Beyond Fear

For many people, choosing to start therapy can be a very scary decision. Opening up to someone you do not know about the intimate details of your life can seem very frightening. Many people who feel that “everyone is judging” them in some way may also feel that their potential therapist will judge them in the very same ways. Still others are afraid of the changes that will come as a result of how they may change during the therapeutic process.

During my time as a therapist, I have had many potential clients come for the initial consultation, which is a time to see if we are a good fit and they seem willing and ready to start therapy. They will then come for one or two sessions and then I will never see them again or they text to say they are not ready to proceed. They can get beyond their initial fear of making a consultation appointment but when things become more in depth they are too afraid to continue.

I know that there are many others who cannot get over their fear even to make the initial consultation appointment. There are potentially thousands and thousands of people in the state where I live who contemplate therapy or who want to reach out for help and try to change their lives, but they cannot get beyond fear.

It is true that the therapist does not know the client and vice versa. However, this is a good thing allowing the therapist to be objective. It is also true that there are some therapists, unfortunately, who will make judgments about clients even though one would hope that they do not. Therapists are still human beings and as such are not always capable of separating their personal views from the counseling office. It is further true that if clients change during the process of therapy and the people around them do not change or do not accept their changes, relationships can be impacted and even ended.

I always try to get clients to do a risk/benefit analysis of continuing therapy in spite of their fears. What are the risks if they continue and change their beliefs about themselves and others, their boundaries, and what they are willing and not willing to tolerate in their lives. What are the benefits of these changes in their lives? Will they be able to live happier, stronger, less toxic lives? Is it worth the risks?

Only the client can decide these things. No matter how much the therapist might wish that they choose therapy, the client is the only one to decide to proceed and the only one to evaluate the risks they are willing to accept. The client is also the only one who can decide to do the work of therapy and implement the skills and tools the therapist provides. No matter how much the therapist provides, the client decides what they will do with it. The work resides with the client as does the decision to do the work.

If you are trying to decide if therapy might help you navigate your past, present and future please consider the risks and benefits and decide if the benefits can help you get beyond your fear. You might find that it leads you to a better life and a better you.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Necessary Awareness

Photo by SOULSANA on Unsplash

Awareness is a necessary ingredient for change.

In order to change anything, we must first be aware that there is something that needs to change. Anyone with trauma will have great difficulty finding this awareness due to the ongoing conditioning and responses caused by internalized negative beliefs and subsequent responses to those beliefs.

In fact, most people find it difficult to be aware of things outside of their normalized thoughts and behaviors. Only through awareness can thoughts and responses be addressed. Only through awareness can we know what there is to be addressed.

In order to be aware, we must be able to recognize the thought processes we have. Recognize that they are there. Recognize where they began. Recognize how we internalized them. Over time, these thoughts, that we gained from other people, become internalized in our brains as truths about us. The become so ingrained in our beliefs that we start to think we started them. Most all my clients will say that they have always believed the negative things about themselves as if they were born with them. They were not and neither was anyone else.

To be aware of these thoughts, we must be able to pause the process when it starts. The process of thought, emotion, reaction or response. This cascade happens instantaneously with the normalization of the process. This is the thought we always have. This is the emotion we always have with this thought. This is the reaction or response we always have with this thought. So we just let it flow without awareness.

To pause the process, we must be able to name the catalyst. The thought or thoughts. They must have identifying names and we must understand how we came to believe them. Where they started, with whom, and in what circumstances. Almost all will be traced to our initial caregivers as they are the teachers of all things including the beliefs about ourselves. From birth to age seven, these beliefs are taught to us just as we are taught to talk, eat, dress, read. Name them, know them, recognize their beginning, and know they are not true nor are they yours.

It is then that we can have awareness when they come up to have the margin or pause to stop the cascade of events that follows. With awareness, we can say, I see you thought. I know you thought. I recognize where you came from thought. I do not have to respond or react to you thought. I can pause and replace you thought. I know it sounds like a lot but with practice it can be done. Over time, negative thoughts can be replaced with positive truths that do come from you.

