Tagged: Psychology Today

Losing Hope, Winning Grace

Today, I am going to share a personal story.  It feels like an important personal story.   About five months ago I began struggling with depression.  Five months ago, I began struggling with depression, again.  These feelings and symptoms were not new to me; lack of motivation, low energy, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, tearfulness, and lack of feeling joy.

After my education to become a therapist, I realized that since I was about 12 years old, I had been struggling on and off with depression.  My depression also paired with anxiety.   I later learned that it is common for these conditions to be co-morbid.  These labels seemed dooming to carry and wrong to tell others about.  I worked in mental health but the social stigma was still around.

I want to share this story because it is important for everyone.  You or someone you know may be struggling with depression or anxiety.  It is not something to be ashamed of.  It is crucial to begin the conversations about mental health.

Talking to my friends, coworkers, and family was helpful.  I researched different ways to deal with depression including medication, talk-therapy, exercise, diet, and mindfulness.  I began seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist.  The best thing for me was to know that I was not alone, and to find resources to help me get better.  My depression and anxiety has gradually gotten better.  I am beginning to feel happy again, able to get out of bed and revived with motivation.  I am feeling like myself again.  I am aware of my biological predispositions and of current environmental factors.

May is Mental Health Month. There is hope about educating the public to be aware about the mental health problems that they or people they know may be struggling with.

Lets Look at Statistics and Facts about Depression and Anxiety:

  • Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States.
  • As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression.
  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about 1/3 of those suffering receive treatment.
  • It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression.

(statistics gathered from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

When it comes to anxiety and depression we have to give ourselves grace that these difficult mental health issues take time to get better.  It is important to know that we can learn ways to cope with the symptoms.  It is important that we don’t lose hope.  What is important is that we ask for help.

 

 

Advertisements

To Be Single or Not to Be Single

This story is about a girl named Mary.  Mary is my friend.  Mary is currently single, but going on dates.  Now Mary and I have known one another for over two decades.  She and I have traveled to the depths of the dating world together and been single to sulk our relationship losses.  We’ve watched every chic flick on how to be good at being a strong but super cool, chill girl.  (Come, on!)  Every woman in the world is trying to be a good wife, partner, girlfriend, dating person, or single chic.  And being “good” is so subjective.

Then we are given dating advice in Cosmopolitan, or told to be rude by outlandish books;  Why Men Love Bitches.  All the information becomes conflicting and overwhelming.   We are inundated with friends opinions and strangers judgements.  We are overthinking, over-trying, and overdoing.

So, lets get back to Mary’s story.  She had been single before and in other relationships before.  Ones that worked and ones that didn’t.  Ones that ended cordially with a hand shake and ones that ended tragically with cheating.  She has played the field, given up dating to pursue a career and come back around again.  Before she began dating again she saw a counselor.  She worked on some fears, then after another year, she got back out there.  She was not active in pursuing men, but she was attracting good and decent men who wanted to take her out.  She was confident, happy, and fun. She had her contagious energy back that she had before her heartbreak.  But it took Mary time to get there.  Before that she laid on the couch with me and cried, she asked for hugs and she figured out what she wanted.  She rediscovered who she was.

Then something happened.  Mary met someone.  She met someone she really liked.   She was overwhelmed by trying to remember the rules to dating because she actually liked this guy.  She thought about texting in 3 days instead of hours; how to keep him interested; when to introduce him to her friends; when he should meet her family; was she actually ready for a real relationship; what if he rejected her; what if she needed to have multiple people to date at the same time while not making him jealous, while keeping him interested, while trying to stand on her head while sitting in a chair and juggling 4 balls in the air while playing guitar and making dinner for 12 people…….. Mary was having overwhelming feelings and emotions of doubt.  She just had to remember, it’s going to be ok.  She had to remember what she wanted and not digress to the conflicting information.  She had to calm her fears, anxieties, and doubt.

410

She had to go back and remember what she had learned.  She learned that just because she grew from an experience that she could not control future situations and that there was no promise she wouldn’t be hurt again. She had to let go of her need to control and she had to be vulnerable.  My point is……we ebb and flow in all stages of dating and relationships.  Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey.

