May I Have This Dance? Introducing Lauren Heaton

Lauren HeatonWe are excited to announce that Lauren Heaton, MS, CAADC, LPC, will be bringing her valuable skills and talents to our practice! We are pleased and thrilled to have her on board as a member of the PghPsych family! Join us in welcoming Lauren by reading her Q & A.

In Good Health,
Don

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Enthusiastic, Inspired, Determined

What is your style as a therapist and how might someone benefit from your services?

To assist my clients to see the strengths they already possess and to build upon them. As well as to identify their core beliefs and the place these beliefs originate. Without an understanding of where we came from, we can never truly know where we are going. The benefit of this approach is looking at therapy as a dance that is ever-changing. Some days we are doing a waltz and others it may be a rumba, but the journey to “their best life now” is always discovered in every step.

What was the last book you read?

The Unbroken Brain,” by Maia Szalavitz

What was the last movie you saw?

A Walk in the Woods” with Bill Bryson and Robert Redford

What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced?

The night before my wedding. As I was getting ready to go to sleep one of my bridesmaids turned to me and said “has $h*t gotten real yet?” I said, “Not yet.” She said, “Just wait.” As the procession was about to begin the next day, I turned to her and said “$h*t just got real.” Just as our pastor was walking by. Great way to start your wedding. As I walked up to take my soon-to-be-husband’s hand our pastor turned to me and whispered in my ear. “Now $h*t is REAL real.” I could not do anything but laugh. A day I will remember for a few reasons.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would love to be meet Abraham Lincoln. I have a been a huge fan of the Civil War since I was a little girl and one of the first questions I would ask him would be “what do you feel was your biggest accomplishment in your life, and how did you face so many people that were against you.

What is your favorite art form and why?

I greatly enjoy the performing arts. For ten years of my life I was very active in the musical theater scene with two well-known performing arts companies in the Pittsburgh area. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to be able to travel, as well as be given the opportunity of self-expression.


If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please give us a call at 412-367-0575 or email us at admin@pghpsychotherapy.com to schedule an appointment with Lauren.

Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

A Stormy Lesson

by Christy Gualtieri

Unsplash Photo by Christopher

It’s long been one of my missions to be more present during the day.  To stop thinking about what I need to do and focus on what I am doing; to stop obsessing about what could be instead of what actually is.  I also felt that I was becoming too reliant on my cell phone.  People talk (and rightly so) about the effect of technology on young children, but it’s amazing to see the transformation that happens to us as adults, when we’re too quick to access the web before the world.  I saw it in myself – small things at first, like being unable to wait in line at the post office without checking my phone, for example – and resolved to start cutting down.  Resolving, of course, to start on another day.

I ended up staring earlier than I thought, during a rainstorm.  It wasn’t supposed to rain; at least, my phone didn’t tell me it would.  But here it was anyway: rain in long, torrential sheets that blew sideways and sped down the street in rolling little waves.

Our power didn’t last long; it flickered a bit, then was out.  My phone (and my husband’s) were at very low power, and after the kids were in bed, there was very little to do.

My husband loved it; he gathered up our flashlights and candles, and fired up his emergency radio so we could tinker around and listen for shortwave radio broadcasts.  But I could feel the antsiness creeping in, and as the hours went by, I felt more and more uncomfortable.

Like most comfortable people, I don’t like to feel uncomfortable. And after a while I felt guilty for it.  How many people around the world were suffering way worse than we were? How many were sitting in bombed-out homes, trying to remember the last time they had electricity? And yes, it was an inconvenience for me, but I still had water and gas – more than folks in our own country could say who had recently suffered a hard natural disaster.

I mainly missed the distraction.  I’ll be the first to tell you that as a stay-at-home mom of two little ones, there are a lot of opportunities in the day to need to “check out” from the tedium (and yes, boredom) that is part of the job.  I wanted to check out right there, to move away from the boredom and fill my time with just looking at things.  And as I sat there that night in my grumpiness, I realized that this was the price I needed to pay to detach from my phone and all I used it for.  I needed to go through this discomfort to really see how dependent I was on my phone, and to see how un-present I was in my own life.

