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child care mental health

How Technology Can Reduce The Anxiety Surrounding Child Custody Communication

How Technology Can Reduce The Anxiety Surrounding Child Custody Communication

Custody issues are stressful enough, having to communicate with your spouse or former spouse over them can be a minefield. Being expected to communicate and coordinate schedules with someone that you may have a contentious relationship is at times difficult and at other times impossible. Fortunately technology is available to make communications and coordination easier, and it is increasingly being applauded by lawyers and judges.

Technology also enables the non custodial parent to have more seamless access to their children, enhancing relationships. Online custody management tools, Skype and cell phones have revolutionized how former couples communicate, enabling parents to make arrangements without having face to face dispute and facilitating parent/child relationships. It is a win/win for the children and the parents. Unfortunately, if you aren’t tech savvy the prospect of depending on technology to manage your child custody calendar, medical expenses, communications with your former spouse, communications with your children, child support management, etc may feel daunting.

In helping my clients navigate the waters of the divorce process both before and after, I consider the technology piece a major boon to assist in keeping anxiety levels low during the process. In addition to learning coping skills and interventions to address the inevitable life stress that comes with this transition, getting connected with technology to help make life easier is now a standard part of what I do.

Fortunately there are people who are well versed in this technology and are able to get you set up in a way that will facilitate good record keeping for the court, interaction with your child’s school, coaches, etc, and communication with your former spouse. In my psychotherapy practice specializing in pre and post divorce issues this is commonplace. By taking some of the conflict out of divorce by making communication more collaborative and cooperative we help the parents feel more secure and less anxious. More secure and less anxious parents make for more secure and less anxious children, which in the end, is what really matters.

If you are having difficulty adjusting during the pre or post divorce process, or if you just need some support around the technology, please reach out to a qualified professional to help make the transition a time of growth and discovery for you.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist specializing in pre and post divorce issues and anxiety. For more information please call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.

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love & life mental health psychology

Anxiety and Divorce: Holiday Style

Anxiety and Divorce: Holiday Style

Going through a divorce is tough, really tough. Going through a divorce during the holidays is excruciating. Everything you have known about the holidays changes, and if you have children it is complicated exponentially. There are few situations that inspire more anxiety than figuring holiday schedules for children and planning how you will fill the hours while they are with their other parent. Even if you do not have children, the holidays represent a death of the norm.

Grieving is normal and natural during this season. Your singleness is magnified by images of happy couples gathered with their happy children around the tree, while you try to figure how you will pay for gifts and groceries on an income that has been decimated. Not spending holiday time with the family that had become like your own can be a painful part of the loss that no one acknowledges.

There is hope for you if you are going through a divorce during the holidays. Despite the fact that nothing feels secure until the divorce is final, you can learn to thrive during the ambiguity. I know that thriving may sound like a stretch. If you are like many, you spend much of the time curled up in bed trying to sleep the time away until the divorce is final and all the arrangements are in place. Learning to live mindfully can help you begin to appreciate your life again. Even though it may feel like you have had a giant bomb thrown into your life, learning to live in the moment can help you get out of bed, put your feet on the floor, and start all over again.

The first step is learning to breathe again. Yes, you heard me, breathe. When is the last time that you took a really deep breath? When we are anxious and grieving we actually forget to breathe. When we focus our attention on our breath, and really notice how luxurious it feels to throw our heads back and take a deep belly breath, we become engaged in the process of life again.

Remembering the little things that we love about the holidays is a big step towards learning to thrive again. A glass of eggnog in front of the fire, the twinkle of the lights at night, the smell of the Christmas tree, the feel of the winter chill on your cheeks when you step outside in the morning are all precious moments if we notice them. It is REALLY noticing the little things, the special moments, that make for quality holidays. When you string together several special moments, you have created a lovely day. Once you have created a lovely day, then you have the pattern for creating a delightful holiday season.

Making new memories is another way to help you flourish during the season. Time with friends, a chance to travel, shopping or seeing a newly released movie can all become thrilling adventures if you reframe how you expect to experience the holidays. Engaging with other single people or joining in celebration with another family can begin a tradition that will provide you with beautiful memories. A nice bottle of wine and your presence may be all that is required in return.

If you are having a really difficult time I recommend that you volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. There are people everywhere who are in need of encouragement, of a warm body to remind them that they still matter, that they are important. It is amazing how connecting with those less fortunate than yourself can give you perspective on your blessings.

