the healing journey counseling fl

healing, anxiety, loss, grief, depression, ptsd, self-care, suicide prevention, post partum depression


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June is Post- Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

Each year we recognize PTSD in the month of June and as we enter a new month, I would like to focus on understanding PTSD.

The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs provides a definition of PTSD  that occurs “when a person experience a traumatic event such as combat, assault or disaster which most people have some stress reactions after trauma that lingers for some time” (U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015).  There are several types of trauma that includes war, terrorism,violence and abuse and disasters.

Effects of PTSD and the Family

It can be very difficult to live with someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD and often your daily life is disrupted  by nightmares, avoiding crowds, and  difficulty driving. The children at times have a lot of trouble in schools and PTSD affects the relationship with their spouse, family members and friends. There is also a list of common reactions of family members of a person with PTSD that includes sympathy, negative feelings, avoidance, depression, anger and guilt, variety of health problems.

At times family members neglect themselves and spend a lot of time taking care of their loved ones with PTSD which is a set up for failure.  It is important to seek help and surround yourself with others who understand what you are going through.

What can providers do to support family members?

Family members often neglect themselves and are confused about what to do when they find out that their loved one has PTSD.  As a clinician, we must educate the family members and let them learn more about trauma and its effects. It will take some time to learn about PTSD which can be overwhelming, but if you are not aware of what PTSD is and its effects then you will be lost. It also takes a lot of patience to help someone who is affected by PTSD and in time they will heal.  There also various classes that are offered to help the family which includes stress and anger management, addiction, couples communication or parenting (Carlson,E & Ruzek, J,2014).

Help to spread the awareness of PTSD by printing this PDF flyer: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/RaisePTSD_Awareness.pdf

Follow this link for a About Face PTSD videos on Youtube: 

Follow this link provided by the Defense Centers for Excellence – PTSD Fact Sheet. http://www.dcoe.mil/Libraries/Documents/DCoE_PTSDFactSheet_20140410.pdf

References

Carlson,E.B (PhD), & Ruzek, J.(PhD). (2014) PTSD and The Family. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/family/ptsd-and-the-family.asp

Defense Centers of Excellence. (2015) PTSD Treatment Options.  Retrieved from http://www.dcoe.mil/PsychologicalHealth/PTSD_Treatment_Options.aspx

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.(2015). Promotional Materials and Tips to Raise Awareness. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/promo_materials_awareness.asp


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Stress Awareness- Meditation

Mediation helps you to relax and focus on your mind, body and spirit. Here are some tips on getting started with mediation.

  1. Relaxed yourself and bring yourself to a comfortable position which can include sitting in a chair, on the floor or lying on your back.
  2. Release – Exhale completely. Please mentally be aware that you are releasing your frustration, anger, etc.
  3. Release- Make sure to inhale slowly and you can mentally say ” one” while doing this. Allow yourself a slight pause then begin to exhale again. Mentally know that you are allowing peace back into your body.
  4. Exhale and release- Continue to do this cycle for about 5 mins and continue to say inhale “peace” exhale “frustration”.
  5. Added bonus ~ Music can also help you as well as listening to nature. For example, you can go outside and sit and listen to the wind blowing, the birds chirping etc. It is also beneficial when you can go to the beach and listen to the waves.

inner peace

Here are a list of activities that you can do for self-care:

Outdoors-  hiking, running, biking, bonfires, walking, camping, canoeing, visit a park with trails, roller skating, painting, swinging on the porch, listening to the wind, listening to the wind chimes, pulling weeds, gardening,

Fire- smores and bonfire with ice cream, light some  vanilla and lavender candles at the end of the day to balance yourself.  getting a massage with candles, bubble bath with candles.

Bubbles or feathers  bubble bath, blowing bubbles,  deep breathing while using bubbles, running fingers over the feathers

Wood-  Listening to the crackling of the fire, playing jenga, rocking in a rocking chair, creating things with blocks. sauna, tree hugging, play a guitar, walking on a trail and noticing the trees all around you, sitting on the porch and making inspirational signs from wood.

Water- Listening to the ocean, swimming, exercise in the water, drinking at least 64 oz of water, kayaking, going to the beach, shower mediation, small water fountain for home or office,  fish tank, water balloon fight, snorkeling, water-color painting, water massage,  dance in the rain, scuba diving,  and a warm Jacuzzi.

My final thoughts

I love to mediate at times, paint, pull weeds, go for long walks, visit the ocean, listen to nature. But most of all, I love to mediate on God’s words and remind myself of how grateful I am because God loves us unconditionally and we must learn to trust him. When stress takes over, we are not trusting God and we end up feeling sad, upset, worried, troubled etc. It takes time, patience and practice to begin to trust God. Be gentle with yourself and begin to let go of all the frustrations that comes our way.

“Never Give up or Give In” ~ Trust God to work it out.

 

 

 

 

National Stress Awareness Month Flyer


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5 Lessons as a Military Spouse

I was inspired to write about my own lessons learned while being a military spouse. The following 5 lessons can be helpful for others to be aware of what really goes on in a military life.

