World of Psychology Dr. John Grohol's daily update on all things in psychology and mental health. Since 1999. 2019-06-19T00:18:24Z Rachel Star Withers <![CDATA[Inside Schizophrenia: A Look into Possible Links Between Violence and Schizophrenia]]> 2019-06-19T00:18:24Z 2019-06-19T10:30:14Z

An in-depth look at violence and its relation to schizophrenia. Is violence a symptom of schizophrenia? Do mass attackers always have schizophrenia? Are schizophrenics dangerous?

Studies say people with schizophrenia are more likely to be a victim of a crime than the perpetrator. However, James Holmes, the movie theater mass murderer, was said to have paranoid schizophrenia. And a person can plead not-guilty by reason of insanity in court. This seems to be contrary to the idea of non-violence in mental illness.

Host Rachel Star Withers, a diagnosed schizophrenic, and co-host Gabe Howard delve into these intense subjects in this episode of the Inside Schizophrenia podcast. Officer Rebecca Skillern, the senior trainer within the mental health division of the Houston Police Department, joins as a special guest to explain police protocol in answering crisis emergencies and what people with schizophrenia, and their loved ones, should do when an episode puts someone in danger.

Highlights From ‘Violence & Schizophrenia’ Episode 

[01:48] “Have you ever killed anyone?”

[03:21] Stigma is not knowing.

[07:10] Consequences of people finding out you have schizophrenia.

[14:22] Not guilty by reason of insanity.

[17:33] Paranoid schizophrenia and mass attackers.

[24:00] Has Rachel ever been violent due to my schizophrenia?

[25:30] Guest interview with Officer Rebecca Skillern.

[27:22] How is a mental crisis team response different than a typical police response?

[31:00] What to do if I need help for a mental health crisis.

[43:55] During a mental health crisis, what do I want to happen?

[46:00] Confusion and fear during an episode.

About Our Guest

Officer Rebecca Skillern, the senior trainer within the mental health division of the Houston Police Department, joins as a special guest to explain police protocol in answering crisis emergencies and what people with schizophrenia, and their loved ones, should do when an episode puts someone in danger.

She is an expert in CIT Training (Crisis Intervention Team) which is a program that provides the foundation necessary to promote community and statewide solutions to assist individuals with a mental illness and/or addictions. The CIT Model reduces both stigma and the need for further involvement with the criminal justice system. CIT provides a forum for effective problem solving regarding the interaction between the criminal justice and mental health care system and creates the context for sustainable change. Learn more by visiting

Computer Generated Transcript for “Violence and Schizophrenia” Episode

Editor’s NotePlease be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia, a look into better understanding and living well with schizophrenia. Hosted by renowned advocate and influencer Rachel Star Withers and featuring Gabe Howard.

Rachel Star Withers: Hello, listeners, could a change in your schizophrenia treatment plan make a difference for you? There are options out there you might not know about. Please visit to find out more about the benefits of once monthly injections for adults with schizophrenia. Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia. I’m Rachel Star Withers here with Gabe Howard. Today we’re going to take an in-depth look into violence and schizophrenia. Is violence an actual symptom of schizophrenia? Do mass attackers always have schizophrenia? Basically, are schizophrenics dangerous?

Gabe Howard: This is fascinating because it comes up so incredibly often and I imagine that as somebody who lives with schizophrenia people that believe this particular misinformation campaign or myth or misunderstanding sort of visit their fears onto your life. Is that fair?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, I’m very open about my schizophrenia and not just online and in podcasts but everyday life. OK. Most people who meet me as far as more than once, not just random strangers and I’m just screaming it out. But if you work with me you probably know at some point and I get a lot of different like crazy questions. Some people have asked me like, “What do you see colors?” Yes. I’m not colorblind. That has nothing to do with schizophrenia at all. Oh but the weirdest I’ve gotten that I’ve never quite understand why is, “Have you ever killed anyone?” 

Gabe Howard: Just do they just straight up? When they’re asking questions about schizophrenia. Do they come straight out and say, “Have you killed anyone?”

Rachel Star Withers: No this is like something they lead up to. It’s like OK I’ve been like I know her you know and we’re finally talking and maybe I feel like I can finally ask this question. That would be offensive if I asked right away. But I’ve definitely been thinking about it for the past three weeks I’ve been working with her

Gabe Howard: So it’s on their mind from the moment they find out that you have schizophrenia? I mean when they find out about your illness this is something that pops into their head almost instantly?

Rachel Star Withers: I personally think so.

Gabe Howard: And does it worry you? Is it a concern?

Rachel Star Withers: To me, it doesn’t worry me. I always like to turn it into a joke. People say, “Have you ever killed anyone?” Not yet. I should like to just kind of pause there for a long time, take a nice deep breath and slowly turn my gaze to them and score right. But.

Gabe Howard: But that’s something that you have of course the privilege to do.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: I mean it

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: You know just both by way of being. I’m trying not to say a tiny little white woman but . . . But you know what I mean. You don’t look physically imposing. It does. Does that make sense?

Rachel Star Withers: No, it does. Yes.

Gabe Howard: I mean if you were, if you were a giant man. If you were you know a giant African-American male?  But if you weren’t as articulate or funny or as approachable or as friendly this kind of a stereotype would be? It could be really impactful to your ability to find a work or a job or housing if they think that you’re dangerous.

Rachel Star Withers: Oh absolutely. You know people hear the word stigma and you always associate it with something bad like. Okay well stigma must mean that everybody thinks schizophrenics are violent or have killed people. But I think a lot of it is also you just don’t know anything. Like the unknown. Like I don’t know what this person is capable of. I don’t know much about schizophrenia so yeah on such and such TV show that was the killer and that I think is more scary than anything.

Gabe Howard: So you think that people are taking their ignorance essentially because they don’t know if you are safe or unsafe.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. And it’s one reason that I go out of my way to be so open about my schizophrenia. And that’s a luxury that I have. You know certain jobs I can’t go around saying that if I were to work. So I’m not saying everybody with a mental disorder should you know just tell the world hey guess what. I mean right now I’m working on this podcast with you, Gabe, Inside Schizophrenia. I don’t think I would get fired if anyone found out I actually had schizophrenia.

Gabe Howard: In this particular case it was an advantage. Obviously the show was looking for somebody who had a lot of knowledge about schizophrenia. Somebody who was open to talking about schizophrenia and somebody who was living publicly with schizophrenia. Do you believe, Rachel, that the people who think this are just mean malicious people who just dislike you? You sort of alluded to the fact that you think that it’s just all misunderstanding?

Rachel Star Withers: I’m not going to say all of it’s misunderstanding. There’s horrible people all over the world who are going to believe whatever they want. But I’d say the majority of the people who’ve actually asked me the question, “Have you ever killed anyone?” They weren’t mean people. It was just kind of like someone who was genuinely curious and honestly didn’t know anything about schizophrenia really except for the media.

Gabe Howard: Once you do your humor thing and I agree with you I think that humor has a lot of benefits. It diffuses situations it makes people comfortable in a way. After that sort of dissipates and people are like OK now I’ve realized that accusing you of killing somebody or even thinking that can be really hurtful. Do good conversations come out of that and how do you handle those?

Rachel Star Withers: I usually like to follow that with actually people with schizophrenia are more likely to be the victim of a crime than to be committing the crime and people be like. “Oh really?” Like it that’s just kind of like oh they’re like completely kind of change their thoughts like I just had no clue. I’m like Yeah. So it’s a nice little segue into some fun learning.

Gabe Howard: When you say that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be the victim of a crime, do people believe you? Did they give pushback? Do they ask why that is?

Rachel Star Withers: No one in real life has ever challenged me on that, but definitely over the Internet. People write, “Well, that’s just stupid. I don’t see how that’s possible.” Or they’ll say well schizophrenics hurt lots of people. And I just say again that goes back to kind of not all of it’s ignorance is just refusing to want to look at facts and believe what is true.

Gabe Howard: I think that everybody in America understands why comforting lies are better than uncomfortable truths in the short term. I would rather have somebody tell me that I’m completely right and I don’t have to change. That’s really really easy. But of course you can’t grow and be open to new experiences and the danger of believing these things about people with schizophrenia is that you may be avoiding a diagnosis yourself because after all if you believe that all people with schizophrenia are violent and you think that you might have it, you’re thinking to yourself I’m not violent therefore I don’t have to go get help. You could think this about a loved one you could think Oh my God I’m really worried about my son, daughter, niece, nephew, brother, sister, or best friend but they would never hurt a fly. So I’m not going to get them a diagnosis. I’m not going to take them in . How does that strike you?

Rachel Star Withers: Back years ago the very first time I sat my parents down I tell them Look I have went to the doctor and this is what happened. I’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia. My mother did not want me to tell anybody, like anybody. When I made the first video I did about schizophrenia she was mortified and she repeatedly was like, “You can’t talk about this, Rachel.” And she was so scared that I was gonna get kicked out of college, that no one would ever hire me, that people would be scared of me. Which is just, you’re never going to get married, you’re never gonna have a job, you’re never gonna finish school. All of those things weren’t real reasons for her to think that, it was just she was frightened of what that word labeled on me. You know what it would do when other people saw that label.

Gabe Howard: So she was more concerned about the reactions of the general public than she was about the illness that you were battling? That does add an extra layer though, right? If everybody thinks that you, and then by extension your family, are violent or dangerous or scary that makes it that much harder to get care. Because like you said, your family’s initial thought was OK how do we manage this information. It wasn’t, how do we manage the illness?

Rachel Star Withers: And I think whenever you have something like a mental illness versus a physical illness you know some sort of disorders and whatnot obviously run in families. But if you hear oh well that person their daughter has schizophrenia they kind of tend to think Oh I bet the whole family’s crazy. My parents never came out and said it. But I think they were worried that if people found out I had schizophrenia they were going to assume my brother did also. So I’m not only potentially ruining my life, but I could be ruining my little brother’s life because well she has it why doesn’t he?

Rachel Star Withers: And it is. It’s a very scary diagnosis to get. And if you aren’t used to anything with mental illness, you’re not used to hearing about bipolar, you’re not used to even hearing about depression, and then suddenly you got schizophrenia on the line. I feel like that can really scare a family.

Gabe Howard: Do you think that the number one reason that people are scared of schizophrenia is its link to violence in pop culture in the media and in the minds of the public?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. I think it’s just, and I always say this, that schizophrenia it is just a scary sounding word. It has a Z in it. Like it just sounds like oh my gosh. It’s just so great. I have I’m writing in a movie like Oh man I’m gonna have the character say schizophrenic or schizophrenia and she’s automatically like whoa. And I’ll even have people try and combat me online and they’ll say well you’d understand because most crime and what not it’s caused by people with mental illness and you know you have to be crazy to go and do all these bad things. Yes I believe a lot of us just in the world, not a lot of schizophrenics, but a lot of people in the world we do suffer from different things. You know if you are in a relationship and you get your heart broken you’re probably going to have some depression. It might not be long term depression and it could be just related and it might have you know ease up after a few months but you’re going to go through some sort of mental situation that is not just optimal mental health. However when you have crime, I think an easy way to just explain it is say, “Oh, they were crazy. Oh, they had schizophrenia. Let’s ignore the fact that they were on drugs. Let’s ignore the fact that they’ve already shown issues with let’s say beating their wife and things like that now because they have schizophrenia.” There’s no other health issue that automatically is linked to violence the way mental illnesses are.

Gabe Howard: I have often postulated that one of the reasons that people are so quick to believe this is because extreme violence. I mean your mass shootings your you know even just murder in general. It is so far outside of the realm of what a typical person is comfortable doing. I understand why people are like well. Doesn’t that have to be mental illness? I mean taking somebodies life is extreme. I mean it’s just really really extreme. There has to be a component of mental illness in there, but that’s not actually what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about does schizophrenia make you kill people? Does it make you hurt people? Is there something innate about the illness that violence is a likely outcome? And that’s where it gets tricky right. Because nobody is saying that people with schizophrenia have never committed a violent crime. You’re just saying that the majority of people with schizophrenia have never committed a violent crime.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. When you have people mental illness or you’re specifically talking about schizophrenia and you know the majority of us don’t hurt anyone. You’re like, “Well, Rachel, I mean but some of you do.” That still sounds scary. But not all husbands beat their wives. Some of them do but not all of them and that’s not going to keep me from getting married. That’s not going to keep me and or most people from finding a husband.

Gabe Howard: But when it comes to mental illness, we’ve decided that somehow that connects. That all violence is caused by people with schizophrenia and that connection just doesn’t exist in any study that’s been looked at and it’s kind of scary that people are so desperate to believe it. Why do you think that people want to believe this so much?

Rachel Star Withers: I think one of the main reasons is just being able to say somebody who did this horrible thing has mental illness. It makes you feel safer. OK. So I don’t know anyone personally like that so I can feel safe and if I ever met anyone like that I could obviously tell you know they’re like twitching and screaming and things. That’s the person I should be scared of. You know you hear these horrible stories of like a disgruntled employee who comes in and unfortunately does something you know very violent at the office. And a lot of times are like well so-and-so he was suffering from depression for so long. Well you know he was being treated by a psychiatrist. It’s never oh he broke his leg last year. You’d be like well what about him breaking his leg?

Gabe Howard: And even in the cases of schizophrenia the very very very tiny percentage of people with schizophrenia that do have a dangerous or violent outcome. They’re almost universally uncared for or untreated. They’re almost always left to their own devices with a very very very serious illness that isn’t being maintained or managed.

Rachel Star Withers: And many times that’s unfortunately being self managed by taking illegal drugs. So that plays a big part in it. Also we talk about mental health. Mental health is for everybody. Like that’s just a blanket term for all of us and too many people hear it and think oh well you only need mental health if something is wrong with your head. And it’s not. It’s working too much. You know that work life balance with your family. It’s being able to enjoy being out with people, like mental health is so many things. It’s not just dealing with disorders.

Gabe Howard: But to bring it back around to schizophrenia, another thing that comes up a lot is that people say that people with schizophrenia are trying to get away with the bad things that they do and there’s always sort of devolves into a not guilty by reason of insanity defense. That we can’t trust people with schizophrenia because after all, even if they severely hurt, attack, maim, whatever somebody they’ll just be set loose tomorrow because they’ll plead not guilty by reason of insanity and that’s why we have to crack down on this problem. How do you feel about that?

Rachel Star Withers: First I think I mean I watch tons of the judge shows. As you know I’m a huge Judge Judy fan although I rarely hear the insanity defense used on her show but still huge. Just love court dramas and whatnot and all the time we hear the insanity defense. OK. If you’re watching Law & Order as you like that’s a lot of the times what they end up going with. In reality though it’s not as common. It’s actually used in less than 1 percent of U.S. cases. So this isn’t something that’s constantly being thrown out is the insanity defense. Well, oh, I couldn’t have done this. Oh, I didn’t do this because of. It’s a very small percentage that actually used this defense. And of that it only has a 26 percent success rate and 90 percent of that 20 percent those people were already diagnosed. So it means that was somebody who already had a diagnosed mental disorder and something happened.

Gabe Howard: And to be clear those people don’t then just go home. They’re not back out in the community in the public. They go to state hospitals rather than prison.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: So the best outcome for a not guilty by reason of insanity defense is that you go to a state mental hospital versus state prison. So pop culture has sort of misled us on this one again where again I think that the average person believes that you plead not guilty by reason of insanity and then you go home and nothing happens.

Rachel Star Withers: Or I think though there I hear is oh they’ll go to like a hospital for a few months as if that’s it. Three months instead of a life in jail. Now it doesn’t work like that.