The game plan for thriving through the holidays as you are going through a divorce is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. Keep your mind in the moment. Do not think about the future, do not dwell on the past. Take a deep breath, and realize that right now, this very minute, is enough.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in pre and post divorce support and anxiety. To find out more information call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

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Inspiration mental health psychology women's health

Anxiety and the Infertility Rollercoaster

Anxiety and the Infertility Rollercoaster

Many people all around us are struggling with infertility. Infertility can a silent hell. People do not talk about infertility issues like they would if they had a physical condition or other stressful circumstance in their life. Many times a couple choose to walk the road of infertility alone, discussing it only with their doctor. There are a myriad of feelings that go along with infertility and its treatment that can be hard to manage, and difficult on the couple as a unit. The anxiety of not knowing can be excruciating, and hard to understand for anyone who has not walked the road before.

 

Frequently there are communication breakdowns in the couple during infertility due to feelings of fear of blame, guilt, and worry of “talking about it too much.” Many times the man becomes overwhelmed because the woman “can’t talk about anything else” and shuts down because he is unable to “fix it”, leaving the woman on her own to navigate the monthly rollercoaster alone. Often the woman will obsess over every body sign and signal and her life becomes a barrage of online tools, thermometers and ovulation predictors. Her quality of life becomes wrapped up in where her body is in its cycle, and what information about the potential of pregnancy she can gather at that point. Constant disappointment can take its toll on the couple, especially if the journey has been a long one. There is a sense of shame that goes along with infertility that many of my clients express. Shame that their bodies have let them down, shame that good things are not happening to them (feelings of not deserving to get pregnant, blame at lifestyle choices made in the past such as abortion or other choices that can be extrapolated to have negative effect on becoming pregnant.).

Anxiety by Massimo Ankor (Flickr)

Well meaning friends and relatives asking “when are you going to have a baby?” and an onslaught of baby pictures on Facebook and shower invitations can cause a couple to isolate and cut off socialization, compounding the pain and loneliness. The biggest toll of infertility, however, is the anxiety. At every turn having to exist with the unknown and the lack of control is exhausting and stressful. Having to work and function in the daily grind seems unthinkable, especially to the woman, who is focused on every twinge in her body.

Getting through infertility and actually thriving takes some special skills. Learning to exist in spite of not knowing if you are pregnant or not is the toughest part. Mindfulness goes a long way towards helping preserve sanity and quality of life. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. Often our suffering is made more intense by remembering past suffering and worrying about future suffering. If we can stay in the moment and focus on what is happening in the here and now, our suffering will be greatly reduced.

Focusing on bodily sensations instead of thoughts helps get you off of the obsession wheel. “I feel the floor beneath my feet, I feel the sofa against my back, I feel the cool breeze in the room” are ways to center and ground yourself and help remain in the moment. When anxious thoughts arise, acknowledge them without judgment “oh, there is a thought” and allow the thought to float away as a leaf would fall from a tree into a stream.

 

Doing a body scan and addressing anxiety symptoms there is important. Close your eyes, and starting with toes and moving slowly up your body, ask yourself “Where am I tense?” When you discover a tense area, exaggerate it slightly, so you can become aware of it. Be aware of the muscles in your body that are tense. Then, for example, say to yourself, “I am tensing my neck muscles…I am creating tension in my body.” At this point, be aware of anything that is creating tension in your body and what you might do to change it.

 

Photo via Plodavo (Flickr)

Distress tolerance is another tool that can be very helpful. Learning to distract yourself by engaging in fun or meaningful activity is beneficial. Volunteering to help someone less fortunate goes a long way towards helping develop perspective and keeping your mind occupied. Learning to self-soothe by engaging in comforting activities like a bubble bath or exercise or a massage can engage the senses and lower anxiety.

Using imagery, you can create a situation or a scene that is different from the one that you are now in. In a way, you can leave the situation. Envision in your mind a place that you would like to be – a safe place, a relaxing place, a beautiful place.  Focus on this place.  Relax, and let yourself feel that you are in this place. It usually helps to notice details of the place that you are in. See that safe place, maybe a room, that is fixed up just the way you want it. Or imagine that spot along the ocean, or being with a good, safe friend.

Imagine things going well for you. Imagine that you know how to take care of the situation you are in. If you practice doing this, you will find that it begins to work for you. Things DO go better, and you CAN cope better. You can deal better with the crises in your life, if you practice feeling like you can take care of things.

Create a safe, comfortable place for yourself. It will help if you do this in a quiet room or a quiet spot outdoors. Try to relax, and close your eyes if you feel safe. Settle into this comfortable, safe, beautiful place. Let your hurtful feelings drain or wash out of you, relieving you and making you more comfortable. Breathe slowly and gently as you do this.

