My Messy, Beautiful Life- Me And My Masscott

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I understand there are some things we want to protect our children from for as long as we can. But for me, my daughter does not get to know who I am without knowing my story. If I practice authenticity, even though sometimes with haphazard grace, the most important person I can practice with – is my daughter Lyra. I am an adult trauma survivor. I was sexually abused for many years as a child, some occurred while I was eight, the same age as my beloved Lyra is now. I have written about this part of me for many years now. How could I share it with the world and not her?

We began talking about this as early as three years old. Understanding what I do, both personally and professionally as a marriage and family therapist, it is never too young to start “The Talk.” I am imagining some parents right now are screaming and wanting to pull hair out (mainly mine) at the thought of starting such a squeamish conversation so early. We had the ‘okay touch, not okay touch’ first, attempting to demonstrate how her body belonged to her and no one, including me, was allowed to touch, squeeze or hug without her permission. I had hints of regret when she would gladly explain to other people how she was in charge of her body (with her hand on her hip), but I had to shrug and smile while other adults rolled their eyes at me.

Later came the first sex talk at the age of six. We got a new kitty and he was going to be neutered. She asked one night while taking a bath (a place where many deep conversations take place, NOT the dinner table -Apparently) what ‘neutered’ meant and I blurted out, “He gets his balls cut off!” Oh, I was rightfully chastised for this because by this time we had many conversations about using proper language. As usual, when you decide to not put your kiddo in a bubble like some trauma survivors do, you have a few mishaps with the sex information being shared . This time, she readily informed all her friends at school and later told me proudly that one of her friends already knew the details of how babies were made. Yes, I did a face palm because how could I forget the power of knowledge? But as the years have raced on, her wise use of knowledge astonishes me.

One aspect of a trauma survivors recovery often entails giving back. So, this year marks the second Annual Phoenix Rising 5k, held in my little rural town, Georgia. When I began private practice, I had in my mind that I wanted a way to support sexual assault survivors in my own community. By raising funds and publicly modeling for all trauma survivors that they are not alone, I could continue to support others in shedding away the shame that every trauma survivor carries. My lovely Lyra decided after I explained to her what happened to me (in as much of an age appropriate way as I could) and why we were hosting this race, that she was going to be the Phoenix, calling herself ‘The Race Mascot.’ In a way that she does not even understand yet, she IS the mascot. Together, we have ended an intergenerational cycle of sexual violence and she is what I have birthed out of the ashes of my strength and hope.

But, like all good truth tellers, especially the Phoenix kind, she didn’t let it end there. Within weeks of the first race, she presented me with a drawing on her favorite colored paper- purple. I beamed!

“I Want to Change the World by Bieing a Masscott at a Race.”

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I inquired and the first thing she said was,“Ms. Student Teacher asked us to do this project in art with her. She wanted us to draw a picture of how we felt we could change the world.”
She went on, “I wanted to write that I could change the world by supporting rape survivors, but when I asked her how to spell the word rape, Ms. Student Teacher shushed me and said I couldn’t write that.”

Okay…a little internal dialogue:

“WHAT- THE WHAT! S.E.R.I.O.U.S.L.Y. Student teacher lady, you did what to my daughter???!!! Shushed HER??!!!!” …..then that was immediately followed by, “Oh, poor-poor student teacher, poor 20-something-who-has-no-clue what in the hell to do with such a difficult, complicated and taboo topic (especially with a seven year old in second grade).

I took a deep breath. Then another….. AND Another. Geez, why didn’t I just stick with the bubble? I then asked, “How did you decide this instead?” She flippantly said, “Well, since SHE had a problem with it, I decided to write what I was doing AT the race.”

Yes, we had a lengthy discussion about how it was inappropriate for her teacher to not explain herself and followed that up with the usual, ‘we’re not your typical parents’ bit, but that her teacher was right in this case, ‘Cuz, remember when I let you know that you may not want to tell all your friends about what sex is? Well, this is kind of part of that.’ I explained that we needed to let other parents decide when they were going to talk about certain things and it wasn’t our place to make Ms. Student Teacher have a lecture on rape to her second grade class.

