Reflections of Hope – April 2018

HFC Newsletter - April 2018 Edition


Reflections of Hope – January 2018

HFC Newsletter - January 2018 Edition

Hispanic Family Counseling Inc. as University Behavioral Center’s Provider of the Month

Hispanic Family Counseling Inc. was honored to be chosen as University Behavioral Center’s Provider of the Month. To read more, please see the UBC newsletter below.

Hispanic Family Counseling Inc. tuvo el honor de ser elegido Proveedor del Mes del Centro de Conducta Universitaria. Para leer más, consulte el boletín de UBC abajo.


A Message From Our Director: Denisse Centeno Lamas

As we approach the end of the year, we recognize how difficult 2016 has been to our Central Florida Community. This past year surprised us all with inexcusable situations that intended to instill fear and to crumble our character; but instead, they have challenged us to rethink our priorities and reaffirm our mission.  We have seen the resilience of our community as we continue to grow united to overcome these difficult circumstances. During the month of June, right after the incident at Pulse, the help and solidarity was overwhelming.  The love and support was shown in many ways – through supplies, sharing of goods and voluntary service, among others.  To all the organizations, churches, families and persons that participated, our most heartfelt thanks.  We wished we had kept a log with every name to recognize you individually.

We are also extremely grateful for the community partners that have helped us in providing services to those in need. In addition, we thank the agencies that continue to  provide financial assistance to enable us to facilitate groups and individual sessions to survivors, family of victims or community members impacted by the tragedy at Pulse.

These include:

  • Central Florida Cares System that has been supporting all the clients without insurance or any form of payment.
  • The Bureau of Victim Compensation that has assisted 14 clients.
  • Since September, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida has assisted 9 clients.
  • The Central Florida Foundation who provided a grant sponsored by United Way and Orlando United Assistance Program to cover services starting November 29, 2016.

We understand that we are still healing and recovering from Pulse. But we are also stronger and animated. At Hispanic Family Counseling, we look forward to 2017. In the meantime, we want to once again express our gratitude for the privilege to help and to assist those in need.

We wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Denisse Centeno Lamas

Hating My Life with Bipolar Disorder

Hating My Life with Bipolar Disorder

Recently, I wrote a Facebook post and someone said it indicated that I hate my life. This is not something I said, but hating a life with bipolar disorder is a pretty easy thing to do. But I have to be clear on something: I don’t just have one life – none of us do. So saying “I hate my life,” is a blanket statement that just isn’t true. It’s a judgment, and it’s not fair.

My Facebook Post on “Hating My Life”

This is what I wrote on Facebook:

So, people think I’m magical. People constantly ask me how a person with bipolar can write a book and do what I do. I totally get this. I guess I make it look easy.

It really isn’t. It’s really impossibly hard.

I want people to know I’m not magical. I’m struggling. It is extremely hard. I do my best to do my job, but that doesn’t make it easy. I often feel like everything is falling apart because of the bipolar — just like everyone else.

In short, while some would consider me “high-functioning,” that doesn’t mean bipolar isn’t trying to kill me one cell at a time.

In this Facebook post, I was trying to tell people – my fans mostly – that I’m human, and just like them, I have troubles with bipolar disorder. And, just like them, bipolar disorder is a very hard thing to fight. I did this because some people put me on a pedestal and I just wanted to make it clear that, no, I don’t live there. Note, that nowhere in that post did I say I hate my life.

Interestingly, some people commented on this post that I should actually share more of my personal struggles than I do.

However, one commenter had this to say:

I’ve been reading your work for a long time now, and there’s a running theme of ‘I hate myself, I don’t deserve happiness, My life is terrible’. It’d really get me down if you were the only bipolar blogger I followed. I’m glad you help people, but I’m saddened by how much you seem to despise your life. I mean, I know children don’t equal happiness, but you are voluntarily taking your genes off the market because of your disorder, you don’t think vacationing with bipolar disorder is a good idea because it can disrupt your routine and trigger an episode, and then this post. Those are just a few episodes I can think of off the top of my head where you share your misery with the masses. I mean, I’m really sorry you’re struggling atm, but it seems like you’re struggling all the time. I’m bipolar too, and I also struggle with episodes of decompensation, and yet I don’t hate my life, at least not any more than the average Joe.

And I have a few things to say about that comment.

“I Hate Myself, I Don’t Deserve Happiness, My Life Is Awful”

Okay, so, yes, that post I made on Facebook is a tough one, but, in my opinion, it’s balanced out by the oodles and oodles of writing I do on bipolar disorder. I discuss absolutely everything – from myself to the condition to pretty much everything else you can think of. And while bipolar depression can make me think I hate myself and it can make me think that I don’t deserve happiness and make me think that my life is awful,  these things are not empirically true, and I’m always one to state that. I have said over and over that the bipolar brain is sick and tells these sorts of lies while the mind is not and can fight them.


It's easy to hate a life with bipolar disorder but if you hate your life with bipolar, does that really mean you hate your whole life?I Hate My Life

Let me be clear about something, I have two lives (well, more actually, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s say two): there’s Natasha’s life, easily described by biographical details, and there’s my bipolar life, dictated by symptoms. These are not the same thing.

Now Natasha’s life is fine. If you were to look at the biographical details of my life, you would see that. I live in a condo. I have friends. I brunch. I have two fabu cats. There’s really nothing to hate there. Yes, Natasha’s life has issues (like a dead fireplace I’m going It's easy to hate a life with bipolar disorder but if you hate your life with bipolar, does that really mean you hate your whole life?to have to go into debt to replace) but these issues are no direr than anyone else’s – mental illness or not.

