Success is Miserably Boring, Most of the Time

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 9-7-2022

       “You’re so lucky”

       “Those types of things just don’t happen for me”

       “Things come so easy for you…”

       “Must be nice!”

        When you earn success, you may hear those lines quite frequently. And as you hear them you may recall memories that contradict these sayings. Such as the memories of sitting at home with your nose in books, and hands hurting while you push the pen to paper, while everyone else is at parties. The memories of being miserably sober while others get plastered and escape. The memories of having no time to decompress because your goals require constant and consistent effort. Luck and privilege do exist, but it’s important to distinguish the difference. An example of privilege is being born into wealth. An example of luck is randomly coming across a 100-dollar bill as you’re casually walking from work to home.  Putting in years of consistent work and effort to achieve something, however, is NOT luck or privilege; that is called earning. And since this blog has been notoriously about mental health, guess what I am going to talk about today? The behavioral and mental requirements that are needed to work toward success. It’s important to note, that since success in this country may often go hand in hand with money and/ or resources, we have been socially conditioned to believe that success appears to be ‘fun and lavish’. But that could not be further from the truth. To work toward success, requires that our average day to day life, be quite boring.

           The Pursuit of Success requires:

Hopes/ Dreams, then Goals: It really does start with hopes and dreams. And therefore, the process of success isn’t’ the only thing that is hard, but getting started, is the HARDEST part. Because to hope and dream requires us to ‘yearn’ for something more than what we have. In the process of yearning, it is very normal for other emotions to come up: sadness, shame, envy, self-pitying etc. For how can we ‘make this dream’ into a reality? Are we capable? Well, the answer is we do not have any clue unless we try. How do we try? We must make a goal, and then develop a plan of action to try to achieve it. Many of my clients have expressed that even the simple act of making a goal causes anxiety. Common thoughts that may come up: “What if’s”, “I can’t do it”, “I could fail” etc. This process requires us to deal with many intrusive thoughts caused by our deepest-rooted insecurities, and the hard work of reframing/ fighting those thoughts.  

Plan of Action:  when the Goal is made and clearly defined (Google SMART goals as a reference), we then need to create our timeline of objectives to achieve the goal. This requires analytical thinking as well as logistical awareness. ‘A goal without a plan is just a dream’, as many have quoted in the past. This could look like physically typing out or writing ‘short term mini goals’ within the next few months that can help you get started and stay on track.  This process requires us to often work backwards. For example:  When I decided I wanted to earn my LCSW, this required me to get an LMSW, which required me to get a master’s in social work. A masters requires a bachelor’s first, the bachelors meant I needed to become a transfer student after I separated from the Air force, that required me to apply to colleges. This goal required me to get started on my plan of action roughly 8 years before my goal was accomplished. I started applying to NY colleges in late 2013, I earned my LCSW in Feb of 2021. And everything between those time periods was work, plan, work plan and more work.

Consistency and Monotony:   As stated above, work, plan, work, plan, and more work. It’s never ending. Success requires consistency and monotony. This is BORING. This is the reason many people do not complete goals. There are many instances where you may find yourself a quarter to halfway into a goal, and then you stop. Why? Many reasons. You could lose your passion for it, you could lose the funds, you could get discouraged when things do not go as smoothly as you hoped, you could get distracted by something that gives you instant gratification vs delayed. This is what weeds out the ones who ‘truly want something’ vs the ones that do not. To get through this part of the success process, we must have an unconditional acceptance that working toward goals, requires us to do many things that are NOT fun or appealing.

Filtering: In the route toward success, as stated above, one of the things that could break up our patterns of consistency is called ‘distractions’. To get rid of distractions, we are required to filter. This looks like: Placing boundaries on people in our lives that often encourage us to engage in irresponsible behaviors that do not align with our goals. We are also required to recognize our own personal ‘vacuums’ that make us lose track of time and/ or resources, such as: smart screens, video games, TV, shopping/ gambling/ substance abuse habits etc. Another important thing to filter? BAD ADVICE. Bad advice get’s thrown at us on the regular, but the best way to filter it is to not share your goals with too many people, ONLY people that you would consider a ‘mentor’. How do you know if someone can be a good mentor? When they know MORE about the topic than you, based on solid evidence.

Adaptability:   Adaptability is crucial, because in the path toward success, we will surely encounter barriers and obstacles. Money could run out. We could fail at one of the objectives, we may not have as much time as we thought to get toward a specific deadline. Many emotional meltdowns will take place, and sometimes these can be our ‘defining moments’, or the moments we call at quits. Yes, I have lived paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I have been ‘up to my eyeballs in debt’. Yes, I was almost dropped from all courses due to my bill not being paid on time and was almost set to NOT graduate until a semester later… until I took out a loan.  Yes, I have almost failed a class and made the decision to ‘drop’ it instead to save my GPA. Yes, I almost failed another class, and consulted with a teacher and gave it my all just to earn a C-. Yes, the military suffocated me to a point I wanted to quit, except I wasn’t allowed to. Yes, I have been in jobs I found out later that I hated and had to look around to find a role better suited for me. Yes, I have ‘ugly cried’ on my way to and from work, and even during work. Adaptability means, we may change courses, but it does not mean we quit. It means having the ability to ‘not catastrophize a temporary setback’.

Interpersonal & Intrapersonal Skills:    We are social beings by nature, we cannot work around this. And a part of being a good worker means having the skills to self-regulate, take accountability for mistakes, empathize, collaborate, compromise and more. We need to work well when no one is watching, and we need to work well with others. Many people will express not wanting to put in effort if there is ‘no gain’. However, there is always gain when you put in good work. Some gain does not come back to you until many years later. Our incredible work leads to a great work reputation, and a great work reputation leads to more opportunities. If you happen to have a coworker that is putting together a side Hussle and they are looking for others to get in on it with them, who do you think they will choose to network with? The person who is always late and shows up with a ‘bad’ attitude? Or the person who is punctual, responsible, friendly and demonstrates good work ethic? Your reputation and references will follow you wherever you go, so to have success also requires us to do our best work, most of the time, even when ‘no one is watching’.

Patience:  The quest to success can absolutely become addicting, but unlike a drug, it is not immediate. Patience will always be required. Yes, I have done a lot of work for free. This includes volunteering, this includes unpaid social work internships during college, this includes consultations/ collaborations with other professionals regarding entrepreneurship opportunities. This includes countless hours toward advertisement efforts after my book was published. Also, the military does not pay overtime, regardless. I still have not earned a single cent toward this blog, yet I will continue to write. Patience also means recognizing when you need breaks. Because your optimal physical and mental health will be required. It can make the difference between doing a ‘half assed’ job vs doing a great job.  

