Can You Make It Go Away?

Can You Make It Go Away?

I remember doing monster checks under the bed and in the closet when my kids were little. I’d get out the “Monster Spray” (AKA room freshener disguised with a ‘Monster Away Spray’ label) and we’d do an All Clear check; I would guarantee the monsters were gone. In total belief that the monsters were gone, they would exhale a huge sigh of relief, pick a book to read, turn on their night light, and say their thankful prayers.

As I think back on those days, I recognize that the only reason that I could guarantee that the monsters were “gone” is because the monsters were never actually there in the first place. Nothing else has been that simple because I can’t use my Super-Mom Powers to make the real challenges, heart-aches, losses, disappointments and meanness of this world dissipate into a rush of lavender mist as I once magically Monster Away Sprayed their fears. Both of my kids, now ages 23 and 20 have experienced traumas (life-threatening events) of their own since their childhoods, and making the events themselves or the impact of these events dissipate away isn’t possible – even for a woman who used to be known as “Super Mom.”

As a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in recovery from trauma, there are several common questions that every person I’ve ever worked with asks. One of the main ones is, “Can you make it (memories, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, anger, anxiety, for example) go away?”

To which I reply, “No because in order to do so, I’d have to remove the event itself. And, I’d have to remove every external trigger (people, places, things, circumstances) and every internal trigger (thoughts, emotions, memories, nightmares, the fight, flight, or freeze response, for example) go away too. And that is not possible. However, I can teach you about the things that maintain and exacerbate the cycle that puts this domino effect in motion, as well as train you to respond in a way that causes you to  - eventually – believe and feel like have your foot on it instead of it having its foot on you all the time.”

“So, you can’t fix it or me?” They ask.

On the High Road

On the High Road

My older brother has always been there for me. He’s always had my best interest at heart. It’s not surprising then, that he’s my hero. Heroes are not necessarily super-human like Marvel Comics lead us to believe. Rather, they are super-in-touch with the human spirit and they rouse us to be the best version of ourselves. Initially, they believe in us more than we believe in ourselves, which incites us to try, trust, and believe enough to fully receive and release the greatness that is within us! The courage that comes from such inspiration is powerful, isn’t it?!

My older brother is a good man. No, he’s not perfect – none of us are, but he’s a good man. My definition of a good man is someone who more often than not stands up for and defends others, works hard, helps others whenever he can, and has the heart of a servant-leader-teacher-coach-warrior-defender! Do you l like my new compound word I just made up? He’s also kind, loving, encouraging, supportive, and loves unconditionally. To put it in Marvel Comics words: he’s like all the super-heroes combined in one man and heart!

The Oxymoron of Perfect Peace

The Oxymoron of Perfect Peace

When you combine two words that are polar opposites of one another, you end up with an oxymoron. For example: Perfect Peace or Jumbo Shrimp.

Let’s talk about Perfect Peace. Perfection is a trap. It’s not possible; even nature has flaws. In fact, even scientific programs have flaws. I talked to an engineer recently who told me that engineers always account for the imperfections in their programming because even they know that 100% perfection is not possible.

I cringe whenever someone says, “I can’t help it; I’m a Perfectionist” for two reasons:

1.     They are saying the word, “can’t” which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy EVERY TIME and

2.     They are claiming Perfectionism as a title or badge to wear around, knowing full well that what they have been shooting for is a completely unrealistic goal, and yet – they keep on doing it.

As a result, Perfectionists are victims to themselves and the world around them.

People who shoot for Excellence and Phenomenal - these are people I love to be around. Les Brown says, “Shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!” Now, that’s more like it!

There are two other words that are polar opposites from one another: Anxiety and Depression.

·       Anxiety is nervousness that can eventually turn into a 100 on a scale of 0-100 with 0 representing a feeling of peace and contentment and 100 representing panic.

