Resolution or Guilt

Resolution or Guilt

Today is January 22, 2018. I have just experienced the holidays, freezing weather with lots of icy paths pneumonia and a birthday. Cabin fever set in around the third day of the ice and snow. While we have had more of both, the frigid temperatures made me want to be a bear and hibernate. I forgot all about putting on my yoga gear and heading upstairs to my yoga studio. I only wanted to curl up with a blanket and read. Guilt set in. I was getting stiff. I continued to make excuses. Then I realized that guilt is something I make up and if I can make it up, I can let it go. Today, after my first real exercise session, I decided that I would make a late New Years resolution. That resolution was simple. I would do what most of us do not do. I would resolve to get through January with no plan. No guilt about the few extra pounds or inches. I would resolve to hibernate like a bear if I felt like it and wait until February to begin my work on strength and maybe the loss of an inch or two before bathing suit weather. I would be okay with not exercising several days a week but stick to my daily stretching while I cook. I know that January is almost over and that the resolution was made after the event of hibernating but that is okay. I still made it and I can let go of some of the guilt I often feel when I am a slug. Maybe it is time to look at your guilt and see if you can tell yourself that it is okay to feel that way for a while but only if you make it a little while, like 30 days. Then wash it off like the salt on your car and move on.

Above the Neck

October 2, 2017

As I begin to write this entry into a blog I have not paid much attention to in the past year or so, the death count at a mass shooting in Las Vegas Nevada has reached 58. I have to reflect on the state of the health system in our country as well as the mood of our citizens. How do we address the anger that is so prominent in our country today? How do we identify those who display this hostility towards others in such a traumatic way?

I have worked in the mental health field for years. It was and still remains a taboo field. Emotional issues are issues that we do not discuss. It is “above the neck” and therefore not a medical issue but something to be ashamed of. We talk about heart disease, diabetes, even breast and prostate cancer freely now but anything that is attached to the word mental or behavioral is still a secret. A shameful secret. When are we going to accept that this is simply not true? That anything above the neck or attached in any way to behaviors is just an illness like the ones mentioned above.

If asked, my husband will say that he has a family history of diabetes and alcoholism. I would say my family has a history of colon issues, alcoholism and dementia. But I will also talk about my family history of anxiety. I talk about it freely with my patients as well as friends and anyone who may ask because I am not ashamed of it. It is who we are. What I am ashamed of is that most of my family run from that diagnosis. They blame others for their life choices and hide behind denial instead of learning that anxiety, and depression, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and alcoholism are just diagnoses. They are ways of putting a label on a medical issue so that health professionals can bill for them and so that we know what to treat.

Please read this, share it with others and lobby for our country to take the stigma out of what happens “above the neck” and help professionals identify and help those who are feeling depressed, anxious, hopeless before another 58 people have to die. Help us understand that behavioral health issues are no different from physical health issues and are indeed the very same thing, physical issues. Talk with your family physician to see how much they know about these issues. You will learn that most medical professionals know little and want to know less about behavioral issues. Help them to see that they are as much a part of a medical profession as the heart, gall bladder or other organ. Help our politicians see that by humanizing mental health and funding those who work in this field, they are helping others to accept help like they would for that gall bladder attack. Do your part. Make it human to have fears and worries, depressed days, feelings that we now consider “not normal”. Lobby for change.

No is such a simple word

When opportunities to use the skills I teach others arise in my own life I can still be amazed that they work. Although I know professionally that they do work, it is still amazing to me that the simple act of saying NO to someone when asked to do something contradictory to what I believe, works!

I was recently confronted by someone who demanded that I apologize for everything I had ever said, felt or thought. I simply said NO!. I am not even sure that capital letters and the exclamation point were added or necessary. It was really just a no. They left angry. They may never be in my life again and for that I am sad but I now know that they were not in my life anyway, not in a healthy way. You can’t lose what you never had. With some people you can only “have” them if you sell your self to their demands.

