The window to the soul – or is it?

unrecognisableselfieday1

Selfies are the way of life.

I am constantly finding new apps and filters to embellish, decorate, or even distort the picture entirely.

There is nothing inherently wrong with them; sometimes it is the only way a mum can get a photo with her kids!

The only problem with selfies, is that it takes so many attempts to get the best picture! Holding the camera at the right angle, lighting needs to be just right, background needs to be checked – quite a bit goes into the best selfie. Though to the untrained eye, they appear to be spur of the moment photos, quite misleading to what is actually happening.

A carefully constructed window into a disguised life.

What selfies fail to show are the tears, the weary eyes, the frail body, the chaotic home, the cracks of a natural life (I don’t even look like me in this one!!).

How does this help our friends and family to know we need help?

How does this help someone else reach out for help?

Psychotherapy uses insight to gain awareness and knowledge into our past, giving us direction on how to use our present to build a better future.

Though we need the real picture – not the carefully constructed image presented in a selfie.

For Psychotherapy Day, 25th September, I challenge you all to a first take, spur of the moment, real selfie.

Here is one to kick things off!

selfieday1

 

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Perfection: How is it destroying your life? and what can you do about it!

perfection

Is it better to be loved because you are perfect? Or loved despite your imperfections?

So often I feel the pressure to be perfect:

  • Perfect mother;
  • Perfect wife;
  • Perfect friend;
  • Perfect employee, and the list goes on!

It’s tiring and absolutely exhausting. Not only this, it is also incredibly distracting which does not help my efforts to be perfect, I stumble and fall whenever I strive to move forward while constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. Even in Scripture we are told that “no-one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). That’s right, not even Mary Poppins!

If no-one can be perfect – what makes me think that I can be perfect?

Through thinking over the stresses that seeking perfection causes, I wonder if it is worth the cost?

Perfection seeking can lead to:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Addictions;
  • Failed relationships – personal and work related;
  • Utter despair which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

So it is not achievable and comes at a high cost – not a wise investment if you ask me!

So what gives me hope despite not being perfect?

Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

I am still loved despite my flaws; and you know what? 

  • My daughter still loves me;
  • As does my husband;
  • I still have friends and family in relationship with me;
  • I love my field of employment;
  • And I have an identity that I continue to desire to grow and nurture into a person of excellence.

Looking at these points, I can see that I have everything perfectionism promises, though never delivers. What’s more, I can breathe, relax, and enjoy this life on earth.

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

Do yourself a favour and stop seeking perfectionism, rather strive for excellence.

What areas do you find yourself seeking perfectionism? Share in the comments your plans to change direction!

The deadliest epidemic that mankind faces: What can you do?

The deadliest epidemicOur children are dying. Simply put, no beating around the bush; our children are dying and we are standing around watching helplessly. Oh yes, we all exclaim “what is happening in the world”, though that is often the extent of our response.

Simply because we have no idea what we can do about it!

Last week I wrote about addiction proofing our children and the week before that we explored what addictions are.

This week I want to explore practical steps that we can do to act now against what I believe is arguably the most deadliest epidemic facing humanity:

Suicide!

According to Psychology Today, people with substance use disorders are 6 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Rehabs.com, an American rehab database website, highlights that while addiction increases the likelihood a person will take their own life, it also sets the wheels in motion as the means of carrying through with suicide are at their disposal and a reduction in inhibitions that might otherwise deter them from such a consequential decision.

So the risk is high – though we have more resources than we realise!

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

First things first, we need to have an understanding on suicide and what we need to look for. While this isn’t preventing addictions, it will give you something to implement now for those who are already in the grips of an addiction.

According to SuicideLine, there are 4 key points that all professionals, trained in identifying suicide risk, use – and you can use them too!

Thoughts:

  • Are suicidal thoughts present?
  • When did these thoughts begin?
  • How persistent are they?
  • Can they control them?
  • What has stopped the person acting on their thoughts so far?

Plan:

  • Has the person made any plans?
  • Is there a specific method and place?
  • How often does the person think about the plan?

Important note: A suicide plan or preparation for death, such as saying goodbyes and putting affairs in order, indicates serious suicidal intent.

Means:

  • Does the person have access to means to carry out their plan? For example, is there a firearm available?
  • How deadly is the method?
  • Type of occupation? For example, police officer, farmer (access to guns), health worker (access to drugs).

Important Note: If a person has developed a potentially fatal or effective plan and has the means and knowledge to carry it out, the chances of dying from suicide are much higher. 

