Today is International Women's Day, so I had to at least take a moment to recognize how important this day is. So, here I am a woman, a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister and a friend and on my good days, my great days, I know that I am freakin’ superwoman. I am tough, smart, hardworking and dedicated through and through.
The last few days have been dark, not because I am struggling with not having visited my mother in a while or not getting the article published as I had hoped, but because pain, depression and fatigued have been pulling me down. I want to share with my readers the truth about how a woman can be a warrior. For the most part I have control of my depression and the other demons that attack my body, but there are days of doubt, sadness and the inability to get out of bed. The inability to be the woman warrior that I am.
What does it feel like? That feeling of doubting yourself and wanting to give up can be overwhelming. You feel like no matter what you do it’s useless. Even though you know doubt and pain is playing with your mind, you feel like something is pulling you down, a REAL physical entity is taking hold of you. During the normal motherly things, the normal woman things, the normal day to day life things seem near impossible when this force is present. Things that I need to do like be a counselor for my girls at their GEMS group seems painful. This past week, I was so exhausted, I was barely able to make it and when I did make it, I didn't want to be there. What could make depression and pain and fatigue worse, when people are asking how you're doing and the best you can respond with is, “having a bad day”. It takes time, energy and shaking the shame to explain what is really going on. It’s such an intricate thing to explain that you're in pain, that you feel hopeless and sad, and just want to crawl under the covers and not wake up for a while. Remember folks, I am a mental health professional, so this should be easier for me to do. Nope.
I know that I am a woman warrior, that I am wanted and needed. I wake up and I am needed to make the day start for other people, to deal with a struggling kindergartner who doesn’t want to wake up and make sure two older children have what they need. My husband loves me and needs me. I make things run, I'm important and vital to our society. I have dreams and hopes and plans, but this is the real life of a woman whose biggest fight can often be with herself.
So, on this International Women's Day, I had to take a moment to say thank you to the women who are daily warriors, fighting with their mental health and their bodies. I am most certainly not taking any light away from the women around the world who face terrible and harsh inequality, but I need to shine a light on women who put their feet to the ground. This is a “hey I see you” to the women who do what they can and the best way they know how on a daily basis as a woman, wife, girlfriend, employee, business owner, mother, daughter, sister, and even friend. I am thankful to have a husband who understands that I have mental health issues and can respect when I tell him “it’s been a bad day; the depression has hit hard today”.
Please note that I know my faith is HUGE in my daily life and that God has made all things possible. I also know that God has created us to move and improve, to take care of each other and to find inventive ways to do so. I take anti-depressants as well as other medications to make it through the day. Combine this with the love of my husband and I am a fortunate woman, and I know this.
Thank you, women warriors, you freakin’ superwomen, your faithful woman who make the day go around by placing one foot in front of the other.
Thank You to the women in my life:
My own mother who lives a life fighting FTD Dementia
Shelley McDonald (my other mama)
Grandma Maxine Rice (You taught me lessons I WILL NEVER forget)
Toni Szczepanski by dearest and sweetest friend (even though we don’t see each other often, you are a piece of my heart).
Marin Hann, MA., LLPC co-director of Koinonia Counseling Center
Alpha Women’s Center of Grand Rapids
Today instead of giving attention to another post, I am giving attention to Alpha Women's Center to seeks to build up families of all races and economic status. I love and adore this place and the women warriors I get to be with.
Everybody Hurts, a great REM song for sure, but not much fun when you are the one who is hurting. When I say “letting go gracefully” I am not saying that “being graceful” will keep you from the hurt and pain of feeling loss, humiliation, anger or any other negative thing in your life. It does mean, however, that you can take control of your own reactions.
Know there are times when you are powerless
So, here I was a teenage girl, a desperate girl who wanted the attention of a boy. I met said boy at a restaurant and we started a flirtatious conversation. What ended up happening was humiliating, he took my shoe. Yup, took my shoe and left the restaurant with the intention of getting me to go to his home. See, this boy had likely intentions that this teenage girl was not ready for. Thankfully, I never found said boy’s apartment, but I do remember going home to find my mom only to cry in her arms. I am sure you can think of moments when you felt the sting of humiliation, rejection or loss and can imagine how I was feeling. I had no power at that moment, but I could find someone who wouldn’t judge me for what had happened.
What do you mean when you say “graceful”?
When I say, “let go gracefully” what I mean is this. There are people who come in and out of our lives. We have great times where we feel on top of the world and other times when the world seems to be on top of us and that is okay. Everything cannot turn out perfect for us all the time and we are going to find ourselves in some pretty ridiculous or hurtful situations as I mentioned above.
Just because bad things happen does not mean that you are not worthy of holding your head up high. Sure, you want to call and text that lover who was once your entire world. In fact, you could be up against the wall dealing with a cruel and sadistic person, but you can still hold your head high. Being graceful does not mean that we don’t fall apart and cry or get angry, but it does mean that we do not seek out revenge. Why begin to live a life where revenge gives us satisfaction or get stuck in a never-ending cycle of revenge. You may hit a row of terrible losses, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot make it out of the darkness without a sense of dignity. Fighting the urge to “make things right” can be overwhelming, even scream our name over and over again, but it is not our job to “make things right”. Call it a higher power, God, the universe or karma, we can move on with our lives knowing that we don’t have to handle getting revenge. If you have to, tell yourself out loud, “revenge is not mine.”
Be Ready to Learn Honest Things About Yourself
I understand that this is difficult to do. I might not be near as useful if everyone could easily move on. So, seek out help if you need to, that is what graceful people do. They acknowledge that they need help and seek it out. They understand that it is always darkest before the dawn. You will learn things about yourself that will further humiliate you, but on the flip side, you will be enlightened too. Talking to an impartial party can allow you to gain tools and insight you can continue to use throughout your life.
