Category Archives: Emotional Intelligence

Stages of Mental Health Deterioration

A few weeks ago I went through a huge range of mental health, so I want to document that experience here for your benefit so that you can use it as a reference for understanding your own mental health, for understanding the mental health of others, and so you know how to use that understanding to help yourself or others.

 

Stage 1. I felt so bad that I started hallucinating. In the shadows of the night I’d see faces staring back at me when I know there’s nothing there. But because my mental health is weak, then the part of my brain that separates fantasy from reality got blurred.

Stage 2. Then as I regained sanity, I could sense that I was unwell, but I couldn’t tell what was unwell. This is the stage where so many problems exist that no one problem can stand out as a singular one to work on. The problems that are critical that simultaneously exist are: sleep deprivation, emotional vulnerability and emptiness, malnourishment.  Unresolved trauma. Unresolved pain. Unresolved many things.  Lack of motivation. But the key point is: Lack of belief in a brighter future. I don’t think taking steps to improve my condition will eventually pay off, so that’s why I don’t take any steps at all.  I do NOT believe in a brighter future.

Stage 3. Then as I regain hope that there does exist a brighter future, I begin taking steps to get to that brighter future.  Then this stage is where I’m actively trying to make good decisions, but I’m too emotionally damaged to not give in to my emotions and make bad decisions due to sadness/loneliness/depression/etc. I’ll reach out to bad sources of feeling better that keep me stuck in a bad place rather than say sleep early, eat well, exercise, socialize, etc.

Stage 4. Then as I successfully take a step forward in sleeping properly, I regain some sense of control and decision making ability and I start making my bed every morning. I also start watching videos about self help and how to improve.  The process is beginning to take shape and become a habit for me: a habit to improve my situation.

Stage 5. Then I start organizing my life. I start keeping a schedule. I start setting goals for the day, tasks, and then completing maybe one of them.   I might complete 4-5 tasks a week, which is an extreme improvement from 0 tasks due to 0 belief in a brighter future and 0 motivation to take any step towards improving my situation.

Stage 6. As the steps forward and the task progress continues over weeks and weeks, I begin having the self worth and self confidence to face the world and reach out to friends to socialize.  To take walks and get the valuable exposure to nature/weather/sun/out doors/fresh air/new experiences/contact with other humans/etc.

 

Let’s revisit each stage now and see what you could do to help someone else if they were in that stage.

Stage 1 is they are hallucinating. Google how to calm someone down without saying “calm down.”  Be there with them, reach out to them heart to heart and pull them from the darkness that is a world where nightmares and reality have merged and they don’t know what’s stable ground to stand on anymore. Be that rock for them and remind them of the truths of the world.  Gently.  Again, google how to give feedback in a non-threatening way. (Non-Violent Communication Book).  Often just being there and shutting up is good enough.

Stage 2. They are sane, but they have 0 motivation to improve themselves.  In this stage DO NOT TELL THEM TO GO DO STUFF.  Or at least not directly.  Here you have to use persuasion and leadership.  Find a way to make them want to do so themselves, rather than have the motivation come from you.  Develop an intrinsic motivation within them. How? My method is to understand their situation: what do they think about the world that results in them concluding that there is no brighter future? Diagnose their world view and perspective by LISTENING TO UNDERSTAND and NOT to criticize.  Once you understand their point of view and make them feel heard, then you have earned their trust. ONLY THEN can you ask for their PERMISSION to guide them to a better way. This may take days and many sessions but you must go at their speed and be patient.

Stage 3. They have decided to improve their life and they are now on their way and they run into roadblocks with willpower or knowledge or habits or anything at all.  You want to be a supporter. again, NO criticism. Come with understanding, emotional depth of understanding, support, encouragement, and help. Check in OFTEN with them, daily if possible, to see their condition, NON JUDGMENTALLY, and then guide them. Give them the strength to do the right thing by helping them do it. They are very weak at this stage and will struggle without your constant support.

Stage 4. Start complimenting them on what they’ve accomplished, and constantly remind them of what they have accomplished. They are in this world where there’s so much work left to be done. Don’t be the person who makes that stress and pressure worse by piling on more demands and expectations. Give them the strength to face the work by appreciating the work they’ve already completed.

