Why Your Boundaries Aren't Holding Up: A Short Guide To Getting Right With Yourself

B O U N D A R I E S. What a popular topic this is today. We "like and share" the memes. We get pumped when our therapist reminds us to keep good boundaries and feel invigorated when we're applauded and supported in setting and keeping boundaries. But I've noticed something lately in my clinical practice as well as my personal life: 

Somewhere along the way, we have begun to use and abuse this word and skew it's meaning to skirt accountability, responsibility and due process. I've noticed something similar with the word authenticity but that's for the next blog post.

People are now using quotes about boundaries much like proof texting Scripture, which is to say, removing from all context and therefore changing their meaning entirely. I believe that many have forgotten or conveniently altered the meaning of the word.

Here's what I'm wondering: What will the world around us begin to look like if we assert boundaries without maintaining personal responsibility and accountability? I'd like to explore what setting and holding boundaries really means. And more importantly, I'd like to talk about what it doesn't. 

Boundaries are the end of you and the beginning of someone else.

Boundaries allow you to love deeply and to fully invest where you presently are (romantic relationships, career, parenting, etc.) because you have maintained your "self" (your needs, your desires, your responsibilities, your limitations, etc).

Boundaries inform you of when it's time to "go." They also give you strength and sense to know when that is and to not stay a moment longer than you need to. 

Boundaries come with really knowing yourself. Someone who doesn't know themselves will really struggle to form boundaries. 

Boundaries are the routines and practices you put in place in order to maintain a baseline state of self-regulation (i.e. self-discipline practices, maintenance of your prior commitments and responsibilities, self-care).

Boundaries are your responsibility to maintain and execute. They should be clear and if done right, they should be fruitful. 

 

Here's what they are not:

Boundaries are not for others to guess or manage. Boundaries should be clearly articulated. They should be “known” about you. You can and should expect others (if you've done your part first) to respect your boundaries. 

Boundaries do not skirt responsibility. Handle your business. Be dependable. Show up for your prior commitments. It’s your responsibility to manage your yes(s) and no(s). Boundaries and personal accountability balance well, in fact. Good boundaries mean, when it hits the fan, you will be able to be self-reliant and to accomplish whatever is needed in the present moment. This may mean, you've been self-disciplined, thoughtful, organized and generally dependable. 

Boundaries are not an excuse for poor self-regulation or poor self-organization. “I’m sorry, I can’t” because you are seen as generally unreliable, disorganized or lacking self-discipline is not holding a boundary. It’s lacking dependability. “I’m sorry, I can’t” when you’ve previously held up your end of the deal will allow others to trust your own sense of what you can and cannot do. 

Boundaries are not "in hindsight" but rather, in forethought. They are assertive and intentional. 

Boundaries do not leave people hurt and confused (unless you're dealing with a gaslighting, narcissistic, or toxic human being). In healthy personal relationships, boundaries are usually met with, "Yes, I know where you stand on that and I'm not confused."

Boundaries are not a set of rules you impose on others but rather the standard to which you hold yourself. 

If you're the one who is just now considering boundaries and everyone in your life is learning where and what your boundaries are…

If you're getting push-back and struggling with social acceptance as you gain self-acceptance….

If you struggle with learned helplessness…

If you've burned all of your bridges for the sake of keeping boundaries...

That is what therapy is for. 

Therapy may provide you with an assessment of healthy boundaries in your life. 

It can highlight any attachment injury which may be causing you to use and abuse the concept of boundaries to hurt other people in your life. 

It can demonstrate healthy boundaries within the therapeutic relationship that you can model in your own life. 

The therapeutic process should validate your emotional needs and help you strategize ways to uphold them. 

If you've never considered setting boundaries, begin with these self-affirming, self-exploring statements:

“I will be honest with myself and others about what I need.”

“I will accept the positive and negative consequences of setting and holding my boundaries.”

“I will give myself permission to say no.”

“I know what is and is not my responsibility.”

“If I'm feeling bitter, resentful or burnout, I will examine where in my life I've misrepresented my needs and expectations of others.”

“I will balance accountability and personal responsibilities with my emotional needs.”

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5 Reasons LGBT People Need Therapy

5 super-relatable Reasons Why the LGBT+ Community Benefits from Therapy:

October in Atlanta is PRIDE month, which means rainbows are everywhere! PRIDE specials are in every restaurant and bar, and the week-long Atlanta PRIDE Festival is upon us! This is a time for the LGBT+ community to celebrate and take PRIDE in the progress we've made since the Stonewall Riots of 1968! 


Celebrating PRIDE however, still comes with its own set of challenges. Despite the growing acceptance in our society, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are all still very real perspectives of some. The LGBT+ community still face exhausting micro-aggressions and discrimination on a regular basis, which often result in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. The negative effects of other people’s hatred is all too real. Therapy can be helpful and sometimes life-saving for the LGBT+ community. Why you ask? 


