This is not a test. This is the real thing. I like many of you have been personally coping with major stress, threats to physical safety, economic circumstances and changes that effect my daily life.  A lot of information coming from many sources. Our roles at home, at work and in the community have changed. Feelings of overwhelm, stress, uncertainty, grief and sadness are normal reactions.

My role as a mother, daughter, sister, spouse, friend, psychotherapist and sole proprietor of a small business has changed. I am adapting. Learning new skills. Sharpening old ones. Being resourceful. Creative.  My work world. My home life. My inner world. Keeping perspective. Looking outward. Embracing change. Moving forward.

It has always been my choice to meet with a client in person. There is something so unique, alive and organic that occurs when people connect and create an environment that promotes healing and growth. I have participated in Telehealth with clients. This is not new for me. I have supported clients through cancer treatments, chronic illness which leaves them homebound or in a hospital or deployment. I have counseled clients following a traumatic event. I have helped families cope with crises. I am continually growing and learning new skills as I continue to meet the needs of my clients.

This is different.

This is not a test.

This is very real. People are in crisis. Families are in crisis. Our communities are in crisis. Our world is in crisis.

I have clients who have retreated into themselves. Into very dark places. This is more than self quarantining.  This is more than an Executive Order to stay at home.

This is about worrying about basic needs. This is worrying about the safety and health of our loved ones both young and old. This is worrying about businesses that are “my child”, “my livelihood”, “my children’s college education”, “poured years of sweat, tears, money into this on a daily basis”, “I have missed major events, taken time away from family and this could all go away”. ” I am fighting the urge to drink or smoke more”. I haven’t struggled with cravings for years.”

I hear you. I see you. I’ve got you.

This is having to cancel or postpone a child’s birthday party. This is having to explain to a child that their birthday will look differently this year. This is a gut wrenching anxiety that most of us have even know that hits when you realize that people have horded supplies and there is no toilet paper, milk, eggs etc. This is hearing on the news that of thousands of people are dying from a virus that has no vaccine and no cure.

This is real. This is not a test. I hear you. I see you. I’ve got you.

I give everyone permission, myself included, to check in with yourself and do what you need to do to feel safe. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Please stay informed. Knowledge is power. It fights uncertainty with fact. Just be mindful. Hear an update. Check in about headlines. Then take a break. Practice self care. Talk to others. Get out of your comfort zone and use technology to connect. It will fight the darkness, the isolation, the sadness, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and overwhelm. Tell someone else what you are going through. Check in on a loved one. Check in on the extroverts; its rough right now. Check in on the introverts; its rough right now.

Give yourself permission to redefine your definition of productive. Redefine your daily goals. Make a new routine. Dig deep. Stay open to change. Be gentle to yourself. Talk back to your critic. Listen to your wise mind. Find reasons to laugh. Make them happen.

Most important of all. You are not alone. Help is out there. Tell your story it heals. It really does. We are inherently resilient. It still takes a village. Even a village that practices social distancing and is under an Executive Stay at Home Order.

This is real. This is not a test. I hear you. I see you. I’ve got you.

 

Happy-Couple-Jumping

We have the opportunity to be a lifelong learner. Choosing to be in relationship affords us the opportunity to continually grow and change. We have the incentive to work on ourselves as we are just one piece of the relational puzzle. When we choose a partner and make the conscious choice to be in relationship we must be aware that we bring with us our family of origin, our ancestors, our experiences.  We are constantly taking in new information. Making adjustments. By joining two systems a third is created. That relational system created between partners affords us the opportunity to continue to grow, change and adapt. Sometimes growth requires being uncomfortable.  Needs change. We must stay ready and open for growth and change. Our needs are fluid. They vary given the contextual landscape. Our needs are very complex. The years don’t just pass us by. We must be engage in our daily lives. Staying connected to each other and ourselves. We hope to improve, get better with age, work out the kinks, change patterns and create new ones. We hope the same for our partner. Each person is responsible for themselves. Each person is responsible for their own growth and development. Utilize the connection with each other to have honest, open and raw conversations. Don’t wait until you are sitting on my couch. Be willing to ask the other to change. Be willing to change. Be open. Be fallible. Be gentle. Be real. I believe in you. You can do it. Hang in there. The rewards are limitless. 

