Thursday, September 27, 2012

Realistic Expectations

Dear Parents,

First off - I must sprinkle some honey on the vinegar I have been working with this week. Let me just say that there really are situations where intensive therapy and all the resources in the world can't change the toxicity of the system. Some things go back so far nobody can remember where they started. All I'm looking for from these posts is to plant a seed of self reflection in folks going through divorce or separation with children. There's a whole other world of posts for parents who are married or living together. They're not so perfect either so don't go thinking I'm biased! Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there.

In other news, let's talk about Realistic Expectations aka - Wake Up Call.

Back in the olden days, when I was a kid, I was raised by two parents who were married and living in a house with myself, my two siblings, and usually a couple of cats. My dad worked full time and my mom worked part time starting around the 6th grade. The designation of parenting tasks was pretty clear. My mom took us to all of our appointments and my dad would 1) Have her back completely no matter how unfair we insisted mom was when she wouldn't let us eat entire tubs of ice cream and 2) Fun stuff. My dad was my soccer coach forever and he taught me to ski and brought me to UConn games - soccer and basketball mainly but there was some football thrown in there too. Nobody questioned this arrangement, it never even occurred to us.

My point is, I am constantly told by parents that they are angry their Ex doesn't go to the kids' doctor/dentist/eye/whatever appointments. Seriously? Unless there is something seriously wrong with your kid why would both of you need to be there? Do you really want your Ex to take time off from work that they probably won't be paid for so he can watch the doctor swab your kids throat for the 900th time? Do you actually think your kid cares about that? Because, they don't. The only thing they care about when it comes to the doctors office is, "When can we leave?? We hate it here!"

My point is, if you were still married or in a relationship with the other parent, would you expect them to get out of work for a basic check-up? No. You would not. Because that would not make sense. Guess what? It still doesn't make sense. Whoever the custodial parent is, unless you have made other arrangements, doc appointments are your job. You have the kids full time therefore you know their schedule the best. Do not lambaste your Ex for this. I'm sure they would love to be there for every immunization shot your kids flip out about but it simply is not their job and expecting that from them will only lead to resentment on both sides.

The custodial parent should be supported by the non-custodial parent. Meaning in this case, child support. Just to clarify what child support is and how it should be used, the parent who receives the support should be using the money for whatever the child needs. Food, clothes, shelter. Usually there's a separate arrangement regarding payment for extra activities such as dance lessons. That's all child support usually covers. The idea that baby mamas are getting rich off child support money is asinine. Seriously, how many single mothers do you know who are rolling in the dough?

Child support does NOT cover what you, the non-custodial parent, has for the children at your house. Complain all you want about it being "unfair" it's still your job to have clothing, toys, food, etc. for your kids when they come to see you. It is not your Ex's job to provide them with every single item they may need while in your care. Why would you even want them to pick what outfits they'll wear, toys they'll play with, stuffed animals they'll sleep with while they're with you? Don't you want your kids to view your home as their home? Stop complaining about the money. Go to Savers. Use coupons. Get hand-me-downs from your friends with older children. Think outside the box and don't get caught up in what it costs. The benefit to you of your kids feeling at home and comfortable when they are with you will be worth every penny.

Embrace every opportunity to be your highest self for your children and yourself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Parental Poisoning

Dear Parents,

The subject of Parental Alienation is a real thing and it's happening right now, probably to someone you know or perhaps it's happening to you. Parental Alienation is the poisoning of the children against one parent (and their extended family) perpetuated by the other parent, often accompanied by their extended family. It's basically brainwashing with a fancier name. There are countless reasons for this to happen but the one that makes me absolutely see red is our old pal, Revenge. Making the Ex pay by enlisting the children in their fight is absolutely sickening. There are parents out there right now who are so hurt and so incapable of handling their feelings they consciously and purposely use their children's love against their ex-spouse. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, "My ex told me they were going to destroy me and now they're doing it."

This is completely disgusting people. Your kid needs their other parent. Do you realize that by openly involving your children in your hatred of your Ex you are simultaneously sending them the message that you hate a part of them? That the part of them that was given to them by their other parent is somehow defective and unlovable? Even if you're not saying it out loud your message is clear as a bell.

 News flash: What you are doing is wrong.

Programming your children to fight on your side because your ex is the evil bad guy and so is their extended family is destroying their childhood.

Your children need their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, whatever. They love them. They have already had their family broken apart by what was most assuredly an ugly divorce. They already feel they have done something wrong, that they were not good enough or important enough and surely if they were better none of this would have happened. I don't care if they're not saying that to you. That means nothing. Chances are, they won't say those things to you because they are desperately worried and trying to protect you. They've seen you navigate the stormy waters of divorce and it scared the crap out of them. They have seen you behave in ways you never thought yourself capable. They have watched you at your lowest and it has terrified them to the core.