1. Because you're still figuring yourself out, and that sh*t is hard!

Realizing who you are and what labels are right for you can be confusing and discouraging in today's cis- and heteronormative society. Maybe you don't have any LGBT+ role models, or you haven't heard of any gender identity or sexuality that seems to fit exactly who you are yet. Having to constantly define and defend yourself is exhausting! Therapists can be informative, and they can be sounding boards for you to discuss all those thoughts and questions you have about yourself. 

2. Because you need to LOVE YOSELF!

Familial or social support can be sparse after coming out. People you love and care about may reject you based on religion or societal rules. Therapy is meant to be affirming. And you can learn how to love yoself! Therapy can also help in finding a support network who loves you for who you are! 


3. Because you're fed up with micro-aggressions

From your parents introducing your partner as a "friend" or calling your identity a "phase" to the homeless man giving you the stink-eye for holding your partner’s hand, micro-aggressions add up over time and ultimately create lasting hurtful marks, making LGBT+ people feel uncomfortable in their own skin. LGBT+ affirming therapy can help you cope with micro-aggressions and give you the tools to respond to them in a productive way so you can rebuild your confidence and live your best life. 


4. Because people don't understand, and you're tired of explaining

Parents, friends, teachers, and even doctors are often lacking in understanding LGBT+ terminology, culture, and relationships. Some people ask questions to educate themselves, and that's great! Other people ask questions like “Who’s the man in your relationship?” that make us roll our eyes and groan. Either way, constant questioning and having to explain yourself over and over again is a beating, and often lead to feelings of resentment. Therapy can help you process those feelings while learning the coping skills to help you deal with your feelings when things start to become overwhelming.


5. Because life is hard and society is scary!

In our current political climate, it's more important than ever for the LGBT+ community to be mindful of our mental health. Therapy can help to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety you might have about current events, and help you to see clearly the ways that you can live your life and be happy wherever you are.  


For The Mental Health Professional: Struggling with Self-Care

With October comes a change in seasons, a change in temperature, a change in the trees, and for me this year, a change within myself. October also brings Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well as Pride here in Atlanta. As a gay man with a mother who is a breast cancer survivor, October is a month that is both exciting and challenging. This month, my mother is celebrating her 4th year in remission and, to be frank, it was not something that came to mind until she reminded me. I also did not realize the Pride festival was going on until a friend asked me to join them. I was shocked that I did not remember such important events in my life and it led me to reflect on why these things were not on my mind.

As a new therapist in the community, my focus has been on my clients and trying to establish a rapport with them. My sole goal is to make my clients feel connected, supported, and hopefully, experience some relief. However, it dawned on me that I am not so great at taking the advice I give my clients and applying it to my own life. It was shocking to realize, that I promote self-care techniques, mindfulness practices, and attending to one’s emotional needs to my clients, when I’ve not been doing those things myself. These are things that I promote not only because it is my job, but because they are techniques that I whole-heartedly believe in and that work. This realization led me to want to write this blog to emphasize what self-care looks like. 

Self-care is more than a platitude on wall-art, a suggestion from your therapist, or life advice from a TED talk or good book. Not to say these things are not helpful but the true process and action of self-care is something that often goes undiscussed. This realization led me to consider how much energy and effort it requires of us to take time to check-in with ourselves, to ask ourselves questions about how we are truly doing, to allow us the space and time to take care of ourselves. For me personally, and maybe others, taking time to focus on myself tends to feel selfish or self-indulgent. Considering my life is not that bad or difficult compared to the world at large, it might not seem fair to take care of myself especially when my focus is to take care of others who may have it worse. I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate to have what I have. However, true self-care is allowing ourselves to see our pain as our own, to not compare it to others, to not downplay or lessen that experience, and to challenge ourselves to not feel guilty for trying to attend to our own experiences and needs. Allowing yourself to do this takes a lot of effort that I might have expected in others but was not always great at doing myself.

With all these things in mind, the month of October for me is a time to practice what I preach. Not only because I truly believe it is good advice to others, but to empathize and understand more deeply what clients go through when I encourage them to practice self-care. This October, I will allow myself to experience the joy and the pain of realizing that I am lucky that my mom won her battle with breast cancer and that I get more time with her, while others may not have been so lucky. I will remind myself it is okay to be scared that things could have been different or could change while also being grateful for how things are. This October, I will allow myself to celebrate my pride as a gay man which is not something I have always been able to do. For me, expressing that pride comes with knowing the struggle of where I once was and where I am lucky to be now. Allowing myself to feel that pride without the guilt of knowing others may not be as fortunate to do so, like I once was also not able to. And lastly, this October I will attend to myself and my needs and accept that while it may be difficult to care for myself while also caring for others, that it is both necessary and possible.

