Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Archive for the ‘coping’ Category

When Your Aging Parent Refuses Medical Care, What Do You Do?

What do you do if your older parent chooses different medical treatment than you want for them? If they want to stop taking their medicine or if the refuse treatment? If they are tired of living and just don’t want to try anymore. This is a dilemma I have seen time and again in families. Adult children have their own ideas about how their parent should treat an illness and this can result in an argument.

If an adult is in their “right mind,” meaning they have not been assessed and determined to be incapable of making rational decisions, then they get to choose. And this can be very difficult for their families. I have seen adults stop taking medicine because they didn’t believe in medicine or they didn’t like how it made them feel. Or because they couldn’t afford it. Their children say, but you need it to live! The adult knows this, but is making a choice.  I have seen adults have very harrowing experiences in the hospital, painful surgeries or debilitating side effects, long term recovery. They know they never want to experience that again, so they might refuse to see the doctor if they know something is wrong or if they fear they might need surgery again. If someone hasn’t been through this, they may not realize how traumatic it is and how fear can stop someone from acting. It is similar to having a car accident and being afraid to drive again. I have even seen people decide they want to stop living. They are tired; tired of hurting or tired of being alone or tired of being a burden. They aren’t suicidal, they are just passive about working to live and if death comes they are willing to embrace it. This scares their children because they don’t want to lose the parent. But whose best interest are the children acting in?elderly_console

I’m not suggesting stand back and let the parent die. I’m suggesting try to understand why the parent is feeling how they feel and be respectful. It may be difficult, but try to imagine how you will feel at that age. Try to assist that adult in maintaining their choices and their dignity, but it is also ok to have a conversation about how you feel. Enlist the help of a social worker, a pastor or a therapist to mediate the conversation and help each person see the other’s perspective. Ultimately, however, you as the adult child might have to get help for yourself in dealing with not liking your parent’s choices. This is not an easy scenario, when you and your parent disagree on how the parent should treat an illness or choose to live, but if you try to force the parent to comply it will often result in anger and resentment, loss of dignity and depression for the older parent. Not necessarily a better solution.

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Disappointment with a Capital D

This is a topic I started counseling when working with kids in anger management. We’d discuss how anger is a secondary emotion. It’s real, but it’s second, happens after the primary or underlying emotion. If you are angry, I teach, that is a cue to ask yourself what else are you feeling inside also.Because to manage the anger we must address the emotion that is fueling the anger. That emotion might be sadness or worry, powerlessness or fear. But most often, the number one cause of anger is Disappointment with a capital D. What I have discovered, after years of talking to clients, is that adults should be aware that Disappointment triggers them too. disappointment-sign

Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. Times we get our hopes up for something to happen, but the result doesn’t meet our expectations. That’s hard. It’s a bummer. It kinda sucks. When a kiddo has a fit because they don’t get their way, we tell them to knock it off. Grow up. Deal with it. And yet, adults really aren’t much better at handling disappointment. Our fits might be more controlled (or not…I’ve seen some serious adult temper tantrums…!) but we have them just as often as kids do. Why is this?

Unrealistic expectations is a big reason. Being hurt and disappointed that a family member doesn’t offer more support. And yet, truth be told, that person has never been good at offering support. I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying it is what it is. If that person has been a jerk for 20 years, why would they change this year? And yet, there we go, hoping this time will be different. And there we go, upset again. We get our hopes up and we get disappointed yet again.

In researching images for this blog post I found many pictures saying “if you expect nothing, you’ll never be disappointed.” I don’t think that’s what I’m suggesting here. I think its okay to hope. But if there is a pattern, realize there is a pattern. Don’t be in denial or ignore the facts and then be surprised that it turned out the same way it always has. If you don’t like how it turned out last time, do something different. Change your expectations, or put your faith and hope in someone who is more likely to accommodate your need. Try to get some clarity so you can have more realistic expectations.

That’s not always easy. It requires insight and observation. Asking yourself, what am I hoping for and can that happen? What are the chances? Accepting that you’re not going to get the results from the current situation can be difficult too. It can mean accepting a truth you don’t want to face, like this person really won’t ever stop drinking or you won’t ever get promoted in this job, or your parent will never be the accepting nurturing parent you think you deserve. Accepting those facts might pressure you to change and change is scary. I tell people all the time that they don’t have to change. But they do have to accept where they are if they want to stop being disappointed. acceptance

I asked a young nine-year-old client to give me an example of a time she felt disappointed. She said, “when my brother got invited to the Cardinals game and I didn’t. I was mad because I really wanted to go. THAT was disappointing.” She was right on the money. She got it. Hopefully we adults can also be so wise and recognize the emotion for what it is and get better at handling that gigantic capital D.

Living With a Rock Star and a Super Hero

I have always known life isn’t easy. From my own tough experiences but more importantly, from hearing every day the difficult things people experience when they share them with me in counseling, I have heard some doozies. And yet, through it all, I am repeatedly awed by the strength of the human spirit to persevere. I tell people all the time that they can handle so much more than they realize. They don’t think they can, but then when it happens, they do, they survive, they make it through.