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Bullying. I am sure that at some time in your life you have dealt with some form of bullying, albeit small or as it may affect someone else. We hear about it in school, we see public service commercial talking about “being kind” and toting how bullying is detrimental and cruel. I bring up this issue not only because I am another mental health professional VERY passionate about the negative implications of bullying, but because it is a REAL and painful issue.
As a young girl, I witnessed first hand the impact bullying has on kids. My brother was maliciously bullied, often violently attacked by individuals who found their own form of satisfaction from oppressing someone different than them. I of course, got some of the side effects, the blow back because I was the little sister. As a little girl in kindergarten, I watched as a few older kids took my brother’s knit winter hat and tossed it out the bus window. I remember to this day, a middle school to high school boy telling me that I better “not tell my parents what he did, or else”. I suppose even back then I didn’t know any better and of course, told my parents anyway.
As a young girl, I witnessed first hand the impact bullying has on kids. My brother was maliciously bullied, often violently attacked by individuals who found their own form of satisfaction from oppressing someone different than themselves. I of course got some of the side effects, the blow back because I was the little sister. As a little girl in kindergarten, I watched as a few older kids took my brother’s knit winter hat and tossed it out the bus window. I remember to this day, a middle school to high school boy telling me that I better “not tell my parents what he did, or else”. I suppose even back then I didn’t know any better and of course, told my parents anyway.
To say it was difficult dealing with bullying at school is putting it mildly. Sadly, as the years have changed, so has the various methods that make bullying possible. What was once a location dependent action has not become a wide spread viper, waiting to attack whenever one opens their phones, computer or tablet. Shoot, nowadays one can even look down at their watch and read text messages or emails.
When I saw a podcast from our local news anchor about his personal experiences with bullying, my interest was piqued. My honest reaction, I thought “how could anyone ever have bullied or attacked someone that seemed so popular and confident”? See, that is what I am talking about here. You just never know what our past holds or what people are going through.
Here is the Point of View series with Nick Lafave from WZZM 13 On Your Side:
Sara: Nick, I was able to listen to your podcast on bullying and it changed my questioning a bit. My absolute belief is that mental health plays the role in so many aspects of life, so it’s no surprise that it plays a huge role in how one handles bullying. When I first saw your podcast on bullying, I was really thrown back. You did not seem like the type of person who dad ever been bullied, so I think that speaks to the ability for children to find anyone who they can bully. When you were in the time frame that you were being bullied who did you turn to and were they responsive?
N: It was mostly in elementary school. K through fifth grade. I turned to teachers and school administrators who did next to nothing. My parents eventually got involved, pulled me out of school until the situation was addressed. The principal lost his job in part because of the fallout from the situation.
S: When you're in the midst of bullying as a youth what were some of the thoughts that went through your mind in terms of your own self-worth? You can answer this for your middle school and high school years if needed. I know you mentioned that you did not remember a whole lot about the actual time frame you were bulled.
N: It WAS a long time ago, so it’s hard to remember. But, fear was big. I literally didn’t want to get on the bus in the morning. I didn’t want to go out to recess. I didn’t want to walk or bike home after school because I feared I’d be caught. Which DID happen. Fear is the overriding emotion I remember. I never got down about myself. But, I think that’s because I still had a good group of friends and a close family. I was being beat up. But, I never felt alone. So, as far as my ‘self worth’ goes, I think I’m fortunate that that didn’t seem to take a hit. But, obviously, getting bullied and beat is going to have SOME impact on identity and confidence. I was just lucky to have other factors in my life providing positive reinforcement.
S: How do you view your own self-worth now?
N: I think I’m as well adjusted as any average American adult can expect to be. I think any self-confidence issues I DO have are not related to my being bullied as a child.
S: Would you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert?
N: Certainly an extrovert. I work in TV news. It’s hard to be shy in this industry.
S:What propels you to go into an industry that would definitely have a high rate of criticism?
N: I don’t think the aspect of public criticism ever factored into it for me. Communication was always a natural attribute of mine. I was in theater as a child and college. And I was always interested in current events and politics. Those were the factors that drove me into TV news. The public criticism is just something I assumed would be a part of it. But, I never worried about when I was considering this as a career. It doesn’t phase me too much now either.
S: What are some of the strengths that you use now to be able to repel criticism or do you still have an issue with criticism?
N: There’s obviously a toll it takes on you. But, the more confident you are in your work, and the better the support structure you have around you, the better off you’ll be. But, I don’t think that’s limited to my industry. I think that’s true of life in general. No matter what you do, people will criticize you in some way. Guaranteed. Whether public or private, it’ll happen. To be honest, the one-on-one criticism I get from people is more difficult for me to handle than anonymous online trolls. I digress… if you have a confidence in your work and a network of people in your life who care about you, you’ll be able to better handle the slings and arrows.
S: Have you ever dealt with depression?
N: I don’t think so. And I say ‘think’ because I’ve never been diagnosed nor have I thought I needed help in that area. I’ve had my peaks and valleys like anyone else. But, I think I’ve always maintained a good level of mental health. That’s not to say I’ve never sought therapy. I have. You don’t need to be depressed to see a psychiatrist.
S: As a parent how would you handle your kids being bullied and what would you say to encourage them?
N: I’d would and will tell them that I love them every single day. That more people in this life will love you than will not. And if anyone is harming them, I will move Heaven and Earth to put a stop to it, just the way my parents did for me.
S: What are some of the greatest lessons that you have learned through your own life experiences especially as it pertains to bullying?
N: Ask for help. It’s there. Don’t try to go it alone. None of us are meant to get through life on our own. Especially when things are hard. That’s when you need to seek help the most.
S: How did you end up developing a strong sense of identity or do you still struggle with a strong sense of identity?