Conclusion: I hope this was beneficial, please feel free to comment ways in which you have attained success! And also, Happy BDAY to ME, I turn 33! (On Sept 12th) If you would like to give me a present, please share this blog. 😛

High Functioning, but Mental

Elisa A. Escalante /LCSW / 08-24-2022

“Functional mental illness is just a fancy way of saying ‘I can do my job pretty well, but it comes at a high cost to my mental and physical being.  I’m Sacrificing’”

There is about 2-3 days a week where my brain feels as if it is ‘frying’ by the end of the workday. At least once a week; a full-blown headache.  Everyday of the week I wake up extremely exhausted due to hypersomnia, and 4-5 days out of the week I experience anywhere from mild to severe depressive symptoms: lethargy, low mood, slow movement, negative affect, pessimistic thinking patterns. Several times a month, I experience intrusive trauma memories and secondary symptoms of trauma such as: nightmares, poor concentration, hyper aroused state, irritability, and a tendency to isolate or shut the world out. Several days a week I have a compulsion to engage in either my eating addition or eating disorder; binge, obsessive workouts, restrict, self-shame/ hatred. And lastly, I am an addict. I want to fall back on drugs to alleviate my symptoms, but I take a very helpful medication most nights of the week that curbs these addictive tendencies…. Most of the time.

       If someone were to ask me what my ‘functional mental illness’ looks like, I guess this is the best way to describe it. I work a full-time job, for most of my life 18 and up I have, and it does come at a cost to my mental and physical health. Jobs really suck in that way, sadly, sometimes families do too. If you ask the average American why they ‘cannot get their mental health under their control’, it could very well likely be environmental pressures/ factors that contribute to the stress. Or at the very least, do not allow them enough time off to afford them the luxury of healing or self-care.

       As a social worker, I am up against the world. There isn’t just one enemy, everything can/ is an enemy to some extent. Traumatic life events, poor economy, social pressures, politics, toxic people, terrible work conditions, poverty, domestic violence, discrimination, day to day hassles Etc. And then, all the mess that may be going on ‘on the inside’, the ‘junk in our minds’. Using the ‘biopsychosocial model’ I will ask an important Question: “What do you believe happens when you get an individual that is: (bio) biologically susceptible to mental illness due to genetics, (psycho) has predisposing trauma, grief and/ or stressors, and (social) has a dangerous and harmful community?” (Meaning dangerous home life and or neighborhood/ school) Answer: You likely get someone with moderate to severe mental health concerns.

       The message to deliver today: Stop hating on yourself because you happen to have mental illness while working. There is a good chance you are doing your best. Or maybe, you are learning to do better through therapy and self-reflection. The point is, it’s very very hard. It’s grueling sometimes. If anyone wants to try to make you feel guilty or ‘crazy’, they are the problem sometimes. The world is full of ‘healthier’ people that like to invalidate the feelings/ stress of those that suffer. They do nothing for us on a learning standpoint. The point is, learning to help ourselves become a bit ‘more functional’. What’s the recipe? What’s the anecdote?  LONG TERM DAILY SYMPTOM MAINTENANCE!  

      Let’s do ourselves a quick favor and check in with our daily balance using a holistic biopsychosocial approach:

Today did I FULFILL MY:

Physical Needs: Eating, sunshine, cold time, movement, hydration, adrenaline (fun/ joy/ endorphins), breathwork, body hygiene

Mental Needs: Mindfulness, quiet time, professional development/ work, Solitude, engaging in meaningful conversation, logical thinking activities

Emotional Needs: Crying, aggression channeling, venting, journaling, receiving validation, problem solving relief

Spiritual needs:  Prayer, comfort activities, nature time, religious practices, activities that feed your ‘soul’

Relational Need: Talk, acts and receipts of service, physical touch, acceptance, gratitude, quality time with loved ones

Financial Needs: Covered essentials, keeping up with debt, establishing savings

Conclusion: The Human Robots

      Humans can become robot like in nature. This is when societal demands condition us to overproduce to a point of forgetting to ‘check in with our needs’. How will you know when you are in this ‘robot mode’? Likely, you will know if you are not addressing the needs from my list above. If those needs are neglected, you have a much higher likelihood of approaching a mental health flair up or crisis. Check in and take care of yourselves.


Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 8-15-2022

Red flags? Abuse? Manipulation? What does it all really mean? And how can we distinguish between mistakes and cruel intentions? Here’s one of the more important things to pay attention to: Themes and patterns. A fact of life is that we will all accidentally hurt people, and we will also get hurt by others sometimes. The key to knowing if something is intentionally manipulative or harmful is to pay attention to the patterns. Are they consistently hurting and abusing the people around them? Do they have a history of harming others? Do they continue to act as if they can or will change, but the pattern continues? Also, are most encounters with them highly stressful/ harmful? Not all abuse and manipulation are the same, there are different degrees. In today’s blog, I want to break down different forms of manipulation and what to look out for. This is yet, another topic that should be taught in primary education and/ or in our family households, but it often gets missed. (These tactics can be used in intimate relationships, family relationships, work relationships and/ or friendships)

Love Bombs- Love bombs should be the first topic, as this is the first thing some abusive people may do so that they can reel you in. Love bombing coaxes the ego, love bombing makes a person feel like they are on top of the world. When someone is extra loving toward us in what feels like ‘an unrealistic way’. Such as, they pretend you are ‘perfect’, void of flaws, and seem to put you on a pedestal, this can be alarming. All logic may go out the window because it might be like a ‘high’ you have never felt before. Sadly, this is when you need logic more than ever. A love bomb will never last. If it’s fake, then you must be concerned about who this person will become when the love bomb phase is over. It isn’t the real them, and it takes patience and time to get to know someone. Someone showing short term fake love bombs will not give you a hint to who the person is. Wait for the explosion to clear and the dust to settle….

Guilt Tripping- If you have an ‘extra guilty conscious’ then you will be extra susceptible to manipulation by guilt trips. How does one understand this about themselves? Were you raised with a lot of obligation? Were you the peacemaker of your household? Or, were you the scapegoat of the household? Do you find yourself with extreme compulsions when someone needs rescuing? Guilt tripping is a very easy tactic to use when you use it on someone that already has a guilty conscious. They will likely cave. Have you ever noticed anyone with a pattern of pushing responsibilities onto you? Somehow you are ‘responsible’ for their life, and they keep throwing more guilt and responsibilities your way? Do you find yourself now somehow responsible for someone’s livlihood, happiness and more? Are they ever satisfied? Watch out for this pattern. You may be a victim of guilt tripping.

Triangulating- Some people are set on putting others against each other. It could be jealousy; it could be a deeper ulterior motive. When you notice someone consistently trying to meddle in between other people’s relationships, this is an indicator of manipulation. Whether it be gossip, lies, trying to salvage, or destroy further, other relationships, this is NOT a happy person. Triangulators want to destroy your impression before you get the chance to make it. This can sabotage your future ties/ relationships.

Stonewalling (The Silent Treatment)- When people go quiet, it could be that they grew up in a silent household that forced them to cope inward. But, if you notice that a person tends to go conveniently quiet when they are caught doing something wrong, they may be using it as their last-minute tactic to relieve themselves of accountability. How does this work? If silence is more painful for you than it is to live life not getting your truth, you may then cave to the silence and forgive them. Silence can trigger those with abandonment and neglect traumas especially. So be on the lookout if that applies to you. If this has become a norm/ pattern for you in your relationship(s), you are likely being stonewalled.  