So stop acting like a victim. Stop it NOW. Stop making custody and visitation about you and what you feel you and/or your ex "deserves." Because I guarantee you're not making good decisions and you are torturing your children with ongoing court battles.

Still fighting in front of the kids?? Unacceptable. They saw enough of that when they were living with the two of you.

They hate it. They hate it. They hate it.

It hurts them. You're hurting them. The entire scenario is hurting them and the effects will be life long.
By running to the court and asking a judge to decide what's best for your children you are teaching them that they, and you, are powerless. The only way to solve a problem is to find the most important grown up possible and ask them what to do. When the judge makes a decision, if you continue to play the role of the injured party and tell your kids all about how unfair the judge/lawyers/their other parent is you yet again display powerless victimhood.

You are not the injured party here. Teaching your children that nobody cares what you (and by extension, they) want doesn't matter, is wrong. It sends the message that they don't matter. This is where the root of low self esteem can take hold and grow like a weed in the deepest parts of your child. Be aware of that. Slow yourself down. You are in panic mode and your fight/flight instinct has been activated. This moment is the reason you must, must, must have a therapist or other objective source in your life. Because you are so wrapped up in your own pain and anger you have lost the ability to be empathetic to your children and your Ex. The one you loved enough to marry in the first place.

Children should never have to lose anyone they love. They did not ask for a divorce, they have harmed no one.

They get to love everybody. Period. So put away your insecurities, anxieties, anger, hurt, humiliation, shame, and fears. Make decisions not out of emotion but out of logic and reason. Listen to your kids when they tell you what they want and do your best to make it happen even if it means they want to spend less time with you and more with your Ex. That's just what they need right now. It's not forever. Nothing is forever. Those kids are going to grow into adults and if you have kept them from their other parent and extended family, they are going to run right over there and never bother with you as soon as they can get away from you. They will see you as selfish, petty, and mean. They will distance themselves from you in order to get away from your controlling ways no matter how well intentioned you tell yourself you were. Ultimately, you will lose them.

Do yourself and you children a favor and allow yourself to move forward.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Dear Parents,

The idea that your kids owe you respect is one that I struggle with. How can your kids be expected to show respect - to you or anyone else in their limited worlds - if they are not directly and consistently shown what that is by the people they love the most in the world? They are only able to communicate what they have been taught through their experiences in the world, a giant percentage of which involved you.

Until a child is school aged their entire world consists of whoever they live with. Whoever holds them and feeds them and calms them when they cry. The world of an infant to toddler aged child is generally limited to direct family members and close friends. Nowadays their world likely also consists of a daycare provider and the assorted other children at the daycare. Beyond that, however, they aren't exactly social butterflies. I refer to the ages of 0-3 as the Sponge Age to my clients to try and help enforce the importance of a stable and consistent home and caregiver situation. Realize - all their rapidly developing brains are doing is soaking things up and learning. Their brains take in information and convert it to messages, rules, and feedback. This information creates the lens through which your child sees and reacts to the world.

Want your kids to be polite, respectful people?

Lead. By. Example.

First and foremost? Stop talking smack about your Ex. Tell your family and friends - we show respect here. Want to vent? Hate the jackass? That's fine - hate them on your own time when you are kid-free and among friends. Whatever happened in your relationship with their other parent had nothing to do with them. They should NEVER know the details until they are old enough to truly process them.

They should also never know when you're going to court, dealing with custody, visitation, or child support issues. Those are adult issues.

It is your job to show your children how to deal with life's ups and downs. Show integrity and respect in front of them every chance you get. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to keep your emotions in check, resist being impulsive, and do everything in your power to take the high road. Your relationship with your children directly benefits from you leading with compassion and patience. When they're mad at you because you don't want to bring them to the mall instead of them calling you a B*tch or something equally awesome, they'll respond the way you've taught them to handle disappointment. And then they'll get on with their day. The choice is yours.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dear Parents

Dear Parents,
I am planning a series of letters regarding how you're ruining your children's lives with things they shouldn't even know about. Also known as things your therapist should be telling you. What's that? Don't have a therapist but you're going through a divorce with children involved? Well good news for you! I'm right at your fingertips and brimming with feedback!

Feedback #1 - Get a family therapist who can help you and your soon-to-be ex separate with integrity.

Feedback #2

Dear Parents,

This is Tough Love. I say things with compassion and understanding and an unshakable belief that parents do the best they can for their children. Maybe their best sucks. A lot of the time, it's probably average and that is totally okay. Lest you forget, you chose to be parents and there is no going back on that promise. You may have promised to love, honor, and cherish the person you created those children with but let's face it, the divorce rate is 50%. You are not stupid. This is a commonly known fact passed around without the slightest bat of an eyelash so don't look at me with your big sad panda eyes. I'm sorry your ex treated you like crap. I really am. But that doesn't excuse you from bad behavior. In all honesty, unless there was a situation of addiction, abuse, or violence in any form, I expect a certain level of appropriateness, common sense, and civility when it comes to your ex. Hate them all you want on your own time, just don't make it your children's battle.