So, for those reading or simply as my own advice, self-care is more than just the suggestion by therapist, self-help books, or a face mask and a bubble bath (even though those things are important in their own ways. Self-care is recognizing and coming to terms with the reality that self-care is hard. It requires a lot of energy, motivation, and strength to take a step back from our busy lives and ask ourselves, “how am I doing?” Self-care is also allowing yourself grace when you cannot find this energy, motivation, and strength but it is also not giving up and trying to find these things again. These things may seem simple when giving advice to a client or to a friend, but they’re much more difficult when trying to apply it to your own life. So, for those of us who are struggling with or find self-care difficult, I hear you. I understand. And I hope you allow yourself the grace to keep trying and find the self-care that works for you. I hope you understand that it is difficult, but really, really important. Writing this blog and examining my own faults when it comes to practicing what I preach to my clients is hard but this is my first step in my month of changing my self-care habits, what is yours? 


5 Things You Don’t Know about Black Therapists

I’m not sure if you know this, but Black Therapists exist. Currently, we are only 19.8% of the counseling profession but, hey, that’s major progress compared to a few years ago. 

Thanks to the internet and social media, mental health awareness is increasing and the stigma against “getting help” is slowly but surely fading away, especially in communities of color. I’m not saying Black folks are lining up outside counseling centers waiting to lay their burdens down, but things ARE shifting and we Black Therapists are here (DSM-V in hand) to answer the call.

If you’ve decided to work with a Black Therapist or invite one to join your practice, there are some things you ought to know:

 

Black Doesn’t Mean African American

Not every person who identifies as “Black” is African American. The Diaspora includes hundreds of countries, thousands of languages, and millions of individual perspectives. You don’t have to keep track of them, but it’s important to recognize that one label does NOT fit all. Every Black Therapist carries a unique ancestry that enhances their clinical toolbox. Multi-cultural representations of Blackness within the mental health profession are empowering to clients that may be hard to reach and retain in therapy.

 

We Want Diverse Clientele Too

Black Therapists don’t just see Black clients. We want a diverse clientele just as much as anyone else. Many Black Therapists do specialize in seeing clients in the Black Diaspora, but most of us are open to seeing anyone, regardless of background, for whom our skills are a good fit. If you are considering seeing a Black Therapist, don’t be shy! We appreciate diverse clients and want to hear from you.

 

We Cannot Absolve Your Guilt

Black Therapists who work with diverse clients may run into “white guilt.” White guilt describes white clients’ apprehension to “take up space” in sessions when working with Black clinicians. They feel guilty about being privileged and want to atone for it. Clients can manifest this guilt in a variety of ways, from censoring their speech (i.e. avoiding complaining or constantly addressing their privilege) to putting their Black Therapist on a pedestal. The truth is: we are NOT here to absolve you of your guilt. You don’t have to prove to us that you are “one of the good ones.” All we want is for you to feel safe, so we can talk about your real issues.

 

Sometimes, Our Jobs ARE Worse

Let me get real for a second. Institutional racism is definitely still a thing! Sometimes Black Therapists get crap jobs compared to their white colleagues. A friend once told me that, out of her entire grad school cohort, only her white classmates were working in private practices or college counseling centers. Her classmates of color were stuck in low-paying, community-based jobs with long commutes, complex caseloads, little to no supervision, and mountains of paperwork.  

 

Here’s another hard truth: many Black Therapists are forced to take crap jobs if they want to reach Black communities. Funding is scarce in communities of color, and the programs that serve them are usually running on bare bones. Black Therapists are often faced with a tough choice: make a decent living (to pay off a mountain of student loans), or work with the people that need our help the most.

 

We NEED Diverse Colleagues

Finally, Black Therapists NEED diverse colleagues! We are by no means the majority in our profession but other races are vastly under-represented. As a multicultural counselor, homogeny makes me sick to my stomach. Where are my Afro Latinx and Latinx counselors? Where are my South Asian, East Asian, Central Asian, and Persian counselors? What about my Pacific Island, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, and Indigenous counselors? Where are my Bi-Racial and Multi-Racial counselors? Clients don’t come in one color. Neither should we! 

Authored by Kimoré Reid, Ed.S, LPC, NCC

Flowers to the Living: A Gift to the Griever

Five years ago May 1st, I lost my sister to domestic violence. It was a sudden, earth-shattering pain that erupted in my gut and flooded my body. I was shocked as I attempted to remember to inhale. As the breath returned to my lungs, my voice forgot its place, and all that came from me was a suffocated shriek. Thankfully, my father knew to tell me to pull the car over before he delivered the news because I was unsure of where I was or how I would get home. In that moment, I remembered that just a few hours before, I’d decided that home was the perfect place to return my sister’s phone call. I’ll do it when I get home, but now I couldn’t go home and make myself a liar. Who would pick up the phone?

