63 Chapters
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Points to remember

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

•  Express your feelings. This is a way of taking the internal pressure off yourself. It can relieve the pressure inside and your depression may start to lift. It will not disappear all at once and it might come back again for a while. But expressing your feelings—whatever they are—will help.

•  You and your feelings do matter. You must begin to take yourself seriously. You can start to feel a bit surer of yourself. Your views are important. More often than not you may be right. You can make a contribution to the world. Those around you would be totally devastated if you were not here, with them.

•  Life is difficult, but it is not impossible. Don’t expect things to be easy, it makes difficult times worse. Confront difficulties; don’t avoid them. Problems can become challenges. We all make mistakes at times; this is how we learn, so you can see these difficulties as potential learning experiences.

•  No one is an island. We do need other people. They can help us and they can hurt us, but we still need them. Accept them for who they are. The people around you need you as well. And they need you for who you are. Try to accept yourself as well.

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Bereavement and grieving

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

One of the more difficult situations that people in a family will face is when one of their close relatives dies. Sometimes partners or friends die, and this is tragic, even more so when children die. Families stretch across several generations and it is more likely that we will have the experience of an older family member, such as a parent or a grandparent, dying.

Someone has just died

This is one of the most difficult situations that we can experience in our lives. We are often quite unprepared, and it is often very difficult to deal with emotionally. When someone has just died, everyone is supposed to be sad, but we really have a whole mixture of feelings. There may be feelings of panic, weepiness, the inability to cry, sleep difficulties, or physical symptoms (such as heart palpitations). There may be a sense of agitation or anxiety symptoms. There may even be anger underneath all these feelings. Often, there is a deep depression or despair, which usually passes with time.

Some people also seem quite unemotional, and this may be a form of self-protection; they may not be uncaring—just not showing it. Others may have odd experiences, occasionally feeling as if they are having conversations with the deceased, or thinking they saw or felt them still present for a few moments: these experiences are not unusual. There are some practical things that have to be done. Please use the following as a sort of checklist.

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Working with depression

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

People in a depression often feel that everything compounds their condition. They are feeling low, so they don’t want to go out, so they lose touch with their friends, so they feel alone, so there is no point in going out, and this all adds to their depression.

The depressive spiral

Continuous, automatic, negative thoughts that are typical of a depression can actually distort one’s thinking patterns and perpetuate errors such as “all or nothing” thinking, “catastrophizing”, “personalizing”, focusing on “the negative”, and “jumping to conclusions”. These “thinking distortions” can result in, or even create, a low mood. This leads to decreased activity, which leads to a less rewarding existence. This leads to more negative thinking. Therefore, we go steadily downwards into a depressive spiral.

There are several ways how to stop this sort of spiral, the main ones being listed below. Try all of them and see which works for you.

1.  Understand the problem. Identify your pattern; increase awareness of when you are doing it; begin to stop any behaviour habits that really do not work for you.

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Self-awareness

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

Increased self-awareness

Increased self-awareness, which also includes increased somatic awareness (the awareness of what is happening in your body), and part of what is now often being called mindfulness, are an essential part of the road to full recovery, better self-esteem, and healthy emotional self-regulation thereafter. This type of awareness has been mentioned before in various ways throughout this book.

Essentially, it is a commonplace inner experience; readily discernible, ever changing, and unique to you. We encourage you to do everything that you can to increase this level of self-awareness, as the process of doing this will mobilize your body–mind’s resources to their maximum potential. You will then start to get better, stronger, to like yourself more, and to start to heal any psychic wounds. Increased self-awareness is a very good heuristic (a device to understand the unknown). These are possibly also the unknown aspects of your self.

Increased attention

This is one of the important prerequisites. You will need to spend extra time “listening in” to your inner self and your body. Several ways may have already been suggested: progressive muscular relaxation, meditation, mindfulness practice, deep, regular breathing exercises, the Autogenic Technique, asking yourself various questions, etc. These all require you to set aside some special time regularly for this purpose, and to give yourself some increased attention. You are important to yourself, and you need to know and understand yourself better, and this is the only way. In the early stages, this special time probably needs to be quite substantial— twenty minutes at least, once or twice a day, if possible, and consistent, i.e., every day. Later on it can become more of a constant and regular checking-in to your self, and later still, an awareness (alarmbells go off) of when you are not in contact with your self.

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Information for carers and families

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

Basic principles

The close family needs to know if a member of the family is ill, depressed, or anxious, having mental health issues, or in treatment. It just does not work trying to keep this sort of thing a secret. They can be told in a matter-of-fact way, appropriately, slightly after the event, but they should be told. Often they can then help with extra support.

There are many “old wives tales” and much social discrimination or prejudice about anxiety and depression, and people associate this with “mental illness”. All this has to be debunked or “de-shamed”. The vast majority of people who are being treated for anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, anger management, etc., are not, repeat not, mentally ill in any way whatsoever. Yes, they have depression, or anxiety. They are almost certainly not ill, or going mad, or needing to be hospitalized. Yes, some of the stress, or distress, of their lives has resulted in these symptoms, but believing that they need to “pull themselves together and get on with it” really doesn’t help. Certainly there may be organic factors, but there is probably not something “wrong” with them. Yes, sometimes these states will occur, but will they be ill for the rest of their lives? Absolutely not.

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