Infertility is a virtual minefield of emotions. It is possible to navigate these emotions and to maintain emotional regulation with practice. Good communication as a couple is vital. Sometimes individual or couples counseling can really help process everything that is going on and help turn a stressful situation into a growth and learning opportunity.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach who specializes in the treatment of anxiety in Atlanta or via distance (Skype). For more information see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

Categories
psychology

Anxiety and the Horrible Breakup

Anxiety and the Horrible Breakup

So your relationship is over? Whether it is a divorce, a breakup with a long time partner or the dissolution of something that you felt would have potential, breakups are painful. My clients report being in literal physical pain after a breakup, and many do not know how to soothe the pain or where to turn to get better. Let’s discuss the energy of ending a relationship.

When a relationship ends there is a grieving process that is rivaled only by death. I have heard some say that death might be easier.  I believe it was Alice Cooper that said he felt like  “the man with no skin” after a breakup. This is echoed by my clients over and over. One client stated that she felt like someone had poured gasoline on her and lit her on fire. This is no small pain.

Anxiety prevails alongside the pain as the major emotion that is reported to me. What will I do now? Will she come back? Is it really over? Will I ever really heal? Having to rebuild a life that you thought would be different is a monumental task when you are in pain and twisted in knots with anxiety. Doubting your ability to make decisions and lack of confidence in yourself comes with the blow to the self esteem. Learning who you are all over again seems impossible, since it feels like half of your identity walked out the door.

I have been told that the feeling of grief of losing someone is the same feeling of loving someone. The difference is the story that the brain is telling about the sensation. Since you are already in that energetic space in your body, you can leverage the energy by focusing on something that you love and dwelling on that instead of the lost partner. Learning to shift out of the energy of grief and into the energy of love is very helpful in transforming the pain. Transform the focus from the lost partner to your dog, or your child, or even your wounded self can help change the story your mind is telling your body.

Allowing the pain and anxiety to flow through your body without resistance is so important. If you resist the waves of pain and anxiety they will set up residence in your body and will be unremitting. If you can focus on your body, visualize the pain there as transitory and actually visualize it passing through you you will find some comfort.

Common advice like the “no contact rule” is hard to follow, but I promise if you block their number, unfriend them on Facebook, and give yourself a chance to breathe, you will feel a small surge in anxiety at first, but you will notice a feeling almost like a buffer between you and the energetic tie to the partner. There may be times that feel almost like panic when you realize that those ties of communication are cut, but if you breathe through the panic, and get really grounded (notice the sensations in your body, be aware of what is going on in the moment, feel your feet on the floor) the panic will pass.

Actually determine what your emotional needs are. Do you need to socialize? Friends are a life line during this time. Lean on them and let them meet some of your social needs. Do you need to spend some time in the cave? Stock up on comfort food and Kleenex and give yourself time alone to lick your wounds. Do you need to keep busy? Make some plans to start a project, finish one, or pitch in to help someone else with theirs. Really knowing what you need during this time will help you process the grief.

When you love someone, what you are really loving is how YOU feel when you think about that person. Given this, know that you can feel that way again about someone else because the feeling comes from within you. During a breakup it is hard to look for the gift. You will know that you are beginning to heal when you notice that you can look at the things you brought out of the relationship that made you stronger, helped you learn to love deeper, or that made you a better communicator.

In some people the discomfort passes quickly, in others it feels that it will never go away. Learning to function with the pain and anxiety is key to moving on and thriving after a breakup. Look for small things that bring you joy, notice the change of the seasons, really tune in to others, looking for things you have in common. Making deep connections with others is an activity that stimulates oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and can help ease the pain for awhile.

You will get better. One day you will wake up and notice that it does not hurt to breathe, or that you are looking forward to your day. When you can tell your story without wanting to cry you will know that healing is taking place. Until then, be very gentle with yourself. You deserve your love!

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and a life coach specializing in the treatment of anxiety.  For more information she can be reached at 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com for additional information.

Categories
love & life mental health

Anxiety and the Missing Boundary

Anxiety and the Missing Boundary

Some of us have poor boundaries. Let’s admit it. When we were growing up we were shamed or ridiculed or bullied for asking for our needs to be met. We might have been made to feel “less than” when we stated what we wanted. This left us with a sense that we are not worthy to protect ourselves, that we are selfish or ridiculous to ask others not to trample us with their words or actions.

This lack of boundaries can cause serious anxiety in us and our relationships, causing us to “over-give” “over commit” or “over accommodate” in an attempt to earn the behavior from the other that we desire, or to put up with bad behavior because we are afraid of having the negative feelings of childhood triggered when the other responds to our boundaries. Couple this with the fact that we tend to be attracted to people whose issues and needs are the opposite of ours and we have a scenario that is bound to keep us in knots.

