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

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Living With a Rock Star and a Super Hero

Therapy in a Nutshell

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…

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You Don’t Know Me

An amazing admission… So many first responders suffer in silence in order to “stay strong” but over time the horror they see that no human should see takes its toll.

Great share here.

“Nothing Bad Will Happen…”

“Nothing Bad Will Happen…”.

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

She hid alone in the dark, in her closet and she cried. She prayed to God, Why Me? Haven’t I been through enough? I can’t handle it. I just can’t. It’s too much. But God was quiet.

She was angry. She was confused. Everything felt out of control. All that she had worked so hard for in her life seemed to be slipping through her fingers. She was always a survivor. She was tough. But she didn’t feel any of that today. Today she just felt tired. Physically and emotionally tired.

She had so many questions, there were so many unknowns. Truth be told, she was scared. And where God had been her guide in the past, she felt His absence now. Or did she? Was He here? Did this have a purpose? Was He trying to tell her something? She was reluctant because this would be her hardest journey yet. But she realized something.

If God asked her to bear this burden so her children didn’t have to, would she? Yes, of course, in a heartbeat. If God asked if He could use her as an instrument to teach others, to change the world one person at a time, would she help, even if it was hard? Yes, she would let God make her an instrument of His work. If God asked, do you trust Me, would she balk? She’d gulp. She’d take a long deep breath. She’d cry a little. But she’d say yes.

Because trusting God is the hardest when you don’t know what His plan is for you. Blind Faith is the deepest faith because it truly means letting go and letting Him be in charge. Letting Him lead you and trusting He is there, He’s got this. It is the truest test of faith, and the deepest love you can give Him.

She knows now that she can do this. Yep it’s going to be scary. And maybe painful. And there are going to be a lot of unknowns. But He knows. And she trusts Him.

You’ve Got This

This has been a rough week. Not for myself, but for many people I have come in contact with. Sadness, worry, stress, loss, change. And not just small issues either but major life-changing events. The transition from the known to the unknown can be scary because we don’t know what to expect and it gives a feeling of powerlessness. Feeling powerless and out of control can trigger anxiety and depression and make a person feel even worse. Then what do we do? (more…)

Why Bad Things Happen

I don’t know why bad things happen. I can tell you that one thing I have learned in counseling people for 22 years is that there is no justice, no logical reason why some people have to bear so much while others so little.

The most common question I am asked is how do I hear so many sad stories and not take it home. Usually I shrug and say I don’t know. Other times I try to explain how I keep my boundaries. But really the truth is I think this is just my calling. I don’t make a lot of money, but I get a lot of reward. I hear so often how I have helped someone. When other people are making big dough but getting no recognition, I know I am making a difference every day in what I do and I know I am supposed to be doing this.
In counseling school they say we are supposed to remain impartial and detached. But as I told my two interns today, first and foremost I have to be real. People don’t want a cold robot as a therapist. If I hear a sad story, I cry. Is therapy my place to air my issues and share my pain, no absolutely not. I am here for you not me. But if I am hearing a painful story and it moves me to tears, I’m not afraid to show that.
Today was one of those days. My first client was terminally ill and dealing with a shortened life expectancy. My second client buried two spouses. My third has a best friend who is dying of cancer, a colleague whose son died last week in a car accident and a daughter with a disability. My next client had a baby die years ago but is a nurse giving back, but now caring for a terminally ill 12 year old.
Today I heard a story of a woman whose daughter died in a car accident and then had the moment to hold someone else’s child as he died from a car accident. And discussed a story of a mother whose 9 year old son died of a brain tumor and her Christian gift to him was to wash his body before he was buried.
How do humans bear the pain and grief they are subjected to? You would think after all these years I’d have an answer for that. And yet I don’t. I continue to be in awe of the strength of the human spirit’s ability to cope.

Ahhh Turn It Off!

Colleagues, friends and I have been wondering what has been causing so many teens to turn to suicide lately.  People ask why teens have such a harder time dealing with bullying these days when bullying is not something new. We theorized that it has something to do with texting and Facebook, and how there is no break from the gossip. Technology keeps all of the drama right in their faces, 24/7.  Today I had an ah-ha moment that gave me some clarity on the subject.