If you thought your ex was a good or good enough parent when you were together, remind yourself of that every single day. No matter what your ex did to you, they love those children with every fiber of their being, just like you do. They may not show it in ways you approve of or even like. I repeat: If you trusted the other parent's abilities when you were married nothing should change when you separate.

Even if they had sex with your sister and your brother in your bed while you were off at Girl Scouts with little Susie. That makes them bad people. Not bad parents. There is a difference.

I know the choice not to have a baby now or in my foreseeable future is a wise one. I look at parents and children every day of my life. I study it, I question it, I research it, and I realize, on the deepest cellular level how big of a deal it is to be a parent. The intensity of the bonds, the depth of the connections, the weight of responsibility, and humanity required to survive parenthood is immeasurable. The bravery to become a parent, to put yourself out there on that scale, is heart-stopping to me.

Having said that, not having children is what makes me able to see things for what they are without the emotional clouding that is inevitable once you become a parent. You lose the option to make decisions clinically and objectively when it comes to your own children.

Yes. You.  Do.

You cannot un-ring that bell once it has been rung. In other words, once the baby comes out of the vageen, you are permanently changed on the deepest, most primal, of levels.

That's why I'm here! To tackle your questions and share my experience with complex and overwhelming situations. I promise to give unfiltered feedback on the Do's and Don't of co-parenting after divorce as well as co-parenting when the family is intact. Being married to the other parent doesn't guaranteed smooth sailing. It's good sometimes to hear from someone completely outside of your life who reports back on what they see when they view your family system.

Look familiar? Don't worry, you're not alone!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Angry + Awkward

I have never been particularly good at confrontation. Especially not when I'm angry or upset. I tend to get overwhelmed by emotion and either cry, yell, or do both. If I don't give myself a good chunk of time to settle down, things can get ugly. This is why I have instated a minimum 10-minute rule to reply to emails or texts that get under my skin. I have also perfected the art of looking completely neutral so even if things get under my skin, the other person wouldn't know it. This small measure of power and self-control has gotten me through many a difficult situation. Currently, however, I am in a situation with my work neighbor and I really don't know where to take things.

Several months ago, I had a mother in my waiting room with her 18-month old and 3-year old children while I was in my office with her 6-year old. It was not a good day to begin with as the mother knew I would probably be giving her bad news, but to make matters worse, the 18-month old was miserable that day. The mom was doing her absolute best to contain it but let's face it, a tantrum isn't stopping until that kid is good and ready. Parents aren't actually magicians. As much as they would like to be able to just tell their kid to chill out, that rarely works. So yes, it was loud. And it was loud for like, 20 minutes but eventually it got quiet.

What I didn't know, was that my downstairs neighbor had come up and asked the mom if everything was okay and could she please control her child or take her outside because he had work to do.
Can I just mention, he's a voice teacher and I have lived with piano and voice lessons under my feet for two years without a single complaint on my part no matter how annoying repetitively hearing the music to Willy Wonka may be?

That time, I took the high road. I went and apologized to him. Because it really was very loud. But my client was very upset. I smoothed things over with the neighbor and the mom and went on with my business.

Imagine my shock, anger, and desire to punch a dude in the face to find out that last week while I was meeting with the 6-year old again, Mr. Neighbor came upstairs and entered my waiting room. Apparently the sound of the toddler running down the hallway for about 10 minutes was too much to handle. Also apparently, knocking on my office door was too much to handle as well. He bitched the mom out. AGAIN. I didn't actually see it, but when I came out at the end of session it was to a mother in angry tears. Add to that the immense stress I had been under last week and how I genuinely was feeling at my breaking point. I had literally collapsed into tears earlier in the day, blaming myself for a court related issue I had misunderstood and I thought I had completely failed that client. (I was wrong, things turned out okay. But it sucked anyway.)

So instead of directly confronting the neighbor, I called the landlord. Because seriously, I felt my blood pressure rise. People do not seem to understand that a therapy office is supposed to be a safe place. This is where trauma is treated. I don't use surgical tools but I am working with people's brains and it's kind of important that the space I occupy be warm and comforting. Not to mention, I am very protective of my clients. Nobody messes with them. Not on my watch.

Mr. Neighbor killed the warm fuzzy feeling and I wanted to completely go off on him.

