It’s my birthday! Today I celebrate 36 years of life and purpose. I believe my greatest purpose in life is to help people! But, I know that it is not humanly possible to help everyone, especially as a professional counselor. Thus, I will accept that I "can change the world, one life at a time!”
Nevertheless, a long term goal I have is to develop a foundation that will assist unfunded and underfunded individuals to obtain access to the necessary treatment for their mental health, addiction, and/or adverse life experience needs. In the interim, I want to provide a list of thirty-six (36) free to low-cost support resources whether you’re dealing with an addiction, loss of a loved one, or a mental health crisis. Perhaps, you just need someone to talk with to ventilate your thoughts and feelings.
Many of the resources are peer recovery groups that meet on a weekly basis and accepts a donation or a one-time registration from the group attendees. Some are volunteer run warm and hotlines that will be a safe space to talk about your crisis. While others are websites to connect with a licensed professional at a low cost ($30 to $80) per session or with a monthly subscription.
I hope this helps you in your time of need!
If you’re in an immediate emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
I’ve been thinking about writing this for a few days. The holidays are not always as happy or merry as we would like them to be. I’m sure we have all seen the different memes about having a clapback or post about setting boundaries. Nevertheless, it’s been in my heart to discuss taking the obligation out of the holidays.
To the Holiday Host. Perhaps you felt the burden or obligation to host for the benefit of some semblance of family togetherness or to carry on tradition. Know that you can choose to delegate some responsibilities. There is the option to have different people bring different dishes or you can obtain catering from a local restaurant. This is to reduce the stress of hosting, gathering, and cooking. Additionally, I encourage you to emotionally adjust your expectations of everything going perfect and everyone being happy. Don’t pressure yourself with results to indicate the success of your gathering. Make your only goal to create an emotionally safe and warm environment.
Dear Member of an Unhealthy Family. Perhaps you’re experiencing anxiety about your family gathering. First, be okay with setting boundaries, redirecting certain conversations, and excusing yourself to take a break when necessary. I often encourage practicing a 30-second pitch around the uncomfortable/inappropriate topic of discussion (e.g. I see that you are concerned about [topic], please respect I choose not to discuss that matter with you or at this time.) Additionally, don’t feel obligated to spend the entire day with your family. Boundaries can be related to the amount of time you spend with your family. You can choose to limit your time to “just stopping by” to assess the health of the environment or 1-2 hours! Consider some alternatives which may include invites from friends, other supportive members of your family, choosing to go to the movies, arcade, or grabbing a meal and having quiet time at home.
Being Mindful of the Grieving. Many have experienced significant losses of a loved once since the last celebration of a holiday. Personally, I’ve experienced three losses this year, and know it can be difficult to navigate! Please know the first of many things will be difficult for most. Shoot, maybe even the seconds, thirds, and fourths. Know that it is very normal to long for the presence or your loved one. This may be the first of many things you may have to experience and adjust to without them. Especially, if there are certain routines and traditions you’ve shared with them! Please understand that is okay if you want to spend some quiet time alone reflecting. This not only applies to the death of a love one, but also the loss of a significant relationship and/or friendship.
Navigating a Personal Journey. Perhaps you have a relatively healthy family, but you’re experiencing your very own personal journey at this point in your life. Maybe you’re just emotionally exhausted, and would prefer just resting and reflecting. Do just that! You can choose to spend some limited time with your family or friends. And, you can choose to be alone in solitude. If you choose, you can let your family know you love and appreciate them, but you’re choosing to rest! Don’t feel obligated to explain, just ask that they support your decision and respect your journey! Remember you have autonomy and choice!
Most importantly, remember that many holidays are just ONE day. Simply 24 hours within a 168 hour week. This is not to minimize the stress, emotional discomfort, grief, or loneliness that these type of days may create or heighten. But, to put into perspective that it is still your day with or without a certain label. It is your day to manage how you see fit! You can choose however you want, and not conform to any pressures. Have a reflective day!
Looking in the Face of Suicide
Tim Clinton defines suicide as the “tragic and lethal culmination of a psychological process that results from unresolved events that create depression and hopelessness.” Suicide occurs once one has come to the ‘end of their rope,’ ‘lost all hope,’ and “cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel!’ The thought of suicide occurs from the depths of despair, and is an effort to relieve themselves of pain. I’ve looked in the face of suicide for many years, as a clinician.