History:

  • Has the person felt like this before?
  • Has the person harmed themselves before?
  • What were the details and circumstances of the previous attempts?
  • Are there similarities in the current circumstances?

Communicating with an emotionally distressed person can be difficult, but it is important to persist and gather the information required to estimate the risk, identify protective factors and determine the appropriate management.

To summarise the above, go through this list:

Have they had suicidal thoughts?
If yes 

Do they have a plan to carry out the suicide?
If yes

Do they have the means to carry out the plan?
If yes

Have they attempted suicide before?
If yes, then the risk is high and you need to seek help from a professional.

Below are services that are open 24/7 and trained to attend to crises just like this, though if you feel that the threat is imminent, call the police on 000 for immediate assistance.

SuicideLine

Lifeline

Suicide Call Back Service

Kids Helpline

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

If you have lost someone to suicide or are having thoughts of suicide, please contact one of the above crisis lines today to get the support you need, whether it be counselling or referral to the best services for your needs.

Book Review – Toxic Mom Toolkit: It’s not you. It’s her.

Toxic Mom Toolkit

Families are complicated at the best of times; not one family is the same as another. It is particularly difficult when, as a child, your relationship with your mother is not the same as those around you.

Seeing mothers and their children going out and having fun together, cuddling and joking around. A natural response for a child in this situation would be to assume “it must be me” – leaving them with no option but to bend and contort in different ways to hit the “Mum Code” – the exact code that causes Mum to love you in the way you need. Though none of them work because the problem isn’t you.

Rayne Wolfe grew up as one of those children and through her life has continued to actively seek to understand the confusing relationships she has had with her two toxic mothers. Throughout her book, you will find yourself walking a path that weaves and winds throughout a carefully crafted garden. A garden where, to start with, is full of weeds and pretty thistles, though gradually we see the garden being tended to, weeds are replaced with new shoots of life as we see the journey that Rayne and many others have been on start to bear fruit.

The book begins with showing us a picture of where Rayne was, holding the secret about the relationships with her toxic mothers as she listened to her friends talk about their own relationships in such a foreign way. Rayne shows us the ups and downs of her journey, concluding with a fierce, yet peaceful, resolution that while the past can’t be changed, there is hope for the future – that toxic mothers cannot control those who are not in their grasp.

Rayne Wolfe
Author – Rayne Wolfe

The contents are quite heavy, though Rayne has shown great care for her readers by consistently including snippets of self-care tools throughout the chapters, this was really important to ensure her readers are not traumatized by some of the stories included. These stories are real and need to be told, though care is crucial in the details which Rayne has attended to beautifully. I was able to read the whole book from front to back within a 24-hour period – including many an unwanted distraction, which during this time of the year, time is scarce. Giving proof that while the contents were confronting, it was engaging, safe, real and genuine.

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I was consistently pleasantly surprised that throughout the whole book, respect was given to the toxic mums discussed. This is another crucial point, because as children, we have this desire to love our parents and we want to respect them – though this is difficult to do when there is toxicity involved. In order to promote healthy healing and self-differentiation, respect is needed for the child to stand on their own feet and truly believe it when they say “that is their problem, not mine”.

If you are looking for an advice book on what to do about your toxic mother, then this isn’t the book for you. Though in all honesty, I don’t think you will find such a book. There are too many individual factors involved when dealing with a toxic mother, giving advice can do more harm than good.

On the other hand if you are looking for fresh ideas that may help you, if you need reassurance that true life can be experienced after a toxic childhood, then this is the book for you. Best of all, you will be welcomed into an amazing online community that can stand with you and support you along the way. After all, your toxic mother will give you advice and directions indicating that you can’t possibly have your own resources to survive, what we all need is the reinforcement that we have what we need to thrive.

Click here if you would like to walk this journey of healing and start living

If you don’t have a toxic parent, I do encourage you to read this book as a way of having an insight into the life of others who have had toxic parenting. So many times from the different perspectives of others in this book, it was mentioned that so many people just did not get what it meant to not have a good relationship with their parents. This is isolating and only adds strength to the toxic mother’s grasp. Your valuable insight into this well-hidden world may just help one other person who needs the support to break free.

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Home: A place to belong

Home-Belonging
Belonging is an innate need. It is how we know where we fit, what is expected of us, what areas we can safely push the boundaries, and somewhere to retreat to.
Home should be a place where we feel all these things – unfortunately that is not always the case.

