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Resolving Crisis

by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W.

"No way out" situations in life cause some to attempt or commit suicide or encourage self mutilation or self destruction in a variety of ways. 

There are situations in life that come to us where we feel stuck and that there is no way out and we are doomed forever. We tell ourselves "this is it." I am sure if you have a mental health disorder you have faced those times.

At times they are self created and times where fate just seems to walk in on us. 

I had my car stolen yesterday. The police were at my door telling me they saw my car driven over 100 mph by a 20 some year old male and a female in the car. 

It is important to know that approximately 3 months ago my previous car just "quit on me" and to fix the car would cost more than it was worth. It took me 3 months of financial hardship to get another very cheap car - $450 was all I could afford and find someone to take payments. 

I just paid for some work on it last month. It is important for you to know I receive social security disability for my BP and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and live on a very limited income. Just when I was beginning to make a reasonable amount of money from selling books thru Amazon, I got divorced and my ex took my site because his name happened to be on it and does not share any of the proceeds with me. My articles stayed on the site with my name removed and on some his name was put there. On top of that is a very damaging "article" about me that isn't even true. 

It is not important to know the site or the name of my ex. I have in fact received a few letters criticizing me for discussing similar situations, which I do very rarely but I will not be restricted from talking about my life which belongs to me if it will help someone else. 

Ok, so here I am with no savings living on a limited income and my opinion is when they find my car it wont be worth picking up. The policeman said he felt the ignition is damaged and who knows what shape it will be in once it is found. Repairs will not be worth the cost of the vehicle. 

Now I am very upset but this episode I am undergoing at this time is very minor compared to some extremely complicated situations I've been in. However it is nonetheless an example. 

First, it is normal, natural and healthy to respond with powerful emotions - fear, anger, sadness, confusion, worry, etc. We have to feel what we feel without trying to mask those feelings. Many do that with alcohol and a variety of other addictions. If we don't experience the feelings that come with disaster, we are stuck with those feelings inside of us that need to come out. Many call it garbage. We are walking around with garbage inside of us and much of can come from events years ago. 

At times we are so struck that we may need to get outside professional help from a therapist and/or Dr. You are a wise person if you find yourself in that position and seek out that outside help. It's called "taking care of yourself," not "I'm a weak person for needing help." When we have diabetes we need to face the fact that we will need outside assistance to take care of ourselves. 

Feeling these powerful feelings does not mean you are weak and it does not mean you cannot handle the situation or survive it. The saying about courage is experiencing fear but doing the thing that we are afraid to do. 


Studies have shown that the people more likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder if they "freeze" during traumatic times. It is those people who continue to work things out that are less likely to develop PTSD. I know that feeling of being frozen as I have experienced it many times. Sometimes before I can deal with the situation I need to "thaw out" first. 

Shock is normally the first emotion during crises. This is mother nature's way of protecting us. We don't have to face tremendous sadness right away until our body can deal with it. This is why you see many people functioning very well at funerals. Many of them are still in shock.

So, during crises, tell yourself it is ok, healthy and normal to experience overwhelming feelings. Don't be afraid of them. They will lesson in time. 

There have been times I have been unable to leave the couch or leave my bedroom for two weeks and my therapist at the time just said to "batten down the hatches." Do not experience guilt about normal emotional reactions. 

Just as soon as you reach a point where you can physically, mentally and emotionally function is when you become that "warrior" I have spoken so much of. Normally while we are doing "warrior behaviors," we are experiencing a great deal of emotional pain during that time. However our behavior does not have to match our feelings. If we relied on feelings alone in life we would be in more trouble than we already are. 

Last night I became very dysphoric, felt hopeless, alone and afraid. I played soothing music (for me Enya is normally a good choice or Pavarotti). I cried and let all those emotions out. I had a hard time calming myself down to even rest to go to sleep. The messages I told myself were all negative. "I'll never stay above water. I know I'll just drown." 

However I awoke this morning with a different feeling. It did not happen on it's own. I had to create this feeling and this attitude myself and refused to give in to a giving up attitude. How did I do this?

First it is important to know that I have had lots of experience with crises and have developed some coping skills and survival skills along the way. I know that those skills are in me as I can look back on my life and see me get myself out of bad situations. This is another reason I mentioned recently that I believe that those of us with mental health disorders probably have greater coping and survival skills. Why? We've most likely suffered more than a person without those disorders. This is not always the case but I believe it is many times. 

I have an inner dialogue that I tell myself repeatedly and this dialogue and desire to get through this AND my very strong spiritual belief that God will assist me and not fail me. These spiritual beliefs are my foundation and I have said repeatedly that studies show that people who have strong spiritual beliefs "do better" during hard times. 

My inner dialogue may be entirely different than what works for you. Mine is "I am strong! I am a survivor and a warrior and these qualities define me. I am the kind of person who is a survivor and I am a strong person. That is who I am. I face life head on. I have incredible inner courage and strength and that will be my attitude during this crisis because I possess these skills." Then I visualize myself laying down in a flat position and I say to myself "Stand!" and I see myself getting up and standing straight up. 

Why do I choose this attitude instead of just giving in to whatever feelings come my way? I have come out of crises much easier because I can do the things I need to do to get out of the crisis, and I don't enjoy feeling bad when I can choose to feel better. Remember the book I talk about? "Happiness is a Choice." You can buy it through my bookstore at  In the review it says "Barry Neil Kaufman, therapist, author, motivational speaker, and co-founder of the Option Institute, has observed that despite disappointments, illnesses, and physical and emotional problems, people who are most successful in finding happiness share certain traits. He shows us how to use these traits to change our lives quickly, easily, and without pain."

When I develop this new attitude is when I make a strategic plan to get myself out of the crisis and I take those steps. 

Now there are times, for example if we lose someone we love that the strategic plan is altered. We can ask ourselves what goal we can accomplish today or that hour to get through the day. Don't expect things out of yourself that are unreasonable for you to accomplish at that time. Do those things, and work hard at it, that we are capable of doing. Examples could be: getting out of the house to do something soothing, call a friend to talk, finding out where a local grief support group exists close to you or if you can't find one find an activity you enjoy which will bring you around people. For me, swimming feels mystical and I enjoy it so much. 

Take one step at a time to achieve your goals. First I get out of bed. Then I make myself some coffee and wake up. Then I shower. Choose clothes that make you feel good when you are in them. Then by taking one step at a time, make arrangements to meet your goal that day. 

Facing crises and grief is hard work. 

If you do reach a time where honestly you cannot see a way out, that's when you seek outside help and perhaps they can assist you in seeing your options. Use the services in your area whether you need transportation, counseling, a crisis line call and don't isolate yourself. Seek out family and friends and accept their assistance. 

Give yourselves "time out" where you can continue to feel those feelings that must come out. Pamper yourself and love yourself and get rid of any guilt. Most of the guilt we experience in my opinion is inappropriate guilt. We feel guilty for something that we have no right to feel guilt for. Get rid of it. Even if you are experiencing appropriate guilt where we made a mistake, forgive yourself, ask God to forgive you and move on. Don't stay stuck.

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Visit Mental Health Matters for information and articles. Get help to find a therapist or list your practice; and Psych Forums for message boards on a variety of MH topics.


Related Books

Crisis Intervention Handbook: Assessment, Treatment, and Research

What Should I Do With My Life