Stage 5. Start inviting them to events to meet in person and socialize or have fun or hang out.  Start feeding them some sense of a life as a normal person. No longer treat them as some kind of special case, but still check in frequently and offer and give help and support, just do so without this “I’m a care taker and you’re disabled” approach. It’s more a “we’re equals, and I’m gonna help you” attitude now.

Stage 6. Continue Stage 5 for another 6-12 months.  Be extra sensitive and don’t start treating them normally until many months after they start appearing to be normal. They will be acting normal, but inside they are still weak. So if you criticize them like you would criticize someone who hasn’t just come through trauma, you will re-injure them and make their condition worse. Just like if you’ve just had surgery, you’re going to “recover” in a few days/weeks, but you won’t REALLY recover for many months.  Emotional recovery is the same. Sure the scar has healed and the stitches are gone, but re-injury is going to be very easy and that wound is very weak so don’t disturb it again for some time. Give it time to be strong once more.

 

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How to Recover From Abuse

Here is a collection of tips that I found useful when recovering from abuse. Please comment below with any additional tips to share!

First recognize the state you’re in: you’re weak in every way.

You are not emotionally healthy enough to handle emotions because you’re emotionally weakened from the abuse you’ve gone through, so you’re likely to either be hurt easily by everything, or you’re likely to harden up and ignore or suppress any emotions you might feel. As much as possible, stay conscious of your emotionally weakened state, as it will help you make good decisions like avoiding confrontation/emotionally taxing events, or avoiding decisions that you normally wouldn’t make when healthy.

When you seek help, be selective and choose only people who make you feel better.  If someone doesn’t help you feel better about the abuse you’ve gone through, check if you have the energy to inform them. If so, do so. If not, end the conversation and try to find another person to help.  Most people are not trained to provide emotional therapy, so don’t be surprised if your friends and family fail to help.  Do make it known that you want help so that people can offer it to you and you can accept it if helpful.

Spend time on self care as much as you can.

Realize that you are likely to lapse greatly in this area, so do your best, but stay conscious of your progress and efforts at all times.

Health Checklist: I Feel Bad What Should I do?

Take your time, but also take as much action as you can bear.

A lot of people will tell you to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’ and this is half helpful and half insulting so take it with a grain of salt.  The positive way of looking at these comments is that the intention is to help you feel better, it’s how they know how to show care for you. However, it’s often the case that their delivery is insensitive and hurtful, so ignore them if necessary.  Use them as a reminder that you should try as much as possible to take action, even if it’s a little bit. Get out of bed. Walk around. Shower. Wipe the table. Clear off the desk.  Read and clear an email or two.  Do something productive and take action.  And when you feel like you can’t do anything anymore, rest. If you need rest, take it.  When you’re ready, you can move on. When you’re ready, you can get over it.

Be honest with yourself on your recovery. Don’t let insensitive people pressure you to suppress your emotions before you’ve had the appropriate amount of time necessary to process them.  Take your time.

Do Things That Make You Happy!

Whatever it is, do what makes you happy until you can recover!

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Respond to Fear with Understanding, not with Power

While I was shopping at Ranch 99 in Daly City, I watched a 30-50 year old man yell at a 60-80 year old security guard, ask the security guard to go outside to fight him, and punch the security guard in the face (left eye) before storming off, looking over his shoulder in case he was pursued.

To appease you the reader, I should start off by saying that the security guard didn’t deserve to get punched and it is sad that he did. And it was wrong of the man to have punched the security guard on many levels, and it was wrong of the man to scream and yell at the security guard, and it was wrong of the man to storm off and not take responsibility. But what I want to talk about is the man and his perspective. So now that I’ve appeased you, let’s dive in.

Why in the world did this man act and behave in this way? Does he not know right from wrong? Does he not have self control? Does he think he can get away with this? These are common questions people who don’t understand this man would ask. And generally these people will follow these questions with an emotional reaction of fear: I’m afraid this man might someday harm me, so I want him to be locked away, punished, and corrected somehow. We need power to deal with this: the police, the law, the government, god, religion, higher powers, to step in. So that I can live my life in peace, safety, without fear.

To summarize: people who don’t understand respond with fear, and with that fear they wield power to solve what they perceive to the problem: that man.

