Relapse is Part of Recovery, TEDx talk is out!

“Relapses are opportunities for growth, not something to be ashamed.”

“We all need to be supportive of the people who relapse, because we all relapse.”

“STIGMA SMASH!”

Just some quotes from my new TEDx talk, which is about how the lowest points in our lives bring us insight and are NOT something to be ashamed of. I talked about my mental health history but expand challenges to apply to anyone and everyone – we are all in the same boat, which means we ALL need to support each other. Check it out!

Please share, like, comment!

 

My TEDx talk is in 5 days!

Hello folks!

My TEDx is in 5 days! I can’t believe it. To prepare for the TEDx talk:

25 times, I practiced the whole presentation in front of other people, who, in turn, gave me feedback and advice.

At least 1 person per practice came up to me afterwards and told me how much the talk impacted their lives.

50 people talked to me about their relapses (low points) in their lives and what insight they brought.

7 actors/video producers worked together to create an extremely dramatic audio clip that moves the audience.

9 people helped chip in funds to pay for hotel, travel, food, and ground transportation during the trip.

Countless people gave me advice on directions, what clothes to wear, how to deal with the weather, so much encouragement, and more.

This TEDx talk was truly a team effort. Thanks to everyone involved. I am so excited for this.

Let the world know, “Relapse is Part of Recovery!”

The talk is on Saturday, April 7 at 12pm in Tinton Falls, NJ. If you want to go, reserve your free tickets here: https://www.ranneyschool.org/page/tedx-ranney

Announcement!

Hi everyone! Hope that you are well! I have some great news…I will be giving a TEDx talk in New Jersey on April 7, 2018! My talk is called “Relapse is Part of Recovery.” I’m interviewing 100 people to really flesh out my talk, and here is a summary:

“Relapse is part of recovery” is a term frequently used in the addiction world to encourage people to continue if they lose their sobriety. But relapses (which I define as “rock bottoms”) happen outside of addiction and mental illness: there are relapses in careers, relationships, societies, identities, etc.

When people relapse, they are often faced with shame, disappointment, and see it as a failure. But what I’m finding is that frequently, as a result of a relapse, we gain some sort of insight that changes our lives for the better.

My talk argues that we need to rethink our views of relapse and how we handle relapses. We need to recognize that they are frequently an opportunity for growth. When someone relapses, we need to be supportive, encouraging, and hopeful. And that, my friends, will lead to “A Better Future” (the theme of the TEDx I am part of).

I am documenting my whole journey of building this TEDx talk on instagram: @hufsathegreat. I can’t tell you how many people are coming together to help me with this talk: allowing me to interview them, sending me pictures…I even have local actors who are going to help me film a scene for my talk. Wow!

Stay tuned! I’ll be posting about some of the stories I have been hearing!

Reminder about Recovery

Just a reminder as we start the New Year:

Recovery doesn’t mean the elimination or even absence of symptoms. It means the management of symptoms – using whatever system you have.

My symptoms will be here. Some intermittently, others permanently. Sometimes they’re really bad. Sometimes I don’t notice them at all.

But the important thing is to keep going and use the supports I have.

Realistically: sometimes, nothing seems to help, and one must endure until it does pass. Never forget to use whatever treatment, coping skills, support, and perseverance you have, and the dark times will always pass.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Mental Health Association Hope & Courage Award

Hello readers,

I won an award! Specifically, the Mental Health Association Hope & Courage Award in the Client category, which goes to the most impactful mental health advocate in Orange County who has received mental health services. Huge honor!

I didn’t expect to win, and apparently I sat there looking shocked for a few seconds. People had to tell me to stand up and walk onto the stage.

I also didn’t prepare much for a speech, which ended up with some Hufsa babbling (which is always awkward but very genuine too).

