Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cloudy red sunset

When the Sun Sets, the Sadness Rises

Couple more hours ’till 7pm… The sun approaches 5pm and your sadness is thriving. You scratch your head wondering why this repeats year after year. You hate the darkness; it makes the day feel shorter. A shorter day means less time to have fun. Less fun means more isolation. More isolation attracts sadness. Feeling sad means you’re in a rotten state of mind again. And the pattern only continues as fall progresses into winter. Once winter arrives, you pray that you can see spring again; or at least people with seasonal affective disorder do.

The key to avoiding sadness is learning how to be positive regardless of changes in your environment. You don’t have control over what happens around you, but you have control over your mind. It’s when you lose control of your mind that you become most susceptible to outside forces. And when this happens, you become an easy target. In this case, time is the outside force. As fall approaches, it gets darker out earlier in the evening. When winter arrives, 4:20pm becomes your last hit before the darkness settles in at 5pm.

So What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a depressive disorder that causes people to become sad during seasons with shorter daylight hours. In addition, less sunlight during the winter months also contributes to symptoms such as fatigue, sadness, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, etc. The most common months to experience SAD are January and February. Other symptoms may include:

  • Craving carbohydrates
  • Hypersomnia
  • Loss of energy
  • Pacing and the inability to sit still
  • Feeling worthless
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts

The disorder usually starts between the ages of 18 and 30. Treatment involves light therapy, antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. SAD goes away during spring and summer, but therapy and medications help alleviate the symptoms sooner. Seasonal affective disorder occurs due to a biochemical imbalance in your brain, believed to be caused by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight. It’s unknown why some people experience SAD and others do not. It definitely does not help if you live in a location that lacks sufficient sunny days during the year.

What is your experience with SAD? If any, what have you found to be helpful?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Feeling Sad for No Reason

See Where Sadness Takes You

Don’t hide from your sadness; see where it takes you. Observe how it makes you feel and what thoughts it brings to the surface. We all tend to shy away from sadness and use the unconscious, immature defense mechanism known as denial. We all tend to carry on like sadness is “Not for me.” But it is for you! You have to stare sadness in the eye and tell it, “You’re back. What are you going to teach me this time?” Feeling sad for no reason is not a thing. There is always a reason as to why you’re feeling sad; you just have to discover it.

Sadness should not bring you embarrassment; it happens for a reason. Your job is to find out the reason and learn from it. If you suppress your sadness, do you think it’ll go away? Maybe only temporarily. Suppression means that you are consciously moving a negative emotion or thought into your unconscious mind. This prevents you from experiencing the negative emotion or thought. But oftentimes, it comes back out at a later date, causing you to feel sad again.

Feeling Sad for No Reason – There is Always a Reason

Many people don’t want to learn about the reasons behind their sadness. It’s easier to suppress your thoughts or medicate yourself with substances. Many people drink alcohol, smoke cannabis or consume hard drugs to counteract their sadness. Drugs are great tools for alleviating sadness, but they only work temporarily. Once you come down from the high, the sadness resurfaces, sometimes even more powerfully. Don’t be afraid to seek the reasons behind your sadness.

When you’re feeling sad, this is a sign that something needs to change in your life. I know it’s not easy to make changes when feeling sad, but it’s worth it. Sitting there and feeling sad all day long does not accomplish anything. You need to be honest with yourself and discover the reasons behind your sadness. But also just discovering the reasons is not sufficient. You need to implement the necessary changes to avoid feeling sad again. If you’re lonely, then make the effort to be social and meet up with people. If you’re drinking too much, make the effort to cut down on the booze. There is always something that you can improve on that will prevent you from feeling sad again.

You just have to seek, implement and change.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Talking About Mental Health

Planet Zer0

Imagine a world where mental health does not exist; let’s call it Planet 0. In this society, there is no recognition of depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, ADHD, tic disorders, drug addiction, etc. If you suffer from a disorder of the mind, you are considered “weird,” “abnormal,” “strange” or “other-worldly.” In this world, if you have a mental illness, you are ostracized from society; you have to find your way back home because you are not getting into this circle. In this world, talking about mental health is not an option.

Talking About Mental Health is Not an Option

People who commit suicide are viewed as weak; “he would have never made it anyways” is the mentality. Drug addicts are considered the scum of the earth on Planet 0. Suffering or even worse, dying, is celebrated by the masses. Psychotic people are one of the most feared and despised. Governments all around the world are considering passing a law to allow citizens to shoot at a psychotic person if they feel threatened.