Ghost Teleporter- Ghosting is a new sad reality of life. Especially for those that online date. But ghosting can offer a simpler explanation vs a ‘ghost teleporter’ as I call it. Ghosting means you never hear from a person again, ever. There’s your answer. It really does hurt, but it is closure. Ghost teleporting means they poof & vanish, and then weeks to months later, poof! They are back! Miraculously! Sometimes they talk to you as if they never left… extra strange. Or some ghost teleporters will have some extravagant excuses/ lies: They were ‘jailed again’, they were injured or sick. They ‘lost their phone’, and oddly enough, all other means of access in this Tele-Saturated world.  Shady and sketch. The Ghost teleporter didn’t want you, at all. But after weeks to months of failing with all other dating prospects they had, they decided to cycle back around to their ‘second fiddles’. Don’t take the bait! If they are extra hot, just remind yourself of this simple fact: ‘They are, very obviously; a liar.’

Gaslighting- Despite popular mainstream belief, just because someone does not agree with you, does NOT make them a gas lighter. Gaslighting is a very specific manipulation tactic in which an abuser makes their victim ‘question their own reality and sanity’. They make them feel ‘crazy’. How? They will literally manipulate the truth or deny it completely. For example, when my ex-fiancé had shoved me to the ground, and afterward denied it and said, “I just touched you, and you fell over”, that’s gaslighting. Or even after the fact, when I mentioned he did it right in front of his son to highlight how alarming his behavior was, he then stated: “He wasn’t there, he didn’t see it”. Also, if you suspect they may be cheating, all the way down to naming the ‘other person’ that you suspect, and they say “No, you are crazy”, (Sadly this happened to me twice) but you find out later you were correct all along… yup. They Gas lit the hell out of you!

Deflection- To deflect means to let all accusations, punishments, or opportunities for accountability to bounce off you or roll past your head completely. Deflection is an invisible suit of rubber bands. You will know someone is an expert deflector when it appears they are ‘never wrong’. They do no wrong, they account for no wrong, the moment you make them feel wrong they relieve themselves of it, period. A deflector does not know how to say they are sorry. A deflector refuses to accept the adult responsibility of self-reflection and change.  

Moving Goal Posts- Have you ever worked so hard to meet someone’s ‘impossible standards’, only to meet it 100 percent, and suddenly, they change what they want? You cook their perfect meal for them, suddenly, they are now ‘Keto’, or Intermittent fasting. You get to the ‘sexy weight’ they wanted you to be at, suddenly, your body isn’t ideal for whatever else reason. What’s going on?? Why are your efforts in vain? Well, because they are grooming you. They are grooming you to consistently meet impossible standards. Why? They are selfish. They want you to exhaust yourselves for them, while they live in a delusional reality that they have no goal posts to meet. It’s only ‘you’ that needs to work on you, for them. Sometimes this manipulation tactic is disguised with phrases of: “I just want you to be the best version of you”. Rest assured, if you are exhausted and feeling worthless, you are not being ‘the best version of you’. You are sacrificing your physical and mental health for an abuser.

Puppy dogging- I have known people who are guilty of this tactic, I have also had many friends fall victim to it. And I am not talking about the simple urban dictionary definition in which a male is ‘Simping’ over a girl and doing what she wants. Puppy dogging knows no gender. I’ll just go ahead and break this down into metaphor. If someone seems to be holding you on a leash, but keeping you at bay, they may be puppy dogging you. Every now and then they call you back over to them to feed you treats and inflate your ego, but then they push you away again. You are ‘NOT allowed to go away from them all together, you are leashed’! But you cannot be too close to them, unless you are ‘summoned’. This pattern is what I call puppy dogging. It’s a way for your manipulative partner/ or ‘friend’ to gain what they want to gain from you, without the extra responsibility of taking care of your needs. It’s a ‘one sided’ relationship.

Playing the Victim 24/7- No one is a victim, always. Some people may often feel like a victim if 1- They are right now or 2- they have been a victim, and now they have PTSD, and everything around them is triggering intrusive trauma reminders. But again, no one, not even trauma survivors, are victims always; 24/7. We all hold, at least in adulthood, some level of power or right to decision making. If you happen to come across someone that likes to use the line “All my exes are crazy”, they are playing the victim. Likely, they are ignoring what they did to contribute to their ex ‘going crazy’ and running away from their personal accountability. 24/7 victims will often be seen blaming others for all their life stressors. They may use extreme lines like: “I NEVER get lucky”, “That will never happen for me”, “A gray cloud follows me” etc etc. Now, how does this tactic work? It works best on those that have savior complexes. People that feel a compulsion to rescue victims. People that feel they need to help the less fortunate. If you happen to have a friend or intimate partner who is ‘always a victim’, they are misleading you. Do not enable anyone, if anything, empower them and/ or leave them alone.

Toxic Conditioning

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 8-8-2022

It’s no secret that us humans are being conditioned toward lifestyles that may appeal to the masses, especially the rich people up top, that love to keep us productive so that we may help them get richer. There are other reasons too, especially on smaller scales. Parents want to condition their children so that they behave well enough in the household and in society as to not get hurt, hurt others, or make the ‘parent lose their minds’ over time. Individuals may condition their intimate partner to constantly ‘meet their needs’ and fill their voids. Managers and supervisors must condition the employees to get the job done well and in a timely manner. Overall, the purpose of conditioning humans is to make sure specific needs/ wants/ desires get met. Whether it is for profit needs, for productivity needs, or for emotional fulfillment needs. Why am I writing about this? Sometimes, conditioning can become toxic. Conditioning can lead people toward paths that are not only not good for them, but dangerous for their mental health and livelihood. Let’s look at some of the most common social conditionings in the U.S. and why they may be destructive for the average person’s mental health.

“Happily Ever After”

        First, it’s important for people to accept the fact that ALL EMOTIONS ARE FLEETING. There is no such thing as feeling any emotion permanently and forever. (At least not in our organic human organism world; maybe in an afterlife one can hope) Not only are emotions fleeting, but we have a wide range of emotions that serve us in specific ways. That being said, why are we trying to sell this myth of happily ever after? Perhaps adults believe that if we sell this to children, they will dream and aspire for that life and gain a sense of purpose through that ‘journey’ toward what they believe achieves happiness. The classic phrase: “The pursuit of happiness” is a more accurate statement. We can pursue joy but we cannot live in it forever. In mental health sessions, I see where this conditioning is harmful to individuals. When people express ‘I’m still not happy, I’ve tried everything”, or “This is not what I thought it would be” (because they thought they would feel happy always) what they are saying is that they are unhappy because their real life does not match the ‘life they dreamt up in their mind’ based on the expectations they were fed, and then hoped for. It’s also fed to us in fairy tales regarding marriage, the Ups and downs are never portrayed, just a sense of happiness forever, and then… the end. (Disney can’t show us the rest of the story because they even know it’s B.S.)

“The American Dream”

           I’m no historian, so I will just discuss my take on ‘The American Dream’, which continues to get questioned to this very day. The American dream is the concept of achieving that ‘cookie cutter’ happy home that we have seen in some popular fictional TV shows. This includes a nice stable income with a job you enjoy, a descent looking/ sized house/ a happy family etc. It’s sold not only as the ideal lifestyle, but one that most everyone should aspire to or else there is something inherently wrong with how they think as well as what drives them. Now, many are choosing different types of dreams, and different ways to make a living. There are still some people that stigmatize those that do not fit that “American Dream” image. There are many that will inner criticize themselves for not getting the “American Dream” by a certain age. Or getting it, only for it to slip away years to decades later. (Shame plagues those that lost their jobs, marriages, and/ or homes) The American Dream does not offer a whole lot of flexibility, especially in a recession! It requires a very clear-cut path that many are not suited for, nor does everyone want this. Let’s cut this out and expand our worldviews.

