Getting Rich is the “Cure”

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 4-19-2020

“It could have killed me, and it would have been okay, because in that moment I lived for me. In that moment, I felt a deep and terrifying passion. There is no place I would rather be… than in that moment. So, shoot me, and kill me, and let my last memory be, in that moment when I was happy” -EaE

     I hope that everyone gets to that point when they question the ‘method to their madness’. Those compulsions that take us to scary levels because we want to be ‘okay’ or ‘normal’ or ‘cloud 9’ happy so badly, we may just literally die for it. We drive and drive all day every day to take, to have, to succeed, to feel pleasure and to get high off what? Fame? Power? Money? Love? Adrenaline? Take your pick and choose your poison because it is most certainly a wild ride. Why don’t we search for peace in the way that we search for quick money or fame? Why don’t we treat the ones we love as best as possible if love is a vital component to our social/ physical/ mental wellbeing? Why are we searching for happiness in all the wrong places? If anyone wants to know what the list of five above all have in common, it is that they are all addictive, especially if we use it to fill voids and distract us from painful memories. Just to be clear, love is not a bad thing to be open to, but it can be dangerous if we desperately search for it with no standards in regard to what we will not put up with in a partner. All the above, can be dangerous if we become addicted and lose sight on what truly makes us at peace.

     Let us hyper focus on our flaws right about now but let us also look at it with the utmost unconditional self-acceptance. What has the world subjected us to? What did they (our society) condition us to believe we want most? Did we get it? Are we trying to fill voids now to make up for things we never got to have? Comparison can often be evil. In fact, I tell most people that the only useful thing about comparison’s is for the sake of sports, otherwise we use it to torment our souls. When comparing ourselves to others we often focus on a) justifying our actions b) self-pitying because we do not have what another person has c)  magnifying our struggle above someone else’s d) minimizing our pain due to another person’s pain being perceivably greater than ours.  We should compare as little as possible as the journey of our own wellbeing will be more than enough to focus on throughout the course of life.

     I have been a ‘therapist’ since I was six years old, I often explain that the mental health profession chose me, not the other way around. I learned a long time ago through many kids/ teens sharing their deepest/ darkest secrets that life is “never what it seems”. Every person we see that perceivably lives “the good life” has a struggle we know nothing about. Take that ‘girl next door’ type with the good grades who smiles every day and helps others and one day we may see her dead from a drug overdose years later. Take who we thought was the happiest of all, and we see the headlines of them having successfully committed suicide mean while they “functioned” and made others laugh. All in all, when we accept that humanity is on a spectrum of mental, social, and spiritual battles it can serve two purposes. 1-We can stop with thinking we are in this all alone and 2- we can empathize more greatly with others.

     Our society has standards, but the standards are not designed for happiness, they are designed for productivity and consumerism. Working to “own it all” will not make us happy. Working to have the big shiny things that everyone else has will not do it. Fighting to conform to the “rules” society places on us so that we may fit into this system will obviously, not make us happy. Yet often, we take the bait. I have been equally guilty! I am going to share a list of common lines that will most definitely set any of us up for disappointment:

  • I need to be (married/ have kids) by ___ years old
  • I need to have ­_____­ amount of money
  • I should have done _____ by now
  • I need to have ____ amount of likes or follows
  • I need a big house, great car, and everything else I want right away
  • My fitness goal is to look just like ______________
  • I need to lose ____ lb.’s by _____ or else I’m ________
  • I failed if I (got a divorce, did not finish school, got fired etc.)
  • I must not fail, if I fail at this, I might as well stop trying

     Almost every client, family member and friend I have ever had has used a line from the above list or something similar. The bottom line is, do not let the thousands of societal expectations trap you in a mindset of failure and the chronic feelings of shame. We get so immensely pressured into following a specific path that we lose sight of what we want. I can promise off my 11 years in the mental health field, that every person someone thinks that they want to be like, has their struggles too. You want to be married already with kids? Guess what? There are miserable married parents all over the country. You want to be rich? There are also miserable rich people. You want to look just like that professional athlete? Do you know their story and what it took for them to get there? Also are you willing to sacrifice everything else for that body? What do you really want? You! You without the expectations from everyone else, put a pin in their expectations and solely focus on you for a bit.