Are you dying inside or jumping with joy? I always wonder what parents would think of my decisions around this part of my relationship with my daughter. I would be lying if I said that I don’t worry or don’t care and I did especially care about my daughters teacher and poor-poor Ms. Student Teacher ‘s feelings. After a few days, I followed up with an email to her teacher explaining what I understood to have occurred and offered understanding and support, but continued to stand my ground around what I believed my daughter deserved in that moment. Not for one HOT MINUTE did I believe Ms. Student Teacher was prepared for such a conversation with a seven year old, but perhaps my daughter helped for future sake.

All I know is that when I made the decision to host this race, I wanted to give back to my community. I wanted to search within and continue to push myself to grow and change in ways I felt were not happening by staying small. What I did not consider was that when I committed to Phoenix Rising, my family did.

For all the struggle that modeling authenticity has been with my daughter, one thing I know for sure: She believes that she is changing the world. And from my point of view, She Already Has. 

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us:  http://momastery.com/messy-beautiful-warrior-friends! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy,Beautiful Life, just released in paperback: http://momastery.com/carry-on-warrior!

 P.S. In case you were wondering….Yes, We are wearing Tutus. So Fabulous!

Into the Darkness: Inside My Depressed Mind

ImageIt’s been dark in here- in my head. Like all my goodness is being hollowed out with a shiny new ice cream scoop. I cannot say why, but my brain dances around the dark. I feel small, angry and raw. The slightest struggle turns me into a ravenous Werewolf and I want to lash out at the world saying, “Take it ALL Back- DAMN IT!- I can’t handle any of it!” The werewolf is desperate to protect the little girl in me. She cries and hides her face. She just wants to be loved, protected and remembered.

I fear I have no idea what it’s all worth. What are we doing this for? Who am I ever going to make a difference with and who really cares anyway? Sometimes, it just feels like I am going it alone. Other times, I just feel like my life is sloughing off like dead skin cells and in my own inability to really SEE, I will wake up one morning, used up and it won’t matter to anyone. No one dares ask the about the darkness in my mind, it scares too much.

I know this will pass and I know so many of these feelings are so far away from truth, but sometimes, it it just looks bleak out there. It is exhausting to appear like we are on top of the game all of the time. And worse, if I ask for help, sometimes it just does not come.

Today, I am disappointed and bruised– chest hurts from the hollowing and the werewolf is raging. I want to walk into the arena full of life, standing on the ground of my values and ready to face the challenges of each moment with the messy, stumbly grace that I call all mine. I want to sit at the silver 50’s diner table, topped with rocks of granite that is the baggage of my relationship, and remain honest, open and forgiving. I want to have faith in people, relationships and communicate that I need, I am flawed and often, I will just plain fuck it up.

But today, I feel lost in the desert. I want to ask Jesus and Buddha (yeah, its a two person job sometimes) to come and pick me up and carry me back home. Tell me that when it hurts like this, it will be better tomorrow- or maybe next week- but it will be better. Remind me that I am broken, but I am on the forever journey toward healing. I will die broken, but it is gonna be a beautiful scar- one that will trace this one precious gift that I have been given- My Messy, Beautiful, fucked up life.

I don’t need an A-men, But Can I get a, Yeah, sometimes- “Me Too?”

 

Circle Back, Give Yourself the Chance to Circle Back Again

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After posting the piece about the first time I spoke trauma’s name, (see: The Telling) many quietly told me about stories of fear, sadness and even anger towards my mother. You wondered if the world of our relationship had fallen a part.

For most of my life, I felt fairly certain I would not be able to embrace my truth until I had outlived most of my family. I have come to realize I would have cheated myself the opportunity to lean in and continue to grow, even if it did not turn out well……
This past fall, my mother lost her best friend and it led her to circle back to ask the question just one more time as to why our relationship struggled. I tried the typical bull shit, pat-pat answer.

Now that I have become clearer about my values, authenticity beckoned me to not armor up with petty lies and silly magic to distract from the truth. Even then, I did not give her the full answer, in part, because I had become so dishonest with myself I had forgotten the real reason for my lack of trust and distance.