“You can do anything you set your mind to”

        Can I jump off a cliff and fly with just my human body alone?  Absolutely not! (Again, not in this organic biological world anyways) We, humans, can’t cancel out gravity. We cannot slow down our human biological clocks. (time) We cannot control everything, or do everything, we cannot be everywhere, and we cannot manifest something into reality. What we can do, is create goals/ objectives and plans. We can be future oriented, we can have purpose, we can hope, dream, and aspire to. Some of will accomplish meaningful things, and some of us will accomplish quite extraordinary things, but none of us can do ‘anything’ we set our mind to. Also, what if your mind was set to accomplish something that is impossible for you?  What if it puts you into a world of self-sabotage? It’s quite sad to see some people exhaust their energy into a realm that is not giving back to them, while neglecting their strengths and how they can achieve in more practical ways, that put less toll on them mentally/ physically. If someone finds themselves putting their all into achieving something, but they get nothing back except heart ache and depression, it may be time to ‘set your mind to’ a healthier path.

“Find that Dream Job!”

         Finding ‘The Dream Job’ mentally set’s us up to not appreciate the job we have now. Jobs aren’t about dreams. They are about earning income that can provide stability, and sometimes, they aid us by providing us a sense of purpose. Over the course of our lives, hopefully, jobs are like building blocks where we can build upon our skills to gain better overall skills. As our job performance and wisdom improve overtime, hopefully we get closer and closer to a job we do love. A lot of this also requires us to go through the growing pains of jobs we hate. We have to also learn what is ‘not for us’ by trying it out and seeing that it, in fact, ‘is not for us’. I’ve seen some clients and/ or friends alike ‘hold out’ for that dream job, just to suffer while broke and stubbornly not want to ‘accept anything less’. We waste both time and emotional energy if we get stuck into a pattern like that. This phrase should really be: “Journey through work to find a job you like/ tolerate because it helps you build meaning while, also keeping you funded and secure during your off hours too”. I guess that reality sounds a lot less extravagant than “Find your dream job” …oops!

“If they love you, they will ___________”

         We’ve all heard lines like this, and often, they set us up to sabotage a perfectly healthy and/ or meaningful relationship. Some expectations are healthy and reasonable, and some are truly irrational and/ or up for interpretation. “If they really loved me, they would take care of me” (financially and/ or emotionally) “If they love me, they will put up with my bad side too” (Even when/ if the ‘bad’ side is abusive….?) “If they love me, they will want me around them, and want to be around me all the time” and all the other unhealthy things we may convince ourselves of.

      Love is felt, more than it can be verbalized. What I mean, is that every human interprets love differently, feels love differently, and shows love differently. Someone else’s definition of love cannot and should not be your template. EVER. PERIOD. In therapy, when someone wants me to help them “WILL” another person into loving them, it’s a BIG red flag and will lead to a difficult time of supportive confrontation toward my client. When someone decides to determine that their abuse is their abuser’s version of ‘love’ toward them, that’s also heartbreaking.

     Love is a feeling and a chemical connection. Attaching expectations and rules to feelings/ chemicals is bound to create some let down. We cannot put emotions in a box.

Why so Offended?

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 8-1-2022

“Judgmental people are always the worse violators of what they’re trying to preach against.” -EaE

With technological advancements, especially during the onset of the pandemic, I found myself doing some heavy research. This research involved exploring the comment section under any type of meme, news, comment (etc.), that I knew was considered a controversial topic. I wanted to read how people argued. Why? I wanted to get a sense of what is important to people; What is the hot topic, what is offensive and why? More importantly, I wanted to understand why people felt the way they felt about certain topics, I wanted their story that led them to those beliefs. I wanted to search for the middle grounds of truth between all the arguments. I wanted perspective from personal life stories. I wanted something above and beyond research and statistics; hearing people out is often the realest type of research we can get. I do not believe that this is easy research at all. Being able to not react even when I have my own personal views was quite hard at times. But, when I put on my therapist hat, I can remove myself from the equation and see a lot from a neutral lens. It takes unconditional acceptance, to grasp the reality that we will not always see eye to eye. Even when I feel right, I could be wrong. How many people can admit that fact?

         Here’s where I felt different: When someone disagrees with a viewpoint of mine, I am not ready to go on a preloaded argument with regurgitated ‘facts’ I read from sources that agree with my viewpoint. I am not putting on my keyboard warrior armor and ready to clash it out to the point both of us are angry and still, no one’s mind has changed. THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME. I do believe, that out of everything I learned, the most crucial thing I learned was this: The average human is terrible at 1- arguing, 2- getting their point across 3- and most importantly: LISTENING. I hated to have to say it to friends, family members and acquaintances, but many of them were wasting their time and energy on these politically heated arguments. And no…. not because it’s not ‘important topics’, but rather, it wasn’t constructive, how anyone chose to talk/ argue about it. Now, how do we know when an argument is constructive? I would venture to say when it leads to a helpful outcome such as: 1- a problem was resolved 2- knowledge was built 3- and/ or someone felt heard/ validated or empathized with. If those things are not happening during your average argument, you are likely wasting your time/ breath.

               Why do people get so offended?

        People get offended for many reasons. Sometimes it’s when something insults their intelligence or worldview. It’s also normal to get offended when a topic makes us uncomfortable and we then have the compulsion to deflect, and/ or we move into our primal fight or flight responses. We may get offended when we feel threatened, either physical, mentally, or spiritually. The truth is all humans will get offended sometimes. What differs is the level of threat we may feel depending on where we lie on the spectrum of trauma, as well as how we will then choose to react after we are offended. And it will not stop there, because there is likely a whole other person on the other end of this topic, that is also unpredictable in how they were wounded and how they will react. I believe there is a crucial millisecond between what happens to us, and how we will react that we need to learn to pause and live in longer. If we can pause, the single most important question we need to ask ourselves first (before reacting) is: “Why am I so offended by this right now?” I believe also that you should work to find those answers within yourself before you start to react. This approach is not something I made up; many therapists would agree because this fits perfectly with one of the most successful evidence based therapeutic interventions in the world: Cognitive behavioral therapy.

               What is a constructive way to teach and/ or learn?

So, for those that want help, if they can learn to pause, then what? Where does all that anger energy go? What’s a more constructive approach? Note, I am not telling people to sit in silence and stew and or to be in denial about the issues in the world around us. What I am suggesting, is that we do not make a situation worse by falling into the vicious cycle of where this media circus has been trying to take us. It’s also important to see outrage for what it is sometimes: Avoidance of your true inner self, and your true inner emotions/ insecurities. Being constructive in how we approach debating and learning means to: 1- be self-aware 2- Take pauses/ take time to inner reflect 3- Listen empathetically 4- Learn to pick our battles 5- Be either: Learning and/ or solution focused. (Vs winning at all costs focused) If we are willing to put our perspective out there, we must also be aware and work on the unconditional acceptance that there are some that will NEVER agree with it. If we are angry when/ if people do not agree with our perspective, I am afraid we will never not be angry. Is a perpetual state of anger ever our goal? I hope not.

               Why is logic important?