     Many counter arguments include the fact that money may not buy happiness or be a “cure” per say but will certainly make life easier. Maybe cushier, maybe easier, but rich, famous celebrities (often a triple threat of money, fame, and power) are not necessarily happy. Again, money, fame and power are not happy. People around the world question why celebrities are killing themselves. Guess what? Those perceivably happy things that we are all pushing ourselves for and dreaming to get did not cure the many famous people that have killed themselves either by accidental overdose or a suicidal plan. It does not cure the many famous people that are struggling with their mental health as we speak.

     To switch the perspective, think about why someone may push themselves the way they do. Why do the greatest most famous artists of all time play instruments and/ or sing to the point of having no life beyond it? Why did the greatest athletes of all-time train to the point of bodily sacrifice and no social life? Why do drug abusers continue abusing drug’s even when their body degrades and erodes from the inside out? Why does anyone get addicted to anything?

     I am no expert, although I am a licensed therapist, I am still no expert! However, I have found that some of the happiest people are not necessarily the rich, famous, powerful or the ones with the best, most potent drugs. The happiest people seem to be the ones that are the most “balanced” in life. I strongly believe that achieving balance is one of the most crucial things a human can journey toward. Let us look at all the realms in which we may want to achieve balance:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Social
  • Spiritual (Not necessarily religion)
  • Financial
  • Professional

    Whatever country you are in, what has it taught you to hyper focus on? I would venture to guess that many Americans have been taught to put most of their energy into the professional and financial realms to a point it cost them their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. In turn, if we constantly neglect our mental and physical illnesses, it may cost us our professional development and our finances will suffer. Unfortunately, I have seen many people with severely damaged mental, physical, and social health, an extremely stressful high paced job, debt and “no end in sight”. They all want to quit their jobs at that point and cannot do it. Now freedom is no longer an option, as they became trapped and consumed in that “ideal” life they were brain washed to want.

     In conclusion, we should not destroy our lives by following the rigidity of a standard set by people that truly DO NOT CARE ABOUT US, they care about the money we give them. We must take care of ourselves first. Sometimes that means NOT destroying our mental and social health so that we may have all the “things” we are “supposed” to have at a “certain age” that people decided to make up based off of their own opinions that were formed by the powers above them looking to exploit them for their money and all that they are worth. We will often find ourselves compulsively hunting after the famous five: Fame, Power, Money, Love, Adrenaline. No shame, it is not our fault, it has been embedded in many of us. However, raising our own self-awareness and having the ability to step back, self-reflect and redefine what happiness means to us can make all the difference in the world. One beautiful thing that social work and anthropological studies teaches us is that ‘nothing is universal’. Meaning there are way less rules than we think. Many people all over the world have found their incredible version of happiness, lifestyle, family, love, riches, memories and much more. Find yours while practicing as much balance as possible and have no shame in it!

NUMB: When being “Strong” is the only option you have

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 4-14-2020

“When pain and sadness is forbidden in a society, it causes us to isolate ourselves and live in that pain alone.”  -EaE

On Monday April 13th, my office manager confirmed to me what I already knew, that my client was found dead in his home.  I acknowledged with a work appropriate response, spent the day at work with my work appropriate behaviors and attitude.  Truth be told, I had to numb weeks ago when said client would not return my calls.  When the phone dial went from ringing, to then going straight to voicemail days later.  When I remembered said client was suffering from respiratory issue’s earlier in the year and is past the age of 80.  When I tried calling next of kin and nothing came through, when I dialed 911 multiple times and could not get a thing.  I had to tell my mind: “He is dead, there is nothing you can do but wait and hear it confirmed later”. 

