Matt Sloan

@mattsloan | staff
Matt Sloan (he/him) is a senior editor for The Mighty, specializing in mental health. He joined the Mighty team because he believes sharing our stories is crucial to ending stigma, particularly for men who are taught seeking help is a sign of weakness and for marginalized communities. Aside, he is a fiction writer and editor from Northern Ireland, living with depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), trauma, and three beautiful cats. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mattsloanwrites, or on his blog, www.mattsloanwrites.com, where you can hear about his progress in writing his first novel.
Matt Sloan

Delivery Driver Told Me He ‘Wasn’t That Worried’ About My COVID-19

I’ve finally begun to see the light at the end of a week of hell that has been COVID-19. I finally have a little more energy, able to work at a reasonable pace without feeling exhausted, but I’m still testing positive and the lingering effects of the Omicron variant make me feel like my airways are filled with expanding insulation foam. Meanwhile, my partner’s cough moves ever-deeper into suspected bronchitis (at best) and she sleeps away her days in fatigue. We needed groceries. We left a warning (as we are expected to do), but the first sign of your negligence came when you strolled up to my door, maskless like so many, disregarding the social distancing that’s meant to protect us both. I was courteous, asking if you’d seen the note. You hadn’t — no big deal, I thought, fighting the disbelief that you wouldn’t still be checking for such a thing. So, I told you we were positive for COVID-19 and asked you to take a few steps back for your own protection. “Yeah,” you said. “OK. I’ll step back here. I’m not that worried about it, though.” It was a slap. I’ve grown increasingly impatient with the growing population failing to take proper precautions, but coming off the back of this week of fear… I’d had enough. I told you a little about what I’ve been through. You seemed nonchalant. I wish I could’ve said more, but anxiety held my tongue for fear of the retribution that could’ve followed. After all, I don’t know you; I don’t know what you could be capable of doing to me and mine. So, instead, I’ll tell you here. Have you ever watched the one you love struggle to breathe, barely able to stay conscious, talking about pins and needles rising through her limbs and a shooting pain in her left arm? Have you ever watched such a thing when you’re already haunted by the ghosts of loved ones lost, fearing the next person could be your partner? Have you been told by paramedics to fetch a defibrillator if one is available? Because I have, and I felt so sure, at one point this past week, that I was about to lose the person dearest to me. It all worked out OK, but we were lucky; 6.32 million people weren’t lucky, at the time of writing this article. And sure, you’re probably fit; you’re maybe even vaccinated, but you just don’t know how this virus is going to affect you and yours. This week was harrowing, and that comes from me — the person who has been terrified of catching this virus for over two years, who has been practicing every safeguard and yet still caught it anyway due to the growing complacency of a vast number. I’ve coughed so much I thought my throat would tear. I’ve cried, feeling too weak to cook, eat, stay awake, and take care of my partner. And the funny thing is, I’ve had it reasonably easy. My partner has slept most of every day. Her fatigue has barely lessened. And, while I’m able to work now, she’s still unable to. We’re both afraid of the possibility of long-COVID. What happens then? Are you just not that worried about losing income? Losing loved ones? Losing yourself? As infections spike again in the United Kingdom, and breaking studies suggest that two new Omicron variants are unaffected by antibodies from vaccination and prior infection, I have to wonder what it would take for someone like you to care. For what it’s worth, though, I hope you don’t get it from me. This week wasn’t fun, and instead of making me less afraid of COVID-19 as I hoped it might, it’s actually done the opposite. My fears are fresh and ripe, as they should be for you. COVID-19 is still here, and we haven’t seen the last of it. If someone like me — who is reasonably healthy, vaccinated, wearing a mask, and routinely sanitizing his hands — can catch COVID-19 despite every precaution, what does it mean for the more vulnerable among us? What does it mean for someone like you, who “isn’t that worried” about it?