Gabe Howard: It is true that somebody may get out of a state hospital before they would get out of a state prison sentence for example. But it’s very very rare that it’s used. That’s number one. It’s not successful three out of four times. And when it is successful, it’s a very high threshold to be met. So that’s probably not the worst thing. As you said this happens all the time on Law & Order. It’s always the twist in that in the courtroom dramas et cetera. And maybe television isn’t the best place to get information about how life with schizophrenia works.

Rachel Star Withers: No. Going back to stigma being not knowing though most people don’t actively seek to learn. You know we’re given all this media and that’s just what they consume. So that’s what I believe to be true. It seemed like it was a really true movie I saw, they had like a judge. Seems right.

Gabe Howard: Let’s switch gears slightly. Everything that you just said was about fictional movies. You know you’re talking about you know your courtroom dramas and your reality TV. I mean stuff that I think the average person really should understand is fictional. But now let’s talk about media portrayals. This is the news. This is the evening news, the prime time news. This is expected to be factual. And one of the things that we hear about on the news all of the time, especially in the wake of some national tragedy, you know a mass shooting for example, is the term “paranoid schizophrenia.” This happened because of paranoid schizophrenia. It is almost a verbatim headline for many many examples of violence and schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. It’s like if you have schizophrenia that’s bad, but paranoid schizophrenia? Well that’s just give up. That’s the worst. That’s also my official diagnosis. However they do not use those subtypes anymore. That was dropped in 2013. But as someone who has a piece of paper that says paranoid schizophrenic on it, it’s unnerving to me to hear it in the news because I feel like my heart drops every single time and you’ll hear them especially I always think of James Holmes. He was the guy with the the Batman movie went in and unfortunately shot up a theater and we all got to see him on TV and he had like orange hair. Not helping, OK. And he has this crazy look in his eyes and we find out he’d mailed out things to the school counselor and it was just like telling everyone he was crazy. He actually used the insanity defense and he was still found to be legally sane and he is someone who they’re flat I’ll say this guy was a paranoid schizophrenic. The court said, yes, but that didn’t cause him to do all this. So even though like that diagnosis is slapped on things there’s probably a lot of other diagnosis. We could probably also say he was depressed. We could probably also argue the fact that he just failed out of college, that pushes a lot of people over the edge. We could probably argue the fact that he was an extreme comic book nerd. Which as a comic book nerd also, I wouldn’t want to go down that route but I know like a whole bunch of it like a little basement people just gasped.

Gabe Howard: That was one of the things that came out during the media coverage. Just how much time he spent alone reading comic books and how much he loved the comic book culture and superhero culture. Yet Marvel movies are still wildly successful. The most successful comic book franchise ever because when people said that this one person consumed a lot of comic books and then was violent and committed a mass shooting in a theater people didn’t say oh well we have to be worried about all people who read comic books. No. People understood that that was this person’s story. Not everybody’s story. Again it’s not the same way people think about schizophrenia and as you said schizophrenic or schizophrenia, it sounds like a scary word. And then you put paranoid in front of it. Well we all know that paranoia is bad. You’re a paranoid schizophrenic and you can see why people are drawn to these stories. Here in a few moments we’re gonna talk to police officers about what they see because they’re the first responders for people who are having a crisis because of mental illness. How do you think that their comments are going to line up with how you feel? And as a person who lives with schizophrenia, how do you feel about the police? Knowing that in general society is blaming people with schizophrenia for large amounts of violence?

Rachel Star Withers: Well first I do want to make it known if you weren’t sure that I am a white female. I’m 5′ 7″ so taller than some women but yeah not like freakishly towering over everybody and all of my encounters with police for the most part have really been good. I’ve never had the police called on me over any issues. Really the only time I’ve called the police have been situations where things have happened, twice when someone was having a heart attack in front of me and I called 9 1 1 and they were not coming for me. They were immediately rushing in to save the guy both times. So it’s hard for me to kind of fully to fully express how I feel because I know so many other people have different interactions with the police and I’m very lucky that I have not been in situations where you know no one called the police on me as at hey there’s this crazy girl outside my house and she’s screaming up to the sky. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and the neighbor, before it got we realized how bad it was. The neighbor called her boyfriend who was away at work and said I’m really scared. There’s an old man out here and he’s screaming at the house and he wants us to turn the lights on to the night sky. She was terrified and we are just very blessed that she called her boyfriend and the boyfriend immediately called us as opposed to calling police. And I can only imagine if they would’ve pulled up. My grandfather out there you know not understanding that the lights aren’t off, it’s just nighttime and we were able to calm him down. I know people rolling up to him as police officers would not have calmed him down. The 90 year old World War II veteran, I imagine he would have like dove in their fists up swinging. So I don’t want to just be like oh well it’s gonna be great for everybody because it’s not and I personally have not had a situation where I’ve been at let’s go with receiving end of the police being called on me.

Gabe Howard: Please pay attention to this information from our sponsor.

Rachel Star Withers: It can sometimes feel like another schizophrenia episode is just around the corner. In fact, a recent study found that patients had an average of nine episodes in less than six years. However, there’s a treatment plan option that can help delay another episode. A once monthly injection for adults with schizophrenia. If delaying another episode sounds like it could make a difference for you or your loved one, learn more about treating schizophrenia with once monthly injections at That’s Thank you for listening to our sponsors message. And we’re back talking about violence and schizophrenia.

Gabe Howard: Rachel, before we bring on our guest I just have one big big question to ask you. Have you ever been violent because of schizophrenia?

Rachel Star Withers: I have been violent. I have not ever been violent because of my schizophrenia. The closest I would say that had to do with my schizophrenia was as a teenager me getting just upset. Not really understanding what was going on, and my father trying to control me and not physically harm me in any way, but yes trying to physically control me. Like kind of grabbing me and me thrashing and becoming violent towards him. At that moment, again, not physical abuse really on either side, but I was just like me reacting to him grabbing me trying to control me where I was you know moving or radically screaming at the time he thought that’s what he needed to do. And then I flipped out even more. Those are the only times I can think of in my life where the schizophrenia and the violence was connected at all. I’m real big into boxing. I have an incredible amateur competitive record of 0 and 1.

Gabe Howard: But I don’t think when people consider violence they consider combat sports. The type of violence that we’re talking about, I mean I

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: I know that you also wrestle alligators and you’re a stunt woman and you set yourself on fire. And I understand that you can make an argument that those are violent acts, I suppose. But I mean sincerely, have you ever flipped out at a mall? Have you ever started throwing things at people? Have you attacked a stranger? Have you ever been unable to control your own body in a way that was physically dangerous to those around you?

Rachel Star Withers: I have not. No. I’m 33 years old and it’s never been an issue for me and I don’t foresee it becoming an issue with me.

Rachel Star Withers: For our guest today we are excited to have a senior police officer Rebecca Skillern. Rebecca tell us a little bit about your training, your experience, what it is that you do.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: I am the senior trainer within the mental health division at the Houston Police Department and myself along with my two co trainers provide the crisis intervention training within our department and also to outside agency personnel.

Gabe Howard: Now the crisis intervention training I think a lot of people might be more familiar with its acronym C I.T. Can you explain when somebody hears CIT, to kind of what that means for a police department.

A large portion of what CIT means is that we provide specialized training for our personnel so that when they encounter people who are having mental health crises they can better and more humanely respond to those individuals so that we work to get them into appropriate treatment and care rather than criminalizing their behavior and putting them in jail which is not helpful to them.

Rachel Star Withers: I had no clue that a police department would have an entire section for mental health. Is that common with police stations or bigger cities?

Officer Rebecca Skillern: It is, I wouldn’t say common, but it is becoming more common. It is something that’s been in the making within our police department for going on three decades now and it’s something that we have built over the course of time. It certainly didn’t happen overnight. It’s something that smaller agencies are still working to establish and a lot of agencies both within Texas and outside of Texas are working to establish mental health units or sections within their departments to better respond and to also train their officers and other personnel so that they can keep them safer when they respond to these situations.

Rachel Star Withers: How is a mental health division, or crisis team of that sort, how is that a different response than let’s say a normal police response?

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Traditional police responses include kind of a fact finding mission you get in and you get the information you settle it and you move on and you get back into the calls or service loop and continue to respond to criminal activity. We work in a different world today where there are a lot of other elements that do not or should not involve making arrests when people go into crises for instance, people don’t pick up the phone and call their therapist they pick up the phone and call 9 1 1. You know, if a family member is losing control, and they’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, even sometimes when they’ve not yet been diagnosed. But when things are getting out of hand people are calling 9 1 1 they’re not calling the local mental health authority, they’re not calling the person’s psychiatrist. They’re calling the police because they’re scared and they want help. What we’re doing with crisis intervention is we’re training police officers to better be able to recognize those situations for what they truly are. And in essence we refer to it as officer safety training because with officers being more educated about what they’re dealing with they are able to remain safer. They are also able to better de-escalate the situations and get the people who are in crisis into appropriate care and treatment rather than putting them in jail.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that you said is that you’re working to help decriminalize mental illness but you are still the police force. So I think it creates maybe some confusion in the community that hey if the police are coming and somebody has a mental illness, ipso facto a mental illness is criminal behavior. Can you talk about that a little bit because I know that the public can be very confused about what it means to live with mental illness.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: The public is very confused about what it is or what it is like to live with mental illness. Many of the people who have mental illness live their lives every day. They are managing their illness and they are doing what they need to do to take care of themselves. And there’s not a problem. Where it becomes a problem where law enforcement gets involved is when they’re not able to manage it as well as their counterparts and people get scared. The bottom line with law enforcement is we’re here to protect and serve. It’s not just about making arrests. It is sometimes protecting people from themselves and sometimes protecting people from their family members. We do get called when people go into crisis and we do respond to those situations because we are trying to protect the community. We’re trying to protect individuals from self injurious kinds of behaviors as well. And so we do get called for things like that and we do respond to things like that. We want officers to be better capable of handling those situations and to verbally de-escalate rather than having to engage in like hand-to-hand combat with people. We want them to be able to use their verbal skills. We also want them to be able to identify situations where they can get someone into a treatment regimen rather than into the criminal justice system. It takes a lot more and is much less economically responsible to try to treat someone in the criminal justice system. Then it would take or be to treat someone within the community.

Rachel Star Withers: Okay. I love that answer. Awesome.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. Thank you.

Rachel Star Withers: I have a question. I do have schizophrenia and that is what this whole podcast is about and I have different you know yes I have depressive types episodes that I go through psychotic episodes. So let’s say that I’m scared I’m going to hurt myself or I’m scared I might you know hurt somebody else and it’s a pretty intense feeling. And what would you suggest I do right away? What do you like what is my protocol for how I should react?

Officer Rebecca Skillern: If you are in imminent danger of hurting yourself or someone else, I would suggest that you call 9 1 1 and that you ask for a crisis intervention trained officer to respond to you. I would also encourage you to make sure that you are not near any kind of weapon and would want to make sure that when you do you let them know what you’re wearing that you don’t have any weapons that you respond well to if you respond well to a certain kind of approach let them know that as well. If you don’t respond well to a certain kind of approach let the call taker know that you know I need someone to come out here who’s not going to use loud voices. There’s someone who is going to be able to be calm someone who’s trained in crisis intervention would be ideal. I don’t have any weapons but I have thought of hurting myself and or someone else and I need help.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: When I was reading about the training and what you all do as far as like telling people how to prepare, I guess, for the police coming was to turn on all the lights in the house. I just thought that never occurred to me to do that. But yeah I could see that being really important because I’m usually creeping around in the dark and so I like to have the other lights low and I don’t. That’s just it never occurred to me. That was interesting right.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: It had the lights on. Make sure if you have any tests that you have them secured so the officers aren’t going to have to contend with that. It would also be important to make sure that you don’t run up to the officers and that when the officers approach they can see your hands so that they can make sure that there aren’t any weapons on your hands and feel confident with that. It’s sometimes easier said than done when you tell someone to please stay calm especially if they’re actively hallucinating and delusional. You know a lot of times there will be a theme with people who who experience psychosis that the government is out to get them. You know it’s real important to reassure yourself they’re here to help they’re here to help. They’re here to help. And to repeat that out loud to them sometimes too because officers, like anybody else, are human beings and they may become reactive if they’re caught off guard. I understand you’re here to help. Here’s what I need. Here’s what’s going on. You know please help me because I don’t want to act on this. I don’t want to do anything but you know this is what I’m thinking this is what I’m feeling. So just to be forthright with what there is and also to identify if you have a diagnosis to say I have a diagnosis and this is the medication I’m supposed to be taking and hopefully they will ask questions like, “When was the last time you had your medication? Have you had any breakthrough symptoms?” You know hopefully they will have been through the training and know the follow up questions to go through as well. But if they don’t be prepared to offer that information even if you’re not asked.

Gabe Howard: I really like of course all of this information and I think it’s all very very helpful. But as you kind of alluded to it it’s going to be a tall order for somebody who’s in crisis hallucinating and experiencing symptoms that are so intense that they needed to call 9 1 1. So it sounds like this involves training maybe the people that you live with or your family or your friends your support staff. Do you have any advice for how somebody living with schizophrenia can help their loved ones understand that it would be very beneficial that if they do need to call nine one one they say all of those things? Other than listening to this podcast.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Right. We actually at the Huston Police Department we worked with our local mental health authority and we put together a mental health emergency assistance guide which is a one page form. One side is English one side is Spanish, and it gives basic information like this with the contact numbers but it also says when calling 9 1 1 here’s what you should do. And when law enforcement arrives here’s what you should do. The other piece is that I would highly recommend that family members be part of the treatment team, be part of that support system, learn about the illness. You know, attend NAMI, attend the family to family meetings to become educated themselves because oftentimes family members can be the biggest hindrance to getting the person help.

Rachel Star Withers: Oh yeah.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: And we encourage family members look if you have a family member who’s experiencing this in his or her life then become educated about it because it’s going to be a very important piece for you to help that person manage their situation. Help your family member by becoming educated, by knowing what to say when you call and ask for help by even the individual him or herself can write the basic information down on a piece of paper so that if they do go into crisis and a person comes to respond to a call a law enforcement officer response to the call they can hand them that piece of paper. They may not be able to communicate exactly what’s going on with them in that moment in time but if they have that piece of paper they can hand it to him and say, “Here, read this.” And it’ll give the officers some information about what might be going on with the person.

Rachel Star Withers: Got it. So.

Gabe Howard: Thank you thank you.

Rachel Star Withers: In our society unfortunately the term schizophrenia gets kind of thrown around a lot on people who necessarily don’t have it. We have all the issues obviously with school shooters and different things and then everybody who’s ever taken a psychology class suddenly can diagnose. People looking at all of that, I say in the media in general it’s made people really scared of the word schizophrenia and hearing that somebody has it. Do you think with all of your training that schizophrenics are responsible for all of this violence in society?

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Absolutely not. In fact that’s one of the biggest misnomers and one of the biggest things that kind of drives the stigma associated with mental illness is that people don’t know. In fact they’re ignorant. But ignorance is something we can educate and get rid of. People with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the average person. In fact statistics show that people with mental illness are probably more likely to be victimized rather than perpetrators of crime. The stigma is one of the many things we work to try to educate amongst our law enforcement personnel so that we get rid of some of those false belief. Their false beliefs not based on fact. Thinking that people with mental illness are more violent than the average person is just something that’s clearly someone not being educated. The media does not do justice to mental illness because they do often portray people with mental illness to be much different than what the reality is. You look at movies like split or Shutter Island or something like that and people get this idea that someone with schizophrenia has to be completely out of it in order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia when that is just certainly not the case. More often than not people with schizophrenia or major depression or bipolar disorder can be productive contributing members of society given the opportunity and having the people around them who support them and learn to understand how the illnesses affect the person.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Awesome. Thank you very much for that response.