     It eerily reminded me of many other times I used a similar psychological numbing response.  Like many other people, this is not out of choice, but what we feel is out of necessity especially when faced with traumatic grievances.  In High School, when I found out someone extremely close to me (a relative) almost successfully committed suicide.  I went on like life was normal, no one could know, it was no one’s business.  In the military year 2010, learning my mother died via voicemail, but being in the middle of my duty day, therefore I closed my cell phone and went back to work as if nothing happened.  It would be months before any coworkers found out.  When deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, hearing the bombs making contact all around me, feeling the shaking in my guts.  I could sense the danger, therefore I “was still alive and okay”. Intellectualizing a dangerous situation so that my mind can stay “in control”.  Numbing when finding out about the soldier under our care at the Combat stress clinic that shot himself only several hours after I was tasked to reschedule him.  Numbing myself when emotions are too scary or perceived as “too burdensome” for the situation. 

     Anyone with similar experiences of chronically using the defense mechanism of numbing and intellectualizing will often get fed the lines of “You’re so strong!”  “You’re absolutely fine, you are doing well”.  In some cases, we may feel very strong, in some cases we may feel odd.  “Why am I not crying the way everyone else cries when death happens?”  “Why do I not fear what everyone else fears?”  Make no mistake this isn’t strength, and it is not a character flaw, rather it is our mind’s preferred defense mechanisms.  If someone has perfected these defense mechanisms, it is most likely because they have had to “be strong” while everyone else and/ or everything around them was falling apart. 

     A deployed military member must “be strong” for the country they are fighting for.  A healthcare or mental health care professional must “be strong” for their clients.  A protector child must “be strong” and rescue their parent or sibling from abuse.  An abused child must be “empty of emotions” as to not provoke their abuser.  A breadwinner must “be strong” and provide for the family.  A parent must “always be strong” for the kids.  Many are pressured to speak up and ask for help.  However, if people are “unwell” the responsibility is often solely put on them.  “Practice self-care so you do not burnout” is the classic line.  Unfortunately, this can cause a shame response, as “burnout” means “we did not do enough to take care of ourselves”.  Make changes and try again!  Truth be told, many people are at a loss when it comes to proper self-care.  It isn’t a requirement in our education system and many households have different perceptions on what is “good for them”.

      Numbing serves its purpose when surviving our environment requires us to halt all other biological and psychological responses of: fight, fly, freeze.  Also, when our environment requires us to halt many emotions to include fear, stress, anxiety, depression, trauma trigger symptoms and so on.  Numbing is also a systematically pressured and welcomed response.  Family pressure’s, occupational pressures, societal pressures are just a few examples.  Numbing allows us to go about our days appearing to be “normal” and “functional” all the while our minds are ripping apart inside of our skulls with internal conflict.  Traumatic news might just make us want to breakdown and cry, but our minds are not ready to go there yet.  There’s an abuser that has forbid us of those emotions, or there’s another mouth to feed, or another person to save, another mission to accomplish, another employer up our asses with productivity demands.  Therefore, the only option is to “Feel No more” and go about the day like any other day.

     I have learned enough about myself to know that I will numb the moment tragedy hits.  Childhood trauma, military trauma and becoming a social worker have conditioned this response.   However, with that insight in mind, I do have the power to allow myself emotional release without shame.  In a society where we are groomed to produce/consume, lack self-care, pressured to appear “normal”, and expected not to “whine”, the only option is to feel and grieve in the times that are “deemed appropriate”.  Such as when we are alone or with a close loved one that has proven before they will not judge us.  In our pillows at night when no one is watching. (Yes, I did this in bootcamp several times and I’m Woman enough to admit it!  Just NOT in front of the Drill sergeant! Never ever!) Or the classic line of “You take it to the grave with you”.  Trauma and grief do have a way of silencing a nation, a family, and in turn: the individual. 

     My chronic doses of grief do, as a matter of fact, come in waves.  Numb, feel, numb and feel again.  On average I have cried about my mother’s death once a year to every other year.  I cry about the client that we lost to suicide 1 time a year.  Many people in similar situations have expressed that their grief too, comes in strange and unpredictable waves. My only hope stems from the fact that times are changing, people are changing, and perspectives are changing.  Celebrities can talk about mental illness out loud; they also have many spectators reaching out and empathizing. I hear the average person talking about mental health now, I never heard much about it in my childhood.  They always said, “Mental health, well that’s for the crazy people!” 

