Post-Hurricane Stress… What We Didn’t Prepare For

Hurricane

Water… check.  Non-perishable food… check.  Boards for windows, generators, FEMA #… check, check, check!  But, what do we do when we are disconnected from the outside world for days — no phone service, no internet, no power?  We are forced to connect with the people who live under the same roof as us.  Wait, what?

As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I have received emails and phone calls stating they don’t know where they went wrong, but they don’t like the person their child has become, or they didn’t realize how distant they’ve become from their husband/wife.  They feel lost and disconnected from the people they love.  When did my son stop liking soccer, when did my daughter stop wanting to cuddle during a storm, when did my wife no longer need me to help her get through the scariest storms of a hurricane?  And, why do I feel so alone when my husband is sitting right next to me?

If there’s a few things Hurricane Irma has taught us, let’s learn this:

  1. It is important to look into the eyes of those we love.  We talk through text, through words across the room without actually looking at each other.  When we can’t see into their eyes, we don’t realize they may be feeling lonely or wanting a partner to hug them as well.  If Unhappy couple having an argument on the couch at home in the li we take the time to look directly at our loved ones, we notice they are sad or may have a lot on their minds.  We can see that they still have dreams that have been unfulfilled that we can still be part of.
  2. Post-Traumatic Stress is Real // so is Secondary PTSD.  We crave knowledge, but too much knowledge causes us to feel as though we are right there in the midst of the crisis.  Then, we are terrified or our extended family is terrified for us, pacing the floor, yelling out PTSD symptoms memeof fear, or sleeping to avoid it altogether.  Our lights flicker and it takes us back to this week of an overheated house, no air, and spoiled rotten, food.  We may be the heroes of our town – the first responders.  It NEVER gets easy to have to see a corpse or a loved one screaming while holding their young child who is not breathing.  The vivid pics of people being trapped in their cars with metal piercing their skin, that are forever etched in our minds never go away.  Secondary PTSD happens to the Dr’s, paramedics, and nurses who help the trauma victims in the ER.   It also happens to law enforcement and 9-1-1 dispatchers who deal with trauma on a daily basis.  It hardens their emotions, so they can focus on the job at hand.  But they remain distant with their husbands or wives when they get home.  They tell their children “they have nothing to cry about” when their child is disappointed with not making a sports team or band chair because “others have it so much worse”.  Secondary PTSD keeps us from getting close to those we love the most.
  3. There is value in face-to-face visits and time away from social media and texting.  We are not going stir-crazy from the lack of luxuries in life like power and A/C, but rather, the effects of reality that we have lost the relationships of those we thought we were close to.  Is it too late to get it back? Disconnected  I mean, it’s been a few months or years, since I’ve actually had a heart-to-heart conversation with my spouse or my family.  The loss is real.  I thought I knew my best friend or my cousin or my childhood neighbor, but the reality is:  I haven’t SEEN them in years.  Only their words or pictures on a screen.  I know that people only put their best front on social media, so without seeing their actual faces or feeling their struggles with them, we really don’t KNOW them at all.
  4. Therapy is not always long-term and about deep rooted issues of the past.  Therapy allows us to regroup, reconnect with our own thoughts, things of importance and helps get us set back up on the right track.  With a professional who will not judge or scold us for our selfishness or for losing our way on what is truly important, we can talk through how to admit to our faults and face the friends and family members who are that important to us – who are worthy of seeing us in their living rooms again, feeling our hugs again.  It is not easy to try and connect with the friends and family we’ve lost contact with.  There is a fear of rejection or resentment for letting all those months or years pass by.
  5. Feeling disconnected doesn’t have to end with leaving or letting by-gones be by-gones.  You’ve worked hard to Disconnected, go deepercreate the life and family you have.  Don’t leave now.  Don’t let old friendships die off into just a memory.  Rather see this as a sign to recognize that it’s time to go deeper, love stronger, recommit to those we love, and get back to what is truly important.