 ·       And, Depression is hopelessness at a -100 on a scale of -100 to 100 with -100 representing the most depressed and hopeless a person can be and 100 representing the most hopeful a person can be.

People who are experiencing a lot of anxiety (intense energy that has no constructive route to travel) are typically also experiencing a lot of depression. This occurs because once the person panics with intense energy but doesn’t release it toward a constructive purpose, they crash. And, when they crash, they beat themselves up for having done so. When this happens long enough, the weight of it all settles on them like a 1,000 pound truck and they feel “pressed down” or more commonly called “Depressed” on a consistent basis.

Hope Triggers

Hope Triggers

There is a turning point in the vicious spiral cycle of PTSD, Depression, and Substance Abuse where one is less internally and externally triggered by all the things that bring back the nightmarish details of the traumas one has endured. It is at this Turning Point that they begin to become more triggered – or equally triggered and then more triggered – or maybe it’s just that they become profoundly aware of the Triggers of Hope.

And interestingly enough, these Triggers of Hope have ALWAYS existed it’s just that the Hellish Triggers of hopelessness, rage, anger, and entrapment out-yelled and out-waved down your attention – all these years. It’s not your fault, it was the tunnel vision of PTSD that caused you to only see the threats fueled by fear or the hopelessness fueled by that lying Bastard of Depression… but a turning point has occurred, and for the one who is aware of this turning, point, they cannot and will not be convinced otherwise.

But don’t ask them to explain it to you; it can only be explained through the experience of authentic hope erupting within and around the one who reports it along the turns and bends of resilience….

Context is Everything - God is a Consuming Fire

Context is Everything - God is a Consuming Fire

Recently, I received some difficult medical news. I experienced many emotions about it. One, I didn’t like the idea of a physician cutting out a bunch of my lower jaw (sorry to be graphic). Equally so, I didn’t like the idea of my left jaw bone being replaced with a donor/cadaver’s bone. And three, the 7-Phase treatment plan and the price tag of 19k really threw me for a loop! Now, granted, I would only be responsible for $8,500 – but still! The good news was that this 5 year old infection deep in my gum tissue (which has been draining into my body for 5 years and could have killed me) from a bad root canal just might be the culprit in my slew of health problems over the years, including but not limited to the fact that my skin on the back of my thighs and buttocks - again, sorry to be graphic-  if you don’t like unhindered discussions that may be disturbing, you may not want to read this one) had still not healed from their exposure to toxic chemicals in 2013!

On the Outside Looking In

On the Outside Looking In

Whenever we compare ourselves to others and conclude that we don’t fit in, we are less than, and we’ll never measure up, we have positioned ourselves on the outside looking in. Sure the circumstances of life can put us there too, but once we realize we are there we can then do something about it; and we MUST do something about it.

I think in images a lot of the time….so in order to describe this outside-looking-in feeling, I visualize a nice restaurant with a dance floor, and someone standing outside in the rain with their face pressed into their hands in a cupped shape position against the glass.  However this feeling can occur in a million scenarios:  a middle school lunch room, hallways in high school, a new student on a college campus for the first time, day one of boot camp and one’s first duty station, watching a group of ladies laughing and having coffee together at the mall, at church, at lunch in the middle of a busy work day, moms play date days at the park, a group of men hanging out and watching sports, a board room business meeting…. I think you get the picture.

A FRESH EDGE OF FAITH in the midst of reality

A FRESH EDGE OF FAITH in the midst of reality

Today, I am reminded of the journey, the challenges, the hope, and the determination that comes when one has a dream that is bigger than themselves. I think about my children who are working and going to college in Georgia. I remember my long journey of working and going to school for 20+ years… I wrote God & Coffee: in that order;; II;;; a fresh edge of faith in the midst of reality, in my 20’s while working and going to school full-time.

To anyone who is persevering amid the challenges of life’s daily grind, I encourage you from South Carolina; you got this!

