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Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Everyone feels lousy sometimes.  Everyone experiences days when they just don’t want to get out of bed, when they’d rather just roll over, pull the covers up over their head, and call in sick to their life.

Depression is more than an occasional I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed day.  Depression is a condition marked by three characteristics: frequency, severity, and duration.

To help figure out if you are depressed, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1.    How often does this happen? (frequency)
  2.    How bad is it when it happens? (severity)
  3.    How long does it last when it happens? (duration)

The more it happens, the worse it is, and the longer it lasts, the more likely you are not just having a bad day—you are dealing with depression.

But what exactly is depression, especially when everyone has bad days, and people come in all sorts of emotional shapes and sizes? Depression is an overall category of specific feelings and behaviors.  However, if you are depressed, that depression may look very different from your cousin’s or aunt’s or the person’s down the street.  Trying to compare the way you feel, and matching it up with how someone else feels, may not help define whether or not you are depressed.

Instead of comparing one person to another, try comparing the way you feel with the following two lists.  The first I call my Yellow List, which describes symptoms that signal caution, and a need to be monitored.

As you look over the following Yellow List, a word of caution is needed.  Some Yellows can be tricky to identify, because they may have been present in your life for a long time.  You may be so used to these Yellows they have become normal for you.  A Yellow is not normal if it follows the three characteristics of depression symptoms: frequency, severity, and duration.

Here are items in the Yellow List:

  •    A loss of enjoyment in established activities
  •    Feeling restless, tired, or unmotivated at work
  •    An increase in irritability or impatience
  •    Feeling either wound up or weighed down
  •    Feeling overburdened with life and its activities
  •    A lack of spiritual peace of well-being
  •    A constant anxiety or vague fear about the future
  •    A fear of expressing strong emotions
  •    Finding relief by controlling aspects of your personal behavior, including what you eat or drink
  •    Feeling unappreciated by others
  •    Feeling a sense of martyrdom, as if you are constantly asked to do the work of others
  •    Exercising a pattern of impulsive thinking of rash judgments
  •    Apathetic when you wake up in the morning about how the day will turn out
  •    A sense of enjoyment at seeing the discomfort of others
  •    Anger at God for how you feel
  •    A recurrent pattern of headaches, muscle aches, and/or body pains
  •    Feeling left out of life
  •    Feeling trapped during your day by what you have to do
  •    Experiencing recurring gastrointestinal difficulties
  •    Feeling like your best days are behind you and the future doesn’t hold much promise
  •    Displaying a pattern of pessimistic of critical comments and/or behaviors
  •    Bingeing on high-calorie foods to feel better
  •    Feeling social isolation and distancing from family or friends
  •    Feeling that it’s easier to just do things yourself instead of wanting to work with others
  •    Feeling old, discarded, or without value
  •    Feeling trapped inside your body
  •    Dreading the thought of family get-togethers or social gatherings
  •    Feeling overweight, unattractive, or unlovable
  •    Sexual difficulties or a loss of interest in sexual activities
  •    Unmotivated to try new activities, contemplate new ideas, or enter into new relationships

Living in the Yellow means diminished joy and fulfillment, yet some people seem to live in that zone for a long time, finding ways to cope until the accumulated weight of despair or a sudden, traumatic life event propels them into a deep depression.

You can survive in the Yellows for quite a while, but that’s not really living.  This may seem like bad news, but it’s actually good news.  You weren’t meant to live a life of mere survival, and you don’t need to.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression.  Break free and achieve peace.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

Signs That You Are Stressed

Signs That You Are Stressed

The symptoms of stress can show up in unexpected ways.  Consider the following questions and whether you’re experiencing any of the following signs of a stress-filled life:

What is your current resting heart rate?

Stress leaves you energized and may cause you to have difficulty relaxing, so your heart may have difficulty returning to a low resting rate.

What is your resting blood pressure?

The more stressed you are, the harder your cardiovascular system works.  This can create a situation where your blood pressure spikes and then takes longer than normal to fall back down to within normal range.

Do you find yourself hyperventilating?

Deep breathing in the face of physical exertion is useful, as it allows for increased oxygen to be used by the body.  Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, however, creates a situation where the body releases too much carbon dioxide, resulting in dizziness, tingling, headache, and general weakness.