N: Everyone struggles with identity. I feel like I live two lives; TV Nick and Real Nick. But, I (mostly) have a good balance. How did I do it? Who knows? Luck. Family. Faith. Trial and error. All of it and more.
S: In your podcast, you talked about the benefit (so to speak) of being bullied in the 80s because nowadays, there is so much access to individuals via electronic devices. What positive words of affirmation do you have for those children who are bullied today?
N: It gets better. It’s cliché. But, it does. I’d say what I said previous: more people love you than don’t and help is there. You just need to ask. And (more clichés), cut out the people in your life who are attacking you. They don’t benefit you at all. Stop communicating with them.
S: As a parent, are you ready to deal with a child and social media?
N: Not in the least! ?
Thank you Nick for taking time out to answer the questions from some lady who you don't know, it is greatly appreciated. As you mentioned in one of your answers, you do not need to be depressed or have a massive psychiatric disorder to seek out mental health assistance. I have had different individuals who sit down with me and say, "so this is what therapy is" then breath a sigh of relief because they were able to share things that had been balling up in their chest.
Please check out Nick's podcast, "Alone at the Desk". Even if you are not in the West Michigan area, they are insightful and funny quips from the mind of a news anchor, dad, husband, son and brother.
Want more post like this, check out the link below. Keep an eye out for more Point of View Series posts, including:
Psychology and Spirituality from a Pastor Steve VanderWest **(This is a real GEM).
Loss of a Parent
Betrayal Trauma with a Wife whose husband had an affair
My Child has Gone Astray
I Decided to Home School My Children
I Was Incarcerated
and Many more.......
So, I always want to encourage people to seek out mental health professionals if they feel like they have a significant issue or if they just need a mental health tune up. I am a passionate advocate for mental health awareness, which means that I am trying to make the mental health experience a little less scary. I want to share what it is like not only being a therapist but being the one “on the couch”. I have mentioned in one of my related articles, “Getting Comfortable with Psychotherapy” that I have been on the receiving end of therapy, twice. So, I have a pretty good idea of what is going through your mind when you make the phone call, when you wait in the waiting room, when you sit down in front of a stranger who knows nothing about you but is supposed to bring you back to equilibrium.
Today, a few questions that I wanted to answer are “do we miss our clients” and “do we speak about our clients”. First, in terms of speaking about our clients, mental health professionals SHOULD ALWAYS maintain strict rules of confidentiality. Only ever bringing you up in clinical situations in order to garner the best help possible for you, our client. I going to be honest here, there are some really difficult clients that lead to really difficult sessions. To keep giving you the best care, we absolutely have to digest with somebody, a colleague with whom we maintain strict confidentiality with. True confession here, there are and will be times where we have to talk over what happened in a session and possibly talk over a diagnosis, but I stress again, this is only in a clinical private / confidential setting. I do not talk about you with my spouse or my BFF. Speaking for myself and my partner at Koinonia Counseling Center, we believe that confidentiality is one of the most important things in counseling because it allows us to maintain a therapeutic relationship, which is essential to having a successful therapeutic intervention. The relationship between you and your therapist, the honesty, being able to know that what you say is held in strict confidence (barring there aren't any items that break confidentiality like abuse or threats of suicide and there's no court order documents that we have to give up) are all vital aspects of counseling.
In regards to missing our clients, yes, I would absolutely say that we do miss our clients. However, we also know that we have to maintain a professional relationship. We are not allowed to call you up and say, “hey we want to be your best friend, do you want to go out for coffee?”. There are actually strict guidelines for us in terms of when we could ever see our clients out of the office, date our clients or have any form of sexual relationship with clients. The ethics of our profession demands this in terms of years and certain relationships could cause us to lose our license.
I can share that I miss clients in terms of seeing them happy with the progress that they have made through out our sessions, knowing that my life’s purpose is helping you. I want to state that while I thoroughly enjoy helping people, I would definitely say that you shouldn’t expect to hang out with your therapist. Don't go into therapy having the expectation that they're your friend. Psychotherapist/ counselors are around to care about you 100%, there to have your best interest at heart, they’re there to be a neutral party. We walk a fine line of being on your side but making sure that you are grounded and can maintain proper boundaries.
So yes, we as therapists do talk about our clients (clinically) and we do miss our clients because we have entered into this field because we remain hopeful for others. I pray that other therapists go into the mental health field because they want to help people become the best versions of themselves that they can be.
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“I don’t want a politically correct answer,” our professor said in his Portuguese accent.
Up on the screen in our classroom was a picture of an African man in tribal garb and a white man dressed in a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. The question was, who is appropriately dress? When the majority of the 60 person class answered “both” the professor prodded the classes to answer the question with the first answer that came to mind and not the answer that society demanded. It was important to look at the background of the photo where the two men stood because the context of the photo shared vital clues as to who was appropriately dressed. The photo’s background was that of the outside, of sand and blue sky. Being politically correct gets people nowhere; it is as useful as stereotypes and living on the notion of colorblindness.
The topic of this particular day was multicultural counseling in terms of group counseling. The question was followed with breaking down stereotypes and creating dialogue between those of different ethnicities and races. Our classroom was filled with individuals from various communities; the professor himself was a naturalized citizen from Brazil. The professor continued his instruction by asking those of various ethnicities and races to give the class examples of things we may not know about a particular group. One black woman informed the class that although she was black, she was not African American but of Jamaican decent and urged her classmates to keep in mind that being black does not mean African America. She wanted to encourage her classmates to ask, be honest about what we do not know. Another woman informed the class that although she was blonde hair with lighter colored eyes, she was of Porto Rican decent.
The point was that counselors need to allow our clients to highlight themselves, and that we should not assume we know how someone should be identified because we are scared to ask. Furthermore, it is our job to inform ourselves about the client’s identification so that we can better aid them throughout their counseling endeavors.