So many families have been affected by the choices and actions of those around them. Being a system, like a mobile, one aspect cannot avoid being affected. This is incredibly dangerous for children growing up within families. Sometimes when parents and those around them make mistakes, it can be used as helpful for the children – in ways of demonstrating that even adults make mistakes and have the courage to apologise. For others, it can have harsh consequences.

Children can grow up in life searching for that safe area to retreat to, using only their internal resources that have often been neglected and malnourished. Adults who have had childhoods like this can certainly turn things around and make different choices – though this becomes very difficult when the healthy values have not been instilled in the first place.

So how can one fulfill that need of belonging and safety?
The key tool is self-awareness.

We cannot challenge our thoughts and ideas to see if they are healthy or know where they came from, if we do not have self-awareness.

How does one develop self-awareness?

This is a lengthy, ongoing, empowering journey that we all need to embark on throughout our life.

This involves taking on different tasks such as:

  • Taking a step back

Sometimes we need to just stop of a moment and analyse the situation. What is happening? What am I feeling? Who is involved?

  • Playing the devil’s advocate

The best way to challenge whether your thoughts and actions are healthy and true is to argue against them. If you argue different angles, you get a better picture of what is actually happening without well-intended emotions clouding the image.

  • Explore

Taking time to explore and investigate the “whys”. Why is this happening? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I involved? Identifying these “whys” can help us to put context around what is happening.

Through these activities, we can develop our self-awareness which allows us to tend to our true needs. Those needs which may have been neglected throughout our lives – whether intentional or unintentional.

The first step is a question – let’s see where the journey takes us!

Who am I and why am I here?

Who am I and why am I here?
Purpose:
noun
1. The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. An intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. Determination; resoluteness.

Without purpose, there isn’t any reason to do anything. We eat in order to sustain, we sleep in order to energise, we socialise in order to be connected. Everything we do, has to have purpose.

What is my purpose here with these blogs? This lies primarily with my purpose for becoming a counsellor.

So why did I become a counsellor and what does it have to do with a blog?

This story has taken my whole life to get to this point.
It first began in primary school, when 2 friends in particular, began sharing their struggles and pains with me. It felt powerful. I felt like I had something to give – though I was not sure what it was at the time.

Then high school came and the same thing happened. This time I knew it was because I was so quiet, I had the trust of others not to spread their secrets.

Then high school came to a close and I had to work out my next step.

The school counsellor suggested counselling – I felt I knew better and would go into psychology instead. Though I soon found out that the very essence of what I loved doing, would take years to get to if I continued that path. One thing led to another and I eventually found the right course for me.

I grew, I changed, I started thriving.

I was challenged to improve my life by applying what I learned in everyday situations. I still have a long way to go. Though now I feel like I have the basic foundations to keep riding this roller-coaster of life.

So what does blogging have to do with it?

As a counsellor, my desire is to make myself redundant.

Some people just need some nudges to explore areas in their life and to challenge their thinking.  Others, like myself, need a bit more intensive work to get the ball rolling.
My purpose for blogging, is to achieve both. To give a directive nudge to make the unknown explored and to highlight areas that need to be explored more intensively.

So now you know who I am and why I am here.
The question you now need to ask is who are you and why are you here?

Mental Illness: What does it mean?

 Freedom Mental Health
With all the promotion and education going around, a lot of us have a basic understanding of what mental illness is, though unless we have experienced it, it is generally on a factual basis. This is good, we need to know facts, facts are powerful. Though what does it mean if I am diagnosed with a mental illness?
There are 2 points we need to look at here:

  • What does it mean for me?; and,
  • What does it not mean for me?

What does it mean for me?

It means I have been diagnosed with an unseen illness. Mental illness is serious and does affect life as we know it. Our bodies are designed amazingly well, when one of our five senses are no longer functioning well, our bodies and mind included, compensate. If it wasn’t for the four year old eye sight check, my daughter would be going another year without apparently much needed glasses. Since receiving her glasses last week, her behaviour has been much more co-operative; not that she always misbehaved, rather she would become tired and moody quite quickly. This is because her mind and body was working overtime to compensate for the difficulties she had seeing – though she didn’t know what she was missing out on and she compensated so well that I didn’t even consider eye problems.

Very similar to mental illness, the mind and body compensates in different areas depending on what is needed, this takes extra resources and can mean that some things are not as easy as they used to be or what we see others do.

Relationships are usually the most difficult of all challenges, these are incredibly taxing on emotions that, and in situations of mental illness, are often running in overdrive as it is. In recognising this, it would be really helpful to consider employing a third person to help mediate between relationship difficulties. We all need relationships, though we don’t always have them running in the way they need to.