When our power was restored, eleven hours after we’d lost it, it was just before dawn.  I’d love to say that I only used my phone for making and answering calls after that, but things take time, even detachment.  What I did come away with was a sense of knowing that I don’t need to know everything every minute of the day.  I didn’t have to see what every person I knew was up to at any given moment.  And learning that lesson will hopefully make it a little easier of truly letting go – of looking down at my phone and finally starting to look up.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

Small Things Add Up

by Christy Gualtieri

Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.”  – Vernor Vinge

Unsplash Photo By Jordan Whitt

My son’s not quite yet into superheroes, but he’s getting there.  He loves the capes, anyway.  And although I’m not much good at crafting, I decided one afternoon to make a cape for him to pretend-fly around the house in, hopefully leading his baby sister out of the kitchen to follow him so I can be left alone to make dinner.

I looked up instructions, trying not to look at perfect Pinterest-worthy styles, opting for the least amount of effort (since I’m no good at it, after all), and came across a really heartwarming story about a bunch of similar capes that were made for the elementary and middle school children who had survived the school shooting in Newtown, CT, in 2012.  The folks behind the Capes For Kids initiative had decided that those children had seen far too many horrible things, and hoped that wearing capes would empower them to feel as though they could become stronger than what they’d seen.

It was a small gesture, but I’m sure it was incredibly meaningful.  And I got to thinking about how much the little things we do add up to things so much bigger than we are.  When we do small, seemingly insignificant things during the day to help build up our homes and our communities, it  can make a difference in a person’s life – a difference we might not understand even in our own lifetimes.

As predicted, the cape I made my son didn’t come out too well.  I mismeasured the neck, so it had too wide an opening (resembling a shawl someone might wear to the opera), the stars and crescent moon I’d cut out as a decoration looked like a velociraptor’s claw, and the velcro enclosures I’d hot glued came apart after about twenty minutes of playing.

But the thing was, that gesture helped me more than it did him.  Sure, he got a bit of fun out of it, but the difficulty I came across in trying to make it (shopping for the supplies, having to measure everything – having him hold still while I measured everything) helped me to step outside of my comfort zone and put aside my more selfish feelings of trying to find the easy way out (Amazon, anyone?).

It was a small thing, but it made a difference in how I see myself, as someone who can at least try to make a cape, inept at them as I am.  I hope one day my son will appreciate the little things his family does for him, is encouraged by that, and then goes on to make his own impact in the world.

What are some ways you’ve made a positive impact in your lives and the lives of those around you? What are some ways you can try to make an effort in that this week?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

What Living With High Functioning Anxiety Actually Feels Like

by Kendell Lavella

Unsplash Photo By Brandi Redd

Sometimes you just have to take the day one step at a time, and that’s okay.

A few days ago I was sitting around chatting with a few people when someone brought up the topic of mental illness, and more specifically, anxiety and depression. After getting rather annoyed with this conversation and the inaccuracies of everything that was being said, I finally decided to speak up and explain that I, along with many others, are living with a mental illness. Thinking this would be a cue for these people to keep their opinions and comments to themselves, I was baffled when they continued on to tell me that “there is no way I’m actually living with such an illness.”

So– being my stubborn self and always wanting to get the last word in (yes mom, I finally admitted it) it took a lot within me to bite my tongue and not yell and cause a scene. How could these people be so ignorant with what they were saying? How do people not realize that others are having an internal battle with their mind every single minute of every single day, and that it’s not some made-up, mythical idea?

While I was biting my tongue about all the things I wanted to say, I was still putting it into words in my head. So, what is living with anxiety like? Awful. How about high functioning anxiety? Even more dangerous. From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I get to bed, my brain goes on a continuous loop of stress and overthinking thoughts all day long.