Matt Sloan

New Mental Health Treatments You Need to Know About

It’s wild to think that our understanding of the human mind and the treatment of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia is still in its relative infancy. After all, the first neurotransmitter was only discovered in the 1930s, and it took until the late 20th century for us to implement widespread reform in psychiatric hospitalization, or institutionalization. Even now, our understanding of the mind is limited, such as in the case of treatment-resistant depression. Studies have found that treatment-resistant depression affects around 30% of people living with major depressive disorder (MDD), or around 230 million people worldwide. That’s the reality of almost one in three people living with depression: feeling potentially hopeless and betrayed by modern medicine. However, there is hope. Medical and scientific advancements are being made all the time, including within psychology and psychopharmacology. Some treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, have been heavily stigmatized by misconception bred by Hollywood, but have existed for a long time to great success. Others are newer and are offered only on a small scale, through medical trials, or they are still being studied and understood. Today, I wanted to share just a few of these fascinating treatments with you. These alternate and upcoming treatments offer us a hopeful glimpse at the potential future for not only depression treatment, but also trauma, anxiety, and mental health recovery as a whole. If psychiatric medication isn’t working for you, here’s what could be next. 1. CBD Oil From treating chronic pain to epilepsy, CBD — also known as cannabidiol, one of two components of cannabis alongside tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — may also have applications in treating mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder. While THC is responsible for the “high” of cannabis, CBD appears to have a positive effect on serotonin in the brain according to a study from 2014. Check out the following articles from our community for more information. What Happened When I Tried CBD Oil for My Bipolar Disorder New Study Highlights Potential Benefits of Cannabis for PTSD Chronically Cannabis With Dr. Michele Ross: How Does Cannabis Affect Pain Patients With Mental Illness? 2. Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) I’ll be the first to admit my surprise at the psychedelic substance psilocybin, found in “magic mushrooms,” being a potential mental health treatment; after all, I grew up hearing about the danger of “magic mushrooms” as a street drug. However, research has shown that psilocybin may have clinical potential in the treatment of suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. Psilocybin-assisted therapy has also been investigated as a potential treatment option. Check out the following articles from our community, including a writer who took part in a recent clinical trial for psilocybin. I Was Part of a ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Drug Trial for Treatment-Resistant Depression Could Psychedelic Mushrooms Become a Legitimate Treatment for Depression? What Happened When I Sought Alternative Mental Health Treatment Abroad 3. Ketamine Ketamine is another surprising treatment emerging from recreational drug use. It has a fascinating history, though the short version is this: in people with depression, there appears to be an abnormality in the brain’s glutamatergic system. Ketamine directly targets this system, which stimulates the formation of new neural connections. In essence, this helps the brain to heal. Research shows around 60% of people with treatment-resistant depression respond favorably to ketamine, which is offered typically through infusions or nasal spray alongside therapy. Check out the following articles, where we also checked in on two Mighty writers two years after their ketamine treatments. It’s Been 2 Years Since Their Ketamine Infusion Therapy for Depression: How Are They Now? Mental Health: Why a ‘Bad Trip’ With Ketamine Treatment Isn’t What You Think It Is How Ketamine Nasal Spray Treatments Affected My Bipolar Depression 4. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a long-standing non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate electrical current in certain nerve cells in the brain, which can then improve depression symptoms. Unlike electroconvulsive therapy, it doesn’t require anesthesia and has few side effects, mainly consisting of headaches during and after treatment. Check out some of our stories from those who have received this treatment below. What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and How Does It Help Depression? Read This If You’re Considering Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation How 30 Days of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy Affected My Depression 5. Accelerated Theta Burst rTMS and Intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS) A modified form of repetitive TMS (rTMS), where magnetic pulses are delivered in a specific pattern matching part of the brain’s functions, accelerated theta burst rTMS offers shorter sessions with similar benefits to traditional TMS, as noted above. This form of TMS is still being studied, but a recent Stanford University study called Stanford Accelerated Intelligent Neuromodulation Therapy (SAINT) offers hope, being given a “breakthrough” status by the FDA. Read more below. SAINT: The New Depression Treatment That Gave Me Hope for Remission 6. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Also used in the treatment of epilepsy, VNS involves an implanted device that is connected to the left vagus nerve in the neck, stimulating the nerve with electrical impulses. However, a noninvasive variant of the device has been approved for trial in Europe. Early trials have shown this to be effective for treatment-resistant depression, including a 17% remission rate after 10 weeks. A Mighty contributor recently revealed their participation in a five-year clinical trial study for VNS, which you can read about below. My Experience With a ‘Vagus Nerve Stimulator’ Clinical Trial for Depression   These treatments offer hope beyond antidepressants and existing therapeutic models, but it’s important to note that they are in many cases still being studied. If you’re curious about any of them for the treatment of mental illness, please talk to your doctor and insurer. Regardless, it’s promising to note that scientific advancements are always coming, and the next breakthrough treatment for mental illness could be just around the corner. Would you try any of the above treatments for mental illness? Let us know in the comments below!