Remember landline phones and busy signals? Remember having to pull over to a pay phone to call someone if you were on the road? Remember paper maps???  And when you went home from work (or school) you didn’t reconnect until the next day. Today, I have the “convenience” that my work voicemail will call my cell phone the minute I get a message.  I save money on business cards because I can text people their appointments, and they can communicate with me through text to make appointments. So convenient right?

Yesterday I chatted with a teen who has gotten in big trouble at school for using his phone during class.  We talked about being impulsive because he has ADHD, and he said “Yeah! I get a text and I cannot wait to see what it says! I can’t stop myself!”  Two seconds later his mom and I said “Me too!”  (And we’re not ADHD.)  Getting an email or a text immediately at my phone feels like the old days of getting a letter in the mail.  So exciting! Oh look, a package!  So where’s the downside?

There’s no escape. There’s no relief. There’s no break. There’s no downtime.  I realized this today when I was taking a day off, and my phone kept beeping.  I felt pressured to respond, and had to remind myself that I was not on duty.  But people on the other end didn’t know that so they kept messaging.  Ahhhh! Turn it off!

I recently went to dinner with family and my sister-in-law said everyone had to put their cell phones in the middle of the table and whomever picked their beeping phone up first had to pay for dinner!  Funny! But not so funny. What? I can’t check my phone? What will I do?

If I were a teenager in the middle of high school drama, and every time I checked my phone or the computer it was something negative or harassing, I’d never feel better. I’d never feel like I could escape from it.  To be an adult and not feel like I can turn off the job, to be a teen and not feel like I can turn off the hate… can be overwhelming.

Convenient is not always better. Who woulda thunk it.

You’re Not The Boss of Me

“Talk to the hand.”
“I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
“I don’t have to listen to you.”
“You’re not the boss of me.”
“If they all jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

Ah the sayings of childhood! While they were statements taught to or said by children, it turns out these same concepts are also useful to adults as a reminder to use positive mental filtering. Who knew?

“Talk to the hand.” A reminder that we can filter the words that we let into our hearts and brains. Consider the source; if someone is giving you their opinion about your life, before you let their criticism upset you, ask yourself if this is someone whose opinion you respect on the topic. If it is, let the words pass through the filter (the hand) and into your mind and take in the criticism. But if you don’t respect this person’s opinion, let those words bounce right off that hand. If you had a hundred people standing in front of you they’d have a hundred different opinions about your life based on their own perspective. But there’s no way you can please them all. So you choose whose words get past your filter.

“Sticks and stones” and “I’m rubber, you’re glue.” Having a thicker skin. These words are similar to the message stated above. Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. If I insisted you have purple hair, would you believe me? No, because you know you don’t. But if I said you were stupid or ugly would you believe it? Sometimes people do. And yet these are just words too. Just because I say them to you doesn’t make them true. Letting hurtful things “bounce off”, reminding yourself that a person can have her own SUBJECTIVE opinion without you having to agree, will help you maintain your good mood even when “misery loves company”.

“You’re not the boss of me!” Guess what? I’m a grown up. And so are you. YOU get to decide how you want to live your life and if someone doesn’t like it, too bad. Be aware of the consequences of your choices, be willing to accept them and be held accountable, and choose away! It’s your life, run it how you want to. There are going to be tons of people willing to give you their opinion about those choices of yours, but you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to. Now don’t get me wrong here…I don’t want you to be in denial about what your choices will get you, both good and bad. But most importantly I want you to remember that you don’t have to second guess yourself every time someone clucks their tongue at you.

Do you let other people influence your feelings and your choices and your self image? Are they making perfect choices for themselves? If they jump off a bridge or tell you you need a Mohawk or ask to borrow money over and over, are you going to do it? Do you WANT to? You can if you want. Or don’t if you don’t want. We wait our whole childhood to be 18 to be “in charge”. So have at it! It’s your life, how do you wanna live it?

Someone’s Crying Lord, KumBaYah.