Gabe Howard: That is wonderful. Thank you.

Rachel Star Withers: So I don’t live in Houston. How do I found out about my local law enforcement agencies protocol when it comes to a mental health crisis?

Officer Rebecca Skillern: I would recommend calling them call and find out. Do you have a crisis intervention team? Do you have a police and Mental Health Collaborative Program in helping train the personnel on your department in how to better respond to people with mental illness?  Is there an PMHC in essence? Is there a Police Mental Health Collaborative? Do your officers receive something beyond the basic mandated training or is it optional or is it mandatory for them to get fully trained in crisis intervention so that they can offer a more humane response to people who are living with mental illness?

Gabe Howard: Wonderful. I really like what you said about you know listen the police are there to serve and protect not just to track down criminals or arrest people. They’re there to help people who are in need. And that goes along with that. You know if you have a question about your local police force we should be empowered to call up and ask you know ask the question ask about CIT, ask about mental health training. Ask about the things that we need and if they don’t have it in your area you know advocate for those services because it’s probably a you found that it’s been vital that it’s been vital and helpful in Houston.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Absolutely. And it’s a strong selling point to law enforcement agencies to help them understand that it’s just as much about officer safety as it is about keeping those in our community safe. Having the training so that an officer is better capable of understanding and identifying what they’re dealing with when they encounter someone is priceless. Having that available to your personnel, which keeps them from encountering situations you know full force hands on straight off the bat, and instead teaching them verbal de-escalation skills and how to pay attention to the signs and symptoms that may be visually present that they don’t recognize or they don’t understand because mental health is not traditional for law enforcement training and getting training around mental health issues is not something that is part of your standard law enforcement training protocol. Although, it should be especially in today’s world because more and more people are going into crisis and officers are the ones responding to those crises and it’s much better if they go in knowing what they’re dealing with then if they go in cold turkey not understanding it and just see it as a fight.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Got it got it. Well I definitely have to thank you so much for coming and talking on our podcast today. Very awesome information. It’s really nice to know from somebody who has a serious mental health disorder. It’s nice to know that there are people working in the police department trying to, I don’t want to say. Learn more about me? But, you know, learn the best ways to address these different kind of crisis that might come up, right.

Officer Rebecca Skillern: Well, Rachel, I want to applaud you as well because you represent a very large portion of our community. It’s not just you. One in four people will experience some form of mental illness at some point within their lives. You’re not just a small portion or a token portion of our community you are our community as well.

Rachel Star Withers: Awesome.

Gabe Howard: Wonderful.

Rachel Star Withers: You make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Thank you.

Gabe Howard: You should, Rachel. You are incredible. Thank you so much for for being here and agreeing to do this and helping to get the word out.

Rachel Star Withers: We really appreciate you so much for coming and talking with us today it’s so rare that you get to talk to a law enforcement official like this and really kind of learn the other side of things, so thank you so much. That was really great for them to come on here and talk with us. Really giving us a side to the police and how they operate that you normally don’t get to see or know about.

Gabe Howard: It is true that a lot of people living with schizophrenia feel, a lot of people living with mental illness, feel fearful of the police so it’s wonderful when you know people like officer Rebecca can help us and talk to us and give us information so that both sides can get what they want which is for all of us to be safe. Which kind of leads me to a question that I have for you, Rachel. We talked about what police officers really need and want so that police officers can feel safe and get the best outcome. You know great information but as the person living with schizophrenia, what do you want to have happen? I mean other than the police not need to be called. But the police need to be called. A crisis has occurred. And you’re involved. Rachel, this is your only answer from yourself. What do you want? What do you want to have happen?

Rachel Star Withers: For me watching various you know we have so many people now that whenever there is a police altercation there’s someone somewhere filming it. Whether we’re saying you know someone’s chest cam on a police officer or just someone standing by filming the situation. And a lot of the ones that I’ve watched online I feel like that the officers come off very aggressive right off the start. Whereas if you’re already kind of mentally off and if you can tell this person may be causing a disruption but they aren’t like they don’t have a gun or a knife. They’re not actively hurting anybody is to come up a little bit calmer. I know that whenever I’m mentally off everything is more intense. So if you get mad at me I’m going to think it’s like 10 times worse than it is. If you’re hollering at me it’s almost like I can’t take it. The noise is so loud and I kind of freak out. When I was a teenager, it was just everything would become too much and I would be hallucinating. I would be getting confused and my dad would get you know angry not understanding this. And again, he grabbed me but I everything was just too intense. So I would just react. So a lot of it is just knowing to interact with somebody who is in a psychotic episode or a mental health crisis calmly. Just doing your best to stay calm.

Gabe Howard: You’re really a big proponent of de-escalation.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. I’d much rather have someone calm me down and kind of back off away from me even but just kind of let the situation calm even maybe let it. I said get it out of my system because I’m not talking about a violent situation getting out of my system but just that energy okay and letting everything calm down for a second. It’s me I usually once everything else is calm I said sort of slowly start to kind of chill out to be okay. No one’s trying to hurt me, I’m safe. And if you’re out there and you’re thinking you don’t have schizophrenia or mental disorder you might be like, “Well, Rachel, you should have known you were safe or whatever.” But no, a lot of times I have my hallucinations I’m seeing very scary things. I’m hearing very confusing things and I don’t necessarily know that I’m safe. And if on top of that I got someone trying to grab me, it’s horrifying. So just being able to do whatever you can to just calm the situation. It works great.

Gabe Howard: It’s an interesting point that you just sort of raised there. You said you know I’m not calm, I’m not in my right mind, I’m in crisis because of schizophrenia. And then I have somebody try to grab me. Your exact words were, “somebody tried to grab me with everything that’s going on.” And you might just think that you’re in danger. You might not realize that it’s a police officer, or you might not realize that it’s somebody who’s trying to help you. And this is where we sort of get into the nuanced discussion about schizophrenia and violence because, for example, if a police officer tries to bear hug you to keep you safe, and then you punch that police officer, that will be seen as violence against a police officer or assault on a police officer. But from your perspective, from the perspective of somebody who’s not in their right mind, somebody who’s living with schizophrenia, you’re just trying to defend yourself and get away because you feel deeply deeply threatened. You’re not actually trying to harm a police officer in any way. Do you think that’s some of the misunderstanding when it comes to why people are so afraid of people with schizophrenia and why you may be accused for so much violence?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes on some level. Definitely not all of it. To kind of give you an idea though, I mean I’ve had times where I didn’t recognize my mom. So yeah, I totally might not recognize that this person dressed in all black, similar to my hallucinations which are usually black figures, is, you know, somebody good. All right I might not realize that this is a good person or this is a helpful person coming to assist me or assist those around me by helping me get under control. And I just might react wrong. That’s why I’m so glad we have these crisis intervention teams where police are learning to tell the difference between somebody who is actively violent trying to hurt others and then somebody who is in the middle of a mental breakdown and can’t understand what’s going on around them.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that we heard the officer say is that people with schizophrenia are in fact not responsible for all of the violence and in fact not even responsible for most of it or even a significant portion of it. As somebody who lived with schizophrenia how did that make you feel to hear the police acknowledge this?

Rachel Star Withers: When senior officer Skillern brought that up it makes me feel really good to know that not just advocates of schizophrenics, or people who work in mental health care. People with family and friends of schizophrenics are the only ones that are working to make a difference that it’s even the police officers that are working to make a difference in this kind of this issue alone. Violence in schizophrenia that they’re actually that hey we’re the ones who respond to the violence so we know firsthand and know it is not just about having schizophrenia is what makes somebody violent. When we were putting the show together I think when the most interesting things is when we’re looking for a police officer to speak with us. They came from Houston, Texas. I kind of was thinking maybe be a more liberal type state like California or maybe even like up in New York would have started this program or like a small town where yeah there’s not many of us. So it’s pretty easy. You know there’s only five police officers and only 20 people in the town. But this came from like Houston, Texas where you think of you know everybody gets a gun. Cowboys and Walker, Texas Ranger. And that’s really awesome because they see the value in it even while still being tough on crime.

Gabe Howard: I couldn’t agree more Rachel and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t surprised too. And it’s nice to know that crisis intervention training exists. And I really like what officer Rebecca said when she said, “Look the role of police is not to enforce laws. The role of police is to keep people safe.” And I think that’s a message that really needs to get out there more because I think when we’re talking about misunderstandings and the general public the role of policing and the role of law enforcement might be misunderstood as well. And I think it does come to the detriment at people with mental illness and of people with schizophrenia. So I’m glad that she was here.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. She was awesome. This has been inside schizophrenia. Thank you so much for listening to us. Like, share, subscribe, and thank you for tuning in.

Announcer: Inside Schizophrenia is presented by, America’s largest and longest operating independent mental health website. Your host, Rachel Star Withers, can be found online at Co-host Gabe Howard can be found online at For questions, or to provide feedback, please email The official web site for Inside Schizophrenia is Thank you for listening and please share widely.

Psych Central Guest Author <![CDATA[How This Honolulu Bike Exchange Supports Community Mental Health]]> 2019-06-18T15:05:34Z 2019-06-18T17:30:18Z

Every day at 3:30 p.m., young men in a neighborhood near downtown Honolulu participate in a culture circle at the Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange (KVIBE), where they learn how to repair bikes. For the young men in Kalihi Valley, KVIBE is a second home that offers play, mentorship, and skill-building. They begin each culture circle by sharing their names, homes, and ancestors. This opening practice reinforces their sense of identity and why they matter.

Jeffrey Acido, an education and training specialist who works with KVIBE, says, “Anyone who can say these things with confidence has love for themselves — this is mental wellbeing.”

KVIBE is set within Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV), a comprehensive community health center that uses the community’s cultural traditions to help community members—many of whom are immigrants who feel dislocated from their homelands—heal and thrive. KKV recognizes that social connection and physical activity directly impact mental health, which is why 15 of their programs focus on improving the physical, mental, and spiritual health of more than 10,000 people each year.

The bike exchange is a creative example of how to improve community mental health and address larger community needs like social cohesion, a sense of belonging, and physical activity. This is especially important in Kalilhi Valley, where structural inequities that perpetuate poverty, loss of cultural identity, and low-educational attainment have put men and boys at risk of depression, stress, and chronic physical health conditions.

Recreation and Social Connections Boost Mental Health and General Wellness

Positive self-image, environmental stewardship, and physical activity are at the core of what it means to be a young man in the bike exchange, where members support one another as mechanics and athletes. In addition to their daily culture circles, each year KVIBE youth leaders host the Kalihi Ahupua`a Ride, an educational bike ride open to the public where cyclists ride from mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean).

The eight-mile ride includes “story stops” where riders can learn about the cultural and historical significance of each place. KVIBE uses physical activity strategically, linking it back to cultural identity and social connection, which addresses many of the issues that community members in Kalihi face.

Mental Health Is Impacted by Community Conditions

KVIBE is part of the Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys initiative, funded by the Movember Foundation. Making Connections is made up of 13 community-based coalitions that are working to improve the community conditions that exacerbate mental health challenges and support wellbeing for men and boys of color and military servicemembers, veterans and their families. All the Making Connections sites—like the one in Honolulu—are taking innovative approaches to improving mental health and wellbeing by focusing on strategies like increasing social connection, creating opportunities for sports and recreation, and improving the availability of safe, affordable housing.

They also make sure the men and boys who are part of their programs—whose voices are often left out of the conversation about mental health, despite experiencing depression, anxiety, and social trauma first-hand—are part of the decision-making about what the programs will focus on. At KVIBE, the young men and boys are encouraged to lead the design of program activities, become mentors to younger boys, advocate for community improvements like increased and improved bike lanes with policymakers, and coordinate major efforts like the Kalihi Ahupua`a Ride.

The deliberate culture that KVIBE has created should not be the exception to the rule. The ability to build a community where young people can talk about their ancestors with pride while literally keeping their blood flowing, is a crucial support to their mental health. Our nation’s mental health stands a lot to gain from incorporating opportunities for recreation and physical activity into all neighborhoods and communities.

This post courtesy of Mental Health America.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: June 18, 2019]]> 2019-06-18T02:32:26Z 2019-06-18T10:30:13Z We survived Father’s Day. But are you still recovering?

I am a little too.

One of the things I learned this weekend is why we people please and give in when we know we shouldn’t. It’s the aftermath of doing the right thing. And when I speak of the right thing, I’m talking about putting up boundaries, bowing out of parties that put you at risk for getting hurt, and choosing to take care of yourself instead of everyone else.

The repercussions of doing something you’ve never done before is scary. When you switch things up and give an unexpected response, it’s possible it won’t be well-received. People tend to dislike change so when you change, it triggers a domino effect making others uncomfortable that they might have to change themselves.

Even if your friends and family react with grace and kindness, you still have to deal with your own feelings of guilt.

There’s baggage when we decide to do what’s right for ourselves. Sometimes there’s shame for being unable or unwilling to fulfill other’s needs. There’s the fear of disappointing others. There’s the risk that you will lose relationships because of it.

All that anguish can make saying, “Yes,” and doing the thing you usually do seem like the easier decision.

Something I heard this weekend on Embrace Change, a Buddhist Wisdom online summit, helped ease the discomfort.

Writer Rachel Neumann shared this short mantra that’s helped me whenever I’m struggling with an emotion, feeling or experience:

“All that we have is each other and all that we have is this moment, and this moment is full of wonder.”

Sometimes healing comes from healing other people’s stories. Sometimes it comes from reconnecting with yourself or realizing there’s no shame in how you feel. It can also come from building up your self-esteem as well as taking care of and loving yourself. These are all important topics we cover on the blog this week.

6 Signs Your Brain and Gut are Disconnected: How to Reconnect Them
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – Did you know your indecision, self-doubt and overthinking could stem from childhood emotional neglect? The next time you’re stuck, this will help you reconnect with your deepest, wisest self.

Caregiver Guilt: The Untenable Position
(Full Heart, Empty Arms) – Sometimes we’re faced with roles we wouldn’t have chosen. Here one blogger shares the heartbreak of going from wife to caregiver.

14 Quotes to Inspire Self-Love
(Happily Imperfect) – We may try unsuccessfully to find love outside ourselves, but we won’t ever experience true love until we practice self-love. Here are other thought-provoking quotes on one of the most difficult tasks we undertake as human beings.

Why It’s Wrong to Withhold Gentleness to Show Our Kids How “The Real World Works”
(Childhood Behavioral Concerns) – Instead of teaching your kids how to fight in this world, teach them how to be loving, peaceful and healthy.

The Invalid Person: Low Self-Esteem on Steroids (Pt. 1 & 2)
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – If you’ve always struggled with self-esteem, this could be why.

John Tsilimparis, MFT <![CDATA[Cyberbullying: The Psychological Effects on Teens]]> 2019-06-16T18:32:21Z 2019-06-17T17:30:54Z Cyberbullying is the repeated and willful use of digital technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person. Cyberbullies use cell phones, computers and tablets. They use email, text messaging, social media, apps, forums and gaming in their efforts to humiliate their peers and others.

With today’s mandatory need for smartphones and 24-7 access to social media platforms, anyone can be a perpetual target. But because teens and young adults access these digital platforms so often, they are the most vulnerable. Staying “connected” online with friends is not always as innocent as it appears.

Here a few things to consider about cyberbullying:

  • Cyberbullying is easier to commit than traditional acts of bullying because the perpetrator doesn’t have to confront the victim in person. It can also be perpetrated anonymously, so victims often don’t know who is targeting them.
  • Perpetrators get to operate outside the view of adults making it harder for parents to recognize and address it, if and when their kids are being victimized.
  • For victims themselves, it can feel like there’s no escape. While the school day typically ends in mid-afternoon, the Internet never closes down. That means the online abuse is often unrelenting, continuous, and may go on for days, weeks or even months.
  • Cyberbullying has the potential to reach large audiences and cause more damage to its victims, especially if it goes viral.

