It’s OK to Feel Sorry for Yourself

From David B Bohl

It should be good news that we find helping others easier than asking for help… but unfortunately it isn’t. At least not in the case of someone with trauma or addiction who’s got a fragile self-esteem and distorted sense of self-worth. Quitting drugs or alcohol is a first major step to recovery, which can be a long and arduous journey. Because recovery is a complicated process, it is essential that we equip ourselves properly for it. It’s possible to run on the fuel of motivation, ambition, and sheer self will, but without self-compassion we might never settle comfortably into our sober life.

At the same time, I know very well how hard it might be to feel kindness toward ourselves after years of destructive behavior.

Addiction is an isolating condition, but it is never so isolating as to not affect those who love us as well. In active addiction we’re surrounded by people with broken hearts, broken trust, and lots of anxiety: all the by-products of our unhealthy ways. We have children who no longer want to spend time with us, significant others who want to leave us, parents who can’t bear to speak to us. Of course, we feel guilt and shame and we can’t imagine ever living in the space where we would be forgiven and accepted back. This is why we tend to get involved in situations that serve others well but that aren’t necessary good for us. In AA this might mean taking service commitments to the next level, taking on new members as sponsees, giving rides, food, shelter, advice and our time to everyone who asks. It’s a sure recipe to run yourself dry and find yourself in the place of resentment and mental exhaustion.

I’m a big advocate of self-care, and I’m also a big advocate of self-compassion. You deserve kindness just like anyone else. What you’ve done during your active addiction is in the past now, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Recovery is the time to recognize what happened to us and why, and it is the time to do something about it all so that the negative emotions no longer control our lives. Doing something about it means treating yourself with respect and gentleness.

If you have a hard time finding a space for yourself where self-compassion is possible, I suggest imagining yourself as a child. This is an exercise that might allow you to see yourself from a different, less critical angle. That child is still a part of you and you need to honor it and take care of it.

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Shocking Rate Of Untreated PTSD Among British Teens


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might be seen as an occupational hazard from serving in combat, but almost 8 percent of people in the UK have it by the time they turn 18. Yet most are not getting treatment, despite the shockingly high risk of suicide.

Trauma in young people, and the long-term effects on their mental health is a relatively under-researched area. Studies of the frequency of childhood PTSD in the US and Europe used diagnostic criteria now considered out of date. To address this, Professor Andrea Danese of King’s College London led interviews with more than 2,000 adolescents born in England and Wales when they were 18.

In The Lancet Psychiatry, Danese reports that 31 percent of those in his sample had experienced a traumatic event in their childhood, such as witnessing deaths or experiencing severe injury or sexual violation. Many of those involved suffered from “network trauma”, where they were affected by something they didn’t personally witness that happened to someone they were close to.

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There have been more military suicides since 2003 than the number of troops killed in Iraq.

From theS San Antonio Express News
Grim toll of military suicides reaches a new milestone

The mounting toll of military suicides since 2003 — an intractable problem highlighted again Friday with a murder-suicide at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland — has surpassed the number of troops killed in Iraq.

The latest Pentagon statistics on suicides in all service branches, combined with previously-released data compiled by the San Antonio Express-News, brought the total to 4,839 for the years 2003 through 2015. In the same period, 4,496 American were lost serving in Iraq.

The shooter at Lackland’s Medina Annex, identified as Technical Sgt. Steven D. Bellino, a 342nd Training Squadron student, killed the unit’s commander, Lt. Col. William “Bill” Schroeder, after a brief struggle that allowed a senior non-commissioned officer to escape, according to one account. Bellino was being escorted to a disciplinary hearing early Friday and was armed with two Glock pistols, sources said. The Air Force has not described a motive.

Years of research have yielded a good understanding of suicide risk factors, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office and other experts say.

But the numbers remain stubbornly high — defying myriad programs, a $50 million research effort called the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, or STARRs, and creation of a Pentagon office in 2012 to deal with the issue.

Last year’s toll of 475 suicides is the highest since 2012. The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps saw increases in self-inflicted deaths in 2015, while the Navy reported a drop-off.

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Accepting Help Doesn’t Make You Weak

From Medium, by Teresa Colón

When it comes to mental health, a DIY approach might not be the best option

I’ve been leading support groups for a while now, and one of the more interesting themes I’ve noticed is a DIY (“do-it-yourself”) attitude toward our mental health work. Overall, this is healthy and true. We are each responsible for our own emotional experience, and activities such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness are typically solitary experiences.

In truth, these more solitary activities are foundations for the bigger work that comes down the road for us. As we start to heal our little wounds, we gain confidence in the process and the capacity to approach some of our deeper hurts. (I like to use the onion analogy: We start by handling all the surface layers, and as we make our way through each layer, we get closer and closer to the central issues of our lives.)