Matt Sloan

Tips That Really Help People Sleep With Anxiety

My psychiatrist appointments often feature the same question: “Do you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep?” That’s because, if you live with anxiety, you likely struggle with your sleep patterns every now and then. Whether you experience the occasional bout of insomnia, sleep disruptions like nightmares and waking up constantly, or you lie awake every night, staring at the clock, disrupted sleep can have a knock-on effect on your mental health. For example, according to Sleep Foundation, “Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information.” In fact, it’s not only that anxiety affects sleep, but sleep also has a “bidirectional relationship with mental health,” meaning poor sleep can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and other mental disorders. So, sleep is pretty important, right? That’s why we asked our community what helps them sleep better with anxiety. Have a look at their answers, and let us know what helps you in the comments below. Here’s what our community told us: 1. Writing “It helps to write it all down — dumping my worries on the page and letting them go.” — @deb44303 “Having a good bedtime routine and making sure I write down or record my thoughts. I also keep a notepad and pen by my bed so that I can write down anything I might be feeling anxious about if I wake up in the middle of the night.” — @chrislynn1 2. Reading and Games “I read or play Solitaire on my tablet until I get sleepy enough to fall asleep. I try not to stress over what time I fall asleep. Of course, being retired, I don’t have the pressure of having to get to work so there’s that.” — @introvert658 3. Something Physical “A weighted blanket.” — @pigeonfeather “A weighted blanket. I need to buy another one because I spilled hot chocolate all over it. I just have to safe up the pennies until I can get a new one, so not having any good nights at all and really suffering” — @mumsfries59 4. Relaxation Routines “Pink noise music and nature relaxation music videos on YouTube, EFT tapping, chakra balancing music on YouTube, and making up positive dreams helps.” — @enjoychattingnew “Soaking in the bath with a whole routine and music, and then comfy pajamas and blankets with lights out, teddy bear and pillows.” — @amymiller127 5. Music “I have a Pandora station and a bedtime music playlist… depending on internet availability. I lie down, say my prayers, and ‘talk’ with my dad (who passed four years ago), then I start my music. While listening (and waiting for meds to kick in) I repeat my mantra, “in with peace, out with pain.” If the pain or anxiety isn’t too bad, I usually can fall asleep fairly soon after beginning the mantra.” — @purpledramamama “Listening to my Jewish rock music that has a good message and is upbeat positive music. My Rabbinical staff introduced me to it. The nighttime prayer called Hashkivenu helps me to settle down for the night.” — @allielove 6. Meditation and Sleep Sounds “Guided meditations help me. There are a bunch that are free on YouTube by various people, so you can find someone that you like.” — @kitttieluv “I like listening to rain or running water. Having a fan helps me keep cool and also has a soothing sound. I like to meditate before bed to help me relax. I also listen to a podcast called Get Sleepy.” — @lauracort “It really helps me to meditate while playing 528 Hz music with my opalite or rose quartz crystals” — Nina “I use Amazon music sometimes, and found something called ‘brown noise.’ It’s deeper in pitch than white noise and has no ocean waves or wind. Just midrange noise. Pretty soothing some nights.” — @wolfryder 7. Pets “My cat helps me. He always goes to bed when I do. I can talk to him and rub his belly as I fall asleep.” — @mydystopia 8. Medication and Melatonin “Honestly, taking melatonin has really helped me because my body just kind of shuts down. But if I’m really anxious, then I do yin yoga and that tends to help my mind wind down in the way I need it to in order to sleep.” — Kat Harrison

