Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Deal with the Storms of Life

The storms of life hit all of us at times. We encounter loss, heartache, grief, and sadness, and a lot of times we have no idea how to make it through these particularly difficult parts of life. Everyone around us has their suggestions and advice, or even worse, nothing to say at all when we go through a painful situation. But what are we supposed to do when things go from better to worse and then worse to worst? What is the plan when one wave of life knocks us down and another one comes before we can even find out footing again?

Whether it's the loss of a loved one, divorce, a breakup, traumatic event, difficult news or a shocking diagnosis...Here are my thoughts for 4 ways to make it through painful moments in life.


1.) Survive
This may seem simple, but I can certainly assure that even surviving can feel like climbing Mount Everest for someone going through a difficult time in life. And what I mean by "survive," is just to simply make it through each day. Eat, drink, sleep, and survive.  When you're drowning in the middle of the ocean and fighting to stay above the waves, you aren't concerned with the form of your strokes or your tan lines. You just have to keep your head above the water. Forget the "fluff" of life: thank you cards, meetings, laundry, miscellaneous appointments, etc. At least temporarily, if it isn't required for you to survive through the day, let it slide.

2.) Stay close to supportive, loving people you can trust
Support of trusted friends and family can make an enormous difference in your grieving process. Being honest with them about what you need and don't need is also very important. If you're the type of person who wants people around and doesn't like to be alone, then vocalize those desires. And conversely, if you're the type who likes to be alone and grieve in solitude, then by all means, let that be known. Sometimes family and friends do their best to show support and love, and their best way of showing it may not be what you need/want. And if you know someone going through a difficult time and don't want to say/do the wrong thing, please read this article. I think it beautifully describes how to be a good friend to those in painful situations:  How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

3.) Avoid people who will cause confusion, irritation, or hurt
This may seem like it would be obvious given #2; however, it deserves its own bullet point. In the grieving process, it is all about YOU. You get to decide who you let in and who you don't, and there is nothing wrong with avoiding people who you bring you down during that process.

My family went through a traumatic experience when my sister was diagnosed with Leukemia at 5 years old (To read about my sister's survival and beautiful story, Click Here). My parents had to learn the hard way that some unexpected friends would be there for support, and other friends they counted on to be there wouldn't be. At times, some people were judgmental, mean, and downright nasty to my parents. In the process of caring for their terminally ill daughter, I can see nothing wrong with avoiding the people whose only function was to bring my family down. Basically, if someone's not throwing you a life jacket and helping you to keep from drowning, they aren't necessary to keep close to you.

4.) Cling to the truth
One of the most important things to do in the process of dealing with "waves of life" is to cling to what is true. So often, people in situations with horrible loss and almost constant hurt can become confused, lost, and afraid. One of the best ways to counter these emotions (other than to lean on others who are supportive) is to cling to what is true. Find Scripture that speaks to God's fondness of you to help if you are fighting doubts about who you are as a person. Review facts about what has happened and what may occur in the future in order to focus your mind and help to keep it from spinning out of control. Sometimes it seems impossible to focus your mind during these parts of life; cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself, and if you don't have the support system you need, consider seeing a therapist to help you organize and sort through the overwhelming spot you're in.

One thing that is guaranteed for all of us in life is to encounter difficult moments. For some of us, those moments may last longer and have fewer breaks between now and the next one. Hopefully, these 4 ideas might help you get through a painful situation or help you to be a better support for someone who is. I hope this brings some encouragement for those currently in painful situations... that surviving through it may be the best way you know how, and your best is enough.

im thankful.
carrie anne

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why Validation Ain't Such a Bad Thing

There's been a graphic going around the Internet, mainly by women's boutiques and adult females re-posting through social media. Here is it: 

Now, at first glance, some or most people would typically agree with this statement. We live in a culture that admires and celebrates independence and self-sufficiency, and in the midst of the feminist movement the past few decades, we celebrate these traits even more in women.

I can clearly see the pull toward this belief. Western culture has put the 'individual' on a pedestal for a long stretch of time. Look at any of our long-time heroes: John Wayne, Superman, and even Walter White (Breaking Bad fans, anyway?). It's filled in our music: Destiny's Child fans - "All the women who independent? Throw your hands up at me!", Ne-Yo's Miss Independent, and recently in Paramore's new single "Don't go crying to your mama 'cause you're on your own in the real world." We admire the individual instead of the team. Doing it on your own instead of asking for help. The person instead of the group... So it's easy to think that "not needing anyone else" makes us stronger, but I couldn't possibly disagree more.

It's my belief that we're never weaker than when all we depend on is ourselves. Over time (especially women), have decided that to need someone/depend on someone/rely on someone is a sign of weakness. We put up a wall that says, "I depend on me, and I don't need you." I think that's the message of this particular graphic, and it actually makes me sad. What a beautiful thing to have a relationship where there is connection, validation, support, and a secure bond. 

I understand why the wall gets put up; I'm assuming it's protection... from past hurts, future fears, and current insecurities about letting someone in who might let us down. I get it. But God didn't gift us with this life to live and move through it disconnected from the vulnerable and beautiful parts of others around us. It takes GREAT courage to receive or (oh my gosh) ask for validation. I think (and research shows) the strongest, most secure, and long-lasting relationships are the ones where partners are brave enough, vulnerable enough, strong enough to ask for validation and reassurance. What an amazing connection and enduring bond that brings for two people.

So in a way, I do agree with this graphic. The woman who doesn't require validation from anyone is the most feared woman on the planet; it definitely frightens me to think about having to live through life without the support, validation, and safety net of God, my husband, family, and friends. I definitely fear becoming that woman, and I hope that seeking validation and connection with others never becomes defined as a weakness for me personally. I think it's one of God's richest gifts to us and humanity's greatest strength and lifeline. 

So validation ain't such a bad thing after all...

im thankful.
carrie anne

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Four Reasons Why You Won't Go to Marriage Counseling.

Therapy can be a tremendous asset for your personal life and relationships. It can bring clarity, security, connection, and forgiveness that some never thought was possible. It can breathe new life into tired souls, repair hurts that seem too difficult to mend, and connect people who thought the time on their relationship had run out. It's a process that I find so meaningful that I've devoted my heart and professional life to helping others strive toward these seemingly impossible outcomes. 

So why do people put off counseling for so long? Statistics show that the average length of time a couple waits until they begin seeking therapy for a broken marriage is seven years. SEVEN YEARS. Imagine the hurt and bitterness that can grow in seven years that wasn't there in year one. Imagine the task of the therapist (or most therapists given the statistic) of trying to manage the amount of pain and anguish between this couple who have been trying to live with/fix/avoid the broken pattern of their relationship for so long. So why the wait? When someone has a broken arm, we go to the doctor for help immediately. We don't stay home reading books, looking up articles on the Internet, or trying our own medical expertise from the Boy Scouts to set the bone ourselves when there's help available. So why do we do that same thing with our broken marriages?

I think for a lot of couples, one or both partners deny a problem is even there. Perhaps one or both partners see a problem but try to keep up appearances of having a good marriage. It's hard diving into those issues, especially if you aren't confident that your partner will respond lovingly or openly. Sometimes starting therapy individually and adding a spouse in later can work; it shows your spouse that you're serious about working this out, even if that means just you working on it for a while if the other is unwilling.

Another reason is fear. What happens if someone sees us going to therapy? What happens if I have to become vulnerable and share parts of myself/our marriage that I want to stay hidden? What if therapy doesn't work and I put in all of this effort for nothing? All are valid fears. Even in today's culture where therapy has become more socially acceptable, it can still be embarrassing to be seen in a therapist's office. It's also a pretty scary experience to go and sit with a stranger and share parts of your life that aren't pretty and hurt you tremendously. And I think that it makes sense to be weary of putting in so much effort without getting the results you want. But what if therapy does work? What if things get better? And what happens if you don't seek help? Where does that leave you and your marriage? 

Money can be a barrier to most anything. Therapy isn't the most affordable thing in the world, and it makes sense that people don't want to risk throwing money into therapy when it might not end up how you wanted. However, we spend money on some crazy things and then turn right around and say therapy is too expensive. Cancel your cable for a few months. Stay in and eat instead of going out for a while. Rent a movie instead of going to the theater. Have a spending freeze where you don't buy clothes/makeup/sports equipment/etc. Maybe even work out at home instead of keeping up that gym membership/workout classes. Eliminating one or a few of these expense would give you more time together with your spouse and the money you might need for therapy. When you consider what's at stake (marriage, family, legacy), therapy really shouldn't ever sound that expensive anyway.

I know for many people in the River Valley area, the quality of therapy has been a major reason to avoid making an appointment. Who wants to go see a therapist when what you've heard about him or her hasn't been great? Or maybe you've seen a therapist before, had a bad experience, and won't ever go back. When we realize what's at stake or what might be lost if this doesn't work, we don't just run to the first clinician we can find any trust him or her with our deepest hurts and wounds. It makes sense to be cautious and to find a therapist who is properly trained, caring, empathic, and understanding... and not only that, but also confident that you can find connection with each other again. It's one of the main reasons I stepped out to begin private practice in this area this year after 3 years of working in an agency: I want to be able offer quality therapy to help couples and have them know that reconnection and repair is possible.

If you are struggling in your marriage or in your own personal life (or you know someone who is/couples who are), please urge them to seek counseling. As mentioned before, therapy can foster changes in relationships and individuals that seemed impossible before starting the process. And hopefully hearing from a therapist and seeing that I understand the struggle to get into my office and start the process will help make it in someway easier to take that step for yourself or your marriage. There are still a few eager and hopeful therapists in this area committed to helping you and your partner get your marriage where you want it to be. 

I'm honored to get to say that I am one of them.

im thankful.
carrie anne