Why does it all have to be so complicated?  We get so much conflicting information from so many avenues and it keeps us from developing our genuine selves.  It prolongs the confusion and chaos.   Mary has no idea how to be single.  She has no idea how to date or how to be in a relationship.  Not the “right way”, at least, whatever that means.  But who does?  We are all sort of the blind leading the blind.  This is messy stuff.  This is complicated stuff.  We have to give ourselves room to breath and grow.  We are making it up as we go, learning from the past, and taking notes for the future.  There is no right way to date or right way to be single.  The best you can hope for is good and supportive friends that hang in there with you along the way.  My point is……Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey, single or not.

Compromise vs. Collaboration in a Relationship

What is the difference between compromise and collaboration in a relationship?  Is one better than the other?  Is there something we can do to make sure that we are not giving more than the other person in our relationship?

Thank you to Dr. Kyle Weir for sparking my interest on this subject.  The word compromise is heard over and over again when we are talking about couples learning how to cope with each other’s differences.  (I have also used it several times myself.)  It was a concept that not only made sense, but had something that it could be measured against: sacrifice.  But is sacrifice really something that we want to do in a relationship?  The dictionary definition states that each side is making a concession.  That sounds easy.  Except for when you have two people inside of a relationship that are unwilling to budge on a matter and just want the other side to give in.

Humans are passionate when it comes to opinions.  Two people working towards a life together are going to come across a lot of them.  Compromise is something that is needed, but it is also something that assumes one partner will give in.  Collaboration on the other hand is working together towards a common goal.  Collaboration supposes that you already have the same goal in mind.  In a relationship, you should have similar or same goals in mind.  These goals include: what the future looks like and what passions you both have as individuals that you can work together towards in the relationship. In this journey, one partner may make compromises for the other, and then when the time comes the positions need to flip-flop.  You should never be the only person to compromise in the relationship.  During these times of compromise you should be collaborating towards the goal.

For example: if you have been offered a new job, your partner may have to compromise to move with you to keep the relationship going.  However, you will both have to collaborate about what this means for the other partners’ job or schooling.  A compromise can not take place unless you have discussed what that looks like.

At the beginning of a relationship, a couple tends to be directed towards either compromise or collaboration.  Too much of one person giving in at the beginning of the relationship can be a red flag that collaboration will not be part of the relationship.  A collaborative person will be present to work towards the relationship and making sure it is successful and happy.  These are items that we can asses early on in a relationship to understand our partner’s and our own investment in the relationship.

A relationship build on compromise (even though we have to make them at times) will not last, but a relationship build on collaboration will be able to stand difficulties and trials.

Break-Up Bod

Forbes magazine debunked the idea that a habit can be formed in 21 days.  That goes to show us that quick fix self-help won’t ingrain habits in the long run. However, active and consistent participation in self-help can maintain habits and provoke change.  With honest conviction, we can change.  So, yes, this will be hard, but I am going to get up and work out in the morning! 

Unfortunately, no Smart phone app will directly induce weight loss, secure relationship happiness or help with job perseverance. Sure, devices make situations easier, but we can’t just turn on the treadmill and watch it rotate.

Too often we make temporary changes that won’t form lasting habits.  We get motivated to work out because of our recent break-up.  We stop smoking because of a bad cough.  Don’t wait to form habits, form them daily!

20130509115130-fitness-motivation-photos-quotes[1]

Here are some tips to form habits and sustain them:

  • Too Much Too Soon.  Sometimes we start with high expectations for ourselves or we get burnt out on the rigid regiment that we have set for ourselves.  Cut your beginning goals in half and build them over time.  Start small.

 

  • Know Yourself.  Do you like variety? Do you need to be pushed?  If you are not self-motivated to work out, a plain gym membership is not going to do you any good.  You need classes, trainers, or a work out buddy.  You need accountability.   My friend went to this amazing local Pilates class.  They had a cancellation fee so with finances being her priority, she got her butt to class.  Do what works for you. 

 

  • Discipline.  You have to be willing to meet your goals by setting them and achieving them often. Use SMART goals as a way to set up these goals.  Set them often.  Set them SMART. 