Eventually, we start to see outward evidence of our healing. Maybe we begin to engage with our friends more frequently, or perhaps we start looking for a new job. Inevitably, someone who knows us is encouraged by the progress we are making and offers a helping hand. “Hey, I know someone who is hiring; want me to make a recommendation?”

For the emotionally healthy, the default response here would probably be, “yes, please.”

But those of us in a storm might kindly refuse.

I’ve crossed paths with this specific scenario multiple times, both in my work and my personal life. Those who refuse the help will typically explain the decision with something like, “I want to know I did it on my own.”

I think this is, at least partially, a cultural response: Here in the United States, we worship at the altars of Ayn Rand and the proverbial bootstraps. We adore the self-made success story, holding them up as examples of what a little hard work and determination can achieve.

We rely on societal structures to help protect us, guide us, and meet our fundamental needs.

But no one succeeds in a vacuum. We are all inter-reliant upon each other. To deny this core truth is to deny our essential humanity.

Read more here.

Be Vocal Speak Up

Be Vocal is a partnership between Demi Lovato, who is living with bipolar disorder, five leading mental health advocacy organizations and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Visit the amazing website here, and listen to Demi Lovato’s story.

Mental Illness: It’s Not About Choice

From The Huffington Post, UK

Every day of our lives we apparently make thousands of choices, from the banal to the relatively momentous.

I’ve thought about the concept of ‘choice’ a lot lately, prompted by mental ill-health and the inference that, perhaps, people like me ‘choose’ to be unwell.

It rattles me. So now let’s get a few things straight. Here is what ‘choice’ is. Choice is, “Do you want white or brown toast?” Choice is, “Shall we paint the bedroom blue or green?” or even “‘Shall we start a family?”

Choice is not, “Shall I have constant PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) flashbacks?”, nor is it, “Shall I be bipolar and be so hard to live with that my partner leaves me?” It is also not, “Shall I feel so depressed that I’ll think about ending it all?” (90% of those who commit suicide have a mental disorder).

Any sensible person would understand that these last ‘choice’ scenarios are nonsense. And this is because mental illness – whether depression, bipolar, postnatal depression or any other type – simply doesn’t happen that way.
I can tell you, when you’re mentally ill, you’re not making a decision to be there, whether it’s in a place of psychosis, spinning mania or knuckle-gnawing despair. Really, who would?

Would Star Wars actress and bestselling author Carrie Fisher have ‘chosen’ to have a severe manic episode whilst working on a cruise ship recently, leading to her being briefly hospitalised?

Would Shobna Gulati, ex-Coronation Street soap actress, have ‘chosen’ to have depression that led to her quitting the programme?

Would Sir Winston Churchill, arguably Britain’s greatest statesman, have ‘chosen’ to be beleaguered by his ‘black dog’, depression?

Dr Jim Bolton, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, tells me: “I recently asked several patients of mine, ‘How would you feel if people said, ‘You’ve chosen to be ill’? One of them told me, ‘I’ve said to people, ‘Do you honestly think I would choose to be like this? Do you think I would choose to lose my family, my friends and my job?’ Of course I wouldn’t”.

Perhaps it’s because mental illness is to do with the brain, the seat of our choices, that people think it’s a state of health we ‘choose’, even though the evidence suggests otherwise.

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Running Towards Mental Wellness: Leah Pell’s Story

From Bell’s Let’s Talk blog


Leah Pells is three-time Track and Field Olympian, who represented Canada at the Summer Olympics from 1992 to 2000. A silver medalist in the women’s 1500 metres at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Leah was once ranked first in the world in the 1500 metres. She is also a survivor of mental health issues, overcoming her upbringing in a household of addiction, abuse and poverty to become an accomplished athlete.

Determined to use her experiences to help others, Leah is now a school counsellor and registered clinical counsellor. She tells her incredible story of survival and courage in her book, “Not About the Medal”. We talked to Leah about her difficult upbringing, how the Olympic games helped her overcome her mental health struggles, and how she ran her way to wellness.

When did you begin struggling with your mental health?

Leah: Growing up there was a lot of trauma in my home life. My Mum, who I loved very much, was an alcoholic and that brought a lot of instability and abuse to our home. It was not a safe place.

I was in my early teens when I started to have difficulties sleeping and began to notice different symptoms, which I know today was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I would get startled easily, had panic attacks at school and was terrified of the dark. To this day, I struggle with being in our house alone. I have two dogs who are with me wherever I am in the house.

What inspired you to get into running track and how did it impact your journey towards mental wellness?

Leah: My dad took me to the track as a little girl and I loved seeing kids running around it. This inspired me to join a track club and it was then that my love affair with running began. Running, really saved me. When I felt extremely anxious and sad, I would run and that helped me feel calm. Today I run for the same reasons, to feel well and to connect with myself and nature.