The numerous psychological effects can be devastating to victims regardless of age, and it seems no one is immune to the kind of trauma it causes. However, because kids and teens are still learning to regulate their emotions and responses to social interactions, they are particularly vulnerable and highly susceptible.

Cyberbullying can cause debilitating fear, destruction of self-esteem, social isolation, poor academic performance. It can also lead to difficulty in forming healthy relationships and most importantly, victims can develop severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

Young victims are nearly twice as likely to consider suicide than their peers. Many young victims inflict self-harm such as cutting, head banging and even hitting themselves. They are also significantly more inclined to turn to substance abuse for relief of their psychological pain.

Incidence of cyberbullying among teens nearly doubled between 2007 and 2016. A 2018 study found that 59% of U.S. teens reported having been bullied or harassed online. That’s a staggering number.

Research shows that the most common reason for cyberbullying is the result of fractured personal relationships, due to breakups or unresolved conflicts. Certain groups are especially vulnerable and frequently targeted. They include LGBTQ students, shy and socially awkward students, overweight kids and kids that come from low income families.

The online abuse takes the form of name-calling, spreading false rumors, forwarding sexually explicit images and messages, cyberstalking, physical threats, and the unauthorized sharing of personal images and information without consent.

Instagram is the most widely used platform among teens so its where a lot of cyberbullying occurs these days. Facebook and Snapchat are a close second and third.

Here are some signs to look for that may indicate your teen is a victim.

For example, extreme mood swings, angry outbursts, irritability, spending more time alone than usual, avoiding friends they used to hang out with as well as repeated texts or calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying take action. Talk to your child even if it feels awkward. Approach the conversation gently, allowing your child to explain the situation in his or her own words. Assure your child that their value as a person has nothing to do with being teased or harassed. Let them know that retaliation or even responding to a bully online can only make the situation worse.

Encourage them to document every incident by saving and taking screen shots of unkind texts, emails, photos and other unwelcome images. Saving the URL’s of where the negative messages came from is also helpful. Or suggest that your child forward them directly to you.

Report cases of cyberbullying or even suspicion of cyberbullying to teachers and administrators at your child’s school. In extreme cases, inform law enforcement officials and keep records of any and all conversations. Most of all assure your child that bullying in any form is hurtful and wrong, and that they are never to blame for the immature and cruel behavior of their peers.

Remember, the sooner cyberbullying is identified and addressed the better your chances are of protecting your child from the potentially devastating negative effects.

Links to Cyberbullying hotlines and support centers.

The CyberBullyHotline
Stomp Out Bullying
Teen Health & Wellness

A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast <![CDATA[Podcast: Is Kanye West Helping People with Bipolar Disorder?]]> 2019-06-14T20:08:55Z 2019-06-17T10:30:49Z

Kanye West’s interview about living with bipolar disorder has recently made the media rounds. Mr. West speaks about not liking medication, about mania being a creative outlet, and the career edge he believes he has because of living with mental illness.

Suffice to say, whenever someone gains an audience by speaking about living with bipolar disorder, our hosts are going to take notice. Do they agree with Mr. West? Listen now to find out.


Google PlaySpotify

“Do you know many homeless schizophrenics who are eating well?”
– Gabe Howard


Highlights From ‘Kanye West Bipolar’ Episode

[1:00] Kanye West’s interview on ‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.’

[4:00] David Letterman tells his story about mental illness.

[12:00] What is Akathisia?

[19:00] Talking about bipolar mania.

[22:00] Should we take mental health advice from famous people?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Kanye West Bipolar Disorder’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: Welcome to this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. I’m Gabe, bipolar.

Michelle: And I’m schizophrenic. I’m Michelle and I am not as loud as Gabe apparently.

Gabe: That’s unusual.

Michelle: Unusual I’m usually the loudest person but I think you just won, okay, and whatever that was.

Gabe: Let’s talk about loud mentally ill people that maybe shouldn’t be as loud as they are.

Michelle: Why who could you be talking about, Gabe? I can’t possibly think of someone that’s a bit loud in the mental health field that makes it on all of the news just kind of ruins it a little bit for all of us I’d say.

Gabe: It’s really sad because it he’s got a platform. I mean whenever he talks about living with bipolar disorder the media immediately reports it. And as a guy who, one, lives with bipolar disorder and two wants to talk about living with bipolar disorder and three can’t get the media to report shit there’s this massive anger and jealousy that comes from what he chooses to say.

Michelle: Do you think people have figured out who we’re talking about?

Gabe: You know it depends on if they have Netflix or not and if they know who the fuck David Letterman is.

Michelle: We’re talking about Mr. Kanye West.

Gabe: And Kanye West, we’ve talked about on the show before when we’ve talked about celebrities but he has a new interview with David Letterman on what’s it called? This next guest needs no introduction?

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: And he talks about a lot of things. Let’s not throw away the entire interview. First off if you are a fan of Kanye West if you’re a fan of his music, his creative pursuits, his endeavors, they spend the majority of the time talking about that but of course there’s this the section where they talk about.

Michelle: When he discusses mental health and medication.

Gabe: And when he discusses living with bipolar and the creative process.

Michelle: And living with bipolar. But one specific part really got to me one key part was good is that he wasn’t putting down people taking meds but the reason that he doesn’t take any meds. One of the main reasons was because they made him fat. The second reason he doesn’t like taking meds, is because it “stifles his creativity.” And that was a huge reason about why I didn’t want to take meds when I was younger when I was around 18 or 19 starting meds in college. I would say that I’m taking these meds and I was an art major and it was ruining my artwork and I couldn’t do my artwork anymore because of the meds or I couldn’t play lacrosse good anymore because of the meds. I would come up with all these excuses and I would blame medication and I’d say I’m just going to not take my medication anymore it’s ruining everything.

Gabe: You know what really stifles creativity and ruins everything? Dying by suicide.

Michelle: True.

Gabe: That really just stifles just I mean pretty much life. This is why these conversations always sort of irritate me. Nobody is taking medication because they’re not really sick. The people who are being prescribed medications for mental illness their quality of life is in the toilet man it just kind of irritates me because everybody thinks that people who are taking psychiatric medications are just like they’re perfectly fine. They just have like maybe little issues here and there no people who are being prescribed psychiatric medications are really sick. They have suicide attempts. They’re cutting and they have homelessness. In serious cases of violence or attacks against others you were hallucinating and you were so paranoid that you thought your mother was trying to kill you. But what you were worried about was that your creativity was going to be stifled.

Michelle: Yes exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Gabe: It’s almost like you weren’t thinking straight.

Michelle: What if Kanye West wasn’t a rich person right now? What if he was poor? What if he was homeless?

Gabe: It’s interesting because let’s not pick on Kanye West the whole time. You know David Letterman said something that I thought was really really interesting. He said that for a long time he, David Letterman, didn’t take any medication or help for his mental illness but that he was so angry and paranoid and frustrated that he used to rip phones off the wall and throw them against other walls and it would take two or three days to calm down from these angry outbursts. And then he did this at work for 10 years before realizing that he needed medication. Now, Michelle, as somebody who’s been fired from 11 jobs.

Michelle: 8.

Gabe: 8 jobs. How many of those jobs did you rip something off the wall and throw it against the wall in front of your co-workers?

Michelle: Zero.

Gabe: Ok. And you still couldn’t keep a job because of your schizophrenia?

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Yeah but apparently this guy could keep his job in spite of being I don’t know what crazy, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s just he was so sick and so angry and so symptomatic he was putting other people in danger and his workplace covered for him.

Michelle: Right.

Gabe: Because he was David Letterman.

Michelle: Right. He was saying that he got this far, at this point in his life not being on meds, why does he need meds now? It’s going to change who he is and then he said that after doing all that his doctor finally said can you just try them now? please? And then when he took them it was a whole new way of life. It was like wearing new glasses.

Gabe: And this was frankly an elite figure talking somebody who’s famous, on television, wealthy, has a lot of resources, and he now sees the benefit of getting the proper treatment for mental illness and the rest of us we don’t we don’t have that kind of coin. I don’t think that I could throw a phone at you, Michelle, and keep our podcast.

Michelle: Oh, hell no.

Gabe: Let alone doing this so often for a decade that the doctor has found out about it. It’s like I don’t know, David, I don’t think you should throw phones at people anymore. Maybe you should just try it? Could you imagine having that? The rest of us would go to jail.

Michelle: You know what’s really funny? Everybody knows that Naomi Campbell threw a phone at her assistant and nobody knows that David Letterman used to rip phones out of the wall and thrown them at people or whatever like that. Come on? Men versus women. Come on. That’s it. I’m turning this in to. That’s a bit sexist, Gabe.

Gabe: I thought this podcast was about how we were angry at people for spreading misinformation about psychiatric medications. We now have to discuss misogyny too?

Michelle: It always is misogyny. You always hear about the difficult women you never hear about the difficult men.

Gabe: You’re right. For example when we heard about it from Naomi Campbell we just thought that she was a bitch. We just thought that she was mean and angry. But when we heard about it from David Letterman, we thought he was sick. So this is just another reason why this medication conversation really needs to be more nuanced and more understood because imagine if Naomi Campbell needed medication but her doctor wouldn’t sit her down and discuss it? Because a doctor is not going to tell you you’re a bitch. But a doctor did tell a man that he was mentally ill. So it could have been that much longer before Naomi Campbell got the help that she needed because she wasn’t looked at as symptomatic. She was looked at as evil and unhinged, and, well female.

Michelle: Well do we even know what the Naomi Campbell does have a mental illness?

Gabe: I honestly don’t know. But I guarantee that her doctors aren’t talking to her about it. We’ve all just rolled our eyes that she’s just some crazy person that throws phones at and by crazy I don’t mean like mentally ill crazy. I just mean like you know just mean.

Michelle: Just, yeah.

Gabe: Whatever. And that’s just so sad because maybe she is symptomatic? I don’t know if she has a mental illness or not. But you know David Letterman threw a phone. He’s mentally ill. She threw a phone. Maybe she’s mentally ill? Or maybe David Letterman is just an asshole that throws phones?

Michelle: Hold up. We have to hear from our sponsor.

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Michelle: And we’re back talking about bipolar in the media.

Gabe: You are right. We give men a lot of cover and we’re giving Kanye a lot of cover because we think that he’s brave for talking about living with mental illness so publicly. But let’s dissect that message for a moment. His message is if you have bipolar disorder, you don’t want to ruin your mind by taking medication. So therefore don’t take them. Now for a multi-millionaire platinum selling rapper, maybe this is the best decision. But the majority of the people hearing his message are not famous multi platinum selling artists.

Michelle: And that’s why it’s dangerous for him to be saying these things.

Gabe: Exactly.

Michelle: And the other comment he said was that he didn’t say this word for word but he did make a mention that psych meds made him fat and now he’s letting people know that oh psych meds can make you fat. The thing is psych meds can have a varying anything kind of side effect and you’re not going to know what the side effects are until you take them and see how they react to your body and it can be annoying but then you can also take another medicine that will fix that side effect. You have to try different things. And just like I always say, there’s a gazillion different medications for a headache, just like there’s a gazillion different psych meds. You have to figure out which one works for you. All of them have different kinds of side effects. Some might be weight gain, some might be weight loss.

Gabe: I feel like you’ve said that like a couple of times a million times.

Michelle: I’ve said that. I’ve repeated it over and over again because there’s people out there like Kanye West making statements that psych meds make you fat and if you’re a young girl growing up like I was and if I ever heard psych meds make you fat and I’m growing up in high school thinking I have to be skinny skinny skinny skinny skinny oh wait I’m supposed to take a medication? Wait, they can make you fat? I’m not going to take that because it’s going to make me fat.

Gabe: And this is so scary because what is essentially being said is that you would rather be dead than fat. Because that’s what you’re risking. Mental illness is serious; bipolar disorder 15 percent death rate, schizophrenia 15 percent death rate, both by suicide. So by not getting the correct treatment you are raising your odds of dying by suicide. Unfortunately people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, we tend to get fat anyways even when we’re not on medication because we can’t afford expensive foods. I mean you know a lot of like for example homeless schizophrenics who are eating well? You think we’re eating lean meats? No, we’re eating junk food and fatty foods that we can find. I think we just really need to understand that there are worse things in the world than being fat and maybe a 16 year old doesn’t understand that. You always say 16 year old girl but they’re 16 year old boys that don’t understand that either. Look nobody wants to get fat. We all agree we all want to be thin healthy supermodels and look fantastic. But in order to look fantastic we have to be alive and there’s more to health than the number on the scale.

Michelle: Very true. And I don’t think being fat is really the worst side effect. There’s many worse side effects. Have you ever had akathisia before? It’s awful.

Gabe: Explain akathisia to our listeners.

Michelle: Akathisia. For me it came from taking a certain antidepressant but it basically feels like you are jumping out of your skin you can’t stop moving, you can’t stop talking, you can’t stop doing anything. It’s so awful. It’s just like there’s things crawling inside of you and you want to rip your skin off. It’s the most horrible feeling ever. I remember I was driving and I’d had akathisia and I wanted to vomit because I was sitting still for so long. I just thought I was going to puke from sitting still. It’s that awful.

Gabe: But isn’t it OK to have that feeling as long as you are pretty and thin?

Michelle: No.

Gabe: But why do people think that? And I’m being serious. I’m not setting up anybody for a joke it’s just we do have this tendency in our country, in America, to feel like how we look is the most important thing and we don’t care how we feel. You know people on psychiatric medications they’re being treated for a reason. They feel suicidal, they’re hearing voices, we’re hallucinating, we’re depressed, we can’t get off the couch, we can’t hold down jobs, we can’t sustain meaningful relationships, we don’t find enjoyment in life and medication and therapy and coping skills and support groups all of those things combined to fix that. Listen, I would rather be fat and happy than a very beautiful corpse or a very beautiful person who can’t leave his house because he’s just too terrified due to anxiety and panic.

Michelle: And that’s true. But you know what I did when I explained when my current doctor? How it was that I had taken an antidepressant like that before and I got this feeling and that’s when he told me what akathisia was and now I was like, “Oh, I had akathisia?” And he goes, “Oh, if you have akathisia, just take this medication with it. It will go straight away.” And I was like, “What? I just have to take another pill and akathisia won’t be there?” So I had to do is take another medication and your side effect goes away. Ta-da!

Gabe: And that’s not the only way; sometimes they can you know switch drugs. Use the example of antidepressants. There’s lots of anti-depressants and classes go together. So for example let’s say that they prescribe antidepressant A and it causes akathisia, for example. They may say look antidepressant B is very close to A. So we’re going to move you off of A and put you on B and see if that symptom clears up and then when it does, you can stay on antidepressant B for a very long time. I’ve been on some of my medications pushing almost two decades now. It took a long time to find the right combination. But once you find the right combination, it’s just little tweaks here and there. You know it’s kind of like how it takes you a long time to find that perfect dress but it only takes you like five minutes to put it on. It takes a long time to find the perfect combination. But once you have the perfect combination then it’s just a matter of accessorize it.

Michelle: Exactly.

Gabe: Got to find the right shoes.

Michelle: Exactly. And then when you find that perfect combination you’re just that the best you can be. That’s how I feel. I’ve found the perfect combination. And I’m so happy.