Upon beginning my career as a mental health counselor. I provided counseling for children, adolescents, and adults that were experiencing a psychiatric crisis. These crises many times included thoughts of death and dying, urges to harm themselves, or have deep feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. My role was to assess their level of risk and determine their need for intensive levels of treatment and care. The pain for many was indescribable, and had become to difficult to continue to bear. Gary P. Stewart writes “the problem is not that such despairing people want to die; it is that they do not know how to live.”
Why is Discussing Suicide Important?
The reason one may commit suicide can never truly be explained, because the loved one is not here to provide that valuable and needed insight and/or understanding. Even if they left a note or message it still never truly absolves one of the distress of the loss. Yet, some rationales can include unfilled hopes or desire and unexpected and significant life changes that include:
What Risk, Signs, and Symptoms Should I Look For?
How to Help?
If you are the one feeling the great sense of hopelessness and despair do not allow the barriers of stigma, shame, and disappointment get in the way of seeking support and professional help!
As a clinician it is my desire is to help you learn how to handle unfulfilled hopes, desires, expectation, and disappointments in life. It is important to understand that “hope deferred make the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” according to Proverbs 13:12 ESV. It may be important to grieve the expected timeline for certain. This is not the actual hope, desire, or dream but the time we had the expectation. Lastly, it is important to extend to yourself self-love, compassion, and forgive yourself of regrets. You are WORTHY!
A Letter to the Childless & Motherless on Mother's Day Dear Friend, It was with great compassion that my heart become deeply overwhelmed with the pain of those who are childless and motherless today. The tears welled in my eyes and the anguish of soul struck greatly. While, I personally felt great joy and contentment regarding sharing the day with my mother, mother of inheritance (mother in law), God mother, spiritual moms, and friends. I thought tenderly of the children I called God children, and thought of the day in which I would bear my own. Nevertheless, my heart became wrecked with great travail and prayer for the women who are childless. Specifically, those who have a strong desire to have children. And, who smile outwardly and weep secretly of the pain of miscarriages, rainbow babies, and/or those who died prematurely. The tears, the cries, the weeps, the groanings, the moanings, and the longings. I pray that the God of comfort overwhelm you with his deep love and mercy. Know that the Lord hears your desire and is committed to your desire for a family. Know you are not being overlooked or forgotten! And, I pray for those that go motherless and whose hearts feels orphaned. In your desire to be nurtured and cared for by the loving kindness of your mother, to share a laugh or a simple phone conversation. Please receive the closeness and comfort of the Holy Spirit! Please know that the Lord loves you and know your pain. Please know that He places the lonely in family. Know that in the absence of your mother or father, God will not fail you. Know you have not been forsaken or abandoned! Be loved and encouraged today!
Dealing with Anxiety!
Dealing With Anxiety
What is anxiety?
Anxiety in general terms is an emotional state in which an an individual may feel worried and/or nervous. Anxiety is more severe than being concerned. Often affected individuals may experience intense levels of uneasiness, unrest, and fear. The feeling can be disruptive to their emotional peace and overall function by interfering with the ability to sleep, concentrate and be productive.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of anxiety, inclusive of some factors stated above, can be intense worry regarding “something bad happening.” The “something bad” can oftentimes have no foundation or evidence to support the fear. Sometimes there is evidence. However, the emotional response can be a mismatch given the possible identifiable trigger. Again, the symptoms can include feelings of worry, nervousness, fear, uneasiness, unrest, ruminating/obsessive thoughts, insomnia, and poor concentration. Sometimes anxiety can be externally marked by an irritable, agitated, and edgy mood. An individual who is snippy and snappy, may not be rude and mean, they could be anxious. Physical symptoms of anxiety can include “butterflies in the stomach,” heart palpitations, tense muscles, and teeth grinding. We are a three-part being: we are a spirit, with a soul, that lives in a physical body. Thus, we can carry these symptoms within our triune being.
How is anxiety treated?