            The logical part of our brain (in the frontal lobe) oversees rational and problem-solving capabilities. It is a very advanced part of our brains, and humans often pride themselves in their logical thinking capacities. This is our 1+1 equals two capabilities. Our ability to see an issue and problem solve our way to an answer. Logic works for many aspects of daily functioning, but NOT all aspects. Logic does not fill every gap, it fills some. Logic does have holes, logic helps in the realms of science, math, and parts of linguistics, parts of child rearing. And then, it fails us in certain aspects.

               Why are emotions equally important?

               Though many try to insist logic is all we need to win or make sense, emotions and empathy can fill the gaps that logic leaves. Emotions, as well as art. There is an art to listening, an art to empathy, an art to language/ communication and an art to child rearing. Where logic fails us and/ or leaves the table, we have our emotions to help guide decision making. For example: Logic could tell you, ‘Keep doing this job it pays so well!” While your emotions tell you “You are so damn miserable with this job, the money isn’t worth it, because you are drowning in depression.” When we internet debate, we often see people use logic and judge those that are not ‘logical’ but rather ‘emotional in their style of debate. Though we may judge this, the emotional argument is just as valid as the logical one. I, as a therapist, am here to say that logic does not ‘trump’ emotions, and emotions do not ‘trump’ logic. We NEED both. And arguing either or does not make us inherently wrong or right.

               Live in the Moment… sometimes.

          I became a ‘conscientious objector’ toward watching the news about four to five years ago. Not because I do not think it’s important, but rather, I see the media for what it has become: A means of sucking brains into a vat of coercion and control for the sake of reaction and profit. This does not mean that I believe everything on the news is a lie, it’s not. But it’s rarely all the truth. What it will do, with certainty, is force us into a state of emotion and/ or reaction in some way: Anger, depression, outrage, anxiety, shame etc. When working with outraged citizens of Brooklyn during the pandemic in 2020, the objective became clear very fast. Mass agoraphobia, massive amounts of fear and anger, a sense of threat/ danger, mass quarantine as well as phones/ tablets/ screens sucking us into ‘what is going on’ in the outside world. Most everyone’s mental health deteriorated at a massive rate. This is where the online offense and fighting reached another all time high. One of the greatest challenges was helping aid patients toward harm reduction strategies when it came to the screens/ news/ keyboard warrior fanatics and helping them learn to adapt and ‘live comfortably’ in the ‘what is’ the present moment.

        I want to conclude this with one of my favorite quotes: “Learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future’. (Thomas Monson). To expand on this in relation to my blog topic; to live in the past always means to ruminate. To live in present only, means to become delusional about your reality and where it’s going, you will also become complacent and careless. Then, to be future focused always, means to live in anxiety, and never be able to find true contentment. Live in the moment, sometimes, this is where we forget to be.

Not just a River in Egypt

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 7-25-2022

“Time is ticking. Day by day, and month by month.

The silence is a killer, but so is the fear of breaking it.

I fear it when I feel it, but I miss it when it’s gone.

That’s just what it is… when everything you loved moved on.”

       Avoidance, denial, minimization, intellectualization, emotional numbing; why do we do it? Why not address what needs to be addressed in the moment? When the trauma or grief hits, the stress, and the turmoil, we are often, afraid of what this means for our emotions and behaviors. The painful times never come at convenient times, also, no time is a convenient time for pain. Pain and suffering are not welcome. We fear these things, though they are not only normal, but inevitable. Humans want to surf and glide the water, but the falling & crashing toward shore is always a lingering threat. So, let’s talk about this common denial and avoidance of feelings/ emotions as well as the why it happens and common examples.

        Denial:    To deny something is happening to you, or to deny it’s existence may happen in a variety of situations. When the circumstance feels too difficult to even acknowledge & deal with, people can exist in a state of denial about it. Perhaps it get’s pushed to the subconscious mind while we go about our days not addressing it. (Like sticking a pin in it with the plan of addressing it later, if at all) Denial also looks like creating a delusion in our own mind (a fixed false reality) to pretend we are not suffering as we are.  This can look like someone enduring abuse while pretending they are not being abused. This can look like faking smiles and happiness but in one’s own mind, feeling quite miserable. Denial is commonly used when one is not ready for drastic changes but is also not managing or liking their present situation.  

        Avoidance/ Isolation:  When denial fails and people are faced with intrusive emotions or symptoms, the next step is avoiding emotions and isolating from external triggers that could make them feel worse. Avoiding emotions can look like faking ones we do not actually feel, it can feel like constantly having thoughts pop up that you feel the urge to reject in an instant. We can also avoid through substance abuse, as drugs are powerful temporary potions that shift our brain. We can avoid ourselves by hyper focusing on other people or work/ hobbies. Isolation looks like staying away from certain situations, places and/ or people in order to avoid our external triggers. The pandemic created a mass isolation effect in which many people were staying in their homes for long periods of time to isolate from the many fears associated with the world outside; virus, community violence etc etc.

        Minimization:  If we cannot deny a problem, and we cannot avoid it or isolate from it, we may then minimize its impact on us.  This may look like statements of “I’m fine”, “It’s fine, “it’s not that bad”, “I’ve been through worse”, or “other people have it worse than me”.

        Intellectualization:  This is yet another thought process we can use when denial and avoidance are not possible. Let’s then intellectualize the scary situation to make it feel ‘less scary’. Such as “Stats show I’m not likely to die in this situation”. Or, “People die and there’s nothing we can do about it, so might as well accept it”.  

        Numbing:  Numbing is the absence of feelings all together. The brain has the incredible capacity to numb out when one needs to ‘not feel’ in order to function. Numbing is especially common for individuals with high responsibilities with the sense they do not have the time or luxury to process their traumas and grievances. Many people eventually admit to numbing out during work, parenting and other time-consuming activities to get through the day and then experience ‘emotional dumps’ when they finally have a few minutes to themselves. Hence, numbing may go hand in hand with ‘avoidance’ through the process of overworking.

        Dissociating: When situations become so horrific and we cannot escape or even attempt denial or numbing, dissociating is the last resort. Dissociating is described as the brains ability to be able to help a person ‘remove their conscious self’ from the current situation in order to survive it. This advanced defense mechanism is more common in extreme trauma situations such as sexual assaults/ abuse, physical abuse situations, natural disasters, combat traumas etc etc. Some trauma survivors report that certain aspects of the trauma(s) were ‘erased from their memory’. The more difficult aspect of this defense mechanism is that people that have survived traumas are more likely to dissociate in the present, even when it hinders their daily functioning. For example:  My current husband yelled at me, it triggered me back to a time I was abused by my ex-husband, I then dissociated and lost all recollection of the situation, then my husband got madder that I ‘blocked him out’ and stopped paying attention.

       Stoicism:  Not a defense mechanism, but rather, a concept/ way of living that focuses/ centers on living a life of ‘courage’, ‘bravery’, ‘managing one’s emotions’, and ‘reacting logically vs emotionally’. Some people strive to follow this lifestyle and look at it in a ‘logical manner’, while some take a philosophical approach. Some people even believe to be ‘stoic’ means to be absent of emotions or to view them as bad. Some concepts from stoicism are helpful in that they highlight ways humans may handle or deal with horrendous situations. Other concepts may hinder someone’s progress in that they may interpret stoicism to mean they use the above defense mechanisms that I already mentioned in this article. Hopefully, if someone is following stoic concepts and literature, their goal is to strive to get through a hard situation, without making it harder for themselves.  