“I love people of all color the same and I would treat them all the same.”
What could possibly be wrong with this statement? After all, doesn’t it demonstrate love, compassion, understanding and wait, acceptance? Well, it wraps everything and everyone up in a nice package. Everyone has a story, and whether they are white, black, or tan skinned there is something in their story that has shaped their lives. Native American, Latin, Asian, or black Americans have cultures that cultivate how they interact and thrive or survive. These differences should not be feared. These differences should not be put under one rainbow because we cannot create an open and honest dialogue with someone due to societal fear.
1 Corinthians 14:10 (New International Version) states, “undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church”.
We have a duty to learn about those who come to us as counselors, and this duty should extend to everyone within their daily lives. Being colorblind is only good in theory, but the actual practice of it does not create dialogue or highlight the differences the human race has as God given creation. The aforementioned scripture reminds us that we need to understand that each language, each race, and that each story is not without meaning. Without grasping the importance of the meaning, we are doomed to continue the cycle of stereotypes and the blindness that lack of dialogue creates. Without the honest dialogue, we are merely just speaking at each other.
Let’s be honest people, being "colorblind" is as effective as actually being blind. We can no longer assume that we have all the answers when it comes to those of different backgrounds than us. In fact, we cannot even assume that those of similar race as us have the same values, the same story, or the same opportunities. It may take work, but we should seek to understand how those different people have different views. This can be applied to the black individuals in America and how they view the world around them, the experiences they have had. Before we say that Hispanics are stealing all of our jobs and are coming over to America illegally, we have to listen to their story. We have to take the blinders off and see the colored past of these individuals, to understand how and why they see red. We have to seek to understand why some fear blue. We have to, without revocation, level with each other and listen.
We are not bound by chains as Christians; we are set forth in freedom because the Lord equips us with His love and grace no matter what endeavor we embark upon. We do not have to operate on a “this or that” mentality and there is no give away when we operate in the name of the Lord. There is a truth about educating ourselves to become not only more culturally competent, but to become integration competent as well. As Christians we need to become competent in our faith and what this means in the context of a secular world especially in a world were we are often culturally and ethnically divided. Now don’t get me wrong, we are all human and are predisposed to failing and weakness. We are never going to make it through life without making a mistake, but it is vital to call upon the grace of God when we have fallen short, and to learn from our mistakes so they do not become a negative cycle of interacting with others.
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A lot of what I do within the mental health field is work or come across individuals that lack a desired level of confidence. These are individuals that constantly wonder their abilities, their actions, their words and their thoughts. Their lack of confidence surrounds them on a daily basis and they're constantly wondering if they are worthy enough.
When working with people that feel like they're awkward, wondering how they can help themselves, the first thing to say is “take a moment to take a deep breath” and “sit for a moment”. Now, therapy goes beyond the surface level because we try to learn what it is that shapes the way that people think and feel as well as how people express emotions and form connections. Since we only have a little time, I am just going to give a few tips that hopefully can help start down the path of feeling more secure and aid in garnering more confidence.
Here are a few tips on how to start helping yourself gain confidence.
1. Learning to control your breath is absolutely number one. Before you can really start something that takes a lot of time and dedication, it’s important that you begin to take control of your body. Breathing properly is the first thing to learn because there is a physiological response our body produces when we are in particular situations. This can help reduce nervousness, feelings of sickness and can reduce the body's sweat response.
2. Now, here is the miracle question, you wake up one day and everything is exactly how you want it, what would that be? After all, how can you obtain a goal if you don't even know what the goal is? Simply saying, “I want to be more confident when I talk to people”, is a good goal that makes absolute sense, but we need to know what that looks like.
3. What are the steps that it will take to get there?
4. I want you to think about a particular situation when you felt like you lacked confidence then write that down and say it out loud. I want you to think of a situation where you had confidence, and then write that down too. This can help you understand where you are now and where it is that you want to go.
5. Then I want you to think about why this matter? Is it because you need help in social situations, want a significant other or do you want a better job?
6. I am going to tell you a little secret, when it comes to what others think about you, it is important that you have a set of beliefs. You need to know if you are a go-with-the-flow kind of person? Do you feel like you have a set of beliefs that you set aside to appease other people? It is vital to figure these things about yourself, truthfully open your eyes to how you react to beliefs and actions that are different than yours.
Let me tell you honestly, I didn't start out being a confident person. I didn't know who I was, I didn't know what I believed, and I was always judging myself against somebody else. This led to a near breakdown while I was sitting for my first graduate “in class” session. I had terrible anxiety, thinking that I was not good enough to be a therapist. I had massive performance anxiety and going through our mock therapy sessions while being watched was detrimental to me.
Little by little, I started to realize that I had a set of goals that I wanted to accomplish, and I set out to accomplish those goals. I began to believe that it didn’t matter what anybody else thought about me because I had a lot to offer the world. Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't have setbacks. There are times where I will still weigh myself against somebody else, but I have to remind myself that I do have value and that I am a wife, mother of four and have a master’s degree that allows me to be a psychotherapist. I learned what it meant to flesh out my feelings with a trustworthy person. I didn’t want to be told what I wanted to hear, but the truth about my abilities and what I have to offer the world. If you really feel like you are struggling against all hope, please seek the help of a mental health professional or life coach who can help put your perspective in place. After all, everybody should have a safe haven, a place where they can find help.
Lastly, remember that you are unique and have a lot to offer the world. You might be clumsy and fall often, but that is okay because it is part of who you are. You may be a great sales person, you may learn that you have a gift working with people or you may decide that you are best used in the background. Remember, you do not have the fill the shoes of everybody else, just your own.