The man was bald, asian, tan light brown, shorter than the security guard by about 7 inches, thin round glasses, wearing a checkered blue and white dress shirt, pressed with no wrinkles. He was thin, symmetrical round face, english was not his first language but he spoke it well to the point that only a native speaker could tell the slight misuse of air in his “wanna fight” pronunciation. He had a small backpack, a belt on, professional pants (but not black suit or dress pants).

I’m waiting in the checkout line. There beyond the cash register are boxes of snacks on sale. I see the security guard to my right talking to this man to the left of my field of vision. I hear the man on the left shout “Let’s go! Come on. Outside, right now. Are you a man?”

As a psychiatrist, this man is telling me he doesn’t feel like he is a man. He is insecure about his own manhood in this moment, which is why he is voicing it to the world in a desperate grasp at the idea that if he can make others believe he is a man, maybe through imposter syndrome he can convince himself he is a man. Something must be going on in his life. Something bad. Something that has taken away his confidence.

I see the security guard is an old white man, all white hair, has a belly, not athletic at all, should be retired but not privileged enough to retire so is instead working a low paying job as an unarmed security guard in ranch 99, and I see the man is younger, unwrinkled skin, but thinner. I start to theorize: He is in front of the snacks on sale, perhaps he tried to steal something because he is hungry, and the security guard is stopping him. What else would provoke such an outburst with the context I currently have?

“Let’s GO!”

This man wants to fight an older man by at least a decade. The idea that a 30 year old beating up a 70 year old proves that the 30 year old is a man is laughable. The logic doesn’t make sense. Therefore, I know this man is not thinking logically in this moment. It’s all emotional. He feels weak, his world is insecure, he is afraid, so fight or flight.

At this point I stop watching because I see the old man not making any movement toward the door (which is to the left of my vision) and I know he’s too old and wise and calm to pick a fight or give in to this childish taunting. I figure the man will just leave and everyone’s life will continue.

I see the security guard look around to see that attention of the crowd has been drawn. So with the support of us he draws the strength to say loudly “Get Out.”

There is a scuffle, I hear some plastic rustling (the snacks), I look up and I see the old man with his two hands raised trying to defend himself, walking backwards and losing balance and vision in his haste, and I see the man planted firmly on his feet, bouncing left and right as he advances, throwing one punch into the arms and another punch *smack* onto the face of the old man.

The man then backs off, and starts briskly walking away and looking around at us in case we close in on him. All the ranch 99 employees are slowly edging towards him and his eyes open wide. It’s at this moment that I notice the details: his face is fairly hollow and thin, he’s wearing nice pants, small backpack. He rushes away. No-one decides to restrain him physically and he gets away.

Everyone is in shock at what we all witnessed. We know that man was wrong for hitting the security guard, and we feel sorry for the security guard for being hit, and we know that the security guard is obviously a man for not fighting rather than a man for fighting. Cantonese fills the air which I don’t understand, and a few people go over to the security guard to comfort him. I think it’s very unfortunate: he’s an old man, he’s just trying to make a living as an unarmed security guard, probably a job that isn’t that high skill, not that much training, not that high paying…he probably took the risk because he didn’t have many other job prospects, especially at his age. All he wanted to do was have no trouble, do his job, and collect his pay.

So what’s my point with this story. I think that man had a job interview today and didn’t get the job. I think that man was hungry and afraid, as not having a job would make anyone afraid, and I think that man was feeling worthless. For whatever reason, the security guard decided that this man needed to be talked to, and the man felt even more worthless. And the man felt the fear that comes with being worthless. And the man responded to that fear with power: I’m not worthless because I can fight you physically.

The security guard felt fear, so he stood still and defensive. Then he noticed the power he could draw from the bystanders, and he used that power to fight back verbally.

The man, now facing the external fight against authority and the internal fight against his own worthlessness, responds to the fear with power and punches the man to win both the internal and external fight. (footnote1)

We as observers respond with fear followed by power as well.

My point is that responding to fear with power can lead to more fear and more power in an endless cycle. Responding with understanding can break the cycle, so respond to fear with understanding instead of power. Face your fear, know it in detail, plan for the corner cases, talk it out, understand it. That’s how you win. Not with power.

footnote1: Had he backed off, he would have felt more worthless. Thus to win the internal fight he had to win the external fight.To find out when more life education writing is released, subscribe on the side! Follow on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, on Tumblr.