Gabe: One of the things that of course we started off this conversation was “it stifles my creativity.” And of course I go for the big one, you can’t be creative if you die by suicide. But let’s dial that back a little. You know obviously suicide is the worst case scenario and it’s the thing that I’m most afraid of in the world. But it’s not necessarily the biggest, not the only thing that stifles creativity. For example, if you’re so depressed you can’t get out of bed, how creative are you? If you can’t leave your house, how creative can you be? Because you can’t be inspired by nature. If all of your friends aren’t talking to you and your life is chaos and everybody’s angry, what does that do to the creative process? And of course if you can’t support yourself, if you can’t you know work, or get food, and you don’t have a stable living situation, or know where your next meal is coming from, what does that do to creativity? I love working with you, Michelle, because you’re kind of a little bit of a stereotype in a way because you’re mentally ill let’s just own it. And you’re also an artist.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Talk about how this journey was for you because I know in the beginning you were very worried about not being able to be an artist if you were on medication and clearly you don’t feel that way anymore.

Michelle: Well at the beginning really a lot of it was artwork. It was sports. It was talking to people. I could not find the right meds for a very very very long time and just everything a lot of it was with sports like if I had a bad day I would blame it on my meds. Like if I did bad at practice. It’s because of my medicine I’m never taking my medicine again. It makes me bad at sports or like if I was in art class and I felt like I couldn’t draw something right it was like my medicine gives me bad ideas now. It just blaming it is blaming blaming blaming everything. If I thought I was just having a bad conversation in some way or anything. Anything that I thought went wrong I would blame my meds. Anything. Not just art, anything I blamed the meds.

Gabe: I’m stuck in traffic, stupid meds.

Michelle: Everything so I was just on and off and on and off and on and off until I finally just said you know what, I’m happier on meds. I’m going to take them and then I saw my life get better. You know I actually really saw my life get better and other people started noticing that I was happier. I wasn’t as moody. My closest friends is kind of said like, “Have you been taking your medicine? Like what’s different with you?” It was awesome.

Gabe: The most success that you’ve ever had as an artist.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Has come in the last three years.

Michelle: Mm hmm.

Gabe: And during the last three years you have been I hate to say med compliant but yeah you have been?

Michelle: Right.

Gabe: So before you were on medication you probably did have creative streaks like you said you’d get anxious and you draw these very detailed drawings but it’s once you got stable and on the right medication that you were able to go to the next phase which was to sell them and prepare them and market them and now people literally all over the world have seen your art. If you were still unmedicated do you think that you would have started your clothing line and published your prints and things like that? Or would you still be sitting alone in your room being very creative but with nobody to see?

Michelle: If I was unmedicated, I’d be dead.

Gabe: Okay. But let’s say that you weren’t.

Michelle: Okay. Yes. But say I wasn’t dead?

Gabe: No, no. What you are describing is sitting alone and drawing.

Michelle: I see what you are saying. If I was unmedicated, I would not be here. like I would not have a podcast, I would not have a company, I wouldn’t have anything. I’d be living in my childhood bedroom being like, “Oh yeah, I guess I have my sketchbook still with my markers. I’m still drawing all these drawings and not doing anything with them anymore.” I mean I would have never done anything. I would’ve just been doing nothing. Getting yelled at by my mom to clean my room.

Gabe: That’s always the message that I like to get out there. You know bipolar mania. It has this public relations problem.

Michelle: Yeah, what he said of ramping up.

Gabe: Oh no.

Michelle: Ramp up. Yes. He kept saying. That’s when he was getting closer to God.

Gabe: All exciting the universe is flowing through me. It’s amazing. And listen, maybe if you’re a multi platinum multimillionaire famous artist this works. But I’m telling you, for the rest of us, for me and for thousands of people that I’ve talked to with mania, we feel like God is working through us. We feel like the universe is working through us. But when we look back at what we’ve actually accomplished, the answer is nothing. We had a whole bunch of ideas and we talked a lot but nothing happened.

Michelle: Yeah. When you’re Kanye West you have the money to actually make things happen.

Gabe: And people are following you around and writing it down.

Michelle: I mean I could understand why he can get all manic and everything like that because he has thousands of millions of followers and lots and lots of money. I can understand why he gets like that. Like just all he has to do is think about all the money and think about all the influence he has. Think about how he’s married to Kim Kardashian and what you make about him who he is and how famous he is. If I had all of that I’d be like Yeah. Look at me look who I am. I’m rich I got all this I could do whatever I want if I want to do it and I’m going to do what I want to do right now. I’m gonna make a phone call. I’m gonna make it happen. Yeah he can be as creative as you want to be. All you gotta do is make a phone call okay.

Gabe: But it’s not creativity, it’s voyeurism. People are watching him because they’re fascinated and you brought up the Kardashians. For the purposes of the next couple of minutes, we’re not talking about mental illness. Nobody is mentally ill. You are a 22 year old woman and you call up Kim Kardashian, and you say, “Hello, Ms. Kardashian. I need some advice for starting my career.” And Kim Kardashian says, “Here’s what you’re going to want to do. You’re going to want to open a social media account and post pictures of your butt. You’re gonna want to go out all night and be seen drunk in various bars.”.

Michelle: She doesn’t do that.

Gabe: “If you can have some friends that can get into fights and scandals with you? You really want to create a lot of buzz around all of the things that are exciting about glamour and makeup and fashion.” Because all of this worked for Kim Kardashian, and she’s famous for it and this is an excellent idea. If you’re the Kardashians. But do you really think that the average 22 year old should really just be posting pictures of her butt on social media Is this a good idea for her?

Michelle: This is the weirdest comparison, Gabe. We just made the strangest comparison.

Gabe: I’m not making a strange comparison. I guess I am, and I’m just saying that what works for the Kardashians is not going to work for the average person. But for some reason.

Michelle: Yeah, but a lot of people try. A lot of people try.

Gabe: Yeah, and what happens to those people?

Michelle: Good question.

Gabe: They fail miserably.

Michelle: They fail miserably.

Gabe: Good question. Nothing. Nothing happens to them but for some reason when Kanye West gives out mental health advice people are like I’m gonna follow that. That’s a good idea. Isn’t that a bad idea? Maybe we shouldn’t get our mental health advice from famous people just like we shouldn’t get career advice from Kim Kardashian unless you want to be a reality star and then maybe. But it’s not. It’s not one size fits all. And I do dislike how everybody is getting their advice on living with mental illness from famous people. Their lives are not the same as ours. For one thing they have money, resources, help, and health insurance. A lot of people with mental illness have none of those things. We consider ourselves lucky because.

Michelle: I’m very lucky.

Gabe: Because we have a supportive family and because we’re middle class so if we’re lucky for having a supportive family and being middle class, where is Kanye West? We’re lucky. Gabe in Michelle are lucky. So he’s just out of this fucking stratosphere.

Michelle: Yeah I think it’s also interesting that he said is that you know he’s been bipolar, you know he’s been diagnosed, you know he’s only had it for two years. And I’m like wait, wait, wait. You’ve been diagnosed two years ago. How long have you had it?

Gabe: Yeah. Oh yeah, he’s had it his entire life.

Michelle: Just because it was diagnosed two years ago, doesn’t mean you’ve been bipolar for only two years.

Gabe: Yeah he’s just skated by without a diagnosis.

Michelle: Everybody should just know that just because you’ve been diagnosed at a certain age doesn’t mean you only had it since that certain age.

Gabe: We’re kind of nearing the end of the show and I think we’ve covered a lot of stuff. Again Kanye West, as a rapper, as a performer, as an artist, my hat’s off to him. He is apparently amazing.

Michelle: He has talent.

Gabe: He is incredibly talented but I have to I just have to say as a mental health advocate he is dangerous and misleading and one of the things that he said that frankly in my opinion was the most offensive thing that he said is that he is the most famous bipolar there is. And the minute he said that all I could think of was, where the hell is Carrie Fisher when you need her? Like she is going to rise from the dead and say, “Excuse me? Fuck you. I’m Princess Goddamn Leia. I wrote a book about bipolar disorder. I advocated all over this country.” And I got to tell ya, most people over the age of 50 have no idea who Kanye West is. They all know who Carrie Fisher is. This is proof the dude is bipolar because thinking you’re the most famous one is straight up delusional.

Michelle: I loved what you just said. That was amazing. I love that.

Gabe: Thank you everybody for listening to this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you are not sharing us with your friends, that means that you’re not sharing us with your friends. What kind of a friend are you? Social media makes it easy. We can’t make it easier. Please jump over to to find your favorite episodes and post them everywhere. We will see everybody next week.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe, go to To work with Michelle, go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to This show’s official web site is You can e-mail us at Thank you for listening, and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit


MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.

Bonnie McClure <![CDATA[Feel Better in Just One Breath]]> 2019-06-16T15:31:37Z 2019-06-16T15:45:46Z Yoga has always been a source of strength and conditioning for me. Even as a child I was naturally flexible and athletic. The active, bendy part was easy, but the part of yoga that requires being still, breathing deeply, and quieting of my mind was nearly impossible for me and definitely not enjoyable. It’s a little bit ironic that part later became absolutely necessary to achieve the type of peace I was seeking.

With anxiety that manifested as almost paralyzing self-consciousness, my mind was constantly analyzing every situation and circumstance, spending overwhelming amounts of time ruminating on words I had chosen in any given social context. I spent so much time inside my own head and it was absolutely exhausting.

I worked through therapy and medication to get my anxiety into a manageable place. Once there, I still needed something to help me manage the day-to-day stresses that would sometimes trigger mild panic or send me into a stormy tailspin. It should be noted that for severe or chronic forms of anxiety and depression, more intensive tools may be needed, before the effects of breath work can be successfully utilized. 

Still using yoga for general exercise, I turned to the part of the practice that was most challenging for me, but what I knew held the type of benefit I needed. What resonated with me most about using yoga to control anxiety, was the power found in an action we do everyday, that we always have access to, and that we usually take for granted: breathing. 

Breathing is an automated process and as such, we generally go about our business with shallow breath or sometimes, when we are tense, even holding our breath entirely without realizing it. Bringing your conscious awareness to deliberate breathing — deep, slow, controlled, and purposeful — fills your body with life giving oxygen and slows down your processes, creating internal space to simply just “be.” 

In yoga, we call this conscious awareness of breath Pranayama: the life force that both energizes and relaxes the body. The term is derived from the Sanskrit, prana, meaning “life force,” and ayama, meaning “extension.”

Now that you are attuned to the breath within you, the effects are immediate! If you focus your awareness to inhale and exhale that deeply and purposefully just one time, you will immediately feel at least one small tick of increased relaxation within your body, and that is the first step. 

During the closure of yoga sessions, Savasana, you lie totally relaxed in a passive pose, commonly corpse pose, which requires as much energy and flexibility as its name denotes. My yoga teacher used to ask us during this time to imagine taking in each breath and sending it to specific parts of the body, parts of the body that need our attention. As she walked us through the visualization, she would remind us of spaces I had really given no actual thought to, such as the folds of my ears, the crevice of my elbow, the back of my knees. It may sound silly, but the minute inspection of these calls attention to the places where your tension hides, unnoticed, but still contributes to resistance in your true presence and authenticity.

I used to imagine my breath soaring around the inside of my body, seeking out tensions and anxieties that it could bind up, wrapping medicinally around the internal wound, melting away any resistance and then whisking the whole package of suffering out of the body with each long, wonderful exhale.

This work, breath work, I began to utilize at all times of stress and anxiety, whether I was on my yoga mat or not. When I could feel my body having that familiar reaction to some worry or fear, I would make myself stop and focus on my breath. Just before I had to make a big presentation at work or when I couldn’t sleep at night for fear of how I fared in parenting my newborn child, my self medication included pausing and taking an action I would have to take anyway to stay alive, but with a more full presence and purpose that stabilized me.

It was the breath, in the beginning, that helped me rebuild my life after being bound by my crushing anxiety for so long. This continued, regular awareness grounds me and gives me courage to pause and move forward thoughtfully, instead of from a place of reactiveness when life gets stormy. 

But it all begins with just one breath. 

Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D. <![CDATA[Do You Know Your Style of Passion?]]> 2019-06-15T19:21:04Z 2019-06-16T10:30:04Z Studies by a Canadian researcher have identified two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. According to Dr. Robert Vallerand, harmonious passion happens when we choose to do an activity we love and feel happy both during and after it. Harmonious passion with an activity leads to better engagement, higher levels of concentration, and greater well-being.

Obsessive passion is another matter. This type of passion occurs when an uncontrollable desire to engage in the activity causes pressure (like those who can’t stop playing video games). You are doing something you love, but the activity controls you rather than you controlling it. You have to do it and find it difficult to step away from it.

In general, being involved with something you are harmoniously passionate about predicts higher well-being and greater resilience. Engaging in obsessive passion activities predicts just the opposite.

In a recent study with his colleagues, Dr. Vallerand looked at another type of passion — the one between romantic partners. As it turns out, they found couples, too, can be harmoniously or obsessively passionate with one another. Couples who enjoy being harmoniously passionate revel in the process of being together and the aftereffects. The obsessively passionate couples neither appreciate the process nor the outcome. They see being together more of an obligation than a delight.

The researchers then asked an interesting question: what happens when partners who have harmonious passion engage in a mutually exciting activity. In other words — what happens when a harmoniously passionate couple loves the activity they are doing together? The short answer is that it strengthens the relationship.

This might not seem like such a significant finding — but it is. The standard recommendation for couples is to improve their relationship is to do more things together. But this new research shows that couples who are obsessively passionate (feeling obligated) engage in an activity they are not harmoniously passionate about the results can be detrimental. Just spending time together isn’t the answer. Choosing to do something that each of you love together is what’s needed. There is a bonus if the activity you both love is exciting. The positive energy that comes from the shared excitement is also part of what will strengthen your connection. Sharing your harmoniously passionate activities with your partner may be one of the most direct ways to improve your relationship.

“Honey, want to go bungee jumping again tonight?” Might not sound like the most romantic sentence you can whisper into your partner’s ear — but it just might be the most effective.

Source: Rapaport, M., Carbonneau, N., St-Louis, A. C., Rochette, S., & Vallerand, R. J. (2018). More than Shared Love: Does Sharing a Passionate Activity with a Romantic Partner Strengthen the Relationship?. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 2(1-3), 61-78.

Psych Central Guest Author <![CDATA[3 Steps to Break Your Painful Relationship Patterns]]> 2019-06-15T19:03:02Z 2019-06-15T20:45:20Z

“Until you heal your past, your life patterns and relationships will continue to be the same; it’s just the faces that change.” – Unknown

First of all: honey, you are not broken. We are all works in process. There is nothing inherently wrong with you. We all end up in a loop here and there. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t healed pain from the past. And sometimes it’s because we’ve healed our pain but still hold on to past habits. When we do this, past habits will promote the replaying of past events and, therefore, the pain will return.

This happens at a psychological and practical level. The type of beliefs we have about reality will shape the way we perceive it, react to it, and interpret it. This is a neurological reality that has been proven scientifically: the brain creates concepts and finds ways to validate them.

This is the way prejudice is built, but is also the way you expect sweetness and tartness out of an apple.

The moment you read the word “apple,” you already started generating the necessary enzymes to digest one and enjoy its flavor. You already started reacting to something that isn’t even here, based on the concepts (beliefs) the brain (mind) has constructed on it according to previous experiences.

This is one of the many ways science has validated that “life is an illusion.” This is great news. It means we can choose, in a way, what kind of illusion to believe in and, consequently, co-create in our lives.

Past experiences—especially our childhood experiences—inevitably shape this concept-system in the brain. They create what we refer to as a value system in the mind. These, in turn, determine our thinking habits. The thinking habits will define how we speak and act.

In other words, the way we perceive apples will determine how we react to them or even the idea of them.

If you believe that you should expect sweetness out of apples, you will seek apples that provide sweetness, and you will react by preparing to enjoy the sweetness, which will allow you to do so at a higher level than if your body didn’t salivate and prep your taste buds for it. By expecting sweetness, you get to experience it with heightened senses when you get it.

