I plan on doing a lot of writing this year in hopes of not repeating the emotional turmoil of 2015. My writing is really my therapy. I enjoy writing, semantics, playing with words, had a painter friend tell me recently that I painted with words so thank you Milton. It is a way for me to declutter my psyche, feel good about myself knowing I can share things which, to me, are important. Writing also helps me keep some balance in my life. In researching these things I learn so thank you, you are contributing to my education. DISCLAIMER: let me be clear here that I am NOT endorsing the links I have provided below, how you process them is up to you but they do give you a starting direction.
I want to get away from the political toxicity I have experienced over the last number of years. The toxicity created by watching programs and support systems that I had helped develop being eroded faster than the banks of the Bow in the Calgary flood of 2012. Much of my writing will be focused on community challenges that are important to me like #access, mental health awareness or the restoration of so many programs already gone (ask any #veteran). Since my last article was an access story, today I want to support the #LetsTalk mental health initiative.
As a matter of disclosure I spent almost 20 years of my career working in mental health and psychiatry. Eleven of those years was as a mental health therapist in a fairly large inner-city hospital so I believe I have a bit of professional knowledge on the topic of mental health. My last five years in that field was spend as a stress and pain management therapist which is where my attachment to cognitive therapy and core belief systems came from. Beliefs are like faith, you may not always see them but acknowledging them helps you deal with the challenges life throws your way.
The foundations of my “core” belief system were developed in a very non-traditional manner and because of that I review them regularly. Are they still timely, how do they match up to todays social norms, what other circumstances have occurred that may require a shake-up of my beliefs? I like to do an annual inventory of my beliefs as part of my New Years routine. I don’t make resolutions but I do give my beliefs a good shake. While many of my peers are improving their golf stroke, working out a travel itinerary or downsizing their home in preparation for retirement, I’m fine tuning my beliefs. To each his own, right?
Many years ago while attending a professional development program for Canadian Mental Health Association, I was introduced to “Pack Your Own Chute” by Eden Ryl. That wound up being a much more impactful learning moment than I realized at the time. It set the foundation for what would later become my own belief regarding the importance to review and clarify.
The development of belief systems is a very complicated issue and I don’t want to turn this into an “academic citation” page. Suffice it to say by three months old we are starting to develop belief systems. From the moment we can process information the belief systems of those around us begin to transfer. For a more in-depth look at this David Suzuki’s “Babies: Born to be Good” explains this much better than I ever could. However, my beliefs were not built in a traditional childhood or, for that matter, at a time when much psycho-social thought was put into healthcare.
When you are five years old and you wake up at three in the morning to find the two night nurses wrapping up the seven year old in the bed beside you and move him to the morgue you learn to make your beliefs flexible (and I am not in any way suggesting that was a conscious decision, just that it contributes to the subconscious nature of core beliefs). I had five nights like that by the time I was fifteen which definitely has an impact on your beliefs.
Two nurses on each unit for night shift which was standard then so no time for hand holding in that kind of situation. We were treated really well but the best survivors were responsible for themselves. Plus to put this in timeline perspective you have to picture the hospital more like the institute in “Cider House Rules” rather than a medical centre like we see in “Code Black“. (FYI – For you #CodeBlack watchers it’s on the edge to be chopped right now, if you like the show follow them on Twitter and support them).
Anyway 2015 was a miserable year for me, and from what I am reading, for a lot of you out there. There was something that was very “Last Picture Show” about last year. I can’t say I will miss it. I just couldn’t wrap my head around why so many things were going wrong. Finally I stepped back, reviewed what was going on, identified and eliminated five common cognitive distortions with a big focus on “all or nothing thinking” I realized the the year hadn’t been as bad as I thought it was.
A big part of the greyness that was 2015 I have to accept responsibility for. I am independent to a fault. I’m sure that is hard-wired into my brain. I have to be able to accept change like any other aging individual. My own independence has always, and will always, be important to me.
I never expected to reach 2015 so I entered the year in a “cognitive dissonance” state. Once that light came on and I realized it I was able to start taking some action. It also came to my attention last year I had never dealt with my transition from crutches to wheelchair. It just seemed like such a natural thing to me but it was actually my first introduction to a “disability”. I had grown up on my crutches, I never knew anything else, to me that was normal. The move to the wheelchair changed things and I missed the transition…
Just one man’s opinion!