 

Grief is such an intricate emotion. “The cycle of grief,” as it is often described, can be confusing for the griever.  It’s not a cycle, with a specific rotation of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is a connect-the-dot worksheet from grade school, the one that you weren’t quite sure of the big picture. All you were sure of is that dot four was a surprising turn from dot three, and the lines did not quite match up. Grief is like that for you, yet the proverbial “they” say you never forget; yet sometimes, you do. You do. And then, you feel those disorganized out of order emotions all over again.

 

You forget when you want to call that number. You forget when you want to hang out or see that person. You forget when for a brief moment, you can breathe again. That moment when you’re happy for no reason at all, and you feel that you don’t deserve it. For some reason, you’re convinced that any moment of relief or joy somehow undermines the meaningful relationship with that loved one.  Still, in your heart of hearts, you remind yourself that they would want you to laugh again. They would want you to live. But the true question is, how? How do you live knowing that someone you love(d) so deeply is not?

 

Often times, therapy is suggested for the griever, but for me, the therapist and the griever, I’ll admit that this process is too frequently pathologized. Instead, I invite the grieving to make room for your pain. Make room because burying your emotions does not put them to rest. Is it not to be expected that you feel something? That you feel nothing? That you feel everything? Grief looks different for every person. I hope that you find someone, be it a friend, loved one, or clinician that allows you to look at your unique process and learn to coexist with that hollow space- that space that reminds you that you’re human and to give flowers to the living while you can.

Authored by Anisha Cooper, LPC, CCTP, NCC

To the Person Trying to Steal My Peace

Despite your insistence on creating discord and dredging up the mud and the muck, despite your determination to drag those around you down into the depths of suffering with you, and despite your call to bypass gratitude, it will not be yours.


I say again: It's. Not. Yours.


My peace is for me and me alone. It calls me to be kind to you and patient with you because you are difficult. You do not control me or my emotion. I hold my power over myself and I will not give myself away. My heart softens as I see you as you are: weak, immobile, and desperate. Desperate for my peace. Well, you will not have it. To let you make me angry is to let you own me and I will be owned by no one. I will not engage you but I will transcend you on the wings of my deep, sustaining, Inner Peace. You will be crippled by the warmth and it's magnitude, it will inevitably shatter your hard-heartedness. I will be unexpected, disarming, and elevated. And you…you'll still be you. But, never, will you have my Peace.



Authored by Daron Elam, LPC, NCC, CCH

Owner and Managing Therapist at Summit's Edge


Why Your Military Clients Don’t Come Back

You don’t get it…


There is a common misconception and limiting belief in the military: “If you haven’t served, you wouldn’t know.” And part of the problem is, mental health professionals too often agree and tend to back away slowly, cowering to the overwhelming feeling of incompetence when it comes to treating veterans. But imagine if we succumbed to that pressure when treating clients who have experienced sexual trauma, depression, or anxiety! The truth is, you may not ever really know what it was like to be in combat, but you’re forgetting one very important thing. The service member in front of you is a person. Just like every other person you’ve treated.


If the veteran feels that you’re not making an effort to truly see them beyond the uniform, they’re much less likely to keep coming back. It’s important for mental health professionals to understand that developing an understanding of the military culture goes beyond just learning acronyms and rank structure. Taking the time to learn about who they are can go a long way to establishing legitimacy in the veteran’s eyes. The idea of, “you should trust me because I’m a professional who can help” means much less to a veteran than showing them that you’re interested in the whole person, and not just the identity of their uniform.


Drink some water and rub some dirt on it…


For service members, enduring hardship without complaint is part of their mental conditioning. This mindset remains even after they separate from the service. Suck it up, internalize, keep your opinions to yourself, and keep your mind on the mission. In the military, discipline is essential to maximize motivation and effectiveness. It is quite literally meant to motivate someone to adapt to the expectations or die.


The common belief is “I should be able to handle this on my own.” Service members are taught to lock their personal struggles in a box and to never speak of the box. Ever. Before you can expect to break through this barrier, it’s important to understand that this method of internalization and compartmentalization is how they survive in combat. Moreover, they are then awarded, celebrated, and sometimes promoted in rank for their heroic ability to detach. These literal decorations present themselves in patches and ribbons on their uniform, serving as constant visual reminders of the trauma they endured. It’s no surprise that when they’re sitting across the room from you being asked questions about their trauma and their emotions that you’re met with a blank stare.


Who’s got my six?


Trust is a huge thing for veterans. From the moment a service member is sworn in, trust becomes just as vital as food and water. They’re taught to trust their fellow service members to have their “six” (AKA backs), they’re taught to trust their leadership and their instincts. They have to trust the orders they’re under, and the training they’ve had. They have to trust that their equipment is functional and that their weapons will work when it’s necessary. Trust is all a service member has to rely on when in combat.