Essentially, humanity on Planet 0 does not want to have anything to do with mental health. If you are feeling down, your family warns you to get yourself together. Your friends start to lose interest in you if you’re suffering from anxiety. If you are feeling insecure, your significant other is expected to leave you. If you are hallucinating, society no longer knows of you. Psychiatric medications are for lab rats. If you’re even heard of having some medications in your home, your landlord has the right by law to evict you.

In this society, people prefer to be free of mental illness, but do not want to address it. The stigma of mental health is sky-high. Laws are being considered to prevent pharmaceutical companies from creating psychiatric medications. Pharmacies are considering banning psychiatric medications. The suicide rate is on the rise and over 60% of the population is depressed. But society doesn’t care. They view mental illness as a plague and want to wash it off the face of the hearth.

Why do we talk about mental health?

So we can avoid experiencing any sort of stigma that slightly touches or resembles Planet 0.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Is Overthinking a Mental Illness?

Mysteries of Mental Illness

The act of overthinking in and of itself is not a mental illness. Overthinking can be observed as early as childhood, when children become obsessed with certain passions or activities. It can also be observed in adolescence, when they start analyzing their peers, their role and how they view themselves in the social realm of their life. Overthinking is not a bad experience unless it starts to chip away at your education, work and quality of relationships. You should never be overthinking to the point of experiencing daily disruptions.

What is Overthinking?

So why do we overthink in the first place? If I could come up with all the reasons for it, this would become the world’s longest blog post. In a nutshell, we overthink because we’re insecure by nature. Thinking is the process of accumulating available information, analyzing it and making something meaningful out of it. Overthinking can also be a process of protecting yourself from toxic relationships. Ideally, you want to process the information at a comfortable rate and move on. But when you’re overthinking, you’re spending more time than needed analyzing information and connecting dots. Some dots may not be fruitful or even exist in the first place.

Can overthinking be a mental illness? Those who do have a mental illness such as OCD tend to overthink. They experience obsessive thoughts that are anxiety-provoking, followed by compulsions such as cleaning, checking or ordering. Their obsessive thoughts are rooted in the act of overthinking. OCD is one of the most difficult anxiety disorders to treat, often requiring very high doses of antidepressants along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Treatments for Overthinking

What is a way to treat overthinking so that it doesn’t affect your quality of life? Try meditation, a process where you become nonjudgmental of your thoughts and observe them floating away like clouds in the sky. Meditation helps you let go of those thoughts that cause you to overthink, by dedicating a select amount of time each day to thoughts that bother you. It’s not a quick fix, but it certainly can help. You can also try exercising. The act of distracting yourself from overthinking by indulging in physically strenuous behavior does help. Your mind becomes focused on the physical exertion rather than any annoying thoughts.

Another option to help you with overthinking is to find someone who you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and concerns with. Talking is one of the most therapeutic acts and when you find someone who is a great listener, it becomes even more therapeutic. The act of sharing with others what is on your mind can greatly alleviate your suffering from overthinking. By revealing your concerns in the open and making it easier for you to discard them, you’ll feel more at ease in no time.

What is your experience with overthinking?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Pandemic Mental Health Crisis

My Mental Health is Deteriorating

The seeds of the pandemic mental health crisis sprouted when we experienced the Spring 2020 lockdowns where non-essential businesses were forced to close. Many people were left without a job and struggling to make ends meet. We all experienced the recommendations of spending less time outdoors to avoid contact with potentially sick pedestrians and limiting our time in stores. I personally used to run in the park and spend time on benches to enjoy nature. Many people also cluttered in parks. But many people also got very scared and listened to everything the media and government told them. They spent their days locked in their apartments staring out their windows in the midst of a brewing depressive and/or anxiety crisis. Some parts of the world today are still experiencing lockdowns, such as Australia. Doesn’t the government know that they contribute to mental health disorders ? Of course they do.