Then as I remembered, I felt free for the first time to tell you about my story, one I had written many years ago. I also began a brand new conversation with her, one that did not attempt to distract or pretend. What continues to astonish me (and you should really wonder why it does) is that I believe I’ve seen around many dark, emotional corners….then, when I breathe, lean in and show up- I mean really show up-  light makes its way through my blurry, stumbly darkness.
Rather than a bitter end, my posting the story was a new beginning. One that continues to unfold in meaningful ways. Today, I give gratitude to my mother for reading my letter, telling me she understood and sharing in my sorrow and allowing us to both heal a cancer that I thought would never end.  It unfolds every day and I grow towards joy.
Here is what I wrote:

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Dear Mom,

Recently, the loss of your best friend sparked you to ask me a very hard question. One that I honestly was not prepared for. You told me about the underlying feelings of distance and pushing away that you experience in most of our conversations. Although there are many reasons and some are not about me, I stopped and for the first time in our adult lives, answered you.

Our relationship is complicated and it has been since I was a little girl. When you silenced yourself about the sexual abuse I endured, you silenced us both. The shame I experienced was at times insurmountable and I can recall several occasions where I either attempted or wished to take my life. I believe the pain and shame grew rapidly until I left for college and finally got help. A close friend at home had taken his life and my closest friend in college temporarily left after attempting to take his own. He told me then, “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.”

In truth, until we had this conversation, there was still a part of me dying. I still wanted to blame you and got some satisfaction out of keeping you the villain in my life. I wanted to discredit all of the beautiful things you do for me, my family and people around you that you love. I have wanted to make you hurt the way you made me hurt when my abuse was buried.

Today, although I will never agree with your past decisions, I understand and I forgive you.

As a therapist, I have witnessed many mothers experience intense grief when they learn of their children’s sexual abuse. The pain seems too excruciating to bear and given their lack of skill in coping with daily life issues, it is no wonder that this type of pain is avoided. Many swim in such denial they are not even able to see how their behavior is impacting their child trying to work through the abuse.

I wish you were there for me then, Mom. I wish I allowed you to be there for me. The abuse has taken away so much of our relationship and I am ready for it to stop now. I am ready to talk with you in a more honest way and let you know how what you say is impacting me, whether negative or positive.

You have the kindest heart and go out of your way to be gentle and kind to people that so many have forgotten. I know sometimes you give of yourself in the hopes of being liked yourself. We have even argued over you giving too much stuff, possibly in the hopes of making me believe that you do love me.

In other words, the unspoken big FAT pink Elephant in the room has been the sexual abuse. I believe there are things that have not been said, by both of us. For me, I am ready to talk about it openly with you in the hopes that it can stop ruining the relationship that we could have with one another. I realize now there are other things in our relationship that I dislike, but I have not clearly told you that I want it to change because I kept the barrier of the abuse between us.

You were not the person who sexually abused me so I imagine, at times, it is confusing that I have worked through the abuse and let go of being angry with my step-brother, but not you. I needed you to be the person that protected me. I still need that now, just in different ways. I need to know that if the shit hits the fan, you will not hide or pretend there’s nothing wrong. I know it is excruciating to remain present when we feel raw and vulnerable. But together- we can do hard things. We just have no idea what life will bring us and I need to be able to share the joy as well as the sorrow.

Mom- I am scared. I am afraid that if I open myself up and it gets scarey for you- you will hide again. I am afraid of being hurt like I was the day I told you about the abuse. Even so, I will tell myself the same thing I have since my early twenties- ‘The worst thing that could ever happen, has already happened.’ Then, I am going to breathe, lean in and be present with you. Sometimes you may not like what I have to say. You may not appreciate me telling you to stop something, but I commit to you that I want the same kind of relationship you want. Right now, in this moment, I am not going to allow the sexual abuse I went through to take anymore time away from our relationship.

In truth, I have blamed many other things on why our relationship has been difficult. Perhaps you do not want to emphasize the abuse either. But, there was the truth- sitting on my tongue the day you asked me about why I am so distant. Even then, all I could tell you that it was “complicated”. The sexual abuse has created a lens in which I view life and I thought I had stopped using it to hurt myself, but I have continued with you and I am ready for that to end now.

Know that I love you and I believe we can change. I hope you will be willing to change with me. I hope you will be patient and remain present. Being vulnerable is our strength.

With Love, Your Daughter.

Everyone Deserves their Marilyn Monroe Moment: The Freeze, The Flood, but Not without The Blessings

ImageI know I am not alone in the debacle that has happened to many peoples homes with the recent freeze that spread across most of the United States. And fortunately (or unfortunately) the events that led to our house damage are apparently not unique. Despite the struggle that continues at this moment, I am attempting to find some honest humor and grace. Difficult times call for drastic measures. For me, it was an honest moment to pull my friends closer and search for joy while the winds of hell swirled in our house- for FIVE FUCKING DAYS!! But, look, I am already digressing. So let me tell you…..what ha-happened was…… A comedy of errors where the only destination was death.

The oddest blessing begins our story. It was an ice skating rink in the parking lot of my office. I thought for a moment while pulling up that I would take up my usual space only realizing that I would likely bust my ass if I choose that option. Not long after, my most amazing land-lord Sherri shows up and begins the process of elimination to take care of what ever caused the problem. I inform her that I ran water, had turned off the hot water and had water the day before when it was 11 degrees…IN GEORGIA!! Turns out, the pipe broke in the front bathroom and a parade of plumbers were likely on their way. We gather the troops and make an executive decision to cancel the rest of the day not knowing what noise may occur. Therapy requires a great deal of concentration. Sound proof doors and sound machines were not going to cut it.

SERIOUSLY- 30 minutes later, the one plumber is done and went home. (I had a big W on my forehead for WHATEVA! at that moment). I used the time to start getting ready for the big race we host raising money for our local sexual assault center. This is my part in giving back to my community and my personal part as a sexual trauma survivor. Ya would think I was building on my good karma…..but. -NO.

Cuz, when I get home……..IT IS RAINING IN MY KITCHEN!!! I am expecting to hear sounds of thunder and lightening while I try to comprehend how in the HELL was this happening.

Oh, but now for the comedy. Really, this is NOT funny. But who in the hell will ever be able to tell you the same story, I just don’t know?

Okay, soooooooo (in my best Cali-Girl accent), my parents are going home on the day before the flooding fiasco and Dad informs me that he has dry tooth brushed (don’t ask me how you do that) and has dressed because there is no water working anywhere upstairs. My BFF says I made the pipes freeze just to make sure my parents would go home. Later that day I check in with a savvy handy friend on FB and he says I should let the water drip to release pressure if in fact there are busted pipes from the freeze. The idea of letting water drip with no useful purpose beyond dripping made me cringe. Naturally, I place a cup to catch the water in so I can later water my well named plants, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb.

Here is the kicker of it all and really, kids, don’t try this at home unless you want the wrath of Noah upon your house.

Place a cup on top of the sink stopper, because well, what else is a tree huggin’ girl to do? You must pair it with a stopper that is currently not attached to the lever below that holds it in place. Get a drip from your frozen faucet pipe that looks like a drip, but will become a gush later on when the pipe thaws out. Voila! There you have it; water fills cups with magic gusto, pushes down sink drain (with no emergency overflow) and let the flooding begin! Now, how many of you just wiped your hand down your face? I promise my efforts were sincere. Destination Death was apparently the only possible outcome.

 The folks at Servpro return to demolish our mess and dry us out. Love ya Servpro, really…Shout out to YA. I am, however, certain the wind machines and loud-ass dehumidifers are a special level of hell the pre-Cannon Catholics did not know about. I think it is meant for those people that are really good, but used up WAY too much of their karma in their lifetime. Oh, I forgot to tell you that we are two-timers. Yup- he even said it himself when he showed up at our house- A.G.A.I.N. He said,”I thought you already did our time with us.” Ugh- eyes rolling in the back of my head.

Our previous disaster with water led us to have pseudo-NASA under our house to keep the water out. Having a spouse with a PhD means sometimes waiting weeks on end before a complete decision is made on big purchases. After researching all the latest information, including looking up what the Department of Energy had to say on this subject, he choose encapsulation with a fancy water drainage system. It’s so pretty and cobalt blue under there that my seriously NOT OCD husband wants to get under there and clean the red mud that is Georgia out of it. Shout out to the B-Dry system- we actually think this choice has limited the extent of the damage we have right now.

Nothing change the madness of right now. But like all messes…..there lies real, genuine, blessed beauty.

My friends text me to ask about bringing us dinner. I, of course, agree because there is way too much chaos to remember to eat, except perhaps it really should be easier since the refrigerator is literally an arm shot from the kitchen table at the moment.