     Our ancestors before us grew up stigmatizing uncomfortable emotion’s and equating it with “insanity”.  Maya Angelou wrote (in my opinion) the most incredible and heart wrenching words in relation to trauma silencing/ numbing: “There is no greater Agony than bearing an untold story inside of you”.  She herself, was a survivor of horrendous childhood trauma that she eventually shared.  Even as I write and speak of it, I know that half of this world may still label emotional expression as “weak”, and then encourage the numbing/ silence instead.   It seems like the “right” thing to do, just putting it “behind” us.  I’m here to kindly remind you, that the strongest people truly do suffer in silence.   A living, breathing human being will never be immune to emotional pain.  My hope is that anyone who is trapped in a maladaptive environment or system can find their way out, can search for resources, can find an advocate or mentor, maybe find a helpful provider, a trusted ear and/ or a healthy coping strategy.  It is absolutely okay, to not always be okay.

“Getting Fat was the BEST thing that ever happened to me”

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 4-7-2020

“We do not become free by ‘fixing ourselves’.  We become free when we accept that we cannot be perfect, and it is okay.  We do enough, simply by trying, every day.”  -EaE

     Obviously, the title may be a tad misleading, getting overweight was not the best thing for my “physical health”.  As a matter of fact, there were several inconveniences to gaining weight at the rapid pace that I did in 2019 (forty pounds in roughly 10-month time span).  These inconveniences included extreme and excruciating pain/ fatigue during workouts, enhanced body image difficulties/ stressors, and a brand-new set of whining tendencies that I had never had in the past.  In addition, many daily inconveniences such as more huffing and puffing upstairs, difficulty in tying my shoes and the devastating mental battle of whether I need to go up a clothes size-also adding that additional financial stressor.  However, the mental freedom that I had gained over the course of this time combined with the new survival program of “not giving a fuck” was well worth it.  This new attitude/ strange form of empowerment became deeply embedded in my ever-growing mind. 

     Why did I need this so bad?  For the same reason many “perfectionists” with eating disorders need it.  We grow up pressured/ pushed into a completely obsessive, and unhealthy drive to push our bodies to fit an “ideal body type” that is often unachievable.  These disorders are not a coincidence, they are often societally driven.  Now take the demands of society and combine it with childhood adversities/ traumas such as abandonment, neglect, abuse, bullying, poverty, medical conditions, loss and so on.  It’s a recipe for disaster, even more so when the support system is next to nonexistent.  Sometimes, when children do not get the responses they need/ seek outward, they turn inward.  They also, like adults, desperately search for that thing around them that can give them comfort.  What was that comfort for me?  Food. 

     Food becomes comfort in many people’s lives, as a colleague of mine had once mentioned “Food is proven to make us feel good.  We know, if we absolutely love that Big Mac and it satisfies us 100% of the time, we are going to go back to McDonalds on our worst day and get that Big Mac to feel better again.”  My hunger was not a coincidence… or purely due to my “Mexican side” as many of my relatives and friends had suggested.  My hunger was a result of childhood traumas and a desperate need to self-medicate associated feelings of fear, loneliness and excruciatingly painful boredom.  Eating was amazing, eating was addicting and eating… led me to become a “thick” or “big boned” child.  By age 14, my father and stepmother were nervous for mine and my brother’s future.  The culture and habits were already embedded.  Our ‘TexMex’ family was taught to eat a lot, eat often and our gene pool did not support this diet!  I was just under 5 feet which didn’t help matters. Underneath all that, the emotional eating habits we had picked up that we never talked about. 

