Category Archives: family

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.

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

Jan

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.

Thankful

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.