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Body image, what a strange bedfellow. For a sad reason, body image will always be a friend or foe because depending on how the days in going, you’re either going to like the way you look, or you won’t. Sadly, even if you look like a knockout 10, the inside mind could see something else. The eyes of the body can look into the mirror and see fear, fear of rejection and loss of love because of how one looks. For a mental health professional, we know that body image can lead in too many disorders, diagnosable disorders that can have terrible repercussions. Let’s face it, we all like to look good, we all want to feel good in our own skin, but sadly this is not always the case. I started my own series about how mental health and physical health are connected. I used to be a tiny thing in high school, but even then, I did not have a positive view of my body. After two kids, I did not realize that at 125 pounds I was thinner than most women after having children. Now, at a weight that I won’t even share online, I feel angry, depressed and exhausted with how I look and feel.
I took to reading a blog post from a fellow mother who has struggled with body image her whole life. She even decided to get gastric bypass surgery in hopes of leading a healthier life. Sadly, what she found was not an intense feeling of satisfaction, but a dark journey down the same path that she had been following for years. Below is my interview with Amanda, a busy wife and mother of three daughters.
S: When you say that you have always struggled with your body and food, what is the biggest hurdle you must overcome to finally being at peace with your body?
A: That’s a great question. One that I’m honestly still trying my hardest to work on. I’m not quite fully at peace yet but it is definitely my goal. I think for me I need to not worry about what others think or what society thinks for sure.
S: How has the words said to you as a young girl and teenager shaped how you raise your three girls especially in terms of what words you use?
A: Some examples: if the girls are trying on clothes I don’t focus on the size, they try a size on, and I’ll ask if they feel comfortable. If not, we adjust accordingly, and the size is never an issue.
If they have doctor appointments, I have told the offices to not mention their weights (if they say it…we just move on like no big deal)
I also try to compliment them as much as possible without always using compliments on their looks etc.
I also am open and honest and if diets etc. are mentioned I make sure they know they never have to go on a diet or change the way they look
S: Do you think having a twin or sibling who was smaller than you was a big factor in your comparing yourself? Do you think the built-in comparison has set you up for a downfall?
A: Yes, I think that was the start of it. Also, something I still need to let go of…comparing myself!
“I just ate what my parents bought at the store and what my mom would make. My Dad only eats certain foods so my Mom only cooked what he would like. Occasionally she would make separate things if my Dad wanted something different. Pretty sure that is why to this day I do not cook because my Mom did it all.”
S: Do you think part of the reason that you don’t cook is because you do not have a good relationship with food?
A: Huge YES!!! It’s also hard sometimes when my family wants to eat something that I don’t feel like eating … I don’t want my husband to make something he doesn’t want, or to have to make something different.
I know this sounds crazy, but I also hate to grocery shop so that makes it hard for there to be all the foods in the house that I would prefer as well.
Some people may say, “well just go to the store by your own food and make it yourself “I wish it were that easy (for me).
“I don't remember having a lot of thoughts about my body and food except I just considered myself fat and never really liked it. I would go to doctor appointments and weight was always brought up. One time I even went for a cold and the doctor said it was probably due to my weight.
Fast forward to 2008. By this time, I had Abby in 2006 and Jasmine in 2007. I had my 1-year checkup after having Jasmine. I got to my OBGYN appointment and my weight was 302.4lbs. I cried my entire appointment because I never expected to see that number but also all my doctor talked about was how I needed to lose weight. He said I should be 165lbs and he recommended medical weight loss or weight watchers. I checked into medical weight loss but that was expensive, so I started weight watchers. I think I lost around 75 lbs. during weight watchers but always stopped and started again so I don't remember how long that took me. I can remember though always thinking that all that mattered was the number on the scale. If I went over my points, I was bad. If I gained weight that week it was because I ate too much pizza that week. I can remember it made food good or bad therefore depending on what I ate...I was good or bad.”
S: A: Interesting that you made the connection between body weight, food and whether you were good or bad (worthy or not worthy)?
A: So much on our society tells us there is good food and bad food. Not until just recently have my eyes finally been opening to realize that is not the case. Food does not have any moral value!
S: How would you inspire someone who does not have the spousal support and understanding that you do?
A: Hmmm, difficult question. I’ve been following a lot of Instagram accounts / etc. that have really made me feel like I could really find freedom from all this …but I would still love to be able to afford counseling
“I was 230 on the date of my surgery Oct 1st 2015. I can remember thinking it was the only way I would ever be able to lose weight.
During my 6 months before surgery stuff I had to make sure I didn't lose any more weight otherwise I would not have qualified for surgery”.
“Not once in my entire life has any doctor recommended counseling or mental health care. During my surgery process there was absolutely zero "help" either. It was always about what the scale said. Can you see why numbers have always consumed me?”
S: Do you think you are more of an advocate for counseling or mental health care for this form of surgery? I imagine there are many individuals who are not as insightful as you and wouldn’t realize how a surgery such as you went through will affect their mental health.
If anyone were to ask me if I recommended weight loss surgery, I would say…
No!!! Not unless you’ve had full counseling/ mental health care first
“So, one year after surgery on my birthday November 11th, 2016 I went for a 11-mile run. I got home, stepped on the scale and was 135.2lbs. I felt so weak, so lightheaded, felt awful, took a hot bath...but I was on top of the world because I had just hit a weight, I never thought I'd make. I would workout up to 2 hours a day with maybe 1 rest day. I hardly ate anything. But all that mattered was that stupid number. Then at a follow up appointment I was so scared to step on the scale because I knew for the first time since surgery, I gained weight. I was 147. The doctor came in and said "Shazam...you're perfect!" All your numbers and tests are good. I said but I gained weight. He said well most surgery patients get to a low weight and then their body goes up because it moves to where it is more comfortable. So, I left feeling great thinking, ok phew...then I did not fail. I hadn't changed anything I was doing when I went from 135 to 147. I ate the same, worked out the same (which was always not enough food).”