     What’s a solution?  Yard work! Chores! Sports!  My father combined his military bootcamp fitness skills with my stepmother’s “raise the kids to tend to the farm” values into one powerful force with one major goal in mind: “These kids will not be lazy and doomed to a life of obesity.”  “But are we going to talk more about the diet…?”   “No, as long as you can burn the food off everything is fine”.  Sounded full proof, especially because I still carried a strong food addiction.  I hated Cross country; I lost all the time.  I hated sports, I hated people staring at me, I hated competition.  I was judged often, destined to be “a loser”.  Unfortunately, during this crucial stage of development in my teen years, my mental health plummeted and took a turn for the worst.  In my mind, “I was failing at everything.”  I will never forget my cross-country coach looking me dead in the eye and telling me: “If you do not learn how to calm yourself down you will be dead by the time you are 30!”  I shut up and let that sink in, but not enough.  (Ironically, I just turned 30 on the date of 09/12/2019!  I’m so proud I made it.)

     Now, fast forward a bit.  I would describe my military career (starting 12 days after High school graduation) as an endless series of desperate attempts to achieve that “perfectionism”.  I “must” achieve a “perfect body” and “perfect level of fitness”.  As many can probably guess, the military can absolutely exacerbate eating disordered symptoms and behaviors.  During my Air force career, I averaged 5-6 workouts a week: average workout being 90 minutes.  Yet, The BMI chart consistently labeled me as obese.  I was always told at my mandated military physicals that I was showing “pre diabetic” numbers based on my height and weight, but I felt energetic and healthy.  Most of my physical fitness examinations I scored in the 90s out of 100%.  Pushups were especially a source of pride for me, as I worked myself to maxing out at 54 pushups a minute: beating many of my male counterparts.  I recall a time another female airman scored higher than me simply because she had a smaller waist.  I out push upped her, tied with sit ups, ran faster, yet she was more “fit” due to a smaller waist.  After this incident, I sucked in my waist even more (a habit I had developed since age 11), at the time I had to be under a 29.5” waist to max points!

     The never-ending battle that I had from ages 11 to 29 was to “Not get fat”!  I worked to no ends to keep up with this struggle.  Restricting, binging, excessive exercise & laxatives (both forms of purging), rinse, wash, repeat.  Unfortunately, during this timeframe, it never occurred to me that “perhaps society is wrong”.  Instead I felt I was wrong, because I was difficult to mold to that “perfect form”.  Also, food continued to be one of my only outlets, I lacked self-care skills and the ability to even ask for help.  I credit that 1- to being raised as a child in the south, we only speak when we are spoken to.  And 2- The military raised me next.  In the military the mission is a priority, and self-care gets in the way of the mission. An additional factor is that the boyfriend at the time (now an ex) consistently reinforced a negative body image, as he obsessively engaged in his own body building routines, strict diet and constantly nagged at me to conform.  I hid my binge episodes from him as much as possible, I snuck food, I had my hiding spots.  Sometimes I even stole his food!  It was a bad time for me to say the least.  “You have to choose, either food or me.”  That was the comment that ultimately destroyed the relationship.  I hung onto it, resented the words, was torn up by the words, and three painful years later, finally loved myself enough to called it at quits. 

      What was the breakthrough that ultimately led to my change?  1- I finally found my dream fitness activity:  Martial arts.  A fitness activity where I can focus on the functionality of my body vs appearance.  Appearances no longer matter when you are learning self-defense and molding your body into a fighting machine.  And 2- Again, I got fat.  I did not plan it; I certainly did not do it on purpose.  It was multiple factors in late 2018- 2019 that led to my weight gain: Work stress, commuting, toxic living environments, less gym time, a new relationship, inheriting stepchildren, moving twice, binge eating due to stress and so on.  With the heavy combination of factors, I finally broke.  I finally gave in and let it be what it was.  Ultimately, I had bigger cares in the world than my numbers!  Waist size, scale weight and pant size were no longer a priority. 

