Thursday, September 18, 2014

Protective factors and making it through life

My view from the front steps of my office building on a recent evening.

Do you ever wonder how you got from your childhood to where you are now in one piece?

I get emails from people who have found my blog and want to know more about how I deal with OCD and/or depression and anxiety.
I am not a medical expert or a therapist. I am a person who has mental illnesses. I try to share my experiences with different treatments and different ways that I have dealt with OCD, depression, and anxiety.
It still surprises me, though, that I seem like someone who has reached a place where I can be of help to anyone else. Like someone who has a good life in spite of having mental illnesses and setbacks along the way.
Believe me, I have not overcome all the obstacles that mental illnesses cause. I’m still trying to figure out who I am.
But I have managed to build a good life.
What helped me do that?

Despite some difficult times during my childhood and teen years, I had the benefit of protective factors.

Protective factors are individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviors that reduce the effects of stressful life events. These factors also increase an individual’s ability to avoid risks or hazards, and promote social and emotional competence to thrive in all aspects of life, now and in the future.” 

The CDC lists the protective factors of school connectedness, parent engagement in schools, and positive parenting practices. There are more, of course.

Recently, I’ve written about two parts of my life that I define as protective factors for me. I had people in my life—whether related to me by blood or not—who helped to nurture me and encourage me as a young person.
And I had books that taught me and inspired me.

Knowledge about protective factors comforts me.
As a young person, I had help in several forms that led me to eventually get treatment, begin thinking in different and healthier ways, and start living the life that I wanted to live.
All of that help didn’t have to come from the ones we think must provide it, our parents.
We all have protective factors that help counteract the bad times in life. We can celebrate and nurture those factors.
I wasn’t alone as a child. I’m not alone now.
And neither are you.

So how did I make it from childhood to where I am now in one piece? With a lot of help along the way.

What are some of the protective factors in your life?


  1. i think there are times in my life where i can look back & see how i got where i did ... sometimes it is easier than others. no matter what i have gone through & will go through i will continue on ... it has made me who i am ... i'm far from perfect but it is all a learning process. ( :

  2. It's really something how these factors can make such a huge difference. Having a support system (whether it's family or not) makes such a difference in how we cope with adversity.

  3. Excellent post, Tina! I'm so glad you introduced us to this term. Today I hope I can be a "protective factor" in the lives of others. YOU are obviously serving this function on this blog. Thanks for the comment you left on my post. I responded there also.

  4. you still don't see who you are tina, who you really are!!! don't give ocd the spotlight of who you are, of who you have become. it is only one of the quailites you posess.

    protective inner strength has guided me to this point AND never sleeping in complete darkness or without many layers of covers, keeping me safe in the night!! thanks for this excellent read today!! you are not alone!!!

  5. the new-age spiritualists always say that guides/angels are given to us when we need them most, in the form of ordinary folks we encounter. i'm glad you've had a few. :)

  6. I think most of us, myself included, have our own protective factors within us. I think we all have more strength and resolve than we typically give ourselves credit for.....great post!

  7. Wonderful post, Tina. You are an inspiration to others. I've always had a very loving and supportive family, and that has certainly helped me along the way.

  8. I'm not surprised people find and ask you. You are open, caring, and are probably a good deal further along in dealing with it than some who may find you. We all look for whatever we can to help us find strategies to deal with whatever we must. When someone opens themselves up to that, it is such a gift to discover. I love the term "protective factors." I'd never heard it but I realize that I surround myself with those every day.

  9. I have never heard about "protective factors" until now. That's very interesting. I also think that books and an active imagination (and my dog) got me through what could have been a more difficult childhood, but there were also some good people along the way. My parents were fine in many ways, but with a large family and needing to make ends meet, one way or another, they weren't necessarily there when needed. Still, I made it through. I think that it's good to think about the things and people that helped us out. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  10. These are great tips. Always important to have protective factors in place. I just started reading a memoir about anxiety. I will let you know if it is any good.

  11. Beautiful post, Tina. You are so blessed to have had those that nurtured you and cared for you and to you for seeking that extra help that was needed. I couldn't have journeyed thru my difficult times without my friends and family.

  12. I can't imagine dealing with anxiety and depression on a daily basis. I get depressed at times but most people do. For me having a strong faith in God has helped me through the ups and downs of life. Also a supporitve family and friends help.

  13. Protective factors-as an only child I had our family pets and good parents but when they were preoccupied I had many aunts and uncles. The people that help me the most now are the ones I've had a lifetime since around the age 3, no secrets really and being honest with them isn't a threat. I admire and applaud you Tina.

  14. I haven't seen the term "protective factors" before, but I would say that the anxiety management program I took back in 2003 was all about creating them. (TERRAP is the program acronym.) These included a variety of techniques from visualization to progressive relaxation to knowing when to leave a situation. These days I find those techniques so grounded in my being that I do them automatically for the most part. I will forever be grateful for this life-changing program.

  15. It's no exaggeration to say that the Narnia books by CS Lewis saved my life many times during my teens. There were a solace, a sanctuary, and a call to self-enchantment. I would not be alive today without them!


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