Everyone comes and they bring their joy and chaos without flitting an eyelid at trying to walk around the tented kitchen or looking for the garbage can that has been moved over and over because we all gravitate to its usual spot. We all laugh while telling the juicy story that has now become this madness and laugh more when I tell them how my diva Self immediately was trying to figure out how to navigate an up hair-do day while passing by the wind machine. It does give me the idea that this is the perfect opportunity to have my Marilyn Monroe Moment. It goes something like this…..

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If you can believe it, there was a second nugget of utter glory in this madness. Apparently my sister planned a most delicious surprise for me (and I LOVE surprises). She cooked up something special with the help of my friends. My BFF Georgia (the most bad ass Rock Star of a jewelry designer you will EVER know-Gray Jewelers) and my new really awesome friend collectively decided on a piece to give me as a gift. Just imagining my beautiful sister conversing with them about what I may enjoy just made my heart smile.

So, just imagine that fan you run to make a little white noise while you sleep decided to go on a meth binge. That is what is now running in the back ground. See it….Even the toilet paper was waiving the white flag.

All the while, the blessing of my sister and a meeting of the kitty committee hover on the bed together. We talk about everything and nothing. Goats some of the time, but really it was pure lovely. Now it may be true that these moments do not have come sliding in quite so muddy and dirty, but for some reason, I seem to encapsulate them in my mind when the blessing runs in while wild madness is swirling all around.

So thank you to my sisters in spirit and in life. I will remember this ungodly beautiful moment every time I wear my treasure.It just gets easier and easier to remember gratitude with YOU present in my life. Sharing in the struggle whether directly or taking the time to read my writing makes my life worth living.

Bringing in the New Year with Meaningful Change: Finding a Therapist Requires a Good Fit

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Overall, most Americans consider psychotherapy beneficial. In a Consumer Report where seven thousand individuals were asked about their personal therapeutic pursuits, more than half responded favorably to the therapeutic process. Even with that favorable response, how do we know what constitutes “good” therapy? Some research has indicated that the client has felt great benefits from therapy, but continues to struggle with chronic symptoms like depression and anxiety.

The essence of psychotherapy is the pursuit of treatment for mental health issues with the help of a trained professional. Most important is the relationship with an unbiased party to gain insight into unhealthy patterns of behavior. There are many times throughout life when the benefits of a safe relationship can help one sort out those troubling patterns. The difficulty for the consumer seeking these services is in knowing what to look for when seeking a “good fit” with a therapist. The following are a few guidelines to help assist in finding that good fit.

First, do not be afraid to ask for a phone interview. Therapists that are open to scrutiny are willing to answer any questions you may have even before the first appointment is made. Once the first session is scheduled, have a little knowledge in hand about what may be the problem. Several reputable websites offer information regarding psychiatric disorders and recommended treatment modalities. Here is an opportunity to show the potential therapist that you are psychologically savvy and come with some understanding of what may be ailing you. Most importantly, do not be afraid to provide feedback to the therapist. A good therapist will not only welcome input into your perception of the progress but will ask for it. Often, this will occur in the first session where the therapist may make a suggestion of a course of treatment with a specific “checking in” point during the process. Do not be afraid of rejecting the therapist, this is an opportunity to potentially strengthen the relationship between therapist and client. If there are overall concerns of the treatment effectiveness, ask for a consultation with another therapist. Once again, a good therapist will welcome this and hopefully suggest a few referral sources to get a second opinion.

Psychotherapy is not like finding a surgeon to complete heart surgery; this is an intimate and professional relationship between two people where the client will possibly reveal very personal details of their life. The client should feel like the therapist can clearly explain the nature of the issue, feel understood as an individual and feel that their therapist is both compassionate and nonjudgmental. May this information help you in finding your “good fit” when psychotherapy is needed.

 

REFERENCE:

Article by Dr. Richard A. Friedman, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, Science Page of the New York Times, Nov. 2007.  

We Say Farewell with Gratitude to one of Our Beloved

Outside of the privilege of being a therapist, I decided that part of my giving back to the community was to mentor other therapists to do private practice well. Today we say farewell to one of our beloved and send her off to do good work in her own practice. Wish her well. Send her love and light

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December 2013

Dearest Angie,

It seems like a million miles ago we met on that fateful day in the Child and Family Guidance office.
You were blazing in from somewhere in the field talking about the next live music show you were
going to and which one you had just left from. You showed me pictures of your kids on a social media site and spoke fondly of the life you lived. I can’t say why I knew, but I knew we would cross paths many more times. That was almost nine years ago.