No is such a simple word. It is just two letters and not great letters at that. One letter is just three marks up and down like someone could not make up their minds which way to go and the other letter is an empty circle. Even as simple as it is, it holds great power. Power if used in the right way Just think about it. One syllable but it doesn’t roll off your tongue, it comes out of your mouth with force even when said in a nice way. It sets boundaries. It allows us to get our point across without using lots of frivolous extra words. It has power but it also has compassion. It is straight forward.

Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, better know in the self help field as simply Sark, has a quote that I like to use. She simply says that “”The appropriate uses of the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ make more room for love” It is used as a quote before the first chapter of a book I use in my practice. The authors are Jan Black and Greg Enns. The book is on boundaries. When I ask patients what the key work is in this phrase, some get it immediately and some have to think about it. For my purposes the key word is appropriate. When we can learn to use those two words appropriately, we have already begun the journey to self actualization.

So if I say no to someone they will not like me. The issue is not that they will not like you if you stand up for yourself, they probably won’t like you anyway and that is their issue. Bullies, those who do not like anyone that does not do their bidding are usually so worried about themselves that they have no interest in liking others. Saying no is mean. What can be mean about standing up for what you feel and believe? Being mean is allowing others to base their feelings on whether you comply with their demands. They are the mean ones. We have as many rights as the next person and if they feel you are hurting their feelings they are usually only manipulating you into giving them their way.

Do I feel good when I say no? I feel like I am whole. I feel like I have rights. I feel like I am not allowing others to manipulate me. I feel like I am also giving the person I say no to the right to have positive feelings too. Practice not only saying no but saying yes too. They are both great words that, when used appropriately ,can change our lives.

To Refuse To Begin

My nephew called me this weekend to tell me that I am going to be a great aunt. This nephew is a good man. He grew up in circumstances that were not always great but he decided to let go of those issues and move on. He has had some hard knocks but he seems to be strong enough and willing enough to not allow them to shape his life. I am proud of him and I wish him, his wife and their child the best in life.

There are members of my family, both biological and through marriage, who do not seem to be able to begin again. Let go and move on. In a lot of families of patients I see, this is the norm, so I am not surprised that it happens in my family too. Why do we hang on? What is it about us that continues to live in the past, hold grudges, stay angry? There is a saying that those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. So each generation that clings to that need to hold on to past hurts, repeats that hurt with others and passes it on to the next generation.

I have been cleaning out my office to make room for an associate. Last week I ran across a saying that I had once posted on my wall. I do not know who wrote it, I usually try to give credit to an author when I can. I will look it up. The saying is as follows:

“To refuse to begin can be an act of great self neglect”

Many of us refuse to begin. Beginning to let go of the past and learning to live in the here and now can be painful. Isn’t it more painful to hold on? To never change? Never let go? Continue to refuse to begin?

Then we have a physical ailment, one that continues to make us sick, we go to the medical doctor and ask to be healed. Many of us go to God when we have a illness of faith. When we have a psychological illness, we often set back and say “let everyone else change, it hurts too much for me to change.” That just doesn’t make sense. Why do we refuse to begin to heal from things, events, feelings because it may hurt a bit? Why is emotional hurt harder to recognize and heal than physical hurt?

I grew up with the premise that everyone else came first. I was not allowed to have feelings that may need soothed because that was selfish. In my practice, I see many others who were raised by the same rule. Take care of others first. A few years ago the buzz word in my field was “Co Dependent” Everyone was co dependent. Maybe that is true. Many of us are. We were trained that way. How do we learn to put ourselves first and not feel guilty about it? When do we stop practicing self neglect and start setting boundaries with others who use that guilt and co dependency to keep us trapped? When? I say, no time like the present!

Today, practice taking care of yourself. Sark says that “The appropriate use of the words, “Yes” and “No” make more room for love” That means love of self as well as love of others. That means that it is okay to use the word NO. It is okay to say I love you but I can no longer be co dependent. I can no longer allow you to treat me with disrespect, anger, jealousy or hurt. I will set boundaries and I will do so without guilt. If YOU choose to continue to hold all of your negativity, then by all means, do so, but I do not plan to be a part of that.