This idea also applies to unpleasant concepts. This is also a neurological reality and was designed as a survival mechanism.

Go get your ears pierced and you will see what I mean. When you get ears pierced the first one is barely perceivable. However, the next one hurts quite a bit. Why? Because the brain was expecting pain; therefore, it reacted to the second experience with a concept of pain.

You think, “This will hurt,” and, therefore, you experience more pain. The tool is still the same. The pressure did not change. Reality is the same as with the first one; however, your brain constructs a concept of pain, so that’s what you get.

Your earlobes will heal within six weeks. But when you expect unpleasantness out of other life experiences, that’s what you will repeatedly get. In order to produce change, we must let go of a value system that constructs realities of pain and difficulty. This truth is evident in relationship dynamics as well.

The Loop: What We Think about Relationships Defines How We Experience Them

I want to make a disclosure about what you are about to read: taking responsibility for your thinking habits and how those affect what you expect from relationships does not mean that anything is your “fault.” It also should not be used to justify abuse.

Abuse is not justifiable. However, as a survivor of abuse, I can say from experience that it’s actually empowering to realize how much is in my power. I can change how I think, how I talk, how I perceive situations, and how I react to them. I can co-create my relationships.

I happened to grow up in a culture of fear. I grew up thinking work had to be hard, people had to be in a bad mood when they got home, marriages are meant to be hard, and you should not expect the best, ever; you needed to expect the worst.

I was married for almost eight years and got divorced a year ago. Since then, I’ve found myself making similar mistakes in the way I seek partners, and all of my relationships have ended up leaving me drained and resentful. But why? I was doing what I thought was supposed to be done: I was being of service in a relationship where one person needed to be saved and I could be their savior.

There are so many memes out there with the phrase “You saved me” phrase on them. It’s supposed to be romantic! Well, that did not go so well for me. It bred unhealthy and unbalanced relationships, and an environment of codependence that led to pain for both people.

So I went on a quest for my own healing and discovered why I was constantly trying to save the people I date (more on this later). Finally, I was ready to get out there again. But this time, there was no saving involved. Because I was ready for a healthy relationship. I was at peace.

I went on a first date with a wonderful man I’d met on a dating app. Before leaving, I called a friend to share how excited I was. She suggested that I calm down, keep “low expectations,” and keep my guard up. I decided not to follow that advice. It comes from a place of good intentions, but it’s really a chain of fear.

On a vibrational level, to act that way would not allow me to attract my highest good. On a practical level, it would set me up to not look for the best in this person, which would produce a reality where I would be unable to see it even if it hit me in the face.

I went in there with the same attitude I approach everything currently: at peace. No negative or positive expectations. Just being in the present moment.

I ended up having the best date of my entire life and building a deep connection with my now-partner.

We cheat ourselves out of wonder if we tiptoe around in life afraid to get hurt. We must be strong and self-confident to allow ourselves to expect goodness. I did not get here right away. It does take practice to make progress. But it really doesn’t have to be considered an “impossible” in our brains.

How to Hijack Your Way Out of the Loop and Start Flowing Upward!

These are some of the things that helped me heal and rewire my brain before I finally downloaded the dating app, posted a cute picture of myself, and hoped only for the best.

1. Observe your thoughts. What are they based on? Which beliefs no longer serve you?

A tool that helped me greatly in this step was John Bradshaw’s book Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, which includes exercises to heal past experiences. This releases the brain to freely create new constructs and prevents us from staying on a loop.

I was having trouble as an adult voicing my needs. I would be terrified and would be physically unable to communicate what I needed.

During my work with myself I discovered that when I was four years old, I was so terrified of being physically and emotionally abused by my caregivers that when I was hungry, I would not dare voice that need. I have memories of hiding in a cabinet eating raw rice from a bag in order to feed myself without being a “bad girl” and bothering my caregivers.

I recognized then that this was why I fell into a pattern of focusing on my partners’ needs and trying to save them: I was expecting that it would be painful if I voiced what I needed.

So, I recognized the source of the problem, now what?

2. Release the vibrational memory of emotional baggage.

Once you recognize the roots it will be time to release their emotional baggage. That way you won’t be triggered by old stuff in your new relationship. In other words, you won’t fall into the same old patterns because you’re driven by emotions from the past.

There are many ways to release emotional baggage, including meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping, Mental Emotional Release (MER) therapy, and journaling. Explore, experiment, and find what works for you.

I went to an Emotional Release Body Balance therapy specialist. It’s the best investment I’d ever made in my life.

I also engaged in regular cleansing rituals with sage at home.

Finally, I used release affirmations and prayers daily. One that especially worked for me was a Unity prayer that states: “I release from me all energies that are contrary to what I am creating for myself. I cut them off and release them to the Universe to transform into beneficial forms of energy. I now fill myself with love, peace, and perfect health.”

Okay, I am no longer controlled by emotions from my painful past, what’s next?

3. Learn new skills.

This is the ongoing step. It requires our willingness to learn new skills. New thoughts. New ways of communicating, new brain constructs about relationships, and new ways of having faith in ourselves and others. In my case, this meant learn to voice my needs instead of stifling myself in fear.

To accomplish this, I attended virtual classes. I enrolled in a communication workshop and practiced those skills. It was just like learning how to read: practice, review, assess, practice again. You will need support here. Someone to practice with. I do so with my best friend. We exchange notes and debrief with one another.

The skills you need to learn will depend on what you ascertained about your beliefs and expectations and what pattern you fell into as a result of them. It doesn’t matter if you attend classes, read books, practice with friends, or join a support group. What matters is that you do something to learn and strengthen the skills that will help you break your pattern.

But… why?!

Now, why go through all this? Baby, ‘cause you are worth it! Plus, there is no magical soul mate in the Universe who will heal your low self-worth concepts and create positive expectations of healthy relationships in your brain.

You either do the work you need to complete on yourself before you get out there, or you will be stuck in an ongoing loop of pain, with a list of exes that turn out the be the same dog with a different collar, calling them “toxic” instead of owning your own need for growth.

I’m rooting for you. I bless your journey. The best is already within you. What you want in a partner is out there looking for you as well. May you find each other at the right time and may you have the skills to enjoy your union. Ashe!*

*Ashe is a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change.

This post courtesy of Tiny Buddha.

Tracy Shawn, MA <![CDATA[Stay Funny, My Friends]]> 2019-06-15T17:20:05Z 2019-06-15T15:45:04Z Within scientific circles, humor is often treated as a “non-serious” topic. According to the article “The Importance of Humor Research” by Peter McGraw in Psychology Today, many scientists fear that their work would be disrespected if they dared to research the what, why, and how of humor. Yet, humor deserves much more reverence than professionals — other than professional comics — are willing to bestow upon it.

Sure, we all appreciate a good joke. We all feel better after a big belly laugh. For the most part, we’d rather invite opportunities that make us chuckle instead of frown. Mirth is a wonderful emotion! All too often, though, we focus on decreasing our less-than-fun emotional states such as depression, anxiety, and stress. What if, instead, we focused on increasing our humor quota?

To understand the innate need for humor, it’s important to note that laughter is one of the first things a newborn does. And even more amazing, studies show that animals enjoy a sense of humor as well. To quote a section from an article in Slate Magazine by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner: “Nonhuman primates don’t just laugh—there’s evidence they can crack their own jokes.” A wonderful example of this is when the famous gorilla Koko tied her trainer’s shoelaces together and signed “chase.”

So why do we Earthlings enjoy the gift of humor?  A short piece in BBC Focus Magazine by Christian Jarrett answers the question: “Why did humans evolve a sense of humor?” Jarrett writes that a recent theory says a sense of humor evolved because it helps us fact check our assumptions about other people’s intentions and perspectives. Our funny bone gets tickled, then, when we debunk one of our presumptions and see things in a new light. Once humor evolved, it became a social signal, making us assume that funny people are intelligent and friendly. I know I appreciate when people around me can make me laugh—even at the darkest of times.

Humor can help people’s—and I believe animal’s as well—physical and psychological well-being. Laughter can benefit our circulation, lungs, and muscles (it’s way more fun, by the way, to exercise our stomach muscles via a hearty laugh rather than with a bout of monotonous crunches). Psychologically, humor can also help people deal with emotional pain and embarrassment. If I tripped walking down the red carpet (not that I’d ever have the opportunity, but you get the picture), I’d feel much better about it if I could crack a brilliant joke about it and turned everyone’s gasps into laughter. I know, too, that when my husband recently addressed our separate aging issues by joking: “Not to worry; we’ll just have to grow old together and take turns pushing each other around in our wheelchairs,” I not only let out a chuckle, but also drew in a breath of appreciation. His quiet, little joke lightened up our worried minds as well as emphasizing our ongoing support for each other—one quick quip that improved our psychological well-being in a big way.

Humor benefits us in many other ways, as well. If you watch the best of comedians, you’ll notice that their humor makes us feel as if someone understands our daily frustrations, and when fellow audience members laugh, this makes us feel less alone and more connected to others. In a way, then, comedians are spokespeople for the universality of the human condition, their humor providing a salve to our collective pain and a brand-new prospective to lighten up our moods.

That old cliché about the importance of learning to laugh at the face of danger proves to be even more poignant when we recognize the healing power of humor. So, make time to joke around with a friend about your woes when you’re feeling blue. Read the comics when the news becomes too depressing. Tune into your favorite stand-up comic the next time anxiety hits. Tap into the depth of dark humor when you have to face what you’d rather not. And… don’t forget to help others, too, with your own humor when they could use a fresh take on their problems or simply need to connect with someone about the absurdity of life in general.

Alicia Sparks <![CDATA[Psychology Around the Net: June 15, 2019]]> 2019-06-14T13:49:57Z 2019-06-15T10:30:40Z

This week’s Psychology Around the Net covers ways you can be “good” at therapy (no joke), highlights an 11-year-old Montreal boy who created a video game to help kids understand mental health, how focusing on a few key habits can help keep you grounded when life gets hectic, recognizing postpartum depression in fathers, and more.

Get to learning!

Therapists Share 7 Ways You Can Be “Good” at Getting Therapy: No, this definitely is not about winning at therapy. You won’t find tips on how to make your therapist like you or trick your therapist into thinking you’re not as sad as you actually are or that you’re “getting better.” Instead, this is about how you can get the most out of therapy. Several therapists weigh in on how you can better understand your role and your therapist’s role, how you can best set yourself up for success, why it’s important to make therapy a priority, and more.

When Anxiety and Panic Come to Work: Ralph Kellogg of the Forbes Human Resources Council and adjunct professor at Bellevue University, discusses anxiety and panic attacks in the workplace, how they were accepted when he first entered the workforce versus how they’re accepted in today’s job setting, and what leaders in the workplace can do when when an employee discusses experience with panic and anxiety. (Further Reading: How Business Leaders Can Tackle Anxiety in the Workplace, Especially Among the Young)

Montreal Boy Develops Video Game to Teach Kids About Mental Health After Father’s Death: When he was just two-years-old, Luke Toledo’s father committed suicide after struggling with mental illness. Now 11 years old, the Montreal kid has developed a video game to educate his peers about mental health and reduce any stigma they might associate with mental health. The game allows players to navigate characters through a journey of depression, jumping over gray blocks that represent depression (and display messages like “depression is a disease; it is not a person’s fault”) and eventually finding more colorful blocks (which represent the fact that “it gets better”). Luke even has plans to enhance the game with more mental health information and online meditation spaces so he can further teach kids how to take care of their mental health in real life.

How Ketamine Opens a New Era for Depression Treatment: If you keep up even slightly with drugs researched for various mental health treatments, you’ve probably heard of ketamine at least once or twice. Ketamine was approved and used as a battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam War in the 1970s, and later became more widely known as a popular recreational drug, especially among the dance culture of the 1980s and on. Most recently, researchers have been studying ketamine’s mental health benefits. Now esketamine, a close relative of ketamine, is available via a nasal spray called Spravato made by Johnson & Johnson. Because of abuse concerns, esketamine is available only under supervision at a few hundred Johnson & Johnson-certified medical centers but the drugmaker hopes to win approval to use esketamine as a suicidal depression treatment by 2020.

12 Hard Things to Start Doing for Your Happiness: Doing things for your happiness should be easy, right? Not always. Sometimes, doing things for your happiness means stepping outside your comfort zone, changing your current natural thought processes, and sticking to your guns when it’s likely not a popular choice. While avoiding these kinds of things might bring you happiness in the short run (hey, who isn’t happy not having to deal with a bit of discomfort?), it won’t last. Check out this quick — but important — list of actions you can take to foster long-term happiness in your life.

‘I Was a Total Wreck’: Dads Experience Postpartum Depression and It’s No Joke: We often associate postpartum depression with mothers only; fathers experience postpartum depression, too, and unfortunately their pain often gets overlooked or ridiculed. A few experts weigh in on how men experience postpartum depression and how to recognize postpartum mental illness in men.

When Life Gets Busy, Focus on a Few Key Habits: We all live different lives, but one similarity we can always count on is that no matter how great our lives are overall, we are going to experience periods when things get busy, disordered, and stressful. During those chaotic times, it’s better to focus on short-term habits rather than long-term goals to keep your focus as well as not only survive, but thrive. Of course, just because they’re “short term” doesn’t mean they’re disposable. Your short-term habits should focus on key areas of your life and health including personal reflection, professional reflection, building and maintaining your relationships, and your physical and mental health.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. <![CDATA[Honoring Stepdads on Father’s Day]]> 2019-06-14T14:49:47Z 2019-06-14T17:30:23Z It’s June. With Father’s Day approaching, the question again arises on the internet about whether to honor the Stepfathers and how. I wish the day would be renamed to something more inclusive. Fatherly Day? Male Role Model Day? All Male Nurturers Day? Whatever. Stepfathers who do what’s required to be real Stepdads deserve recognition and appreciation too.

Stepfather families comprise about 8.4% of U.S. married couples with children. That may not sound like much, but it translates to 16.5 million men being Stepdads and 4.1 million children who live with their biological mom and a Stepdad. That’s a lot of fathers and children!

Just as with any family structure, there are tremendous differences in how blended families operate. Sadly, there are some families in which the Stepfather remains at a distance from his wife’s children by a prior partnership or marriage either because of his own issues or because the mother won’t allow it. In such families, both the man and the kids miss out on the potential for a significant and mutually rewarding relationship. The mom misses out on having a partner in every sense of the word.

But in many other families, Stepdads do develop close emotional relationships with the children. They understand that the quality of the relationship with their stepchildren is really up to them.

Just as it takes more than biology to make a father into a Dad, it takes more than marrying a kid’s mother to change a stepfather into a Stepdad. When he makes the effort, everyone benefits. The mother gets a real partner in raising children. The children get the many benefits that come with having a loving and supportive man in their lives. The man gets to have rewarding and loving relationships with his stepchildren. It takes work, sure. But helping children become happy, loving, well-grounded adults is something that can be a source of immense pride and satisfaction.

Father’s Day gives families a chance to focus on the Stepdad who is doing it “right” — or at least mostly right. Stepdads are allowed to be as imperfect as the rest of us.

Let’s honor the Stepdads who

  • Know that they don’t have to compete with the kids’ relationship with the their father (if he is in the picture or their longing for their bio dad when he isn’t). They know there is enough love to go around and that children benefit from having all the love and attention they can get.
  • Don’t wait for the children to show love and affection before offering it. He takes the lead by gently and carefully nurturing the relationship — just as he did with their mother.
  • Understand that it takes time before they can expect respect, compliance, or love from children whose trust may have been betrayed by another guy.
  • Take the time to develop a close relationship with each of their Stepkids individually and take care to know each kids’ talents, interests, friendships, like and dislikes.
  • Go to the kids’ practices and games, theatre productions, band concerts and youth group events.
  • Read to little ones every night and provide supportive help with homework for the bigger ones.
  • Take kids out on adventures.
  • Work out a consistent code of consequences and discipline with the kids’ mother.
  • Provides love, guidance, and positive modeling for what it takes to be a loving husband and father.
  • Never see the kids as a burdensome extra when they married their mother, but instead enthusiastically embrace the role of being a Dad.

