Like Cleaning a Wound
Well that title has some lovely imaging, doesn't it?:) That's how I describe therapy sometimes. It is like cleaning a wound. It can be painful at first but it is needed in order to heal. The first few sessions are sometimes the most difficult. In fact, I often tell clients how brave they are for being able to come to a stranger and share their struggles, their hopes, their fears. . .
Think about a cut that is never washed. It is very likely to start becoming red, then oozing, and then a fever may set in. If you didn't seek medical attention, you could end up losing a limb or worse. I hope you wouldn't do that to your physical body, so don't do it mentally/emotionally either!
Often it is hard to make a therapy appointment. Maybe we think we will get better by ourselves. Maybe we are afraid what people will think. Maybe we don't know what to expect. Maybe we had a bad experience in therapy before. Maybe all of those things! I encourage you, though, if you have been thinking about it to give a therapist a call and chat for a few minutes and ask questions. Most therapists will talk for a few minutes for free and you can get a feel of how things will go. Also, it is okay after the first session to seek a different therapist if you don't feel like you guys are a good fit. BUT, don't stop if the session was hard because what you are working on is hard. Again, it is like cleaning a wound at times. If you are working through something painful, it will be painful. That doesn't mean it is not worth it.
Also, let your therapist know if you are having an really hard time after sessions. Your therapist should be able to help you learn some techniques to regulate better and calm down. He/she can practice them with you at the end of the session too. It also can be fun to end the session on a lighter note in order to leave the session in a more uplifting state.
I often have clients tell me people think they can “snap out of it” and feel better. That they have total power over how they are feeling and can control all of their symptoms. The report that they are viewed as weak since they feel depressed. This is like telling someone with cancer to just think differently and it will go away. While it is true that not everyone who is depressed needs medication, it is not as simple as just deciding to think differently. Challenging one’s own thinking is a powerful tool in treating depression but it is just one tool. And it can be hard. Depression can make one feel like nothing will work and one will never feel better. It can make one feel like happiness is unattainable.
If someone in your life is depressed, here are some ways to help:
We are a country in turmoil. It seems most people have taken sides and no one wants to listen to what the other side has to say. I’m guilty of this too. While much of the world is being ravaged by natural disasters (our country included), we are fighting each other. Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of examples of people helping people but not enough. We can do MORE!
We need to start looking at different perspectives. We need to put ourselves in others shoes. We cannot do this by continuing to go to the same sources, the same people we have always relied on. It is time to step outside our comfort zone. I would love suggestions of reliable sites, blogs, etc that can help shed some light on different viewpoints. I recently shared on my personal Facebook page an article from Good Black News (https://goodblacknews.org/2016/07/14/editorial-what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/). I felt it was insight. I need more!
I think we also need to go out into our community and start interacting with different people. We can start by volunteering, attending a school event, a church event, or a community gathering. Then we can talk to a few people we don’t know. Conversations can lead to understanding.
In addition, we can be stop making assumptions. We don’t know another’s story, their struggles, or what led them to where they are now. We can, however, be KIND!
"How long are you grounded for?"
"I don't know."
I hear this very often. A client broke the rules and received a consequence. Sometimes a blanket grounding of everything, sometimes loss of privileges, and sometimes a specific activity. When the youth does not know how long the consequences will last, it tends to make them more anxious. This actually makes it harder for them to follow the rules. The constant worry added on top of anger for whatever was taken away (rightfully so or not), and wondering when will their "good" behavior be enough. I'm all for waiting till you (the parent) calm down in order to give consequences but a definite timeline with definite expectations or goals is needed and helpful. Also, remember perfection is not the goal. We're crabby and irritable at times and our kids will be too.
In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop down in front of you. . . If you are traveling with a child, please attend to yourself first, then the child.
This, or something similar, is said on most flights. Sometimes people wonder why we would want to put the mask on before the child. It is because if we can't help anyone if we pass out. The same idea goes for taking care of ourselves in our lives. If we are stressed out, how helpful are we to our kids? Self care is so important!
Self care means taking time to take care of yourself. This includes date nights for parents, nights out with friends, and alone time. It means eating right, exercising, and having time to relax. It can also mean eating some chocolate, dancing, and taking a walk.
It can be very challenging in are all too often busy lives, but it is so important!
We need to do these things before we become too stressed out and when we are feeling overwhelmed.
When we take care of ourselves, we are also being good role models. It is important for our children to see that when they are stressed, they need to make sure to take care of themselves.
Social media, competitive sports, straight As.