 

 

Happy-Couple-Jumping

We have the opportunity to be a lifelong learner. Choosing to be in relationship affords us the opportunity to continually grow and change. We have the incentive to work on ourselves as we are just one piece of the relational puzzle. When we choose a partner and make the conscious choice to be in relationship we must be aware that we bring with us our family of origin, our ancestors, our experiences.  We are constantly taking in new information. Making adjustments. By joining two systems a third is created. That relational system created between partners affords us the opportunity to continue to grow, change and adapt. Sometimes growth requires being uncomfortable.  Needs change. We must stay ready and open for growth and change. Our needs are fluid. They vary given the contextual landscape. Our needs are very complex. The years don’t just pass us by. We must be engage in our daily lives. Staying connected to each other and ourselves. We hope to improve, get better with age, work out the kinks, change patterns and create new ones. We hope the same for our partner. Each person is responsible for themselves. Each person is responsible for their own growth and development. Utilize the connection with each other to have honest, open and raw conversations. Don’t wait until you are sitting on my couch. Be willing to ask the other to change. Be willing to change. Be open. Be fallible. Be gentle. Be real. I believe in you. You can do it. Hang in there. The rewards are limitless. 

 

 

WT girls bathroom inspirational art on stalls

What a gift! As I quickly stepped in the restroom during the break at Curriculum Night, I was met with a fabulous surprise. As a mom of two boys, I don’t often say “What a fabulous surprise!” as I walk into many restrooms. Well, I was surprised tonight. Wow! Just Wow! I was instantly smiling as I read the positive and protective messages on each stall. Just Wow! Imagine being exposed to these powerful messages on a daily basis. Talk about protective factors.

What effect will they have on one person? Our community? Our society? What will it be like to grow up with these positive messages? Will they be protective? Will our children feel less distress while growing up? Will this change how we think about ourselves? Each other?

As September moves forward our focus on suicide prevention keeps us talking about protective factors, access to resources, the negative effect of bullying on our children, reducing stigma, improving the access and utilization of services and therapeutic opportunities. I have marched in walks for suicide prevention for over fifteen years. I have been a psychotherapist for almost nineteen years. I am in my forties and I still remember very vividly experiencing and witnessing bullying behaviors. This occurred within a culture that allowed bullying. It was almost expected. We talk about bullying on the courts, the fields, class rooms and locker rooms . We talk about “the mean girl culture” as early as 4th and 5th grade. We talk about bullying at school and in our community. We talk about bullying occurring on social media.

For me, it doesn’t matter how many years I have been aware of the problem or how many news stories I hear or read. It all gets very real when I hear about a person taking their life, committing suicide, as a result of being bullied, alienated, abused and not protected. When I talk with friends and family members who are trying to make sense of loosing someone to suicide it is very real.

*If you are reading this and you are thinking about suicide or have lost someone to suicide and you want to talk. Please call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or TEXT 741741 *

Believe in Yourself. Have courage. Be kind. They are words. You are so ugly. No one would miss you if you were gone. What a loser. What a drama king. These are also words. The old rhyme about how sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you; Is a lie. It’s just not true. Bruises and bones heal. Words take up residence in our heads. These words scream at us throughout the day and as we try to get some rest and fall asleep. These words look back at us when we check social media. They come with us as we navigate the adventure we call our life.

What if there is no one to tell us not to listen to the bullies. What if no one notices we are depressed and have become isolated? What if I have learned that I will go to hell for being who I am? What if my home life is as hurtful as the bullies on the bus? What if my stalls in my bathroom are blank or filled with hate speech? What if I feel that there is no bathroom for me and I have to wait until school is dismissed? What if there is no safe place to go? No trusted person to talk to?

We keep walking. We keep talking. We say it is not OK to be a bully. We say it is not OK to be a bystander and say or do nothing. We continue to talk about protective factors. We continue to wage a battle against stigma. We improve access to services. We tell our stories. We listen to each other with open hearts and open minds. We watch our words. We post responsibly. We be the one. The one to notice. The one to care. The one to reach out. We keep fighting. We keep going. Take it minute by minute if you need to. Reach out. Get help. You are not alone. You matter.

We think. Feel. Be. DO

 

AD64E9D4-FC7F-46CC-85F0-003CA430E003.jpeg

So, how do you feel? Right now. How do you know? What tools did you use to check in with yourself? Did you just know? Would I know just by looking at you? Does it have a color(s)? What words would you use to describe how you feel right now? Do thoughts accompany particular feelings? Do some come before? After? Are their particular feelings that you experience more often? Are there some feelings that you are less familiar with?

Why am I wondering all of this? Why should you? Wellness includes daily management of stressors, being present with what is happening within you and around you. It also includes making hourly, daily adjustments to give yourself what you need. Knowing when to reach out, to increase your skill set, make connections, ask for help and believe you deserve it. You are worth the time spent on your healing.

Checking in with how we feel and think is a useful tool in your wellness toolbox. You have the ability to check in with yourself like you check the weather.

Getting to know yourself is a lifelong process. Our needs, perspective and context changes. We are fluid beings. We can feel a variety of emotions in a given movement or through out a day. Our beliefs about feelings in general dictate our relationship with both others and ourselves. Be as interested in your own emotional experience as the TV characters you long to return to each week. I promise you that the rewards will be great. You will feel the difference in both yourself and others. Our degree of connectedness to each other is dependent on the connection we have to our thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, hopes and dreams.

I encourage you. I invite you in. Date yourself. Ask yourself what do I feel right now? What do I need? How will you get it? Sustain it? Make love to yourself. Find out what turns you on and do more of it. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  1. 🎶“In the Strangest of Places We Can Look at it Right”🎶
  2. It is important to stop and think about what we appreciate, what we are grateful for and what we cherish. This helps us to keep our perspective attuned to the positive aspects of life. It is even more critical during times of stress, unhappiness, uncertainty, and high drama. A great way to do this by adopting the daily practice of checking in with yourself. For example, this can be done while you are taking a shower in the morning. Turn your attention inward and ask yourself what have I been appreciative of in the past few days? If it is a person don’t forget to let them know that you appreciate them. What/who are you grateful for having in your life? It is so easy to concentrate on what annoys us or what ails us! Stop. Bring up a happy memory. It can be freeing to see how you can shift your mood, stop a flood of negative thoughts in their tracks and feel more hopeful.  Wellness doesn’t have to be complicated. Daily focus can have a positive trickle effect throughout our lives.

dreams highway sign for blog post 3 20 18

“You may sat I’m a dreamer.But I’m not the only one.” ~John Lennon

We all dream. Yes you. Even if you can’t remember or say “I just don’t dream”; you do! We all dream. We also forget about 95% of our dreams. To interpret or not interpret? If it appeals to you; do it. If it doesn’t interest you at all; that’s ok. Don’t do it. Clients often bring their dream material into the therapy room. For many, it is the way they analyze themselves, make important decisions and pick lottery numbers.

Do you view dreams as part of your self exploration? Can dreams give you a window into your psyche. Are they related to the late night snack you ate before bed? Do your dreams allow your subconscious to speak? Does that anxiety you have about your upcoming presentation at work show up in your dreams? What do you believe about dreams? Do your beliefs about dreaming effect your dream life? Researchers have identified reoccurring themes. The most common themes are falling, being late, failing or missing an exam, being attacked or chased and being struck. They represent universal aspects of the human experience. It is thought that What about having a recurring dream? Is it because you have something to learn or explore. Could it be a predominant and/or personally meaningful underlying emotion?