Developing loving, firm boundaries is essential to maintaining self esteem and a sense of safety in a relationship. Without these boundaries we set ourselves up for mistreatment and resentment whether active or passive. People with poor boundaries have trouble getting in touch with a sense of righteous anger when they have been wronged. They internalize the anger and feel shame that they were not “worth” being treated well or respected.

Learning good communication skills goes a long way towards being able to assertively state your needs. I frequently have my clients practice taking a deep breath to get centered and saying in a very neutral tone  “I feel hurt when you ______, what can you do to help me with that?” in an attempt to get the partner on their “team” and to express their needs without anger. I also like for clients to confront bad behavior in a neutral tone and to move on afterwards so that everything doesn’t have to be about conflict and confrontation “It is not ok for you to speak to me in that tone of voice. What would you like to have for dinner?”  allows you to confront the behavior and to move to a less emotionally charged subject. If the partner does not respond to this gentle confrontation then there are more direct ways of addressing the issues. However since people with poor boundaries tend to be highly anxious I like to start with gently addressing the behavior in a way that feels less aggressive.

Boundaries define who we are. They establish ‘what is me’ and ‘what isn’t me.’ Personal Boundaries help us create ownership and protection of ourselves. Boundaries are our personal security. Limits are really about having preferences. It is deciding who you are; who you aren’t, what is a part of your reality and what isn’t a part of your reality. It’s no different from saying I don’t like Chinese food therefore I won’t eat it, and I like Thai food and therefore I do eat it. Preferences and limits establish a strong sense of ‘who you are,’ which means that only certain aspects of life and others can enter your ‘field of reality’. Life is an unlimited and assorted mix, and we have always filled our personal world with whatever frequency we are vibrating at. Saying “Yes” to certain aspects and “No” to others shapes and creates this vibration – thereby shaping the truth of our life.

Honoring who we are and what we desire and will and will not accept protects the other person in the relationship also. If you internalize your negative feelings about an interaction then they do not have the opportunity to self correct and to be who you need in the relationship. They may actually end up losing you due to your refusal to give feedback that would allow them to meet your needs. You are really doing a kindness when you offer them this opportunity, and you are nurturing your relationship.

Stating boundaries can feel scary at first, especially after a lifetime of not expressing your needs, but getting clear on what is and isn’t you will assure that you maintain your truth in a relationship. If certain situations and people aren’t matching your truth, they will either adjust their behavior or depart from your reality. Boundaries can be a gift to others as well as protection for your time and resources. Telling someone no can be a sign of trust and respect. Setting boundaries with others gives them permission to do the same.

Learning communication skills to help you assertively state your truth is vital to a healthy relationship. If you do not have good skills I urge you to seek out a qualified psychotherapist or life coach to assist you in expanding your communication tool box.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in the treatment of anxiety. She provides services via SKYPE and in person in her office in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. Please call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

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all positive experiences psychology

Anxiety and Stopping the Thoughts That Rob Your Peace

Anxiety and Stopping the Thoughts That Rob Your Peace

Anxious thoughts can hold you captive and keep you on a roller coaster of worry and fear. It seems that you are carried along by a cadre of thoughts over which you have no control. These thoughts wreak havoc on your mind and body. Your body bears the brunt of experiencing the hormonal cascade of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol that come with being triggered by a thought that releases anxious energy into the body. The mind is assaulted by being occupied with circular thinking, inability to sleep and idling at a high speed for long amounts of time.

Many people believe that by rehearsing anxious thoughts they are preparing themselves in case bad things happen. It gives them a sense of control to rehearse a negative outcome and how they would react in a variety of scenarios. In reality they are ruining the present by engaging in thoughts and feelings that in no way control the future nor prepare them for what is coming. Anyone who has ever rehearsed the death of someone they love in advance so that they are prepared when the time comes can tell you that it is completely ineffectual, and it robs the days you do have with a loved one of joy, because you are constantly in that space of pseudo-mourning, when instead you could be in a shared place of peace with that loved one while they are still alive.

There are several effective interventions to address these anxious, negative thoughts. First, realizing that anxiety puts you in a position where you are living in the future. You are literally making up scenarios in your imagination and believing in them. Logically it is helpful to realize that it is just as likely that the opposite, more positive scenario may happen. When you realize that you are giving your imagination the power to control how you think and feel, you realize that you have the power to shift the scenario you are envisioning to one that brings peaceful feelings instead.