Yes it takes practice. Those who have manipulated us for years with their poor me attitudes will work very hard to keep us in that co dependent state. Learning to appropriately set boundaries will eventually allow them to take ownership of their own feelings and that will also, hopefully, cause change in them too.

So today, practice taking care of YOU. Practice saying NO when you really want to say no. Practice making changes to YOU. Do not fear beginning again.


Control. That is such a small word but one that appears to be running both our nation and the world today. Maybe it always has. Okay it always has. Control runs the world but it appears to be control with no options, no compromise. Instant media seems to make it easier to see our irrational need for control while feeling that we have no control at all. We see and hear about it daily in our instant communication. I have no control, I need control, I will take that control at all cost This is not a thesis on the latest shootings or on congress verses the president. It is a dialog hopefully on the word control.

According to the free online dictionary, the first one to come up in google, the word control means : to exercise authority or dominating influence over others. To hold in restraint. This morning I was watching a segment on a news show talking about equality. One of the guests said that “having to dominate or be in control is both dehumanizing and restricting”. I am saying that control is “ The new American Way”. When we lose control in jobs, security and home life we look outside for ways to regain that control. We grab it wherever we can and then we hold on. No letting go. No compromise. No give and take. My way or the highway.

My husband and I have recently had an issue with a group who appear to practice the above. By being in control, dominating others rights, the group must be feeling some power. That need for power must come from their feeling of a lack of control in their lives. That is sad. Grown men who work very hard to capture and maintain control, dominate, exercise their perceived authority over others. It makes me ask what has happened in their lives to feel they need to control others. It also makes me wonder what they think they get out of that perceived authority and control.

Recently we all watched a scenario about a man who kidnapped and held three young women hostage for years. He told the authorities that they were a family, a happy family. The girls told a different story. When he was locked up like he had locked them up, he could not handle it and took his own life. When he lost control he lost. It was either/or. The girls, actually women now, appear to be doing well. They have taken back their own control and are moving on with their lives. It is often said that men have to win to be loved and women have to lose to be loved. I think that in this current society, it is all about control and winning with both sexes, all races, political parties and world governments. I have to win! There is no compromise, no give and take, no allowing for a win/win situation.

So why am I writing about this? Mostly because I find it difficult to continue to watch our society’s need to win at all costs. The NCAA talks about sportsmanship and fair play but it is obvious that that does not often happen in the actual sporting event. Attorneys take and try cases to win, not to serve justice. Our current congress cannot get anything done because they all have to always win. Couples I see want to win. Everyone wants to control the outcome of their little scrap of the universe. I do not think that we can sustain in a world where there is no compromise. No sportsmanship and fair play. No give and take. I am asking you to look at the ways you may feel you need control and to see if that is really true. Is winning all that important? Can’t compromise work for us? Is always winning worth not only our soul but our well being right now? What if we practice exercising less authority, give up some of that dominating influence we seem to need over others? What if we stop being scared of not always winning and allow others to also win even if it is only a partial win? When do we become humans again and move towards letting go of Control?

Spring renewal

Here it is almost the end of February and I have not posted on my blog in weeks. January was a busy month at my office and February started off the same. Now that I have an hour or two to write, I have no ideas on what to write about. Do you ever have that problem? I think my brain is just on hold for spring.

Spring brings renewal to the earth and I hope to us as well. We close ourselves off in the winter, maybe not being as social, staying in due to bad weather. As the days get longer and our hopes begin to grow like a seedling, we hopefully begin to renew our spirit. That can be a good thing or can sometimes cause some pain. As we awaken from our winter hibernation, much like a bear, we often come out feeling grumpy or unready for the world. What we do with those feelings is what defines us.

A card I received for my birthday in January was uplifting for me. The outside cover was a picture of a shoot growing out of a pile of soil. The beginning of the verse read “Your life is a GIFT to you, but also to those who know you. It inspired me so much that I kept it in my office so that I could be renewed daily as I looked at it. I would like to explain what I think it means.

My life is a gift to me. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, your life is a gift. What you do with that gift is up to you. You can nurture that gift or sell it at your spring yard sale. You can care for yourself in a way that makes you strong, loving, giving and whole or you can spend all of that precious life being angry, resentful and not responsible. When you nurture you grow. When you do not nurture you wilt and eventually die, if not true death, then the death of your soul.