Are you game for a mini experiment? Take a few days to explore your dream life. Items you will need. Paper and a writing tool. Place it near where you regularly sleep. When you awake, lie for a moment and try to remember your dream. It’s ok if its snap shots or random images, a feeling, a smell…anything. Write it down. You can analyze and interpret it later. Before you go to sleep tell your (silently or out loud) that you welcome your dreams tonight and hope that you can remember them. It is thought that this intention plants the seeds for both a rich dream life and increases the likelihood you will remember your dreams.

 

 

 

 

pexels-photo-799718.jpegPoetry is when an emotion has found it’s thought and the thought has found words. -Robert Frost

This morning I was out and about running errands before I went to the office. I found myself noticing how beautiful the fresh snow looked as the sunlight bounced off of it. The traffic was very slow-moving so I had extra time to gaze upon the fresh snow. I noticed I was smiling. Many people have sat on my couch and said, “I will wake up tomorrow and…..”. Beginning the day with an intention helps to focus our thoughts and will help us achieve our goals. Going to bed thinking that you are waking up and accessing a fresh start has some extra oomph to it. The sun rises each day and most likely does not beat itself up for what it did or didn’t do the day before. The fresh layer of snow holds with it the possibility of a fresh start.  My footprints on that fresh snow mark my journey.  How do we decide what gets to come with on this new adventure? Lessons learned can only help us right?  What should stay behind?

WHAT? Yes. Sometimes; holding on to hope and jumping in are the only options. I need to repeat myself. Sometimes you just have to jump in!! This is your therapist speaking. I have an announcement. Jump! Go ahead check in with your feelings. Take a deep breath. Check back in with your feelings. Now think about that “SOMETHING” that you think about often, even dream about. That “SOMETHING” you really wish you could do but talk yourself out of. Oh you know; that “SOMETHING” you made a vision board about, prayed about, journaled about, told yourself that if you won the lottery you would actually attempt. Yep; that thing.

When it feels scary to jump that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life. Read it again if it helps the message to trickle down and seep in. Yes, you are allowed to plan. Yes, you are allowed to make lists. You have to be actively moving towards achieving, completing, realizing, creating your “SOMETHING”.  Meditate on it this morning. Tonight take an action towards your “SOMETHING”. Intention. Action. You have to be exploring what it will take within you and outside you to actualize this “SOMETHING”.

Sometimes; holding on to hope and jumping in are the only options. When dealing with “SOMETHING”s it is ALWAYS the time to hold onto hope and jump right in. You are worth it. Read that again to help it gain staying power. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

You can do this. I believe in you! Now; JUMP!!

 

Let’s talk about Post Traumatic Growth. This phrase has been popping up in the media over the past few years. This topic has come up while attending  various trauma conferences. How trauma or tragedy can make us stronger and help create a more meaningful life? What? What does this even mean? Post Traumatic Growth has been defined as the psychological phenomena of people becoming stronger, experience a positive psychological change as a result of the adversity and other challenges. This creates a rise to a higher level of functioning. Psychological shifts occur. The way we think, feel and relate to the world changes through this process. It is important to remember that perceived growth and actual growth are two very different things.

As a trauma therapist, I have always been intrigued about our resilience, our ability to adapt and change to meet the current needs in our environment and relationships. As a trauma therapist I also know that no one I have ever met or counseled has said I am glad that I went through that tragedy, experience or assault. I do know that through healing we can be re-attached to our strength. I do know that through the process of therapy and recovery we can change the way we think and feel about ourselves and the world. Being a survivor can become a source of power versus a badge of victim hood. The way that we think about ourselves is very important.  It affects everything we do. In the room with clients we often dialogue about “who they were before” and “what it is like to walk in their shoes now”.

Someone must believe that there can be a positive side effect of trauma in order for someone to believe in the phenomenon of post traumatic growth, Right? I would imagine someone has to come to the conclusion that there were both negative and positive consequences to their experience for this to be true. Right? How does the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder fit in with the psychological phenomenon of Post Traumatic Growth? How can clinicians foster or encourage post traumatic growth? What could hasten this growth?

What are your thoughts?  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

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