YOUR FAMILY IS

                                    WORTH IT!!! 

 

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Relapse Prevention / Awareness For The Holidays

As the holidays are approaching, it’s supposed to be a time of celebration and quality time with family.  Because most of us live among busy schedules, we look forward to just taking it easy, relaxing, and starting fresh after the new year.  For many of us, this means taking a break from sports, school activities, and even therapy.

But let me caution you.  If you are in recovery from any mind-altering substance (alcohol, drugs, etc), this is the time of year when you should be MOST on guard.

If you have a family member 635851957709905633676035697_sad-christmaswho is in recovery, we want you to be informed about the possibilities of relapse through this holiday season between Thanksgiving and the New Year.   While this is a time for celebration with our families, this is also a time of high stress and triggers from the past.  These are 5 Tips that can help you prevent relapse for yourself or a loved one:

  1. Make going to your recovery meetings a priority.  This time of the year, it is easy to put them down on your priority list. Do not make excuses, make your meeting!  If you haven’t been to one in a long time, find a local AA group, Celebrate Recovery group, or have a mental health checkup with a marriage & family therapist or a mental health counselor.
  2. Do not isolate during the holiday season.  Spend time with healthy
    family, local church groups, or other people in recovery. There are plenty of safe places to go and spend the holidays in order to be around people that truly want to see you succeed.
  3. Take the time to do a daily inventory.  Look for warning signs, and/or any related problems at the beginning and the end of your day. Listen to your body.  Ailments, headaches & body aches are trying to tell you0f6ec44f634f9f923d935867f2c3108c something – and it’s not that you’re getting sick.
  4. Take the time to volunteer.  Serving others is a great way to extinguish those old self-centered behaviors.  It truly does make you feel better to give your time for a worthy cause, or to help another person.  There are many agencies & churches who are looking for people to help disadvantaged children & low-income families.  Even if this describes yourself, you will be amazed at how you don’t even think of using or abusing when you are serving another person.
  5. Make sure that you are in contact with your accountability team and/or sponsor. Having people on your team is very important to your success in recovery.  When you have a sponsor and a team, you are NEVER alone!  They are committed to you and your joy.  Don’t let relapse steal it away.

The goal of relapse prevention is to teach people in recovery and their families how to anticipate and cope with the potential relapse before it actually occurs.   As we know, there will be great temptations during the holiday season to pick back up old habits (for old time’s sake, because you are “safe with good ‘ol dad”), so it is important for us to be prepared.  Here are a few tools, that will help you to stay on guard through the holiday season.  Remember, relapse does not have to be apart of your recovery.

 

img_9444*This was written by Everette Coffman, MS Intern, who is on the Leadership Team at Celebrate Recovery.  He is also a Marriage & Family Therapist intern, working with Family Life Counseling Center.  He specializes in addictions and sports psychology, among other mental health issues.*

Wait, Do I Know You?

Husband, wife partnership

Many times, I think of doing this.  If I was honest with myself, I actually have done this, but it comes out in other ways, like, texting hubby and saying, “Hey, I have a client at 6pm, so I’ll need your help with dinner tonight”.  We have 4 children and have recently added 2 new additions.  In case you haven’t counted:  that’s 6 children in our home under the age of 12 — SIX CHILDREN!!!  Even as a marriage & family therapist, the thought of this can make ME cringe.  But, this was not a choice that my husband and I took lightly.  Each of our 4 children were prayed over, planned (maybe not the timing, but we wanted 4 children), and prepared for.  The 2 new additions were also prayed over and prepared for.  But, every choice has its rewards and consequences.  This is the law of nature.  We love our choices, by the way.  Children are a gift from God.

So, how do we manage our household, work full-time jobs, AND have time to create and maintain a happy and healthy marriage?  I will let you in on a few “secrets” that are not only tried and true for us, but also for many of my marriage clients who have left our therapy sessions feeling like they can go out and conquer the world and their dreams together.

