness to self. From there, we can practice being more present with others in our lives.

Connection though requires a degree of reaching out. To that end, I highly encourage you to make a phone call a day to someone. Check in with someone and find out how he or she is doing. Share a bit how you’re doing. This builds connections that run deeper than sending an emoji via text. This is important because if someone is feeling down enough to consider suicide, a relationship built on very surface communication might not prompt him or her to reach out to you. The suicide rate in America has gone up 25% in the last two decades and loneliness most likely plays a role in this devastating statistic. If we want to cure loneliness and isolation, we need more than Siri to help us do that. We need to actively foster relationships that convey care.

The post Loneliness- The Un-Named Diagnosis appeared first on Selfish Bitch of a Daughter.

Source: Lise’s Letters
Loneliness- The Un-Named Diagnosis

Lise’s Letters Has Moved

Hello! It has been quite some time since I’ve blogged. You may have been wondering why. The main reason is that Lise’s Letters has moved. I’m now hosting a blog, also on WordPress, called “Selfish Bitch of a Daughter.” It can be found at Selfishbitchofadaughter.com.

You may ponder the title. “Do you have a selfish daughter who you think is a bitch?” you may be asking, thinking that this is an Internet tell-all about my entitled teenage daughter. No. That is not the case. I do not have any children despite always having wanted to have been a mother. Nor was I a selfish bitch of a daughter. I was actually a very good daughter.

The reason I say “was a good daughter” is because both of my parents are deceased.  Both had serious mental health and addiction issues. My mom was incarcerated for 5 felony DUIs and died by suicide and my father, who was once a prominent attorney, was later disbarred. He died bankrupt at the age of 58 from pancreatic cancer. I always wanted to help them and when I couldn’t, I felt like a bad daughter. When I placed focus on myself, I felt selfish.

Specifically, the title of the blog comes from a one woman show I wrote, produced, and starred in that explored my relationship with my mother and how her struggles impacted my own. What I discovered when I performed the show was how many people actually related to the narrative. It turns out my story isn’t so unique. As people came up to hug me afterward to congratulate me, I ended up hugging and consoling a few of them. The show struck a nerve.

One in five Americans will have a mental illness in any given year and some of those individuals will wind up in jail instead of in psychiatric care for as I say in the show, “Orange is the new black and jails have replaced psychiatric hospitals.”

Because I want to continue exploring themes from the show through writing and dialogue, I decided to launch the new blog, as it has a more specific focus on mental health issues.

Come on over and check it out!

Source: Lise’s Letters
Lise’s Letters Has Moved

The Art Of Doing Less

If truth be told, I take yoga because it knocks me out like a drug. No matter how much I have on my plate, I still take class. Afterward, I sit on my couch and watch the light patterns on my carpet. I may even curl up on the couch and sleep.

This zoned out state used to frustrate me. Now I see the resulting fatigue and inactivity as a gift. It means that a fair amount of stress was bound within me. When the stress releases I realize just how tired I am when not masking my energy levels with adrenaline, caffeine, and will power.

For a responsible person like me, consciously slowing down feels like a cardinal sin. But it’s a sin I must commit.

In a world that demands more and more of us, it takes discipline to do less. Yet we must do less, if we want more quality moments in our lives.

In his book, Dying For A Paycheck Jeffrey Pfeffer contends that modern management practices are killing us. Whether we work for a company, for ourselves, or run a business, the current climate impacts everyone. Long hours, work-family conflict, and economic insecurity are driving people to sacrifice health and relationships. Couple this with the fact that technology keeps us connected 24/7 unless we consciously disengage, and it’s no wonder we’re all frazzled, popping pills, or pooped. Who has time for family, or dating, or hobbies, or health? We’re expected to do more for less and technological developments move faster than we can keep pace with. No matter the specifics of your situation, the current climate is exhausting.

So what can you do to maintain your health and sanity in a world that spins faster and faster off its axis? Here are some suggestions:

  • Develop a yoga practice or mindfulness based meditation routine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Turn the phone and computer off at least a few hours before bed
  • Get outside every day for a walk
  • Pet an animal
  • Spend time with a young person
  • Stare at your navel
  • Take a break from the social media noise
  • Accept that you are enough and that your efforts are enough
  • Trust God, the universe, or some kind stranger to catch you, if the sky caves in
  • Know that you will catch yourself, if the sky caves in
  • Know that the world somehow always goes on
  • Look up at the sky; it’s beautiful
  • Bake cookies and share them with the neighbors
  • Breathe

You will be surprised at how much better you feel. Not only that, you might find yourself more productive after not doing much of anything at all. You and your health are worth it!

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Source: Lise’s Letters
The Art Of Doing Less

Money Matters in Mental Health

My mom died penniless, middle-aged, and alone. She was found dead on the streets from an overdose of amitriptyline- meds prescribed to calm her nerves not kill her. She should never have wound up in this condition. 

She never should have died poor, let alone- alone. She was raised in a middle-class family and worked for over twenty years at a university where she should have been receiving a pension. She owned her home, worked very hard, was frugal, and also inherited some money from an uncle. How then did this happen? 

What steered her off course from a modest but secure retirement? And what left her thinking she had no way out and no one in the world to whom she could turn? 

My mom had a dependence on alcohol that led to years of isolation and eventual incarceration for felony DUIs. She lost her job, her assets, and poured money down the drain in restitution fees. She also failed to learn about investing, so even though she had a money manager, she didn’t know how to manage her accounts or to adequately leverage them. 

With or without an addiction problem and depression and anxiety, my mom wasn’t so different from a large number of Americans. Many of us are only a few paychecks away from homelessness. While money isn’t everything and you can certainly struggle emotionally even when you have it, poverty has always been a risk factor for mental illness. And as more and more Americans struggle to make a basic living, we are seeing increases in anxiety, depression, and suicide. We are also seeing a rise in loneliness and feelings of futility.

It will be increasingly important to look at the intersection between mental wellness and financial stability for there is a direct correlation. I grew up with parents who did well financially but who lost everything due to emotional instability. My father, who was a successful lawyer, was disbarred due to drug addiction. And I’ve described my mother’s trajectory from security to helplessness and despair.  

But what of Americans who are mentally well but not financially stable? What of Americans who despite working harder and harder find themselves spinning their wheels in financial mud? This constant sense of disempowerment threatens self-esteem, one’s sense of control, and one’s place in the world.  

All of us are vulnerable to financial instability, if we do not make financial literacy a priority. We are even more at risk if we are alone, don’t make a great salary, or don’t come from privilege. The old ways of working for a pension and being able to retire simply by working hard and being loyal to a company are gone. If we as a nation don’t address this issue, we will see more and more people aging with a sense of hopelessness and despair. If we as individuals don’t realize we have to find a new game plan, we will fall short of how we want to live. 

In addition, we need to work on our mental health because regardless of our financial status, it is vital to financial solvency. Mental wellness is its own form of wealth. We must be well emotionally to function, problem solve, learn, grow, work, and to develop community with others. 

 To that end, let’s look out for ourselves and for each other. Let’s have empathy. Let’s understand all the factors at play. Let’s educate and empower each other, particularly those in need and those less fortunate. Let’s connect and support, for no one should have to die on the streets ashamed, lost, and alone. I want no one to have the tragic ending that my mother did. 

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Source: Selfish Bitch of a Daughter
Money Matters in Mental Health