Matt Sloan

How to Support a Loved One Without Words

Contrary to popular belief, supporting someone doesn’t always mean doing so with words, such as by offering advice. There are little, silent ways we can give and receive support when someone is struggling, and — in my opinion, at least — these can even be more effective and mean more. When I’m struggling with depression or trauma, a hug means the world to me (and the science of hugs backs me up). If I’m feeling lonely or unloved, having someone send a quick message to say they’re thinking of me, or share a video or product they’ll know I’ll like, is enough to pull me out of my funk even a little bit. Love languages play a huge part in mental health support, so touch, food, and loving gestures all play a role in supporting loved ones living with a mental health condition. We recently asked our mental health community for their favorite forms of “wordless” support and compiled the answers here. Cats, hugs, and food galore! Take a read at the below and let us know in the comments: How do you like to be supported? “Cuddles with my cats.” — @joiedevivre “What I love and need is a quick text or phone call just to say hi.” — @phc452 “A hug or bringing me my favorite flowers or even candy. Means so much when someone shows they care. I don’t always accept it well but am trying!” — @mel_42 “My wordless support is expressed thru close proximity to another ‘safe’ body. A light touch, a hug, with nothing expected from me: no questions to answer, just a hand squeeze back allows me to feel supported and loved.” — @mightyknees96 “Just sitting quietly with me or even just let me lay down (especially when I have my flare-up).” — @luna_nightingale “When my friends give me the heart reaction when I text them. When my cat comes and sits on my lap when I am having a bad episode.” — @pekoe_and_ophelia “A gift of food.” — @texassonrisa “Hugs, cuddles, snuggles. Some form of contact from another living being.” — @sadbearissad “When someone close reaches over, and squeezes and holds your hand and stays close in silence, as if opening a door, ready to listen should you feel the need or readiness to say anything.” — @flower_tm “Coffee out in the car, or a walk in the woods actually with someone” — @erinboogati “When I am having an emotional flashback at night and my husband notices (I try to cry as silently as possible or I get up), he sticks his hands under my blanket and takes my hands into his. That makes an EF go away within minutes. When during the day, he puts his arms around me and holds me tight. Same thing: EF is gone within minutes. Otherwise, it could go on for hours. Helps me so much!” — @weebit “Just sitting with me in silence, a reminder that I’m not alone, and that they will be there when (if) I am ready to talk.” — @tarashort “I have one friend who will just send a smile emoji when she knows I’m having a hard time. Just that single smile means a lot, reminding me to smile when I don’t really feel like it.” — @newkidney1 “When someone brings over a meal or cookies. That really helps and blesses me.” — @pattigrove “Hugs. 100%. I often feel like I’m literally going to fall apart, and hugs feel like there’s someone willing to help hold me together.” — @kyliera “The ‘all-knowing’ gaze I get from my companion dog, Grady. She seems to know everything and I’m cool with that.” — @debbiejohnson15 “I have no one in my life who is on a ‘touching’ basis (I miss it, but it’s OK). I look to my connections online who understand where I’m coming from to simply hear me. Even an emoji means a lot.” — @laureljbach “I can’t because of my OCD, but if that weren’t an issue, it would be a hug. Letting me cry on a shoulder. Since that’s not really an option, and it has to be wordless, I’d say, buying me something to eat or paying for a purchase I’m making. I’ve had a couple of times when people paid for my dinner, and it was really nice of them because it freed me to buy something else I needed or even wanted. I didn’t ask them (one was anonymous), but I felt like someone cared.” — @horrorfan “Cards. I make and send cards all the time.” — @cindyellenr “Sitting beside me quietly is great. Also, I once cried on the train and the stranger beside me offered me a tissue without a word. Emojis, GIFs, virtual hugs, make me a hot drink, help me charge my phone, offer me some food, get me a car home… all these are great.” — @mtnothingness “Food! Bringing me a hot cup of tea, a pastry bought because you know it’s my favorite, or putting a condiment I like near my plate when setting the table.” — @loesb