To gain a veteran’s trust is not impossible, but it doesn’t come easy. I was once bluntly told “I’m not going to let you screw with my mind before I get to know who you are and what you represent.” Service members have a sixth sense for BS. They don’t need sympathy and a person-centered approach will send them running for the door. In fact, treating service members takes a bit of grit, character, and humility. For a veteran to sit down with a mental health counselor is the ultimate trust fall, placing not just their own life in your hands but often some of the most precious and meaningful things they can think of…the memories of those they’ve trusted in the past.


Authored by Jamie Hall, Psychotherapist and Veteran at Summit's Edge, LLC.

To learn more about how you can better serve the military population, register below for Jamie’s CE

Surviving R. Kelly: A Trauma Therapist’s Guide to Self-Care

Trigger Warning- Sexual trauma/Assault

Surviving R. Kelly chronicles the stories of multiple women who survived his

predatory behavior. These women detail R. Kelly’s disturbing strategy to exploit

young girls (stated purposely because young women, they are not), and how the

music industry played an integral part in his systematic targeting of vulnerable

groups. At the interplay of race and gender, there are concerns of power and money.

Using the perfect combination of fear and influence, this man has gone without

reprimand or consequence. His execution, much like his music, was immaculate.

Because of his history of hits and club bangers, some individuals believe his acts

cannot coexist with his artistry. Yet, they do. For you, the black girl or black person

struggling with your survival story, this time of media coverage may be especially

triggering. What do you do when the writer of your favorite songs also rewrote the

childhoods of many into darkness? What do you do when family member X ardently

supports a child predator just because they know every word of “I Believe I Can

Fly”?


As a trauma survivor and trauma therapist, being at the crux of the work can be

exhausting. Many will tell you to speak up or speak out, but that may not be

therapeutic for you. I encourage you to check in with yourself about your specific

needs, whether they include expanding or contracting your boundaries.

It is OK to take a break from social media. Acknowledging the pressures of being

“woke” about black communal issues is a part of understanding cultural context, but

sleep is a form of self-care. You don’t HAVE to know everything about everything.

Turning off social media, news, and access to you may be your self-care regimen of

choice. Connecting to family, friends, and partner(s) that you trust might be how you

stay sane, but whatever you do, take care of you first.


One thing I’ve offered my clients during this time is more grounding tools.

Grounding is a form of coping that includes managing intense emotional feelings

while being present in the moment. Trauma is a metaphysical injury that tells the

brain that a traumatic event is happening now, rather than when it actually

occurred. Reminding your mind of present details can help refocus the brain on the

moment. Specifically, grounding tools may include concentrating on the main five

senses. What do you see right now? What are you hearing? Smelling? Channel into

this very moment.

More than anything, get in touch with a trauma therapist for continued growth and

maintenance. You are not alone, and there are a number of highly skilled clinicians

that are willing and ready to support you through your journey. Personally, I seek to

help my clients not only survive their trauma (they’ve already done that), but to

thrive in life. Surviving is no longer enough.

Why They Aren't Coming Home this Holiday Season

You're planning out your menu. You're readying the decor and you're ready for the holiday rush. But what you may not have prepared for is the call or text from your adult child: “I'm not going to be there this year, Mom” or “Maybe next year, Dad.”


Here's a few reasons your adult children (and their families) might not be willing to show up this year or next, if some things don't start to change:


You make them feel like a child again.


Coming home can remind you of where you came from and not in the Hallmark movie kind of way. Stepping away from dysfunction makes dysfunction even more vivid when you see it again. When your kids have been away (maybe even to college) and they come home and they see the obvious conflict, endure the unhealthy communication styles, and are made to feel like children again, they won't be inclined to return.


They don't feel wanted. Not really.


Family gatherings around the holidays can feel more obligatory, stiff and forced than warm and welcoming. Forcing your family to come together for the sake of saying you did may just not be worth the mental distress. Maybe you're thinking to yourself, “We always just did what we were supposed to. We didn't ask any questions.” And to that I ask, did that leave you feeling loved, appreciated and wanted? Have you ever considered the purpose of the gathering may have changed with time? And that the meaning of gathering is to foster connection? What if we started to set an objective for our family gatherings? Think about it...


You aren't listening.


You're talking at your kids. You're telling them what you think, what they should think, what they should be doing different and the worst part: you are assuming you know what's going on with them. You're forgetting that they CARE WHAT YOU THINK but they may not want to BE WHAT YOU THINK. And you're draining them. They walk away feeling exhausted, sitting in my office the next week trying to repair the damage and they're sick of it.


You don't respect their boundaries.


I'm always telling clients two things about boundaries. 1) The only people who are going to have a problem with your boundaries are the people who benefit from you not having them. And 2) You won't allow anyone to test your boundaries more than family/the people closest to you. This is because there is an intrinsic and hierarchical need to be accepted. Your kids let you push their boundaries because they are (naturally) afraid to stand in this world alone. In the four walls of my office, they are learning to push back. They are learning to accept themselves. And they're on their way, so you may want to reconsider.


You make them feel indebted.


