Biggest Regret

I know it has been a long time since I posted here. I think I am ready to start posting again. I hope my posts will continue to benefit others.

When I look back on my childhood I realize how deeply I felt emotions. Due to other people reacting to me and shaming in general I trained myself to suppress my emotions. I came to believe that the honest expression of my feelings was somehow wrong. This led to many years of depression and anxiety.
If I could go back and change one thing it would be this. To not fight the social pressure to conform into being someone I am not was the biggest mistake of my life. To feel deeply and express it means we are really experiencing what it is to be alive.

A Story of Child Abuse by a Stepparent.

By guest contributor: Georgina Capetillo

My story of child abuse is one that many have heard of. In fact, there have been movies, fairy tales and classical literature on the matter. Now there is even an evolutionary theory about it too. That is why it is surprising to me that a support network has not been established, which is exactly what I intend to do. I am talking about suffering at the hands of a stepparent. When I was 14 I moved to Boston from Nicaragua to live with my father and my stepmother. It was not very long until she became very abusive. The mental anguish, psychological abuse, embarrassment, emotional distress, hopelessness, neglect, and forceful isolation I have suffered because of her has left permanent scars, and that’s something I will always have to deal with. In many ways being abused by a stepparent is very much like being abused by a biological or intended family member or guardian. There is the notion of authority and care-giving as well as simulated closeness. Yet, there are issues that are somewhat unique- these issues are deeply important and must be addressed. As always, coming together and supporting one another is always the solution. Although this is an infinite list, I will describe the most common problems:

1. In many cases, the abused child wonders why a parent would choose a spouse or partner that is so abusive and blames their guardian for not protecting them. There are also feelings of betrayal- why did our guardian choose their partner over their child?

2. Forgiving our guardian is a frequent issue because of the issues mentioned above. Our parent might still be with the person who abused us. Or in many cases, the parent will not recognize the abuse.

3. Having stepsiblings: in some cases the abused child has in some form, contact with the stepparent who abused them for the sake of their sibling. It is incredibly painful. In other cases the abusive stepparent has created a family imbalance by isolating the child they are abusing from the rest of the family- this can lead to sibling conflict.

4. Being the only person who is haunted by the stepparent. In some cases a guardian’s partner comes in, does irreparable damage that is so dark that they are thrown into non-existence by everyone else. This is problematic because those who are abused can never forget what happened to them. The fact is, no one knew how bad it was, because they were removed from the situation. This is very isolating issue.

5. Self guilt: why let someone who is not even your family upset you much?

I could literally go on forever. I need to hear other people’s stories to gather more information on which situations are more common. I need to hear other people’s stories to heal. I think we can heal together. I have started a website and facebook group. Please join. I need all the help I can get. I am also looking for board members if we progress, which I hope we will.

I must add, this is not an organization that vilifies stepparents, but rather is a support group where people share experiences. There are wonderful stepparents out there, they are welcome to support us as well.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StepNetworking

Website: http://sites.google.com/site/stepfamnet/home

Who Are You?

I often hear from my clients that they don’t know who they are. Part of the process of counseling is helping my clients define who they are and what that means. It is important to understand that our identity (who we are) is not stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving as human beings. It is also important to understand that people are complex beings containing many dimensions. A combination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences combine to make us who we are.

It has been my observation that most people identify who they are by the roles they play in life (father, sister, wife, parent, a profession). In reality, these roles do not define who we and are not stable over time. They describe what we are doing at a given time in our lives. If we define ourselves by our roles and one or more of our roles change, we lose our identity. I have experienced this and I found myself searching for an identity. Our identity cannot be tied to only what is currently happening in our lives.

Our identity cannot be tied to one event or period in our lives. This leads to being tied to the past. Example: the person at the high school reunion who identifies him or herself by their time in high school. Our lives are not a snap shot. Our lives are more like a feature film lasting many decades that include our accumulated experiences. We have our successes and our failures. We have all made mistakes over the course of our lives. It is important not to define ourselves any specific events.

Our identity is not determined by how others define us. Some people will like us and others will not. Some people will agree with what we say and do. Other people will not agree. Their opinions in many cases have little to do with who we are and more to do with who they are.

Who we are is an internal process and not about the external. For me, identity is what my values and beliefs are (and those have changed over the years). It is my thoughts and feelings as well how I perceive things (and myself) to be. From this I can determine my purpose in life and not have it determined for me.

On a More Personal Note

I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.

One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.

I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.

Experiencing Loss and Overcoming It

One thing we have in common is the experience of loss. No one goes through life without experiencing some degree of loss at some point. Sometimes the losses are minor (a small amount of money, changing jobs, moving from one city to another). Other times they are more significant (the death of a parent or spouse or child, loss of a relationship, a betrayal, loss of something we are unable to replace, economic reversal). No one wants to have these experiences, and rarely are we prepared for them.
When we experience loss, what we feel is pain, but often we cannot identify exactly what it is about the loss that is causing the pain. We miss whatever we have lost and it just hurts.
This emotional distress comes mostly from two sources. First, the realization of how little control we have over what we experience in life. This realization is both frightening and depressing. We feel helpless and are powerless to control the situation. We want to regain a sense of control.
Secondly, what was lost occupied a part of our lives. It had meaning for us and took up space in our day to day living that was either physical or emotional or both. This leaves a void, and a longing to fill it. We feel empty inside and it is deeply upsetting. Many of us try filling the void with activities, a new relationship and/or, material things. Many of us turn to substances or addictive behaviors in order to avoid these feelings, but nothing we do can replace what we have lost. We struggle with our feelings and want the pain to stop.
The only way to heal is to allow the grieving process to run its course. It is important to avoid pushing those feelings away no matter how much we want to. Feel them for as long as you need to. Cry until you stop crying. No one can tell you how long this process will take. We will eventually release the pain and other people and things will enter our lives to fill the void. We will also begin to feel we have more control over what happens to us.
Allow yourself to heal. Repressing or denying your feelings will only lengthen the process and could result in prolonged depression and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without judging them or yourself. Find ways to express them. Keep a journal and write as often as you need. Rely on friends and family for support. That is what a support system is for. The use of drugs and alcohol really won’t help and might make things worse. There is no timetable for grief. But, remember that you will heal. Those feelings will not last forever.

Helpful Hints for Dealing With Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Alex Orlov for Life by DailyBurn

Do dark, chilly days make your mood cloud over this time each year? You’re not alone: Roughly 10 to 20 percent of Americans report feeling tired or sad when there are fewer hours of daylight in the winter months. With bone-chilling temperatures and blustery winds, it’s easy to give in to laziness and snooze just a little longer instead of dragging yourself to that early Spinning class — or, make a date with Netflix instead of bundling up and getting dinner with friends.

While many people can still function even if they’re feeling a bit melancholy, for some, winter brings a clinical form of depression called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. According to Kelly Rohan, Ph.D, professor and director of clinical training at University of Vermont, at least 2 percent of the population suffers from the psychiatric condition, but that percentage tends to increase in regions with shorter hours of sunlight. Researchers estimate that up to 10 percent of Alaskans experience SAD symptoms such as fatigue, overeating, loss of interest in activities and difficulty concentrating.

Another SAD factor? Genetics. Just like depression, your likelihood of experiencing seasonal affective disorder can increase if your family has a history of mood disorders. And surprisingly, gender may also play a role in your bleak winter outlook. Studies show seasonal affective disorder is four times more common in women than men. Though researchers have struggled to understand exactly what contributes to this gender difference, Rohan has one hypothesis. “Women [stereotypically] ruminate on feelings more than men,” she says, and brooding on those sad sentiments can lead to more severe depression in some cases.

Beat The Blues
What causes this wintertime down-in-the-dumps attitude? Research published in the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology this October reveals that it’s a biochemical imbalance that’s at play. Come winter, people with SAD experience a significant dip in serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood, appetite, sleep, memory and libido.

“When someone notices significant distress or problems functioning in everyday activities, like performing at work and maintaining healthy relationships, that’s the time to consult a professional for an evaluation,” says Rohan.

But even if you don’t suffer from full-blown seasonal depression, you may feel less social and more pessimistic come winter. “As the season changes, our circadian rhythms get impacted because the sunlight pattern has changed,” says Ani Kalayjian, Ph.D, professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. “If you know that you get less joyous in winter months, you have to start a preventative approach.” After all, you prepare your home, car, garden and other things for the seasonal change, so why not your body? Kalayjian suggests evaluating the severity of your symptoms (energy level, appetite, desire to be social) and then exploring forms of treatment.

Fortunately, there are several easy ways to boost your mood if you’re experiencing an energy dip this winter. Here are some of the best expert-backed strategies.

1. Soak up morning sunshine.
According to Kalayjian, winter blues will be worst in the mornings when you’re rousing yourself from bed. She tells clients to open curtains as much as possible to get exposure to natural light right when the body is waking up.