Like myself and my daughter, I couldn’t see what was wrong with her, I put it down to typical four-year old behaviour with a stubborn streak that would pay off when she became an adult. Instead we actually needed a third person to help bridge the gap with facts, which changed our understanding which meant we can approach any issues with resources that would actually help our relationship.

What does it not mean for me?

It does not mean life has ended. As demonstrated above, we seek knowledge and understanding; we use this knowledge and understanding to explain issues. I was quick to put an explanation to my daughter’s behaviour down to information I received from all over the place that her behaviour was normal. Though this did little to help either of us.

As with mental illness, we often try to reason away any difficulties observed and experienced based on the knowledge and facts that we have acquired along the way. Thanks to previous messages, these often include:

  • “I should be locked up”
  • “I am not good enough”
  • “I can’t do anything right”
  • “I am fake”
  • “I am weak”

These are all false.

You may not be able to do things in the same way others do or the way you used to, though in all honesty we rarely do things exactly the same anyway. Sometimes we need to ask for help and sometimes we need medication to give us a boost so we have the resources to complete the required activities. I don’t know about you, but for me to ask for help takes a lot of strength and willpower but the benefits outweigh the initial cost.

Being diagnosed with mental illness doesn’t have to be a life sentence – if anything it can be life-giving. The diagnosis isn’t what causes the illness, it is recognition that it isn’t because you are weak or a failure, it simply means you need a different approach to overcome obstacles. This can give you direction to explore different options that will work so you can actually live life to the full.

Fighting in marriage

 
Oh the arguments we had before we were married! It was so important at the time, though looking back now it is quite laughable.These days we have heated discussions, though those arguments taught us a lot about each other. We learnt about our needs, our boundaries, and our temperaments.That doesn’t mean it was good to have them, but it doesn’t mean they had to be a cause for us to break up either.

We took those lessons and grew up together, rather than apart.

There are healthy ways of dealing with conflict in marriage, here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Observe – yourself and your partner. What are you feeling? What are they saying with their tone, actions, words? Is there urgency? What is really happening here? Is this just about the dishes or is it more personal?
  2. Time out – if things are escalating, agree to take 10 mins to yourselves, and then to meet up at an agreed place. Though instead of fuming in silence, take a pen and paper and work out the heart of what you really want to say.
  3. Take turns – agree on who speaks first – someone has to! Allow them to speak and then it is your turn.
  4. Be respectful – no name calling and avoid saying “always” and “never” – this just causes everyone to get incredibly defensive because it attacks their identity.
  5. Change your view – at this point you may just be seeing the negative points. Though that isn’t realistic, you fell in love for a reason. Mix up the positives and negatives and remember they are human just like you.

The only good fight a couple can have is if they are fighting together for their marriage.

Saying NO to the Addict you Love

 
Saying no

Empowering words from Karena for anyone who loves an addict.

Does your HSC result determine your future success in life?

Life after the HSC
Sweaty palms, deafening heart beats, shallow breathing, panic setting in staring at the blank piece of paper.

They are my memories of the HSC. I remember them vividly, and, I am still alive. I have a roof over my head, I have a loving family, and a career that brings me a great sense of purpose. Though if you went off my HSC results, I shouldn’t have the life I have now.

They were low, quite frankly I had burnt myself out in year 11 and was just over study – I didn’t really care anymore. Until the actual exam time came around. Then there was panic, sleepless nights, what would happen to me? Why had I not studied harder earlier?
Yet, here I am. Relieved that all those bad dreams did not become a reality.

The HSC results don’t have to dictate the rest of your life, they may have an effect on your short term plans, though there are always other options – sometimes they are better than your first choices.

In my year 11 exam for Senior Science, I achieved almost 100%. This was a real surprise because I was sick, I had very little sleep, and I was just over it – I didn’t care anymore. I finished that exam 1 hour early. Apparently, because I let myself off the hook, because I just tried my best and accepted it was the best I could do, my mind could recall things a lot easier than if I had fogged up my mind with stress and worry.

So, as you head into that exam room, remember:

1. You are more than a number;
2. Life will carry on;
3. Do your best and know that it is the best you can do;
4. The less unnecessary stress you put on yourself, the clearer your mind will be.

You are important and valuable, regardless of what your marks suggest. Walk into those exam rooms strong, focused, and confident that you will walk out as the same important and valuable person who walked in there in the first place. Ready to take on life after school.