By Debra Faes-Dudden
Recovering from trauma is an ongoing process that involves awareness, abreaction, acceptance, and change on emotional, physical, and psychological levels. Self-care during recovery is essential in order to achieve wellness. But for many survivors of trauma, self-care needs to be taught during the recovery process because they often have very low self-esteem and self-worth.
Fortunately, as I did the work to heal from trauma, there was attention and guidance given in self-care. The first symptom of my mental illness was debilitating panic attacks. I was pregnant at the time and when I had one. It literally brought me to my knees. My family physician recommended psychotherapy to learn relaxation techniques versus taking anti-anxiety medication due to the pregnancy. The psychologist made a tape that involved progressive relaxation exercises combined with breath work. I practiced the taped exercises three times a day and found they stopped the panic attacks. After the birth of my son, I continued psychotherapy because I had found a place where there was room for my authentic voice to surface. Memories of early childhood sexual abuse gradually surfaced in the form of night terrors, flashbacks, body memories and abreactions. At that time I had two children and a husband to care for as well as a part-time night job that left little time for self-care. I was so used to taking care of other people all my life I really did not know how to focus on self-care. I also did not feel worthy of taking the time. As the years passed I felt more and more anxious. I found the meditation was not enough to stop the panic attacks so I began anti-anxiety medication. Some years later I was admitted to the psychiatric floor of a local hospital due to severe dehydration and low body weight. I was diagnosed as having a dissociative disorder, anxiety, and depression. I was told I needed to take care of myself and went on to learn that taking care of one’s self means becoming aware of what one needs in each moment of the day and giving it to one’s self. Recovering also meant working on my self-esteem and self-worth. In time, I came to acknowledge that I am important and worthy of good health, joy and nurturing from other people.
As part of the recovery work, I compiled a list of activities and ideas for emotional, psychological, and physical health that I gained from what people have told me and ideas that best fit my authentic self and unique needs (see below). Trauma affects the body, mind, and spirit; therefore, remember that an important part of recovery is in feeling worthy of giving time and attention to one’s self in order to achieve wellness.
ACTIVITIES FOR EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
- Mantra: “May I let go and be filled with peace.”
- Meditate and journal daily.
- Take 3 deep breaths 5 times per day.
- Focus to find peace and joy in your home.
- Know you are safe.
- Stay in the moment.
- Yoga once a week.
- Walk in nature for fresh air, the quietness or to music 3x/week.
- Get a massage or facial.
- Dance to your favorite music.
- Paint how you feel.
- Listen to birds chirping, waves crashing, fire crackling.
- Sleep/rest when fatigued.
- Daydream your desires.
- Look at the natural beauty around you (sky, trees, flowers, streams).
- Look at the stars and moon at night.
- Experience how a work of art moves you.
- Know that there exists something greater than any negative feeling you are experiencing.
- Find and commune with people who share your personal spiritual beliefs.
- Wear comfortable clothes you like.
- Ask for a hug when you need one.
- Feel cool rocks, earth, and flowers.
- Burn lavender incense.
- Gather fragrant flowers for your home.
- Drink comforting herbal tea.
- Eat comfort foods.
- Make healthy self-care choices each moment.
- Say ‘No’ when you need to — healthy boundaries are ok.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Stop judging, mind-reading, fortune-telling, and catastrophizing.
- Be aware of what you expose yourself to because it can activate repressed trauma.
- Put in place a support network.
- Call help-lines when you need to.
- Schedule an extra therapy appointment when needed.
- Focus on healing (release of emotions) in psychotherapy each week.
- Prioritize when making a ‘to-do’ list, including time for self-care.
- Socialize with positive people, family and friends you can be yourself with.
- Laugh and be silly.
- Remind yourself you are worthy of attention, healing, and joy.
Editor’s Note: Debra Faes-Dudden is the author of When Cries are Silenced. It is a book of artwork and poems created during her healing from early childhood sexual abuse. The book is available in print on Amazon.com.
By Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD
Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Psychiatrist In Chief New York Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia University Medical Center
Past President, American Psychiatric Association
As a psychiatrist who has cared for patients and conducted research for over 30 years, I have published over 600 scientific articles and 10 books for scientists and health professionals, but never anything for the public at large. Then I came to a realization.
Over the course of human history until the latter part of the 20th century, untold millions of people suffered from mental illness and substance use disorders because there were no treatments and little that could be done to help them. However, now that is not the case. We have an array of evidence-based treatments that work, for most mental and substance use disorders. However, because of lack of awareness, shame and embarrassment or lack of access to competent care or insurance coverage, people just aren’t getting them. Imagine if the population of our country was afflicted with infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, smallpox and HIV and they did not seek or could not get antibiotics, vaccines or protease inhibitors.
This is the reality for millions of people in the U.S. and around the world and it is a reality that is no longer tolerable. It is simply unacceptable that the greatest barrier to symptomatic relief and recovery for mentally ill persons is not a lack of scientific knowledge or effective treatments, but stigma.
It is for this reason that I wrote Shrinks, The Untold Story of Psychiatry; to tell the fascinating and scandalous story of mental illness, and psychiatry’s efforts to understand and treat them. Shrinks describes the origins of our understanding brain disorders that affect mental functions and behavior and the evolution of the field of medicine responsible for their understanding and care. It describes psychiatry’s development from a mystical pseudoscience to a bona fide scientifically guided medical discipline that helps people and saves lives, while revealing exemplary case studies of patients. The book also makes an urgent call-to-arms for the public and media to start treating mental illness as a disease rather than a state of mind. As a member of this profession, I think you will find this story incredibly illuminating and inspiring.
But don’t just take my word for it, here is what some other distinguished authors said.
“Jeffrey Lieberman has produced a masterful behind-the-scenes examination of psychiatry—and, by extension, the human condition. His epic narrative charts the unlikely ascent of the ‘stepchild of medicine,’ paralleling Lieberman’s own professional transformation from eager psychoanalytic student of Freud to neuroscience-minded president of a reformed American Psychiatric Association. A wise and gripping book that tackles one of the most important questions of our time: what is mental illness?”
—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon
“This is an astonishing book: honest, sober, exciting, and humane. Dr. Lieberman writes with the authority of an expert, but with the humility of a doctor who has learned to treat the most profound and mysterious forms of mental illnesses. This book brings you to the very forefront of one of the most amazing medical journeys of our time.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies
“Shrinks is a must-read. . . A smart, important, accessible book.” (Patrick J. Kennedy, former congressman, founder of The Kennedy Forum, and co-founder of One Mind).
Weekend Edition with Scott Simon NPR 3/14/15
Charlie Rose PBS Interview 4/8/15
For additional information visit:
This whole article is going to bring me back to an earlier time and a crazy idea I had. Could I be the real life inspiration behind Matt Damon’s Oscar winning movie Good Will Hunting?
Back when the movie Good Will Hunting came out in 1997, I was like, “Cool! Another guy named Will who is amazing at math and worked nights as a janitor. He’s like me in that he is brilliant at pretty much everything and he needs a psychologist.” When I thought of it more. I felt it was a little weird. The character was a lot like me, with the same exact name, but he was super me. But, yeah. I thought back in 1997, “That’s probably coincidence. Great story though.”
I learned years later that Matt Damon went to Harvard but never graduated. That actually made me think about the movie again and my own life. The professor in English literature department who liked me the best and actually invited me into a class with masters and doctoral students when I was 19 was named Gerald Nelson. He knew me and my story well. He got his PhD from Harvard back in his day, and he knew I was a very gifted applied mathematician that worked as a janitor in his building, the Humanities building on Stonybrook campus, and I imagine, being a Harvard Man, he never lost his Harvard ties, where Matt Damon was going to school at the time.
The only reason I’m bringing this whole story up now is because I was randomly talking to a friend of mine and he said, “You’re Good Will Hunting, man!” I surprised him by saying, yeah I think you’re right. And I gave him a few reasons, such as SUNY Stony Brook University is in the same league as MIT in applied math, because we are number seven in the nation According to the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://www.ams.sunysb.edu. John Nash, the Nobel laureate immortalized in the movie A Beautiful Mind, thought enough of Stony Brook to lecture there multiple times including when I was going there as a student. I knew Dr. Gerald Nelson from 1990 to 1992. I graduated from SUNY Stonybrook with honors in 1994. The movie came out in 1997. Hm.
The only thing that Good Will Hunting did not cover about me was my amazing athleticism, which Dr. Gerald Nelson didn’t know anything about. Back in the day, I could do feats of strength which were world class, such as doing over one thousand push-ups in two hours, where I did 4 sets of 100 pushups and the rest were sets of 50. Also, I was able to run a half-mile in under two minutes. I was able to do 50 dips pretty easily. I also was able to do 48 chinups back when I was in Stuyvesant High School, among other feats.
Also, I was a Janitor at night in the academic buildings of SUNY Stonybrook. And, I was one of the most gifted undergraduate applied mathematicians at Stonybrook, I was straight A up to AMS 310. The course description is below form SUNYSB’s website, for the curious. It is an upper division, extremely competitive class with many graduate students in pure math, applied math, economics, and computer science. Of course, I got the highest grade they were allowed to give: a 4.0 or an A.
The only other difference between Matt Damon’s character and I is the locale, South Boston and Cambridge versus Stonybrook Long Island, and the level of genius of Matt Damon compared to my own. I would say that the level of genius depicted in the movie is not my level of genius, but rather the level of genius of my younger brother Dr. Leaf Jiang, who just happens to be the best electrical engineer to come out of MIT in the last 15 years. Go to Google Scholar and check him out if you don’t believe me. If you are rich and powerful, I would hire him. He’d be cheap at 7 figures. No joke. He could make your millions into billions, and billions into more. But, don’t mess with him. He’s 6’4” and can bench over 300lbs. That being said, he is the most grounded family man I’ve ever met, and I would do anything for him because he’s the best. I’m proud to call this man my brother.
All that being said, I think my memoir A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope , is a better story than Good Will Hunting. Why? It’s a true story with bucketloads of romance, genius, madness, and redemption. But don’t take my word for it. Check out what Amazon Top Reviewer Mr. Grady Harp says about my autobiography, and thanks for stopping by. Tchau!
Good Will Hunting (1997)
126 min – Drama – 9 January 1998 (USA)
8.2 Your rating: -/10 Ratings: 8.2/10 from 455,899 users Metascore: 70/100
Reviews: 627 user | 149 critic | 28 from Metacritic.com
Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Stars: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
AMS 310: Survey of Probability and Statistics
A survey of data analysis, probability theory, and statistics. Stem and leaf displays, box plots, schematic plots, fitting straight line relationships, discrete and continuous probability distributions, conditional distributions, binomial distribution, normal and t distributions, confidence intervals, and significance tests. May not be taken for credit in addition to ECO 320. This course has been designated as a High Demand/Controlled Access (HD/CA) course. Students registering for HD/CA courses for the first time will have priority to do so.
Prerequisite: Applied Linear Algebra or its equivalent
William Jiang, MLS is the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books Guide to Natural Mental Health , 3rd ed and his critically-acclaimed autobiography A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at http://www.mentalhealthbooks.net or check out his Facebook at Mental Health Books.NET
Thanks to the Award-Winning Podcast The Half Hour Intern for the interview that launched two of my Kindle books into the top 20 in their mental health category on Amazon.com on the Kindle this weekend! Check em out!
A teaser, we did talk a bit about the epigenome and its relationship to schizophrenia, nature versus nurture and all of that; however, I must say I regret not bringing up the new science of the epitranscriptome and our evolving relationship to schizophrenia, methylation of RNA, etc. Mea culpa! I do hope you will check out the podcast!! I loved the flow of my interviewer! I think it is only available to a few thousand as of yet, because it doesn’t show up on the site’s show database quite yet.
Below is a screenshot of my two most popular books about mental health in English.
By William Jiang, MLS
A good night’s sleep can be elusive these days. Why are we sleeping worse than ever before? There are a few simple answers to this complicated question. Light at night (LAN) is not supposed to be in our environment before sleep. It is unnatural. If you look at a computer screen after dinner, you are shifting your circadian rhythm strongly due to the light from the computer monitor, iPad screen, or smartphone screen. All these screens work like light boxes. Before all our technology, indeed, before electricity, primitive societies sleep cycles followed the rising and setting of the sun strongly. They slept as much as we do, but they went to sleep easily and insomnia did not exist. Also, the light from televisions and our house lights can keep us up and activated. Luckily there are alternatives to these lights I will mention later in the book. The further we go from following the natural cycles of the day, the further away from healthy sleep we travel. Long time night-shift workers notoriously have really serious problems with sleep, anxiety, and depression many times.
In this book there is a great article titled “Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress: adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalance, anxiety, and restless sleep” that has many nutrients that can help one go to sleep from chamomile to hops and beyond. That article needs to be be read as there are so many natural interventions to aid sleep that they would not fit in the article summary. Also, most of the articles have links to full text articles for further exploration and learning.
Most of the text of this book is culled from MEDLINE.
There are many medicines that help with sleep, but I feel that one should do everything on one’s power to get sleep naturally before resorting to medicines. Also, if one takes medicine for sleep, why not do everything one can for better natural sleep.
Good Sleep Hygiene Dictates that One Should..
- Go to bed about the same time each night.
- Eat and drink in a healthy way throughout the day, and not too close to sleep.
- Limit Caffeine after noon as it has a long, seven hour half-life, so if you drink a cup of coffee at 3pm, you will have half a cup of coffee in your system at 10pm.
- Create a dark, quiet place where you can really relax for sleep.
- Limit long daytime naps
- Include Exercise in your day. Even a little exercise will help you to sleep better.
- Limit Stress in your life.
- Increase exposure to nature, decrease exposure to technology.
About The “Hot”, New Technique for Sleep
About number 8, we live in a modern world, and most of us cannot totally avoid technology. I bring good news. The “Hot, new technique to sleep better” is to turn up the temperature of the light on our screens when we don’t need things like photorealism. See below for a list of helpful links to turn up the temperature on your screen.
Why turn up the temperature on your screen? So, when your screen looks more red, it has less blue. Why? All screens are made of Red, Green, and Blue pixels. This is why when designers create graphics for the screen in programs like Photoshop, they work with the RGB colorspace. If you turn up the intensity of the R for Red the longest wavelength, you will decrease the amount of B or Blue, the shortest wavelength reaching your eyes and activating your brain when you are trying to sleep at night. What does this mean? In short, your screen will have a reddish tint, and you will sleep better if you use the apps below. The good news is that we can reduce our exposure to the blue light from screens using the free settings, apps, and plugins below, thus making sleep much easier and decreasing our daytime stress. That’s the theory anyway, you would have to see how it would work out for you, personally. Some might “See Red” like a bull!
Anyway, how can we increase our red and decrease our blue light from the screen?
- From the Google Chrome App Store for the Chrome Browser get the Extension called the Blue Light Filter Guard and add it to your browser.
- For your iPhone just change your settings to stop blue light. There is nothing to download. See: https://www.howtogeek.com/246582/how-to-enable-night-shift-on-your-iphone-for-easy-nighttime-reading/
- For your Android install from Google Play the app called Blue Light Filter- Night Mode
Red light is not for everybody, but it may be for you, at least in theory.
William Jiang, MLS
William Jiang, MLS is the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books Guide to Natural Mental Health , 3rd ed and his critically-acclaimed autobiography A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at http://www.mentalhealthbooks.net