Thank you…and about that social anxiety.
I’m so surprised and so grateful to all of you that have reached out to me over the last week. Thank you. I hope I didn’t scare anyone. I’ve been living with…fighting…coping with…accepting…depression and anxiety for so long that I assume everyone knows that’s part of my story.
In case you don’t know I first went to therapy about 20 years ago. Since then I became gradually more aware of my diagnoses, the causes and contributors to them, and what works for me. Along the way I became a therapist myself.
Almost everything thing that I work with in my therapy practice I’ve worked on in myself. It’s a totally unexpected joy in my life that I’m able to help others the way people help and helped me.
Over the last seven days my social anxiety episode has gradually lessened. It’s been happening long enough that I know my social anxiety is an emotional reflex to other stress. It’s not about “She hates me,” like anxiety says but it is about somethings. I’m working on those somethings. I’m on it. I got this.
For all of you who love and care about me, thank you. You have no idea how much you’ve helped me not just in the last week but over the last 20 years.
Y’all are awesome.
1. Medication won’t do your work but they can make your work much easier to do.
Life leaves its marks on all of us. Medicines can help you focus, stabilize your mood, or take the edge off of profound anxiety so that you can figure out how get to work, be a better friend, or get to therapy appointments. In therapy you can learn the dynamics and scripts that are driving you in ways that no longer work for you. There’s no pill for that. But there are pills that can lessen emotional intensity so that you can do your good work.
2. See a specialist. Go to a psychiatrist. I was so lucky to train with some amazing doctors that I’m proud to call colleagues and friends. I always encourage my clients to see one of them for medication management. Psychiatrists have expert knowledge about the drugs they prescribe. They know about alternative medical treatments that even the best family practice doctors simply don’t have time to learn about. Take advantage of the expertise they have.
3. Different medicines react differently in each human body.
Some medicines take a while to work in your system. Others work more quickly. It’s hard to know how a medication will effect you without trying it. Also lists of side effects are often scary. Don’t Google them. Just because somebody in a medication trial got an upset stomach on med x it doesn’t mean you will. Find a psychiatrist you like. Work with them consistently and find right meds for your body.
4. Take the least amount of medicine that gives you maximum symptom reduction and minimum side effects.
This is a balancing act for your unique body and physiology. Pick a doctor that you’re comfortable with and that you trust because it’s a process to get the right meds at the right dose. Persistence pays off here.
5. Alcohol and marijuana are drugs too.
Many of my clients start therapy with a firm personal belief that they don’t want to be on medication yet they’re drinking and/or using marijuana regularly. There’s a paradox there worth understanding and changing.
Thank you Doug Braun-Harvey for this definition and for being you. .
Doug is a rockstar in my tiny world of therapy and sex therapy. I’m so lucky to have had Doug as a teacher in my sexual health program at Michigan. Doug introduced sexual health and sexual health models to my world. We tended to think first and most about “sexual problems” and Doug is helping us shift our perspective from a problem focus to a sexual health focus..
The first time I saw Doug, however, wasn’t in class it was online with @estherperelofficial via her online training program called Sessions. Next I saw him live in NYC with Esther. I think I’ll be forever star struck by Esther. So, I wondered how much confidence do you have to have to correct Esther live in the middle of her presentation to 300+ people. That’s what Doug did. Later I found out that Doug and Esther had made a deal. She asked him to help her better refine her language. In hindsight, Doug and Esther modeled consent for all of us in a non-sexual setting. .
Check out the aspects of sexual health. Are you getting all these out of your sexual relationships? Are you giving them? If not, there’s your work.
Sexual narrative (3 of 3) – It’s humbling and wonderful to be learning so much in my sex therapy training program at Michigan. It’s great to learn frameworks and models that I can use to help clients. This framework of sexual identity is a prime example.
I look at all this material as an experienced therapist and novice sex therapist of course. I also can help but realize what an ignorant person I’ve been trying to navigate, understand and tell my own sexual narrative. I’m learning something new every week that not only applies to my clinical practice but to my life as a sexual person and citizen of my relationships.
This week’s eye opener has been intention as a full and equal part of our sexual identity along with gender identity and orientation. The latter two have been well discussed and will continue to be in my sexual health certificate program, my work with the Human Rights Campaign, and in my relationships. Intention however is something that in hindsight I’ve always been aware of in a vague sort of way but now it’s sharp.
What is my intention in my solo sex life? How about in my partner sex life? Are they the same? Different? What does that tell me about me and my motivations? Am I using sex for something like self soothing or emotional regulation when other skills might be more effective or more appropriate?
Let’s all become more aware of our intention when it comes to sex. I’ll bet we’ll be surprised what we learn.
Sexual narrative (2 of 3) – These are three parts of sexual functioning. It probably tells you something about my personality when I say that my first thought was something like, “God, look how much can go wrong.”
On the bright side, look how much can go right! These three don’t all have to happen for sex to be good. Only desire is required for this party. Arousal and orgasms, they’re bonuses, if they happen along the way.
(1 of 3) Part of the art of teaching is taking complex ideas and distilling them down to the simplest possible terms. That’s what I need as a student and I appreciate educators who do it well..