From my memory, my speech went something like this:

I didn’t prepare a speech because I didn’t think I would win, but I am honored to receive this award. This award really goes out to the people who have helped me in my recovery. This isn’t the Oscars, so I won’t list them, but I will say my mom is here in this room. (10 second ovation for my mother)

This award also goes out to the other nominees and to the people here. Everyone in this room helps individuals with mental health conditions find recovery and I am so thankful for all of you.

(turning to CEO) Do I have to talk more?

And then I was ushered off stage in my shocked state.

Pictures!

Never been so honored and complimented, so I revamped the website. Changed pictures, included new information, made sections more concise, and made the site MUCH more mobile friendly. Yay for Photoshop trials!

Words to Prepare Me for the Next Presidency 

My dearest friends, I began this post with something that many people, including myself, don’t want to hear: that things are going to be okay.

With one addition: Only as long as we remain vigilant and active.

I’ve watched my groups be affected. Islamophobia has spiked, is rampant, and will not decline anytime soon. Finding out that two mosques were burned down across the country in one week almost broke me, if I’m going to be honest. When my people get terrorized, who is there to say something about it? The room is quiet but a few whispers.

And then there is the future of mental health. With the repeal of ACA, I don’t know how many people I serve will lose their access to mental health treatment, and that kills me. I’m brought to tears every time I think about it. What happens to those with mental health conditions who need new insurance without the protections of ACA? As it stands, that could mean that they will lose access to desperately needed treatment. Which, honestly, could mean that people will die.

For me to fixate on these things — without doing anything about them — means that I would lose sight of the bigger picture. I know that I am one of the few, or only, mental health advocates and Muslim people that many people know. I need to remain strong, to be that example, to show that my groups are strong people. My fellow Muslims, mentally ill, and women are all far stronger than me, and I must represent them to the greatest of my ability.

So with that I just focus on what I can do now. Continue to advocate. Try my best to stay updated on politics. Take some time at least once per month to just sit down and make calls or write emails. Write a blog post every once in awhile (no promises though). Do not divide myself from people I care about because of political differences; seek to understand and work together. The list goes on.

I have to stay strong and know that it’s not over. Is it not so encouraging to see how many people are speaking up and becoming politically active? We cannot deny that if we look back in history and note that regardless of what’s happening, we have in fact made progress, and we will never regress to the point where we have slaves, segregation, and complete inequality for women ever again. Never.

Remember, we always have the opportunity to make history.

I love you all. Whether you are feeling dismayed, sad, depressed, horrified, angry, the same, better, or worse as me, apathetic, ambivalent, or hopeful — I support you. I swear to myself, that in the end, it WILL be okay.

Suicide Hotline: A Lifeline as Important as 9-1-1

Can you imagine a world where Robin Williams was still alive, and spoke as openly about his depression as his alcoholism, where he declared the importance of reaching out for help in direst of times: when one is suicidal?

Unfortunately, he is gone (and may he rest in peace). But I am trying to do these things in his stead. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and today I only have one message to convey: the Suicide Crisis Line number.

800-273-TALK (8255)
Open 24/7 and is free
Chat is also available on their website here

Any amount of suicidal thoughts merits a call.

Please, save this number in your phone. You never know if you or someone you know needs it. The number has saved the lives of many people I know, and from the account of one of my friends:

It was 4:30am when I went downstairs to get a glass of water. I cried as I walked up the stairs, because I was going to overdose on my medication. After typing up a suicide note, before I clicked send, something stopped me. I don’t know what made me do it, but I started looking through my contacts. I found the number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I spoke with a guy named Andrew who talked me about my current problems and options. Before I hung up with him, he asked me if I would call back if I felt the urge to commit suicide again, and I promised I would.

The next day I saw my therapist. Eventually I did check myself into a psychiatric unit voluntarily, but if I didn’t speak to Andrew, I wouldn’t be here today.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline saved my life, and I know I’m not the only one.

-J.L.

I hope that none of you ever has to call that number. But it is there if you need it.

Lastly, know that you can call 9-1-1 in case of a psychiatric emergency as well.