     So, what did being overweight do for me?  It taught me that it wasn’t the end of the world.  I finally stopped fighting because it happened anyways.  That awful and horrendous thing that I had been fighting exhaustingly to avoid my entire life had finally happened.  I got fat.  I survived being fat.  I was truly embarrassed at the beginning of it, but what happens after that initial embarrassment, is that you must accept it and sit with it for a bit (literally because fat doesn’t just melt off a Mexican girls hips!).  I went on to continue living life, I was forced to put the body image crap to the side, because life moves on regardless of whether or not you look “perfect”.  It was valuable for me to be free of that fear, the “worst” had happened and yet it was okay.  I also read self-help books, started therapy and I even give myself therapy sometimes.  Despite my fears I continued to push myself and go to martial arts.  Martial arts techniques continue to improve regardless of your body type. 

     Slowly but surely 15 pounds have now melted off in the past 8 months.  I’m in no rush, I am simply living the most balanced life I can now.  I no longer have a scale at home, I no longer forbid foods from myself, I no longer change outfits 4 times out of fear, I no longer obsessively stare in the mirror or compare myself to the models, I no longer have to eat an entire family sized bag of chips because I can put it away now and eat more later if I’m still hungry.  No hiding food, no more working out up to 16 hours a week while also having a full-time job and kids to spend time with.  Luckily, I have an incredible fiancé of whom shares in my passion of food with me, I can be myself.  In summary, no shame. 

     I know the most common debate on this topic: “We should not condone obesity”.  Truthfully, I do not.  I’ve been overweight and it was unhealthy, and I felt unwell.  On the flip side, I have also been extremely “fit”, yet my mind was unhealthy.  Society looks at a body and decides right then and there if that person is “right” or “wrong”.  There’s more to the story, I was ill with many body types.  I was ill from 115 lbs. to 172 lbs.; I was ill every step of the way.  My body image, my cravings, my perfectionism haunted me on the daily.  No one would have ever guessed that I had struggled in the way I did, to the extent that I did with such a “good” body once upon a time.  Our bodies do not tell our story.  There are “good” bodies with ill minds, and “bad” bodies with flourishing minds.  A healthy mind is MORE important than a perfect body, and I will stand by that. 

“In Most Cases, people do not give a Shit”

Elisa Escalante/ LMSW/ 4-2-2020

“Most people do not possess the capability of listening with unconditional acceptance” -EaE

     Searching, screaming and looking for a way to communicate those issue’s you have been suffering through all alone.  Why is it so hard?  Why are your griefs and complaints often met with judgement, criticism, and conversation enders?  Why does it feel like most people do not give a shit?  The answer is that most people do not give a shit.  That is the harsh truth that you, I and everyone does not want to believe, but so often it is the case. 

     Let’s explore why… it isn’t necessarily “antisocial” tendencies or “narcissism” in our peers and family members.  These are terms for mental “disorders” that society is increasingly throwing around while not actually knowing the official meanings and diagnostic criteria.  Truthfully, we throw them around because they are easy, and easy is comfortable.  Slap the label on someone and that can help justify why “they have wronged you and you are right”.  One simplification that can help, is remembering that if “Uncle Bob” does not want to listen to you talk about your depression/ anxiety, it’s probably because it is a very uncomfortable topic for him and/ or… he does not give a shit. 

     This does not mean that we should give up hope, this does not mean that we deserve to be unheard.  What we need, is to remember that all of this is a potential barrier and silencer, and it never stops.  The constant judgement and deflection we face when talking on emotional pain is the primary cause of us shutting down.  Do not hope that you will be heard and empathized with, for you will be disappointed repeatedly.  Only hope that you can learn to risk the vulnerability of emotional expression because you recognize that there is more to it than just being heard.  It is about practicing your own outlet.  Talk, get it off your chest, do not assume the listener will be open and expressive.  Do not dare wish for it.  Sometimes it is safe to assume otherwise.

    Now, where was I?  Yes. many people do not give a shit.  Humans have a natural selfishness to them; we should not blame them, as we belong to humanity as well. We all tend to have some of the same selfish tendencies.  To put ourselves first is sanity, after all. Some people may want to hide from the emotional talk because they fear their own empathy, they fear breaking down too.  Or they fear you breaking down in front of them, for they will then be tasked with the burden of having to “comfort you”.  Listening is one of the hardest skills to pick up, many cannot do it the proper way. 

