Episode 16 – Bullying, Empathy at Work & Medication

Episode 16 – Bullying, Empathy at Work & Medication

This week on the podcast we talk about what to do when sharing your mental health struggles doesn’t go well, managing negative thoughts about others after experiencing bullying, empathy in work situations, and coping with feelings of numbness due to medication.


Chris and Christine reflect on the fact that they are recording earlier than usual. Chris shares that he is caring for his dog who is sick and has been focusing on that by and large. Christine reflects on how feeling stressed in general last week made her feel like the episode wasn’t as good, but then once she listened she felt it was fine. Chris agreed that it’s often hard to be objective right after recording but that then he feels better. Christine and Chris agree that perfection can be the enemy of progress, and that getting some momentum going can help a lot.

Question 1

How do you deal with close friends reacting awkwardly or starting to ignore you when you tell them about your depression? These are people whom I have shared everything with for years and now I just feel more alone. Thanks.

  • Christine and Chris feel empathy for the caller being in this difficult situation.
  • Christine describes that if you feel close enough to these individuals, you could call them out on what happened. Highlight that you noticed a change in your relationship when you shared your mental health challenges. She notes that this is a difficult conversation to have.
  • Chris wonders if the friend has good motives but is lacking some understanding, education, or knowledge about the situation.
  • It could be that they just don’t know how to react or how to be helpful. The person disclosing the mental health challenge could clarify expectations when having these conversations. It may be that the listener feels pressure and uncertainty about how to respond, so letting them know that you don’t expect them to fix you could be helpful.
  • Christine notes that it may be that the other person is going through something themselves and doesn’t feel able to be supportive. Or it could be that they aren’t actually pulling away in the way that you think they are. So it can be helpful to check your thoughts and confirm that you aren’t distorting the facts of the situation and that it’s more about them than you.
  • Final option: find support or friendship with other places or with other people. Going through a mental health struggle alone is hard, and you shouldn’t isolate if at all possible.
  • Chris commends the caller for having the courage to open up about his/her struggles and encourages the person to find support elsewhere so that they aren’t alone.

Question 2

Hi, my name is Nicole. I was wondering if maybe in the future you could do something about the aftereffects of bullying in adulthood. I was bullied as a child and to this day I have a lot of trouble trusting other people. I tend to get paranoid thoughts like about my co-workers. I’ll start thinking they’re talking about me, they don’t really like me,  or they’re just being nice for their own gain. If they’re doing something that seems altruistic I’ll start thinking to myself, “What do they want from me?” And I know this isn’t totally logical but it’s not entirely my fault considering what I’ve gone through. I was wondering if you had any ideas for adult survivors of childhood bullying as to what you can do to overcome those sort of things. Thanks.

  • Chris reflects on how core beliefs can be formed early in life and can be solidly embedded. He shared that he heard about Jonah Hill speaking about a similar topic: that we develop beliefs about ourselves in adolescence and then move through life believing those things about ourselves, even into adulthood. It can be helpful to assess situations and see, is this really accurate? Do I have evidence of this?
  • Christine notes that it’s understandable that the caller has these thoughts or beliefs when people are kind to her based on her previous life experiences. But at the same time these thoughts aren’t helpful and might be holding her back. She agrees with the Chris that it would be a good idea to check those assumptions and look for evidence one way or the other.
  • The caller could be missing out on positive relationships because she is going in to situations with a negative view or feeling. Chris also notes that it can take time to undo some of the core beliefs, because they are so ingrained over time.
  • Christine comments that the process is to catch the assumptions, check them to find evidence, and then try to find more balanced thoughts.
  • Christine and Chris discourage listeners from bullying their peers.

Question 3

Hi, my name is Stacy.  have a question about how to deal with other people’s strong emotions when I’m a healthcare worker and I’m needing to take care of them. But I have my own strong emotions going on and try to deal with that. I know that a small amount of empathy is is helpful for me to take care of people, sometimes it becomes too much and I become almost crippled. Like I can’t really help them because I’m feeling what they’re feeling rather than having sort of a protective bubble around myself. I was just wondering if you have any suggestions on how to protect yourself that way so that, you know, you can just do your job better. Anyway, thank you. That would be great, bye-bye.

  • Christine interprets the caller’s situation to mean that she has a hard time focusing on providing health care when she feels a large amount of empathy for her patients and their personal struggles.
  • Chris describes that he has been impressed by how detached some of the health care providers he has seen for his dog. He recognizes how much the provider has to separate their job functioning from their emotions so that they can actually accomplish what they need to.
  • Christine comments that she feels there is not enough training provided on how to manage the emotions that come along with being a healthcare provider or therapist more specifically.
  • Christine suggests compartmentalizing. Though it can get a bad rap, it can helpful to separate one’s emotional challenges or negative experiences from those of others. Observe your emotions, label them, detach from them, and let them go. Try to practice mindful awareness without letting it get stuck you.
  • A regular mindfulness practice can help.
  • She also suggests good general self-care, rest, getting enough time off from work.
  • In the moment, try grounding yourself. Remind yourself that this struggle is not your own. Try to avoid the urge to be a problem solver for others. Be caring, be present, but try to avoid the urgent feeling to fix things for other people. Recognize that you can’t remove all struggles for everyone.
  • Ultimately, if you’re not successful, you might consider changing care settings or specialities if you find that you aren’t able to be the provider that you want to be.

Question 4

Will medication ever make me feel “normal” or will I always feel numb? I’ve tried so many different medications and I still don’t feel better.

  • Emotional blunting or numbing from psychiatric medications is fairly common. They tend to bring the highs down and the lows up, so that you feel middle of the road more often.
  • On the other hand, it could mean that the meds aren’t working well. Sometimes an inability to feel positive emotions is a symptom of depression, so it could be that your symptoms aren’t well-controlled right now. It could be that the medication isn’t working, rather than that this is a side effect.
  • Tracking your symptoms or side effects can be helpful for when you go into a conversation with your physician or prescriber.
  • Probably not yet time to give up–could change medication, dose, time of day. Talk to your doctor about what you’re hoping for.
  • Chris wonders what “normal” means.
  • Christine feels that “normal” probably depends on the person and what they’ve become used to. She tends to ask people whether they feel like their regular self.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553. You can also record an audio note of yourself and email it to info AT thinkpacifica DOT com.