 

  • Excuses.  Successful people will be the first to tell you that they don’t use excuses.  You move forward, you take risks and you take responsibility.  Change happens when we stop excusing and start doing.  

 

  • Give Yourself Grace.  If you get stuck in a rut, have a pre-planned way to get out of it.  Shame will keep you stuck.   Give yourself grace to move forward. 

 

  • Reward Yourself. As adults we can have anything we want anytime we want it.  Be your own parent.  Allow yourself to have a treat, whether it is a new outfit or a fun vacation, but not until you reach a certain goal.   If you are motivated for the reward, the system works.  

 

I hope this article inspires your break-up bod to be your all- time bod! Get motivated and embrace change!

6 Ways To Find Peace

Finding peace is about exploring the world around us.  It is about engaging in social relationships.  It is about taking care of ourselves physically and mentally.  It is a constant exploration of our world, our motivations, and our attachments.  Here are some tips to begin that exploration:

balance-110850_960_720

  1. Understand that some people or things are not for you.   Some people cause us harm.  They hurt our feelings or don’t agree with our value system.  Trenton Shelton said “Just because someone starts with you, doesn’t mean that they are going to finish with you.”
  2.  Maintain Balance.  When life gets overwhelming, you have to take a step back and check in with your mind, body, and spirit.  Ask yourself what your motivation is for your actions.  Explore where your uncomfortable stress may come from and find ways to lessen it.
  3. Find joy in the little things.  Look for the good in people.  Look for the joy in the little things.  If you are looking for what is wrong in a person or thing, you will find it.  Look with exploration and not judgement.
  4. Cultivate love. Build secure relationships and be willing to give.  Stay through the uncomfortable parts and increase the happy memories. Leave any expectations at the door.
  5. Don’t hide from hurt.  Don’t hide from your emotions.  Allow yourself to feel them and then allow them to float on.  We have to grieve before we can move forward appropriately.
  6. Play. You can not fully enjoy freedom until you have established discipline.  This discipline helps us maintain healthy relationships, take care of ourselves physically and mentally, and to have clarity in our character.  When you balance discipline and play, you will be on the right path to finding peace.

Remember to find peace it is important to take care of our body and mind.  Finding peace is about learning how to maintain our emotional states and engage in the care we need to give to ourselves and others.

 

 

 

What’s Love Got to Do With It

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Today is that day.  It’s the day that people exchange gifts, cards, flowers, candies, and cute and cuddly teddy bears.  Today is the day that third grade boy buys his first Valentine’s Day gift for his sweetheart.  He mulls over the aisles at the local Target looking for the perfect way to tell his first crush that he thinks she is special.  It is the day that he gets butterflies in his stomach, hoping that he makes the right decision.  It is the day that she waits for his call and lights up when she hears his voice on the other end.

It is also a day of cynics.  It is a day where the jaded remind us that we are crazy and they are single.  It is the day that eyes roll and people scoff.  But why?  I understand if you are displeased with the commercialization of the Holiday, but the same can be said for many Holidays today.  So why so much hate for VD?  I mean, it’s a day to celebrate Love.  The cynical and jaded make the single assumption that not having a romantic interest on this Day of Hearts makes it a painful reminder that we are single.  But what does being single have to do with it?  This day is about Love.  That love is also shared amongst family members and friends.  We share in love with our children and remind them that they are special.  When I was little my father used to get my sisters and I all chocolates.  Maybe my outlook on this adorable day is a direct product of the idea that it was about family and not romance.  Love has everything to do with it.

The history of Valentine’s Day has to do with a Christian Martyr that got into trouble for marrying couples.  That background is probably responsible for making Valentine’s Day associated with love and romance.  In a time when lovers couldn’t marry, they were fighting the ability to do so.  Appears we are always fighting against something.  So you cynical singles fight the good fight, only 16 more hours left to go.  As for the rest of us, smile, cuddle, and tell them you love them.

To Prenuptial or Not to Prenuptial

To prenup or not to prenup?  That is the question.  In the local coffee shop, I watch today as an older man discusses this topic with a group of friends.  His sober face suggests that this topic is one of emotional passion.  The man states that he would not sign a prenup and he “would rather have her take him for a ride.”  From what I gather, he believes that if you really love someone, you should not have to sign an agreement of how things will be divided up if you separate.  I have heard this reaction from many people; the prenuptial gives us a way out of the marriage.  Doors also give us a way out, but we don’t go building houses without them.