  1.  Be careful of what you say about a military spouse and never underestimate them.

(a) We may never have a stable career, but over the years I have volunteered, assistant teacher and counseled others. My main job is a stay-at-home mom with 3 children 2 boys ages 20, 16 and 13-year-old daughter who has downsyndrome. During the first couple of years of marriage, we have been separated three occasions which is a rare for those familiar with the military.

After we relocated overseas, I actively participated in spouse clubs et. My family always come first and I did everything by myself. If you saw me in action, you will be amazed so don’t judge someone for what you see on the outside, you will run the risk of never learning about their inner character and strength.

  1. Things are still the same

(a) Deployments haven’t changed for a very long time and it’s still a short notice, long and frequent. The time spent away from your loved one is very painful and lonely. I realized that I had to take on 2 roles of a mother and father and we missed our wedding anniversary which was not spent by myself, but with family. Being a mom is a very important job, but when you are raising your military children through a war this is challenging. Overseas assignments reminded me of the absence of family such as your parents who missed the growth and celebration of their grandchildren.

  1. Acceptance you didn’t marry a banker.

(a) Let’s be clear, when we said “I Do” that also took into account the to roll with the punches regardless of what career move my husband had. I would support him and at time he would work long hours or several weeks at a time which meant that he would miss school activities, sports etc. But he deserved a pass and its unfair to blame him due to the frequent moves every 3 years or so. We are almost near our retirement so until then, i will just let it flow.

  1. Expect the unexpected

(a) Oh yes, we do have a number of unexpected events, but there are sacrifices that come with the life of a military spouse. One thing that I have done when we relocate from one place to another is to plug into the community and reach out for some encouragement as I face these challenges. I also plug into a group of other military spouse who are family and we support each other. With that said, there may be some drama, but when women are together what else do you expect. Just make the best of it and move on.

  1. Make the best of life

(a) Life is what you make of it and with that it helps to keep your attitude in check. Life is an adventure, never a dull moment, but it is worth it. The life of a military is challenging, but we travel to various places around the world and we meet people who enrich our lives. Take full advantage of your life because no one is promised tomorrow. So surprise a military spouse the next time that you see her/him.


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Self-care challenge: The Process of Forgiveness and Mindfulness

Today I enjoyed listening to a fellow colleague who talked about forgiveness and mindfulness. Forgiveness is something that takes some time and practice. But we need to allow ourselves the opportunity to choose to forgive others so that we can release the burden of hurt. I worked with several clients who came to therapy seeking help for the anger that they felt. We choose to either do two things forgive them or hold on to the hurt. The following are are some exercises to try so that you can process forgiveness into your everyday life.

  1. The Power of Breath and Visualization- This basically consists of conscious breathing that allows us to be present with our body. It helps to move the hurt, anger, frustration away from our body or shuts it down. First, close your eyes then envision a ball of white cloud or golden light at the base of your spine. Begin counting  very slowly to 108 as you visualize the ball traveling up your spine. Hold the light or ball at each area of your back for 5-6 counts then slowly imagine the ball or light moving all the way to your head and extend it in front of you. Visualize the person that hurt you whom you wish to forgive surrounded by the light or ball. Breathe deeply and silently repeat the name of the person then say, ” I choose to let go of what happened. May you be surrounded and filled with this light.” Keep breathing through whatever emotions may surface or arise as a result. Hold the vision, repeat the statement, breathe through it until you feel a sense of calm and then gently open your eyes.
  1. Bilateral Stimulation: Swing those arms!- Bilateral Stimulation is a tool that change the brain chemistry. Walk briskly, swinging your arms (right, left, right, left) while feeling and thinking about the hurt. This creates a new pathway in our brain that allows access to more positive emotions, memories and beliefs. This practice also helps to lessen the impact of negative emotions. Notice how much calmer you feel while continuing to walk briskly and swing the arms. Be sure to breathe deeply and rhythmically as you are walking, feeling, and noticing.
  2. Sit in Silence and Stillness- Dedicate 15 minutes every day to sit with your spine straight, eyes closed and focus on the natural flow of your breath. Observe the silence and stillness which helps you to be present with what is without actively doing, changing, or fixing. As thoughts and emotion occur return your mind to focus on your breath and the sensation of your sitting. This helps the mind to be okay with what is rather than being hooked by memories and emotions.

The following is an excerpt for the above activity by Lynn Louise Wonders.