I know that involving a landlord can potentially make things worse, but we have the sweetest, calmest lady landlord ever. I knew she would talk to him professionally and respectfully. Two things I could not guarantee. She called me when she'd spoken to him and said he had told her it was going on for a half hour and was soooo loud and insisted he was sweet as pie to the mother. Whatever. The landlord asked me what I wanted to do and I told her I didn't want to do anything. That I had needed to address a situation and it was so I was over it.

Until last week when I actually saw the dude and he gave me the nastiest dirty look I have ever seen.

And I immediately wanted to slap him across the face. Because I got a weird vibe from him when we met, and now I want nothing to do with him.

I have, in fact, written a nice apology note that I'd intended to put in his mailbox. In the note I explained my stress level and my choice to involve the landlord and that I was sorry if that had freaked him out but I didn't know what else to do.

I still have that letter. It's on my desk at work. But every time I look at it now, I don't want to give it to him. I am sorely tempted to say screw it and screw him but...I work above him. I've been there for over two years and have no plans of moving.

What's an Angry Shrink to do?
So...yeah. Awkward.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Joy Junkie

Watch this video after you read the following paragraphs. Or just watch it and ignore me. Trust me, it's worth it.

It's come to my attention that I am an absolute, unapologetic Joy Junkie. I soak it up like a sponge thirsty for water. I think it's because

1) I've always been this way - able to watch the saddest, most depressing stuff on earth but only cry when something happy occurs. The first time I saw Titanic I was totally fine. Until the end when the cute little old lady throws the diamond overboard and before we know it, we're back on the ship with everyone applauding and smiling and Jack comes down the staircase and...and...sobfest. Totally lost it.

2) The sound of applause has always made me cry. The intensity of the joy in seeing something amazing and giving the performer their due never, ever, loses its meaning.

3) Seriously? I am a sponge. I feel other people's emotions. I pick up on vibes. If I have a tough day it's probably because I have heard something particularly awful or seen something extra despicable. In my job I see people at their absolute worst and lowest. They tell me things they have never told another soul. And probably never will. Their deep shame, guilt, fear, anger, sadness, and hurt literally becomes a part of me and in order to maintain balance I need big, whopping scoops of joy, love, creativity, and humor.

That's where shows like The X Factor, The Voice, and America's Got Talent absolutely suck me in. (I'm anti-Idol. I have to draw the line somewhere.)

The video above is a long one. It's 12 minutes. But if you're like me, you will soak up those 12 minutes, be moved to tears, and ultimately, be so glad you watched it. I cried like a baby when I saw it on the original show a few nights ago and so did my husband. We agree it was the adorable grandma with her cataract glasses that really put us over the edge but Simon Cowell losing it sure gave it that extra kick.

So take 12 minutes for yourself today to watch something beautiful and moving and uplifting. It takes 3 positive emotions to counter every 1 negative so consider this a prescription from the Angry Shrink to you with love!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Lady-Fro Question

I saw a stand-up comedian complaining about the fact that so many women nowadays shave their business instead of proudly displaying the Lady-fro's of our foremothers. He actually insisted he misses and likes them. It's the natural womanly form that we, the ones who live with the vaginas, should embrace.



That's right, I just called Shenanigans.

Seriously, did he even hear himself? First of all, what a lady does to and with her business is exactly that- her business. That right there is a judgment free zone as far as design is concerned.  But beyond the obvious aesthetic arguments I feel the need to call attention to the theory of evolution on this one.

Back in the caveman days our primal lady selves had a lot to deal with. Let's face it, when you're trying to avoid being eaten by Sabertooth Tigers and whatnot, personal grooming doesn't make it to the To Do List. In fact, the only thing on the To Do List is "don't get eaten by the tigers." Not only that, but warmth was a big issue so I must assume, having your own personal vagina warmer was a luxury to be embraced and aesthetics be damned. Totally acceptable.

However, upon some researching of the interweb, it seems that around 1890 the first fully plumbed bathrooms appeared in the houses of the well to do. Prior to that, only hotels were furnished with the highest of luxuries - indoor water closets. This time period, when Americans were first learning about the magic of plumbing, is also when I believe the clock began to tick its way toward the inevitable demise of the need for nature's little bits and pieces warmer.

As modern plumbing moved forward along with all sorts of other delightful hygiene-related items such as bathtubs and our modern idea of bathing, the lady-fro was off the radar. Nobody was worrying about that with garbage and human waste creating all sorts of awful conditions in the streets. Once indoor plumbing became common in the cities of the early 1900's it steadily began to spread throughout the country eventually bringing us to today when a house without indoor plumbing won't be found anywhere except off the beaten path far off the grid of modern living.

Why talk about this now? Because I got a new razor that's why. It's the Venus with Oil of Olay moisturizing and it is awesome. However, it made me think about this whilst I was grooming. It reminded me of the time my vagingo saved my life when I used it to help me cool down my system in intense heat. If I didn't have a neatly trimmed lady area who knows what could have happened? And by the way - let's talk about basic comfort. Ventilation is our friend. Who doesn't love a fresh breeze in the naughty zone? It's nice. It's refreshing. It may even make the difference between falling asleep at your desk and feeling awake, alert, and fresh as a daisy.

If human beings were able to evolve from monkeys into the standing monuments to sexiness we are today, why is it so far-fetched for grooming to evolve as well? I don't know about you all, but what happens as far as my lady business goes is nobody's concern but mine. If I want to va-jazzle it, shave my initials into it, grow it out and cornrow it, that's nobody's issue but mine and maybe I'll let my hubby drop a note into the suggestion box on occasion. Nobody tells this gal how to manage my V-style!

Did you think I was making up the term Vagazzle? 

Coming out just in time for Christmas 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Heart The Kardashians. Here's Why.

Yes dammit! It has been my secret shame for far too long. I can no longer bear the weight of my Kardashian love on my own. It must be shared.

It started small. I stumbled upon Khloe and Lamar's show and from there found myself sucked into re-runs of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and before I knew it...I was a full-fledged fan. Team Khloe all the way! She is hilarious and wildly inappropriate. And her mother calls her fat all the time and I can identify with that. (My mom is about as subtle as a tornado.) Chris Jenner, however, is pure evil. My mom knows when to back off but this woman has no self awareness. I'm pretty sure she's dead inside and is only able to walk around and pass as a human because of all the surgery she's had. Is there a surgery that holds all your parts and pieces together while allowing you to survive off a tiny piece of coal for a heart? The woman is obsessed with herself. Well, with her looks. The truth is, Evil Queen, you are not as beautiful as your daughters. You will never be as beautiful as your daughters no matter how much you starve yourself or nip and tuck. There is nothing wrong with that. Accept it. Stop being so vain and shallow for five minutes and be grateful for the stunning good fortune you have had in life. I know deep down you're probably just very insecure but the way it looks from the outside is extremely unflattering. Maybe you should worry more about how you're coming across to the world and less about your neck looking fat. Just saying.

I should totally be a celebrity therapist. When I saw what poor Britney went through a few years ago with the whole head-shaving, umbrella break-down thing, I got inspired. And compassionate. Because I know what it's like to feel crazy as a bedbug. Instead of judging her or the Kardashians, or any other celebrity for their behavior I am always the sucker in the back of the room saying "We don't really know what happened you guys." At work I tell clients all the time, we are in a judgment-free zone. I don't really care too much about what you did. I want to know what need you filled by doing whatever it was and how to get that need met a different way next time so you don't end up on the news.

Speaking of the news, another Kardashian trait I am impressed with is their ability to air their dirty laundry and struggles publicly and without apology. I absolutely love it. I even love the way they handle press negativity and the constant demand for more, more, more. I don't know about you but if my dating life were front page news and fodder for every schmuck armchair psychologist out there I don't know how well I would handle it. Kim Kardashian, however, seriously deals with it professionally and with class. I can honestly say that because I tune in people! And yes I know a lot of it is scripted and cheesy but a lot of it is pretty darn accurate.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West - cute dammit!

This is a Huffington Post article on why Kim shouldn't marry Kanye. Personally, if I were either one of them I'd tell the haters to bite me. But that's probably why I'm not super rich and famous. Sigh.

Also, I hated Kris Humphries. Watching him on the show and hearing him speak to Kim and her family members with disrespect and cockiness was gross. He was all about being "The Man" and "In Charge" and he wanted Kim eff'ing Kardashian to like, kiss his ass and be the little woman. He mocked her for being a glamour puss. He made messes just to upset her. Can we say douche canoe?

To satisfy my love of all things Hollywood I will be selecting celebs for a little Arm Chair Angry Shrinkery. Kim and fam, being my faves, have the (dubious?) honor of being my first celebs in my endeavor to fix the world, one celebrity at a time.

Regarding the Kim/Kanye romance, all I have to say to them is go for it! You deserve to be happy and screw the press. To have articles like the one from above written about you is ridiculous and insulting and your ability to rise above it is laudable. Kim - while it may have looked strange from the outside, anyone who actually watched the show saw how wrong you and Kris were together once they got a taste of how opposite you were. Not to mention, the douchery on his end. I never saw you do a single thing to push his buttons or try to teach him a lesson. You don't seem like a game-player but he sure as hell did.

I wish Kim and Kanye the best - everybody deserves to be loved. Everybody deserves to have a partner they can trust in. Being rich and beautiful does not disqualify you from the search for love. I'm sure I'm going to get all kinds of haters for this but I want to know why - why do you love or hate The Kardashians? Why do they hit such a nerve with people? Discuss!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TV Therapy - Fun or Quack-tastic?

I just saw the episode where Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and brother Robert Kardashian, go to family therapy with their mother, Chris Jenner.. That sound you just heard? Was one part: my heart going squishy, and three parts: Total Jealousy.

The woman they chose to put on television as their therapist is pictured here. Her name is Dr. Nicki Montvi and she practices therapy with celebrities and most assuredly gets paid a ton of money.
Dr. Nicki Montvi, MFCT.
Whatever that is.

After appearing with the Kardashians on TV she gained a lot of attention and curiosity. She is largely shred to pieces by this helpful website.
Student Doctor Network (SDN) - This is the website that helped me research her credentials. It appears as though she earned a doctorate from a non-accredited university. Possibly an online school. As they mention on the SDN - Ph.D's are not earned in 18 months. That doesn't stop folks who go out and get those quickie Ph.D's from billing under whatever degree their license is under but advertising themselves as Doctor to make themselves look more impressive. And not explaining that to their clients because, why confuse people?

I am struggling with this Dr. Nicki. How is she able to be on television doing therapy with quite possibly the most recognized family of reality TV? A job I would seriously, if not kill for probably...probably maim for. Yeah. I've got the cojones.

As I scanned through the forum on this SDN Convo, I had mixed feelings. Dr. Nicki didn't do terrible work with the Kardashians. She clearly got through to them and facilitated a shift that desperately needed to take place. I may not agree with some of her choices outside of the therapy room, but I can't complain about the work I saw her do.

Someone watching the Kardashians in therapy saw, possibly for the first time, how therapy works, what happens in the room, what kind of things a therapist might say, what emotions might come up and how they could be handled. After seeing a family go through therapy and come out better for it, I can't help but think that may just be the push necessary to get to a therapist's office.

I don't know  if this makes me a total freak who will be black-balled from the cool kids table, but I really enjoy some of the therapy I've seen on television. In fact, some of it has directly inspired me to try things in my private practice. My personal favorite was Dr. Drew Pinsky of Celebrity Rehab's decision to bring his patients, some of whom still having withdrawl symptoms - bonus! - to a junk lot. At that lot, Dr. Drew revealed the celebs would be provided with blunt objects with which to smash and destroy a car! A whole car! Seriously - they will never forget the day they were handed a sledge-hammer and given license to dole out pure rage and destruction on an expensive and wildly, wonderfully, inappropriately awesome object.

I had a dream of re-creating that anger exercise and this past spring I got to make it come true. By having the best landlord ever I was able to provide this experience to four girls who really deserved the opportunity to kick the crap out of something. Best. Therapy. Ever!
You know you're a little jealous right now.
It's okay.

Mirrors - painted & smashed!

We fear what we do not understand. For many people the world of therapy and self-help in general is a terrifying unknown. All they have learned about the concept has been taught to them by older generations who shunned the very notion of psychology. The "stiff upper lippers" I like to call them. They are wildly out of touch yet we still find ourselves listening to them.

De-mystification is our greatest ally on the healing path. Fear stops movement, including healing and moving on

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Heart Pain

It's like watching someone you love die. But without the reassurance that their pain will be over. That they have gone on to a better place and are at peace.
Instead, I watch the slow withering death of a mother who has lost her children due to extraordinarily bizarre and disgusting circumstances.
A part of me dies with her. It's impossible to be so close to someone else's soul being eaten by a parasite, and not respond with visceral ferocity.
There are times I feel hate in my heart these days. It feels wrong there, it doesn't belong and it goes against my grain. I am a warm, fuzzy person. (Mostly. Just don't mess with my fur kids.)  I have never really, genuinely, wished someone ill.
Except this bitch in high school. She was an awful human being. She literally made friends with me but when boys liked me better than her she would get crazy jealous and angry. Perhaps it didn't occur to her that the near-constant sheen of oil on her forehead combined with an awkward, lanky frame was what kept throwing them off the scent.
(Hah! Burn! 15 years later and I still got it!) (Apologies. That was immature. But I'm leaving it in. Ha!)
At one point, she literally got so jealous of me she stole my boyfriend by offering to bang him. So she banged my boyfriend. You'd think that would be enough "revenge" right? Alas, she never changed her ways. It has to be said that her finest moment of all time was writing "Fuck Off Erin" on my locker.
Classy right?
(I'm trying to swear less but...editing would have weakened the depth of my teenage pain.)

I completely dissolved into tears by the way. In the middle of the busiest hallway in the school during passing time first thing in the morning. I confronted her and her minions, but couldn't even get the words out I was so upset. This girl had been nice to me. I literally could not wrap my head around why she would be nice to me if she hated me so much? Why go to the trouble? That kind of bullshit girl aggression had never occurred to me. She just stood there, looking down at the floor by the way. Then I went to my vice principal and he immediately had my locker painted. (Thank you Mr. Maccarone!)

It had happened to me on more than one occasion - girl aggression that is. But I never really fought back or sought revenge. It just wasn't in me. When girls said I was "fake" because I smiled a lot and was really nice to people (like, actual nice - quite possibly a foreign concept to some people) it actually genuinely hurt. So harsh people! Jeez!

Anyway, even with all that crap, which, when you're 17 is a really, really big deal I never wished any one those girls harm. Not even Skanky McBoyfriend-Banger. I just didn't see the point.

Regarding my earlier situation, however, the stakes are a million times higher. No one here gets to graduate and move on. High school is fleeting. The effects can last forever. But this train wreck of a situation? This has burned its way into my heart and left marks. I won't be shaking this off any time soon and you can damn well believe neither will those involved in this debacle.
I have never held hate in my heart but lately I have felt it surge a few times and I can't believe how angry I am capable of being.

I know, I know...Sigh.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cough Syrup - Not Just for Mucus Anymore

As I stood in line the other night at my local CVS I became aware of some sort of scuffle a few feet behind me. I ignored it of course because by that point in my day the superhero cape was off and I'd left my tiara in the car. However, the scuffle grew louder and before I knew it an angry lady was shoving her way past me. As the automatic doors failed to sense her presence and open quickly enough for a fast exit, she turned back and shouted at the young employee something along the lines of "How dare you speak to me that way? F**k you and your store!" Cue dramatic flouncing and wrestling of doors. (I think she was trying to slam them behind her's not that kind of door so...yeah, awkward.)

Apparently, the employee had caught her messing around with cough syrup. I shit you not, this easily 40-something woman had been trying to get high in the middle of CVS. Really lady? You couldn't just do like the kids do and shoplift quietly? Sigh.

Anyway, parents - here's the thing. Kids are getting high off incredibly stupid things. Delsym - cough syrup, is extremely popular as is cold medicine is almost all forms - the kind that's supposed to make you drowsy so you can sleep through the pain of post-nasal drip. If your kid develops a sudden taste for NyQuil, you should probably be concerned. Because what they do is drink the entire bottle (or half depending on the mood). This makes them "trip" - you know, hallucinate and stuff, it also produces a feeling of euphoria. This is because the medications are meant to make you sleep like a rock but, if you stay awake, your brain doesn't know what the hell is going on.
Meh, it's just over the counter stuff, kids will be kids... What's the big deal you say? Well, the problem is that these meds are not intended for fun use and they can quite effectively slow heart rates down to near comatose levels. If mixed with alcohol they can suppress the respiratory system. Completely. So basically? Seriously? Be on the lookout for medication you did not buy.
Or, if your kid seems to have suspiciously clear sinus passages - go ahead and investigate that too.

As far as flipping out and swearing at people in public goes, well, we all have bad days. We all lash out at people who don't deserve it sometimes. We have all made bad decisions. So I'm not judging the crazy lady in CVS because for all I know, her life is a wreck and she's hanging on by a thread. That doesn't make what she did okay but it does free me up to giggle and be grateful I wasn't the asshole today! Score!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trust your gut

As a therapist it's my job to be able to sit with someone when they are at their lowest. It's my job to help pull unresolved emotions and fears out of the sub-conscious and into the harsh light of day. This is seldom an attractive or fun process. Feeling things that we are afraid to feel or face takes extraordinary courage. I believe it's my job to make that experience a safe and supported one. I can't take the pain away from my clients but I can provide them a safe, accepting space to experience it. While I encourage all of my clients to speak their truth and be their most authentic selves, I recognize that's asking a lot.

What happens in a therapy office is already charged with emotion and weight. The fact that the individuals involved were unable to resolve whatever it is on their own, is already a sore subject. For many people, asking for help is on par with admitting failure. It is considered a weakness and something to be ashamed of. I have never understood this because I am more than happy to ask for help when I am able to recognize I need it. Unfortunately, recognizing that need and admitting to what it means are two different things.

How do you recognize when you're trying to avoid something or shut it down completely? Look around at what's going on in your life in this moment. Where would you say you are feeling frustrated or stuck? By the way, "nowhere" is not an option. Everybody has stuff. The chances that you are the one person in well over a billion people on earth with zero spots in your life that could use some patching and fresh paint are beyond minimal. Take a step back and look at that statistic. Still think you don't have any life areas that could use a tweak? Congratulations. You can now stop reading this post and return to your life of bliss and leisure. The rest of us will be over here.

Take a moment right now to notice your body. Do a quick scan from head to toe and notice if any part of you stands out either because it feels a bit tight, warm, tingly, sore, achy, acidic, hot, whatever. Place your hands over any place you feel any of these sensations, draw your attention to that spot. Notice how it feels, keep noticing, don't try to stop it from feeling that way. Don't talk yourself out of it. No soothing. Not yet. Allow the sensation to grow and connect to your hands covering the spot. Really feel it. Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.

Spend a minimum of 60 seconds (don't rush!) noticing that sensation, enduring the discomfort, and really listening to the message your body is trying to send. Gently ask yourself (or your inner child if you're feeling it) what do I need? What do I need right here, right now, to help me understand and honor this sensation. What is the message?

Do it! Trust your gut! Now!

Your body will communicate its need to you. It will never lie to you even when the truth hurts. Your body knows it can tolerate the pain, its your psyche that its trying to protect. When you close your eyes and allow yourself to connect fully to the sensations provided by your body you will receive a message - through your minds eye you may see images, words may float up to you, you may notice you are able to hear or smell bits of memory you've long forgotten. Whatever you experience - it is the right thing. There is no way to do this wrong. If you're really listening to yourself you know what you need. You may have to promise yourself that you will do what your body is asking for. If you do this, if you make a promise to yourself, you must keep it. Going that deep into your psyche and asking for feedback then failing to follow through is tantamount to abuse. You deserve to keep promises you've made to yourself. You've chosen to ask for feedback, it's now your responsibility to make sure to follow through.*

As a therapist, I feel it is of heightened importance that we practice what we preach. Is is essential that we allow ourselves to experience authentic emotion. We must be able to stand through the storm of our own emotions if we are going to be able to help anyone. We need to able to stay, "I've stood through it too. I've experienced everything you're going through right now and can honestly tell you, it won't destroy you, it will make you stronger. All you have to do is feel it and respond however you feel is best. Let's talk about it."

*An amazing local therapist taught me the importance of this. Her name is Yudit Maros, and she has actually created an entire modality based on the importance of authenticity.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I Walk the Line

Here's the thing. I pride myself on being objective and clinical when I step back and assess what's going on with a client. I am a big picture person. I look at the whole shebang from childhood to the future ten years down the road. I am without doubt attached to my clients. I am protective of them and because of that I work with outside agencies on their behalf on a regular basis. It's a hard line to walk sometimes. Not getting emotionally involved on some level is basically impossible for me. I know there are other therapists out there who don't have this problem. They don't connect with their clients on the deeper level I actually pride myself on. In grad school we were taught that successful therapy is 85% dependent on the relationship between therapist and client. You can use whatever modality you want, if that client is not invested they are not going to get results.

This doesn't mean I like or agree with things clients do all the time. However, I challenge myself to remember that their diagnosis does not define them. It is a part of their lives but it is not who they are. If I reject them or judge them what is the point of them coming to see me? They can get rejection and judgment anywhere - for free and without having to drive all they way to my office. It's my job to tell them, "Hey, I saw what you did there. I'm curious about it and I think you are too. Let's figure out what happened and how to move forward."

In all the years I have been doing therapy I have never been wrong. About anyone. And this time I know I'm right, but it doesn't matter. What I am learning (and it is a bitter lesson) is that I can be right about someone all day long but if CPS has decided something, there is nothing I can say or do to change that. In fact, the harder I try to make my case, the worse it goes. Advocate too strongly and I look like I'm overemotional and blinded. Step back and say nothing, it looks like I'm abandoning and distancing myself from the case - yet another nail in the coffin.

What I am experiencing is an absolute travesty of justice. Obviously, I can't give details but I can say watching children be hurt and traumatized because of the small-minded, short-sightedness of the people in power is sickening. Watching family members destroy each other, use children as pawns, and generally make punishing a parent into a game for sport, is nauseating. And heart burn inducing.

This again brings me to a place of powerlessness. And it is this feeling, this experience, that makes me say I don't want to do this forever. I don't think I can survive it. I never understood why so many therapists won't see children or even take state insurance. And don't get me wrong, I totally judge them for that because I think it's shallow but at the same time I can understand the desire to avoid the heartbreak and acid reflux.

Thankfully, despite my horror at news that things just keep getting worse, I have yoga group this morning. I will go forth and do some light processing and relaxing yoga with some lovely clients then I will get on with my day and see friends as planned. This does not define me or my life. I will not deny there is a palpable impact. But if I am to survive this career choice of mine, I have to resist the urge to fixate on the bad and let myself be sucked down into the darkness. I am no good to anyone if I let that happen. People need me to be okay because if I'm okay, they're okay. I can help, I can contribute, I can empathize, but only if I take care of myself and consciously and consistently force relaxation and distance. They are my life rafts and I am holding on to them with an iron grip.

Damn. That second part is hard!