You may have given your kids everything. Every opportunity, every chance, every grace. But you did not do their success for them. They did that. You should be proud. But if you're making them feel indebted to you for their success, their joys, their belongings…you're doing it wrong. And slowly but surely, they will become more and more avoidant. Don't let your adult children slip away at the hands of your self-importance.


There's no space for their differences.


The elephant in the room: Your child doesn't believe what you believe. They don't wear what you want them to. They don't have a job or a spouse or a parenting style you would have. But that's okay because what they do have belongs to them. Your child's differences do not represent your failures. They represent their individuality, their strength and their discovery.


They don't want to answer all the questions.


When you ask your child, “When are you getting married? When are you going to give me a grandchild? When are you going to get a new job?” It's incredibly short-sighted, self-centered and ignorant. Consider this: Maybe they are trying as hard as they can to make those things happen. Maybe they don't want those things. Maybe their way isn't your way. Maybe it's better. Maybe it's not. But your child is on their own path that weaves and distances from yours. This is appropriate, natural, and healthy.


Family time can surface memories of abuse


DISCLAIMER: If you are unaware if your adult child suffered CSA (childhood sexual abuse) at this point, it is unlikely that now is a good time to ask them if they did. Most people who have suffered CSA will share it with people they trust when they are ready and when they feel it's safe to do so. Often, children do not disclose abuse because they are ashamed, they are fearful of their abuser or fearful of the repercussions. According to the Darkness to Light Perpetrator Statistics, 90% of victims know their abuser and 60% are abused by a person the family trusts. You can learn more here:


https://www.d2l.org/the-issue/statistics


This one is tough. You might not be aware that your home is representative of you child's worst memories. It is common for individuals to suddenly remember painful past memories of their abuse in the context of time spent with family or revisiting a childhood home. Asking them to come home, may be asking them to re-live their abuse. It may surface resentments and result in re-traumatization. Your child may be conflicted--wanting to please you but barely being able to hold themselves together.


So what can we do about this?


You can start by giving your child room. Room to be who they are, to take the space, and execute the boundaries they have set for their best and healthiest self. You can verbally acknowledge their differences, their strengths and your acceptance of them. You can state your support for their wellness, demonstrate an understand of their needs even if that means that they must distance themselves from you. And finally, vowing to your child to engage in your own self-discovery and betterment. Get the skills and tools you need to be a better parent to your child. Seek to create new, authentic traditions that are driven by connection and not ritual.


Authored by Daron Elam, Owner and Managing Therapist at Summit's Edge, LLC.


Resiliency

Authored by Celia Webb, APC

 

Reflecting on the recent events that our country has experienced such as Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and the 16th anniversary of 9/11, it calls on me to wonder the impact that significant events have on our country and the citizens that live here.  In the wake of these events and those similar, I have seen some individuals emerge as stronger and more resilient.  While a portion of those individuals emerge as tenacious and stable, there is an unfortunate number that do not.  What happens to those people who don’t make the magazine covers or the viral videos on social media and instead struggle silently in the background.

Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover quickly from traumatic or significant events with little long-term impact.  However, how does one gather resiliency when everything or everyone close to them is suddenly gone.  What happens when someone just does not contain the characteristics of resiliency?

Resiliency allows someone to stand up in the face of a traumatic event, acknowledge the hurt, pain, suffering, and loss they have experienced, recalibrate to their experiences and move forward.  A resilient individual is one that can often bounce back from these events with a decreased level of anxiety, depression, and grief than someone who does not identify as resilient.

While there is no shame in lacking resilience (almost everyone struggles with this in one way or another throughout their life) it often looks like adjusting poorly to change, being unable to solve problems or at times, expecting others to do it for them.  Depending on the caliber of the event, these individuals may struggle significantly with depression, anxiety, shame and grief following these events, and may dwell on the things that have happened to them or have impacted where they are now.  

Regardless of your ability to demonstrate resilience, traumatic and significant events often impact everyone.  As we continue to experience unfortunate events as a country including severe hurricanes, mass shootings, and events like 9/11, its reminds me to refresh my self-care and resiliency skills. I have taken some tips from verywell.com on building my flexibility to change and defeat and felt that sharing them might be helpful to someone else.

  • Develop a sense of purpose and meaning for your life

  • Use positive self-talk to affirm your strengths

  • Reach out to others to develop a sense of support and community

  • Relinquish some control and accept change

  • Take care of and nurture yourself

  • Create goals

Each individual will experience every situation they encounter differently and that is okay.  If you find yourself struggling more than normal or on a consistent basis with different events occurring in your life, you may find it helpful to practice some of these tips or reach out to someone that has a higher level of training.  The most important take away is that it is a human experience to struggle, but there is a sense of community and support that can ease some of the battle.

32nd Floor Perspective

Authored by Jamie Hall, APC

 

In a world filled with so much hate, so much greed, and an unfathomable amount of acts of unkindness, even the most prolific and inspired people may find it difficult to find happiness or the good in man-kind.