 


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You are not alone

She is sitting at the side of her bed in her pj’s  and its past 2’o clock in the afternoon. Where did the time go? Her hair is not comb and she has no makeup. On her face she looks sad and deep in thought. Suddenly, she begins to cry again which is a usual occurrence throughout the day. She recently gave birth to her daughter and something is drastically wrong with her. She doesn’t understand why she feels this way and begins to question herself. Why do I feel alone, sad and miserable? The baby cries and she simply don’t have the energy to fed the baby once again. Some may see this as a signs of postpartum depression which isn’t the same for all mothers. The following is a list of signs to look for in postpartum depression:

  1. Anger-  Becoming angry at everyone that includes your baby, your spouse or even your older children. You have been throwing things or yelling at everyone. You can’t get a handle of this anger that is built up inside. You are mad all the time and you have no control over it.
  2. Brain Fog-  You tend to forget  things from time to time. It’s all a misery to you.  You try your best to remember the right words, but nothing comes to mind. Then you try to multitask, but you cant do this. You find yourself in the middle of the intersection and realize that you flew pass the stop sign.
  3. Scary thoughts- Your thoughts are interrupted by “what if”, which begins to take over. What if something terrible happened? These thoughts are known as intrusive thoughts that interrupts your daily life which are a sign of postpartum anxiety and OCD.
  4. Numbness- Here I go again, I cant feel anything but just emptiness. You are going through the motions but yet you are not feeling it inside. You feel disconnected from everyone.  You couldn’t care less about things and you don’t want to mention this to your doctor.
  5. Insomnia-  Ahh…the little one is fast asleep and they say take a nap but nothing happens. You lay there at night wondering when will I get some sleep. You should be exhausted after one week of taking care of the little one, but still you lay awake at night wondering when will I fall asleep.
  6. Physical symptoms-  My stomach doesn’t feel good again and my head hurts really bad. I begin to panic once again and I feel like I am having a heart attack. You feel aches and pain all over your body and you know that you don’t have a cold or flu.

I was inspired to write this blog on behalf of a fellow colleague Dr. Christina Hibbert who is a psychologist, mother and author of “This is How We Grow.”  Dr Hibbert shared that she was a expert evaluator on a postpartum case for over five years.  The woman is a 23 years old mother who has been sentenced to 40 years without parole for child abuse. How or Why? is this happening?  According to Dr. Hibbert the woman is suffering from postpartum mental illness which included  postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (due to a horrible experience with childbirth),  postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum depression and later postpartum psychosis.  The baby at the time was adopted after recovering from injuries and the 23 year old woman parental rights was severed.  The woman also had an emergency hysterectomy during childbirth so she was childless.  During her trial she was not evaluated for mental illness, but this incident was considered a child abuse case and she was the abuser.  The prosecutor of the case sentence her to four back to back 10 years sentencing which total 40 years imprisonment.

Presently in 2014, she served 13 years in the state prison system and through several help by attorneys, advocates and experts that worked pro bono, she received “clemency”  of her current 10 year sentence.  Recently, she had an hearing and after a total of six hours and after drilling Dr. Hibbert and other expert witness her clemency was denied.

Postpartum psychosis is a very real issue “that affects 1-2 of every 1,000 births in which  the mother becomes detached from rational thinking” (Hibbert, 2014). The symptoms of postpartum psychosis includes the following:

  • Delusion or strange beliefs
  • Hallucination
  • Feeling very irritated
  • Hyperactivity
  • Decreased need for or  inability to sleep
  • Paranoia and suspiciousness
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Difficulty communicating at times

It is important to know that there is help out there and the sooner someone gets the help the better life will become for you.  If you know of anyone that may be suffering from this illness, please encourage them to speak to a professional.

 

References:

Hibbert, C. (2014). Postpartum psychosis + Mental Health Stigma = 40 years in prison: Its time to speak up! Retrieved from http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/blog/

Postpartum Psychosis. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts/Postpartum-Psychosis.aspx


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Keeping Cool With Your Defiant Child

It’s barely 11 am and my son lost his temper again. He is easily annoyed, bossy and frustrated by other people. He tends to blame others for his difficulties and makes so many excuses. They are drawn toward negative peers and tend to be more sulky. Parents generally respond to these behaviors by negotiating, bargaining, giving in, screaming and threatening. Here are 5 ways to survive a defiant child.

  1. Don’t Lose Control – Remember to be calm, clear and firm with the situation.

  2. Don’t Focus On Who is Responsible –  Parents are responsible for how they react to their children. For instance, a toddler may have an outburst which causes you to react. First, realize that the issue at hand is not to yell and scream. It’s up to you to decide how to handle this. At times parents are overwhelmed with stress and frustration, but please remember that this too shall pass.  Defiant toddlers are still developing and its not their intention to cause trouble.

3.  Pay Attention To The Positive –  When your child does something right, acknowledge it!

4. Don’t Assume The Worst – This hits home for me! As a parent, we are overwhelm with the challenges throughout the day that drives us crazy. The first task is to realize that your child is going through something and his or her intentions are good. We tend to set up ourselves when we look at the negative side of things.

5. Set Limits For Your Defiant Child –  Carefully pick your battle with your child which may include not arguing with your child.  For instance, when going to the mall with your child know what to do when he acts out in the car. Have a plan in place that you will use if he thrown a tantrum.  In addition, make sure to follow through with your plan until your child realizes that he will not get away with his behavior.

Parents needs a lot of determination and strength while working with their children.  You may have a child who is defiant, but is peaceful at home. The main point is to decide: Are you going to change the world for your child? or Are you going to teach him or her how to cope with it?  How have you dealt with YOUR defiant child?