In my career choice I have had the opportunity to see others at their worst. That worst is sometimes self inflected, sometimes inflected upon them. But we all have choices of what we do with what we have been given. Some of us end up angry, bitter and miserable. Some of us use what we are given to become stronger, happier and enjoy life to its fullest.

Which person are you? The one who says “lemons! I think I will make lemonade” or the one who says “I was given this lemon, I am angry about this lemon and I will just hold it until it rots”..The second part of the line I quoted above is “but also to those who know you”.Do you bring joy to those around you ordo your negative thoughts, feelings and actions bringing others down too? As you read on, the second line in the verse says “You lighten cares, share laughter and are a blessing to so many”. I would like to think that is true of me. I hope that in my work and in my private life I lighten cares. I love to laugh and share that laughter with others. I hope that I am and continue to be a blessing to others. I hope that I set an example by my own actions. Perfect? Not by a long shot. I make mistakes, I get angry. I have moments or days when I could bite someones head off. I have learned that I and only I, am in charge of what I do with those feelings and I work hard on letting go of those negative feelings. Do you? Can you take responsibility for your anger and resentfulness? Can you be that seedling that reaches for the sunshine and grows strong and healthy or do you hide from that sunshine and wither and die?

As I look out of my office window I see birds feeding at my feeders, grass turning green and my daffodils blooming. I see signs of spring, growth, renewal. I hope you see the same.

Reason for the season

I picked up a magazine yesterday and there was an article about giving at Christmas. It was about what to give to make someone really happy. While watching the news last night I saw a clip on the same thing. What to give to make someone else happy. My response is love. Love and attention are the best things to give. Give of yourself, not your credit card.

I think we have really forgotten the reason we celebrate Christmas. Don’t panic. Although I celebrate the birth of Christ myself, I will not go into religious beliefs but will concentrate on the theme of love. Love is the reason for us to celebrate the season.

Some of us can afford to give expensive gifts and some cannot. But the real gift to others is time and compassion and love. In this busy time we often forget about spending time with our “loved ones” We are too busy standing in line to get the perfect gift at the perfect price to pay attention to the people we are suppose to be pleasing with that perfect gift. Most of us saw the news clip about the mother who left her children in a car in the parking lot while she shopped for bargains on Thanksgiving evening. I bet those children would rather have been in a warm bed at home with a mother who thought their welfare was more important than a bargain. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain. But I have more feelings for the people I love than a need to get a bargain. Especially if it puts them in danger.

This holiday season has become too commercial and too stressful. I hope that this season you are able to take some time to think about the real meaning behind Christmas. Bake cookies with your family, spend some time talking under the tree instead of worrying about the tree being perfect. Allow the family to bond by taking a walk and looking at the way nature protects itself during the seasons. Put up a bird feeder and watch the colorful birds feed. Make a donation to your favorite charity in place of that gift that will end up on the floor and eventually in the yard sale bag. Limit the amount you spend on each other and use the savings to go on a vacation and enjoy the time together. There are so many ways we can reduce stress and concentrate on love instead of things.

Have a good and safe holiday season filled with love instead of high priced things and continue to check in here for more thoughts from my desk.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2013


Half Baked

My husband and I just took a trip to Savannah Georgia for Thanksgiving. We travel well together. We download all sorts of songs on my Ipod and hit shuffle. People who hear me sing on Sunday know that I do not always carry a tune well but the joy is there. We sing along with the music be it old rock and roll or Frank Sinatra singing duets. We love it all (okay we are not country fans but we love most music). On the way home we were listening to Jimmy Buffet songs and I remarked to my husband that the songs on one particular CD must have been his way of working on his own mental health issues. One song in particular is a favorite of mine. To paraphrase Mr. B, we were all taken out of the cosmic oven a little too soon and and there is a little bit of fruitcake left in all of us. I like that. It makes it okay for all of us to have quirks. And we all do. Yes all of us, even those who think they are okay and everyone else is messed up. All of us.

I know that October is mental health month but I didn’t have a sing along in October so I am late. So sue me (or not). I want to explore what the term mental health means to me.  I do not plan to look it up and repeat others words, I will do what I do best and shoot from the hip. Here goes.

We discuss our family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer and on and on. Do we ever discuss great Uncle Joe’s odd behaviors outside of our own homes? Do we openly discuss the issues that we have seen repeat generation after generation? Do we encourage Cousin Mary to seek help for her emotional issues? Rarely. Why? Because of that one word. Yes, you know which word I am referring to, the word that has been taken out of the name of every institution dealing with Uncle Joe and Cousin Mary. I even refer to myself as a behavioral health therapist. Not because I am ashamed of that word, you, know the one, but because the people I talk to about what I do shy away from that word. It is not okay to say mental in the same sentence as health. Why? We can have healthy mental health. We can  discuss how healthy someone deals with issues in their lives. We can encourage good mental health like we encourage good physical health. I rarely if ever hear someone whisper about someone’s physical health like it is a top secret but we usually whisper about someone’s mental health when we are discussing actions and behaviors that are causing issues for self or others. I for one think that we all have mental health issues. Not always good and not always bad but they do exist.. We are never without mental health and its corresponding issues, good or bad. Why do we work so hard to disguise or deny those issues? Why do we flock to the reality shows to see someone else’s family deal with hording or watch people yelling at each other on Dr. Phil? (Shudder) We do it because we are fascinated with others problems but refuse to look at our own.

I have an anxiety disorder. It is a family issue. It more than likely is on both sides of my family but I know that my mothers mother and her family had anxiety issues. Not all of them but enough. In the luck of the draw of mental health related issues, I drew the anxiety straw. I think I am lucky. My mothers fathers side of the family was (and still is) so passive that it is difficult to get up off the recliner and go to work. We always laughed about my grandfathers two brothers who spent most of their lives sitting in rockers on the porch  whittling. They didn’t even whittle anything useful. Just whittle a stick until it is a pile of sawdust and then get another stick. I wonder who brought them the sticks. My dad’s side of the family has issues too but although we were and still are close as cousins, we did not see each other often. My grandfather died before my parents married and my grandmother is a faint memory for me. Any cousins on that side reading this can weigh in on Facebook. But I digress. My family tree is not the real reason for this blog. The real reason is that we all have issues. Those of us who identify those issues and seek some help are rewarded with healthy mental health. Those who fear the stigma of mental health are stuck and the family members tend to repeat history. One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. So lets do something different. I wouldn’t suggest walking naked in the crosswalk any day of the week but if your life isn’t working do something different.

It is okay to be only half baked. We all are. What is not okay is for us to ignore mental health (and physical health) issues and to blame others for issues we should own and fix. The new year is only a little over a month away. Lets all turn up our ovens and work on completing our baking. Lets be okay with having mental health.


I am not a big fan of social media and seldom get online but since I have been doing this blog I have found the need to look from time to time. I noticed that several people are listing things they are thankful for due to the upcoming holiday. I thought that was a good topic for this blog so here goes.

I see people in my practice who are so caught up in the drama of their lives that they seldom take the time to be thankful for what they have. Since this is the start of the week before Thanksgiving I will start each session with a request from my patients to name at least one thing they are thankful for. I plan to keep a tally of positives discussed in times of troubles. Have we become a nation of negativity or do we ever stop to think of the things that are good in our lives.

As I talk to people at church, in my office, at meetings or in social situations I almost always hear the negatives about living in this time of great stress and uncertainty. I see patients who worry about things they have no control over instead of spending that time making their lives better. My favorite tool is the Serenity Prayer. Helping others to see that they cannot control others even though they work so hard at doing so. I see more adults and children who take no responsibility for their behaviors but blame others for their unhappiness. When I work with individuals who feel they need that control we discuss the fact that no matter how hard we try we cannot control the thoughts, feelings or actions of others. We can only control ourselves and the way we think, act and feel. What energy we waste when we attempt to control the world around us. When we work so hard to alleviate the feelings of anxiety by attempting to control the world around us we lose a part of ourselves and all of the potential healthy relationships around us.

