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How Mental Health Guides Help You Feel Better Now

    A mental health guide holding the hand of another person

    How can a mental health guide help you? How is a guide different from a therapist? Here’s some basic info; contact us to learn more and discuss your specific needs.

    The biggest difference between mental health guides and therapists is that guides are not medical or mental health professionals. They are not qualified to diagnose or treat mental illnesses or give medical advice. They do not have the education or experience that licensed professionals do.

    Mental health guides aren’t trained experts; they are just people who can relate to your struggles. They have found ways to cope with and overcome challenges in their own lives and want to help others do the same. They accompany you as you go through hard times, share simple things they do to feel better, and help you figure out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. They walk with you as you take steps to create the life you want. Your mental health guide communicates with you via phone calls, texts, and/or emails at times you schedule in advance.

    Mental health guides listen when you need to talk. They suggest coping strategies that have helped them deal with and recover from painful experiences, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other challenges. They empathize with your struggles and walk beside you as you take steps toward the life you want.

    So if you need a trustworthy companion to help you get through hard times and figure out your next steps, please reach out.

    Self-Love Is a Never-Ending Journey

      Photo of author at the beach with “I am lovable” and hearts underneath it to emphasize the importance of self-love
      Image credit: Wendi Gordon. Created in Canva.

      I was shocked when I couldn’t bring myself to say “I am lovable,” even in the privacy of my therapist’s office! That surprised me because I often write about my mental health issues online and help others deal with theirs. It was obvious that self-love is an ongoing journey and I need to keep practicing what I preach!

      I think many of you can relate to my struggle. My mind knows I’m lovable and can prove it by pointing to the people who love me, especially my husband of 31 years. However, my gut stubbornly refuses to believe it. I hope my honesty about my self-love journey will help you on yours.

      First I explored why self-love is hard for me

      I uncovered some core beliefs I wasn’t fully aware of by journaling. At the top of the page, I wrote, “I love myself. I am lovable.” Then I wrote my reaction to those words:

      They don’t feel true. An inner voice immediately says, “No you don’t, and you’re not.” Why not? Because loving yourself is prideful and arrogant, for starters. … Because I’m not producing much that is of value to society or makes a difference.

      At an intellectual level, I know neither of those statements is true. Down deep, though, it’s a different story.

      I have a long history of equating my worth with what I do instead of who I am. I think I have to earn love by helping others, being productive, and generating at least enough income to support myself.

      When I’m successful at doing those things and others praise my work, I feel good about myself and think I am worthy of love.

      When I’m not, I conclude that I am a failure. I focus on all the ways I don’t measure up. During those times, self-love is difficult, to say the least. It’s even hard for me to understand how anyone else could love me.

      I recognize the harm those negative beliefs cause. I am highly motivated to change them and learn to be as gentle and compassionate with myself as I usually am with others. I continue to explore why I sometimes find that so challenging.

      Then I explored why I was ashamed of my need for love

      My next journal entry began with these questions: “Why do I feel so much shame around the idea that I am lovable?” “Why does my need for love seem like a shameful secret weakness that it is not okay to have?”

      This was my response:

      I guess I see any kind of neediness as unacceptable. I want to be independent, strong, and successful. The irony is that I need to love myself unconditionally to achieve those goals! Also, no one is truly independent; we all need each other and I crave and enjoy authentic connections with others.

      Yet it still seems wrong to see myself as lovable and worthy of love. It seems arrogant and prideful. I still think I should have to do things to earn love, and that love is the same as approval. It’s not.

      With a better understanding of the reasons self-love is hard for me, I was ready to continue the journey.

      The next step was to ask for help

      I believe God’s Spirit dwells within me (and everyone else) and speaks to me when I’m quiet and willing to listen, so that’s who I turned to for help. If you don’t believe in God, you can ask your higher self, the universe, or any other source of wisdom you trust to help you love yourself. This is the help I asked for:

      Change my heart and transform my mind, God, so I can see myself the way You see me and believe I am lovable just as I am. Help me know that and remind myself of it instead of needing others to constantly reassure me that it’s true.

      I also asked God to help me believe in the basic goodness of myself and most people, accept help gratefully and without shame when it is offered, and help others when I can.

      I write prayers every morning. Occasionally, I also write God’s response to this question: “What do You want me to know or do today?” Here’s an example:

      Accept My unconditional love. Believe it. Revel in it. Let it become the dominant force in your life and guide everything you say and do. Let me help you change your negative beliefs about yourself and the world and see the beauty in yourself and all of My creations. …

      There is a lot of truth in the statement, “If you believe it, you can achieve it,” despite the fact that there are variables you cannot control. Work on those you can, especially the belief that you are lovable now, just as you are, and your emotions and sensitivity are gifts, not liabilities or weaknesses to be overcome.

      Let Me transform your mind and your life. You were never meant to do it on your own, and you are not alone! I am with you always. …

      Know that you are loved regardless of what you do or fail to do. You will always be My precious, beloved child and My wish for you is that you fully recognize the truth of that. I want you to see yourself and every part of you as sacred and valuable and worthy of love.