Matt Sloan

Growing Up Feeling Unable to Let Go of Guilt From Childhood

When I was a kid, my dad gave me a bouncy ball unlike any other. He’d been a merchant sailor and had worked all around the world, made friends in every country, on every continent, among people of all walks of life. This bouncy ball, he told me, had come along for the ride; he’d bounced that ball all around the world. I let our dog play with it. Only about half of the ball remained after that. My dad didn’t berate me or scream at me, or otherwise make me feel guilty, but even now — perhaps 25 years later — I still feel the agony of that guilt like it hollowed me out and left me empty ever since. It’s one of many moments that I carry, especially after my dad passed away in 2011 and I desperately wondered if he knew how guilty I felt for that one moment of thoughtlessness. I used to say that I didn’t want to live a life full of regrets, but I was probably fooling myself — I already had so many. Guilt was always there with me as I grew up — guilt for a thousand little things, some large like that bouncy ball, and some minor. As the years crept on, the guilt morphed into depression, bringing with it a thousand other little things to feel guilty about — things that nobody should carry because in the grand cosmic scheme, they really mean so little. And yet, I felt them as keenly as I did that childhood mistake. In 2015, The Atlantic reported research showing differences in the brains of kids who showed excessive guilt in childhood, and how that could be a precursor for depression later in life. It may not have been the cause of my depression, but the guilt I carry certainly hasn’t made living any easier. Even writing the opening of this article is enough to make me sob. Thinking about all the other reason to feel guilty makes me feel like some kind of monster. After all, what kind of person allows those things to happen? I try to remind myself that I was a kid; therapy once taught me to visualize actually comforting my inner child, and I can absolutely tell you that I know my inner child deserves comfort. It’s so hard to put into practice, though. In that same 2015 article, The Atlantic reported that researchers found “that children whose parents used guilt-inducing tactics were far more likely to internalize their problems. Depression and anxiety are classic examples of internalizing disorders.” My father certainly didn’t guilt me, to the best of my knowledge, but my abusive mother used guilt like a weapon. Even before I understood the depths of her abuse, I knew her to be a person who would “guilt-trip” me in order to get her way. Guilt-tripping is a typical “sign” of an abusive parent, so it isn’t surprising that guilt became my inner voice, too. I’m trying my best to shake my guilt, but it almost feels like I’m genetically predisposed to it. The very second something goes wrong, I’m already looking for all the ways it could be my fault, tracing its invisible threads back to the inevitable source — me. Even when those threads are tenuous, they might as well be steel. I am guilty. I am to blame. I am wrong. Me. If you also grew up feeling extreme guilt for every mistake, even the small ones, then please know that I see you. You and I don’t deserve to torture ourselves so, and we certainly don’t deserve to be tortured for a mistake that we acknowledge and own. And, if you’re a parent reading this — please keep an eye out for excessive guilt in your little ones. As The Atlantic noted, it can be an early sign of depression, and it doesn’t truly matter whether it’s a precursor or a symptom. What matters is that we get the next generation help before that guilt spirals and they are, a quarter of a century later, still wondering why they let their dog play with a treasured bouncy ball.