I specialize in treating clients with anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. I typically begin exploring with clients in identifying triggers to their anxiety. What are some scenarios, settings, people that may provoke the emotional response of anxiety? Once we can identify concrete triggers, we work on skills to properly manage their symptoms in those various situations. If not, we began to explore cognitive distortions that contribute to anxiety. I identify as a clinician that integrates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Christian Principles and Biblical Scripture. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on challenging negative patterns of thinking, that shape the way we feel about ourselves and our world, and thus behave. If we can restructure the thoughts, we can restructure our living, and thus reduce the debilitating symptoms and behaviors of anxiety and other disorders. This is soul work! The soul is where we think, feel, and decide with our will. Additionally, I coach and train my client in various anxiety reduction skills that include mindfulness/grounding activities, deep breathing exercises, flex exercises, calming prayers, listening prayer, and scripture to combat spiritual untruths.
What causes anxiety?
Research shows several causes for anxiety. Chemical factors indicate that an imbalance of chemical neurotransmitters within the brain can create an inability to properly process scenarios, and thus cause anxiety. While biological factors indicate that a family history of anxiety can create a predisposition to experience the symptoms and behaviors. Anxiety can also be a learned behavior, meaning that growing up in some environments one learns how mom or dad managed their stressors. If mom, dad, or a primary caregiver modeled anxiety or the management of their stressor created a tense environment, one may have a higher than likelihood to live out anxiety. It can be a combination of chemical, biological, and environment/learned behavior. Additionally, anxiety can come in the form of trauma that breakdowns the soul’s ability to withstand stressors.
Does anxiety mean you are a weak Christian?
Anxiety does not mean one is a week Christian. We live in a fallen world. We have fractured and wounded souls and we are in the ever-perfecting state of sanctification. Due to a propensity toward certain conditions (anxiety, depression, significant mood shift) we are vulnerable. So the goal is to participate with the Holy Spirit in the renewal process, be involved in discipleship, and receive the grace that Jesus established through the cross. One is not weak because they did not practice certain spiritual disciplines but, one is made strong by Christ (because when we feel weak, His strength is made perfect in us!) So, it is a glorious thing!!!
Six C’s for Successful Marriages
I am a trained professional counselor with many years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and their families. I have facilitated multiple family groups to strengthen families in addressing problem behaviors in children. I have worked with couples who have been scared by the pains of infidelity, and women hurt by the wound of intimate partner violence. And, what I have learned with working with these couples and families is the need for Six C’s for Successful Marriages.
The Six C’s for Successful Marriages are:
Confidence is defined as the the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something with firm trust. It takes having confidence in your spouse for a successful marriage. Confidence is built during the dating phase by getting to know the individual’s character and displayed by their actions. When confidence or trust is broken, time needs to be given so it can be rebuilt, brick by brick. Both parties need to be willing to restore confidence through demonstration, renewed perspective, willingness to acknowledge efforts, and forgiveness.
Communication is the process of sharing and exchanging information. Communication can simply be applied to sharing plans for the day. But, most importantly, sharing one's thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding different matters. Confidence is built through communication. The style of communication is also important. Individuals need to engage in assertive and respectful communication. You know the old adage “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!”
Cooperation or collaboration is the process of functioning as a team and in partnership. Cooperation is working together for a shared, common, and mutual benefit. Cooperation is about winning together. It is the total opposite of competition where there are opponents seeking to win or accomplish something for selfish gain. It’s about being better together!
Compromise, similar to cooperation, within marriage is having the willingness to resolve conflict or a dispute by making individual concessions. It is learning and having the willingness to free yourself from being right. It is learning the art of communication and negotiation. Not to get your way, but to consider the points and feelings of your spouse regarding a matter. It requires having an empathetic stance to understand and share in spouse's experience. It must be understood that it is not in the best interest of the relationship for one party to always be right and/or in control.
Commitment is the the cornerstone of the covenant of marriage. It is being dedicated and devoted to your spouse unconditionally. It requires making an allegiance to honor Christ in your marriage despite hardship, trial, or tribulation. Commitment is living out the agreement pledge during the vow exchange: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." This was not just an exchange of mere words, but requires action.