S: Did your husband notice any negative changes in you and did anyone try to help you recognize how you were reacting to your weight, food, exercising?
A: Yes, lots of people noticed. Josh always tries to help me, but he often says. I don’t know how to fix it.
S: Do you feel here like you were even in control of your own mind and body? I know with my depression, it literally feels like something has a hold on you and you can’t shake it? I think this is important to high light because a lot of individuals suffer with body image issues.
A There were several times I remember doctors saying, “if I track my food and exercise that I’ll always keep my weight off”. So, once I started gaining, I thought again I was a failure. But all that “in control” made me worse and made me feel like I was going crazy. I often wonder if I would still work out 2 hours a day and eat 1000 calories if I wouldn’t have gained but I just couldn’t continue. My mental health is my #1 goal right now, so it is getting better now that I’ve gotten rid of all trackers
“During 2016 and 2017 I became so obsessed with workout programs and every single one of them had a different nutrition program...I mean seriously...How many flipping diets are out there, why are there so many, and why do we think the next one will finally be the one? and when are we all going to finally realize that diets don't work. That food is not good or bad. That I am not good or bad based on what I eat. Food is just food. Now of course if someone Is allergic to food then they shouldn't eat it. If you don't like cauliflower don't eat it. If you don't like donuts, don’t eat them. But if you. like pizza eat the flipping pizza. You're not bad because you ate pizza. Why can't we just love ourselves the way we are. The way God made us.”
“At this point I am not sure if I will run a race this year. Part of me thinks it may be best for me to take a break. I have literally felt way too stressed about all this that I feel I really need to focus on my mental health. Adding another race would probably just add extra stress thinking I HAVE to do it instead of just doing it because I enjoy it.
“I'm crazy right?”
S: No, you are not crazy. There is an important connection between mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. There is meant to be a balance in life, and it sounds like you are certainly out of balance between many aspects of your life. What is your ideal healthy life?
Food doesn’t matter it’s just food. To the point where I don’t even think about food (meaning I will eat of course but just not be consumed with what to eat how much to eat when to eat) if I should eat this or that etc.
A: And just enjoy movement that makes me happy. Not movement because I must or to compete with someone else
S: What I want to high light here is being a champion for your health. If one doctor or counselor does not feel like the correct fit, seek out help that is. I know this can be difficult with insurance companies. You have every right to be heard and for your healthcare providers to be connected on your overall well-being. That means your primary care relates to your mental health provider, so that you get the best care possible.
I have so much to be thankful for and am blessed beyond measure. I need to get all this off my mind and just live life each day and choose to be happy. My size does not matter.”
God is so Great. He has given me new friends and a new Church family. He opens doors when other close. Now I just pray I don't lose them too while I'm still working on all my struggles.”
S: God is great for SURE! And you would think that being a Christian would make us immune to all the issues like body image, food, dieting, depression, anxiety and everything in between. It will take time to feel like you finally have an equilibrium. Just like this journey has taken time, this too will take time. I remember being a HUGE worrier. I mean my worry would have worry, but that has all changed with time. That, however, doesn’t mean that I do not have body image issues from time to time.
If you like this post, check out the link below for another post like it. Also check the link below to see the post that inspired this Point-of-View with Amanda on body image and mental health.
Under the mental health section here, I would like to try and give my personal insight, including mental and emotionally, on getting back into shape again in a series called, "For Myself". I wrote a post previously about "Getting Real" where I spoke about my feelings about how I look and feel. I gave some idea of why I am at the weight I am and how I feel about it.
The picture to the left is of me after giving birth to two children. Oddly enough, I thought then that I was overweight, but now, I know better. I do not want to be back to my high school weight. I want curves. I want to be a beautiful woman who gave birth to four beautiful children, but right now, I feel like I am old when I am still young. I feel unhappy with not being able to fit into the clothing that I like. I want to be the same size I was after giving birth to two children. Moreover, I want to be healthy again. I have narcolepsy (not the kind where you drop down a pass out), but I am tired so often. I have arthritis in my back from an auto accident and take medication for depression and anxiety, which doubles as a pain medication for Fibromyalgia. I am so angry because I often feel trapped in my own body. I love to bike and hike, I craved fitness and loved being active especially when I use to work at the YMCA.
I now take medication to try to become a better and more well rounded woman yet still getting up and being motivated to get to the gym and to eat right is difficult. So, here I am, sharing my journey to becoming better physically and mentally. I am trying to figure out how to eat better and how to keep myself motivated to work out on a regular basis. So, please stay with me as I share personal details about how I feel throughout my journey. I have considered using "Noom" a workout website, but feel like I should get some form of a discount seeing as how my paternal name and maintain name is in fact, "Noom". Please stay tuned. I am now off to a chiropractic appointment, which is yet another method I use to continue to feel normal.
If you like this post, please keep posted on further post in this series "For Myself" and in the mean time, check out the link below.
Ah, the steps of a twelve-step program. Anyone who has ever fought through an addiction know the twelve steps quite well, but how many people even know what the twelve steps are or what they mean. Below is the explanation of the twelve steps as brought to you by me (a little) and Marin Hann MA, LLPC (a whole lot). This is in script form as it was one of our psychoeducational speeches at Community Recovery.
Sara: Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless–that our lives had become unmanageable.” I was having a lot of issue with depression/ anxiety and things were not going well.
Marin: What she didn’t tell me was how drastically difficult it can be to admit I’m powerless. Even when we think we’ve finally admitted it we haven’t. There is no finally. One minute I may believe I’m powerless, the next minute I think I have control over my life. And don’t even get me started on realizing my life had become unmanageable because what she didn’t tell me was that even after I got through step 12, I still have days when I convince myself I can manage this. I can’t though. I can’t manage this at all.
Marin: That sounds like it would be a humbling experience. So, what is Step 2.
Sara: Step 2: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
“So, this step wasn’t so terribly bad, I mean, I am a Christian”
Marin: What she said made sense. I’m a Christian too. Here’s what she didn’t tell me. She didn’t tell me that being a Christian didn’t guarantee me on easy pass on this. She didn’t share that I would have to realize that believing God could and God would be two different things. So, step 2, yeah, I thought it would be fine and an easy slide into step 3.
Marin: Yeah totally. I get that. My higher power is the God of the Bible too.
Sara: Awesome! So, Step 3 is connected to that: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. I totally realized I had to put more faith into God"
Marin: You know what she said? She said more. She didn’t say all. Christians, 12 step members, we like to talk about turning our will over. We like to talk...and talk...and talk about it. And what I know now that I didn’t know in the beginning was that when I said in step 2 that God could restore me to sanity...what I hadn’t yet admitted was that I wasn’t sure he would. And there it was. I was questioning God’s character and in the same breath saying I’d turn my will and life over to Him. But hey...I’m a Christian I’ve already turned my life, over right? That’s a onetime thing. Yeah no. Wrong. So wrong. But that’s a messy message. No one wants to hear that message. Or...do they?
Marin: I hope I can make my way through, so what is step 4?
Sara: Step 4: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. I had to dig into some really difficult times in my life, but it was fine, it was for the best”
Marin: In that sentence do you know what I heard? “It was worth it.” But there are things she’s not saying when she quickly tells me that she had to really dig into some difficult times in her life. She didn’t say searching meant falling into pieces. She didn’t say searching would make me want to act out like never. She didn’t say that fearless meant that the inventory was fearless. That the inventory is honest, but that I would be afraid. Step 4 will scare you...it always does. You will want to give up. You will want to water Step 4 down. You may have to start from scratch and go back to step 1, then 2, then 3, then 4 again. Some of us didn’t make it to 5 the first time around. That’s the truth. But after all that...I can say this - I’m a different person then I was before step 4...and that is a beautiful thing.
Marin: WOW...that sounds rough. I don’t know… and yeah, I hope you’re right because if it wasn’t worth it then no one in their right mind would do that.
Sara: It was so difficult to admit what I was doing wrong and be honest with God and to others. I had some difficult conversations” oh, that’s Step 5: "Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs".
Marin: I heard her. I heard it was difficult. It’s one thing to write down the exact nature of my wrongs, and it’s even one thing to admit to God, maybe even harder to admit to myself and say it out loud...but to tell another person? That’s something else entirely. She told me it was difficult. She didn’t tell me why. Maybe you think she didn’t tell me because it’s obvious why. I thought it was too. But then I realized why confessing our wrongs to someone is so terrifying. We know how to do it from a place of shame. We know how to say how horrible we think we are. But to share those same things from a place of grace? That’s...I mean...I have been given the inexhaustible grace of The God of the entire universe and I still don’t know how to do that.
Marin: I... this is very deep. I thought step four was going to be hard and I’m familiar with confessing to God, but another person?
Sara: I just think of Philippians “4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Step 6: "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. I was ready to just give the control over to God, so he could remove my flaws".
Marin: Here is the thing that’s not being mentioned here. No one is ever entirely ready. You are going to mess up again. You are going to be manipulative, deceitful, lazy, arrogant, prideful, resentful, bitter. It will happen again. So entirely ready is unfortunate phrasing. Entirely ready to have to be ready repeatedly? That’s what Step 6 means.
Marin: I wonder if anyone is truly ready for that step...
Sara: I know what you mean, but again, this was not that difficult being a Christian. I mean I know I must ask God for forgiveness and only he can make me clean again. I think that I am good at being humble when it came to Step 7: "Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings"
Marin: She didn’t mean that. It is difficult. It’s difficult to figure out what humility is. It’s difficult to ask for forgiveness, and even more so to want to. I WISH she would have told me that I’d learn something dark about myself. That the broken part of me doesn’t want God to remove my pride, my resentment, my bitterness, my lust. That there is a part of me that likes those things. And then just like that we are back to Step 1...I like those evil things. In my own power I like my flaws and I like my addiction. Without God I hardly recognize flaws for the evil that they are. I’ll destroy myself. So yes, I am powerless, and my life has become unmanageable. I am powerless. He is not. I cannot do this. He can.
Marin: It sounds like I will certainly need help-
Sara: Well, I can always help. When it’s your time for Step 8: "Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” I can be a helping hand. I thought I was honest with myself the first time, but there were a few people and things I forgot the first time around. Making a list keeps things in order.
Marin: Order? Well addicts crave that right? We want order because we have chaos. But this isn’t a grocery list of names. This is an entire shift of the world as we know it. This is the missing half of step 4 because step 4 isn’t a list of bad choices. Behind every one of those bad choices is a person. A real person. A person who was hurt. And when you see that list it can’t ever stay just a list.
Marin: So...is Step 8 connected to the inventory in Step 4?
Sara: Well, yeah...they’re all connected, but you’re right a lot of people use step 4 to help make their list in step 8. So then in Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” They are ready. I know for me, I had to tell people I was sorry, but I had God behind me.
Marin: She told me that she had to say sorry, but she didn’t tell me that she had to learn how. Look, no one can sell this program. It’s way too difficult to sell. All anyone in recovery can do is tell you about their recovery. It’s messy. I can tell you that I discovered I did not know how to apologize. And I can tell you that most of us in this room don’t know how to apologize. But in recovery, you practice. It’s like a muscle that hasn’t been used. You must use it, or you forget how.