Start with one thought that causes you the most negative emotions about yourself and the most issues with relationships with others. Name it. Name the emotion. Name the reaction and responses. Name the starting point. Accept that you did not start the thought. And start to replace it with an opposite, absolute positive that comes from you.

Do that repeatedly. Form a new habit. Create a new normal. Foster awareness as a necessary component of change.

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Trauma Healing Quotes

Most all of the work I do with clients is in relation to their trauma history. The processing of trauma and moving through to acceptance and letting go can be a very difficult journey. To live a full and free life after experiencing trauma it must be completely processed and let go. If you are thinking of starting this journey or are in the midst of it, maybe these quotes can help you begin or to press on.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” ~ Bessel A. van der Kolk

Dr. van der Kolk is the author of the book “The Body Keeps The Score” which is effectively the “bible” of my therapy practice and the best book on how trauma affects us body and mind when unprocessed.

“We cannot have a world where everyone is a victim. “I’m this way because my father made me this way. I’m this way because my husband made me this way.” Yes, we are indeed formed by traumas that happen to us. But then you must take charge, you must take over, you are responsible.” ~ Camille Paglia

We are conditioned and taught by our traumas to internalize negative beliefs about ourselves. However, moving through and past our traumas is our choice and our responsibility.

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.” ~ Danielle Bernock

Finding a therapist that fits you, someone to hear you, objectively, can make all the difference in being able to walk through your personal pain.

“Every day begins with an act of courage and hope: getting out of bed.” ~ Mason Cooley

Not every day will be filled with huge strides and big wins over the past, sometimes the best we can do on any given day is just to get out of bed.

“Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” ~ Peter Levine

It is my experience that almost everyone has some kind of trauma and almost everyone carries on as if they do not by avoiding, ignoring, denying, controlling how they truly feel.

Instead of saying ‘I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues.” I say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.” ~ Horacio Jones

The journey to trauma recovery is almost entirely based on what we say to ourselves every minute of the day. Are your words hurting or helping you?

Healing from trauma can also mean strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life – warts, wisdom, and all – with courage.” ~ Catherine Woodiwiss

We can never change what has happened to us, but we can learn to live better with it and in spite of it.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Winter Blues

After almost a month of vacation and two weeks of family illness, returning to work has been difficult. Not only because vacation is a nice place to be, but also because winter in the northern rocky mountains is very cold, windy, and grey for the better part of January and February.

After the excitement of the holidays and fun of having time off, one can find that they have a lot less motivation for their required activities. Things like going to work, cleaning house, spending time with others, and even things we enjoy doing do not seem as appealing when enduring the winter blues.

So what can we do to cope with this time of year and the lack of motivation and even depression for some that comes with it?

Anytime the weather is even remotely nice, we need to get outside. Even if it is for a short amount of time, it can make a big difference. Getting out into the sunshine can be extremely beneficial during the “grey months”. A short walk or even a drive, a trip to the grocery store or to visit a favorite specialty store where we live, a cup of coffee with a friend at a local coffeehouse or restaurant can all provide a much needed escape from the housebound doldrums.

Being intentional about getting up out of bed, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and changing your clothes. Often times, the urge to just stay in bed and do nothing can be powerful during the “grey months”. We can convince ourselves that because we can’t venture outside due to weather or don’t want to due to how we feel, that we shouldn’t bother with activities of daily living. No one is going to see us right? This only increases our feelings of loss of motivation and depression.

Making sure that you are eating regularly and healthy. Another thing we overlook during the “grey months” is eating properly. If we are doing a lot of nothing, we tend to not eat or graze eat anything that is handy. Usually those things are not that good for us, chips, cookies, candy, etc. Once again, we need to be intentional about getting proper nutrition during these times. Having food on hand to make small meals throughout our day that are warm and nutritious. Also making sure we stay hydrated with water is very important.

Keeping up our physical health by getting some form of exercise most every day and by taking healthy vitamins and supplements to keep up our immunity. The “grey months” also bring a variety of illnesses that we need to be strong to have minimal symptoms should we get sick. Exercise offers two benefits, keeping us active and healthy and releasing endorphins to keep our brain active and happy.

If where you live there is little sunshine during these months, a seasonal affective light could be extremely helpful. Getting light is so very important to how we feel.

Writing and/or journaling about how you are feeling, making goals and plans that you can follow through on, adding in some creative touches and artwork to your writings can all help you release emotions held in the body.

If you feel that you are getting very depressed and cannot seem to do any of the things above most days, seeking out help through therapy and/or adding medications to your mental health management can be very helpful. Reach out for help.

The “grey months” can be tough for a lot of people but there are things you can do to endure them in a more healthy and happy way. Start with one thing and keep doing it and then add another and another. If you need more help, please seek it out. And remember, this is a moment in time and brighter, warmer days are coming soon.

Taking A Break

I will be taking a break for the holiday season and so will this blog. During this time, I will also be on vacation, so the next blog will be the week of January 24, 2022.

In the meantime, there are many months worth of blogs on this website available to read during this time. On the right hand side of this post about midway down of the page, there is a topic entitled POST ARCHIVES. There is a drop down menu for each month and click on each month to bring up the blog posts for that month on a wide variety of mental health topics.

I will also post some inspirational things on the Mindful Montana Wellness Twitter account @MMWCounseling and the Mindful Montana Wellness Instagram @mindfulmontanawellness and Facebook pages throughout the next six weeks so please follow those as well.

I wish all of you a very happy and peaceful holiday season. Make sure to keep your own self care as part of this time as the holidays can be also stressful and chaotic at times.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Believe In Yourself

Lately, I have felt that a lot of my clients were struggling with self confidence and believing in themselves. Not only in processing their traumas and issues, but in their daily lives and work. I thought it might be a good time for a little bit of confidence boosting quotes post.

Speak confidence to yourself. Speak love to yourself. Speak belief in yourself.

Talk back to negative thoughts. Talk back to negative beliefs.

Replace all negative words with positive words, every single time.

Place boundaries against those who disrupt your self confidence and belief in yourself.

Let go of the past – all of the past. Live in the present moment.

Let go of fear.

Manifest your confident self through your words, thoughts, and actions every moment of every day.

The Addiction Train

Photo by Brian Suman on Unsplash

Addiction is much like a train. Many different things can be addiction and these are the cars of the train. Traveling on tracks in a one direction kind of way. And the cars can be added to and even stacked one on top of the other much like multiple addictions can be. A loaded and very large train can be extremely hard to stop and if it crashes it is a catastrophic mess. Just like addictions.

Anything can be an addiction. Absolutely anything. If there is something that we have to do, feel compelled to do, feel sick, sad, angry or a multitude of other emotions if we do not do it and it is required repeatedly to make us “feel” better, it is an addiction. If there is anything that we can NOT do, it is an addiction.

Some addictions are very harmful and others maybe not as much, but they are both addictions nevertheless. Most addictions are done to avoid things we find emotionally painful. All addictions release chemicals into the brain that can make us think we “feel” better. They can be very good at covering up painful things. For a while. Then as time goes on more and more of the addictive material is needed to gain the same feel good feelings. And when that does not work any longer, we must find a substitute addiction that works better.

Coffee is an addiction for many including myself. I have it every day. If I go without it for a day I get debilitating headaches from caffeine withdrawal. I like the taste of coffee a lot. I am pretty much immune now to the caffeine as in coffee will not keep me awake. But my body is very much addicted to the caffeine.

Addiction can be anything. Electronics are the addiction of choice for many now. Computers, phones, tablets, television, video games and more are fast becoming an addiction for many. People can spend hours every day watching funny cat videos on YouTube or TikTok. Spending and buying can be an addiction. Retail therapy is a very real thing. We feel better when we get something we want. Eating can be an addiction. Food can be very comforting in times of pain. Sex can be an addiction. Cutting or self-harm can be an addiction. The release of pain while cutting releases the feel good chemicals into our brains. To get more and more of this feeling we must cut more and more. Substances can be an addiction including cannabis. While cannabis does not have the same chemical/physical addictive properties of alcohol or other drugs, it is very psychologically addictive. Gambling can be an addiction.

Anything can be an addiction.

Addiction can be very hard to stop. First, we have to want to stop. This can be very difficult because our bodies and brains are addicted to the chemicals that are released when we participate in our addiction. It can also be difficult because we know to stop the addiction we have to acknowledge the pain of whatever we are trying not to face by continuing the addiction. If we have been addicted for a long time, it is not an easy road to stopping. It takes time. There will be relapses. And it is an ongoing process of addressing the reasons we sought the addictive thing in the first place and making daily decisions to avoid going back to it when things get difficult in the processing.

Working with an addiction counselor can be a good place to start if you are ready to change. Participating in groups or having someone to whom you are accountable can help along with apps that can also help you track your successes and support your progress such as Calm Harm for cutting, Pear reSet for substance use, rTribe for porn/drug/food addictions. There are many others that are also available for download for a huge variety of addictions.

Quitting an addiction is not an easy task and the road can be long and difficult. The first step is wanting to change and being willing to start the journey. Take an inventory of your life right now, is there something (or more than one) that you feel you are addicted to and can NOT stop doing and feel compelled to do in order to feel better or avoid trauma and pain. Be honest with yourself. And if you feel you cannot objectively look at your life ask someone who you trust and know will be absolutely honest with you.

Then it is up to you to make the decision to start on the path to recovery and change.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Still Not Normal

So many of my clients and myself as well had high hopes at the beginning of summer this year that the fall would bring much needed normalcy to school going and to life. We have, once again, been bitterly disappointed.

Cases here were fairly minimal at the beginning of summer. We had no mandates of any kind here. People were free to get out and enjoy their summer. And enjoy it they did in record numbers to our state parks and festivals.

The cases did not start to increase with this newfound freedom. Most people were outside with distance and likely not spreading the virus as much. Only about half the population of my state is fully vaccinated. We are very rural in so much of the state and have very few people who live here only one million people in the entire state.

The cases started to creep up very slowly as summer went on. As we got closer to the start of the school year, they started creeping up even more. We now average as of this writing about 350 cases a day in the entire state that are new. We have very low death numbers in the single digits most days and our hospitalizations are about 200 with COCVID for the entire state currently.

The public school districts in the bigger towns and cities and by bigger I mean more than 25,000 people, have implemented masking all day in schools. Last year at the end of the year there were no mask mandates here. Sporting events are having limited spectators, two per athlete. No assemblies at the schools. Those not wearing masks, students and teachers are not being allowed in schools where there are mandates. In smaller communities there are no mandates here.

There will be no school dances, no homecoming parades, and if athletes have a rise in the number of cases there will be no sports. If this goes on into next year there will be no prom, no graduation in person and on and on it goes.

My school age clients are suffering emotionally from the constant loss of normalcy in their lives. Things that those who will graduate this school year have worked 12 years to be able to do and experience. School constantly being disrupted with quarantining and education that is constantly interrupted making learning and retention very difficult. Plus all the social disruptions.

It is very hard to help clients work through this as it is not something they can have control over this loss of normalcy. It is what it is. So we try and work through the emotional parts of it working on acceptance of what is and letting go of things we cannot control and will not be able to have.

I see anger, frustration, sadness, and grief. Lots and lots of grief. And for grief there is nothing but going through the process that continues to be present day after day after day. There seems to be no moving on from it because it just keeps coming in waves and waves.

Unfortunately, this is not a blog about how one can manage this lack of normalcy. It is about how we just keep going. Acceptance, letting go, and keeping on walking. Grief in an ongoing process just keep walking.

No situation ever stays the same. Change is constant.

And we have to hope that one day this too will change for the better and normal can come back to our lives once more.

Until next time be well, Deborah

Stop Saying Sorry

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Are you an over-apologizer?

Do you say you are sorry constantly? For everything. Not just when you have actually done something wrong but when someone just makes you feel like you have?