Matt Sloan

Chronic Pain and Mental Health: What Medical School Needs to Teach

When you’re a veteran of a specific diagnosis, you know — inside and out — the gaps in knowledge from many medical professionals. Sure, we can’t expect them to understand everything there is to know about every condition on the planet, but it’s important that certain conditions are taught differently and more in-depth than they are right now. Inspired by a recent article by Ashley Nestler MSW, “What They Need to Really Teach in Medical School About Schizoaffective Disorder,” we asked our community what they wish was taught in medical school about their conditions. The more that medical professionals know about these common experiences, the better quality of life for people like you and me. Here’s what they told us: Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain “That it’s possible for any person — no matter their appearance or any category of demographic — to be in immense pain! Listen and trust folks when they share their pain!” — Skye Gailing “That long-term chronic pain patients do exist and for those people, the standard pain scale is a joke. In addition, you cannot insist on treating them with the same level of medications that work for other patients. If you don’t know any better, then you should just throw out the book and listen to what your patient is telling you.” — @allpainwaiting4gain “I wish they would teach that if somebody has chronic pain that nobody can figure, most likely they don’t have hypochondria. Just because the doctors don’t know what is going on doesn’t mean that I am lying or that it is all in my head. There are some people who struggle with hypochondria out there and I am deeply sorry for them, but I wish that doctors wouldn’t assume that about me as a cop-out for actually looking for a diagnosis.” — @sosimtrying “They need to teach chronic pain and fibromyalgia. Many doctors do not really know anything about fibromyalgia or they don’t believe in it. Maybe if they learned about it in medical school, they wouldn’t be so quick to blame your pain on depression or anxiety. Maybe they would believe us more about chronic pain and know that fibromyalgia really does exist. They need to learn about pain management for chronic illnesses. They need better communication skills and to treat us with respect.” — @01-mountains “I wish that this country would do away with medical books and professors stating that Black people “have thicker skin” and “fewer nerve endings” than white people, so we experience less pain than any other race, so we don’t need the same amount (if any) pain meds that would normally be given to patients of other races. Also I wish they were taught that it’s possible for women to experience pain, and if a woman says she’s in pain it doesn’t mean she’s being dramatic or hysterical. I wish doctors were taught, given what I mentioned above, what it must be like for a Black woman to try to get help with pain.” — @moxie “That myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a very real, very devastating illness. It makes me angry that so many doctors still do not treat ME/CFS that way.” — @marvonbrowning “I wish that they were taught the right battery of blood tests that are needed to identify all of the viruses, bacteria, etc., which will help diagnose the condition more easily. The doctors would run the typical blood panel, which showed nothing but high cholesterol and my iron count.” — @texassonrisa “That we deserve dignity. Poor people deserve dignity, fat people deserve dignity. We live daily in these bodies, we know best when something is wrong, so listen to us. We aren’t chasing pills; many of us are on a laundry list of medications, so we aren’t chasing more just for giggles. Listen to us before our quality of life is taken from us.” — @tarashort “We are not living in a medical book! We are living beings that are not all the same. Individual care needs to be taken seriously; we know our bodies when something is not right.” — @joyseekinghope “I wish they taught not to harass people about their weight. Um, I own a mirror.” — @fathousewife “Don’t blame the patient for their illness. Their lifestyle may have had a role in the condition, but blaming, shaming, and ultimately gaslighting are not helpful.” — @mamabear5000 Mental Health “When you see I have PTSD, only ask details if you have a reason for doing so. Don’t ask intrusive questions about what happened to me only to write it down and never discuss it with me. You can help me without knowing every graphic detail. Better questions are: ‘what would you like to focus on today? Are there any resources I can refer you to? How can I make this visit as comfortable as possible for you?’” — @catpi “That people with bipolar disorder aren’t ‘crazy’ or dangerous. I’m about as likely to hurt someone as I am to fly to the moon without a space shuttle! Also, don’t talk down to me as though I’m a child. I’m 52 years old and I know if my body is in pain or not.” — @sarawyn “I wish they could appreciate that there doesn’t have to be a trigger for someone to be feeling suicidal; sometimes, they just are. Please don’t minimize how they feel; what you say could be the difference between them being able to open up or just feeling there’s no point” — @hippyrockchick “I wish OB/GYN and midwives were told that the ‘baby blues’ can be a symptom of more serious problems like postpartum depression, rather than just something to be brushed off and minimized.” — @ariannaolympia “The relationship between chronic pain and the depression that accompanies it. My pain doctor didn’t get it, but my GP did. The antidepressant that he prescribed was a great help.” — @sashahans “The real intricacies of anxiety and depression… not just to ‘go for a walk and try relaxation.’ The real chemical/neurological science behind it and how it affects people behaviorally. Ideally, doctors would understand it on a similar level to therapists or psychiatrists.” — @kittycatsnuggles “That people with schizophrenia aren’t ‘stupid.’” — @smp82

Community Voices
Matt Sloan

Would Practicing Radical Acceptance Have Helped My Trauma?

Recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been unable to take a holiday — or even a few days off from work — without being haunted by trauma and depression as if it’s some kind of specter, rattling its chains in the attic. Case in point: I had a few days off last week thanks to public holidays in the United Kingdom, and I was determined to rest, to disallow my mental illnesses to intrude and steal more time from me, as they’re prone to do. Things started off well — I was able to rest and relax until, on Thursday evening, I spotted a message from somebody who knew me in childhood and who knows my mother — my emotionally and verbally abusive mother, with whom I’ve cut all contact. It was a reasonably simple message asking if I’m in contact with her again, but it was enough to allow trauma an opening. I haven’t had therapy to properly deal with my childhood, so until I do, anything that makes me delve into it is hazardous. I asked her not to contact me again, and then came the invalidation, telling me that there was no emotional abuse in my childhood, denying my mother’s significant part in my trauma and my depression. I was suddenly forced to defend myself, in great detail, to the person on the other end of those messages — sending voice clips to explain the many things they apparently did not see in my childhood, picking apart the lies my mother has told them, like not being there the morning my father died — a despicable lie, especially considering I was there that morning and for days afterward, comforting her through it. It’s typical behavior from my mother, spreading lies about people whom she believes have wronged her — but it packed a particular emotional punch. I felt extremely vulnerable the rest of that right, and through the whole of the following day. The specter of my trauma had risen, rattling its heavy chains in the attic, moaning and wailing in the background as I tried, desperately, just to enjoy my time off. I cursed it for once again intruding on my relaxation, my sacred recuperation. I couldn’t shrug it off no matter the self-care methods with which I tried to combat it. I woke the next day feeling bitter. It was the weekend, so the actual scheduled time off from work had largely been wasted battling a ghost that had no business there. Once again, I felt the universe conspire against me. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” they say. Awry, they went. Maybe, when you live with trauma, depression, or any illness that can affect you when you least expect it, it pays to expect the worst-case scenario. Perhaps it’s a case of practicing radical acceptance — the idea that suffering comes from one’s relationship to pain and not the pain itself. If I had begun my time off with the expectation that my mental health would be unstable, would Friday have been such a bust for me? The message I received and my reaction to it were extraneous circumstances, yes, but I felt just as vulnerable and sickened by the confrontation as I felt bitter and angry that I was being robbed of my holiday. Removing my bitterness cuts that pain in half. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but it’s an important lesson for us all. Mental illness doesn’t take a holiday, so perhaps we shouldn’t be entirely surprised when it shows up out of the blue like a ghost in the attic. Maybe, then, we can treat it less like an unwanted visitation and more like a roommate, ever-present, as much as we may not get along and I really wish they’d move out already because all that chain rattling keeps me up at night, and makes it really hard to get things done. The next time I have a holiday scheduled, I’ll try my best to practice radical acceptance. Will you join me?

Matt Sloan

Would Practicing Radical Acceptance Have Helped My Trauma?

Recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been unable to take a holiday — or even a few days off from work — without being haunted by trauma and depression as if it’s some kind of specter, rattling its chains in the attic. Case in point: I had a few days off last week thanks to public holidays in the United Kingdom, and I was determined to rest, to disallow my mental illnesses to intrude and steal more time from me, as they’re prone to do. Things started off well — I was able to rest and relax until, on Thursday evening, I spotted a message from somebody who knew me in childhood and who knows my mother — my emotionally and verbally abusive mother, with whom I’ve cut all contact. It was a reasonably simple message asking if I’m in contact with her again, but it was enough to allow trauma an opening. I haven’t had therapy to properly deal with my childhood, so until I do, anything that makes me delve into it is hazardous. I asked her not to contact me again, and then came the invalidation, telling me that there was no emotional abuse in my childhood, denying my mother’s significant part in my trauma and my depression. I was suddenly forced to defend myself, in great detail, to the person on the other end of those messages — sending voice clips to explain the many things they apparently did not see in my childhood, picking apart the lies my mother has told them, like not being there the morning my father died — a despicable lie, especially considering I was there that morning and for days afterward, comforting her through it. It’s typical behavior from my mother, spreading lies about people whom she believes have wronged her — but it packed a particular emotional punch. I felt extremely vulnerable the rest of that right, and through the whole of the following day. The specter of my trauma had risen, rattling its heavy chains in the attic, moaning and wailing in the background as I tried, desperately, just to enjoy my time off. I cursed it for once again intruding on my relaxation, my sacred recuperation. I couldn’t shrug it off no matter the self-care methods with which I tried to combat it. I woke the next day feeling bitter. It was the weekend, so the actual scheduled time off from work had largely been wasted battling a ghost that had no business there. Once again, I felt the universe conspire against me. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” they say. Awry, they went. Maybe, when you live with trauma, depression, or any illness that can affect you when you least expect it, it pays to expect the worst-case scenario. Perhaps it’s a case of practicing radical acceptance — the idea that suffering comes from one’s relationship to pain and not the pain itself. If I had begun my time off with the expectation that my mental health would be unstable, would Friday have been such a bust for me? The message I received and my reaction to it were extraneous circumstances, yes, but I felt just as vulnerable and sickened by the confrontation as I felt bitter and angry that I was being robbed of my holiday. Removing my bitterness cuts that pain in half. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but it’s an important lesson for us all. Mental illness doesn’t take a holiday, so perhaps we shouldn’t be entirely surprised when it shows up out of the blue like a ghost in the attic. Maybe, then, we can treat it less like an unwanted visitation and more like a roommate, ever-present, as much as we may not get along and I really wish they’d move out already because all that chain rattling keeps me up at night, and makes it really hard to get things done. The next time I have a holiday scheduled, I’ll try my best to practice radical acceptance. Will you join me?

