Friday

Do Cafe Tables Block Bullets?

Some days it's just too much, guys. All the suffering that exists. The ways we humans have found to hurt each other. The many ways it is possible to be afraid. It gets too heavy.

Yesterday. I had a moment. It was over quickly but I am still stuck on it.

I was set to eat lunch at a local cafe with a colleague and friend. Unknown to me, the bank next door had just been robbed. As I parked, the adjacent lot filled with police cars.

As I ordered, I was distracted by the team of armed officers who made their way quietly through the crowded restaurant. One even drawing his taser at one point when he threw open the restroom door. Without a single word, the bustling lunch crowd silently watched the uniformed men work their way through; their posture rigid, their hands on their weapons, their eyes searching.

In that moment, I thought of a lot of things. All. The. Things. All the terrible things.
"Can a cafe table block bullets"? I casually wondered.
"Where are all the exits"? I made mental note.
"Would the bathroom be a safe bet? No, no exit." All while ordering soup and salad.

A woman with two small children finally asked an officer what was on all of our minds, "Are we safe here?" He gave a vague gesture (maybe a thumbs up) as he exited the building and continued his search outside.

Then my food was ready. My friend was waiting at a table. The officers were mostly gone. So I sat down and ate. Which to me, is perhaps the weirdest part. No one left. We all went back to eating.

Partly I sat because it was automatic. But really, if I think about it, I had an inner conversation with myself. One which ended in a subtle declaration "There is danger everywhere." And so I sat.

The rest of my day was also heavy. In fact, I didn't get the chance to tell anyone what happened.

But now I am home snuggling with my toddler and sipping coffee and thinking. WHAT WAS THAT?
"Are we safe here?"
"There is danger everywhere."

And I don't know.

I have no brilliant insights to offer about it. I have a lot of questions.

I also think of those officers and how that frightening moment is their everyday. I want to give them each a hug and a cookie and a day off.

But as for the rest, I don't know man.

My newsfeed is full of anger and fear. FULL OF IT. I make no political point here. Politics do not interest me right now. I kid you not, this morning I saw a police instructional video for how to handle a mass shooting. "Run, Hide, Fight." it said. Like "Stop, Drop and Roll" except for when someone is shooting at you.
"Are we safe here?"
My office is full of people who are traumatized.
"There is danger everywhere."
And I am cuddling my toddler....

I just. don't. know.
My son's pj-clad foot. Also, my sanity.

Here's the only thing I know. The ONE THING in the midst of the dark.

I choose hope. 

That's it. That's what I've got.
I choose to smile at my kiddo's naked booty (he just walked out of the bathroom).
I choose to say "thank you".
I choose to dig for love when there is anger and fear.
I choose to look at my corner of the world as my personal calling.
I choose to turn on Christmas lights at every possible opportunity and smile.

It makes no sense. It solves nothing. But it is everything. It is all I have.

Wishing you hope, smiles, gratitude, love but most of all hope,



Wednesday

Birth Trauma- Is It Real?

(Side note: You can read more about me and my therapy work with trauma here.)
Update: You can listen to my podcast interview on birth trauma here.

Early in my career, I became a mom. This meant, by whatever mysterious law governs these things, I began attracting other new moms to my practice. I felt honored to be trusted at such a sacred season of life.

And a funny thing happens when you listen to people, really listen. They start to tell you the things they don't usually say to others. They start to open up their stories and experiences as they trust your care.

And I began to notice something.

At first I thought it was a coincidence.

But over time, the pattern held. And my curiosity got involved. Now it has been years. And the pattern still holds. And so I am beyond curious. I am on fire about it.

This pattern? Women with medically "normal" deliveries were ending up in my office with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from their birth experiences. WHAT?

Some of them met all the diagnostic criteria. But a larger portion had just enough PTSD symptoms that they were affecting their life. Their sleep, their relationships, their anxiety, their bonding with their infant... were all being affected.

Now I need to pause here and explain. We are taught in school that PTSD only happens after a specific series of experiences. Namely, that the experience in question has to feel life-threatening. Otherwise, it's not PTSD. At least, this is what we are taught. (Thankfully this is slowly changing.)