If you feel you must worry, creating a container for it can give you some relief. Scheduling “worry time” is effective in freeing up some energy for the rest of your day. Tell yourself all day that “now is not the time to worry, I will do that this afternoon from 4:00-4:30.” is a powerful way to clear most of your day of the anxious thoughts that plague you. It is a step towards reclaiming your power over your thoughts.

Allowing your thoughts to pass through your mind with acceptance is another way. Recognizing that “Oh, there is a thought” without judgement that it is good or bad, without becoming engaged with the story behind it is helpful. Notice the thought with your awareness and then pulling your mind back to the present is key to mindfully accepting what your mind is doing. To bring yourself back to the present, engage your senses and focus on the stimuli around you. Notice the feel of your feet on the floor, the feel of the chair to your back, the smell of the coffee on the table, the sound of the birds chirping outside of your window. This mindful presence is the optimal state for all of us to function. If you can master staying present and allowing the thoughts to come and go without interacting with them you will have come a long way towards peace.

Questioning the thoughts is a way to confront their validity and to help you know whether they are worth wasting your time on. Are you worrying about something that cannot be helped? This seems futile. If your thought seems like it could have a solution, brainstorming with a loved one to create action steps may be helpful, rather that ruminating alone without a goal. Once you have an action plan, then executing the steps will give you a sense of purpose. Instead of sitting helplessly wringing your hands, you are accomplishing something and shifting the anxious energy to an energy of motivation and achievement.

It seems the most difficult thoughts to address are the thoughts of the unknown. What if you have to wait on results for medical tests, or wait two weeks to see if you actually achieved the pregnancy you have been longing for, or what if you don’t know if your loved one is telling you the truth about their pornography or drug usage? These situations can consume you and destroy your quality of life if you let them. Engaging in activities of “distress tolerance” can go a long way towards helping you thrive during uncertainty. Positive forms of distraction can busy the mind and keep you engaged in activities that bring you pleasure. Going to a movie, hanging out with supportive friends and gardening are all ways to shift the thoughts away from the anxious situation. Contribution is a very effective way to distract the mind. Donating time to a cause you care about, and doing an activity that contributes to a higher purpose are good ways to distract, but so are doing someone a favor or making someone a nice card for a “just because” occasion. Or writing a letter to a loved one, telling them how much you care. Contributing not only helps distract you from your own painful emotions but it helps one build a sense of self respect and gives meaning and purpose to your life. Doing things for others can be very rewarding, especially when the act is unsolicited. Generating opposite emotions helps. Watching a funny movie when you feel sad or anxious, or listening to soothing music serves as a contrast and helps diffuse the thoughts and emotions.

Addressing the energy of anxiety in the body is another way to free the thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are responding to anxious energy that has become trapped in the body. Emotions are energy in our body that literally want to be expressed or squeezed out. When we refuse to acknowledge them or to address them the energy becomes trapped, putting us on that roller coaster of “what am I going to do?” Noticing where the energy exists, allowing it to be there without judgment and being curious about what it wants to do are the ways to shift the energy and to allow it to release. Drop your awareness to where you are experiencing the energy in the body, and noticing how it behaves, with judging it helps you become familiar with its personality. Energy comes in waves. Notice how it wants to act. Notice the area around the energy. Are you squeezing against it, trying to keep its unpleasantness confined? This is when it becomes a problem. Visualize yourself expanding around the energy and creating a space for it to pass through your body. Visualize the waves traveling from one side of you and out the other side as you practice deep cleansing breaths. Controlling the energy frees your mind to think of other things.

It is not necessary to be held captive to anxious thoughts and feelings. There are interventions that can help. Invest the time to learn and practice these interventions and you will see your quality of life improve today!

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in the treatment of anxiety. To find out more please see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com

Categories
psychology

Anxiety on Crack: Otherwise Known as “My Kid is An Addict. What Now?”