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5 Ways To Increase The Serotonin In Your Brain

Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another…it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. This includes cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation and some behavior. -WebMD
While serotonin is a chemical frequently associated with depression, most people aren’t aware of the numerous functions of this brain chemical (hence, the quote). Most people also are not aware of the fact that serotonin can be reproduced without pharmaceuticals – drugs only made available via doctor prescription, and can have nasty side effects.

The fact that we can naturally increase this vital brain chemical should be considered exciting! Many ailments, acute and chronic, are believed to be due – at least in part – to low levels of serotonin in the brain. We encourage our reader to use this valuable knowledge included in this article to enhance their physical and mental health.


Related article: 10 Ways To Increase The Dopamine In Your Brain


This little “hack” is a terrific way to help ward off the blues. Formally called 5-Hydroxytryptophan, this substance has been found effective in treating anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia and hypertension. 5-HTP accomplishes these things by stimulating the production of the chemical serotonin.

In addition, 5-HTP has been shown to have positive effects on weight levels – a trait derived from the substance’s suppression of appetite. In a study at an Italian University, female participants who ingested 5-HTP lost an additional 10 pounds over two weeks, in contract to the placebo group who lost just two pounds over the same time period.

To realize the serotonin-boosting benefits of 5-HTP, a dosage of 100 to 400 milligrams per day – taken in multiple doses (i.e. at breakfast, lunch and dinner) – is recommended. Anticipate a time period of 4 to 6 weeks before any type of 5-HTP supplementation begins to demonstrate tangible benefits.


Vitamin B6, in particular, aids in both the development and function of serotonin in the brain. Those prone to stress should consider supplementing their diet with a B-complex product, due to its myriad effects on brain chemicals.

Both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are effective in lessening depressive symptoms while inhibiting erratic neural activity in the brain. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older adults that have been diagnosed with depression or experiencing depressive-like symptoms improved after supplementing their diets with B-vitamins.

Regular intake of a B-complex product, such as a supplement, is 50 to 100 mg daily. Those with additional symptoms, including fatigue/exhaustion or chronic stress, should consider adding a pantothenic acid – a twice-daily 250 mg dose of B5 vitamins, which is often sufficient for the alleviation of such symptoms.


Ever wonder why opening the shades on a sunny day has a distinctive way of improving our mood? Well, it may be due to the fact that our brain self-injects itself with serotonin chemicals. Even on a frigid or cool day, sunlight has a noticeable, positive affect on our mindset.

A productive and healthy practice is to briskly walk for 15 to 20 minutes at least once (or even twice) a day. Regardless of frequency, it is best to walk in the morning for two reasons: (1) we’ll burn more calories, and (2) we mentally prepare ourselves for the day ahead. Not only will our brain reward us with a kick of serotonin, we’ll burn off some calories in the process.


Massages feel really good…pretty much everybody knows this already. What most of us probably do not not know is that massages have a direct effect on our serotonin levels. Physiologically-speaking, messages are effective in reducing the stress hormone cortisol – a chemical that actively blocks the production of serotonin.

Researchers have discovered that professional massages decrease levels of cortisol by about 31 percent. When cortisol production is inhibited, our brains are in an optimal state to produce serotonin chemicals. As an added benefit, massage therapy can increase the production of the “reward and pleasure” brain chemical dopamine.

Experts are quick to point out that undergoing guided massage therapy is the premier method of boosting serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, in addition to other sought after health benefits. However, a simple massage by a close companion will suffice for many. Those experiencing turmoil (including trauma) may be best served by consulting a licensed massage therapist, whose expertise will be invaluable in counteracting psychological stressors.

Related article: This ONE Plant Prevents Mood Swings And Balances Hormones


Ah, yes…no “serotonin-boosting” article would be complete without the inclusion of meditation. Simply put, the proliferation of scientific studies that prove the physical and psychological benefits of meditation are mindboggling. Numerous forms of meditative practices exist, and all of them are beneficial in increasing the production of serotonin.

Perhaps the most impactful form of meditation on serotonin levels is Transcendental Meditation, or TM. Researchers believe that TM is a powerful stimulant on serotonin levels due to elevation of one of serotonin’s building blocks: 5-HIAA. Science has discovered a direct correlation between increasing concentrations of 5-HIAA and elevated serotonin levels in the brain.

Similar to massage therapy, meditation reduces the levels of cortisol in the brain. Additionally, meditation is particularly adept at invoking a relaxed response in the brain while suppressing the brain’s natural “fight or flight” reaction.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is another meditative type linked to elevating levels of serotonin, partially because MBSR further sensitizes serotonergic receptors, an important variable chemically in the production of serotonin. Interestingly, MBSR is the meditative technique promoted to military personnel that have been exposed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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