So my mind wasn't primed to believe this was possible in any more than a few women. Sure, if a woman had a dangerous death-defying birth experience then PTSD would make sense. But this large group of women who didn't fear for their lives or their baby's? How could this be? What in the hell is happening here?

No lie, I used my professional access to ask this question of the foremost trauma experts in the field. And I got... nowhere. Blank stares and confusion at the question mostly.

So (a post for another day) I have dedicated a great deal of my professional life understanding this phenomenon. I trained as a doula (birth attendant) and I am currently researching this topic. We are only just beginning to acknowledge this trend exists as a profession. I know very few fellow clinicians who are aware of this and working on it. But don't worry, we are. I have heard you. I carry you in my heart. You are seen.

For those of you who found your way here because you think you might be suffering symptoms of Birth Trauma, here's what I want you to know.

- You can love your baby and be grateful for your baby's health and still have birth trauma. People who suggest "just be thankful for a healthy baby" don't get it. They mean well but they are shaming you. Do not listen to them. What you feel matters.

- You can have a medically normal birth and still have PTSD symptoms. In fact, most women suffering with birth trauma had medically normal births.

- You are not alone. In fact, research suggests more than 30% of women have trauma after their birth. And no, they are not okay either.

- There is hope. There are many therapies that work quickly and effectively on birth trauma. These include EMDR or Brainspotting (I offer these, click for the link). My research tells me that other treatment which might be helpful would include narrative-based therapies and other body-based therapies.

So what are some signs of Birth Trauma? Well, that's a trickier question than you would think. As of yet, we have no diagnostic criteria that we agree on as a profession. So I will just offer what I observe based on my experience and reading. If you have any of the following, you might have birth trauma.

1. Intrusion: This can be flashbacks, dreams or intrusive memories. For many of my moms, it is the sense that their birth memories (once triggered) plays through in their brain whether they want it to or not. They find it distracting, distressing or in some way unpleasant. At the same time, it happens more often than they want.

2. Mood and Beliefs: This can vary greatly by person. But generally there is some mood or belief consequence to what you're experiencing. It might include- anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, numbness, or emotional disconnection. It is an all-encompassing category that means these symptoms are having a negative effect on your life, whether internally or in relationships.

3. Avoidance: This one I find is less frequent. Some moms find they avoid things that trigger the upsetting part of their birth experience. In some cases this means they might even avoid their baby at times. I personally have found that this is variable. Some women experience it and others do not.

4. Arousal: This is a state of heightened emotions or attention. It can look like anxiety, an exaggerated startle response, or irritability. In new moms it can look like intense fear of germs, or other people holding baby, or a compulsion to watch baby while sleeping. It is as if (while part of you is so tired!) the other part of your brain is on high alert; ready for any possible danger whether real or imagined.

If you, or someone you love, recognizes their experiences in this list- please know you are not alone. Please know there is help for you. Please find a therapist who is experienced with trauma treatment. And find someone who will treat this seriously regardless of what the manuals say. One who will treat you as an individual. One who will believe you and your story. It can make all the difference.

And please know, that you have an ally. We are a small group but we are growing. We are listening. Birth trauma is real and women and babies deserve better.

Wishing you healing for your journey,


Monday

My Children Are Ruined

Guys.
I'm ruining my children.
Forever.
RUINED.

It's summer. I am home part-time with my six-year-old and two-year-old.

Like a wonderful mom I have been surfing Facebook and Pinterest ("working on my computer") while my children scream and destroy things (I mean, "play creatively") in the background. It isn't quite noon yet, and already I have a growing list in my mind. All the things. So many things. I am ruining my children. It is certain.
In case you're wondering how, let me form a short list of what I have messed up today alone:

-Children need unstructured play to develop creativity. Kids without lots of toys have it best. But I should maybe put some more thought into the activities I provide for them so they develop. Only if I care about them.
- Children need to be allowed freedom and autonomy in their play but I must be sure to engage with them so they are attached to me. Also I must watch them every second because they could drown or choke or impale themselves. But I shouldn't hover.
-Children who only spend time with their caregivers are more anxious and less flexible. They need to have exposure to others. But also if I let someone else care for my children, I am allowing strangers to raise them. Why did I bother having a child? Shame on me either way.
- On that note, I should be sure and model a happy and well-adjusted adulthood for them. But I need to make sure that doesn't detract from my unwavering focus on them. My needs are important but also not important if I love my child.
- Children need to be allowed to enjoy simple pleasures like popsicles, but only if they're homemade and refined sugar and allergen free. Unless its the ice cream truck and then why are am I denying them childhood nostalgia? I shouldn't control everything.
- Sibling fighting is totally normal, and will ruin them forever. So I must be sure to let them work it out themselves except I need to be teaching them how to do this through modeling and involvement.
- Screen time is ruining my children. I should simply send them out onto my plentiful acreage or my very safe street to play with the other children who aren't outside. Once again, see the rules about supervision. There are dangers lurking everywhere but I must let them explore if I want them to be functional adults.
- Lunch must be cute. Handmade. Free of dairy or gluten. Why can't I cut up fruits and veggies and arrange them beautifully? My kids would eat better if I only had knife skills.
- My house must be minimalist. With only creative-play wooden toys. But also, my children must learn computer proficiency and preferably know how to code by kindergarten. Do I want them to fall behind the times?
- A child's needs must be tended to. Always. This will make them a secure adult. Unless they are just crying because they are frustrated or needing to learn how to solve a problem. In which case I can stunt their development by rushing to save them all the time. Do I really want them to miss out on this learning?
- I should not raise my voice to express myself. But also I should not be fake. Authenticity is important in modeling and attachment. Unless I'm authentically losing my brains. Then that needs to be kept inside. I don't want to burden my children with my fakeness or my feelings.

... It is so serious. I have RUINED them. Before noon.
I know what to do. How about I visit a lovely supportive internet forum where moms talk about their mothering challenges? That should help....


(Original published on my Facebook page. If you enjoyed this, you should follow me there!)



How To Support Loved Ones With Infertility- 2 Minute Therapy

Love someone who is experiencing infertility? You came to the right place! My top 3 "Dos and Don'ts" for supporting your loved ones facing infertility.




Thursday

Why Is Infertility So Hard To Get Over?- 2 Minute Therapy

Why is Infertility so much trickier to "get over" than other forms of loss or struggle?



Helping Your Loved Ones With Trauma- 2 Minute Therapy


Licensed therapist Krysta Dancy talks about ways you can help your loved ones recover from trauma. A follow up to her earlier videos "What is Trauma" and "How to Treat Your Trauma"
*LINKS HERE*
Krysta Dancy talks about the best practices for treating trauma both at home and in the therapy office- a follow up to her earlier video "What Is Trauma"
*LINKS HERE*
"What is Trauma?"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRCwt...
"How To Treat Trauma"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7gIY...
Krysta's Website- www.CounselingInRoseville.com
EMDR- Information and latest research- www.emdria.org

Common Sense Disclaimers- This is not a substitute for medical advice or for therapeutic advice. I do not know you personally. My advice cannot be seen as professional advice specific to your condition or needs. This video is intended for interest and information only and is never an implied professional relationship nor is it a substitute for one.

Wednesday

How To Treat Your Trauma- 2 Minute Therapy



Krysta Dancy talks about the best practices for treating trauma both at home and in the therapy office- a follow up to her earlier video "What Is Trauma"
*LINKS HERE*
"What is Trauma?"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRCwto-Zjxs
"How to Help Your Loved One Through Trauma"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzilZwY6E8U
Krysta's Website- www.CounselingInRoseville.com
EMDR- Information and latest research- www.emdria.org

Common Sense Disclaimers- This is not a substitute for medical advice or for therapeutic advice. I do not know you personally. My advice cannot be seen as professional advice specific to your condition or needs. This video is intended for interest and information only and is never an implied professional relationship nor is it a substitute for one.

What Is Trauma? - 2 Minute Therapy



Krysta gives a quick talk on "What Is Trauma"- how it happens and what is going on in your brain anyway? Krysta Dancy is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. Her licensing and practice information can be found at her website www.CounselingInRoseville.com
*LINKS HERE*
How to Treat Your Trauma: https://youtu.be/k7gIYS4AHyQ
How to Help Loved Ones With Trauma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzilZ...

