Virus vs Quarantine? Mental vs physical health?
Virus vs Quarantine? Mental vs physical health?
by Ray Navarro MS
“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more” (C.S. Lewis). When you think of pain do you think physical or mental? When I was growing up there was a constant debate about nurture vs nature. People argued their point vigorously to only, a few years later, accept that there is no separation among the two. Is it the same for pain?
I have been dealing with pain for over 22 years. Each year it gets a little worse. This year I had an episode that almost destroyed me, it put me in a very dark place. The pain itself kept me from walking or even laying down. Hunched over in a chair was the only place I could find relief. In a matter of two weeks I probably got 6 hours of sleep. My appetite was nonexistent. I couldn’t pick up my children or play with them. I couldn’t even brush my teeth or wipe my own ass. I thought life was over. I went from being on top of the world to not knowing if I’d get to hold my daughters again.
It wasn’t the physical pain that got me, it was the mental. The lack of sleep made me paranoid. Made me think my best friends were out to get me, that my girlfriend wanted me for money (I’m broke FYI), I “knew” for sure that I was going to get fired, which of course didn’t happen. I even considered ending it the selfish way. What bothered me most is that I was attacking everyone. I literally made people cry and I’m still trying to mend relationships to this day. I told myself I deserved the pain and that god was punishing me for something I did.
I could go on for hours on the paranoia and delusion caused by constant pain and sleep deprivation but this is about understanding and then finding solutions. I wasn’t acting like a therapist, like a father of two, like a martial arts expert, like an adult, or like the man that I am, I was being a victim and with good reason, but it was still my choice to sit there and suffer or get up and do something about. But how do you step up when you feel alone and helpless?
I have friends and loved ones. Some of which didn’t hear about my issues till recently but there were 3 that were there at the exact time I needed them, even though I kept my pain silent. They had no idea how bad the suffering was. They had no idea the dark place I was stuck in. Somehow, on my worst day, I received a phone call. A friend calling to say hello. Later that day a friend told me she loved me. The next day I spent an hour and half on the phone with a friend and she assured me that they would always be there for me. That’s when I said I’ve had enough. I will not be miserable, I will not hurt the people I love.
I put my therapist hat on and I got to work. When someone is in horrific pain it feels like someone is screaming into a speaker right into your ear and even if the pain is muffled for a few moments the negative self-talk creeps in to tell you how useless you are. I was aware of it but I had never felt it. A speaker so loud that your memory is nonexistent, your ability to hear is cut in half, you can forget normal conversations. But you know what is louder than subconscious thoughts? Conscious ones. Every time my over thinking brain started ramping up with its BS, I didn’t just say stop (which is an actual therapeutic intervention). I would repeat the same positive affirmations over and over till the negative thoughts were completely drowned. It took one day to change my mindset. Maybe not 100% but enough to get the ball rolling. I paid for that app headspace for a year and got to meditating again. The next day I started walking, getting fresh air and letting the sun hit my face. I realized that I had suffered, but more importantly I overcame the suffering.
I’m not a therapist because I love psychology, even though I do, I’m a therapist because I know suffering. I know what you’re feeling and I want to help you stop it. The question is do you? If you change nothing than nothing will change.
By Ray Navarro MS
When I was a kid, I was an angry one. I was bullied, picked on, and at times I was even chased from school all the way home. I grew up hating people. I used my anger as a way of not just protecting myself but also as a way of getting respect. I felt if people were afraid of me then they wouldn’t mess with me. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, people just avoided me. They didn’t see the hurt kid that was lashing out because he was sad, they saw an asshole that was making everyone else’s life a living hell.
As a therapist I’ve come to learn that anger is a secondary emotion. What does that mean? That means that anger can’t come from itself. You don’t automatically become angry, there is always a trigger, whether you see it or not. Cause guess what, anger also clouds the mind. There are many reasons to get angry but over the years of working in mental health I’ve broken it down to just a few. 1. Sadness. Anger is a defense mechanism for sadness because most of us perceive sadness as weak and how dare we be sad because of what someone else did to us, “they deserve to pay”. 2. Ignorance. This one usually evolves into hate. Many people are confused by what they don’t understand. And confusion can cause a whole mess of issues with self-esteem and self-confidence, so what does the brain do? It defends you. “I’ve never seen blue people like that, they must be different than me, they must want to use me or hurt me, they’re gonna mess up our country, they’re going to steal and hurt our women and children” complete idiocy through ignorance. 3. Fear. This is one that strikes home for many people. How many time have you been scared to do something but you got that nagging friend or parent that keeps insisting you do it? What eventually happens? “Leave me the hell alone I already told you I’m not doing it and I’m tired of your BS” or maybe you even blame the other person for your fear so that you can deflect your own fear without even knowing!
The last one on my list of anger triggers was given to me by another therapist, “the fear that an injustice has been committed”. Maybe you see veterans getting yelled at in the airport; or an old lady being pushed to the floor by some young delinquent; or maybe you thought you did better on that evaluation than your boss gave you credit for. All of these are good reasons to be angry, the problem is in how we react to that anger. Anger is normal. Its human nature, but it’s something that needs to be managed not controlled. We can’t hold anger forever we’ll eventually blow up. You have to let it out little by little. Use introspection, why am I angry? Use a ten second rule before responding when you’re angry, it’ll give you time to bypass the emotion and use logic. Exercise is my favorite coping skill, just run it out or go to Jiu Jitsu. The one thing I know for sure is that if you’re not using your anger to fight injustice than your anger has no point. Anger is perspective, stress is the number one killer in our country, add them together and your angry perspective will literally kill you. Or at the very least cut some years off your life.
Next time you get angry ask yourself two things, “is this worth my health” and “is this going to improve my situation”. If the answer is yes than rage away, but if it’s not, take a breath and give me a call. You are never alone.
Ray Navarro MS