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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Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.

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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Drugs and the addict: A destructive relationship

Addict

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
Stephen King

Have you ever heard of anyone that began taking drugs with the intentions of becoming an addict? Addictions often start slowly, just one use at a time, then before we know it, a person is hooked. There are many different reasons one may try drugs in the first place, whether it is curiosity or a pain so intense nothing so far has been able to dull the intensity.

For whatever reason, one thing is certain. The person begins to rely on the drug to the point where it feels normal. Like Stephen King’s quote, it feels like it fits where it is. It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong, a perfect dream – until it is too difficult to tell the dream apart from reality. Suddenly the fog begins to lift alongside a whole heap of undesirable consequences and the harsh reality of the control the drug has begins to become clear, though at this point, life without the drug feels incomprehensible. It is no longer a choice, but a necessity for survival.

Unless we have been in that place, it is difficult to appreciate the complexity of the situation. The most commonly asked question is “why don’t you just stop?”. Good question, though don’t expect the answer to be simple or straightforward.

The decision to say good-bye to addiction needs to be made by the addict themselves. No amount of begging, pleading, desperate actions, or harsh words can possibly cause the addict to change their lives around. This is because the addiction has a toxic hold, it promises to make everything better, to treat them the way they are supposed to be treated – not the way their family and friends are treating them by trying to stop them from feeling good.

No. It is an entwined, toxic relationship. One in which there is only one person who can end it.

So what can you do to help your loved one with their addiction?

This will feel like it is totally in the wrong direction. Though the biggest thing we can do, is to support them. Now I don’t mean enable them. What real support looks like is giving them what they need – not what they physically feel like they need. So what is this?

Well, what do you need as a person?

  • Respect?
  • Love?
  • Relationships?
  • Encouragement?

Everything the drug provides. If the addict can see they can get what they need elsewhere, consistently and genuinely, they will feel safer and more empowered to make that life-changing choice.

Though again, it is still up to them. You cannot take responsibility for their decisions. Once you accept that you are powerless to change them, you can then freely provide what they need from you in the way they need it.

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.

Recommended Reading

Swimming Against the Tide: A refreshingly real blog about life, faith, and mental health.

I love to swim against the tide and ride waves full frontal. After a lifetime of Office Management in administration and finance, I find myself wanting to finally engage in my passion of writing and empowering others for the betterment of society. As a Christian, writer (new to blogging) trainer, gardener and photographer I want to use my faith and skills for the common good…