So when the ladies that I was speaking with had the audacity to tell me that because I seem so well put together and seem to know what I’m doing with my life that there was no way I could have anxiety, yes I got offended. I might look ‘well put together’ to you but personally I see myself in a different light. It’s just part of who I am and I’m finally accepting to not be ashamed of it. Not everyone living with a mental illness lives the same way, yet these women were stereotyping those who live with this disease.

So what is high functioning anxiety really like?

From the time I was able to drive, I purposely found activities to keep myself busy throughout the entire day, so that I wouldn’t have any time to think about anything I could potentially be anxious about. You think I’m kidding? I would come home from school to make myself dinner, rush off to dance (where I spent about 4 hours a night, 2 or 3 nights a week, along with Saturday mornings, or if it was competition season, a competition).

If I wasn’t there I was working. I could not stand to not be doing something constantly. If I wasn’t doing something, my brain would automatically come up with the worst-case scenario to every situation, and who on earth wants to live that way? Not me that’s for sure. So, I ran myself to the point of exhaustion just to make sure I didn’t think those negative thoughts.

Eventually when I got to college, I realized I didn’t have as much to distract myself with anymore. I had so much free time, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been suppressing this issue for many years when I should have been working to resolve the issue. This became such a problem that I let it eat away at me for so long before, finally, swallowing my pride and realizing that I needed help.

Why did it take me so long? Because of people like those women that I had to listen to. I have people constantly tell me “well maybe you should just change your mindset; stop thinking those things; and stop overthinking.” Well yeah, easier said than done when you don’t live with these thoughts and feelings every single day of your life.

It blew my therapist’s mind when I told her how much I was involved in while living with this much anxiety in my everyday life. After listening to her explain to me that I have high functioning anxiety, I continued to read on about it. The thing that scares most therapists about it is the fact that the ‘stereotypical’ adolescent with anxiety or depression is the one that you see with grades slipping and letting themselves into isolation. Not people like me? I thought it was normal to worry and still want to be successful at the same time? Well quite frankly, it is more normal than I think, it just doesn’t meet the stereotype.

Unfortunately, those living with high functioning anxiety slip right under the radar, just like I did. I should have been diagnosed with anxiety back when I was around 13 or 14 years old, however I didn’t meet the ‘standards’ for it, and no one else ever picked up on it — not even me. Thinking back, I wish I would have saved myself the trouble and gotten help back then, but I suppose things go a certain way for a reason.

Living with this illness is something that has taken its toll on me in so many ways, but I have never let it allow me to stray away from living the life that I was meant to live. It’s hard convincing family, and even some friends, that the disease that I have is legitimate just because they can’t see it. Eventually I gave up and let them believe that I was just being over-dramatic and ridiculous in my ways, and it’s been better that way.

It’s hard to convince others of something they don’t experience themselves. Sure most can resonate with the pain of a broken bone or seeing someone with a physical injury because that’s exactly what it is, physical. So why is mental illness so different? Why can’t people believe that this pain is a very real feeling?

I get up every morning, go about my day, just like you. However this lovely disease makes it about 10 times more struggle-some for me to do so than it does for you. When most people think of mental illness, they have this picture in their head of someone timid and afraid and someone who does the minimum just to get by. Like most, I am the exact opposite. I love to be busy, I love to be involved, I love to be surrounded by people. Yes, I might get about 5 or 6 anxiety attacks from trying to go about my day in a normal functioning way, but why would I have it any other way? Some days it’s extremely easy to get through the day, other times it’s a battle. Would I wish this upon my worst enemy? Never in a million years.

Over indulging myself into responsibilities is my way of keeping myself a little more sane (even if it does drive me insane sometimes). That’s just what high functioning anxiety is all about — living with this illness and having the strength to go about your daily life. I give so much credit to those out there that are living with this disease and experiencing the same things that I do. There are few people stronger than those that can battle their own mind and still come out on top.