On the other hand, there’s Natasha’s bipolar life. This is a horrible thing indeed. This life is full of symptoms, side effects, pain and suffering. This is a life that is almost always sick to some degree. This is a life that no one should ever have to live. And yes, I hate this life terribly.

But, as I said, my bipolar life is not my whole life. And, yes, sometimes I talk from a bipolar life perspective and sometimes I don’t. But I’m not confused about what I hate.

“I Struggle with Episodes and I Don’t Hate My Life”

Well, isn’t this commenter lucky? This commenter has “episodes of decompensation.” Lucky her. This commenter doesn’t have live almost every day with some degree of bipolar. Lucky her. It’s incredibly unfair to compare lives when one has episodes of bipolar and one has an ongoing illness.

And I see this all the time. People judge me (and others, of course) for struggling all the time. It really isn’t my fault that bipolar has taken over most of my life – that is the bipolar’s fault. This judgment is unfair and hurtful. These people have no idea how lucky they are – and it’s just luck. They could be as sick as I am and they’re not. That’s the genetic lottery. They got a better hand dealt to them then I did.

Lucky them.

And I wish they would appreciate that luck instead of judging me for not being so lucky.

I Hate My Life – Sort Of

Yes, when it comes down to it, I hate my life with bipolar. I hate my bipolar brain. I don’t hate the parts of it that are good, but I hate the parts of it that are sick and bad. And that’s okay. It’s okay to say you hate your life and yet still appreciate all the good things you have. And no one deserves to be judged for expressing themselves in that way.


How liars create the illusion of truth

Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Among psychologists something like this known as the “illusion of truth” effect. Here’s how a typical experiment on the effect works: participants rate how true trivia items are, things like “A prune is a dried plum”. Sometimes these items are true (like that one), but sometimes participants see a parallel version which isn’t true (something like “A date is a dried plum”).

After a break – of minutes or even weeks – the participants do the procedure again, but this time some of the items they rate are new, and some they saw before in the first phase. The key finding is that people tend to rate items they’ve seen before as more likely to be true, regardless of whether they are true or not, and seemingly for the sole reason that they are more familiar.

So, here, captured in the lab, seems to be the source for the saying that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth. And if you look around yourself, you may start to think that everyone from advertisers to politicians are taking advantage of this foible of human psychology.

But a reliable effect in the lab isn’t necessarily an important effect on people’s real-world beliefs. If you really could make a lie sound true by repetition, there’d be no need for all the other techniques of persuasion.

One obstacle is what you already know. Even if a lie sounds plausible, why would you set what you know aside just because you heard the lie repeatedly?

Recently, a team led by Lisa Fazio of Vanderbilt University set out to test how the illusion of truth effect interacts with our prior knowledge. Would it affect our existing knowledge? They used paired true and un-true statements, but also split their items according to how likely participants were to know the truth (so “The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth” is an example of a “known” items, which also happens to be true, and “The Atlantic Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth” is an un-true item, for which people are likely to know the actual truth).

Their results show that the illusion of truth effect worked just as strongly for known as for unknown items, suggesting that prior knowledge won’t prevent repetition from swaying our judgements of plausibility.

To cover all bases, the researchers performed one study in which the participants were asked to rate how true each statement seemed on a six-point scale, and one where they just categorized each fact as “true” or “false”. Repetition pushed the average item up the six-point scale, and increased the odds that a statement would be categorized as true. For statements that were actually fact or fiction, known or unknown, repetition made them all seem more believable.

At first this looks like bad news for human rationality, but – and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough – when interpreting psychological science, you have to look at the actual numbers.

What Fazio and colleagues actually found, is that the biggest influence on whether a statement was judged to be true was… whether it actually was true. The repetition effect couldn’t mask the truth. With or without repetition, people were still more likely to believe the actual facts as opposed to the lies.

This shows something fundamental about how we update our beliefs – repetition has a power to make things sound more true, even when we know differently, but it doesn’t over-ride that knowledge

The next question has to be, why might that be? The answer is to do with the effort it takes to being rigidly logical about every piece of information you hear. If every time you heard something you assessed it against everything you already knew, you’d still be thinking about breakfast at supper-time. Because we need to make quick judgements, we adopt shortcuts – heuristics which are right more often than wrong. Relying on how often you’ve heard something to judge how truthful something feels is just one strategy. Any universe where truth gets repeated more often than lies, even if only 51% vs 49% will be one where this is a quick and dirty rule for judging facts.

If repetition was the only thing that influenced what we believed we’d be in trouble, but it isn’t. We can all bring to bear more extensive powers of reasoning, but we need to recognize they are a limited resource. Our minds are prey to the illusion of truth effect because our instinct is to use short-cuts in judging how plausible something is. Often this works. Sometimes it is misleading.

Once we know about the effect we can guard against it. Part of this is double-checking why we believe what we do – if something sounds plausible is it because it really is true, or have we just been told that repeatedly? This is why scholars are so mad about providing references – so we can track the origin on any claim, rather than having to take it on faith.

But part of guarding against the illusion is the obligation it puts on us to stop repeating falsehoods. We live in a world where the facts matter, and should matter. If you repeat things without bothering to check if they are true, you are helping to make a world where lies and truth are easier to confuse. So, please, think before you repeat.