     Do you want to test what people value the most?  It’s as simple as a few clicks of a button these days.  Go through social media, notice how few people show attention to the mental health stuff vs how many views/ likes there will be on the latest “ideal beauty fad body”.  Generally speaking, the more hot bods in a picture, the more cherished as evidenced by likes/ follows/ comments. 

     People may not give a shit about all the important things, the things of substance, value, and the things of genuine concern in this world.  Some may prefer distraction, deflection, denial and isolation.  It is okay, for we all have our defense mechanisms.  We are all guilty of partaking in these defense mechanisms as well.  It is hard for most people to care about things above and beyond themselves.  Think about what we are asking for after all.  A more empathic world, a place where humans want to talk and interact about emotions they were trained to suppress/ deflect.  That is intimidating!

     So why engage in emotional expression even when knowing the world may not give a shit about your problems?  First off, what are you trying to communicate?  Why is it important to be heard about a specific topic?  Has the emotional issue’s been building up and festering?  Have you been judged for said topic in the past?  No matter the reason, engaging in emotional expression is for you.  It is about you, not necessarily about the reaction of the receiver.  Quite honestly, most of the times I have admitted to a family member, friend or acquaintance about at least 1 of my 4 mental health conditions, it was typically met with unpleasant reactions.  Examples include strange staring, silence, judgmental punchlines, denial, deflective statements and/ or laughter. 

     As hard as it can be to engage in the vulnerability and risk of emotional expression, the positive result is what it can teach us.  It teaches us, most importantly, who we can and cannot trust in regard to sharing.  It gives us a gauge of who is open to listening vs those that we may only want to have the “silly distracting humor” convos with.  There is value in this knowledge, and it is next to impossible to morph that deflective friend/ family member of yours into a compassionate and empathetic human being. 

     Now, let’s talk about “Freedom of will”.  I ask every client to talk about what this expression means.  Freedom of will, means that we have the freedom to do and say as we please, and to not do what we do not want to do.  Truly appreciating freedom of will, also means respecting that every individual in your life has their freedom of will too.  You have the freedom of will to practice discussing your issues at your own liberty whenever you want, and the person on the receiving end has the freedom of will to not give a shit and/ or insult you.  You then, have the freedom of will to make boundaries with them, or curse them out, or block them off, or just realize they are not emotionally expressive or educated.  We have the freedom of will to express ourselves just as much as other’s have the freedom of will to hide their mental health issues with every fiber in their being. 

     Everyone asks me “Elisa, how do you do it?  How can you be a therapist?  Isn’t it hard to give advice and be ignored?  Isn’t it hard to always see people messing up their lives?”  My answer always starts with the above paragraph’s concept.  I absolutely could never have been a therapist if I did not learn to respect and value freedom of will.  It takes the pressure off and reminds me that my clients, like myself and everyone else, have that freedom of will to decide how badly they want to make changes in their life, and what they are willing to do/ risk to make these life changes.  I am a healing agent, but I have no true say or will over another person’s life, as they do not have power over mine.

     So, people may not give a shit, but we don’t need them to.  What we need, more than anything is to continue practicing our freedom of will, freedom of emotional expression, and the “unconditional other people acceptance” of knowing we may not get what we need on the receiving end, but it’s okay.  It should never disrupt the process of emotional sharing; a million people’s ruthless opinions will NEVER change one simple fact: It is healthier to express and share than it is to hide under the pressure and burden of silence.  They have the freedom of will to not give a shit about our feelings, as we have the freedom of will to continue sharing despite the harsh reactions.  After all, we didn’t get this far in our lives by living in an empathetic world.  People that are already sharing in emotional expressions out loud are extremely brave, and what we teach the world above all, is that it is okay to do so.  Let nothing silence it! 

