There is a small pile of dishes on a few different counters in the kitchen, neither teenager has done their chores all week, little girls are fighting over the most ridiculous thing (yet again) and I am pretty sure I forgot to get toilet paper the last time I went shopping for the third time this week. Oh, there are so many times I wish I could hit a mute or pause button when either one of the youngest kids asks the same question over and over again. I don’t remember so many questions with the older two kids. With working two jobs, raising four children and barely taking care of a home, I find myself exhausted at the thought of making yet another dinner. What is the point of this? I just wanted to take a moment and let you all know that I get it.
I never imagined that I would be the parent of four children or even be remotely good at it. I mean, I am not going to lie. There are times when I have forgotten children at activities or even took a night or three off from homework when I knew that it was important that I sit down with my child and listen to them read or do math. There are nights when I have not even taken the time to brush my kid’s teeth (I know, audible gasp!). You know, now that I think about it, I am not sure sometimes why my kids even like me. I have a tiny tot who loves to kiss her mama so much that I am worried she won’t even make it to the bus in the morning. She hugs me good-bye even when walking her brother and sisters down to the bus. So, what have I done to deserve to be their mother?
One of my other posts will explain this post/video all the better, “A Bunch Gut Career” where I discuss some of my experiences as a professional counselor. I think about the times that I have likely been a failure as a parent. I won’t get into them, but I imagine that you can think of a few or many times when you have been less than a good parent. We’re humans, so we all do the best that we can. I contact teachers and do my best to stand up for my kids when I need to. I try to get them into the best programs as possible. I was fantastic getting my older two kids to the library when they were little for craft and story time. I always, always let them know on a regular basis that they are loved and that I am proud of them. Mom rushes to and fro bringing lunches and music folders to school when they are forgotten. I try to make sure they are all well-fed, and when our youngest and tiniest child hasn’t seemed to grow much at all, I even went to a nutritionist only to learn that I don’t have to fight her to eat (score!).
Parents will struggle with their own demons and will make terrible decisions in life. It’s impossible to avoid, but I wonder if you’re reading this if you have thought of the good things that make up your parenting relationship. We must always remember that there is room for improvement, no matter what. Mother’s who seem like supermom (chill) even for you there is room to grow. Us mother’s who feel lazy now and again, chill cause you’re not as bad as you think.
Listen, I love being a mother. I didn't know that I would love it as much as I do. However, it does not mean that sometimes I am not a big fan of snot noses or running this kid here or there or making one more dish for a kid party. I have felt lonely and angry as a mother. I am doing the best I can to raise the next generation and I pray, a lot. I share as much as I can with others and then I pray again.
We are all stuck inside here in Michigan. The kids have had off school for the past four days due to the extremely cold and blistering weather. YEA! The excitement overwhelms me as I try to combat our two youngest children who seem to be finding new ways to make messes. By the third day, our teenage son Grey said, “enough is enough already” and hopes we have school the last day of the week. I took this time to bother Grey about his opinion of what “mental health” meant to a near 15-year-old boy.
To start, I asked Grey, what he thought when I asked him what, “mental health” meant.
G: Something to do with your mind or state of emotions. Basically, it’s stuff that is in your mind and how you react to certain things.
Nosy Mom: Personally, how do you feel that your mental health has been?
G: Right now, things are going well. In 8th grade, things were rocky because some days I would feel good and then there were days where I felt low and sulked in bed.
I can attest to this myself. During his 8th grade year I noticed something different about our son. He is the eldest of four, so all the adventures we were having with him were the first of our lives as parents, so when his demeanor began to change, I was concerned. I began to weigh out what was the change of his hormones due to puberty and what was the change due to the circumstances in his life. Our cute little boy was turning into a teenager and that I understood, but he seemed angry a lot and sad. He never wanted to be around anyone and rarely spoke more than a few words to us unless he had to. He slacked on his chores (more than normal for a teenage boy) and he would scratch up his arms.
Nosy Mom: What helped you make it through your 8th grade year?
G: Having supportive parents, having people to talk to and realizing that I did not have to be sad anymore because I had support
Nosy Mom: Was there any situation in your life that made things seem worse?
G: Um…yeah, when grandma was living with us and that kinda made me have more anger. I knew she had dementia, but I just got really angry because she was there.
Now what I must mention and what I think parents need to keep in mind is this, circumstances and timing matter to your preteens. When my mother came into the home, we cut our son’s room in half because of the little space we had (seven people in a three-bedroom home). Grey was barely into his middle school life when she came into our home and this is also when “the change” began to happen. Gosh, I cannot believe I used that word as it sounds so goofy mom like, but it’s true. Our son was on the cusp of becoming more of an individual and here came his grandmother, taking his space and his mother’s time and attention.
Nosy mom: What would you tell other kids/teens your age if they feel what you are feeling?
G: It really depends on how their past goes. If they have good parents who will listen to them, trust your parents. Still try to talk to them, but I would say ask for help. Don’t do stuff alone. Ask friends for help.
Nosy Mom: Do you think that you could be helpful to a friend
G: Yeah, I could be helpful.
Nosy Mom: What would you tell parents?
G: Well, you should help your kids…try to figure them out, don’t rush them, have patience…if they are not letting up or getting better, push them a little. Don’t push to the point where you push them away. Time is the most important.
Nosy Mom: What’s the funniest think you can think of regarding mental health
G: I never thought of the funniest thing about mental health, but I guess it’s that one day you can be there then you can be down. Mood swings are a big thing.
Nosy Mom: What do you think about the aspect of not having control of your mind, body and emotions?
G: I’d say, you may think that you do have control…you have control…I think that a lot of kids my age think that they don’t have control. I know most people would say that you don’t really have issues with depression if you can control it, but you can reach out for help. Getting help from others is a good step in gaining control. People may not understand “at first” but give them a chance to try to help and understand. If they aren’t listening or helping, then reach out to a teacher or friend. Do not stop until you have reached someone that can help.
This is where I add the truth about medication. Now, first and foremost, you must speak with your primary care doctor about your child’s behavior and actions. YOU KNOW your child the best and if something is off with their behavior and actions; you know whether something is normal for them. I am not saying automatically get on medication, but you need to talk to your doctor about what is going on in order to make sure that something medically is not happening. True, mental health is medical, but we have a section in our manuals that leaves room for “due to other medical conditions” that may contribute to behaviors and thoughts that mimic other mental health disorders. From there, seek mental health advice from a therapist/counselor that specializes in working with adolescents. If medication is deemed necessary, don’t scoff this and work with your child’s doctor and counselor to make sure that your child is on the right regimen. This is a situation that all eyes should be on your child (yours, doctors and therapist’s). If you feel like something is missing in your child’s care, be the advocate. Be the example for your child that they should advocate for their health, by caring about their health by listening to them when things do not seem to be going right.
Nosy Mom: What do you think about your mom being a therapist?
G: I think it’s actually really good…cause if your mom is a therapist you can just go to her instead of paying someone else. You can just like walk in and go to her and be like, “okay, here’s what is going on.”
Many parents do not have the advantage of being a mental health professional, nurse or doctor but that does not mean that you should not have patience and seek out the advice of others. I mean, I wouldn’t attempt to fix my own vehicle, I would be lucky enough to go to my husband who happens to be a technician, and he’d fix it. Same as my husband defers to me when it comes to issue pertaining to our children’s behaviors, emotions and thoughts.
Asking for help IS NOT a weakness. IT IS a strength.
So, I always want to encourage people to seek out mental health professionals if they feel like they have a significant issue or if they just need a mental health tune up. I am a passionate advocate for mental health awareness, which means that I am trying to make the mental health experience a little less scary. I want to share what it is like not only being a therapist but being the one “on the couch”. I have mentioned in one of my related articles, “Getting Comfortable with Psychotherapy” that I have been on the receiving end of therapy, twice. So, I have a pretty good idea of what is going through your mind when you make the phone call, when you wait in the waiting room, when you sit down in front of a stranger who knows nothing about you but is supposed to bring you back to equilibrium.
Today, a few questions that I wanted to answer are “do we miss our clients” and “do we speak about our clients”. First, in terms of speaking about our clients, mental health professionals SHOULD ALWAYS maintain strict rules of confidentiality. Only ever bringing you up in clinical situations in order to garner the best help possible for you, our client. I going to be honest here, there are some really difficult clients that lead to really difficult sessions. To keep giving you the best care, we absolutely have to digest with somebody, a colleague with whom we maintain strict confidentiality with. True confession here, there are and will be times where we have to talk over what happened in a session and possibly talk over a diagnosis, but I stress again, this is only in a clinical private / confidential setting. I do not talk about you with my spouse or my BFF. Speaking for myself and my partner at Koinonia Counseling Center, we believe that confidentiality is one of the most important things in counseling because it allows us to maintain a therapeutic relationship, which is essential to having a successful therapeutic intervention. The relationship between you and your therapist, the honesty, being able to know that what you say is held in strict confidence (barring there aren't any items that break confidentiality like abuse or threats of suicide and there's no court order documents that we have to give up) are all vital aspects of counseling.
In regards to missing our clients, yes, I would absolutely say that we do miss our clients. However, we also know that we have to maintain a professional relationship. We are not allowed to call you up and say, “hey we want to be your best friend, do you want to go out for coffee?”. There are actually strict guidelines for us in terms of when we could ever see our clients out of the office, date our clients or have any form of sexual relationship with clients. The ethics of our profession demands this in terms of years and certain relationships could cause us to lose our license.
I can share that I miss clients in terms of seeing them happy with the progress that they have made through out our sessions, knowing that my life’s purpose is helping you. I want to state that while I thoroughly enjoy helping people, I would definitely say that you shouldn’t expect to hang out with your therapist. Don't go into therapy having the expectation that they're your friend. Psychotherapist/ counselors are around to care about you 100%, there to have your best interest at heart, they’re there to be a neutral party. We walk a fine line of being on your side but making sure that you are grounded and can maintain proper boundaries.
So yes, we as therapists do talk about our clients (clinically) and we do miss our clients because we have entered into this field because we remain hopeful for others. I pray that other therapists go into the mental health field because they want to help people become the best versions of themselves that they can be.
Okay, so I have been on both ends of the spectrum and roles here. I have been that therapist who has had clients who do not believe in the diagnosis that was given to him or her. As a therapist, this led me to a lot of frustration, trying to get a client to see what I had seen and the diagnostic criteria that I used to come up with such an assessment. Needless to say, we had an open and honest dialogue about why I had diagnosed a client with the disorder and many clients eventually came to terms with a diagnosis even though the diagnosis included medication and many clients are sadly non-medication compliant.
Let me put it out there, I do not think that my diagnosis is the end all, be all. If you want a second opinion then by all means, please seek the advice of another mental health professional. What I ask you not to do is outright deny any possibility that what we have spoken about in session is ridiculous or a lie. When I sit with a client during diagnosis time, we discuss the reasons for the diagnosis, I ask what they think about the diagnosis. I have had clients tell me straight out that they think their diagnosis is something more and when we delve deeper into their stories, I end up agreeing with them and changing a diagnosis. This also means that I ultimately change their treatment plan, exercises and likely what theory that I plan on using to treat a client.
When I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder I had a very difficult time being able to even say "out loud" that I had post-traumatic stress disorder. This reason, for me, came about because of a traumatic car accident in which there was the high potential for me to be loose all four of my children in one fell swoop. I felt ashamed that I had the diagnosis, but that was because I did not feel like I deserved it. Now, I know better and most certainly where my diagnoses with a badge of honor. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental health issues that I deal with on a daily basis, using my cognitive exercises and medication.
Again, what I am telling you here is to not take whatever diagnosis that you can get and run with it; it is vital that you talk it over with your mental health professional. This is another time that I stand on my soap box and remind you that you have to advocate for yourself and your mental health. Listen to your mind and your body, it will tell you that something is not quite right, but do remember that those you seek out in mental health professions have education that they paid for in order to help you.
See how you can work with your therapist or clinician in order to find the best outcome for you. You have to be the catalysis for change, otherwise, we are just in the room to hold down the chair and practice on our penmanship and note taking.
Humor is wonderful. I know that I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of a good laugh. I also enjoy intelligent humor that really makes you think then hits your gut with a punch line. I use humor daily to combat my own mental health issues, mainly depression and anxiety. I use humor when I mentor, when I counsel and well, basically any time I can get a good joke in. Our pastor is fantastic at adding a punch line to his sermons, which is most surely necessary for me to stay engaged. It’s like the song says in Mary Poppins, “I love to laugh” especially to the point where my cheeks hurt from smiling. Below are some ways that humor is vital to our mental health. I could not come up with this list on my own and have sources I used from research. As I have a Psychology background, I often site in APA, so please bear with me if that is what you see.
Moral of the story, laugh! Please, don’t laugh because you are trying to hide something deep and dark, but laugh so it can heal you.
Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Vol. 20, Nos. 3/4, Winter 2002 (2002) HUMOR AND ITS CONTRIBUTIONS TO MENTAL HEALTH. Bill Borcherdt Clinical Services of Winnebago County and Private Practice, Neenah, Wisconsin.
Schneider, M., & Voracek, M. (2018). A joke a day keeps the doctor away? Meta-analytical evidence of differential associations of habitual humor styles with mental health. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.
Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) is a theory of treatment often used in counseling to treat depression and anxiety but can treat other mental health issues. It was founded by Aaron T. Beck and is a successful theory for reevaluating and redirecting thoughts. “CBT has been developing as a treatment for mental health problems for over the past 30-40 years” (Tredget, 2001, pg. 8). What is great about CBT is that it can be useful in teaching us how our thoughts, behaviors and feelings are all connected and how they affect each other. Have you ever noticed that when you think a certain thing, you feel angry and your behavior changes too or maybe put all of that in reverse? Have an insight into why you think the way you do can be helpful in know where you’re going to go with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Tradget (2001) highlights that CBT posits that as Greek philosopher Epictetus states, “people are not disturbed by events but the view thy take of them” (pg. 9). It is a “here and now” form of treatment that does not dive so much into one’s past as it deals with the thoughts in the present and how they affect feelings and behaviors. It is a brief therapy that is often a desired form of therapy covered by insurance companies because of the amount of success clients can find in fewer sessions.
Another great thing about CBT are the depression and anxiety self-inventories, which can be used to measure success in therapy. This “inventories” as we call them, allow us to see your responses to questions that would measure your depression and anxiety and allow us to know if we are on the right track and helping to reduce your symptoms. In order to aid in reducing symptoms, homework and exercises are available that are specifically known as CBT exercises and homework. “For example, relaxation and graded exposure is used to eliminate avoiding-behaviors, distraction and control or hyper-ventilation to stop panic attacks and activity scheduling and cognitive restructuring is used to correct dysfunctional thinking in depression” (pg. 8). Even if you are taking medication, these exercises can be useful in restricting your thought processes and reduce symptoms further.
I like to use CBT in therapy as well, but in conjunction with other theories that I will cover at later dates. I like the idea of reworking thoughts so as to positively affect one’s feelings and behaviors. I believe that how we feel most certainly affects the way we work through our lives. How we feel in a situation will most likely be what we remember of a certain situation more than the details themselves. However, I believe that therapy is more than just one theory and while using certain theories, exercises and homework works well for one population, it may not with another. It may prove useful to delve deeper into one’s childhood in order to find healing and understanding. I don’t want to remain with only the context of the CBT triangle. There are evil people in the work, people who have done terrible things in their lives. I work with individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted by the choices that other people have made. Often times, clients feel the most betrayed by the ones who were supposed to care for them the most.
Although the exercises can be used far after therapy has ended, it is important to note that the guidance of a therapist is vital. Not only can a therapist teach you the proper way to use CBT exercises and techniques, but they can be there to help you when you stumble, to help you through the difficult times when you are still fighting your own cycle of maladaptive thinking.
Tradget, J. (2001). Introducing and explaining CBT. Mental Health Nursing. 21(6). 8-13.
How it happens
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological reaction to trauma. Oftentimes we will see it in soldiers after they returned from a combat tour. However, it is common to see PTSD in victims of domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, robberies and gun violence as well as auto accident victims. What happens is the human brain tries to make sense of what has happened in a traumatic situation. The brain seemingly gets stuck at a fixated point, unable to move forward, almost like there is a psychological brick wall. Everything that one remembers, the sights, sounds, smells are constantly replayed in the brain, almost like sounds vibrating off of a wall and bouncing back up at you.
What it Looks like
Often times individuals with PTSD will be easily agitated or overly agitated. Something that might have irritated them before now seems to make them aggressively angry. You will have someone who is overly alert. Someone who was in an auto accident might be overly vigilant behind the wheel like stopping when they see something from the corner of their eye. You’ll have someone who has constant flash backs of their traumatic event, whether it’s a rape or gun violence or time served in a combat zone. Individuals will avoid any triggers to their trauma like avoiding anything that is connected to the trauma. Again, an auto accident victim will avoid the road the accident took place. Below are more criteria for what PTSD looks like diagnostically.
The DSM 5 Criteria
Although the diagnostic criteria are listed below, it is vital to seek out the counsel of a mental health professional who can help properly diagnosis PTSD. A mental health professional can also aid in diagnosing any co-morbid disorders such as depression, anxiety or substance use disorders. Please do not self-medicated.
Criterion A: stressor (one required)
The person was exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):
Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):
Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
Symptoms last for more than 1 month.
Criterion G: functional significance (required)
Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).
Criterion H: exclusion (required)
Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.