The final line of the Serenity Prayer is “the wisdom to know the difference”. That is a tough thing to learn. Control can seem so powerful but is it really? When we let go of that perceived power and just focus on our own well being then we start to grow. When we learn to know the difference between controlling others through anger, jealousy and hatred and start to care for ourselves and our anxious thoughts we become more serene and can be thankful that we feel less stressed. Then we can grow.

I am thankful that after years of trying to control others I learned to center my focus on me. I am continually learning that anger, jealousy and hatred does nothing but make me unhealthy both in mind and body. I am thankful for my husband who is also learning to let go and learn that he can only manage himself and his thoughts, actions and feelings. I am thankful that we can work together to create a life where we discuss then let go. Other peoples behaviors do filter into our lives but we have learned to let those behaviors be the responsibility of the people who own them. When and if they are ready to work on their control, we hope that they seek professional help. We can not carry their burdens. They must do that themselves.

I would like to list some things I am thankful for. I am thankful for my wonderful husband of almost 31 years. We have had our ups and downs over the past three decades but our love and commitment to each other has grown because of them. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to give birth to and raise two children. They are grown now and in charge of their own destiny. I pray daily that they make good choices. I am thankful for a granddaughter and the ten wonderful years I had with her. I hope that she learns to be her own person someday. I am thankful that I had parents that were active in our lives, two brothers who were once protectors of me, a nephew and niece who are growing up to learn that the family anxiety gene can be managed. I am thankful that my in law’s accepted me and my children into their family. I hope that they too can continue to work on issues they have to confront.

I am thankful for my church family. When my husband and I were searching for a church family we walked into a church that immediately became our family. We love and cherish all of you. Thank you for being there these past few years

I am thankful for the chance to work with people who want to make changes in their lives and allow me to help them by education and a listening ear. I have had the privilege to work with some great people over the course of my career. I am thankful that I have the skills and knowledge to help others sort out their issues and become stronger.

As we approach the day when our nation celebrates the things that make this nation great, please take the time to be thankful. Most of all be thankful for choices. Not only choices of freedom but small choices in your daily life, choices that will help you be a better person, choices that will help you to take responsibility for you.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and I will see you here in two week.

Yoga and Anxiety

While I was at my yoga class this morning I realized that I was able to relax and enjoy the experience. That most likely sounds strange but I have always had a difficult time relaxing and enjoying any experience that requires relaxing. I saw a massage therapist for several months who told me I was the only patient she had ever worked on that was as tense when the massage was over as they were when it started. I have done yoga off and on for years and have always struggled with relaxing. Yoga is a good way to stretch muscles but also to relax your body but the tension I have always carried in my neck seems to get worse when I try to relax. Why? There is an easy answer. Anxiety and control. The two go hand in hand.

Anxiety is the fear of “what if”. What if I make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing, turn down the wrong street and so on. Those of us who struggle with anxiety can convince ourselves that any and all decisions from chocolate instead of butter pecan to vacation instead of working through a holiday are major decisions and require lots of thought. Most of our fears are irrational. They take place in the future, worries that we can not control because they have not happened yet or we worry about past decisions so much that we cannot be present in the here and now. Every word someone else says to us is an attack, every decision made comes back to worry us and the future is too scary to contemplate. We become tense, nervous, agitated and look for ways out of the irrational thoughts. My thoughts during yoga were to be stiff and hold my breath, tightening my neck muscles instead of my core muscles, holding my breath instead of letting my breath move me through the exercises.

What is different this time around? Me. Plain and simple. I have learned through my practice that I can manage my anxiety, relax and be in the moment. No thoughts of what if I do a move wrong, what if someone is looking at me, what if I am not perfect. It is all about being me and I have finally learned to love and respect myself as well as embrace my imperfections. I can look at my anxiety as a fault or a flaw or I can pretend it does not exist but then I am stuck in that fear. I can consider it an imperfection and work on managing it so that I can relax through yoga. Maybe it is time for me to make another massage appointment.

Short term counseling, long term therapy and life/motivational coaching.