Has your dentist mentioned that you grind your teeth at night?

Teeth grinding is a known symptom of stress, as clenching of the jaw muscles causes the teeth to work against each other, even during sleep.

Do you find yourself breaking out in pimples, acne, or skin rashes?

Stress produces toxins in the body that can be excreted through the largest organ you have—your skin.

Are you always quick to catch whatever cold or flu seems to be going around?

Stress puts a tremendous strain on your immune system, which can result in lower resistance to illnesses and infections.

Is your interest in or ability to have sex flagging?

Stress can suck all the sexual energy out of a room, leaving you tired, unmotivated, and uninterested.  Stress can also lead to painful periods in women and episodes of impotence in men.

Are you gaining weight, or have you lost interest in food?  

Food is a common way people cope with stress—either by self-medicating through food or losing their appetites.  Large shifts in weight—either up or down—can indicate the presence of stress.

Are you eating normally and easily digesting what you eat?

In response to stress, some people may eat too much, too little, or the wrong types of foods.  In addition, the physical effects of stress can interfere with the process of digestion and elimination.

Do you find yourself ranting or venting your feelings of anger?

An emotional rant or venting may make you feel more relaxed, more relieved, because stress can be painful, and people in pain may react strongly in anger.  Anger is a powerful physical and psychological response that can bleed off some of the effects of stress.

As a busy professional, husband, and father, I feel the effects of stress in my own life.  As a therapist, I often see the effects of stress in the lives of those I work with on a regular basis.  For some people, these stress effects are so familiar, they seem normal.

In order to stress less, there are six steps you can take that, when integrated together, provide a pathway to successful long-term recovery.  These steps can be found in my new mini-book that discusses the importance of finding recovery from a stress-filled world.

Remember that God has promised to be with us through times of tension and stress.  When stressed, we are meant to say, like Paul, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If you or a loved one is struggling with severe stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

Excessive Behavior and Our Need for Control

As human beings, we want to be in control of our own lives. This is a universal characteristic, whether people profess faith or not. Control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as freedom, while loss of control is interpreted as slavery. The paradox is that we invite excessities into our lives from our position of control. We use our control and decide to engage in the Gotta Have It! behavior.

Excessities, however, are notoriously bad guests. They don’t tend to stay within the boundaries we set. Once told yes, they don’t like to be told no, and they perpetually promise what they can’t deliver. Before long, what you invited into your life to obey your needs ends up becoming the one you obey. The sad reality is we begin excessities thinking they will be our slaves – to bring us significance or value or pleasure or numbness whenever we decide – but they end up enslaving us.

Perhaps one of the most insightful groups into this phenomenon of control and slavery and how one can turn into the other rather quickly is Alcoholics Anonymous. The alcohol doesn’t take that first drink thinking it’s going to take over his or her life. No one forces them to take that first drink or the second or maybe even the third. After that, however, it gets a little murky. Alcoholism is a very slippery slope, and Alcoholics Anonymous bands together people in sobriety with a Twelve-Step path to recovery. Here are those Twelve Steps. As you read them, think in the context of Gotta Have It! behavior, whether it’s alcohol or not:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. {1}

The Twelve Steps, especially the first three, speak to a very fundamental reality that is constantly misconstrued and overlooked: first, that when our lives become unmanageable, they are out of control; and second, that in order to get back control, we have to completely give up control. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). Again, self-control isn’t something you can arrive at all on your own. Rather, you gain self-control when you give it up to something else.

Giving up control is a frightening prospect for many people. They believe the control they have is the only thing holding the monsters of life at bay. What they don’t realize is that this control isn’t opening the door to freedom; it’s keeping the door closed with them imprisoned inside. The monsters aren’t being kept on the other side of the door; the monsters are really on their side of the door, being kept in.

As topsy-turvy and scary as it sounds, the best way to gain control is to give it up. You need to understand an important point: The control you are so hesitant to give up is in reality not your control; it is the control the excessity has over you. This is a tug-of-war of wills – yours versus the excessity. You need to give up your control, as the AA second step says, to a Power greater than yourself.

{1} “The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous,” A.A. World Services, Inc., www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf.

 

Emotional Abuse:  The Illusionist

Emotional Abuse: The Illusionist

“Bill is such a great guy!” Carly smiled and made some sort of neutral comment. It did absolutely no good to dispute the evidence of Bill’s obvious charm. He was engaging, witty, energetic, and charismatic. People liked him. She knew the feeling.

When Carly first met Bill, she was overwhelmed by his outgoing nature. His gestures were larger than life, outlandish even. But to a young woman being courted, he seemed the walking incarnation of romance. She was being wooed. What Carly didn’t realize was that while she was being wooed by Bill, she and everyone else were being fooled. Bill’s grand gestured and protestations of care and love were for general audiences only. In the intimacy of the private viewing area called home, Bill turned out to be someone quite different.

At first, Carly just put up with Bill’s moodiness, nastiness, and withdrawing into himself. She figured he would snap out of it. It didn’t take her long to learn that Bill’s negative private behavior could turn in an instant if someone cam over to the apartment. Finally, she mentioned to Bill her concern over the way he treated her at home as opposed to the way he treated her in front of others.

Bill’s reaction was astonishment. He acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. Every incident she brought up was countered with a rush of excuses, reasons and outright denials as Bill fought to maintain the illusion of himself as the compassionate lover, the life of the party, the perfect soul mate. It struck Carly that Bill needed her only as long as she continued to mirror the reflection of himself he so needed to see.

Illusionists are generally highly intelligent, charismatic people who thrive on being seen well by others. As long as there is an audience, they are “on.” Because it takes a great deal of energy to be “on,” their “off” persona may be the exact opposite. In public they are witty and humorous; in private they are sarcastic and cutting. In public they are deferential and attentive; in private they are hostile and distant. In public they are happy and easygoing; in private they are sullen and angry.

Being in a relationship with an illusionist can cause you to doubt your own judgment. Because illusionists are generally highly intelligent, they are able to convince you, even in the face of contrary evidence, that the concerns you have are invalid.

If there is a problem, you are always portrayed as the source. Feigning confusion, they appear shocked that you find their behavior unusual. If you ask other people, people who have seen only the carefully constructed illusion, you may not get validation of your concerns. Instead, you may hear a reiteration of how wonderful the illusionist is. Highly persuasive, the illusionist is very adept at creating and maintaining a positive image.

What is most important to illusionists is the maintenance of the illusion of who they are. You are valuable to them only when you are helping them to maintain this illusion. You become a danger to them if you question the illusion they have created. Because the illusion is more important to them than you are, the truth is never acknowledged. Your reality of events and circumstances is consistently denied, downplayed, explained away, rejected. This is a pernicious form of emotional abuse in that it causes the abused to second-guess his or her own assessment of the relationship. As such, many will stay in the relationship for an extended period of time until their ability to help their abuser maintain the illusion demands too great an emotional toll.

At this point, the abused person will lean but with his or her sense of self seriously tattered. After all, how could anyone leave such a great person? Because others have not seen through this illusion, the abused person who leaves can appear to be in the wrong. Not only does the abused lose the relationship, be he or she may lose any friends made during the relationship.

If you or a loved one is struggling with emotional, sexual or physical abuse, or body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

What You Put Into Your Body Matters

What You Put Into Your Body Matters

It is important not only to eat healthy foods but to eat them in the proper proportion.  As a unique individual, you have an amount of calories needed each day and a weight range that is healthy and right for you.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to visit with your primary care physician or gynecologist, if you have not done so already, and determine what a healthy weight looks like for you.

Different women have different body types and frames, so two women of the same height arrive at different healthy weights.  Many women are as cyclical with their weight as they are with their periods.   They lose and gain the same ten to fifteen to twenty pounds over and over again.  When the weight is off, they’re happy.  When the weight is on, they’re miserable.

Because of the nature of yo-yo dieting, the tendency over time is for the weight to come back on, stay on, and increase.  As you work with your doctor to find your healthy weight, come up with a plan to not only achieve that weight but also maintain it over time.