The Worst Things Men have Told me

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 7-8-2022

     I’m not a man hater. I have never uttered the words: “Men Aint shit” out in any type of public setting before. I try very hard not to come across this way. Because, truth is, there are incredible men that I have met who have helped me in many ways. My father, my uncles, some of my coworkers and friends. Men who have given me advice, served as role models, served as protectors and more. Then, of course, there are the men that have hurt me more than anything else. All women have stories of men that have made inappropriate advances in inappropriate settings, also men they have dated that have abused them in various ways or said hurtful things at the very least. I’ve come to realize I have a hefty list that I would like to share. Not just as an outlet for myself, but also to serve as education for let’s say; red flagged talk and/ or behaviors.  Some mistakes, are of course, acceptable. Then, some mistakes are indicators of deeper issues. Talk and behavior can teach us a lot about people. It can indicate when there are issues such as control, manipulation, possessiveness, coercion, abuse and more. I also hope that the men that are reading this can use it as an example, because as we know, men can get abused by women as well… or other men!

       Example A   I had an ex that consistently pressured me to lose weight. It started out as comments about how “I eat too much”, to commenting about my food choices in front of family members and friends. When I eventually caved and lost weight to try to save the relationship, I engaged in eating disordered behaviors at an all time high. At one point, during one of my binges he told me “You have to choose, either food or me”. I tried harder to make it work and eventually got very thin. (I got down to 900-1K calories a day while working out 6 days a week) After I successfully got to a weight he was satisfied with, he told me: “Are you willing to get implants? Because you look incredible now, but you lost your boobs and butt”.  In conjunction with this issue, this same man refused to do a single chore. Despite me working the same number of hours as him, he justified that as a woman ‘I’m supposed to clean and cook’. Sadly, this relationship went on for a long time. But if it’s any consolation, I dumped him.  My lesson from this: Life is too short to be with someone that is NOT attracted to you, and that is not willing to collaborate and grow with you.

    Example B     When I was in the military our Dorm halls were Coed. One of the men who lived a couple doors down from me liked saying Hi and striking up conversation. I was pleasant but kept my distance. One day when I was changing in my room (Blinds and curtain covering my window completely) and was completely naked I heard him start banging on my door very loud and calling my name over and over again. When I finally opened the door he said “I just want to let you know, I happened to walk by and see you naked through the crack of your window, so…. Just make sure you are careful because there are a lot of creeps, you know?” I shut the door in his face without saying a word. I later tested the window myself and walked by it. He would have had to creep up to my window and looked through a small one-inch sliver to see my naked reflection through my mirror… I also blocked him from FB.

       Example C       I had a supervisor one time that liked to play practical jokes and tease people on the regular. One day he kept throwing a rubber ball at my head. I told him to stop and that “I hate him”.  He then said, “well you can get revenge on me if you want!  You can do anything you want to do to me, and no one has to know…”  He stopped talking and so did I. He then said, “So…what do you want to do to me?” I immediately told him to shut up. Eventually, that same guy was kicked out of the job for making sexual advances on multiple female coworkers of mine. Through email and in person.

      Example D       When I had my first job interview after college graduation, it looked promising. This guy did me a solid and patched me through to the director that would hire me at a mental health clinic. He started calling me more and more, even after I got the offer and didn’t need as much help. He then started to flirt and let me know he thought I was cute. I then told him “I have a boyfriend”. He acted very irritable because I hadn’t told him that before. (I NEVER flirted with him, strictly remained professional through the entire hiring process) He also proceeded to tell me “You know I chose to give you this job over one of my best guy friends? I sent that guy to another job out of state so you can get this position.” I was blunt and asked him if that’s why he decided to hire me, to make an advance? He shut it down and tried to play innocent after.

       Example E      One of my exes (Quite literally the worst person I ever dated) often told me things like: “You’re lazy”, “You’re a nerdy chubby girl, people won’t like you, or take you seriously”, “Your job is easy” and essentially broke me down through mental abuse and manipulation. He was also a pathological liar and eventually admitted it to me. He lied about serving in the military, until I finally pressured him to come clean. Then he blamed me for that lie because ‘I probably wouldn’t date someone unless they served in the military like me’. He lied about how much money he had, and how much he made. He got fired or quit frequently, I paid many bills. He lied and told our friends he was ‘paying all the bills’. He pushed me to the ground on two occasions and then blamed me after and said, ‘he just grabbed me, and I fell over.’ He threw things at me. I helped stepparent for his child & fund diapers and formula, he was consistently ungrateful about it and criticized me as a parent when I was trying harder than him for a child that isn’t mine. I confronted him about a friend of ours who I suspected he was cheating with. He said nothing was happening, called me crazy etc etc. Low and behold, right after the breakup they were dating. My Lesson from This:  I put up with WAYYYYY Too much BS and I will sooner send someone to hell & be alone for eternity before I accept this type of treatment again.

         Example F       When I was participating in online dating (For the first and last time!) I came across another one of those guys that happened to be turned on by the fact that I’m a professional. (He saw therapist and writer in my bio) He consistently tried to talk me into talking ‘intellectual’ with him. The more he tried to push it, the less I wanted to. Plus, I hate talking about work during fun nonbusiness hours. After a while of me trying to keep the conversation more casual and lighthearted/ fun he then proceeded to get angry and told me I was talking in circles and leading him on. When I wanted clarification, he proceeded to say: “I cannot believe you actually published a book! You sound no smarter than a drunk college frat person!” And various other angry rants. I made sure to let him know he sounded like a control freak. My Lesson from This: If I’m not for you, get lost! Which I made sure he did.

      Example G       I one time had this angry Male coworker that constantly berated me even when I was just one week into the job. He expected me to learn everything so fast because training me seemed to be too much of a hassle for him. He was verbally abusive all around, even verbally abused the clients. One argument involved him getting angry when I said to other coworkers that “I will not have kids”. He flipped out just because of this personal decision, and proceeded to debunk all my reasons for why I don’t want kids. He even went as far as to say ‘Women don’t sacrifice any more than men do in parenting’ despite me bringing up pregnancy and permanent body changes.

Patient Feedback that made me Think

Elisa A Escalante/ LCSW/ 7-2-2022

I’ve always said that I learn Just as much from the clients as they do from me. In this blog I share some insights from clients that I never forgot over the years. There’s that part of people that we will never know unless they’re willing to speak of it. There is more power in a persons story vs any statistic you will see. We have to listen more. We have to listen without the urge to correct, invalidate or erase. That’s the only way we can show proper empathy. Read below for some of my favorite quotes/ feedbacks from clients.

“That’s exactly why we don’t get close to people anymore, us veterans. We lose them faster than anyone else. We can’t keep saying goodbye like that, over and over again.”

“I’ll never feel like that again. Seeing the normal, everyday person. How happy they look. I ask myself all the time, can I ever have that again? Can I just go outside and smile for no reason? And I think the answer is no”

“Life is shit. With tiny sprinkles of happiness in it… just enough so that you don’t kill yourself.”

“I’ll never believe that a person can ever love me again. There is not a single person that can say they will love me forever, and I’ll actually believe it. That idea is over now.”