Marin: I don’t think saying your sorry is an easy task. Sometimes it makes me feel vulnerable and scared. Often in my past I didn’t even mean it when I apologized. I don’t know if everyone would think I was sincere.
Sara: I never really thought of it that way...it seems like you have a lot of insight. Wow, okay, so we are almost done with going through the steps. Step 10: "Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it". I thought doing the continued inventory was easy, you just must remember to be honest with yourself and others.
Marin: She forgot that you must be prompt. Not honest in a few minutes, a few hours, the next day. Honest now. In the moment you mess up, the moment you are tempted. Tell yourself it happened and immediately text or call someone else to tell them that it happened. I’ve done poorly with this step and since I’ve really started a twelve-step recovery program I have relapsed/slipped (whatever you want to call it) 4 times. I didn’t admit the months and months of issues leading up to them in the moment they happened. Addiction doesn’t barge down the doors, it slowly trickles in through the floor, the ceiling, the walls. If you have a leak and you don’t admit you have a leak, then guess what? Your roof is going to cave in. But here’s some experience strength and hope from me - if it does cave in, if you do relapse...don’t stay drowning in the downpour. You’re made in the image of God so get back up and run back to him. Every moment of recovery is beautiful and not to be discounted. A relapse isn’t hopeless and it’s not a sentence. So, if you’re relapsing then promptly admit it and get back to the beauty of recovery in God. It’s still there. I promise.
Marin: That’s not something I’m used to, a daily habit of checking in and being honest. Hopefully the other steps will help me get there.
Sara: I totally get where you are coming from. These steps may seem like stringent guidelines, but they really do work to set you for success. In Step 11: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out". This is where your continued strength can come from, I continue to pray and whatever God’s will is for my life, then so be it (or I am okay with it).
Marin: Well didn’t that sound simple. Look...in this you need a relationship with God. And serious relationships are complex, constant, they adapt, they grow. I’m not going to lie and say that prayer is easy. That a relationship with God is easy. My relationship with God has made my life incredibly difficult...and I’ve suffered by being a Christian. It’s not an easy path. But it’s the best one. It will hurt, but it’s how to keep on living. It’s work like breathing is work. Breathing is hard. Sure, your body does it automatically most of the time, but your body is constantly working very hard even while you sleep. And on top of that, no one is capable of always breathing properly. You want to know how I know that? 90% of you thought about and tried to focus on how you were breathing just now. The other 10% of you just caught up to join the party. That’s why we need to learn to breathe in anxiety, remember to breathe when we work out, it’s why breathing exercises exist. We struggle to do the thing that keeps us alive and we must keep practicing how. A relationship with God is like that. It’s like breathing.
Marin: Okay. I get that. This is a real challenge, but I can see how Step 10 and 11 really go hand in hand.
Sara: You really get to see how the steps will complement each other in order to help you grow as a person and be able to reach out to others. Step 12: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs". I really hope I was helpful. I just want to tell you how wonderful the 12-step program is. I think you’ll find success with it.
Our speech was set to talk about the honest experience that one goes through doing the steps created by Alcoholics Anonymous. I was representing a woman who was too cheerful about the AA experience and not being honest about how in depth the AA experience can be.
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I started writing this post a while ago, teased that it was coming and had yet to write it until now. With setting up a new website, much of my time was taken up with moving content and waiting for my domain to move to a new host. Shew! Sorry for the delay.
So here I was, attempting to explain empathy to a group of women when I was struck with a statement, "I agree with that as a Yes and No because you cannot know exactly what someone is going through if you have never been there." This individual went on to explain that how can someone know what it is like losing a baby to miscarriage if they have never gone through the situation themselves? They cannot really empathize with that person. I was a little heart broken that my idea of empathy was not as easily grasped as I had hoped, but I do like the idea of giving up, so here is this post.
Imagine with me, if you will, you have a dear friend that has lost a child. It could be from a car accident or a long-time illness, the situation does not matter. Your friend is devastated, heartbroken, questioning in God on a minute by minute basis and you are fortunate enough to go home, after visiting with your friend, and hold your children tight. You can smell them, you are able to feel their skin next to yours, you are able to accept their kisses and tuck them into bed. You have no idea what it is like to lose a child, you have yours. So here is where empathy rules over the act of sympathy. Imagine further, taking your heart out and placing it into that dear friend of yours. You may not know exactly what your friend is going through, the planning of a funeral, the loss, the tears at the tiniest of memories of their child, but you can imagine their pain. You can put yourself in their shoes. You can imagine so intensely that you begin to feel the pain that your friend is feeling. This is empathy. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes even if you have no idea what they are exactly going through. You then understand that mere words cannot put back together the broken pieces. No, “it will get better with time” or “imagine them in God’s arms” because you know that comfort is merely an illusion. Instead you stay next to someone and allow them to cry, to be angry, to shout, to pray, to fall apart and you offer a warm embrace when they need it.
Back to the comment from the young woman above, I have been blessed with four beautiful children. I have never been pregnant and lost a baby as all mine were born happy and healthy, yet I have the capacity to put myself into the shoes of a woman who has miscarried. I kiss my beautiful babies (even as teenagers now) and feel how blessed I am and can imagine how empty life would be if there were not around. As a mother, I can take my life experiences and imagine the inverse of my blessings in order to help someone through their pain. Now, I am not knocking the immense importance of shared experiences. I have mentioned numerous times how humans were created for relationships to share our happiness as well as sorrow with others and to be a helping hand to someone who is struggling.
Empathy is being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, to “share someone else’s feelings” while sympathy is feelings of “pity and sorry for someone else’s misfortune”.
For a great illustration, please watch Brene Brown explain empathy in her short video on YouTube. I was shown this is my Adolescent Psychology class and have used it with my children to explain the difference between sympathy and empathy.
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