Yesterday our rural community experienced its sixth suicide in 5 months. At a recent community forum a rep from the medical examiner’s office stated that before this year the statistical average in our community was 2 per year. I’m thinking this is not the kind of progress we are looking for.  Suicide is not a new occurence, but as a school counselor asked me today, when did this become the most popular option? Not only have we seen an increase in deaths, but also in attempts and ideation. And repeatedly we hear from family and friends, I never saw that coming.

Are things that much rougher now than they used to be? Yes. They are. It is a trickledown effect, what we as adults are experiencing, whether we realize it or not, so are our kids.  The unemployment rate for adults has just recently went down a small percentage, but that does not mean people are getting the pay they had in the jobs they lost.  They are getting the jobs that teenagers would normally get.  There are very few good jobs for teens these days because adults need them and are being hired for them. Teen unemployment stats range from 29-60%. In the past I would tell parents of kids who didn’t do great in school to encourage them to find an activity or a job they can excel at to boost their self-esteem and not feel like just because school is hard for them they are a failure. But because of the economy activites are being cut and teen jobs are scarce.  More pressure to succeed in school at higher standards set by the government taught by teachers whose salaries are dependent on the test scores. More pressure to get scholarships to colleges that have increased tuitions and higher admission requirements to be able to compete for fewer available jobs.  Criticism from adults saying this is the laziest, most materialistic generation.  Absent parents not able to connect with their kids as often  because they are having to travel for weeks at a time, or commute for hours daily, or work a second job to pay the bills.

The kids are worried. And they are lonely. They are relying on their peers, as they always have, but where in the past they had the adults to fall back on to be strong when their peers were dramatic, now the adults are frazzled and dramatic too.  Kids learn what they live. Are you overwhelmed by your situation? Do you drink or sleep or use pills to cope? Do you argue with your spouse because your stressed? Your kids are watching and learning.

Am I saying it is a parent’s fault if a teenager commits suicide? No way, absolutely not.  But I am suggesting “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work.  To address this epidemic, we have to start with ourselves.  We ALL need help right now. We ALL need support and peace right now. If you don’t feel balanced in your life right now, you can bet your kid doesn’t either.  The difference is that teenagers are naive. They are impulsive. They live in the moment. We adults have lived long enough to know that even when things suck they can get better. And then suck again. And then get better.  But your kids don’t know that.  Unless you tell them.

Teach resilience. Teach coping skills. Build self esteem. Tell your kid they can do anything they set their mind to. Tell them it will get better. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. Write it down and stick in their bookbag. Teach by example. Take care of you. Get help for your stress. Find balance. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket like a job or a relationship; understand that there is more to you and more to life than one thing to define you.  And teach your children this also. Things that trigger suicide are often loss of a relationship, or feeling someone is mad at them, or feeling hopeless. Bullying has always gone on but makes a bigger impact these days because teens are struggling with their depth of self. THIS is where we need to start.

Normally my blogs are more upbeat and positive and I try to be inspiring. I fear this one is dark and bleak. I AM optimistic. But we have to get serious, about the right stuff. So so so many people are overwhelmed. We might just have to grab hands and start singing KumBaYah soon because one more death is too many. “someone’s crying, Lord, kumbayah”

Suicide Web Links:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

http://www.afsp.org/

http://www.teenscreen.org/

I don’t heart Valentine’s Day

I hear more complaints about Valentine’s Day than any other holiday. People who are in a relationship complain about having to choose the perfect romantic gift. People who are not in a relationship say this day depresses them because it is a reminder they are alone. But I say, it’s just a day. It is what you make it.

In November many people use the month to list daily things they are thankful for. Why can’t we use February as an opportunity to list the things we love or the people we love, have loved, or who have loved us? There are no rules. Let’s create it how we want. Valentines doesn’t have to be about romance. Let’s make it be about appreciation, expressing affection for those we care about.

Go buy yourself a box of school exchange valentines. Or better yet, make your own. Write a short note on each, telling the people in your world that you love them, why you love them, what you love about them. Spend time expressing positive things to the people in your world who are probably tired of hearing negatives and could really use some positives.

I do heart Valentine’s Day, for some new good reasons.

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