It’s the day after the Las Vegas shootings. Tonight is a rare treat for me. I got off work early, did some grocery shopping and came home to an empty house. My husband is at a sporting event, and I am left to my frozen pizza and the chance to catch up on some less-than-stimulating television. But instead, also unlike my usual ritual, I find myself scrolling through news stories. I don’t often choose to corrupt my mind with the negativity of the news. I prefer to seek out videos of panda bears rolling down slides or read up on the latest NASA endeavor. But tonight, I can’t seem to help myself. Fox News, CNN, CSPAN, ABC, The Guardian…Each news outlet has it’s own update, it’s own “spin”, it’s own speculation on the topic. I keep searching. But for what? I take to Facebook and I come across posts criticizing those who continue to repeat his name, claiming it memorializes the shooter [scroll] … Those who are demanding more (or less) gun restrictions, and insisting that guns are (or aren’t) the issue … [scroll] Some blame President Trump, [scroll] others blame ISIS… Opinion after opinion, most of which only seem to perpetuate the problem. And yet, I keep on scrolling. This time I land on a post with multiple pictures of a young man. The person posting isn’t an incredibly close friend, but someone I find myself kind of wishing she were so that I could hug her and offer her support. I read her post. Over and over, I read it.  I feel her sadness. I stare at the pictures, and begin to memorize the face in each of them. She lost this person yesterday. And I hurt for her and for him and for his family. And I hurt for her hometown of Las Vegas.

It’s then that I realize; two degrees of separation is what connects myself to him. Two degrees of separation is what connects myself to a victim of a faceless man with a 32nd-story-view of the most horrific scene imaginable. Even scarier than that? Only 3 degrees of separation between myself and the man in the 32nd story window…And I wonder to myself how many more people am I connected to who fell victim to the man on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino? According to a theory proposed in 1929, each of us are a mere 6 introductions (or degrees of separation) away from any other person on the planet, and in this case, the theory is off by a few degrees.

I find myself yet again searching for something more. And it finally occurs to me that I want to know more about this man in the window on the 32nd floor. I don’t want to celebrate him, or memorialize him, or even speak his name. But I want to know more. What could possibly lead a person to such a horrific, dark, place?

In the Mental Health field, we’re trained in some ways to think like a psychopath or a criminal. Our job is to help people understand their behaviors and make sense of their emotions. This “skill” is also an occupational hazard. Because in moments like this, I still try to understand. I try to make the pieces fit, and I even go as far as to attempt to find empathy. I consider his “mission”, and consider scenarios in which he had convinced himself that this was what he had to do. I crave to know his purpose. Perhaps it was a religion-based decision, or perhaps it was simply fueled by anger and hate. I can’t be sure. And while much of me feels I need to know, another part of me is afraid to.

My fear is that we all possess this “gene” or characteristic. My fear is that we are all only separated by 6 degrees (or less) from the man on the 32nd floor. My fear is that we as humans will wipe each other off the planet because of this trait. It wasn’t until the late 90’s that research was conducted to determine what makes people happy. Did you know that? Up until that point, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals had only studied why we are unhappy, what makes us angry, and what causes depression. Multiple studies (even the happiness ones) have proven how the human brain defaults to the negative, despite the information presented to them. My fear is that the “gene” that drives our negativity, our greed, our hate, and our desire to hurt others, is growing more and more dominant.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, he knew then that happiness was not an unalienable right, rather that only the pursuit of it was. He knew how hard we would have to work to obtain it. He knew it would not be easy and that we would have to fight against our innate desire to be unhappy. My fear is that over time, we will forget how to pursue our happiness; that we will deny ourselves of it and succumb to the darkness we so often lean toward.

As I sit alone tonight scrolling through the sad, and horrible news feeds and Facebook statuses, I have to remind myself to seek out the panda bear videos and the beautiful pictures taken from the Space Station. Before I go to sleep tonight, I will say aloud the things I am grateful for, and I will pat my pup on the head, and scratch between his ears because I know it makes him happy. I will let him in the bed with me tonight because his cuddles make me happy. I will intentionally write in my journal the good things that happened today, and I will indulge in that left over piece of Tiramisu because I know that if I don’t, my husband will. Perhaps I’ll save him a few bites. I will allow myself to think of the man in the 32nd window, and create in my mind an alternate ending--where he was able to do these things too, and in that moment, he was able to break away from that cancerous gene and make a different decision…Tomorrow I will do my best to be intentional when pursuing my happiness. Because with all that’s happening in the world, I know that at least I can control that.

 

Living in the Intersection: Pride vs. Shame

Living in the Intersection: Pride vs. Shame

Authored by Anisha Cooper, APC

hen you hear the word “Pride,” what does that mean to you? For closeted folks, Pride is a sentiment not readily available due to the immense shame associated with typical prideful identities (i.e., race, gender, and sexuality), but consider this: how do YOU identify? How have these identities shaped your worldview? Your interactions with others? And, are you proud of this identity?