So is he right or wrong?  Now, I am not in the business of marriage legalities, in fact, as a professor of mine once put it, I am an MFT – Marriage Friendly Therapist.  I work together with couples to help them happily stay together.  However, that means a lot of surrendering to our faults and giving in to someone else’s needs, i.e. our partner.  Most of the time when couples are ready to divorce there has been years of unheard words, unmet expectations, and lack of overall happiness. (Check out this article: When Women Divorce Long Before The Divorce by Quentin Hafner.)

In my life I have had three different views on prenuptials:

The first (early 20’s): That if you truly love someone, you don’t need to sign an “out”contract.

The second (late 20’s): After getting out of a bad business deal with a co-owned restaurant; not having any concrete contracts signed, I felt that you always need a contract no matter what.  I got along with my business partner so I always thought a split would be amicable.  It is true that in the mist of a fight the claws come out.  Marriage is the contract and the prenup is there to protect that asset.

The last (early 30’s):  Premarital therapy.  By-yearly check-ups with the therapist.  I would sign a reverse prenuptial (see below).  In the long run I want a partner that is as happy and silly as I am; we will be adults when it comes to decisions, for better or worse.

Obviously, to make a prenup or not to make one, is up to the discretion of the couple.  Consider this when thinking about the issues:

1. There is a lot of legal advice on the internet about signing prenuptials.  What about other experts on relationships and how they discuss navigating this part of a marriage?

2. Discussion of a prenup needs to be gently entered into.  It needs to be a conversation of understanding and compassion.   Most prenuptials are entered into for protection of the property or assets that one comes into the marriage with.  If you are marrying someone who believes they are owed something you had prior to meeting them, I think a prenuptial is the last of your worries.

3.  If you are not willing to share certain things or benefits you accumulated while in the marriage, whatever that looks like,  you should not get married.  You are a selfish person. Truly selfish people will be unhappy in a marriage.  When you force a kid to share and he doesn’t want to, he will likely throw a tantrum after handing over the toy.  Marry the man or woman who finds joy in sharing with others.  It will make a world of difference in all aspects of the marriage.

4. Over the course of the years of marriage you both make equal sacrifices and you should decide what that is going to look like prior to getting married.  You may be the sole source of retirement and insurance, but your partner might bring in more money each year.  Or your partner might stay at home to with three kids until school age and take care of house work.  At the end of the day it isn’t all about money and assets.  We have to take into consideration the acts of service and the sacrifices.

5. If your prenup has to include things like the religion that your children will be raised, well then, stop right there.  You aren’t putting exacts in the prenup because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter anyways.  If your partner becomes Buddhist in ten years and wants to share some of that wisdom with the children, you don’t pull out the prenup and say – Right here, look this is what we agreed.   People change and you should marry someone who is open to change and that is willing to meet you where you are and go places you feel a need to explore.  You should marry someone who you have similar values with, but nothing in life guarantees that down that road that is going to look the same.

After Much Research on The Topic: Try These

The Reverse Prenuptial

Going back to the analogy of the door. It gives us a way out, but it also keeps us in.  It is a fire escape and a barrier to keep unwanted guests out.  It serves two purposes.  What if our prenuptials started doing the same?  Say that one partner comes into the marriage with a boat, the other does not.  The prenuptial reads that if divorced in the course of the first 15 years, the boat will be sold and the sale split.  However, after 15 years, the asset is given to the rightful owner in full.

Therapy

Yes, therapy.  You are going to be making an appointment with a lawyer to get out of the marriage.  The lawyer doesn’t have an understanding of what makes marriages and relationships work.  He has a law degree and an objective for divorce.  Seek a therapist out to discuss why you are thinking about divorce; gain help from someone who has experience in the area of relationships, not law.  Trust people who work within their scope.  Your lawyer has little interest in your overall well-being.

Overall the conversation of the prenuptial should be one of grace and compassion.  Be comfortable and open to the opinion of your partner.