***

Follow guest blogger Kendell on Twitter. Her article “What Living With High Functioning Anxiety Actually Feels Like” was reprinted/posted with permission. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

It Really Matters

by Christy Gualtieri

Recently, at a barbecue, a woman and I were getting acquainted.  She was very friendly.  She worked in the private sector, and briefly outlined what her duties were in her elevated position.  Then it was her turn.

“What do you do?” she asked me.

“Oh, I’m just home with the kids,” I replied.  In front of us, my daughter practiced her new trick of trying to move to a standing position from all fours.  Without thinking about it, I reached a hand down to spot her.

The woman nodded thoughtfully and took a sip of her drink.  “That’s the most important job,” she told me.  We continued talking.

***

I normally don’t feel as though my job is that important, because honestly, it doesn’t feel important.  There is nothing glamorous or incredibly awe-inspiring about chasing little ones around the house, making sure I’ve packed enough snacks for them or checking them for ticks after a day of playing outside.  It doesn’t feel important to make sure they’re sitting in their seats for dinnertime, or picking up that dropped (okay, thrown) sippy cup from the floor for the hundredth time.

But it is important; and I’ve never felt that until this past week, when our country found itself once again suffering from the fallout of hatred, fear, confusion, and violence. Systemic oppression (and the laws which dictate it) are ideas, but they are ideas that have come from people.  They are not natural laws.  People invented them, no matter how long ago.  And those people had mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.  Those people were fearful, undereducated, and led to believe that keeping one faction of the population down was the only way to go up.  And that created a chain reaction that led to what happened in Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas last week.

It all matters.  The love we feel at home and the work we do as parents, if you are one, matters immensely, because peace and love and change come from people, too.  What our children learn will dictate what our world becomes tomorrow.  And it always sounded so pithy to me before, so cliche, but last week I woke up to the fact that yes, it is important to work hard to raise decent, empathetic, caring children who will grow up to be adults that will work for justice, equality, and decency.  Because there is no other way.

***

Deep down, we all want to be seen.  We want love, too, and security and encouragement and all of those things.  But we need to be seen to receive things.  We need to see each other on a deeper level, too, one that transcends race or religion or economic status.  But, funnily enough, sometimes we need to be retaught that, because what comes easy to us as children becomes more and more difficult to execute as adults.

So today, I challenge you to see others.  Really see them.  Wonder about them, about their lives.  Try to find something about them that you connect with.  See yourself in them.  Seeing ourselves in others will start us on the path to seeing others as people, and we are all so strongly connected.  See how much everyone desires peace, just as you desire it.  And let’s work toward it, together.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

Know Thyself

Taking It From Someone Who’s Been There: Reviewing ‘Know Thyself’

by Christy Gualtieri

Konw ThyselfIf you’re feeling stuck in life and know you have some issues you want to work through, but are still on the fence when it comes to considering therapy, there are hundreds of books on the market that want to help you decide.  One such book, Know Thyself: How Psychotherapy Works & How It Can Improve Your Life In Unforseen Ways, offers a personal experience.  Written in a casual style, author Andrew Carley presents answers to a general “Psychotherapy FAQ” based on his experiences with therapy in his native Europe.  (Picture it as a similar experience to reading reviews of a product on Amazon.com.)  Ask the man his opinion, and this book is what you’ll get.

The first of two sections of his book presents a look at how psychotherapy works, answering such common questions as “What is Psychotherapy?” and “Is Therapy Only for Crazy People?” In this section, Carley introduces the reader to his tumultuous upbringing, the resentment he has for his parents (his father, especially), and his passion for seeking out treatment.  He explains the differences between different schools of psychotherapist thought, and, among other things, details the benefits and drawbacks of antidepressant use.  His sincerity comes through very clearly in his writing, but he tends to cast a wide net when discussing the history of psychotherapy itself and makes many generalizations that could benefit from more in terms of sources.  He is correct when he writes that “the land of the unconscious needs to be explored and conquered slowly and cautiously,” for example, but then brushes aside the current state of psychotherapy to describe it as “an instrument that molds [people seeking therapy] into what society wants them to be.”

