Embrace Anger

The first time that I had a long-term relationship with a counselor (how can I write that so it doesn’t sound romantic?), at one of our first meetings, he asked me to buy and read the book “The Dance of Intimacy” by Harriet Lerner, PhD. I asked why I had to pay for counseling AND a book. Couldn’t he provide the book for free, or lend it, or tell me what’s in it, if it was so important? He said that I didn’t have to buy the book, but it would save time, and give us some common vocabulary as we discussed issues.

I bought the book, read it, and the following week, I reported that I did so, and asked “What’s next?” He looked stunned, and asked if I had any questions about the material covered. I said, no, I’m a good reader, and that it was all familiar concepts. I was eager to move on with this counseling process. He asked me to buy another book: “The Dance of Anger” by the same author. I rolled my eyes, bought it, sat down to read it cover to cover, and went “WHOA!!!!!” after just the first few pages. This book was completely over my head. I spent years reading and rereading sentence fragments, trying to make sense of the material. I never realized how angry I was, and how poorly I handled my anger.

The core lesson that I learned from the book is that anger indicates that I’m not saying how I feel or what I want. I remember that lesson often now.

Twenty years later, I am participating in an Anger Management course. I am continuing to learn how to recognize my anger, and to plan strategies for dealing with it in constructive ways. Here are some highlights so far:

Feeling angry can distract me from what I want

Anger can make me blame others instead of taking responsibility for what I want

Recognizing that I’m feeling angry can bring an important issue to my attention

Feeling angry can move me to do something constructive

How do YOU turn anger into your friend?

 

Image credit:
Red Hulk by Marcel Trindade, used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

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Mental Health Athletes

I greatly appreciate writers who share ideas for attracting readers, for example, at Twitter: #amwriting #amreading; and at Google+: the Saturday Scenes and Writers Discussion Group communities.

Here are thoughts that I would like more authors to consider when sharing what they write about mental illness.

I often perceive an “us and them” way of thinking, for example when a writer claims, “it’s very easy to tick them off.” I suggest that we all have triggers that are easy to spark; people with a specific issue aren’t unique in that regard. The quote conjures visions of a herd of people with the issue, wound tight like springs, ready to attack. With this image in mind, I can see why some people try to keep a wide berth between “us” and “them.” Remember that all people are people. Attackers attack, resilient people bounce back, doormats are trampled, and so forth, regardless of specific issues.

Attack

Fiction can be better at building understanding than nonfiction. Novels can make challenges and solutions vivid for the readers. I’m thinking of Hamlet and Don Quixote, Sybil, and more recently Cut, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental illness is like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes: all can be addressed with preventive measures and therapies, and all are invisible to most of us.

A person who is not dealing with a mental health issue, but is writing about a character who is, is like a male writing about a female, or a European writing about an Indian. It is like being a real person writing about someone who is not. A key is getting feedback from people who have similar characteristics.

The most enthusiastic readers might be those who recognize something in common with at least one of the main characters. Therefor, reaching out to people who have an illness that is similar to the fictitious condition should be effective. However, main characters have more to them than just one issue. Draw on those other similarities as well.

Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment. Everyone deals with mental health; the people who are working on their mental health issues are like athletes who are working on their physical health issues.

Healthy-Athlete

We are all working on putting our best foot forward.

P.S. I found more guidelines for writing about mental illness, for people who are looking for more specific advice. What are your favorite resources? Which resources have you discovered recently?

 

Image credits:

Woverine vs. Hulk, by Marcel Trindade.

Fields Squats, Fields Prosthetic, and Fields Runs 200, by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs.

All images used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

Blogging Goals Update

Linda's Anniversary bouquet

Happy Blogging Anniversary Linda! You got me thinking about how my blogging goals have changed since nearly 2 years ago when I established my first one.

I began my first blog to satisfy a Statistics course requirement. The professor asked us to post updates as we explored our statistical analyses.

A dear friend made recommendations for tweaking the blog layout. Although I agreed with her, I felt frustrated and limited by the options at tumblr. She and another great writer friend recommended WordPress. Independent spirit that I am, I stuck with tumblr, and signed up for an account elsewhere; that sat idle as I hoped to figure out how it worked someday.

Then, Leni began a private WordPress site for a group of writers, and made me an Administrator! I got the most comprehensive book about WordPress, and rose to the occasion. I began my own WordPress blog to learn the ropes before I dared to make any changes or suggestions for the group site.

I was in a personal era of writing research articles. The ones that stimulated discussion about social justice moved me to post regularly, so my blogging goal was to aim for publishing an article each week on a social justice issue.

Many people recommend focusing a blog on one topic, but blogging supported my discovery that focusing on one topic is not in my nature. I flit from one to another, as freely as an expert juggler can throw and catch  bean bags. I considered sharing my recipes like PaleOMG, sense of humor like Little Miss Menopause, recommendations for writers like Anne R. Allen, and favorite authors like Chris The Story Reading Ape.

And I have also been writing fiction. My husband enjoyed it so much (and still does — he’s my favorite editor), he asked me to write a story every day for a while, and prompted me with a few items to get me started, like “your grandmother’s grandmother’s diary, a trunk, and an attic”. Eventually, the weekly prompts at Google+ Writers Discussion Group Weekly Writing Exercises replaced his, and I met Ronda.

Last summer, Ronda invited me to join the Google+ Saturday Scenes Community where writers share work that they are developing, and readers give feedback. After I read for a few weeks, I shared a short story that my husband had previously prompted. My commenters asked me about the character and more of the story, and when I discovered that I had answers to their questions, my River Novel began, which I continue to write.

As Linda continues into her second year of her blog, I send her hopes that it will be full of dreamy millionaires who will whisk her off to the French countryside under the stars for orgasmic episodes, as well as more of the same raw insight that she has been sharing. I put the power of my blessings behind her goal,

“May I have another blissful year ahead of me and continue to love what I do every single time I sit at this laptop, with the screen propped open and may I always embrace the feeling of drowning in the emotions that run through my body and it makes me want to type my entire day away just to share with the world what goes on in this almost always crazy, very rarely beautiful, never too broken world of mine.”

Today is My 1 Year Blog Anniversary! | Never.Too.Broken.

Thanks Carrie Bradshaw for sharing your thoughts as you celebrate.

 

Image Credits:
Composite of images from the Public Domain, by Grace Buchanan, Creative Commons license BY-NC-ND 4.0

Weighing In on New Years Resolutions

Now that the new year is under way, you might be putting your resolutions to the test. This weekend, I noticed that a nearby grocery store had expanded its produce department, even though we are having seasonal temperatures around 0o F, and none of these foods could grow nearby now. I imagine that they are feeding people’s new habits.

Expanded produce department

But how long do new habits take to form?

I grew up during the era when everyone “knew” that it took 21 days to establish a new habit. Imagine my surprise during dinner last night when my daughter told us that she is on the 17 Day Diet, and my son protested that new habits take 30 days to form. So, I did what I love to do: I looked for reasons behind our various expectations.

I found that I grew up after a doctor published that his patients took 21 days to begin to adjust to their cosmetic surgery. Paperback best sellers retold his story by stating that it takes 21 days to change a habit.

A few years ago, the European Journal of Social Psychology published an article that states that it takes 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. Media is reporting that the researchers found that habits take 66 days to establish, so a new myth is born.

You might want to join Matt Cutts as he challenges you to try something for 30 days instead.

If you’re looking for support while you’re turning over your new leaf, or know someone who is taking on an awesome challenge, let us know in the Comments section so we can cheer along and be inspired.