You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘psychology’ tag.

When I was in the 3rd grade, my teacher gave the class an exercise. We were given big strips of paper with the words “I can’t…” written on them. My teacher instructed us to fill them with things we thought we couldn’t do. My friend and I gleefully filled every centimeter with things we couldn’t do: fly, do algebra, dig to China, speak French…Our teacher then had us put the list of things we “couldn’t” do in a shoebox “casket,” which we ceremoniously buried in the schoolyard. She told us that limiting ourselves with what we couldn’t do created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Years later, I got a similar message in group therapy. According to the psychologist there, your brain doesn’t focus on things like “no,” “not,” “don’t,” etc. So if you say something like, “I won’t commit suicide tonight,” your brain actually hears, “I won’t commit suicide tonight.” (A more effective way of framing that might be, “I will stay safe tonight.”) Basically, another example of the way you think about yourself determining how you will be.

People with physical or mental limitations are already coping with the effect of those physical/mental limitations (be they chronic pain, mood swings, side effects of medications, or what have you). Empowering yourself through the way you think and speak can improve quality of life and even improve symptoms.

Why is it, then, that our country’s [for me, the U.S.] disability support system focuses solely on what you cannot do? Determination forms evaluate how well you can function in terms of tasks in your daily life: cooking, driving, getting dressed, etc. I remember that when I first filled out one of those forms, I looked it over and though, “Wow, I am really disabled.” (This train of thought eventually fed into the pain/depression cycle.)

Positive thinking is left by the wayside as people with disabilities must pathologize themselves to get basic support systems that they really need. (Without Medicaid or some other form of insurance, I would have to pay $500 a month for medications.)

Our disability system is oriented towards paying the least amount of money possible to those who are deemed completely unable to support themselves. It’s a grudging, “Well, if you jump through all these hoops and prove you really need it, I suppose we’ll give you some money.”

Standard neo-conservative (and even neo-liberal) lingo also rails against those who “take advantage of the system,” “subsist off of government handouts,” and others who are just “lazy.” As though the limitations of disability are worth getting under $8,500 a year and jumping through the aforementioned hoops.

Meanwhile, the system has no trouble allocating roughly half our budget to military spending.

The stimulus bill provided a one-time payment of $250 to each SSI recipient. The bill also allocated $759 million (for fiscal year 2010 alone) for “continuing disability review” (CDR). CDR is basically a program that checks to see if people on SSI are still eligible. “Are you still disabled?” I recognize that this is an important question, but I am also troubled by a report by the Social Security Administration that asserts that, “Estimates continue to indicate that SSA will achieve a sav­ings in Federal SSI payments of roughly $10 for every $1 spent conducting additional redeterminations above our base workload volume.”

Our health care system if fundamentally broken. For gods sakes, people go bankrupt trying to pay their medical bills. I suppose it’s no surprise that the system for providing disability benefits grudgingly gives support only to those who are “most deserving” and “completely unable to work.”

Meanwhile, the determination process forces applicants into self-defeating and negative self talk. The application process can ultimately damage one’s self-worth, recovery process, and mental well being.

You may wonder, “What’s a better system?” How about a more nurturing and supportive system which provides a social and economic safety net to all individuals, regardless of how “worthy” they may be. Don’t hold your breath. I’ll keep hoping for and promoting a more compassionate and humanistic approach.

Note: I’ll try not to talk politics all the time, but I felt really passionate about this particular post.

Advertisements

Bronnie Thompson has written a wonderful blog post about Balance, control & passion. It echoes a lot of what I’ve been pondering (to myself and friends) lately about the meaning of work and values when one has a chronic medical condition/disability.

“Yesterday a couple of colleagues were talking about balance in life, and making it plain that they think people who spend a lot of time and energy on their work are sad.  Their opinion? Work is the means to pay for your ‘real’ life, to spend more on working means less on what is really important to them…

One way of looking at the distress and disability associated with chronic pain might be to think of it as a result of conflict between what can be done (resources) and both values (what is important) and goals (how I want to express my values). An ongoing problem with life itself is the limited resource we have to do what we want!  The whole of life is really about this balancing act.  And I suspect that one of the major sources of distress for people with chronic pain is that they carry on using the same strategies to express values but with limited resources to achieve it.

I’m not the only one to think of it this way – several authors have talked about the concept of ‘psychological flexibility’ (McCracken & Vowles, 2007).  Psychological flexibility involves several processes such as acceptance, mindfulness, values, and cognitive defusion.  This is a bit of jargon from ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) and basically means being able to allow oneself to experience all that life brings, while at the same time choosing to act according to what is important and valuable to you – and being prepared to alter the way in which this is achieved, depending on the situation.

So one way of looking at people with disability from their chronic pain is that they are stuck.  Stuck using old and unhelpful ways to achieve what is important to them.” [emphasis mine]

What wonderful insight. In my introduction, I talk a lot about my pre-bipolar-and-fibromyalgia self and preconceptions about what it means to be successful.

A lot of people talk about finding a balance, often finding a balance between mind, body, and spirit. How does having fewer resources to do so affect this balance? What happens when you don’t have as much energy, or you’re dealing with chronic pain? Bronnie discusses some different treatment modalities, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy).

“One problem I have with CBT is that when my own resources are low (I’m really tired, maybe I’m a bit depressed) the energy it takes to process and evaluate my automatic thoughts can be really hard to find.  It takes a lot less energy to simply allow the thoughts to be there but not act on them and remain focused on achieving things that are important to me.”

I actually hadn’t heard of ACT before, so that’s something for me to look into. I have to echo thoughts on the energy it takes to use CBT. If you’re already in the midst of some emotional or physical pain/fatigue/distress, it’s very hard to kick-start yourself into using those CBT coping skills. When I’ve dealt with some negative thought patterns due to mental illness, I found that it was very important to use my coping skills as soon as I noticed a problem. If I waited until it was a bigger problem, it snowballed out of control. Physical pain can sometimes come on very suddenly. You don’t always get some head notice that you’re going to have a flare-up. That’s why I prefer mindfulness meditation to CBT when I’m having a fibro flare.

“What we are trying to achieve in pain management is living according to what is important (valued) and being flexible enough to find ways to achieve this despite pain…

What this means is that there are times when I choose to act according to what is important to me, despite my own thoughts (which might be automatic, and wanting affirmation from people that I’m OK and not ’sad’), and despite my own energy levels.  To be able to choose whether I persist with some things and drop others, knowing that I’m living out my important values gives me that freedom that we call ‘being in control of my own life’.”

Well said.

My Etsy Store

A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to www.etsy.com/people/RogueCrafter

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9 other followers

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Twitter

  • Hey everybody! We are going foreign for this weeks business of Seoul Garden! Everyone stop in there tomorrow! You know what to do! 📷😆 3 years ago
  • Baseball team at kozy's!!! #CashMob @OHHSDECA http://t.co/0Yv3YtL15F 3 years ago
  • Don't forget all you pet owners, tomorrow is cash mob número 3 At pet haven! Take a pic of your animal and upload to here of Facebook! 🐶🐱 3 years ago
  • RT @Addictd2Success: Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices they had to make. #… 3 years ago
  • RT @Addictd2Success: "Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change." - Jim Rohn 3 years ago