Anxiety on Crack: Otherwise Known as “My Kid is An Addict. What Now?”
You have just found out that your kid is addicted to drugs or alcohol. This kid could be a young teen or an adult child, it does not matter, finding out that they are owned by addiction is news dreaded by any parent.  You feel confused, terrified, furious and lost. You don’t know where to turn. I urge you to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and slow your thoughts. It is time to make an action plan. There are things you can do to make this experience less traumatic for everyone.The first and hardest step is to watch your mouth. Frustration, fury, feeling manipulated and lied to can cause you to say things you will regret. It is easy to lash out at your addict and say words that will never be forgotten. These words will color your relationship forever and can affect how your addict sees you and themselves for the rest of their lives. Taking that deep breath and getting centered can give you a moment to think before you speak. At a time when you feel like you are living inside of the fear, this is harder than it sounds.As a parent you are used to being able to kiss it and make it better, to “fix it”. You cannot fix this. There are few situations more terrifying for a parent than having absolutely no ability to help your child. Many parents feel guilty, blaming their kid’s drug use on the fact that they missed a soccer game once when the addict was a child, didn’t potty train them sensitively enough or had a contentious divorce. Once that toxic guilt kicks in the addiction insidiously manipulates the parent-child relationship. A guilty parent will twist themselves into a pretzel trying to make things right. Co dependence kicks in and the parent becomes more concerned with the needs of the addict than their own needs. People who are codependent often take on the role as a martyr; they constantly put others’ needs before their own and in doing so forget to take care of themselves.  When it comes to arguments, codependent people also tend to set themselves up as the “victim”. When they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty. I heard it put one time, “Do you have to take your child’s temperature to see how you feel?” If your answer to this is yes, then you need to take action to address the codependence.

The next step is developing some healthy boundaries. Telling your child “I completely trust in your ability to handle this situation” conveys trust that you believe in their competence, states that you know the problem belongs to them, and empowers them to take action instead of sitting helplessly while you jump through hoops that do not belong to you.

If your child lives at home, defining a zero tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use is vital. Unless you are willing for your child to kill themselves under your roof, zero tolerance is an important first step. You can buy urine drug tests or alcohol breath tests from the drug store or online. Get them and use them on a regular basis and at random times as well. Know that addicts learn how to work around drug screens. If you feel like your addict is using, seek outside testing from a family doctor or treatment center. If the test is positive, I urge you to take action immediately and provide the addict the opportunity to go elsewhere to engage in drug or alcohol using activities. There is no reason your family should have to stand by helplessly watching your loved one self destruct. Siblings can be scarred for life at witnessing ongoing family conflict and using behavior. Many parents will draw the line in the sand and when the addict is caught using will forgive and forgive again when faced with promises and tears. Stand firm. The sooner your addict faces consequences for his/her actions the sooner they can begin facing up to their problem and getting help. Loving the child with boundaries is what will help bring them back to you. Do not allow them to abuse your boundaries to the point where you cannot tap into the love anymore.

Making distinction between the child you love and the addiction is so important. Addiction is a beast that takes up residence inside of your child. It is a beast that will steal drugs from your medicine cabinet, money from your wallet, will lie to you without a blink and will “use” you to the extent that you will allow the using behavior. When the beast rears its head it is helpful to see it as an illness and not as an infraction against yourself and your family. It really has very little to do with you and everything to do with your addict and their illness. Making the distinction allows you to love the child and hate the beast. This is still the same person you rocked as a baby, whose boo boos you kissed and whom you tucked in at night. Do not lose sight of this.

Mindfulness can be so helpful in allowing you to keep peace during this process. Mindfulness is the process of paying attention, without judgment to the present moment. So often when we are feeling fearful or anxious we are actually making up scenarios in our imagination and believing in them. We are living in the future. Radical focus on the present moment, the breath, the physical sensations of the cool air in the room, the feel of your feet on the floor, the sounds coming from the stereo, the smells from the kitchen, bring you into the here and now and allow you to become grounded. Noticing the anxious energy vibrating in your body without resistant is important. That energy becomes trapped when we resist it, and we are stuck with an uncomfortable knot in our stomach or chest. Just noticing that the energy is there and visualizing it flowing through your body instead of resisting it goes a long way towards helping us become more comfortable.

If your child is willing to pursue treatment then your role will be a little easier. If you have insurance, easier still. There are many competent treatment centers in your area that are structured in intensity according to the stage of treatment your child needs. Does your kid need to medically detox? Inpatient medical services may be appropriate for a few days or a week to safely address his/her issues. If not then a few days at an inpatient facility to get your addict stabilized might be in order. There are facilities that have Intensive Outpatient programs that last 4-5 hours a day that consist of individual counseling, family therapy, group therapy and psychoeducation. There are many different philosophies of treatment as well. 12-Step programs are probably the most well known, but there are readiness for change, relapse prevention, enthusiastic sobriety to name a few. You could completely overwhelmed at all of the choices. The job of the treatment center is to help you to navigate the myriad of choices and to educate you on the philosophy of treatment used by the facility and what that will look like for your child. The one thing to remember is that the most important factor in what type of treatment will work for you addict is his commitment to sobriety.

Until your addict agrees to seek help it is important for you and your family to engage in radical self care. This consists of creating an atmosphere of love and understanding that you are all going through stress, and that you are all still learning. Going beyond what you normally need to do to recharge your batteries and to encourage each other is warranted now. If it is a little extra exercise, a nap in the afternoon or an evening in front of the fire just sharing your heart with others who are aware of your family struggle, I urge you to create a gentle, supportive home that allows you to begin to heal.