      Is it possible that I’m just writing what I want to hear and deluding myself that God is speaking to me? Of course. Does it really matter who or where the words come from if they help me love myself?

      More steps on my self-love journey

      The journey has taught me that the only way to counter the belief that I am not lovable is to continually remind myself that I am. Here are some ways I do that and you can too:

      1. I use images like the one at the beginning of this post as wallpaper on my iPhone. That gives me a visual reminder that I am lovable many times a day. Choose a photo of yourself, add a quote about self-love, and put it on your phone and/or print flyers to post around your house.
      2. Every night when I go to bed, I write affirmations. Write “I love myself” (or any other positive message you want to reinforce) repeatedly and say it aloud each time you write it.
      3. I talk and write about how hard it is for me to love myself sometimes and the steps I’m taking to change that. Be honest with yourself and others you trust about your self-love journey.
      4. I read articles about self-love and related topics. Explore the other blog posts here and read the ones that interest you.
      5. I meet with a therapist weekly to continue exploring why self-love is hard for me at times and celebrate the progress I’ve made. Talk to your therapist about your struggle to love yourself and/or use our contact form to request a free phone consultation with a personal mental health guide.

      The most valuable insights from my self-love journey that can help you

      Here are the most important things I have learned as I continue to work on loving myself:

      • Self-love is a never-ending journey, not a final destination.
      • The journey can be painful and difficult but is still worth taking.
      • Exploring why self-love is hard for you provides valuable insights.
      • Help from others makes the journey easier.
      • Lessons learned about loving yourself need to be reinforced often.
      • It’s important to celebrate progress and expect setbacks along the way.

      If you liked this article, you may also appreciate “Changing Lives,” my weekly newsletter. It’s for anyone who wants to change lives, starting with their own.

      My Death Wish Led Me To My True Self and Better Mental Health

        desperate woman with outstretched hand in front of stormy clouds
        Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

        I thought death was the only way to escape the nightmare my life had become. Desperation led me to rediscover and listen to my true self. Finding her greatly improved my mental health and helped me create a new life worth living. I can help you create a better life, too; contact me to discuss how.

        Many aspects of my former life did have to die before I was ready to seek and find my true self. I had to give up my former career. I had to feel the intense grief, anger, and other emotions my false self had buried in order to survive. I had to challenge harmful beliefs I was convinced were true.

        I had to accept the painful reality that hard work and a can-do attitude don’t always lead to the results I wantMy thoughts and actions don’t give me complete control over everything that happens to me. The choices other people make also affect my life. So do things like a worldwide pandemic.

        Most of all, I had to want to find my true self and let her speak instead of silencing her to please others. I had to create a safe, welcoming environment where she wouldn’t be shamed or rejected. I had to empathize instead of criticize when she was honest about her thoughts, feelings, and needs.

        The truth is that I still struggle to do those things sometimes. My true self and I play an endless game of hide and seek.

        I find her and start to listen to her, then my inner critic — the harmful messages from others I’ve internalized and come to believe — tells me to lose her. It insists that she must hide again so I can fit in and succeed in the real world.

        I’ve learned to let my true self overrule my inner critic most of the time, because I’ve discovered that I’m much happier when I do. My true self understands my needs better than anyone else. The path she encourages me to take is more likely to lead to a place I want to go than the paths others recommend.

        My inner critic means well and also wants me to be happy. It just thinks the path to happiness requires me to meet the expectations of others. That path is easier to navigate and seems safer. That path provides the approval and admiration I need to feel good.

        It does feel good to be praised and admired, but not for long. To keep getting that praise and admiration, I must stay on the path others see as the only acceptable one. If I leave that path to explore (or create) another one, their approval quickly shifts to criticism.

        It feels much better to listen to my true self, and the good feelings last much longer. It hurts less to disappoint people I love dearly and lose their respect than it does to lose myself to please them.

        So what kind of new life has my true self led me to? I’m now a freelance writer, nature photographer, and mental health guide. I no longer feel compelled to hide my feelings to avoid upsetting others. I openly share the painful parts of my life as well as the highlights. I’m honest about my own mental health issues and the coping strategies that have helped me. I offer hope and encouragement to others without pretending to be fully healed or have all the answers.

        I consider myself an eternal seeker. I constantly seek new information and tools that help me understand and more fully embrace my true self. I am on a never-ending mental health journey that includes loving myself just the way I am. I continue to challenge beliefs and change behaviors that I now recognize as harmful.

        I also seek new ways to help others. If you or someone you love could use a “Depression and Anxiety Survival Kit,” you can download mine here. If you want to explore the possibility of working with a personal mental health guide via phone or email, contact me to request a free phone consultation. My “Changing Lives” newsletter is another way I share my struggles and what gives me hope. Readers do the same, and their comments have led me to additional resources. We all face hard times at some point. We can help each other get through them by sharing our stories and survival strategies.

        How Our Emotional Wounds Can Bring Healing Instead of Shame

          Image credit: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

          I vividly remember the childhood experiences that left me with emotional wounds and taught me to hide them. One time my mom saw me crying and asked what was wrong. I said I was upset because my sister had gone into my room without my permission and destroyed my favorite record. Instead of offering sympathy or trying to comfort me, mom seemed disgusted with me and said I was overreacting.