Additionally, how you feel and the health of your body depends not only on what you eat but also what else you put into your body.  If you are a smoker, I urge you to quit.  Pumping nicotine into your system and smoke into your lungs is not good for you.  The evidence of the damage done, apart from the dangers of lung cancer, is compelling.  Smoking is an age accelerant, as its toxicity contributes to a more rapid decline of the body and overall health.  If you smoke, you need to stop.  This is also a conversation for you to have with your physician.

Be aware of the preservatives, additives, and hormones used in the foods you eat and drinks you consume.  Many women have sensitivities and allergic reactions to these substances.  Whenever possible, choose organic-type produce and foods.  There are medical tests you can take that can help identify if your body is experiencing an ongoing allergic reaction to foods and other substances.  If you suspect you are allergic to a certain food, eliminate it from your diet for a period of time and track your symptoms.  When your body is under constant assault because of a sensitivity or allergic response, it will affect how you feel.

Be aware of the amount of alcohol you consume.  As a chemical dependency professional, as well as a licensed counselor, I’ve seen the hard alcohol causes.  If you have a problem with alcohol, don’t drink at all.  If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, make sure to drink moderately.  Not only do you need to be aware of the alcohol you are consuming, you need to also be aware of the extra calories in that alcohol.  The more you drink, the more you impact the amount of calories consumed each day.

Lastly, be aware of the type and quantity of drugs you take.  These include, of course, over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs.  If you are concerned about what you’re taking and how much, consider having a chemical dependency assessment done.  These assessments factor in both legal and illegal substances and evaluate your level of dependency and abuse.  If you’re worried or if family and friends have expressed their concern, if your use has interfered with your job or with social and family functions, I urge you to seek professional advice and assessment.

Please be aware that use and misuse of drugs is one strategy women use to self-medicate their feelings of anger.  Because the anger is suppressed and not dealt with, it doesn’t go away.  Because the anger doesn’t go away, the need for self-medicating doesn’t go away, and use can change to abuse.

If you or a loved one is struggling with body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.

Eating Disorder: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Eating Disorder: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Forgiving someone is never easy. It does not happen overnight; it is a process. Often it requires getting over the faulty beliefs and practices taught to you by the very people you are trying to forgive.

Beware of the need to punish. In your anger, you may withhold the healing act of forgiveness as a way to punish or to retaliate against the person who hurt you.

Beware of the desire to continue focusing on yourself. Forgiveness allows for you to move on to a healthier focus in life, away from your self-consuming relationship with food and on to a healthy balance of focuses and interests.

Beware of the belief that you deserve to be hurt and miserable. You don’t; that’s your eating disorder talking to you. Forgiveness will bring you peace, healing, and relief.

Beware of pride. Your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns may have brought you a perverted sense of pride as a way to counteract the pain. Forgiveness, by lessening the pain, interfered with the maintenance of that pride.

If you were never provided with an example of love and forgiveness growing up in your immediate family, where can you find these examples? Try to remember the people who did give them to you as a child, maybe a grandparent or a family friend. Then, think back to how much you needed love growing up. Remember how you would have felt if you had received acceptance. As a forgiving adult, you can give those who wronged you the very things you were denied as a child.

If you have constructed the myth of a happy childhood, giving up that dream will be painful. You will have to discard your idea of the perfect mom and dad, or the image of an idyllic, loving family. Instead, you can establish a new relationship with your family, just as they are.

For some people, their pain and hurt are so deep inside of them that their ability to forgive is buried under layers of anger and resentment. If this description fits you, you will need to search outside of yourself for the strength to forgive. Again, you need to understand that forgiveness is something you can rarely accomplish immediately. You’ve lived with your pain for many years; allow yourself time to work through your need to forgive.

Your eating disorder is a response to your pain and anger. If you can understand what happened, get past the anger, and forgive the pain, the reason for your behavior will no longer exist. When the reason no longer exists, and the health-related complications of your behavior are addressed, true healing becomes a reality.

Once you are able to acknowledge the truth of your pain, you must look towards proactive forgiveness. You have to decide to forgive—not because you want to, not because it feels good, and not because it’s deserved, but because it is the healing thing for you to do. A conscious choice on your part to forgive can counteract your conscious decision to continue in the behaviors of your eating disorder or disordered eating. Your will is the same, but you are choosing to use it in a healthy, uplifting way.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depressionanxiety and others.