  1.  DAILY Face-to-Face, Love notes, & Text Messages.  At some point in your day, you Post It clipsmust SEE your spouse, HEAR your spouse, and SPEAK to your spouse.  This can come thru a variety of modems:  roll over in bed, kisses and saying, “I’m going to miss you today, have a great day at the office!”, a text that says, “I saw a black Explorer like yours and was hoping it was you.”, or a post-it note in their lunchbox or vehicle that says, “Good luck with that meeting, praying for you.”
  2. Quiet Time Alone Without Children.  There is more than one reason for kids to have a bedtime.  Of course, they need their rest & to be able to wake up feeling refreshed.  But you and your spouse need time for each other EVERYDAY!  This works best for us in the evenings, but for your relationship, it might be early morning coffee before the kids wake up or an early morning run around the block while the kids are still sleeping.  When you make time to be together with no real agenda, you learn to naturally trust each other.  Regardless of what is going on or how life gets in the way, I KNOW that I have my husband all to myself during this “quiet time” everyday.
  3. Teamwork.  This can’t be stressed enough, just how important teamwork is.  No one spouse can do anything alone, especially if you have children.  If your home is a 1 income household, this doesn’t mean that the wage earning spouse is the only one working.  The other spouse should be right there working alongside them.  It can look like this (although this is just one example, there are many other ways to do this):  at-home spouse reviews over working spouse’s schedule, asks for ways to be a support (make a full breakfast bc it’s a stressful workday, set up a lunch date bc it’ll be a long work night, take the suits to the cleaners bc there is an upcoming speaking engagement).  For 2-income couples, it might look like this:  Mon, Wed, Fri, kids are picked up by dad, so mom can get dinner ready.  Tues, Thurs, kids are picked up by mom, so dad can get his workouts in.
  4. Time with Kids Without the Other Spouse.  Let’s face it.  Moms and Dads parent very differently.  It’s ok!!!  Kids need to know there is a time/place to have fun and a time/place to be serious.  They need us both in very different ways.  My children know that every Wed is our library day to check out books, read with no distractions and they LOVE IT.  But, they also know that they are with Daddy on Mondays and that is their day to get candy/sodas at the convenience store and watch TV even when Mommy doesn’t like it and they LOVE IT.  Again, it’s ok!!  Kids need to learn to adjust to different surroundings with different people.  They can learn this at home.
  5. Couple in love.jpgWEEKLY Date Nights.  People often look at me like I have 2 heads when I tell them this is a MUST.  But, if my husband (who happens to be a very busy football coach, children’s coach and associate pastor of a large church) and I can do this with 6 children, SO CAN YOU!!!  It takes discipline, it takes financial sacrifice at times, but it is the practical glue that holds your marriage together (God is the spiritual glue).  There are 4 rules to Date Nights:
    1. No discussions about kids or extended family
    2. No discussions about finances or problems
    3. Enjoy the Here and Now moment
    4. Dreaming and making future goals is allowed
  6. Protect Your Most Intimate Relationship.  I’m talking S…E…X…  Men, your wife has to feel safe in order to allow you into her, literally.  This takes time and preparation on your part to create the atmosphere throughout the day to make her feel safe and secure with you.  Women, your husband needs respect to enjoy sex with you instead of making it bing, bang, boom and that’s it.  This also takes preparation and work on watching our words and attitudes towards our husband.  Men have a physical need for sex, this has been proven.  Women have an emotional need that involves physical connection, not necessarily sex.  But, if men give their wives emotional and physical connection, they will likely get sex.  If women give sex, women are likely to receive emotional & physical connection.  That’s how God created us and that’s an entirely different blog…. lol.

Husbands and wives with children, don’t allow the title of this blog to happen to your relationship.  Stay connected, give love, and expect sacrifice.  IT IS WORTH IT!!!