“I can’t tell the difference between if my brain is trying to protect me, or sabotage something that is good, and that’s a hard thing to live with everyday.”

“Yea so I’ve realized that me and my wife aren’t doing well at all, but I came from a broken home so I don’t want to divorce her for the kids sake, so …. I’ve realized that I’m going to be miserable for the next ten years…. but other than that I’m great.”

“That moment that those veterans lived in, when they reflect on their military careers. People judge them for “living in those moments” all the time, but that may have been the most meaningful time of their lives. They will never get it back again.”

“I miss those drugs because my brain will never be able to feel that good on its own.”

“I’ve got so many issues, just add this next one to my resume.”

“I’m just a victim to the gatekeepers of the world. It used to be weapons. But now, the average gatekeeper holds a pen and has an expensive, fancy piece of paper. And they often get to decide who is worthy. They kept holding me down, so now I’ve decided I’ll take myself out of this game. They don’t want me playing in their circus anyways.”

“Being a parent is so hard because you won’t necessarily get any reinforcement that you’re doing a good job. Sometimes you will do your best, and if the baby isn’t happy, you’re a “failure”.

“There’s a saying in NA: ‘One is too many, and a thousand is never enough’. It’s something I’ve related to so much through trying to get through sobriety. Crack will steal your soul.”

“I know it sounds strange, but for now I want to keep my trauma symptoms. I need the attitude, and I need the walls and the defenses to protect me from getting hurt again.”

“I do get angry, seeing so many people take for granted the things I lost. Especially when they neglect or abuse it.”

“It’s like I’ve got two voices. I have the angel and the devil on each of my shoulders. One always talks me into it, the other talks me out of it. One convinces me I’m fine, while the other harasses me to the point of anxiety. I fight with myself so much, it feels like I’ve gone insane.”

The Walking Zombie

(Depression, & the toll it plays on everyday life)

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 6-7-2022

       “Are you okay?”

       “Are you sick?”

       “What time did you get to bed?”

        “Be positive!”

        These are the terms that plague my daily life, as someone that works full time while struggling with major depression and childhood traumas. The side effects of depression can translate so much to our physical symptoms, appearance and affect that many will perceive us as people with attitudes that simply ‘do not take care of ourselves’. And, since depressed mood and negative feelings are so stigmatized, we simultaneously must ‘act’ in order to properly get through day to day life in ‘normal society’. Rest assured, we cannot ‘will away’ or ‘wish away’ depression. We can manage it, but it will still be there, always. If you know someone that is high functioning with major depression, they have learned how to navigate life with very difficult symptoms, and there is a lot of strength in having the courage to do so.

         Age 6:

-I displayed: Irritability upon waking up, morning sleepiness, quiet, shyness, crying spells, isolating, hiding from people, Overachieving abilities.

-I felt: Angry because I was sleepy, confused about being abandoned, sad about not having my parents around me, annoyed about my living situation, a distrust of people due to being hurt, I had to do good to win approval.

-How I was perceived: Shy child, a goody good, dork, annoying in my household, whiny, intelligent.

-Worst thing I was told: Your mom cannot be with you because of drugs.  (Then silence)

        Age 11:

-I displayed:  Inflated confidence, otherwise quiet & shy, crying spells, repressed feelings, insecurities, difficulty waking up, skipping breakfast, sedentary, overconsumption of food by afternoon timeframes

-I felt:  Sad, bored, confused about my living situation, lonely, pleasure only when eating, insecure, fat, ‘ugly’

-How I was perceived:    Lazy, “Know it all” kid, ungrateful, gluttonous, grumpy, and hormonal.

-Worst thing I was told:   Let what people say ‘go in one ear and out the other’, ‘don’t react’

        Age 16:

-I displayed:   Isolative behavior, Shyness, insecurities, overcompensating behaviors w/ grades and sports, crying outbursts, nervous, freezing during confrontational situations, forgetfulness, and compulsive eating.

-I felt:  Terrified of getting in trouble again, worthless, ‘ugly’, tired of waking up, tired of work and sports, obsessed with escaping my life, like no one understood me, food was the only thing to look forward to, dreadful of most days.

-How I was perceived:    Misbehaving, ungrateful, secretive, hiding things, shy, “Goody good” (in school), smart, overachieving, but, not working hard enough.

-Worst thing I was told:   ‘You don’t feel that way’, ‘you’re lazy’, ‘don’t get fat’

Age 22:  

-I displayed:   Angry or depressed upon waking up, isolative, closed off/ guarded, shyness, freeze response (confused look) when confronted, crying after work when I was finally alone. Confusion and slow learning, compulsive work & gym habits.

-I felt:    Terrified of confrontation, annoyed with daily life, tired/ sleepy, sad, insecure about how I appeared to others, distrustful, offended by most things, confused by most social interactions, like I needed approval/ compliments to feel better.

-How I was perceived:  Shy, stuck up, weird, intrusive, secretive. Overachieving, show off, an extremely hard worker, obsessive.  Dismissive at times. Too nice; ‘fake’.

-Worst thing I was told: ‘You eat too much’, ‘you’re not attractive at this weight.’ ‘you’re one upping people’

Age 28:

-I displayed:    Moodiness upon waking up, fatigue for the first few hours of most days, lack of gratitude, questioning everything about life, talking back a lot, an aversion to authority, compulsive drug use, compulsive work habits, numbed out.

-I felt:    Desperate for a different life, sad, bitter about the past, like I needed to be high to function, confused about my life trajectory, grief, and emptiness.

-How I was perceived:     Compulsive, ‘too nice’, ‘mad’ about small things, exhausted, bad health habits, tired, grumpy, negative, isolative, lazy.

-Worst thing I was told: “Your life is easy”, “you’re just lazy”, “Stop being a bitch”

        The danger of perception, is how easy it is to internalize how other’s perceive you and what they tell you about yourself. The perception part of this mental health journey had me feeling more shame and guilt about the symptoms that were often out of my control. Then all of a sudden, I’m a depressed person that is ‘ungrateful’ and ‘lazy’ while struggling with depression. The important part of the “Display” category of my list is coming to an understanding of why I was actually mislabeled, the depression created this affect for the world to see; I couldn’t always hide it. Then, lastly, the “I felt” category is the most crucial. This is what helps me (us) sort through what was actually going on; the reality of our depressive symptoms and how it hindered daily life.

       We, zombies, have to be actors

One of the hardest parts of suffering through mental illness is the acting that comes with it. The world cannot handle these depressive emotions, they’re contagious. Due to public perception and judgements, most mentally ill people put on ‘an act’ overtime, just so that they do not continue being subjected to false perceptions. Because of what I displayed and how I was perceived (in the above lists), I developed strategies to mask my depression, but the symptoms bled over into other realms of life. The act forces us to over internalize, sometimes chronically. We may numb out or lose touch of our emotions all together for some time (when it becomes too overwhelming). But, due to the debilitating nature of chronic depression, physical side effects may still be worn on our facial expression, bodily movements and more. Ironically, through many accomplishments in my military career (up to TSgt rank as well as OEF deployment), academic career (Master’s degree and LCSW before reaching age 31), as well as my hard work and dedication to the sport of martial arts (Purple belt in BJJ in 2020), I was still often called lazy. This set me into a chronic overworking/ burnout mode cycle, which further Zombified my body/ mind overtime.