Cognitive Distortions Are Not Limited to People with Mental Illness, So Let’s All Learn about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

People with mental illness are taught about the cognitive distortions we have, which ranges from black and white thinking (a.k.a polarized thinking), to overgeneralization, to catastrophizing. However, after learning about and practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques for 6 weeks, people can dramatically change the way they think, feel, and behave.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel.

– PsychCentral article, In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT 15 distorted thinking

Source: https://counselingcenter.gwu.edu/sites/counselingcenter.gwu.edu/files/downloads/15%20STYLES%20OF%20DISTORTING%20THINKING.pdf

These are the 15 styles of distorted thinking I learned about. Filtering is an awful problem, where people might only focus on their mistakes and not their accomplishments. People who are depressed will frequently only notice and react to the things that contribute to their depression. Polarized Thinking (a.k.a. Black and White thinking), means that people will see a person, circumstance, or the world as one thing: “I am all bad,” “I am a failure,” “I can’t do anything.”

Self-talk is very powerful in combating these thoughts. For example:

Hey, me! You’re having polarized thinking again! Remember, nothing is all good or all bad, and everyone has successes and un-successes! -Good CBT practice

It’s funny, though, because as I have started getting back into reading news and social media, I’m noticing that society as a whole has distorted thinking patterns. Seriously, (almost) everyone needs to be taught CBT. One class on Distorted Thinking in schools may do wonders for society.

To walk you through an example, I’m going to reference comments made about mentally ill individuals.

15 Styles of Distorted Thinking from Everyday People on the Topic of People with Mental Illness

  1. Filtering: The news only shows instances of mentally ill people being violent and dangerous.
  2. Polarized Thinking: “All of the mentally ill are incapable of holding jobs and fellow residents.”
  3. Overgeneralization: The news shows us the worst of mentally ill people, so average people believe that all of us are like that.
  4. Mind Reading: “Everyone feels the same way as me about the mentally ill.”
  5. Catastrophizing: “What if we allow the mentally ill into our neighborhoods through public/affordable housing? What if we have a homeless shelter near our neighborhood? Our children will be assaulted and traumatized!”
  6. Personalization: “My son gets so agitated. I do not know what I’m doing wrong.”
  7. Control Fallacies: “I feel like the government is controlling us by expanding Medicaid. Why won’t they listen to us that we shouldn’t waste our government money on insurance for those people?”
  8. Fallacy of Fairness: “It’s not fair that we don’t want the mentally ill in our backyard and the government is not listening to us.”
  9. Blaming: “I don’t understand why depressed people can’t get out of bed. They are so lazy.”
  10. Shoulds: “People shouldn’t have to take meds to feel better. People shouldn’t have to live off welfare. People should be able to get jobs and take care of themselves.”
  11. Emotional Reasoning: “I feel like mentally ill people are scary so they must be bad for our society.”
  12. Fallacy of Change: “If I tell my friend that he is not depressed, he will get out of bed.”
  13. Global Labeling: “Mentally ill people are violent and disturbing.”
  14. Being Right: The people who spam Twitter saying that psychiatry is BS and that mental illness is not real.
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: “We have been putting all of our efforts to point out what BS mental health is. It’s not real. The world should understand.”

To be fair, I think a lot of these distortions have been taught to us and extremely, extremely, extremely exacerbated by negative influences like the media and previous societal norms.

IDEA: Regardless of who you are and what you fight for, I encourage you to make a post pointing out any of the Distorted Thinking patterns related to the general public’s perception your issue, whether it’s related to religion, abortion, gun control, consent, etc. Let’s show the world how messed up our thinking is so we can fix it! And if you feel like you don’t know CBT well enough, just pick the one you find most applicable and understandable – Polarized/Black and White Thinking, Overgeneralization, and Catastrophizing I’d say are pretty easy to understand.

P.S. If I remember correctly, Cognitive Distortions has been renamed to Unhelpful Thinking Styles in more recent therapeutic worksheets.