A particularly strong chapter is “Finding the Perfect Therapist,” where Carley discusses his experiences in finding the right therapist for him.  He stresses the need to look at different variables when it comes to choosing a good therapist, and offers his readers the benefits of “testing out” new therapists before going too far along in the process.  Found the perfect therapist, but they’re halfway across the world? No need to worry; Skype is an option, too!

The second section of the book remarks on the “unforeseen benefits” of therapy, outlining the inadvertent advantages one would gain by seeking out help.  He remarks about the healthful effects that therapy provides, including curing back pain, curating a creative life, and helping patients to become better parents.  This section is shorter than the first, and his writing style is much more conversational; it’s easy to imagine the reader sitting down with Carley, seeking out advice, and having a conversation.

Reader be warned, though: it’s a conversation in which Carley does not pull punches. He uses some very blunt language that may catch some readers off guard, and can leave some folks scratching their heads.  But in the end, his conversational tone is probably the greatest strength of the book – Carley’s undoubted passion for the practice of psychotherapy is clearly evident (he really, really wants you to see a therapist too) but this book is mostly just a good start to finding your way to other resources to get a fuller picture.  You get the feeling that there is more he can say – and should say! – about his experience, but at the very least, you’re left with the knowledge that if you do decide to start therapy, you’ll have a very eager cheerleader in your corner.

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To purchase a copy of “Know Thyself” by Andrew Carley click here or contact the author directly for a free copy (written review required). To learn more about Andrew and his amazing book “Know Thyself,” CLICK HERE to listen to our interview or visit Andrew’s website “What is Psychotherapy” for more information.

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Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

SAD Summer Days

by Christy Gualtieri

UnsplashPhotoByMorganSessions

One of the best parts of summertime as a kid was always getting to stay up later than I normally did.  My parents were pretty strict about bedtimes during the school year, but when we were on summer vacation, it wasn’t uncommon to sit outside on the lawn, surrounded by neighbors and pleasant conversation, until after 9:00pm (which to us 8-and-9 year-olds, may as well have been midnight!) We’d try to catch fireflies and wait until the streetlights turned on before even thinking about heading inside, unless the mosquitoes drove us in first!

I mention this because the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, just occurred, and it’s also my husband’s least favorite day of the year.  When I asked him why – he loves to be outside as much as possible, and I know he’s grateful for the lasting sunlight in the evenings to tend to our garden after work – he just told me:

“Because it all goes downhill from here.  Every day will get shorter and shorter now, even if you can’t tell at first.”

You can imagine how much he looks forward to the Winter Solstice!

***

According to the US National Library of Medicine, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects up to 20% of the adult US population.  SAD, a form of depression that affects people during changes of seasons, is a very real disorder that has been classified as such in the DSM.  It mostly affects people in the autumn and winter months, but can also be felt in the spring and summertime.  Its symptoms, including feeling depressed, having low energy, and having trouble sleeping, can wreak havoc on a person’s mood and greatly affect their general well-being.  There is no definitive source yet for what causes SAD (although it is widely believed to have to do with the change in the human body’s circadian rhythm), but there are ways to take care of yourself if you do find you have it.

***

I myself do not suffer from SAD, but I’ve noticed a marked difference in my attitude when Daylight Savings time began this year.  When we moved the clock forward and our evenings grew longer and the days filled with light, I noticed my mood shift upward.  I was inclined to feel happier, and a bit more hopeful, too.

If you’ve noticed yourself turning inward and feeling more depressed as the summer days go on, or if you know that you tend to become more irritable and have a harder time sleeping once the cooler autumn months set in, speak with your doctor about SAD.  You do not need to suffer alone!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!