I don’t think we worried we wouldn’t survive parenting a child with Down Syndrome. We knew we would be okay. But there was so much we didn’t know, it was scary. Parenting itself is already an adventure into the Great Unknown. It’s the most rewarding and the most powerless feeling anyone could have. Add to that parenting a child with special needs and many of us could easily shut down. Health concerns, learning disability, physical disability, mental illness… Down Syndrome, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder… it feels like there are more questions than answers sometimes.full cover

Our experiences with Sensory Processing Disorder and then Down Syndrome turned out to make us stronger. And while we assumed that we’d have to work harder to guide our children who had “special needs”, what actually happened is that they teach us. They do better than we ever thought they would, and teach us new things every day. They exceed our expectations and those of the world around them. When I wrote my book (Living With a Rock Star and a Super Hero) my premise was that Ben thinks he is a rock star and he thinks Lucas is a super hero. But the real truth is that to me, Ben IS and rock star and I am his biggest fan, and Lucas is all of our hero, he saves us every day with his wisdom and his energy. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I am better because of it. Most days I try to remind others of their potential, and I can do this because I see it in action every day of my life.

Winter Whines

The holidays are over. It’s winter here in the states. And I’m whiney. It seems, so is everyone else. If I had a dollar for every time someone has complained about the cold this week, I could buy a warmer jacket! You’d think we live in a cold climate where it really gets into the scary negative wind chill, but we don’t, we live in the Midwest where it gets kind of cold, every single year at this time. But I also know this is relative. I remember being in Glen Ellen, California one summer and it got into the low 60’s and everyone was complaining how cold it was. Granted, it was summer, but this was a big deal! Where are the jackets?!! The more I think about it however, I’m not sure it’s about the cold. I think it’s about change. People don’t think they can handle change. It’s a new season, a new year, the end of something familiar. They dread it, they stress over it, and yet they deal with it successfully all the time, every year. Usually, the build up to it, the worry, is worse than the change itself. And what they tell themselves in anticipation will influence how they handle it. Here are some examples.Funny-winter-quote

“I hate this weather.” “I can’t deal with this.” “This sucks.” “I’m not a winter person.” “I don’t like this.” “I wish it was over.” Do any of these phrases sound familiar? These are comments just in relation to winter and cold, but are reflective of any change. If we tell ourselves we hate it, we can’t handle it, then our experience will be worse not better. Sometimes we act like a negative friend, constantly whispering how we can’t handle it or how bad it’s going to be, and we just feel worse and worse. But what if we did the opposite? What if we were the best friend ever to ourselves, whispering “you got this!” or “hey, you’ve been through this before, you can do it again.” Or we could even use humor or reality checks like, “Really Self? It’s not as big a deal as you’re making it. Chill out.”

My point is, if we really stop to think about what we are worried about, many times it is something that should be a 2 instead of an 8 on a scale of 1-10. I have kids draw mountains and mole hills and explain the old phrase “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill,” and their parents say, “Oh yeah….” Additionally, if we thought about exactly what we are complaining about, we’d realize we have handled this same scenario time and time again. If it something we really do hate, maybe we should make a change. If you complain every day about going to work, it might be time to find a new job. If you complain every year about winter, it might be time to move south. Things we feel we have no control over, we often have more choices than we think, and if it truly is an 8 on the 1-10 scale, making a change could help your overall happiness. If it is a 2 or 3, then you might need a perspective change. Tell yourself to find the good in things, don’t allow yourself to complain excessively, and develop a positive mantra that helps you take on the challenges with a better attitude. If there are things that you repeatedly dread, like winter, then plan for them. Know yourself, know you don’t like it, and plan something to look forward to during that time instead of just whining through the whole chilly season.

It’s January, yep. It’s winter, yep. It’s cold, definitely yep. But we got this. We did it last year and the year before, and we survived just fine. Soon it will be summer and hot, and then we’ll have something new to complain about. Or look forward to…

Not So Happy Holidays

Throughout November many people have been posting daily what they are thankful for and I think it is an excellent habit to remind ourselves what we need not take for granted. To tell those around us how much we care, to express appreciation for the little things. These are so important when the world around us can feel quite negative much of the time. One thing I would add for this time of year, and all year, is a sense of empathy. Please try to recognize what others are going through because while some of us are celebrating with loves ones, others are alone and hurting.

The holidays can be a season of caring and giving. But it can also be a constant reminder of the voids. If someone has lost a loved one to death, the holidays can be especially difficult because the traditions have to change. Who’s going to cook the turkey if Mom’s gone? How am I going to deal with all of these toy commercials and Santa if my child has died?

Divorce can also make the holidays different and difficult. If your ex has the kids for the holiday it can be a very lonely day without them. It can bring up resentments and hurt feelings and trigger depression and drinking, sleeping or other unhealthy behaviors to cope.

Being single when someone wishes they weren’t can also be saddening this time of year. Not having that special someone to share a moment with makes some people feel gloom.

I bring these things up as a reminder. For those of us not dealing with these issues, a reminder to be conscientious of those who do. Don’t assume they have someone to spend the holidays with. Don’t gloat about what you are doing. And invite people into your circle during this season who might not have a place to go. For those who are struggling, try to plan ahead for the difficult days. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for support and make plans for tough days instead of dreading them. Know yourself. If you know the holiday will be hard, make plans to do something different or special, honoring the one you lost or helping others who are also in need.

The holidays are not happy for everyone. But maybe we can help make them less miserable for those who are dreading them.

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