Introduction Blog by Elisa Escalante/ LMSW/ April 1st 2020

“You’d be surprised how painful it is to search for peace” – EaE

     As a human, therapist, writer, veteran, friend, fiancé, stepmother and mentally ill person functioning in a complicated society, I feel compelled to start this blog.  Every day we wake up, we do a variety of things in relation to confronting, deflecting or avoiding our mental health symptoms.  This includes Self-care activities, defense mechanisms, coping tools, forced activities, forced interactions, pushing ourselves mentally and physically through fatigue, ruminating on our past and questioning our futures, avoiding the temptation to have outbursts that will result in potential consequences and… so on.   

     Everyday the above is happening, and everyday we avoid talking about it.  Are we talking to walls or are we talking to the defense mechanisms of others?  Do people really “not understand” what we are talking about or do they not care?  Or are they in denial?  One theme that continues true through our sufferings is that the more we feel misunderstood, the more we shut down.  Forced into a life of suffering emotional issue’s in isolation.  Mainly because much of the feedback we are subjected to involves shaming, blaming, misunderstanding or a complete lack of empathy.  As lonely as it is to hold things in, most people recognize that sharing has its risks too. 

     I want this blog to be a source of truth.  I also hope it can be a go to place for those that are stigmatized and pressured to the point of acting “functional” while ill to please the ever-growing demands of society.  We may often find ourselves in a constant losing battle.  It is likely that the expectations thrust upon us through life accompanied with our adversities and traumatic griefs may create a common theme of shame, disappointment, depression, anxiety, anger, crying outbursts and so on. 

    Are we strong or are we weak?  Are we “ill” or are we “normal”?  Are we resilient or not?  How is this measurable without knowing someone’s story?  How can some people “function” and “thrive” while others seem to fall apart?  Does appearing “functional” mean we are functional?  Are feelings including crying outbursts even wrong?  Why are we hiding these things?  What is self-care and are we doing it right?  We know that happiness is not a permanent state and yet we desperately partake in quests to find it.  And if not happy, then maybe, at least an escape? 

    Some people have been officially diagnosed on paper with a mental illness.  Others have never been diagnosed but deep down they know they may need to get help and are contemplating it.  Others have not been diagnosed and struggle daily, but do not feel they have the time to start prioritizing their mental wellbeing due to XYZ.  Then, maybe some people are truly happy and feeling okay with no mental health conditions, however as a human it is inevitable that they will experience depressive symptoms, anxiety, grief, anger etc at some points in their lives.  No one is immune to emotional pain; however, we find it very difficult to talk about it. 

     Why is talking about it important? Why is processing pain vs suppressing it so crucial? We can think of emotional pain in the same way we are taught to see and process our physical pain.  Pain is pain, and it is meant to tell us something. Physical pain will alert us to the danger of what we are touching, or a physical injury we have been subjected to.  Emotional pain will also tell us something, but we must be willing to pay attention to it.  Emotions are never wrong, they are just often suppressed and misplaced to a point we may become unrecognizable to ourselves. 

     For me, I have learned that emotional expression isn’t about “whining” or “ruminating”, rather it is a healthy method that many of us should have learned a long time ago.  Instead, society has clung to the myth that trauma’s, griefs and emotional discomforts are better left unprocessed, not talked about, and “in the past where they belong”.  But, pay attention to our countries ever growing suicide rates and answer this question:  Do you believe we are oversharing or under sharing our emotions?  People need help that they are not getting, but even worse than that: they are too afraid to even ask for it.

     Many believe they have successfully accomplished the feat of “not letting things get to them” and maintaining stability despite all the odds stacked against them.  Many believe their suppressing/ deflecting methods work as they can remain “functional” meaning working full time, going to school, raising families, socializing and so on.  Functional by societies standards does not mean you are fine.  It is not about what a person can force themselves to do, it is about what it costs them to do it. 

     I am very excited to start this blog and hope to provide a different way of looking/ thinking about our mental health.  If you are a living/ breathing human being, this blog is for you, as we all experience a life of traumas, grief, emotional pain, emotional suppression, self-medicating and so on.