Growing up I thought I had a lot of pressure. I needed to make above a 4.0 GPA. I worked every day after school and all day during the summer. I had to work out numerous days a week (I have never been blessed with a good metabolism), and try to have some sort of social life. Many of my friends at that time had similarly busy schedules. Worries and stress were balanced by quiet times at homes and fun with my friends.
Times now are even busier and more stressful for teenagers. The amount of homework many of my clients have regularly leaves little time for anything else. And yet, many still need to work, play a sport and/or instrument, and try to have a social life. A social life that frequently involves social media. This adds its own level of stress as it follows you everywhere. You may think, well why don't they just stay off of social media if that is an added stress. I know teenagers who do but they struggle to maintain a social life. We live in an age where some social media is pretty much required for those in high school.
The pressure to be the best appears heighted since I was a teenager. It is not enough to play softball for the school. One must also play on a competitive team. First chair is great but in the select band, not just the "regular" band.
When did this happen and how? I was in the top of my class but I can honestly say that didn't make or break me in my career. I probably could have relaxed a little more (enjoyed life a little more) and still be where I am today. I am not saying that we should encourage teenagers to be slackers but we do not need to encourage them to be the "best" at everything. Some things should be done for the joy of doing them. We also need hobbies that are just for fun.
I fear that cases of anxiety will continue to rise if a change isn't made.
Fight Song by Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo1VInw-SKc
If I Was a Boy by Beyoncé https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWpsOqh8q0M
Beautiful by Christina Aguilera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAfyFTzZDMM
Better Man by Little Big Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph9NQ8ASmX4
Praying by Kesha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-Dur3uXXCQ
Holes in the Floor of Heaven by Steve Wariner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axoeGUI24VY
He Didn't Have to Be by Brad Paisley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjO1F6oCab8
These are just some of the songs that speak to me. In different situations, I need music. I am not musically inclined at all. I can't sing well, play an instrument, or read music. I can, though, listen and appreciate. In sitting down to write this blog, I only picked a few but I could list even more songs that speak a message that I've needed to hear or a client needed to hear. It can be therapeutic and helpful.
I have clients that can play an instrument, sing, and write. I encourage this as it can help so much. Music speaks to most of us in one way or another if you let it.
From time to time, the therapists at Sandhill post a song on our Facebook page that speak to them one way or another. Check it out.
What songs speak to you?
If you give them an inch, they will take a mile.
I think about this saying every time I see an elementary child with his or her hair colored. I think about it when young kids have numerous ear piercings. I think about it when elementary kids are allowed to play rated M video games. I think about it when kids are allowed to watch mature shows.
You see, if kids are allowed to do certain behavior at a young age, they often will find other, riskier behaviors when older. It is "normal" for kids, adolescents, and teens to find ways to push the envelope. They want to find ways to express themselves as individuals and to (consciously or not) push the boundaries of what is acceptable. Often it seems they want to drive their parents crazy! I fear that when we allow children to engage in behaviors that are designed for older youth, we are giving them a mile and therefore they must take 10 miles.
I will add that I coloring one's hair for Halloween or a special event with wash out color is viewed differently by the kids so is not the same. But when a kid is allowed to permanently color their hair at age 8, what is the next step when they are 13?
My son made honor roll.
My daughter was elected Student Body president.
My kids made the select basketball team.
My spouse was promoted at work.
Bragging about one’s kids on Facebook is a great thing. Most of the time I love reading about positive things going on in other people’s lives. It helps me say connected and I like knowing successes that are out there. At times, though, it makes me jealous. My kids struggle with mental illness and that causes behavioral issues. We all work hard to cope. That doesn’t mean we don’t have successes, it just looks different for us. For example, the day at school may have started with my son throwing something and screaming but then he cooled down and had a “successful” rest of the day. This is a win for us. Would that be an appropriate brag though on Facebook?
Your kid may have passed all her classes for the first time in years-a win! You may have finally gone to a therapist for help with a struggle-another win. Your kid made it through a whole soccer game without having a tantrum-woohoo. Or the whole family went to Six Flags and everyone was nice to each other the whole time-this just happened for us and was definitely a win.
So is it appropriate to share these types of wins on Facebook? I think that if it is a successful for you and it won’t embarrass anyone in the post, it is okay to post it. I believe you need to be careful in your wording though. Best report card in years (with a picture of your kid)=good post. My daughter finally passed all her classes=negative post because it may shame her. Junior made it through the whole game relatively happily=positive post. Junior didn’t though a tantrum the whole game=negative post.
What do you think?
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.