Finding Purpose in the Pain

If you haven’t figured it out already, life is not all rainbows and butterflies. It hurts. It stings. It changes constantly. It is unpredictable. As a psychotherapist, my job is to guide clients to find purpose in their pain, to put meaning towards their experiences, and utilize them as a catalyst for growth instead of allowing these experiences to defeat us.

Here are 3 reasons that pain is necessary for growth on your journey:

1) To Learn Healthy Coping Skills

A diamond does not start out as the rock we know it as. It begins its journey as a piece of coal, and with pressure and time it becomes the lustrous rock we lust over. Humans are similar in the sense that without painful experiences many life lessons cannot be learned. Think back to your childhood and adolescent years, you likely have many memories that stand out. Some may be happy, and some may be not so happy, but they have molded you into the individual you have become today. Whether you accept it or not, more adversity will come your way. You have learned a specific way to cope with this adversity. If you don’t like the way you are coping, it may be time to change your habits.

2) To Connect You to Others

As humans, we are social beings. We need human connection to thrive, to be successful, and to grow in our life. We are not isolated in our journey. As we navigate through painful experiences, we are able to empathize and understand others in a way we may not be able to do without personal experience. Great wisdom comes from becoming resilient to the ever changing tides of our lives. The ability to be able to connect to universal human feelings such as sadness, rage, loneliness, and fear is something unique to human beings. Our connection is what isolates us from the rest of the mammal population. Your pain will shape your human connection.

3) To Prove, “You Got This!”

Whether you like it or not, at this point you are winning in your life. That’s right! You’re winning! You may not feel like it, but you are attracting what you are bringing into your life! Really think about the mindset and goals you have for yourself. You may be holding yourself back from growing from your experiences due to your self-talk and inner chatter. If you tell yourself, “I just need to make it through today” then you will do exactly that, but if you change the script to saying “Today I will find purpose and meaning in the painful moments” you are more clear in your intention.

If you are going through life transitions and are interested in allowing a psychotherapist to help guide you to finding your purpose contact me at 405-323-1786 to see if I would be the right fit for you.

Wishing you purpose, passion, and positive mental health!

Michelle Smith

MS, RMHCI

Individual, Couple, & Family Psychotherapist

(405) 323-1786

The Ugly Truth About Depression

This week’s tragic loses of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain brings to light to the harsh reality of depression. Regardless of financial status, race, religion, occupation, or support system, anyone can be affected by depression and suicidal thoughts.

Most of the world was very shocked to hear the passing of these two influential successful figures by suicide. People are attempting to rationalize how someone could take their life when from the outside it may appear they had everything, “going for them”. Part of breaking the stigma behind mental health is understanding that depression is drastically different from circumstantial sadness.

Depression is all consuming, affecting every, if not most, areas of life regardless of circumstances.

Symptoms include:

Extreme sadness

Diminished interest in activities

Extreme fatigue

Indecisiveness

Significant weight gain or loss not due to dieting or change in eating patterns Recurrent thoughts of death and suicidal ideations

People diagnosed with depression feel these symptoms all, or almost all of the time. Sure, we all feel sad from time to time, maybe you didn’t get the promotion you were counting on, you are struggling with a relationship, or going through another major life stressor. The difference between these situations and depression is sadness is fleeting and generally doesn’t affect the ability to communicate with loved ones, continue job duties, and perform daily tasks.

Depression is an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom that affects functioning in multiple areas of life. People with depression may struggle with simple tasks such as brushing their hair or putting on their clothes in the morning. Getting out of bed can even be an exhausting task, and this feeling is drastically different than the Monday blues many of us feel occasionally. Depression takes a hold of the entire being, tricking the mind into automatic negative thinking patterns that scream, “I might as well give up, I’ll never make it through this” or “I’m such a burden the ones I love would be better without me anyways”.

These thoughts can become overwhelming and lead to attempts to stop symptoms such as suicide. Depression is not something that individuals can simply “get over”. Without professional intervention, depression and it’s symptoms will continue and intensify over time.

If you have struggled with depressed thoughts or symptoms the best thing to do is contact a professional mental health counselor for an assessment to see if you can benefit from therapeutic services.

As we were reminded this week, mental health IS health. Without mental well being the material things that surround you have no value. Although it may be the hardest thing to do, reach out and take the important step to get help!!

If you or someone you love are in immediate crisis contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255

Michelle Smith MS, RMHCI

(405) 323-1786

The Power of Language

Our brain produces roughly 50,000 thoughts every day. Whether we are mindful of them or not, our internal language or self-talk molds and shapes our overall perspective towards life. You can think of language as your own personal filter, governing the way you perceive, digest, and respond to the information gathered from the world around you. Many of the 50,000 thoughts are habitual, sometimes causing negative schemas that play into the decision making of everyday life.

To find out if your thoughts are shaping your life in a helpful or hurtful way take this simple test. First grab a pen and a piece of paper, find a place with minimal distractions and set a timer for two minutes. During that time, write down each thought that crosses your mind, even for a second. Thinking about lunch? Write it down. Mind jumping to that terrible conversation you had with your boss? Write that too. When your timer stops begin categorizing the thoughts as positive or negative. You may be surprised how your brain automatically wires towards the negative, in psychology we call this automatic negative thinking (ANT). Without awareness of these habitual patterns, we have little likelihood of changing these thoughts to eventually change our lives.

You may be thinking, OK I’m aware my language can use some improvement, but now what? The next step in changing those ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) is finding replacement thoughts and symbols to utilize when you notice your negative self-talk. You can utilize visualization and imagery to pump the brakes on negative thinking. For example, visualizing a large red stop sign indicating need to take a break. From there, saying something like “I got this” or “I am capable” can be a good way to switch the dialogue before it overpowers us. Find affirmations and symbols that are believable and resonate with you. Before long you will begin noticing a shift in the patterns of your language changing your emotions and behavior over time.

You can think of automatic negative thoughts as ants on a beautiful summer day. If one single ant made an appearance at your annual Memorial Day BBQ, you may shake it off and go on with your festivities with minimal concern. Now imagine if a swarm of hundreds even thousands of ants joined you and your BBQ, you may be more likely to be packing up and running for the hills! Don’t allow one automatic negative thought or ANT turn into hundreds, stop and make a change before your language overpowers your Memorial Day BBQ, or worse… your life!

If you or someone you love is struggling with negative thinking, depression, anxiety, life transitions, or other mental health concerns in the Palm Beach Gardens area contact Michelle Smith at 405-323-1786 for a free 30 minute phone consultation today!