     If you happen to be a “walking zombie’ due to your depression, it’s helpful to start learning effective ways to communicate this issue, while also, filtering out the harm other’s try to subject onto you with their judgements. This is no simple task. It takes practice, repetition, boundaries and filtering. The alternative to this, is continuing to be an actor, which is more harmful in the long run. Pretending to be okay, means living in a denial that causes you to chronically self-neglect, and always be misunderstood. Paying attention to our depression requires honest dialogue, and the ability to care about ourselves to take care of ourselves in the moment. Practice the necessary self-care, practice communicating when you are not okay, practice saying ‘no’ when things are too much to handle. Practice allowing yourself to have what you need. Practice the art of addressing and feeling emotions, but not ruminating or self-blaming & self-shaming.

Prevention is EVERYONE’s Responsibility. Every. Single. Day.

Elisa a. Escalante/ LCSW/ 5/27/2022

Though I’ve worked with people on an individual level for most of my career, we clinicians, tend to also notice things on mass scales. There’s individual think, and group think. Individuals have themes and thinking patterns, as do the masses. Naturally, after a crisis, many will go into psychological defense modes that are meant to protect and nurture their pain, grief and trauma. Beyond that, we have ever-growing polarization. People must flock to their social media accounts to not only express grief and remorse, but also get ready to combat up into their keyboard warrior mode with a goal of defending the policies that they know will be attacked. Because with tragedy, comes shock, then a want/ need to fix, then opinions, then fighting. Quite honestly the cycle has gotten so predictable, that it’s hard to continue watching.

       But I want to take the time to talk about something that really matters: PREVENTION. Prevention is NOT just about “What law is going to change?” Or “What is THAT person going to do about this problem?” Or “What programs should THEY put in place?” These phrases are all an example of Deflection, when we strive to push all blame onto other’s and protect ourselves from any blame.

      Prevention is EVERYONE’s responsibility. Every single day. And, if you happen to live in a country that has a consistent problem, then as an individual you must acknowledge you are a part of that problem in one way or another. Prevention, from a mental health crisis standpoint, includes: 1- Having empathy, 2- Not treating people like shit, or being a bully. 3- Listening when someone is crying out for help. 4- NOT invalidating someone when they are crying out for help. 5- Less judging overall. 6- Personal self-care, as well as teaching our youth self-care. 7- Knowing when to STOP arguing. 8- Learning and implementing de-escalation techniques. 9- Fostering healthy boundaries. 10- Speaking up vs being a bystander. 11- Volunteering/ donating to helping agencies. 12- Taking accountability/ Working on your personal integrity.

     The list could go on and on, but the message is that every individual character matters. I’ve seen mental health come a long way in the past 14 years. (Since I started working in the profession) The issue, unfortunately, is that we still choose to be a crisis response country vs a preventative country. We fail to do the things that matter to address ‘in the moment’ issues, and often let it simmer beneath the surface, until catastrophe happens. Then, there is shock. I believe the harder message to put across is the fact that it takes daily action and consistency on yourself, in order to help the masses. When people become so individualistic, they forget they are a part of a larger group: A society. People forget that emotions and behaviors are addictive and contagious. We forget about the trickle-down effect. Or, Ping pong effect; when we bounce our emotions back & forth in a battle.

      Small changes that can make Big Differences:

  • Study Mental Health:   There are a million other things people would rather do, but it wouldn’t hurt to study more on this topic. Our brain is so important to our livelihood, quite honestly it’s shocking that more people do not care about this. The brain is the agent & control center of our daily activity. If our brain grows ill and starts to malfunction, it impacts everything. Yes, including our bodies, the phrase of “it’s all in your head” is quite inaccurate. Chronic illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD have already been proven to release harmful chemicals into the body. Even if you do not have a mental disorder, you absolutely know people that do. Also, it can be you at any moment of any day in your future. Even if you are not genetically susceptible, EVERYONE is environmentally susceptible.
  • Refrain from Judging:       Judging is the psychological ‘go to’ we resort to when we have deep rooted insecurities. It’s the ultimate act of hurting someone else in order to ease your own wound. We are meant to do better than that. When we learn to address our own internal pain, and not hurt someone else, we can then help ourselves while doing less harm to others. If you are judgmental, explore your own pain, because you may be doing long term damage to other’s if you don’t.
  • Do Less Harm:      Doing less harm isn’t just the obvious of: Don’t kill, don’t assault, don’t abuse. It’s also the less obvious stuff. Do not enable, do not manipulate, be honest, do not meddle in other people’s lives just because you think you can or that ‘they will thank you later’. Stop believing you have so much control over others, you do not. Don’t use someone’s pain as your own personal agenda, especially if they did not ask you to. Try to refrain from coming to the conclusion that you are a ‘good person’. Since we’re all human, there is a strong likelihood you may have blinders to some of the harm you do, be brave enough to explore your flaws and how you impact others negatively sometimes.
  • Actually take care of yourself:   This, unfortunately, is something that a lot of us Half Ass. And we believe it’s for the better. People often believe sacrificing their self-care for superficial & materialistic things is worth it. It is not. You run the risk of turning into a half cared for human in a terrible mood that is unpleasant to be around. There is no debate on this. When I am a sleep deprived, junk food eating, no free time having, sedentary human being, I am pretty awful not only to others, but to myself. I’m sure many can relate. When you neglect you, you hurt everyone else.
  • Give Social Media a Break from you:     it’s simple to say take breaks from social media, and the answer of ‘why?’ is pretty obvious. But I also want to frame it in the opposite direction: Social media needs a break from you sometimes too. Are you about to be unpleasant and verbally abuse people all day because something messed up your mood or triggered your maladaptive thinking patterns? We’ve all been there. Unfortunately now, it seems socially acceptable to cyber bully or cyber manipulate. The “Do no harm” concept does not automatically stop because it’s the ‘online world’. There is much harm we can do online, this needs to be put in perspective.  Again, Trickle down and ping pong effects.
  • Avoid talking if you don’t have constructive advice:       People truly underestimate when silence needs to happen. I’ve seen in real life and in the online world, that giving advice has become such a compulsive habit for people. Half the time, the advice is terrible or non-constructive. If you are not a professional on a topic or a mentor of any sort, it is absolutely okay to be a listener, and to practice your empathy skills. Most people need work on empathy. It is, in my professional opinion, one of the most underrated assets humans have. We do not exercise it as often as we probably should. It’s easy to just tell people what to do based on your limited personal experience, it’s harder to recognize that this is a whole person that is struggling, and you may not possess the knowledge or foundation to help, but you can be kind.
  • Quality Solitude & Social time:      One of the best ways to gain back a sense of community, camaraderie and connectedness would be to have more quality social time. This doesn’t mean go out to be on your phone the entire time. It doesn’t mean go out to get intoxicated and barely talk to people. It means quality connection, quality conversation, and enjoyable hobbies with people that have similar interests. Then on the flip side, when you need that time to yourself to recharge, is that quality too? Are you doing things that feed your soul, mind and body? Or are you engaged in compulsive behaviors that simply pass the time, but do nothing for you except long term chronic damage? Every passing moment matters.

Prevention does not mean: ‘to do nothing’ and wait. Prevention means, daily consistent actions in order to reduce ongoing harm.