I’m in the midst of my reading for my next course in the Michigan Sexual Health Certificate program. The brave author of this article has given us a template to tell our sexual stories – we each have one you know. Our sexual narratives have two parts: 1. Sexual Identity 2. Sexual Functioning. .
Well actually…gender identity has two aspects. So does orientation. So our sexual narratives have at least five parts. .
Well, actually…sexual functioning has three parts: 1. Desire 2. Arousal 3. Orgasm(s) so our sexual narratives have eight parts..
Well, actually…desire has three parts so our sexual narratives have at least 10 different aspects. That’s just one person. In a relationship between two people you’ve got 20 aspects colliding just to have sex. That’s just for simplicity’s sake. When your relationship involves more than two the sexual narratives multiply exponentially. .
No wonder our world needs sex therapy. Back to work.
We need both blame and agency in our lives. The trick is getting the ratio right.
Bad things don’t happen to you because you’re bad. It’s not your fault. Bad things happen to us because somethings are not in our power to prevent or even influence. It’s important to understand where blame lies.
Yet, blaming is not coping. Blaming is not dealing. Blaming doesn’t get us through to the other side. For that we need agency.
We are not perpetual victims in our own lives. We can act. We can make different choices. We can set limits. We can walk away. We can move toward.
Yet, we can’t control everything. There’s no sooner way to ruin a relationship than to disrespect someone’s inherent right to self-determination. There’s no faster way to disappointment and frustration than believing that everyone has to do it “my way.”
This paradox starts at birth. We don’t choose to come into the world. Two or more other people make that choice for us. We do however have to learn to crawl, walk, or otherwise move through this life.
There is a line between victimhood being overly controlling. Choosing to see ourselves as perpetual victims leaves us powerless in our own lives. Believing we can control everything is a recipe for chronic frustration and disappointment. It’s on us to live better by walking the line between agency and blame.
Define winning for yourself or you’ll lose the comparison game.
We all need to feel successful. It’s fundamental to building and maintaining lasting self esteem. The want to win is an instinct that runs in background of our minds.
Your innate desire for success is your friend if you know exactly what you’re playing for. If you don’t have a plan, watch out. Your innate need for success which helps us feel strong, capable, and good about ourselves will seek validation by comparing yourself to others.
Most of us today are watching enhanced highlight reels of other people’s lives on social media. Remember those feeds are almost always just showing the good times with a little enhancement. I know I don’t post much when Laura and I have fights or if I’m feeling depressed or anxious. I deal with those things offline. Then when I feel better, post away! So, if you’re getting your self esteem from the comparison game and you’re comparing your whole life to other people’s filter-draped highlight reels you’ll feel bad.
Break this cycle by setting your own definition of success. Want to write a book? Success can be getting a chapter done. Want to own a house? Success can be earning and saving enough for a down payment. Want a good relationship? Success can be putting yourself out there when it’s really easier to stay home and watch Netflix.
Know what you’re playing for. Build in stair stepped small goals that lead to what you want. Celebrate each small win. In this life we’re better off pushing for personal records in the parts of life that matter to us rather than trying to measure up to someone else. They’re playing an entirely different game than you. You’re playing an entirely different game than them. Your own.
Relief isn’t joy but it sure does feel good.
If you’ve been hurting physically or emotionally in that chronic way that seems too common these days, and the pain stops the relief is palpable. I’ve seen it with my clients. I’ve felt it myself.
For a lot of us who dedicate ourselves to overcoming injury, aging, mental disorders, or any other kind of chronic suffering know that recovery takes slow and steady commitment. Persistence is key. When all that work pays off that’s a huge win. Celebrate it. Then when you’re ready ask yourself the question, “Now what?”
After you’ve gotten your relief then determine what it is that makes you interested, motivated, or maybe even passionate. It could be serving others. Maybe you want that new car. Some people pursue their spirituality. What it is doesn’t matter as long as it matters to you.
Move toward the things in life that matter most to you and you’ll give yourself more chances at happiness. That’s joy. I hope you find yours.
Receiving love is a skill and some of us aren’t good at it.
What makes hearing nice things about ourselves so uncomfortable?
Many of us were told not to be “selfish.” Selfishness is so wrong in fact that even hearing good stuff about YOU might feel as if you’re doing something wrong. If you tend to reflect compliments back to the source maybe you have this faulty core belief. Does this sound familiar…
She: “You’re so funny.”
Me: “No I’m not. I’m not nearly as funny as you are.”
You caught that part about the “faulty core belief” right? Receiving compliments IS NOT being selfish.
Some of us have been on the receiving end of unwanted attention. Trauma, harassment, bullying are all unwanted realities today. One way to cope with unwanted bad attention is to make yourself a very small target. In this situation being seen even in a positive way can trigger our danger fight or flight response. When someone really sees you, even in a good way, feels really bad. That’s when the denials come as an emotional reflex.
Me: “Wow. That was really great. You’re so smart.”
She: “Oh, no I’m not.”
So it’s understandable that sometimes we’re not good at receiving open expressions of love and admiration but that’s a fundamental part of loving relationships. So how do we learn to receive?