Matt Sloan

Would Practicing Radical Acceptance Have Helped My Trauma?

Recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been unable to take a holiday — or even a few days off from work — without being haunted by trauma and depression as if it’s some kind of specter, rattling its chains in the attic. Case in point: I had a few days off last week thanks to public holidays in the United Kingdom, and I was determined to rest, to disallow my mental illnesses to intrude and steal more time from me, as they’re prone to do. Things started off well — I was able to rest and relax until, on Thursday evening, I spotted a message from somebody who knew me in childhood and who knows my mother — my emotionally and verbally abusive mother, with whom I’ve cut all contact. It was a reasonably simple message asking if I’m in contact with her again, but it was enough to allow trauma an opening. I haven’t had therapy to properly deal with my childhood, so until I do, anything that makes me delve into it is hazardous. I asked her not to contact me again, and then came the invalidation, telling me that there was no emotional abuse in my childhood, denying my mother’s significant part in my trauma and my depression. I was suddenly forced to defend myself, in great detail, to the person on the other end of those messages — sending voice clips to explain the many things they apparently did not see in my childhood, picking apart the lies my mother has told them, like not being there the morning my father died — a despicable lie, especially considering I was there that morning and for days afterward, comforting her through it. It’s typical behavior from my mother, spreading lies about people whom she believes have wronged her — but it packed a particular emotional punch. I felt extremely vulnerable the rest of that right, and through the whole of the following day. The specter of my trauma had risen, rattling its heavy chains in the attic, moaning and wailing in the background as I tried, desperately, just to enjoy my time off. I cursed it for once again intruding on my relaxation, my sacred recuperation. I couldn’t shrug it off no matter the self-care methods with which I tried to combat it. I woke the next day feeling bitter. It was the weekend, so the actual scheduled time off from work had largely been wasted battling a ghost that had no business there. Once again, I felt the universe conspire against me. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” they say. Awry, they went. Maybe, when you live with trauma, depression, or any illness that can affect you when you least expect it, it pays to expect the worst-case scenario. Perhaps it’s a case of practicing radical acceptance — the idea that suffering comes from one’s relationship to pain and not the pain itself. If I had begun my time off with the expectation that my mental health would be unstable, would Friday have been such a bust for me? The message I received and my reaction to it were extraneous circumstances, yes, but I felt just as vulnerable and sickened by the confrontation as I felt bitter and angry that I was being robbed of my holiday. Removing my bitterness cuts that pain in half. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but it’s an important lesson for us all. Mental illness doesn’t take a holiday, so perhaps we shouldn’t be entirely surprised when it shows up out of the blue like a ghost in the attic. Maybe, then, we can treat it less like an unwanted visitation and more like a roommate, ever-present, as much as we may not get along and I really wish they’d move out already because all that chain rattling keeps me up at night, and makes it really hard to get things done. The next time I have a holiday scheduled, I’ll try my best to practice radical acceptance. Will you join me?