CHAPTER TWO of God & Coffee: in that order;; II:    TODAY

Today I called Georgia State University with the simple plan of enrolling for classes.  It didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped it would though.  I was on hold for twenty minutes at a time, usually only to finally have a recording pick up and say, “We’re sorry, but the customer services representatives are experiencing higher than normal call volumes; please call back later.” I was hung up on by a machine too many times to count, and when I would finally get a real live person, they usually weren’t very helpful either. They, in turn, would connect me with their boss’s voice-mail, from whom I would never receive a return call.  Everyone basically told me the same thing.  Their memorized line in this movie of my life went as follows: (Script verbiage: person who plays this character has to be swamped, tired of taking phone calls, insensitive, and they must fail to put themselves in the other person’s shoes - - if they do all this they may earn an academy award in this movie of my life.)  “I don’t know who told you that you could go to school in August, but you can’t.  You can’t come back until January 2001 at the earliest.  I don’t know who told you that you could, but they were wrong.”

The Courage of Conviction

The Courage of Conviction

My husband took the above picture the other night in our backyard. His ability to see beauty, even in the midst of growing darkness, is an inspiration and source of strength for me.

Several months ago, I put in for a week of leave during spring break. My plans were to spend it with my husband who enjoyed spring break every year as a teacher. We would also be celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary. Plans to exercise together as well as to plant new dogwood and cherry trees, some flowers and flowering bushes were on the agenda too. Our anniversary tradition is to buy a tree and plants for the yard. I also had the ambitious plans of painting my living room, kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom as the hideous colors from the previous owners had offended my eyes long enough; thus, the reason I took an entire week off from work.

But, I blew out my left knee(s) exercising and simultaneously blew all my plans to smithereens.

At Just The Right Time

At Just The Right Time

Timing is everything. Oprah once said that success is when preparation and opportunity meet. I completely agree. I also know that our perfect timing and God’s officially perfect timing are not always in synch. Our time table is based on our wants, needs, fears, hopes, dreams, emotions, and our physical sight. God’s timing is based on things we can’t even begin to fully understand and it operates based on eyes of faith, ensuring that it is not limited by mere physical sight, circumstances, and human-reason.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Living a Life of Faith requires that one not base their identify, their destiny, or their worth on what people say or do to define them.  If you want to see what Living a Life of Faith looks like, look for someone who refuses to let circumstances dictate their destiny. In fact, look for someone who looks Circumstance straight in the face and says, “This is not the end of the story; this is where my story takes a turn for the better because I will not settle for ‘this’!” When people and circumstances attempt to taunt them into a breakdown, they take it as an opportunity to break through! You know when you are witnessing such a glorious event when the person acts in a way that confirms that they believe they have what it takes to do what they need to do to push through, move through, and overcome. Additionally, they do this for the greater good of others. As a result, at just the right time, those who live by faith do receive their breakthrough.

Be the Kind of Friend You Need

Be the Kind of Friend You Need

Be the kind of friend you need, and start at home. In a world where a lot of people are talking and a lot of people can hear, who are the ones who are truly listening? Good friends listen with their hearts. You can tell they are listening by their reply. Their words echo something you said, but they add meaning, compassion, validation, and clarity to them. You can also tell that they pay attention and listen by the things they do in response. Do they follow up and follow through?

Growing up, my brother had my back, and I had his. In the military, my Air Force sisters had my back, and I had theirs. I met the man who would become my husband when I was 17-years-old, wearing braces, at a phone booth. I’m serious! For those of you who don’t know what a phone booth is, Google it. And, I’m still BFF’s with my best friend from high school, but we’ve been separated by distance ever since I left for the Air Force in 1991. Needless to say, my husband has been my constant and closest friend for 26+ years. I didn’t start having more quality girlfriends until around the age of 36, and as I look back and as I look around at the Warrior Moms and Warrior Wives that surround me now, I don’t know how I ever survived without them. They inspire me to be the kind of friend I need.