Common Sense Disclaimer: This information is for interest and educational purposes only. It can never substitute for a professional opinion specific to your situation and condition. I don't know you and so this information should not be seen as professional advice or a professional relationship.

All That Matters Is- You Have A Healthy Baby

"Well," patting her on the hand "all that matters is- you have a healthy baby."

I watch her deflate. Her courage sags away from her. It was scary to tell the truth. Now she feels ashamed. She agrees out of embarrassment.

No! I want to say.

NO! That is not "all that matters".  Because a healthy mom matters too.

And sometimes we wear our scars on the outside. But sometimes the scars are hidden, and no less deep.

Sometimes our scars are in our sense of violation. When our body is not treated as our own.
Sometimes it is our sense of powerlessness. When our voice is ignored or mocked.
Sometimes it is in primal fear. When our lives hang in the balance and no one is giving any answers.
Sometimes it is in the rip of our mother's heart. When our baby is taken away and no one will tell us why.
Sometimes it is in our desperate loneliness. When we enter the gates of deep, dark, reckoning. And we do it without support. Utterly alone.

The scars we wear on the inside are just as real.
The health of a mother matters just as much.

A healthy baby isn't all that matters.

I am here. I hear you. I see you. I acknowledge your scars both seen and unseen. You matter to me mama. You matter to me.

Tell your stories mamas. Your pain is real. Your trauma is real.




The Tree

I am in a love affair. Outside my window is the most beautiful tree in the world. You might not believe me, so let me offer photographic evidence collected over time.




I like to think of my office as the Tree House- I think you can see why. The point is, this is serious love. 
Ode to Tree or something like that.

Trees have played an important role at different points in my life. So... let me just play it fast and loose and say: I love trees. 

Fast forward: I have been licensed a few years but I am brand new at supervising counseling interns. I am very young (as opposed to now, when I am full of wisdom). Younger than most of the people I am supervising. Suddenly, my mentor and dear friend is seriously injured. And, of course, I do everything I can to help in his recovery. In part, this means I am "him" for a month- filling in his very big shoes.

Here's the problem though. I am so not him. He's the kind of mentor everyone wants. In my book, he's kind of a big deal. He's the sort of person who makes you feel safe, and seen, and valuable and competent all at the same time. The sort of person that you want to be around. The sort of person you feel lucky to be around. Combine that with decades of experience as a therapist. He is a valuable well of knowledge and experience in a package of infectious warmth. And guess what? I'm not him.

I'm sooooo not him.

Not even close.

So... it is the holidays. I am a mom and business owner. I am worried about my dear friend and mentor. And I am trying to be him. Sort of. In that, I am trying to be him and failing miserably at it. Because, well, none of us do that very well.

And everywhere I go in his place, there is a new group of people that is so very worried about this man they love. They are desperate for updates and for reassurance. Reassurance I cannot honestly give them in the early weeks. And they are so painfully aware I am not him. 

And I just keep thinking, really Lord?

And I let myself get caught up. Caught up in the worry. Caught up in my feelings of inadequacy. Becoming very internally aware of all the ways I fall short. The experience I am missing. The wisdom. The sort of benevolent-comfort vibe that I wish I had.

I don't do zen very naturally.

I know, hide your shock.

And I enter this store at the exact right moment. And my eyes fall on this necklace. 



And in that moment all the trees I have loved flood into my mind. I stare at this necklace and I realize what I need to do. I make myself a promise: I will stop being a poor version of someone else. Instead, I will be the best version of me.

And honestly, I don't even know what that looks like in that moment. I don't have some great insight here. It's completely unclear and I don't know how I'm going to get there. But I know in my gut, this is a promise I must find a way to keep.

And I guess I'm sharing this for two reasons. One, because I am obsessed with my tree in the way a proud pet owner must talk about their pet (and share pictures). And so I will take any opportunity to talk about it. Two, because I wonder if you might be experiencing this too? Is there somewhere in your life that you are trying your very best- to be a poor version of someone else? What might happen if you let that go? You're not succeeding at it anyway. You can't be. What if you made a brazen promise to yourself- to be your best self... and no one else?

Tree-hugging,