A Not So Happy Holiday

As the winter chill sets in and you pass your neighbor on the street or co-worker in the hall and you shout out a cheerful, "Happy Holidays," consider this: The holidays are the hardest time of year for many people and when you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", they have no idea what you're talking about.

 

Financial Stress: Divorce rates have been known to spike immediately after the holidays between Christmas and Valentine's Day each year. With the expectation that you out-give your family member or co-worker or you have to appear that your finances are in order, it's easy for people to over-spend. 

Personal Loss: There's never a good time to lose a love one, but when you lose someone during the holidays, that feelings cycles back in full blast. Sitting and watching people around you who are able to celebrate with their loved ones can be even more piercing during the holidays. It's normal around the anniversary of the loss for the individual to experience excessive crying, isolation, anger, anxiety, physical weakness, and/or spiritual questioning. Grief is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Grief and depression are not the same but they can co-exist.

Social Anxiety: Many people become extremely self-conscious or become worries about judgement from others in regular social situations. If you don't have this, then you probably haven't thought about the fact that the holidays call for lots of social saturation: the office Christmas party, the dinner at your cousin's house, that cookie exchange. All of these events can present great internal conflict for people with social anxiety. If you notice that a friend of family member is chronically cancelling on your events, be sensitive to the fact that they may truly feel like they are "unable" to attend. 

Seasonal Depression: There are speculations as to the cause of SAD and nearly 1 in 3 people are diagnosed with it, but this is just another reason that the holidays may not be so happy. It's important to note if you feel a notable change in mood with the weather. It's common for us all to want to go out a little less when that winter chill sets in. It's more indicative of SAD if you're experiencing symptoms such as heavy limbs, weight gain, increase in appetite, hypersensitivity, or over-sleeping.

These are just a few road blocks for enjoying the holidays. It's important to remain sensitive to these (and other) mental health issues that may be impacting someone's ability to "be jolly." Most people with these issues would give anything to enjoy the holidays but simply don't feel like they can. Encourage friends and family to see professional help with these issues. You will not successfully bully these individuals into finding the holiday spirit. 

 

Our New Favorite: Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Our New Favorite: Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Our new favorite thing is the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin (but more widely, podcasts in general) and here’s why:

They are mindful

It’s kind of a unique experience, to be focused on the incoming information in a mindless manner. The information is literally being poured into your brain without even trying, but that’s okay because it’s informational…which brings us to the next reason that podcasts are so awesome.

Suicide Awareness

Suicide Awareness

If you were not aware, the month of September is Suicide Awareness month. Some of you will read the quote about and squirm in your chair. For many, this is a taboo topic that isn’t often discussed in a public forum. For others, it’s part of a daily struggle. Suicide, particularly among the African-American culture, is highly stigmatized as the “unforgivable sin” (American Association of Suicidology). This highly tabooed topic re-entered our consciousness when young actor Jett Jackson self-inflicted a gun-shot wound. Even then, many failed to name it what it was: suicide (Ebony Magazine, August, 2013)

Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness

Chances are, you know a family that has a child that seems different from the rest. Impaired social and developmental skills may be symptoms of a developmental disorder, such as autism. Autism can manifest in many levels, which is why it is most often referred to as a spectrum disorder. Some children and adults with autism may be highly functioning, other may appear to have difficulty interacting appropriately with others or become and others can be diagnosed as early as six months of age. For infants up to 18 months old, parents may notice that their child provides no response to people or may fixate on an object. Toddlers may not respond to their name, avoid eye contact, or have monotonous motions like rocking their bodies or flapping their arms. When diagnosing autism in children, the earlier you see symptoms, the sooner you can start therapy at Summit’s Edge and improve your child’s quality of life.

PTSD: What You Need To Know

PTSD: What You Need To Know

When you think about those affected by PTSD, who comes to mind? Do you think of someone who has lost a loved one, experienced sexual abuse or assault, or has survived a natural disaster? Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a serious mental illness that may develop after a person has been through or witnessed a frightening incident. Events such as combat, abuse, and traumatic accidents are just a few causes of PTSD. These types of events often induce feelings of helplessness, horror, or extreme fear. These individuals may become extremely agitated or they may tend to isolate themselves. Summit’s Edge Owner, Daron Elam, is a trauma and crisis counselor specializing in the treatment of PTSD and other trauma-related disorders.

Friends and Growing Up

Friends and Growing Up

As you look around and see that your friendships are dwindling, you may not be motivated to do anything about it. But what if I told you that friendships that don’t help you grow are not friendships at all. As you start your new career, maybe get married (or stay single while everyone else you know gets married), have a family, it can become very easy to slip away from friendships. In order to evaluate your current friendships, ask yourself these questions: