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Month: November 2016

Seeking help for mental health therapy is not a stigma

Seeking help for mental health therapy is not a stigma

Counseling

“Pain can be a catalyst to look inside; to dig deep and heal wounds from the past, to create more vibrantly, love more whole-heartedly, and to be an integrity with your highest self.” – Kelley Kosow

“Dear ‘Dear Zindagi’ – Thank you for showing us so beautifully that therapy helps!”

In the wake of this heartwarming movie, I find it a great time to write about the benefits of seeing a professional counsellor for all our mental health related problems.

Science has progressed multifold over the years with advancement in medicines and treatments, thereby increasing our average life span. While physical health has been given due emphasis, mental health awareness is gradually evolving in India.

Actor Shah Rukh Khan who plays psychologist Dr. Jehangir Khan in the movie, states it just the way it is –going for therapy and counselling is still a taboo, a subject of shame in our society! People are afraid to speak openly about their problems here. Visiting a shrink is considered a western concept. Ours is a very society-driven mindset. ‘Log kya kahenge?’ is always playing at the back of our minds.

Dear ZindagiMental health related issues are usually brushed under the carpet. ‘Are you mad to see a psychologist?’ is what holds back many people. The film’s protagonist Alia Bhatt is initially reluctant to reveal her story to the psychologist, pretending to have come to resolve her friend’s issues. It is only when she acknowledges the presence of her problems as being hers, that she fully opens up to therapy.

Any form of healing begins with asking for help. When we need not suffer in physical pain, why should we suffer in mental agony?

Seeking a therapist during my challenging times has always led to positive outcomes. I needed to get over the initial inhibition of speaking my heart out to a complete stranger. The first step was to accept that I’m dealing with situations far beyond me. That I’m unable to comprehend and find solutions on my own. I had to decide that seeing a professional would mean giving myself an opportunity to move ahead in the healthy direction. I care about me a lot to take the effort to steer my life positively.

Very often, we stuff feelings inside of us until they choke up and we require an outburst. Until expressed, they tend to even harm our bodies. Having a release during therapy sessions was extremely beneficial to me. In the light of my own experience of counselling sessions, I list below the benefits of seeing a therapist.

Advantages of therapy:

  • A good therapist listens without judging you
  • It is safe to reveal our stories in complete confidentiality
  • Therapy helps us look under the surface, deeper into our feelings, emotions and inner demons
  • It initiates the process of soul-searching, which is vital to our growth
  • The therapist can recognise our characteristics which we tend to oversee
  • Therapy helps to resolve our problems before they pile up into bigger issues
  • We get an objective perspective to our situation
  • Therapist provides a platform to say it like it is, without any fear of hurting anyone
  • It is reassuring to know that we are not the only ones that need help
  • Therapy helps us weed through our pain enabling us to process our emotions
  • It empowers us to cope with difficult challenges ahead

Seeking professional therapy for our mental health is not a sign of weakness, instead it is that of strength. Strength to have acknowledged that there is a problem that needs attention. Strength to face it and resolve it.

The initiative of healing is with us; the therapist only facilitates our healing. We no longer need to remain in denial. We need not be embarrassed to see a therapist. There are psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, mental health institutes – a dime a dozen. We need to reach out to that one good therapist who we can bare our soul to.

If you think you need one, just go find one!

 

When bad things do happen to good people

When bad things do happen to good people

cry

“I’ve often wondered why bad things happen to good people – the answer is simple. Because it keeps them good.” – Adrian DeRoy

My first encounter with grief and trauma was almost two decades ago when a very dear friend passed away in a brutal accident. They were four of them in the car on that fateful night, two survived and two met with instant death. Why him? Why take him away? Why do this to his parents? That was the first time I had asked a very loud and excruciatingly painful WHY???!

WHY do bad things happen to good people? I kept asking this question, reiterating in every real instance concerning people whom I know –

– WHY does a tree fall on a teenager so badly that she has to get her leg amputated?

– WHY does the metal wire accidentally flings into the eye of only one man in a room of ten?

– WHY does a selflessly loving family get cheated of their rightful legacy of wealth?

– WHY does a poor maid’s only son becomes a drug addict and leaves her?

– WHY do life-threatening diseases attack the kind-hearted folks?

In our moments of deep pain and mourning, it is only human to question our faith. To question God. To question the very existence of God. If there really was God, why would He want suffering for us? Is He not supposed to love us, bless us, keep us safe? Why are we truly here and what is our life’s ultimate purpose?

The questions took a personal dimension, as I lay on the threshold of my marital separation. ‘Why would this happen to us? I haven’t hurt anyone or done anything wrong. I have been a good wife and a sincere daughter-in-law (or so I thought). This is so unfair!’ I found myself being unusually skeptical. Amidst my suffering and tribulations, there were innumerable times when I doubted my faith. The very core of my values was shaken and under threat. Life was posing more and more questions.

As I kept seeking, the answers came revealing in several different ways – through books, people, meditations, spiritual channels, quiet times, synchronicity, etc. It has been a gradual process of understanding and internalising. Purely out of my life experiences and my views only, this is what I believe I have learnt.

When bad things happen to good people:

  • The universe is interested in our personal and spiritual growth
  • The Law of Karma is showing up
  • Its time to learn the lessons we are meant to learn
  • A situation needs no labelling of good or bad, positive or negative
  • Life is not meant to be fair and doesn’t always give what we want
  • How we face things and live – that’s what matters
  • Our hardest challenges reveal our true spirit
  • Tough times don’t last forever, tough people do (clichéd but relevant)
  • Everything in our life happens for a reason, though we may not see it or believe it in that moment

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself. ” -Walter Anderson.

Looking at tough times from a different perspective:

It is in our darkest hours that we are inspired to seek the divine light. Hang in there and try to accept your life situation like a bystander, the pain will be significantly lesser. It is okay to be an atheist, but do know that God does exist. There is a strength that comes from within in God’s presence. And He is watching over us, constantly guiding us on the path we are meant to follow. Keep the faith and take one day at a time. There is a larger plan at work and the universe will fit all the puzzle pieces into one big picture. Believe!

How to help children feel comfortable in school after parents’ separation

How to help children feel comfortable in school after parents’ separation

help

“Together may we give our children roots to grow and wings to fly.” ~Unknown

When parents get separated or divorced, children either get to continue in their same school or inevitably have to move schools depending on the circumstances and logistics. Changing schools during separation ensues a different set of challenges, a situation that I did not have to face and hence do not have insights. This post examines the scenario of helping children feel comfortable in the same school post separation or divorce.

School is like a second home for children. So when there befalls a crisis situation at home, it becomes a place of refuge for many kids. Since they spend most of their daytime in school, it provides a safe environment of routine and familiarity.

Here are a few ways we can help children readjust and feel comfortable in their own school during separation or post divorce:

1. Teachers: Meet with the class teacher (and not all the individual subject teachers in the Indian schools) and inform her/him about your family situation. It would be worthwhile to even confide in your child’s favourite teacher, someone he/she looks up to and who is sensitive enough to empathise with. Discuss with the teacher about the emotions your child feels at home and to look out for possible behaviour changes he/she may exhibit in school. You don’t need to disclose all the details about your personal life. Just maintain the relevance in context to your child’s well being. Teachers usually contact parents only if an issue escalates in school. Maintain regular contact with the concerned teachers apart from the time spent during parent-teacher meetings. Work closely with them and heed to their advice.

2. School counsellor: School counsellors are qualified to address several emotional and mental issues children face at different ages. Most of the schools would either have a full time student guidance counsellor or have someone coming in part time. Some schools may not have either, in which case the school authorities will recommend counsellors outside of school. Confiding in a counsellor helps the child and the parent deal with the changes at home and the whole new set of feelings. I have been truly fortunate to have access to our full time school counsellor who is compassionate and easy to talk to. Just the thought of having her as someone my kids could talk to in school, someone looking out for trouble signs, was very reassuring to me. She continues to be a sound support in dealing with several issues that I now face with my teenagers in school. School counsellors provide an opportunity for children to discuss their feelings in a stable environment. Counselling in school or outside does go a long way in helping children build their own coping mechanisms.

3. What to say, how much to say: Children are often subjected to many difficult questions that can be painful to answer. ‘Why do you not live with your father?’, ‘Why did your parents divorce?’, ‘Which parent do you love more?’, ‘Do you miss your old home?’, “Is your mom a bad person?’…so on and so forth. People are and will always be curious to know more. This is a reality children coming from a divorced family have to deal with for life. It’s important to teach them that they need not answer difficult questions if it makes them uncomfortable. They need to know that it’s perfectly okay to say they do not want to talk about it. Alternatively, subtle answers can be suggested that do not divulge too many details. It’s equally important for adults to handle this with care, sensitivity and tact.

4. Official formalities: It is essential to update all school records with the new address, contact nos. and change in mother’s name (where relevant). If the bus route has changed, update that as well with the bus authorities and inform the concerned in-charge on the bus. It is extremely important to update the emergency contact numbers, especially that of the family doctor or physician. The school diary usually needs to be signed by both parents. If one parent is not available or refuses to sign, let the school authorities know the reason.

5. Visitation schedules: In many cases, children tend to spend their time between two homes after separation. The teacher needs to be informed of the custody and visitation arrangement. For there may arise situations where children forget to bring along school essentials or leave behind important documents, etc. at the other home. If the teacher is well aware, it would mean sparing the children from scolding or further embarrassment. It is also important for teachers to be aware of extremely hostile situations when the non-resident parent may get invasive or intruding in school. If the child is to be fetched by an adult after school, kindly arrange so with an appropriate identity card to ensure safety.

6. Activities: Some children shy away socially and may avoid extra activities, recourse to being in their own shell. They need to be encouraged to take part in as many activities as possible, fostering their development and confidence. Despite moving further away from school after divorce, the extra distance did not deter me to drive my kids early in the mornings to ensure they participate in school sports (It’s a proud feeling that they went on to be a part of their school teams at various levels). Normalcy and consistency in maintaining their routine is key to their wellbeing.

7. School events: When children of divorce know that both parents love them unconditionally, it does a world of good to them. While it is essential for the custodian parent (usually the mom) to be present for all the school events, the presence of the non-resident parent provides a morale boost to the child. If the situation is amicable between the parents, their equal involvement in the child’s life is healthy. But if the situation has been acrimonious and the parents do not communicate well, the child can be spared of seeing them together in school.

Children are usually quite adaptive and find ways to cope with the changes in school. With love, right guidance and support, they eventually figure out what best works for them. So do single parents!

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