Friday, March 18, 2011

The Long Road Home © Megan Snider

"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves-- regret for the past and fear of the future"
--Fulton Oursler

This is going to be a long-winded blog, but I want to stress that it may help some of the people dealing with Panic Disorder, derealization and depersonalization. I thought about dividing it up into different posts, but I thought that this would be confusing and some of the posts may be hard to locate. So I’m going to do this under the style as one cohesive blog cut into sections to walk you through some therapy processes. Do not worry if this therapy does not apply to you; in the coming weeks I will be adding more self-help techniques and strategies. Keep heart!

For most of the information In this post, I am indebted to Fugen Neziroglu, Katharine Donnelly and Daphne Simeon for their brilliant collaboration upon the book Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder: A Mindfulness & Acceptance Guide to Conquering Feelings of Numbness & Unreality. The therapy techniques highlighted in this book will briefly be discussed, boiled down and simplified so you can use them in your own area of crisis.

Concept One: Rumination and Obsession Does No Good, Use Mindfulness Instead

Obsessing and ruminating over your condition does no good. Try to stop your intrusive thoughts and live in the moment. This concept of living in the moment and shifting your focus to be aware of only one thing instead of flooding your senses is called “Mindfulness” Mindfulness is focusing on the present and, if in the midst of a panic attack or derealization or depersonalization, it is the act of focusing on one thing such as your breathing for example.

Concept Two: Acceptance and Mindfulness

This is still a hard one for many people to struggle with and that’s ok. It asks us to accept misery and discomfort and pain as part of the human condition. You cannot alter your particular psychiatric affliction, but you can accept it. Acceptance of the feelings of fear, numbness, unreality and pain are better than fighting them. Use mindfulness to help you stay in the present moment. Don’t jump ahead and make unfounded conclusions. Never make absolute statements like, “I will never get better” or “I will feel this way forever.” Accept the feelings for what they are.

Concept Three: Observation

Instead of letting your emotions rule you and keep you in a pattern of avoidance and fear, it is best to only observe your emotions. It is important to realize that everything you think is NOT true. You may think, “I’m going to have a panic attack while driving tomorrow” but that doesn’t make it true. While it is a sad fact of life that many people with psychiatric conditions have negative and unrelenting thoughts, this DOES NOT make them true. Simply observe your thoughts passively and let them slip through your mind as a stream edges through the landscape. Don’t stop to ponder one bothersome thought—simply observe it and let it go.

Concept Four: Commitment

We should not let our negative emotions guide us. We should let our values guide us and accept that in order to attain our values, we must be willing to experience some pain and discomfort in life with our psychiatric illnesses. In fact, pain is simply a byproduct of a rich and eventful life. Everytime you go after something you want, you risk pain. It is no different with psychiatric illnesses. There is much pain involved in accepting and experiencing them and to engage in life again, but the alternative is to stagnate and end up alone. Struggle against your fears using acceptance, willingness to face discomfort and fear and use mindfulness to stay in the moment.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought for today. I hope I have done a good job of presenting Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to you. If you still have confusion or want to do further resource, simply search for “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”. There is an excellent Wikipedia article about it. That’s enough thought digestion for today!

© Megan Snider

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