Debunking the Myth of Therapy

we-take-our-kids-for-physical-vaccinations-dental-exams-eye-checkups-when-do-we-think-to-take-our-our-son-or-daughter-for-a-mental-health-checkup-gordon-smith-338x500

I’ve often wondered why it’s so hard for us to see the importance of getting a mental health checkup.  Our brain and our mind are THE MOST IMPORTANT things for us to be alive.  To feel alive.  Our mind tells us when/where/why/how we do things.  Little daily things like, “Wake up” or “I’m Hungry”.  Mediocre things like, “I need to say hi to my boss when I see him this morning.” or “Remember to give the kids their field trip money”.  Major things like, “Call Susie and tell her you love her before she flies out tonight” or “I am not going to let this affect me the rest of my life”.

So, what keeps people from finding a personal marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor to help them with their goals & finding solutions, just like they go to their dentist to keep their teeth clean and healthy?

1.  I’m fine.  I have a good family.  I was raised in a good environment.  I’m an adult and should know how to fix my problems by now.  These things may all be true.  Some problems can be taken care of by exercising, eating right, and having a support system; much like we can take care of basic first aid, such as a bee sting, a minor cut, or a burn from the stove.  But, what if you’ve done everything you and your family/friends know to do, and your 3 yr old is STILL not sleeping through the night or you’ve read every marriage book out there and you and your husband are still arguing about the same issues and you’re both about to just give up?    Just like a good mother would take her child to the doctor if that cut becomes infected, a committed wife should seek out a marriage therapist to keep her family from being destroyed by unspoken issues.

2.  If I admit I’m having problems, people will think I’m weak or that I’m crazy.  It would be strange to think of someone who has cancer as being crazy because they undergo chemotherapy or to look down upon a parent because he/she takes their child to get braces on their teeth.  When we have problems with coughing and breathing, we go to a doctor to see if it’s bronchitis.  Because we have to deal with people who are of different cultures, different backgrounds, and different socio-economic statuses at our jobs and in our schools, we WILL have problems with people and within ourselves from time-to-time.  We can save ourselves a lot of time and heartache if we go directly to someone who can help us sort through those frustrations and misunderstandings before we lose relationships, friendships, and our own children.

3.  Most anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders have a biological component and can just be treated by my primary doctor.  Nothing is more frustrating than going from doctor to doctor, and then specialist after specialist, only to find that there is nothing “wrong” with you and yet, you are still having physical ailments, infertility problems, or weight issues.    Mental health problems are not caused by solely bad genes or a biological chemical imbalance, according to the research we have to date.  Most medications (with a few notable exceptions, such as those prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) prescribed for mental disorders should be taken for short-term (under a year) symptom relief. **It is important to note that it was never meant for a person to be on psycho-tropic meds such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills forever.  They are only to help stabilize your moods, until you work with a trained professional such as a marriage & family therapist, mental health counselor, or psychologist to learn coping skills and how to handle what life gives to you individually.

In fact, many physical ailments, such as diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems, infertility, migraines, high blood pressure, joint pains, are caused by anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder.  Our minds are THAT POWERFUL!!!  We MUST learn to listen to our bodies.  If we are continuously getting sick, our bodies may be telling us it’s time to sit with a therapist or counselor to get to the root issues that we are unaware of.  Just like psycho-tropic meds only serve a temporary purpose, other medical treatments only resolve surface symptoms, while the root cause of your physical ailments remains untreated until you seek out mental health treatment.

4.  Mental health disorders are labels that are life-long and difficult to treat.  Just like the flu comes and goes or cancer can go into remission, mental health disorders are very similar.  Parenting stress comes and goes.  Anxiety comes and goes.  Depression comes and goes, as difficult times in life occur (a death of a loved one, loss of a job, children leaving for college), but it does NOT have to last forever.  There are many types of mental health treatments that are short-term, often in as little as 6-12 weeks, depending on the nature of the issue.  Even major mental health disorders can be treated in 6-12 months, instead of years.  **It is important, however, to remain active in quarterly, or bi-annual mental health checkups, so a crisis doesn’t occur.

5.  If I seek out a Marriage and Family Therapist to help me with my children, then I must not know what I’m doing as a mother or father.  There are many, many parents and friends who claim to be experts in potty training, disciplining, and building bonds with children.  The problem is that each child and each family is so uniquely different.  There are thousands of different techniques and tools on how to communicate, how to have a healthy argument, or how to raise children.  On top of this, our society is changing at lightening fast rate and books and family traditions often cannot keep up with the new trends in pornography, sexuality, etc.  A therapist or counselor has been uniquely trained for a minimum of 6 years, had over 3,000 clinical hours of working solely with children, parents, and couples supervision and post-master’s supervision to learn how to recognize how individuals interact with each other and impact each other.

By reading this, it lets me know that you’ve thought that counseling might be of benefit to someone, maybe even for you or your family.  It doesn’t hurt to try it out and see all the benefits there are to having regular mental health checkups with your personal therapist.

 

 

 

 

5 Tips For A Healthy Marriage

  • Reclaim your date night. Remember staying up all night talking on the phone, or sitting outside in your spouse’s car – just to hear his/her voice a little longer? Did you used to play cards or take the Jet Ski’s out on Saturdays? Don’t give up your date night, just because you have children or because all the bills are due. It is a NECESSITY to learn to play together again. At least once a month, set an appointment to have a date together. Do something you enjoyed before getting married, try something new, and go out to dinner without the kids. And call it a date. Get dressed up or dressed down, whatever fits your personality. The good thing about dates: they don’t have to be costly. Just something fun, something energetic, just the two of you.

 

  • Boundaries with the Children and Careers. Though the economy is not looking great, don’t go into panic mode chasing the almighty dollar. Your spouse needs your time and attention. Though the children need enriching activities and have important sporting events, they need to see their parents love each other more. Set a limit on how many hours you will work this week. Put the children to bed at an earlier time or enforce quiet time in their rooms after a specific hour. Make sure you have at least 30 minutes of quality time together so you can listen and empathize with your marriage partner’s day. Also, share things with your husband because, he is not a mind reader like the romance novels would lead you to believe. There is a reason why they call those books “Fiction.” Getting to know each other doesn’t stop at “I do”.

 

  • Allow Each Other To Have Some Space. It isn’t a bad thing to have individual interests. If he wants to play golf, she can spend the time catching up on some shopping with the girls. Make sure to practice appropriate boundaries by sharing your individual interests with the same sex (men go out with male friends; women go out with female friends). Don’t be surprised if you both start to appreciate having new things to share with each other. The old cliché “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” may ring true after you have shared a day apart from one another.

 

  • Spice Up the Intimate Moments. Have fun giving each other kisses or long embraces, and listen to your kids say, “Ewww, gross!” Send the children to grandma’s, or allow them to spend the night with a trusted friend, so you can rekindle the romance in your home. Try new positions, take a bath together, get out the soft music and scented candles. Men, if you prepare your wives, I can almost guarantee she’ll return the favor before the night is over.

 

  • Fight fair. This can be much more difficult than it sounds. Expect to have disagreements or to get angry at each other when things donot go as planned. But do NOT call each other hurtful names, do NOT say “I don’t love you or I’m going to leave”, and do NOT fight in front of the children if possible. Before you embrace an argument, think about whether or not it is worth the energy. Does it really matter if it was you or him that forgot to turn out the lights or should you save your energy for discussing something that is important like not forgetting to pick up Jane from school again? Remember to pick your battles. Life will go on if the electric bill goes up a few dollars, but will be detrimental if you neglect your parental responsibilities.

IMG_7478This article on marriage advice was written by Sandi Burchfield, M.S., MFT, IMT-1129

http://www.familylifecounselingcenter.com

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