When I started private practice about seven years ago, it was a whirlwind of falling down mistakes. I realized early this was like getting another graduate degree and I made a vow that if I could really figure this out and learn how to do it well, I would pay it forward and not make someone else have to suffer through the process alone. Do you remember me calling you several times to bug you about taking that second exam so we could get started? I remember realizing quickly that doing this together would be one looooonnnnnggggg experiment and we would both learn how to be mentor, colleague and friend.

And goodness has it been a ride…..

I have learned so much about myself in this process. I realize I still have a lot to learn about being a mentor, but I hope I have guided and been honest about my shortcomings. I most appreciate your willingness to do this together so I can go on and do it again, continuing to improve my skills to prepare the next person to be in private practice on their own.

Most importantly, I have watched you become one of the best practitioners I will ever know. I recall your fear and trepidation in those first months, struggling to ask for your needs to be met in the big picture of the day to day of private practice, to today- listening to you carefully calculate how to best serve your community while remembering to take good care of yourself.

My heart bursts with sadness and joy! I have grown accustom to seeing you beautiful face every week and having time to just check in and be present with you. I will miss this terribly. But, knowing that you will drive less, spend more time with your family and create a lasting connection in your own practice brings me immeasurable joy.
Aurora Counseling for Healing and Change is the fruit of many, many long drives and nights away from home.

You may not know it, but you inspire me. Not many would put their trust in someone else to help
co-create their career. My heart is full of gratitude and during times of struggle, I will return to remembering your gifts.

I look forward to watching your practice evolve and learning and sharing with each other as the years move forward.

Thank you for traveling the journey with me.

The Real Stones in the Road

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In the fall of 1995, I was a sophomore in college and I felt like I had a lump in my throat. ALL THE TIME. I swore there was something wrong, returning to the old fuddy-duddy doctors at the college health center over and over again. Tension was building with my college benefactors (my great aunt and uncle), my best friend had left after attempting suicide and I was heading down an ugly path of one night stands. I was turning into a woman I clearly did not recognize.

I guess one of the crotchety doctors got tired of my throat complaints after making me eat another tongue depressor for what seemed liked minutes on end. AAAhhhhh…..eeeeehhhhh…..Really Dude (in my best California accent) don’t you see that cancer growing in the back of my throat? I am dying here!! He stops, sighs BIG, looks straight at me and says, “I think we need to send you upstairs.” WHAT! Upstairs!! That is where the crazy people go. I am not crazy, I just got this thing- growing in my throat! The third floor of the Student Health Center was the Counseling Center and I did NOT want to go. I rolled my eyes at him, snatched the referral slip and slid off the scaly lizard green exam table pushing past him.

Days, maybe weeks passed and I stayed mad at that crotchety ass hole trying to tell me I needed a therapist, not a tonsillectomy or an MRI– Something!! Finally, after another tawdry night of God knows what with whom will remain nameless and possibly faceless, I made the call.

This particular counseling system required a consultation to find the best fit. I met with a woman who had the wildest long black hair. I occasionally tilted my head like my neurotic cat does wondering if she actually designed it to look that way. But really, I was about to lay some shit down that she could not handle- or at least that is what I told myself. I spewed onto her my complicated and difficult family history, the sexual abuse and how, although I had many difficulties in my relationship with my own mother, I did NOT want to see a boy therapist.

She actually had the audacity to ask me, “WHY?” I remember thinking, ‘Whatdaya Mean, Why?’ The idea of being behind closed doors with a MAN I knew nothing about and then having to share my darkest secrets with made me more nauseated than I was already feeling. In the end it didn’t matter who it was, I was certain no one could really handle me or what I had been through. I was going to bitch slap this therapist around with every tactic I had and wear her out until she cried mercy.

I don’t think I have ever been so armored up in my whole life. I remember the consultation room felt so tiny and all there was was me, a wild, black hairy nest of hair and her white, white paper with the scribbles of my life. Sitting with a difficult decision is like having a sweaty, hairy stomach slide, –slide, –slide down your face…over AND over again. I left wet and sticky and all I could do was take a nap. Me and the wet hairy stomach rubbing its smelly self on me.

Watch this for an Excellent Visual:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enJJeOqHbqE&feature=youtu.be

 

Her name was….Well, I really don’t remember….But let’s call her Kathy or Karen or one of those normal names. I remember her as being all kind of orange and red with short frosted hair. She smiled a lot and watched her digital clock. I used to caress the edge of the arm of the textured couch. Other times I dragged my nails through it just to hear something else make noise besides myself.

Our first session was like standing in knee deep mud. I gave her my best devilish stare and like a howler monkey- made screeching noise to the tune of chaos that was my life. I had planned to torture her with every word until she put her hands over her ears and begged for me to make it stop.

But instead, she breathed in and out, in and out…… and just looked at me with deep set puppy eyes. What THE FUCK was the matter with her? She was not freaking out like I had been ALL MY LIFE!! She listened. She heard me. She seemed to act like she understood. She did not judge or shame me.

Over the next year, so many things unfolded. But one thing that has stayed with me was that she suggested that I seek out and find my two half brothers whom I had only met one once when I was eleven. Before leaving from my work with her, I had not followed through with this; I am sure for many different reasons. If I knew where she was today (hopefully enjoying peaceful retirement not being emotionally pummeled by college students) I would want to tell her that when I was ready, I finally did and although it is not the kind of relationship I wish for, it does exist. I suppose in a way, I hope that she is proud of me. These thoughts are really about wanting her to know that I am grateful that for the very first time in my life someone knew how to hold space for with the hot mess I had become.

You wanna know what is really HI-LAR-IOUS? That lump in my throat? That choking cancer I swore was killing me? They turned out to be tonsil stones- a real problem that is often just as stinky and ugly as the one I fought upstairs in the Counseling Center. But, both the doctor and I were right. I did have a cancer. Shame was metastasizing in my mind and he could not help. I needed a higher power- or at least the one on the third floor. 

 

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LIVE.OUT.LOUD 

 

 

Be Aware of the Post Holiday Blues

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What leads a person to have the post holiday emotional let down? More importantly, what qualifies as symptoms of an actual depressed state? It is normal, each year, to experience an emotional high anticipating the many aspects of the holidays and regardless of which holidays we celebrate, there is always a sense of excitement and anxiety that will abruptly disappear in January. Some experts report as many as twenty five percent of us will suffer with a holiday let down lasting for a few days to a week with symptoms similar to depression. So often our expectations are not realistic or we have high hopes for repaired relationships that do not materialize and are left with feelings of disappointment and grief. Many experience a high from all of the bustling around in the commercialization of the season the let down is inevitable.

However, only some of these feelings will lead to an episode of Major Depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health reported that approximately 6.7 percent of American people over the age of 18 are affected by depression. These symptoms can include a consistent lack of motivation, unintended changes in weight, sleeping too much or too little, irritability, a sense of helplessness or hopelessness and feelings of suicide (even a vague sense of not wanting to exist qualifies). Most importantly, these symptoms must significantly affect the person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. It is very common for a person to report they are “getting by” with the minimum life requirements, yet all other aspects of their life have been neglected by the depression. If many of these symptoms have persisted for two or more weeks, it may be time to seek professional help through therapy and when necessary, medication.

But once the holidays have passed and the emotional let down begins, there are many preventative measures that can be taken to stave off an episode of major depression. One can begin by simply following through with those new years resolutions that are often quickly forgotten. Most importantly, EXERCISE. If ever there was a cure-all, exercise is it! It improves our mood, boosts those happy neurotransmitters that make us feel like “everything will be o.k.”, increases healthy sleep patterns and decreases irritability. These improvements do not account for the additional positive physical effects on the body.

Other important preventative measures include taking time out for ourselves. There appears to be a common misconception that if we make time to do something just for ourselves we are being selfish. Yet, I will consistently argue that it is a farce if we are depleted and continuing to attempt to give to others. Remember, we can not take care of others without first taking care of ourselves.

Finally, a tactic used with cognitive-behavioral therapy, focus on the positive aspects of your life and use that energy to move forward. In what ways could you use this positive energy to begin a new chapter in your life, start a new project or renew worthwhile relationships? Let us be grateful for even the small moments of grace offered in our lives and remain proactive in our self-care to prevent depression.