These are the Stepdads who step up and do their very best to be the father or another father in the lives of the children they live with.

Mom’s Role in Making Father’s Day

Whether the man in the house is a biological father or stepdad, it’s up to the kids’ mom to provide the encouragement and opportunity for children to make Father’s Day special. (Fathers need to do the same for mothers on Mothers’ Day). Little kids aren’t aware of a calendar day. Big ones may be confused about their role in the day. Teenagers are sometimes so invested on showing their independence that they forget relationships go two ways. So it’s up to Mom to promote the day.

Why? Because there’s a lot more to it than giving in to card companies and retailers who make a big deal of any day that promises profits. Events like Father’s Day can be an opportunity for parents (in this case, mothers) to give children practice in being on the giving end of expressions of appreciation and love. When they are supported in honoring the men in their lives who love them, they learn the importance of showing love and gratitude to those who care for them. That’s an attitude and skill that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.

Father’s Day is any day.

Father’s Day can be complicated for blended families, but it doesn’t have to be. Although this article has focused on the Stepdad, Father’s Day is really a day to recognize all the fathers and fatherly people in our lives.

I’ll close with a friendly reminder: Father’s Day officially happens on the third Sunday in June. But there are 364 other days in a year. When children have multiple fathers who are important in their lives (Divorced Dad, Stepdad, Granddad, Baby daddy, Honorary Dad, etc.), and especially if any of those men don’t get along, it’s possible and appropriate to mark another day as a father’s special “day.” It’s the thoughtfulness and recognition that matter — not the “date.”

Brandi-Ann Uyemura, M.A. <![CDATA[Best of Our Blogs: June 14, 2019]]> 2019-06-13T22:00:25Z 2019-06-14T10:30:05Z Father’s Day is this Sunday. For some, the holiday is a joyous occasion to celebrate the men in our lives who earned our love, trust and respect. But for others, it’s another reminder of what we lost, never had or will never be.

There may be things you’re already doing to prepare for the day. But have you planned ways to protect your emotional health?

I’ve been reading The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. In it, he shares several creative techniques to improve your mood, change your thoughts and accept your current situation. If you’re heading to Father’s Day with fear and anguish, you might want to experiment with some of his exercises.

One is to focus on a negative thought and imagine it spoken in the voice of a humorous cartoon or movie character. For example, how would it sound if, “I’ll never be a good enough father,” in the voice of Darth Vader, Yoda or someone like Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Another exercise is to imagine something you’re dreading, maybe a Father’s Day filled with conflict and tension. But see it as if it was on TV. Change the color of the screen. Visualize the screen stretching or upside down. The intent Harris says is to realize it’s just, “a harmless picture.” If after a few minutes the image is still bothering you, he suggests adding a subtitle to the image. If you envision your father criticizing you as usual, a good title might be, “Oops! He did it again.” Or if this is a story you tell yourself repetitively, you could say something like, “Messed Up Dad.”

The idea is to play with your fears and concerns to defuse it, taking back your power from a thought that hasn’t even happen yet. It’s putting you back in the driver’s seat so you can control how you feel in this moment.

If you need extra support for this upcoming holiday, one of our top posts explain why online therapy may be something you should consider. Also, our bloggers share why June is particularly difficult and how humor can get you through hard times.

10 Common Lies I’ve Told Doctors
(Tales of Manic Depression) – This may be shocking, liberating or validating depending on whether you’ve ever lied to your doc.

Spotting the Narcissist by How He Tells (and Curates) His Story
(Knotted) – Be wary of what you’ve been told. The person who exhibits these common patterns, could be a narcissist.

Amy Tee Stands Up to Bipolar Disorder
(Humor Rx) – It’s no surprise to these comedians that humor can heal trauma, hardship and mental illness.

Is it Me? Why June is the Harshest Month
(Sex, Text & What’s Next) – If you’re a parent of teens, counsel teens or are a teen, you need to read this.

Telemental Health: 5 Reasons Why Online Therapy May Be for You
(The Savvy Shrink) – In person therapy has its place, but there are certain circumstances where online therapy works. Here are five of them.

Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC <![CDATA[Shame, When You’re Too Ashamed to Talk About It]]> 2019-06-11T19:19:19Z 2019-06-13T17:30:53Z Daily we all experience a variety of emotions. Certain things make us happy, others sad. We may see certain people and feel love, or see other people who make us angry. And although most of us don’t go around discussing each emotion we are feeling, we aren’t really thinking about hiding them either. There is, however, one emotion that people sometimes feel and go to great lengths to avoid discussing, showing or admitting. Shame.

Shame is a painful emotion that causes us to feel inadequate, unworthy and as though we have failed at, well, likely everything. It’s often confused with embarrassment or guilt, but it’s actually very different than either one. Although there are similarities between the three emotions, shame is a much deeper and damaging emotion than the others.

Embarrassment is generally a short-lived and fairly superficial emotion. It certainly can cause distress, and we would all rather avoid feeling embarrassed than embrace it. But typically embarrassment occurs over relatively small events and is gotten over fairly quickly.

Guilt is the feeling of remorse over actions or behaviors that have caused harm to ourselves or someone else. The feeling pertains to the action and not ourselves. We may feel shame at the same time, but they are two different emotions. In short, guilt is how you feel about what you did and shame is how you feel about yourself.

Why Shame Is Dangerous

Shame is a very powerful emotion and one that people don’t like to discuss. It can be triggered by a wide variety of circumstances and arise at any point in a person’s life. Because it’s often kept private and ignored it can take root, grow, fester and become incredibly toxic.

Shame, once rooted, is hard to shake. Even if the trigger was in childhood and the source has been outgrown, or is no longer a factor in adulthood, the feeling can persist. Even though it can be hard to explain the residual effects of deep feelings of shame are difficult to overcome.

Results of Dealing with Shame

Regardless of what triggers it, shame can cause a number of problems. Shame undermines an individual’s self-esteem, creating feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. People often feel like they are living with a secret, or like no one would like ever like them if they really knew everything about them. Someone struggling with feelings of shame can isolate themselves and refrain from creating any real or healthy relationships because of it. Depression, anger issues, and problems with addiction are not an uncommon byproduct.

Dealing with deep and ongoing shame over a long period of time will erode self-esteem and ultimately convince a person that they are unworthy of love and happiness. The isolation and loneliness that these feelings create can lead to long-term problems with depression, and many times lead to the use of alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication.

Depression and substance abuse are big problems on their own, but these struggles can also deepen and add to the feelings of shame that a person feels. People in these circumstances typically see no other way to cope and will continue to spiral downward into a vicious cycle that only worsens every aspect of their lives.

Anger issues are another common manifestation of shame. It can be easier to attack others than it is to face whatever it is that caused your internal feelings of worthlessness. Anger can serve to distract from those feelings and project the pain onto someone or something else.

How Can You Deal with Shame?

Not ironically, the best way to deal with a feeling that most don’t want to admit to is to talk with someone else about it. The factors that contribute to this powerful emotion are generally too large to dissect and deal with on your own. The negative and damaging internal feelings of self-doubt and insecurity are difficult to combat without external guidance and tools to overwrite them. Counseling is the best option to accomplish this.

If you feel like shame is affecting your life or the life of someone you love there is hope. Getting the help you need to understand your feelings and reshape your perspective can be very freeing. Once you face your shame and learn how to manage your emotions life and relationships can look very different.

The Psych Central Podcast <![CDATA[Podcast: Sexual Abuse: The Last Stage in Recovery]]> 2019-06-13T00:13:39Z 2019-06-13T10:30:12Z

While searching for a way past her own childhood sexual abuse, Rachel Grant learned that many people don’t understand what, exactly, sexual abuse is and how to recover. Using her counseling background, Rachel was able to research and learn valuable coping skills to improve her own life.

Join us as Gabe and Rachel discuss the many factors involved in recovering from sexual trauma, steps society could take to reduce sexual abuse, and what the first step could be for others trying to get beyond surviving.



Guest information for ‘Sexual Abuse Recovery’ Podcast Episode

Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse.

She holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models.


Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Sexual Abuse Recovery’ Episode

Editor’s NotePlease be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: Welcome to the Psych Central Podcast, where each episode features guest experts discussing psychology and mental health in every day plain language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.

Gabe Howard: Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Today I will be talking to Rachel Grant. She is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final State in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. She works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken, unfixable, and burdened by the past. Rachel, welcome to the show.

Rachel Grant: Thank you so much for having me, Gabe. It’s nice to be here with you.

Gabe Howard: Well I really appreciate you being here. The first question that I want to ask you is I think that sexual abuse is one of those things that everybody thinks that they understand. But I suspect that in reality there’s probably a lot of nuance and a lot of information that maybe the public is missing. Can you kind of fill us in on that and maybe talk a little about it so we understand exactly what we’re going to be talking about for the rest of the show?

Rachel Grant: Yes. So for our purposes today and for the work that I do, childhood sexual abuse is generally defined as any act towards the person who cannot consent or refuse based on their age or their circumstances or level of dependence or perhaps fear or manipulation. And so any act that can fall into that category. Anything from being tickled and to the point where you’re saying no and you’re still being tickled and you’re you know your body space is being violated in that way all the way through to child rape. All of these things constitute childhood sexual abuse and are the types of experiences that I myself have had of course. And then that I work with my clients through everyday.

Gabe Howard: There’s a phrase that always kind of sticks in my mind when I listen to sexual abuse recovery survivors, whether childhood or otherwise. And the phrase is specifically is “a fate worse than death.” That kind of strikes me as a little bit odd but you know I’ve come to understand again what it means. Can you talk about that a little bit because I know that this is a very uncomfortable subject but of course it needs to be better understood so that people can get the help that they need.

Rachel Grant: Yeah for sure. The experience of childhood sexual trauma, I don’t know that it’s necessarily a fate worse than death. But what I will say is that you know as somebody who experienced childhood sexual trauma, my grandfather began abusing me when I was 10 years old. It’s likely that he was abusing me before that but my most conscious memories start at the age of 10 so that’s just where I mark it. There is an immediate rupture of self that happen when sexual abuse is occurring. And so what I often describe it as is you have this sense of self. You have this person who you are and the trauma creates a disconnection and a separation from that self. And then what happens is over time all of these layers of abuse and trauma and the beliefs that you have as a result of that experience get layered on top of who you really are. And so this process is fatal in the sense that you become so separated and disconnected and if we do not have a reintegration of self, if we don’t have a healing of the nervous system and of the brain and of the spirit, well then you know you can kind of in the be walking through life as a ghost of yourself and that’s tragic and this is a real epidemic in our world. And so talking about it is so key, Gabe, because without conversation, without bringing these things into the light, we can’t really get into the process of creating systems and structures and policies that really will fully address what’s going on here in our world, in our family, and for the young children today who are being abused. So we want to try to prevent the next generation as much as we possibly can.

Gabe Howard: And I know that a lot of childhood sexual abuse survivors, they start off in a place of blaming themselves. They think it’s their fault which makes them not great at advocating for themselves because they sort of feel like it’s their problem to deal with when it’s anything but. Am I speaking truth or am I misunderstanding?

Rachel Grant: Oh yeah for sure. When you are a child and you are dependent upon the adults around you. The lesson that most children are taught is listen to the adults, right? They know what’s going on. They know what’s up. Trust them, follow their lead, follow their guide, and a lot of times that’s to the benefit of the child

Gabe Howard: Right.

Rachel Grant: Right. If you have good mentorship, if you have good guardianship, you have someone who is really trying to light the way for you as you’re trying to figure out this whole crazy thing called life. But when an abuser uses that child’s innocence and trust to create a circumstance in which abuse happens, the child is completely faced with something that is discordant. So you have on one hand these messages that you’ve been given that the adults in your life care about you, trust them they want the best for you but your internal experience is one of fear and lack of safety and confusion. And so one of the things that we all do as human beings is we try to understand why we’re having the experiences that we have. And so if you put a little person in that kind of environment and leave them to their own devices to try to understand why is this happening to me, then the egocentric mind of the child let’s just basically means you know children focus on themselves right. They’re not very altruistic yet

Gabe Howard: Right.

Rachel Grant: Which is natural and normal.

Gabe Howard: Right. We’re young.

Rachel Grant: That’s part of a healthy normal human development. The trap of that for children who are experiencing trauma is that they turn everything internal and so it becomes, what am I doing? What’s wrong with me? What am I doing that’s causing this? What is there about me that’s making this person hurt me in this way? The other reason why that happens, Gabe, is because it’s protective for the psyche. If you’re a child, you’re dependent upon the adults around you for your safety and by the way I’m speaking in this context because the majority of abuse happens within the context of family. It’s actually a very small percentage of abuse and trauma that happens outside of that context. So you’re living within this family system; you’re dependent upon the adults for your food, your shelter, your clothes like these sorts of things. So to then mentally make the switch to labeling that person as someone who’s harmful, someone who’s dangerous, psychologically that is that would be detrimental to a child to do that. Because of that you’re basically you’re only out at that point is I better get out of here. And how can you do that? You can’t. So psychologically we turn this back on ourselves because it feels safer. The other thing I’ll just name in this moment of talking about the whole “it’s my fault.” This is like one of the top three beliefs of survivors of trauma are kind of conditioned into and find themselves dealing with. One of my mentors says you know when we are experiencing trauma we hold onto the hope that this person will somehow change. They will become that loving nurturing adult that we possibly know them as in other contexts or knew them as for a very long time. And then there was this change. And so we hold onto the hope that will come back. And if we label this person as bad and wrong and harmful, we have to give up that hope and that again is detrimental to a child’s psychology. So, we hold on to that blame and this is certainly one of the things that I had to work so very deeply on, Gabe. You know in my own healing journey, it was quite the mountain to climb. And of course with all my clients now there’s a full process within my program where we look at all the different aspects that add up to the idea of it’s my fault, and then we break it all down and we dismantle that belief so we can come into the realization that we are not at fault. There isn’t anything about who we are or what we did or what we didn’t do that caused the abuse to happen.

Gabe Howard: We’re going to step away to hear from our sponsor and we’ll be right back.

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Gabe Howard: We’re back talking to Rachel Grant, author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse. It sort of strikes me that some of the most traumatizing things that can happen in this space are things that happen because it feels so normal in an abnormal situation. And it does not make sense because I can see how this is just nothing that people are prepared to deal with, both as the victim and of course as the parents or caregivers.

Rachel Grant: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of dynamics happening here. So first of all we have to take into account what’s called “generational trauma.” So if the caregivers have themselves experienced trauma and abuse and haven’t received support, and sometimes even if they have, when faced with the trauma of their child, they just kind of go right back into that blank space of like I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t want to look at this. I can’t handle this. And so it’s like hitting an escape button and rationalizing or denying it is the easiest escape. But there is so their own trauma can often inform and influence their reactions. This is not to excuse those choices and those behaviors. There are layers that are happening here. You have families where you know maybe mom is extremely dependent upon the abuser or vice versa. And so when faced with this moment there are all these very layered considerations that the person is working through. What’s going to happen? Can I support myself? What if we end up homeless? And I hear this from lots of people who I’ve spoken with who have been in these exact situations. It seems like a very clear cut thing; your child says I’m being sexually abused or I’m being abused by someone and the adult says OK we’re going to pursue this, we’re gonna handle this, we’re going to react to it, we’re going to take care of you, we’re going to protect you. And I would hope to get to the place where we have that being the more standard response then not. But people are people and they have their layers, they have their trauma. Again I’m not excusing any of those behaviors because it’s really terrible. It’s really a problem. But I think something that surprises, well surprised me in my own healing and I suppose when I’m working with my clients, is that you know part of healing from this trauma is beginning to understand your experience in the full context of everything that was happening. Again not to excuse or to dismiss. But when we have or when we can pull out of our pain and we can pull out of that moment of just being deeply within the trauma where our life seems like that’s all there is as we learn and we heal and we grow and we get a broader and broader perspective about the experience. We do start to understand what was happening for that person. What were their fears? What were their traumas? What were their limitations? And I think when we reach that place, Gabe, we start to have a sense of empathy. And to my mind, that is one of the greatest healing factors of all, because we get to step away from that situation and the victimhood of that situation and instead understand it in the full context of what it really was.

Gabe Howard: I really appreciate you saying we start to understand the full breadth of what’s happening because you know I live in the world. I live in America you know just like everybody else and you know there’s been a lot of large sexual scandals, childhood sexual scandals that have gone on for decades and involve you know hundreds of families and the one thing that I see on the Internet and I hear you know from the watercooler talk is well, that would never happen to me. That would never happen to my child. Well those parents must have been awful.

Rachel Grant: Oh, yeah.

Gabe Howard: There’s this knee jerk reaction that if you or your child are in that situation you did something wrong. And to hear you talk about it, it’s much much different from that. You’re not giving anybody a pass. You’re not saying that. As you said, this behavior is terrible, it’s wrong and we have to do better. But it sounds like you understand the complexity of it in a way that could probably get us to solutions faster than just pointing the finger at people and saying all these parents are terrible.

Rachel Grant: Thank you. Yeah. That’s it. Exactly. And I think that’s one of the reasons why having these conversations publicly and bringing this topic more and more to the forefront and starting to impact the way that we educate children in sex ed and in our homes. And how do we educate our parents? I mean my goodness, the level of safeguards that we do not teach people. I was a teacher, so I love teachers. But I often look at my own life experience and teaching and man like this is only going to help you for like a day. What you really need to be learning and understanding is how to communicate and how to relate to people. And I think that a lot of the reactions that we see that are poor come down to unhealed trauma and a deep deep lack of education and willingness to approach and talk about these topics. If you had parents being spoken to and talked to like here’s what you do, here’s how you respond. Here are the resources, right? If you think about it like if your kid falls down and gets a scrape on their knee, you know what to do immediately. Right? You pick them up, comfort a little bit. You get the you know antibiotic whatever it is. Put it on, put on a Band-Aid.

Gabe Howard: Yep.

Rachel Grant: Why do parents know how to do this without thinking about it? Why did they just react? Because we’ve had this modeled for generations all right. This is how you take care of a scrapped knee. What we have not had modeled for like only like a minuscule amount of time there are people starting to try to do this work is how to respond when your child comes to you with an emotional trauma or a sexual trauma. So if we can start to treat these sorts of experiences the same as like oh this is my child telling me he or she has a scraped knee, what is my protocol? What do I do? How do I respond? Then I think we can support our parents and also of course educating our children on how to speak up and use their voice to.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that struck me as you were giving that analogy is you’re using all the correct terminology. You said my child scraped his knee. You didn’t say my child got a boo boo on his bendy leg or you know anything like that. And it we understand how to sort of help children through emotional stuff like you said. You pick the child up, hug or maybe cuddle them for a minute, but not too long, not too long. There is all of these things that I think about man when we deal with sex let’s just talk about children and sex.

Rachel Grant: Uh-huh.

Gabe Howard: We don’t even use the correct terminology.

Rachel Grant: Correct.

Gabe Howard: You know, it’s your pee pee or your bottom or you know so if something did happen one we’re already uncomfortable with a lot of emotional things we’re already uncomfortable with sexual trauma. And just at its core, we’re uncomfortable discussing sex with children.

Rachel Grant: Um-hmm.

Gabe Howard: So I can see how all of those things coming together would make it very very difficult for the child to be able to talk about it correctly and be able to you know sort of move the needle with an adult but an adult being able to ask questions back to find out if the child is incorrect or misinterpreting or again, I fell down and hurt my knee. OK. How did you fall down? I fell off my skateboard. Or you know, there’s follow up questions. You know what to look for. You don’t have to take the child’s word for it. That doesn’t exist, you know, in this other arena. What’s the solution for that side of it? I mean I can think of a million solutions. You know we have to stop you know tiptoeing around sex with children. I mean I understand that that’s a tall order. My mother still cringes when I say penis or vagina to

Rachel Grant: Right.

Gabe Howard: Children under twelve but I’m like, “Mom, that’s what they’re called.” And you know she’s old school she prefers

Rachel Grant: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: You know pee pee and hoo hoo. And I understand why she’s uncomfortable but I feel that there’s a real need for this kind of open dialogue in our society but we’re only a generation apart so

Rachel Grant: Right.

Gabe Howard: That means at best one generation and believe me I have friends my age that are just like, “Why are you doing that?” They think it’s weird.

Rachel Grant: It’s such a tricky thing. I think there are so many components that add up to the discomfort that we have around sexuality. America in particular, the United States in particular, is a fascinating society because we are the most sex phobic yet the most sexualized.

Gabe Howard: Right.

Rachel Grant: So as long as it’s like pictures and images and these representations of these ideas of bodies and sex that we’ve come to decide are good and sexy and fun all of that. Then we lean in. But when it comes to the actual nitty gritty of the things you know it’s like whoa, hands off. I can’t go there; I can’t talk about it. And so you know where does this come from? I mean I’m not a historian so I’d love to speak with somebody who maybe knows more than me but just from my own kind of intuition and research and being in this field thinking about you know if we trace it all the way back to where we start in this country and the way that sexuality was represented and utilized. We can go even further back than that in the way that women were treated and they’re still treated. You know we’ve just got a very very very very long history of women’s bodies being used as objects or as barter. And so we’re fighting against that and not to leave out male survivors, because just because they don’t have that history, doesn’t mean they don’t get abused. They do. And so you know to have conversations about sex, to start being more on point about it just put this in the open, I don’t think is going to be our generation. In other words, I think only you know, it’s going to be the next.

Gabe Howard: Ok.

Rachel Grant: I think we’re about three or four generations away. Fingers crossed.

Gabe Howard: Right.

Rachel Grant: Right. Generations out from before we start to really challenge and start to see some shifts. I know some really wonderful people, colleagues of mine who are doing great work with parents about how they’re talking with their kids about sex and their bodies and these sorts of things. So yes, we have discomfort in talking about sex, but ultimately this is a conversation that when you get down to the nitty gritty, when you put people in rooms together, they talk about sex all the time. Like my girlfriends and I will have deep, interesting, graphic conversations about sex. Right? And so there is also this confusing illusion that it’s uncomfortable, but it’s comfortable in certain spaces. It’s all right in other spaces, it’s not the parent child dynamic there’s this tip toeing around that doesn’t happen when they’re with their adult friends. So I don’t have the answers I guess as long story short here but just looking at some of the things that I’ve seen at play that I think are where we’re making changes and where we’re starting to see some movement in some of the reasons why we’re still very stuck.

Gabe Howard: I appreciate you being so honest with your own life and your own history and your own trauma. I think that it’s very brave to be open about it. And I also appreciate that you’ve put so much work and research and education behind it so that you can help others. That’s very commendable and I applaud you for it. Thank you so much for moving in that direction.

Rachel Grant: Thank you. Yeah. You know there was this when I was 18 and I went off to college, I met a boy. And within, you know, maybe about six months of dating this boy, I was really clear that I that this past trauma of mine was a problem. That I had not healed. That it was really impacting my ability to trust, and my ability to communicate, and my emotional regulation was all over the place and with some prompting from him I finally decided to start going to counseling and talk about what had happened. You know in my work one of the things I talk about is all the stages of healing and in this moment of acknowledging hey my life isn’t working. I’ve got to take a look at what happened. That moment of acknowledgement is a bridge from victimhood to Survivor. And I lived into that and I started understanding and I started coming to realize why my life was the way it was and why I felt the way I felt. And in the midst of all of that and this relationship ended up being a 10 year run that we were together. And along the way he became a very abusive man. And he drew out my abusive nature as well. And when that relationship ended, Gabe, I was in my new apartment. Life had just kind of been stripped down. I had a sleeping bag and a lamp. And I remember sitting, leaning against the wall, one day and I was crying in fear and what’s going to happen in my life and I don’t know anymore. You have to think about it from 18 to 28. I’ve been with this man.

Gabe Howard: Yeah it’s a long time.

Rachel Grant: Right. And I’m thinking I’m pushing 30 and I don’t know what I’m doing with myself and I just remember a really strong voice kind of interrupting all of that and just saying Rachel you have got to get your s**t together like right now. Right now. And I don’t know why it was, and how it was, and what happened exactly in that moment. But that was the turning for me and I just became obsessed and I was like I am going to figure this out. I’m going to answer this question of how do I actually heal from sexual abuse? And that’s really, Gabe, what launched me into reading and researching, studying neuroscience, doing my master’s in counseling psychology, and honestly just using myself as a guinea pig. I really didn’t set out to do this as a career. I really was just starting to get myself together. But as it began to unfold, and as I started to see my life changing I thought well if this can work for me, maybe there’s a chance that it can work for others. And 12 years later here I am and that to me is the greatest gift is just when I really started to shift from just understanding the trauma to wanting to understand what to do about it and how to heal about it. That’s what I call beyond surviving.

Gabe Howard: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much I really appreciate that. We’re almost out of time but I have a real quick question for the Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. If anybody who is listening is a survivor of abuse, you know they’re relating to your story, and their understanding what you want to say and they want to reach where you have. What are some of the first steps that they can take toward recovery?

Rachel Grant: So first of all my darling beautiful people who are out there listening who have experienced sexual trauma. This is not a life sentence. You’re not destined to be hurt. You’re not destined to spend every day dealing with the past and in pain. And the first thing that we can do is make a decision. We have to make a choice that we want something to change. And from that place of choice we can then take action. And to my mind the best first action is to understand exactly where you are in this healing process. From my web site you can go And you can get my guide that will talk more about the stages of recovery. Victim, Survivor, and Beyond Survivor, and the important thing about that guide is going to give you a checklist to help you figure out where you are. But it’s also going to tell you what the goals of each of those stages of recovery are and the types of support that align with that stage. So many survivors of abuse and trauma end up getting retraumatized because they’re trying to do goals that they’re not ready for yet. They’re trying to reach and achieve things that they’re not they haven’t got the other foundations in place yet and they’re using healing modalities that don’t address the correct stage of where they are. So that guide will help break all of that down. And from that place you’ll then be able to make better decisions and focus your energy on what you need to focus on to get to the next level and then to the next level.

Gabe Howard: Thank you, Rachel, so much. Your book Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse, I’m sure you can get it on your Web site. But is it also available on Amazon and other sites like that?

Rachel Grant: It is definitely available on Amazon.

Gabe Howard: Thank you so much, Rachel, for being here. I really appreciate you taking the time to sort of play in my sandbox.

Rachel Grant: You’re welcome, Gabe. I appreciate you and thank you for creating the space for me to share my story and to connect with your community. I really appreciate it.

Gabe Howard: Well we certainly appreciate you and listeners please if you can take a moment to go to wherever you downloaded this podcast and give us as many stars as possible. Use your words and write us a nice review, share with your friends, shares on social media. Email us. Burn it onto a C.D. and give it to your grandma. We would really appreciate it. And remember you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere simply by visiting We’ll see everyone next week.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Psych Central Podcast. Previous episodes can be found at or on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at If you have feedback about the show, please email Thank you for listening and please share widely.

About The Psych Central  Podcast Host

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is also one of the co-hosts of the popular show, A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. As a speaker, he travels nationally and is available to make your event stand out. To work with Gabe, please visit his website,


Psych Central Guest Author <![CDATA[3 Tips to Motivate Yourself Toward Improving Your Life]]> 2019-06-12T16:20:03Z 2019-06-12T20:45:24Z

A healthy balance between acceptance and achievement can be difficult to find, but it’s possible.

Need some life tips for getting started with self-improvement? Understanding how to stay motivated, despite your limiting beliefs is a great place to start.

We all have limiting beliefs that stop us from reaching our full potential. But, if you learn how to get motivated and work hard despite your limitations, you can achieve anything.

However, it can feel really demoralizing when loved ones hold unrealistic expectations for our lives and assume that we’re not working hard to the best of our abilities.

For example, an adult client on the autism spectrum expresses frustration with his family’s “unrealistic” expectations of him. He states that he knows himself and his limits better than anyone else.

“They should not assume what I can and cannot accomplish,” he says.

True. At full adulthood, he wants to fully embrace what he calls his disabilities rather than fighting them all the time and feeling shame, blame and pain.

His family, on the other hand, reports aggravation that he never listens to them. They complain that he is negative and limits himself by relying on others to do things he is capable of doing for himself.

The family expresses fear that he will stay in his house and not clean or care for himself. They worry he will live a less happy, healthy life than he is capable of living.

7 Psychological ‘Mind Games’ to Play On Yourself That Will Completely Change Your Outlook On Life & Love

As I thought about their situation, I realized that this tension between fully accepted while still reaching and growing exists not only between people (typically parents and children) but within us as well.

We want to embrace ourselves fully — even the things we don’t like so much. We need to relax and feel comfortable and safe. At the same time, there are parts of us that suspect or even fear that we are far more capable than we know.

Do you ever feel that if you just pushed a little harder you could live a better life? That if you learned how to motivate yourself (and stay motivated), you’d have accomplished so much more?

Perhaps we think about living to our fullest in unhelpful ways — for ourselves and for our kids. What is the right amount of incentive or even pressure to grow and where does it come from?

Here are 3 ways you can get motivated without letting limitations and limiting beliefs stop you.

  1. Another person like a coach may inspire motivation. However, this only works when the person receiving the coaching desires change. It also helps to feel truly accepted or respected by the person coaching.
  2. Reaching for our “best” sometimes arises from a sense of frustrated disgust after years of not doing or being what we suspect we could do or be. This thought process works when we are in enough pain to move out of comfortable complacency.
  3. The inner peace of feeling deeply loved and yet not completely discovered places a longing in our hearts that pulls us into the next discovery of ourselves and our life. Although we may be quaking and shaking, we feel deeply encouraged to move ahead. I am reminded of the words of author Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

My heart’s desire is to compassionately examine spaces in my life where I believe I should “take it easy” because other options are too worrisome, too scary, or too risky.

Parts of me prefer to worry over making changes that scare me rather than just making these changes. As I look at these parts of myself, I realize that they are not trying to handicap me. They only want to keep me from pain and danger. I can respect them and feel gratitude.

For almost two decades now, I’ve had the honor of helping people meet and embrace previously unknown or misunderstood parts of their personalities, especially the ones that worry. I recognize the sequence of worry that leads to feeling stuck which eventually capsizes confidence. I’ve known it myself.

How to Get Over the ‘Limiting Beliefs’ That Keep You From Finding Real Love

Life is not a choice of being comfortable with your true nature or moving forward toward growth and change. It’s about doing both simultaneously.

From this perspective, you can consider both “What is best for me based upon my nature, preferences, disabilities, wounds or skills?” and “What is the right amount of challenge to help me grow?”

You can learn to love yourself more fully, embrace yourself more completely and move into your fullest being. It’s a practice you can begin today.

This guest article originally appeared on
3 Ways To Get Motivated So You Can Finally Improve Your Life