With every difficult situation in life comes a gift. Look for the gift that addiction will bring to your family. Whether it is better communication, a more honest look at who you all are or eventually having a desire to give back, it always comes with a gift. Never give up believing in your child. Never lose sight of the future you held when you rocked them as a baby. Never give up hope. Keep the porch lights on…

 

If you need support in navigating the emotions surrounding your loved one’s addiction feel free to contact me at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my website www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.

Categories
mental health

Anxiety, Authenticity and Getting Naked

Anxiety, Authenticity and Getting Naked

anxiety |aNGˈzī-itē|
noun ( pl. anxieties )
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome: he felt a surge of anxiety.

authenticity |ˌôTHenˈtisitē|
noun
the quality of being authentic: the paper should have established the authenticity of the documents before publishing them.

naked |ˈnākid|
adjective

2 [ attrib. ] (of something such as feelings or behavior) undisguised; blatant: naked, unprovoked aggression | the naked truth.

It seems anxiety symptoms are skyrocketing these days. People come into my office tied up in knots and paralyzed by symptoms such as fear, tension, shakiness, describing a lump in their chest or stomach and feelings of dread. Anxiety is a very unpleasant feeling, and yet it is pervasive in our society. We are overworked, underpaid and we barely have the time to do the things we “must” do, the things we “like” to do are a mere fantasy.

We do not have time anymore to cultivate supportive relationships in which we feel “safe.” We rush from work to the soccer game to home in time to throw dinner on the table and clean up just in time to go to bed and start all over again. Conversations at work are superficial, and soccer games are hardly times to deeply connect with people. We run around with our social “masks” on and lie and say we are doing fine as we juggle our responsibilities and we ache and are all alone on the inside.

Anxiety and Authenticity. What do the two words have in common you ask? Authenticity allows us to remove the mask, to share the fact that we struggle, to allow that we are not perfect and that we long for things we are not experiencing, that we are not happy or that we feel alone or that we are afraid we are not enough. To be authentic we must feel safe taking off the mask and sharing ourselves with others knowing that we will not be judged. In all of our busyness, we have neglected as a society to cultivate these safe relationships. We wander around thinking “If they REALLY knew me, would they love me?” And there is where the anxiety comes in.

We are afraid we will be found out. Afraid it will be discovered that we are not who we say we are, not who we wish we were. Afraid we will be rejected, neglected and abandoned if we share what our true needs are. Afraid to ask to be accepted and known, and to be loved anyway. Anxiety is the sense of inevitability that we will be found out, to be discovered, to be known, and that we are “not enough.”

How do we combat this eternal longing to be known, and to be loved anyway, to banish that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, when they finally figure out that we are a sham, and that what is on the inside is just a pile of broken pieces, not nearly as attractive as the package we have been presenting? We start engaging in purposeful revealing. I propose we get naked with one another.

Seeking out people that feel safe is key here. Develop one relationship at a  time where you can remove the mask and share your true thoughts and feelings and inadequacies. It is a risk, it is scary, but what if it enables you to drop the mask, and along with it to find out that you are acceptable just as you are? Imagine the honor you will feel when the other person takes off their mask too and becomes real before you, just as the velveteen rabbit became real. What if we stood before each other naked, with no defenses, in all of our ugliness and insufficiency, and just loved each other? Can you imagine how that might feel?

I know this sounds utopian and lofty, but if we start small, like actually stopping our busyness and listening and caring about the answer when we ask someone “How are you?” and providing a place of warmth and acceptance for them to share their true response, I think we will start to see a change in how we are seen and received. When you provide a safe loving place for people to exist, they can’t help but want to provide that back for you, and BAM! you have created a moment. String a series of moments of authenticity together and you have created a lifestyle. Get rid of the question “if they truly knew me would they love me?” and many of your feelings of anxiety would fade away.

Sometimes we have learned to be inauthentic from past hurts and events that have taught us our world is not a safe place. Before we can take that step towards removing the mask some of us may need a little guidance and help along the path. Counseling and coaching can help you reframe thoughts that are keeping you trapped in inauthenticity and anxiety and take steps to build a life that is real and rewarding. If you long to develop authentic, supportive relationships but feel you need to work through a few things before you get there, then counseling may be something you want to look into. If you need help planning action steps towards a life that is more fulfilling then maybe coaching is for you. Please find a qualified counselor or life coach if this is the case. You can reach me via email at carolyn@growhealchange.com or via my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com if you would like a consultation for psychotherapy or coaching. The feelings of relief you will have when you are finally able to take off that mask and BREATHE are so worth it! Get naked today!!