2. Maintain your routine.
“The most helpful thing is to try to keep up everyday activities,” says Rohan. Once daylight savings time occurs, don’t neglect your favorite hobbies just because winter spurs an impulse to hibernate. You’ll feel better knowing you’re still making it to your weekly book club, basketball game or brunch with friends.

3. Work it out.
During a killer gym session, the brain works hard to override the temporary feelings of discomfort by telling the body to keep pushing. You’ll naturally release endorphins, which will make you feel happier and even euphoric. A meta-review published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal in 2013 suggested that, for some individuals, exercise might be comparable to therapy or anti-depressants as an effective treatment for depression.

4. Flip a switch.
Research suggests that light boxes can help up to 50 percent of people who suffer from SAD. The bright light emitted from these devices helps the body awaken in the morning and decreases the hormone melatonin that keeps us asleep at night. And for those seeking a quick fix: Studies show that light therapy can spur a mood lift in just several days. “Based on the literature, [light therapy] is a very effective treatment,” says Rohan. However, since the FDA does not regulate light boxes, she recommends consumers pursue light therapy under the supervision of a professional. “It takes some trial and error to get it just right,” she says, emphasizing that timing, positioning and potential side effects should all be discussed with an expert before you begin treatment.

5. Ditch the sugar.
It’s common knowledge that too much of the sugary stuff will make us gain weight and puts us at risk for developing diabetes and certain cancers. And research shows that sugar has a sour effect on mental health, too. Countries that consume the most sugar have higher rates of depression, and scientists hypothesize that it hinders the body’s ability to cope with stress and can worsen anxiety. Many people crave sweet and starchy foods in the wintertime because they provide a temporary energy boost, but these treats will ultimately leave you just as sluggish as before. Instead, opt for eating complete meals with good sources of protein and fiber.

6. Get outside.
Both Rohan and Kalayjian recommend breathing in some fresh air each day. Studies confirm that spending time outside can relieve stress, so bundle up and brave the cold for at least five minutes to lift your spirits. “It turns out that going for a walk in the morning after sunrise can be especially effective,” says Rohan. “It gets light to the retina, but it’s also physical activity.” Two birds, one stone!

7. Develop wintertime interests.
Bummed that you can’t play beach volleyball every weekend? Rohan recommends finding substitutes for the mood-enhancing activities you enjoy in the summer. “Having fun is central to having a good mood,” she says. “What are things to do in winter that are fun to do?” Strap on some snowshoes, check out a new fitness class, take a spin on an ice rink or step up your game in the kitchen — you just might find a new passion.

8. Practice relaxation.
Some down dog could help you get out of the dumps. Practicing yoga, studies show, can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Plus, preliminary research on meditation reveals that breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises can actually change neural networks and decrease stress. Kalayjian also recommends progressive relaxation, a technique that promotes body awareness by tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout the body.

9. Book a trip.
Prepare for takeoff, because quality vacation time will certainly boost your mood. Those that suffer from seasonal depression will benefit from additional sunshine if they head south, but taking a break from work is important for anyone’s mental health. Studies show that people even experience pleasure from anticipating trips. “Across the board, SAD patients will tell you they feel better [after vacation],” says Rohan. But she cautions against depending on getaways for happiness. “I think it’s important to learn to tolerate the place where you live instead of jumping on a plane.” While you count down the days ’til your beach holiday, find ways to get joyous about the winter wonderland in your own backyard.

If you struggle with serious and continuous depressive symptoms, be

Living In the Real World

Whenever someone famous commits suicide people are affected in different ways. There is usually the surprise and shock associated with the sudden death. There are the questions of why and how could they? Most of them have achieved success and wealth and have adoring fans. Why would a person who seems to have it all want to end their life? They live in the real world just like you and I.

When these people appeared in the public eye they seemed so happy and positive and full of energy. It seemed their lives were so easy and they were able to have whatever they desired. What we saw was just a snapshot of their life. What we saw was only what they wanted us to see. What we saw was actually fantasy and not reality. These celebrities lived in the real world as we all do. They all had a history of life experiences, tragedies, losses, as well as the happy times and successes. Some had medical issues. Others had mental health and substance abuse problems. It is not easy living your life in the public eye. It affects how others see them as well as making it more difficult to have stable relationships. They lived in the real world and what the rest of us see is merely an illusion.

Just like the rest of us, life sometimes gets to be too much to deal with. Feelings of desperation and helplessness and hopelessness take over. It seems there is no way out other than to put an ending to it all. They lived in the real world.

If you look at what you think their lives have been and compare them to your own remember that you live in the real world too.