Someone makes a comment about something you say or do or wear and you apologize for it as if it is some offense you have caused by being yourself. As if the things you enjoy are somehow wrong because the other person does not like them or makes fun of them.

Let’s say your significant other states that they would like some space in the relationship and you say sorry as if you have caused this distress. They are the one that made the request and you took it as your responsibility.

Usually when someone has an over-apologizer trait they have some conditioned belief that they are the cause of other people’s distress or unhappiness. Usually learned in early childhood when a primary caregiver makes them feel that they are in some ways wrong.

Many times this is reinforced in school by peers who tease and bully and even those who we call friends and are in relationships with can make us feel that our choices are wrong we should be ashamed of them. In doing so, we become ashamed of ourselves and have no confidence in what we enjoy or look like.

Differences are more than okay they are necessary for a diverse society. If you want to change your hair every week do it. If you want to wear cosplay to school do it. If you want to listen to KPop do it. If someone is talking about how they feel do not take responsibility for it.

Instead of saying sorry, say thank you or some other positive response. If someone tells you they do not like KPop while you are listening to it, say I find it fun and entertaining. If someone makes fun of what you are wearing, say thank you for noticing my outfit I think it looks fantastic. If someone talks about your hair and/or makeup say thank you for noticing I love trying new things it makes me happy.

If you are late say thank you for waiting for me. If you are trying to explain something to someone and feel like you are not making sense say thank you for listening to me not sorry I sound so crazy. If you need to ask for help do not say sorry I am so bad at this say thank you for helping me today.

Do not pile more negatives on yourself. Do not apologize for who you are and what you like.

Turn your negatives into positives and carry on being yourself and be bold in it. Stop saying sorry.

Red Flag Warning

People will always show you who they are. The problem is that we do not always heed the warnings.

Red flags never fail to present themselves. People may think they are able to hide who they really are, but it really is not possible. Who people are is so ingrained in their being that it will always show in some way to others.

Some warnings are subtle and are far easier to miss. Especially if we are not paying attention. Some are giant and waving right in our faces and we see them. These red flags we choose to ignore.

Why would we do that? Ignore warning signs about people? In my experience, it is almost always done through a trauma response that has left an internalized belief in our brains.

For example, someone shows you a red flag of not respecting boundaries. But due to a trauma response that makes us believe we are supposed to keep the peace or make other people happy, we allow them to cross those boundaries and every one that follows.

What if someone shows you a red flag of threatening to leave all the time if they do not get what they want. But due to a trauma response that makes us believe if they leave we will always be alone and no one else will love us, we stay in the relationship doing anything they want just so they will stay also.

If someone shows you a red flag of substance abuse ONCE. But due to a trauma response of codependence from childhood trauma with the same experiences, we stay so that we can take care of them and make sure they do not die. And they do it again and again and again and we feel we cannot leave because they might die and we would be responsible.

If someone shows you a red flag of abuse (physical, mental, verbal, sexual) ONCE. But due to a trauma response from past abuse that makes us believe we are responsible and that it is our fault, we accept that we deserve it and we do not leave or seek help and they do it again and again.

Red flags can also be more subtle such as gaslighting, manipulation, poor anger management, controlling ways, and focusing on themselves. These are sometimes harder to spot when they first start to appear, but they are still red flags and are noticeable if we are paying attention.

And herein lies the problem. Because of our trauma responses, we can start new relationships in this response space and are unable to see what is in front of us due to what is inside of us. Our internalized beliefs that are based in our own unresolved trauma can blind us to the truth. They can make it where we unable to recognize it and also unable to accept it and let go of the relationship immediately.

We can go months and years without acknowledging what is right in front of us. Even if other people see it and point it out to us over and over, we will still deny and refuse to really look at what is happening to us. Our trauma prevents it. And sometimes even when we do start processing why we stay in bad relationships, the fear of leaving still keeps us trapped.

I believe that most people sense red flags from the very beginning and they just move past them. If only we could ask ourselves questions about these sensations we might avoid a lot of hurt and trauma later.