Pandemic Mental Health Crisis: The Jabs

This is a very controversial topic because half of Americans and many across the world are weary about getting vaccinated. These vaccines were released to the public in a year. The average vaccine trial takes about 14 years. In addition, Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines use mRNA technology to deliver the genetic material coding for the viral spike proteins. mRNA vaccines were never previously introduced unto the public. Why did they introduce them now during a pandemic? What are the long-term side effects? To make things even worse, local and state governments as well as the federal government have been pushing vaccine mandates. NYC recently passed a law prohibiting unvaccinated people from indoor dining, going to the gym or any public events without proof of vaccination. Healthcare workers and many other businesses are now being mandated to become vaccinated or risk termination. Don’t you think this raises the stress level of many people who rightfully choose to be unvaccinated? This is increasing the anxiety level in many people. On the other hand, many believe that the benefits of becoming vaccinated outweigh the potential long-term risks of these vaccines. People don’t want to catch COVID! Both sides make great points, but this doesn’t mean that mental illness is not at play here.

The Unpredictable Future

Considering that the current vaccines only prevent severe illness from COVID and not minor illness, in addition to similar viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, will this not result in deadlier strains in the near future? I find it silly that the USA is going to provide booster shots starting the 20th of September. Many third world countries have still not gotten their first shots. Don’t they realize that new variants will arise in those countries, making booster shots essentially meaningless? The point of a booster shot is to raise your antibody levels back up to when you got your last shot 8 months ago. If new variants will arise that will likely be immune to the current vaccines, what is the point of booster shots? All of this is raising the stress levels in many people, causing them to become anxious and depressed, and many even isolated inside their homes.

What is your experience with mental health during this pandemic?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psychological Trauma

Psychological Trauma: Emotional Disorder

Psychological trauma can inflict deep mental pain that can remain with you for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years. For example, people with psychological trauma may experience a change in emotions, such as irritability, anger, depression, anxiety and fear. So sometimes trauma comes out at night in the form of nightmares. Do you still experience nightmares as an adult?

For me personally, I don’t have as many nightmares as I did as a child. For instance, when I do have them, I no longer wake up screaming or frightened. I usually wake up in discomfort and try to fall back asleep. People with psychological trauma may remain awake for the remainder of the night. Their nightmares feel like they’re reliving the trauma.

Trauma can result from many events and different types of scenarios:

  • Rape
  • Wars
  • Natural disasters
  • Kidnappings
  • Accidents
  • Injuries
  • Robberies
  • Theft
  • Even an adverse reaction from a medication or illicit drug

What exactly is trauma?

What exactly is trauma? Be definition, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Therefore, something is traumatic when you least expect it to happen and it causes a great deal of stress and disturbance in your psyche. So if you’re not prepared for something terrible to happen, which most of us are not, your mind becomes shocked when it does happen. That’s because your mind does not experience terrible events very often, so when it does happen, it’s like a horror movie that comes to life.

In addition, these traumatic experiences are then stored in the unconscious mind which sprinkles tidbits of the trauma in the form of nightmares; these nighttime mosquitos love to sting! How do you deal with nightmares? Is there even a way to deal with them? What is your experience with psychological trauma? Have you ever been diagnosed with an emotional disorder? Please contribute as this is a platform for all of us to share our experiences and learn from.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Mental Health Analysis

Self-Analysis is Key to Success

Everyone is talented at something they find more interest in. Some are great with visualization and goals, speech and entertainment, and others enjoy academia. One key to success that they all have in common is self-analysis; or at least they should have it in common! Without mental health analysis, you risk becoming too dependent on the environment to understand yourself and where your fingerprints tend to fall in society.

But it requires courage; lots of it. Imagine the brain as a vault and your unconscious mind is locked in the deepest layers; your goal is to get down there! Do you even know how to? I guess we should first ask, do you even care? If so, prepare for a life journey with many twists and turns; many chills in the mirror.

There’s no rush with self-analysis, as long as you remain honest with yourself and don’t cheat out. You already have all the tools you need:; intuition, dreams and faith. If you can consistently utilize all three elements as much as possible, clarity of your life will become more apparent.

Mental Health Analysis: Clarity

I guess many of us lack clarity in life. Clarity is not correlated with success, but a lack of it can possibly contribute to a lack thereof. When I refer to this, imagine as if your invisible being is wearing a pair of eyeglasses, the problem being that they’re blurry most of the time; can you really see what lies ahead weeks, months and years into the future?

Whether you’re suffering from an infection, virus or self-analytical pain, chills in the mirror are the common denominator. It’s a long process that is very-well worth it in the long-run and can bring you many benefits, a peaceful state of mind and that much needed, but very-well deserved clarity.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Stream of Consciousness

Influenced by Outside Forces

How do you know that you have control over yourself? How do you know that you’re being yourself? What if your thoughts are being manipulated or influenced by your environment? Everything you do is influenced by your surroundings, even when you think that you are in control. Your stream of consciousness is influenced by your surroundings. Now this doesn’t mean that you aren’t enjoying your experience. You may very well be celebrating quite often that is! But please understand that you are being influenced every second of your celebrated experience.

Who are these outside forces? Everyone who is part of your reality: movements outside your window, strangers passing you down the street, marijuana smokers staring outside their windows, parking garage employees, liquor store workers, friends, family, social media, the news and the list goes on. Do you get my point yet? Even if you have a strong grip on reality, your mind is being influenced. Keep in mind that influence does not necessarily equate to manipulation.

What is influence and what is manipulation? Being influenced to think, feel or behave in a certain way can be a good thing; it’s not always bad. Being manipulated can be good or bad but it’s always at the advantage of the person or entity who is doing it. Also keep in mind that you can be influenced and manipulated by the internet, television, podcasts, apps, billboards and books; it doesn’t always have to be by people.

Stream of Consciousness: What is it?

A stream of consciousness is a person’s thoughts and conscious reactions to events, perceived as a continuous flow. Your unconscious mind records every waking second of your existence, including when you’re asleep. This continuous flow of recording is designing your reality and influencing your thoughts and behaviors. Your unconscious sprinkles on to your conscious mind what it has deduced from your environment, and you react accordingly. On the other hand, you can also be aware of your stream of consciousness when it occurs on a conscious level. As a matter of fact, you’re constantly experiencing a continuous flow of thoughts and reactions to events; sometimes you don’t notice it because you don’t think about it.

The bottom line: don’t drift through life without being aware of your stream of consciousness, because you never know if you are being influenced by a negative outside force.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psilocybin Mushrooms

Something to Think About

Drugs have a bad ring to them. When one thinks of them, an image of DARE, bad high school kids and people in prison come to mind. This is because we have been conditioned by society to believe that drugs are bad. We have been turned off by the idea of their consumption and view them as dangerously destructive. But when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, “Please! It’s on me this time.” Have you heard of psilocybin mushrooms? We will briefly mention them below.

With ketamine approved for severe depression and clinical research trials underway around the world, it begs the question, “Are drugs the new mental health tool?” We are not talking about recreational use such as what we’re seeing with cannabis. We are referring to medicinal use of drugs under professionally-controlled medical environments. Can marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, DMT, ketamine and others be used effectively to treat mental health conditions? Many suffer from alcoholism, treatment-resistant depression and anxiety with no alleviation by conventional medicine.

The Evidence on Psilocybin Mushrooms

Psilocybin was once used in the field of psychiatry in the 1950s but was banned after the hippy subculture broke loose. Timothy Leary, a clinical psychologist at Harvard during the 1960s, promoted LSD to the masses. This encouraged the hippy subculture to indulge in hallucinogens, which the U.S. federal government saw as a threat. It was then that all hallucinogens were banned and classified as Schedule I drugs with no medical value. Ever since, the research on hallucinogens has been minimal. But in the last decade or so, psilocybin, DMT and LSD have reentered university labs for the study of various mental disorders.

In particular, psilocybin has been studied at UCLA, NYU and at Johns Hopkins for treatment-resistant depression and anxiety. Patients with treatment-resistant depression have failed multiple trials of 2-3 antidepressants. The results with psilocybin have been amazing. Six to nine months after the clinical trials started, the participants reported that their depression and anxiety had been greatly alleviated. What conventional medicine failed to perform in a lifetime, psilocybin treated in only two sessions. It’s believed that psilocybin helps rewire the brain by shutting off bad pathways and creating new ones.

It’s also believed that the hallucinatory experience that psilocybin provides helps patients access their unconscious mind. Traumatic experiences and sources of depression are often stored in the unconscious mind. The point of psychodynamic psychotherapy is to gain access to the unconscious mind and encounter these powerful sources of depression. The problem with psychotherapy is that it’s a lengthy process and many depressed patients don’t have the strength to endure it. But with psilocybin, the hallucinatory experience is so powerful, that patients are forced to encounter their unconscious in that one session.

The Future of Psychiatry?

I hope I sparked a new curiosity in you. Now it’s your turn to do your research and discover whether drugs have the potential to provide mental health benefits. Are we doing our due diligence by properly researching these compounds for therapeutic use, or is this just another excuse to legalize them and get high? I personally believe that psilocybin needs to be further explored for depression and anxiety, MDMA for PTSD and Ketamine for depression. Why not include more tools in our medicinal kit that can potentially help humanity by treating mental illness? After all, a drug is considered illegal because the government says so. This does not mean that they do not have medical value.

The same potential that psilocybin is demonstrating now for depression, was similarly demonstrated in the 1950s. Why did we have to waste 50 years before research was reintroduced? Were these exotic compounds intentionally withheld from the masses for reasons unbeknownst to us? Perhaps these compounds’ hallucinatory effects, heightened perceptual interpretations and insightful nature can help us defeat mental illness? Maybe these compounds help us see the truth in between the lines? Why do we even have to seek the truth? Shouldn’t it be available without question?

One important point to mention is the future of these compounds in society. As hallucinogens continue to gain popularity, several cities in the U.S. have already decriminalized psilocybin. The question remains, “Do we push for legalization or keep these compounds as medicine only?” A lot of pros and cons of legalization would have to be properly hashed out before we enter this territory. Let’s revisit history and remind ourselves how hallucinogenic research compounds became mainstream, leading to their scheduled ban. What was meant to stay in the lab was sprinkled onto the masses, turning them into Mario Kart characters surfing on stare trails while eating Skittles candy. With Timothy Leary earning reputations such as, “a hero of American consciousness”, this surely pissed off the federal government of the United States. So much for psilocybin mushrooms.

The Trippy Ban of Psilocybin Mushrooms

And so they were banned and immediately dropped out of university research labs. Perhaps this time, let’s hold off on legalization and let’s give space to where space is due; mental health treatment. After all, if we’re motivated to help humanity, let’s at least begin with those who can benefit medically. Recreational use may certainly have its mind-expanding adventures, sparking creativity and the earning of newfound knowledge, but medicinal should come first. Let’s allow the institutions to work with the federal government at legalizing these medicinal tools and providing them as an additional avenue for mental health treatment. But to see both medicinal use and recreational use legalized at the same time; it just might be too big of a hit for the masses to handle.

Psilocybin mushrooms. Look up the research and discover the truth.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Angry Patient

I Want a Second Opinion

Sometimes patients blame their psychiatrist for worsening symptoms. An angry patient may say things such as, “I don’t think the medication is working; my suicidal thoughts have gotten worse since starting the antidepressant; I want a second opinion!” Patients will split with their psychiatrist for various reasons:

  • Age and immaturity
  • Lack of patience
  • Frustration and wanting to take out their anger on their psychiatrist
  • Unconscious inner conflicts
  • Boredom with therapy
  • Drug use

As a psychiatrist, you have to understand that it’s better to allow the patient to seek another provider’s care rather than trying to convince them to stick around. Patients, you have to understand that we are not perfect and cannot always effectively help you with your problems. As a patient, you should also understand that seeking a “second opinion” does not mean that you will be satisfied. You might actually set yourself a few steps back, because that means you’ll have to start all over with a psychiatrist who does not know you.

How to Treat the Angry Patient

The best recommendation for psychiatrists is to stick by their professional expertise and utilize empathy as much as possible. It’s very easy to get annoyed with your angry patient and dismiss their complaints. Don’t make the mistake of losing your patient to follow-up because of your countertransference. Countertransference is when a patient says something that reminds you of a family member in your past who said something similar. This happens on an unconscious level and influences you in the present. For instance, if an angry patient starts blaming you all of a sudden, what they say can remind you of when your uncle blamed you for something when you were 12 years old. This might cause you to react in a negative way towards your patient.

When experiencing countertransference, do your best to hold anything back that may be offensive to the patient. Therapy is not the place for you to express your negative emotions. Leave this space for the patient to vent and express their frustrations. The patient will appreciate you more if you remain within your professional boundaries, rather than becoming confrontational. It’s not easy to treat angry patients, especially when they are venting and you did nothing wrong. Try to understand where they’re coming from and adopt an empathic stance. You’re here to help the patient with their symptoms and this includes their random angry outbursts.

Recommendation for Patients

The best recommendation for patients is to trust their psychiatrist and avoid making impulsive decisions based on frustration encountered during therapy. Your psychiatrist is not a punching bag. They are human too and do their best to help you. Keep in mind that psychiatrists have many patients. It’s not easy for them to treat so many patients and also encounter agitation, psychosis and anger. Do your best to maintain your anger within appropriate boundaries. Don’t allow your anger to jeopardize the therapeutic alliance you have built with your psychiatrist. Help the psychiatrist better understand you because you’re the one who needs help at the end of the day.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)