Categories
mental health Stress

Anxiety and the Big Bad News

Anxiety and the Big Bad News

Anxiety and the Big Bad News
By Carolyn Tucker LPC

I have talked in past blogs about how to handle your anxiety when things get chaotic and interrupt your routine. Today I would like to discuss what happens when you get the really “big bad news”. A family member has cancer, the baby you are carrying has something wrong with it, you are getting a divorce. How do you cope? When anxiety goes from zero to warp speed and threatens never to leave, it feels like it may become a way of life. That terror that resides in your chest or the knot and nausea that come to dwell in your stomach are a constant reminder that your life may never be “normal” again.

The first thing to do when you get uncomfortable news is to focus on the felt sense of whatever emotion is evoked in your body. It could be that your muscles tense, you get a knot in your stomach, a tightness in your chest, or your breathing becomes short and rapid. Notice those symptoms, and actually do of the opposite of what your body wants to do. If you notice that it wants to tense up, then purposefully let your muscles go limp. If you tighten in your stomach, release the muscles and breathe relaxation into that area. If your breaths become short and rapid, make a point of taking slow deep breaths. This will help to stop that hormonal cascade that begins with a shot of adrenaline when you get upsetting news. If you intervene immediately it can prevent may unpleasant symptoms from taking root in your body.

Seeing emotions as literally being energy in motion in your body that want to be expressed (or actually squeezed out,) allows you to visualize allowing the energy to exist without resistance and to assist that energy in moving through the body in a way that minimizes the effect of those negative emotions. The key is not resisting the negative feeling. When a negative feeling is present we tend to tighten around it because we are afraid that if we allow it, it will get worse and become more unpleasant. Actually the opposite is true. When we allow the sensation to pass through like the lines passing across the screen of an EKG machine then we free our bodies up from become a home to that trapped energy.

Breathing properly is vital in this process. Slow deep nourishing breaths are in order. When “bad” things happen we forget to breathe. Slow deep nourishing breaths allow the energy to pass, and keep our bodies pH balanced.  A good balance of the in-and-out breath keeps the pH stable in the body.  Breathing in more increases acidity;  breathing out more creates alkalinity, as it gets rid of carbonic acid through the carbon dioxide we breathe out.  “Hyperventilating” means a lot of breathing out, so making us too alkaline, which has its problems like any imbalance (it may cause numbness or tingling in the extremities, lightheadedness, fainting); then one has to “breathe into a paper bag,” that is, breathe back in some of the acids we got rid of, to regain the proper balance of acids and bases in the blood. Paying attention to the body helps us balance the breathing.

 

Instead of receiving information as “good” or  “bad,” become curious about what you hear. It is easy to jump to conclusions based on what you have experienced in the past or by facts that you know or by stories that you have heard from others in your situation. Be curious about whether this situation HAS to play out like you would assume, with you “freaking out” and adopting a tragic story based on your negative feelings. Be curious if you have to freak out at all. Just because it is expected that you freak out, doesn’t mean that is the response that you have to have.  Instead, adopt a sense of wonder. “I wonder how this will change my life?” “I wonder what skill I will learn thorough this?” “I wonder what the gift will be in this for me?”

 I am not advocating denial of your circumstances, or a Pollyanna attitude, I am just stating that it seems many of us respond to unexpected news in ways that are reflexive, knee jerk reactions, in ways that we believe we are “supposed to” react. I wonder if we get centered and grounded by taking some deep breaths and focusing on feeling our bodily sensations for a moment (“I feel my feel on the floor, I feel the chair to my back, I feel the cool air in the room”) if we might buy ourselves the time to choose a different response? I wonder if choosing that different response might put us in that “road less traveled” place, a place that is more peaceful and honoring of the experience, and instead of bringing us a sure tragedy, might bring us a gift instead?

About Carolyn Tucker LPC

carolyn-tuckerCarolyn is a National Board Certified psychotherapist, certified life coach and energy healer, and is a graduate of Argosy University, specializing in marriage counseling, divorce issues, gay and lesbian issues, trauma and anxiety. She is currently working as a practitioner in Buckhead in Altanta, Ga. and in Conyers, Ga. Carolyn works with a broad spectrum of clients. She uses a unique blend of mind/body interventions, coaching, energy medicine and extensive traditional therapy modalities. She is distance counseling certified and offers Skype, email and chat counseling and coaching for your ease and convenience.

“If you are having trouble coping with unexpected news, I am here to support you. Please call me at 770-789-0847, or see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com for more information.”