          Another time I brought home a report card full of A’s and one C. My parents expressed their disapproval and told me I could do better.

          When I got my first pair of glasses, my dad said, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

          Every time something like that happened, I would give myself a pep talk. I told myself to bury my feelings, pretend their hurtful words had not affected me, and not show any trace of emotion when I was around them.

          I was determined not to let my parents see how deeply they had wounded me.

          Did you also get the message at some point that it was not safe or wise to share your true feelings? Maybe you grew up being told that big boys don’t cry, or that it wasn’t proper for a young lady to get angry. Perhaps you learned to hide your feelings later in life, thanks to an abusive boss or partner.

          For various reasons, many of us decide to keep our emotional wounds hidden. We see them as weaknesses or shameful secrets we must prevent others from discovering. Our wounds are evidence of imperfect lives that don’t match the carefully edited versions we feel more comfortable sharing with the world.

          It’s risky to acknowledge our wounds publicly. The potential for additional pain, caused by people who mock those wounds or use their knowledge of them to take advantage of us, is real.

          Even loved ones with good intentions can deepen our wounds. They sometimes pressure us to heal in ways or time frames that aren’t right for us. They point out what we’re doing wrong, or not doing, and tell us what we should be doing instead.

          It seems much safer to keep our wounds secret than to reveal them. However, I have learned that sharing mine not only helps me heal, it also helps others. That’s why I created this site, and why I hope you’ll contact me to learn more about the personal mental health guide services I offer via phone and email.

          How sharing our emotional wounds helps us heal

          Experience has taught me that the benefits of sharing my wounds are much greater than the risks. Talking (or writing) about them reduces my shame and helps me connect with others who have similar wounds.

          Those connections enable me to get to know people who understand and empathize with my pain because they are hurting too. They help me discover or create safe and supportive communities. They remind me that I am not the only one who finds it hard to heal from old wounds, especially when new wounding experiences keep happening.

          To see a powerful example of how sharing our wounds can help us heal, attend an open meeting of any 12-step group. There you will find people who have learned the value of sharing the whole truth about their lives. They freely discuss their wounds because they know that, in the words of one popular slogan, “we’re only as sick as our secrets.”

          How sharing our emotional wounds helps others heal

          The healing benefits of openly acknowledging our wounds also extend to others. When we share our pain, we give others permission to do the sameWe help them see that it’s okay to be wounded and to talk about those wounds.

          We remind them they are not alone and demonstrate the healing power of exposing wounds instead of hiding them.

          It means so much to me when people let me know that they have wounds similar to mine, and appreciate my willingness to tell the truth about what it’s like to live with those wounds.

          When I share the steps I have taken to help my wounds heal, and someone else is able to use them to help heal their wounds, we both benefit. That’s why I created this site, and why I hope you’ll contact me to learn more about the personal mental health guide services I offer via phone and email.

          Catholic priest, psychologist, and author Henri Nouwen (1932–1996) was another writer who knew that our wounds can be powerful sources of healing for others. I have read many of his books over the years and benefitted from the wisdom they contain.

          In his book, Bread for the Journey, he wrote these words:

          Nobody escapes being wounded. We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

          The main question is not, “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed but, “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?”

          When our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

          Nouwen practiced what he preached, too. He did not hesitate to speak or write about his own wounds. Perhaps that is why over seven million copies of his books have been purchased, and they are available in more than 35 languages.

          One of those books, The Inner Voice of Love, is subtitled, “From Anguish to Freedom.” It consists of journal entries he wrote during a bout of severe depression. The introduction includes his description of that crisis:

          Everything came crashing down — my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God… everything. Here I was, a writer about the spiritual life, known as someone who loves God and gives hope to people, flat on the ground and in total darkness.

          Even though Nouwen died in 1996, readers continue to appreciate his honesty and relate to the personal struggles he shared. Anne Lamott, another author who doesn’t hesitate to write about the painful parts of her life, made this comment about him:

          “Henri Nouwen was so honest about what a mess he was. It gives you life, for someone that you love to say, ‘me too.’ ”

          Let your wounds become sources of healing instead of shame

          It takes courage to allow others to see our wounds. We are used to hiding them to protect ourselves, and revealing them can have negative consequences.

          In my experience, though, sharing my wounds has been an essential part of the healing process. It has greatly reduced the shame I feel because I have wounds that are not yet fully healed and am not always willing or able to take the steps necessary to heal them. It has helped me get to know some wonderful, caring people with similar wounds.

          Sharing my wounds and learning from others who have shared theirs has also taught me that when we reveal our wounds we help others heal. Our openness shows them that it’s okay to acknowledge their wounds. The steps we have taken to help ourselves heal provide a model they can use.

          It is easier for all of us to heal when we share our wounds. We each benefit from the supportive relationships that develop because of our honesty about the painful parts of our lives. If you want extra support from someone who doesn’t hide her wounds, I hope you’ll contact me to learn more about the personal mental health guide services I offer via phone and email.