You need the Chief Cornerstone in your marriage. Each factor discussed (confidence, communication, cooperation, compromise, and commitment) must be rooted and aligned with Christ. We must have confidence in Christ, and trust the Christ in our spouse. We must communicate in a honorable fashion as we exhibit Christ. We must demonstrate holy cooperation and compromise to demonstrate the love of Christ. And, we must remain committed despite various circumstances, to glorify Christ.
Our marriages in the earth are to represent the marriage supper of the Lamb. It will be the marriage of Christ and the Church. This is not a demand for perfect marriage, but an encouragement for healthy and successful marriages. Ephesians 5:22-33 MSG paints a great picture:
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
In all, the Six Cs for Successful Marriages are rooted in a seventh C, charity which is love.
"Called to the Mundane"
My heart often breaks when I see any individual going about life aimlessly. Their body moves at a pace that shows no speed, no direction, and no urgency. Their facial expression lacks joy, lacks peace, and lacks hope. They’re often frustrated, dissatisfied, and defeated with their current state of affairs. More often than not this is frequently a symptom indicating that someone is unaware and disjointed from their purpose and destiny. Thus, they have either settled and/or accepted life to be mundane and void of purpose.
For the purpose of understanding, mundane is defined as lacking interest or excitement, dull, ordinary, commonplace, banal (BLAH, BLAND, HUMDRUM) and unimaginative. Certainly, certain aspects related to the fulfillment of purpose and on the pathway to destiny are routine in nature and have that “day-to-day” feel. Yet, we are called to greatness to live exciting and extraordinary lives. We can often feel our internal workings within our soul alerting us that there is something more, something greater, and something more impactful.
Biblical scripture provides solid evidence that we have purpose and we have destiny. This purpose and destiny has been prewritten and preplanned by the True and Living God. Let’s take a look:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Jeremiah 29:11 KJV
All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old. God, your thoughts are precious to me. They are so many!
Psalm 139:16-17 NCV
For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].
Ephesians 2:10 AMP
Truly no one is called to a life of mundane existence. Mundane can further be defined as pertaining to this world or earth and temporal rather than heavenly, spiritual, and/or supernatural. Thus, I further understand and identify this to mean lacking the heavenly and spiritual influence that comes from God. As I woke up this morning, I thought “no one is called to the mundane” and to settle for life void of joy, mission, and intention. In all, my hope is to stir, awaken, and encourage everyone to pursue God and the purpose and destiny He has predesigned for their lives.
On several occasions I’ve come in contact with adolescent and young adult females who shared their stories that summed up to the definition of date rape. The variables were all similar, a young woman between the age of 13 and 19 years of age. This same young woman was attending a party with friends and/or acquaintances. This young woman was then coerced to engage in underage alcohol consumption to the point of inebriation, then encouraged to participate in sexual activity that could include everything from performing varying sexual acts to sexual intercourse. When confronted with the fact that they were in fact a victim of sexual assault and/or rape. They vehemently report that they were aware of what happened and they were in control. But, is that really true?
The Illinois State Police Department define date rape by the following:
Date rape is a form of acquaintance rape. It is the forced sexual contact by someone the victim is or has been dating. Regardless of the amount of time a couple has dated--in some cases, they may have just met and it may be the first "date," they may have been together for years, or even no longer a couple--when sex is forced on someone by the use of threats, intimidation, trickery, or in cases where consent cannot be given because of impaired judgment due to alcohol or drug intoxication, it is RAPE. And, it is against the law.
In most cases, the influence of alcohol or a chemical substance removes a person’s inhibitors, both physical and psychological. Being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is not an excuse for sexual violence.
Unfortunately, researchers have not been able to properly calculate statistics, because of many victims fail to report these incidents. However, the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) provide the following statistics for sexual assault among adolescent:
· More than 70% of rape victims knew their attackers, compared to about half of all violent crime victims.
· 90% of rape victims who knew their attacker did not report the attack to the police.
· 38% of acquaintance rape victims are 14-17 years old.
· 90% of rape victims under age 13 knew their attacker.
· 57% of the rapes happened on dates
· Only 27% of the women considered themselves to be victims of rape, although their assaults met the legal definition of rape, which is indicated above.
So, how do we prevent further incidents of date/acquaintance rape from occurring among adolescents?
Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge. Don't be afraid to correct your young ones . . . (you) might save them from something worse than death.
Proverbs 23:12-14 Message
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18 NIV
3. Guide them to the comfort of the Lord.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18 NIV
The Truth About Fear
I can remember being a little girl who would often succumb to fear. If I would see another school kid in public I would often hide behind my mother and refuse to speak. Once when asked to recite a speaking part in a Kindergarten program, during the practice I would spend several minutes crying excessively refusing to recite my part which I knew very well. I began to grow out of it as I had gotten older and more comfortable with my peers and teachers in school. However, transition always proved to be difficult for me. When going to high school and later to college I began to turn inward, introverted, reserved, and shy. It was safer to self-preserve from threat and discomfort. I respond now by being a risk taker. When I feel fear arising I try to do the opposite, and be bold and not allow time to past because it can make it even more difficult to progress.
What is fear?
Fear is defined by Webster as to feel afraid or apprehension; it is an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by or the anticipation or awareness of danger; implies anxiety and loss of courage.
Panic is defined as the sudden overpowering fright, unreasonable terror, of relating to or resembling the mental or emotional state induced by the god Pan. What?
A note about Pan: Pan has been described as a pagan god in Greek mythology and was believed to be responsible for sudden, inexplicable fear or panic. But, we are not called to idolatry. We are called to have holy fear, respect, and reverence to the One True God (Exodus 20:3-5 KJV). DO NOT BOW TO FEAR!!! Healthy fear is that of reverence and respect, awe to the true and living God, not associated with self-preservation due to an impending, irrational, and overpowering threat.
Hebrew words for fear:
The Spirit of Fear may attempt to mask itself in terms like reserved, introversion, and shy. Introversion is the state or tendency toward being completely concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life; turned inward or upon self, a reserved or shy person. Shy means to shrink away from contact with others, to be timid (easily frightened or fearful), hidden (reserved), and hesitant (bashful).
In the psychological and psychiatry sphere of mental health there is a host of Anxiety Disorders in which I will discuss in-depth later in the month. But, they include:
1. Read what God told Joshua.
Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success. Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:5-9 AMP
2. This is Paul’s words to Timothy.
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination].For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:5,6 AMP
3. John wrote the following in an epistle.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:16-18 NIV
Fear should not be ignored or minimized. It can have paralyzing effects that prevents us from experiencing the fullness of our callings in God. It can cause us to hold back and withdraw, because of our intent to protect ourselves which is our self-image and pride. This is often because of the fear of making a mistake, shame that may result, and the fear of the inability to cope with it. BE STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS!!
Confusing Intensity for Love
As she described the relationship with her boyfriend, she continued to justify and minimize the intensity of their relationship. Mya, a 16 year old Junior at Craven High School, had been dating Jonathan, a 17 year old Senior, for only six months. Mya had been recommended to speak with the school's guidance counselor after her swimming coach observed several fairly large bruises to Mya's arms, legs, and shoulders.
When questioned about the bruising Mya excused the bruises to making a clumsy fall. However, that story changed in later weeks. Mya shared that Jonathan became angry one night when she'd asked him to take her home, and because of her continued questioning he became violent. According to Mya, he apologized to her excessively promising never to do it again. She assured that she trusted him.
Mya began missing several days of school. She shared with her guidance counselor that she'd had been asked by Jonathan to skip school to hang out with him. Mya also shared that Jonathan would send her text messages frequently during the school day inquiring of her whereabouts, and only wanted her to walk home from school with him. When asked about other relationships with friends, Mya responded that Jonathan did not care much for her friends because they were too immature. Mya advised that she liked the attention and Jonathan only did it because he loved her.
Mya had fallen prey to Confusing Intensity for Love. The common thread found among teen dating violence. Mya and Jonathan are fictional characters, but this story is true to several teens and tweens.
What is Teen Dating Violence?
Between Friends, a Domestic Violence agency in Chicago, describes teen dating violence as the repeated pattern of mental, physical, emotional, sexual, or economic abuse where one dating partner makes the other partner feel scared, weak, isolated, hurt, or sad.
A Few Statistics
The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, loveisrespect.org provides the following statistics:
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG