Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Declaring Our Independence

Each year on July 4th, I celebrate my independence from my eating disorder once again.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how many other (and possibly even greater) challenges I may have faced since then. I still celebrate my recovery from “Ed”, as many eating disorder sufferers today term their disease, with all the gusto and force of the newly recovered, hardly believing my good fortune, scarcely comprehending the courage in what I have just achieved.

“This”, I find myself thinking to myself once again, “is worth all the hard work and effort and the years of struggle it took to get here. This is worth the time, the expense, the pain and suffering of the in-between days when I was neither as sick as I had been nor as well as I might yet be.”

In other words, each year, and yet again, I rediscover that recovery is worth it.

There are so many incredible experiences that I have had since that I could never have had while I spent my days engaged in the endless ruminations over weight, calories, numbers, sizes, shapes, portions, and reflections in a coated aluminum pane of glass that my disease required of me.

There are so many bright lights, interesting sights, fascinating people, fun hobbies, rewarding work, and loving connections that I never was able to participate in while my time was wrapped up with “Ed”.

But I can and do participate in them now.

While today, on some level, it is hard to believe that it took me as long as it did to choose to work as hard as I knew I was capable of working towards my own recovery, I liken that to the process that one goes through from denial to acceptance when they are dying, whether it be an emotional or mental, or a true physical death. 

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes about this process when she outlines her research into the Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, grief, and acceptance. I went through all of these stages, and sometimes out of order, and definitely multiple times, on my own path towards choosing and then achieving recovery. Some days I was very accepting of the fact that I was ill and needed to work hard and follow the advice of my treatment team in order to heal. Other days I was not as accepting, for whatever reason, whether it was because I was scared I wouldn’t know who I was without a day consumed by “Ed”, or whether it was because I didn’t feel quite as sick that day and I thought that maybe it wasn’t as serious as my team had made it out to be.

There were also many other reasons.

But whatever the reason, I grieved, erratically but in time fully, and when at last I woke up one day to discover that I had been in sustained recovery for quite some number of days, I felt the impact of the independence I had won for the very first time.

120702-fireworkssIn those first moments of awareness, all the fireworks on the planet would not have been enough to express my triumph, or my joy. Every Fourth of July since then, as the fireworks explode overhead, another, identical set of fireworks explodes in my heart, and I count my blessings, and I thank myself yet again for displaying the bravery and the perseverance and the vision to pursue my recovery like my life depended on it….because it did.

Looking back, I can see that now. Even if I had managed to survive the ravages of my eating disorder and somehow settle into “maintain”, I would not have been living. I would have been existing, trapped in a cycle of endless painful application for acceptance from a part of me that would never willingly have given it, no matter how nicely I asked.

Today, I can ask for and receive my own acceptance, and all in the space of a few moments. I have learned how to extend the same kindness and compassion that I offer to others to myself as well. No longer do I find my principle source of self-esteem in what I achieve, but rather I take it genuinely from not even who I am, but from the simple fact that I am.

I am a human being. I have faced death, and not just physical death but death of all my hopes and dreams, and I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have won my independence. Today my work and my passion is to share with others what I have discovered about the power of the human spirit to not just survive but to triumph over adversity. Through my work, through how I live my life, and most of all through how I celebrate the Fourth of July each year, I am living proof that recovery is not just possible, but real.

And I wish the same for you.

If you are struggling to overcome a significant life challenge such as an eating disorder, and you don’t want to wait until the next Fourth of July to get started towards your goal, then Southlake Counseling can help. At Southlake Counseling, we not only have more than two decades of training and expertise that supports us in our life-changing work, but each member of our staff also brings to the table their own personal experience of recovering from a significant life challenge. In other words, we get it, we have been there, we understand what it takes, and we can help you to get there too. If you are ready to say “no” to staying stuck and say “yes” to celebrating your independence, we look forward to hearing from you! Contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com for more information.

Be Well,

Kimberly

 

 

Your Weekly Meditation: Emotions, Like People, Often Need to Be Unfolded to Be Understood

Emotions, like people, often need to be unfolded to be understood.

Sometimes a person may appear quite reserved – even unfriendly – but then over time, with trust and consistency, layer by layer gets unwrapped and that person’s true personality and warmth finally shines through. In the same way, just because an emotion may initially introduce itself to you only on one level, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other, deeper emotions at work beneath it. For instance, “anger” may in time reveal itself as “fear.” “Elation” may turn into “anxiety.” “Sadness” may make way for “peace.” Just as a friend often requires time and attention before the fullness of their personality is unfolded, so too do your own emotions often require your consistent time and attention to become fully known.

This week I resolve to: Notice the presence of initial strong emotions and take the time to greet them, sit down, have a conversation, and get to know them in their entirety.  As I do this, I also more fully meet myself.

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: 5 Reasons to Love Your Male Brain

My motto was to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was to keep swinging. –Hank Aaron

Life takes on meaning when you become motivated, set goals, and charge after them in an unstoppable manner. –Les Brown

In part one of this post, I shared 5 reasons to love your female brain. If you are one of my female readers, you no doubt enjoyed part one immensely! If you are one of my male readers, you might have been left wondering, “hey, what about me?”

Not to worry. This week’s post should have you covered – and in a way that will more than make up for the apparent oversight in part one.

The two quotes above are also ones I picked out for the Southlake Counseling website. Through the difficult daily journey of my own recovery work, these goal-oriented quotes helped me feel the positive energy of taking action and reminded me that it is just when a goal seems most distant that I often receive the most benefit from redoubling my efforts.

I chose Les Brown’s quote for the Southlake website because I knew from the first day I set my sights on achieving full recovery from my eating disorder, anxiety and depression, that I wanted my life to take on meaning – much more meaning than life could ever have or hold when I was spending the bulk of my time and energy managing my moods or the symptoms of an eating disorder.

In the same way, Hank Aaron’s quote really spoke to me because I deeply admired other people, mentors, therapists, public figures, family and friends, who would “keep swinging” no matter what life handed them. These people seemed so strong, radiant really, and I looked up to them. They were my heroes then, and they still are today.

What I didn’t know when I was working so hard on my recovery is that my female brain wasn’t quite as genetically well-equipped to focus single-mindedly on a goal or task as some of my recovering male friends’ brains were. They would get ready, get set, and GO….hauling butt down the field while I was still negotiating my first steps out of the gate.

I blamed myself – thinking it was my fault, or a character flaw. I didn’t know it was a simple case of feminine brain DNA at work. Female brains and male brains may share 99 percent of their genetic coding, but it is the one percent that differs which accounts for these variances in personality, behavior, and focus. While my brain was busy navigating the how-to’s with its emotional circuits, my male friends were dipping in to their analytical brain structures to make quick work of A to Z. We eventually got to the same place with equally fine results. It just took me a bit longer.

Today, I can appreciate these differences in DNA brain coding, which allows me to maximize my enjoyment in working with a diverse group of male and female professionals at Southlake Counseling and to play to the strengths of each. My knowledge of the genetic differences in male and female brains also helps me help my clients to delve down deep and create a sense of themselves that goes far beyond simple environmental experiences.

This is also why I so loved reading Dr. Louann Brizendine’s twin bestsellers, “The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain”. Dr. Brizendine wrote “The Female Brain” first, and she always intended to stop there. She even jokes in the introduction to “The Male Brain” that when she first proposed the idea of a complementary volume on male brains, her colleagues laughed and said, “That will be a short book! Maybe more of a pamphlet.”

She then goes on to share her own reaction to the joshing as both a wife and the mother of a son. Simply put, she was struck by how unfair it is to both women and men that, while past research into human biology has largely ignored the female brain in favor of the male brain, we as a society can still so casually reduce the state of maleness down to a stereotype that focuses on the “brain below the belt.”

With “The Male Brain,” Dr. Brizendine set out to level the playing field. She did a fantastic job, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the wonderful world of the male brain and how well matched male and female brains really are to complement one another.

So for post two in our series on the brain, I give you 5 reasons to love your male brain.

5 Reasons to Love Your Male Brain:

  1. As Dr. Brizendine says, your brain is a “lean, mean, problem-solving machine.” What’s not to love about that?
  2. You thrive in the presence of competition.
  3. Your “brain below the belt” drive from your teen years onward literally ensures survival of the species – and your fertility remains for the balance of your lifespan.
  4. You have the capacity to love and bond with your mate and children every bit as deeply as any female brain does.
  5. You will fight to the death to protect loved ones from harm.

If you found this list interesting, I also highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Dr. Brizendine’s “The Male Brain.” You will thank me later – I promise!

Be Well,

Kimberly

If you are struggling to make sense of your inner mental and emotional life and often feel like you are on ever-shifting sands, Southlake Counseling can help. There are many genetic as well as environmental factors that can affect mental and physical health and emotional and relational wellbeing. Southlake Counseling’s comprehensive individual and group services and our highly trained, empathetic professional staff can partner with you to help you troubleshoot areas of concern and make the most of your strengths, gifts, and dreams! Visit www.southlakecounseling.com to learn more.

Your Weekly Meditation: Emotions Are Friendly Messengers

Emotions are friendly messengers.

In the same way that you might feel overwhelmed by the sight of a tidal wave coming toward you, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the experience of your own intense emotions welling up within you – or the strong emotions of others headed in your direction. Emotions are not the enemy. They also do not necessarily belong to you. Sometimes you may be tuning in to the elevated emotions of peers, supervisors, or loved ones. Other times the emotions may belong to you, but their intensity may relate not just to one specific situation, but to one or more unresolved experiences you have had over time. In any case, emotions are not your enemy. They are friendly messengers letting you know that your own attention is needed.

This week I resolve to: Welcome whatever emotions may come – and become willing to examine each in their turn, accepting and processing the ones that belong to me, and returning the ones that don’t, back to their rightful owners.

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Three Steps to Move from Wanting to Having

Whether it is a better job, a more satisfying relationship, a long-denied vacation, or more self-love, the steps to move from wanting what you want to getting what you want are the same.

Oddly, however, no matter how many times we see the process playing out in the lives of others, nature, American Idol contestants, or the birds and the bees, often the personalization of this process is not that intuitive.

We are just too scared.

We want it too much. We are too sure we won’t be able to have it, hold it, or even get within spitting distance of it. We are too positive we can’t do what it will take to get it. We are also pretty convinced that the folks we think have it and could show us the way – those fabulous, amazing, powerful and talented folks – can smell us coming from a mile away and are determined to spend their remaining days as far away as possible on the other side of the room from have-nots like us.

But they were have-nots once too. They just know one thing that we don’t. They know that, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Anything worth getting is worth giving everything for.”

What she means is this: If your soul sings at the mere thought of “it” (aka whatever you want), if you simply cannot stop wanting it no matter how many rational arguments against it that your logical brain can produce, if you keep trying in (you think) your own small, pathetic way to obtain it, if you sometimes cry yourself to sleep at night wanting it and then have dreams that you have it and wake up happy – at least until you realize it was “just a dream”, and if any or all of these experiences have happened to you more than once, then you know you have a real game-changer on your hands.

You have a dream that has a life of its own. You want something that is so much a part of you – who you are now, who you have always been, and who you have yet to become (actually, all of the above) – that giving up on the dream feels like giving up on life itself. The good news is here is that, if you are dreaming a game-changer dream like this, you are actually destined to achieve the very thing you want, provided you are willing to work more deeply and courageously, learn and grow more, and leap higher and farther than you ever imagined possible.

The even better news is that this thing that you want is already yours….in theory. But that doesn’t mean you will ever get it – not as long as you continue to allow your limiting beliefs to stand in between you and it. And that doesn’t mean that you still don’t have to take the necessary steps to get there….just like every other dreamer who eventually lands their personal game-changer grand prize dream.

In honor of the month of February, let’s take self-love as an example we can work from.

Self-love may mean different things to different people, but a generic definition we can use is to have a positive regard and affection for self that is at least equal to that of the individual in our lives whom we treasure most. Whether that is your spouse, your child, or your pet…..what matters is that you can see a compare-and-contrast in how you treat that other and how you treat yourself.

If you treat the other better, then you could stand some improvement in the self-love department. If you also want that improvement for yourself, if you want to feel more love and regard towards yourself, and if you want it badly, then you have identified a clear example of a soul-level want that can be yours if you are willing to do what it takes to achieve it.

There are three steps that you will take to move from wanting to having a more fulfilling and authentic expression of self-love. These three steps will sound ridiculously easy, but that doesn’t mean that they are.

Here are the three steps:

Step One: Admit that you want it. No way are you ever going to get what you want if you won’t admit to yourself that you want it. If you can go one step farther and admit that you want it to yourself and one other person (this person is called an “accountability partner” in some circles) even better.

Step Two: Work deeply and courageously, learn and grow more, and leap higher and farther than you ever thought possible. (NOTE: As you can tell, this step is the one that usually takes the longest).

Step Three: Reach out and claim “it” for your very own.

If you have a big “it” that you simply cannot stop dreaming about, but you feel stuck and stalled out in progressing towards your goal, I want to invite you to contact Southlake Counseling. We have a highly trained, expert and caring professional staff who has more than 20 years’ worth of experience with guiding individuals just like you to say “no” to limiting self beliefs and “yes” to self-love, self-worth, and achieving the big game-changer dreams. Visit us today at www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly

Your Weekly Meditation: Love Happens

Love happens.

Love is happening all around us, every day, in every way. But often it is also simultaneously struggling quite hard to find a way to get into our lives! Our own beliefs about love – how it can happen, when it can happen, whom it can happen with – can become barriers as strong and impenetrable as steel walls covering us from ceiling to floor and on all sides. Since love is as necessary to human life as oxygen, love never ceases to happen, and it is always hovering on the sidelines and waiting in the wings, scoping out even the merest hint of an invitation to take center stage in our lives.

This week I resolve to: Notice where love is unfolding – in a kind word I speak to a stranger, in their smile I receive in return, in the moment when I stop a self-critical thought in its tracks, in the grace of receiving an extra day to complete an important project. The more I notice how, when, and where love is already happening, the more love there will be, and the more love that love will attract.

Your Weekly Meditation: Connection is Critical

Connection is critical.

When we think of connection, what often comes to mind is a busy career or social schedule, engaging in hobbies or volunteer work with others, finding a romantic partner, starting a family, and other types of social-focused activities or experiences. But the connection we are truly seeking in life can happen anytime, whether we are in the crowd or all alone. When we remember that we are all in this life together, when we remind ourselves that we all experience joy, sorrow, pain, loneliness, and hope, we connect to the shared experience of being human, and we can no longer justify hiding in isolation, or believing that nobody around us could understand what we are going through.

NOTE: Interestingly, when we do this regularly, we also often find that our self-esteem and satisfaction with our life just as it is improves as well!

This week I resolve to: Spend a few moments each morning connecting within myself to the shared experience of being human that is going on within and all around me, and reminding myself of that unbreakable connection.

DBT’s Interpersonal Effectiveness: Building Mastery and Self-Respect

“Do you think it’s important to nurture genuine respect for oneself?” I would be shocked/stunned/mind-boggled if the majority of people to whom I asked this question replied with some variation of, “no, thanks, it’s been quite pleasant disrespecting myself and my beliefs and sincerely thinking that I am incompetent.” In fact, while it might be almost impossible to believe, most of the people who walk into my office voice some type of desire to feel good about who they are and at peace about the decisions they’ve made with regard to their interactions with others.

So, just how important is self-respect? Let’s look at a recent situation in my personal life that pertinently and efficiently reminded me of the vast importance of self-respect. Recently, I found myself in a situation with a friend that, over a two-week period, proved to be particularly distressing. Two weeks prior to this realization, I identified my need to express my feelings about his actions, or in this case, lack of action. However, I wanted the discussion to take place in person, not via some sort of electronic medium, and I wanted to find the appropriate time, a combination of desires that proved to be especially difficult to attain as day after day blew by.

Upon his most recent departure from an in-person interaction between us, during which I, again, could not seem to recognize this seemingly elusive perfect time, I found myself bombarded by uncomfortable thoughts/feelings. The most common thought: “You failed. Once again, he left and you did not say anything,” followed closely by the feeling of shame. Then, I watched, mindfully, as the thoughts/feelings cycled through my mind. Shame triggered the thought, “you’re weak, you’ll never find the right time. You’re using this right time notion to avoid talking to him,” followed closely by more shame, who brought with it its two acquaintances, guilt and sadness (nice to see you, again!).

And that’s when it hit me. Why wasn’t I eagerly having this seemingly necessary conversation? Well, that was a fairly easy one for me…fear. Fear that he wouldn’t like me. Fear it would ruin our relationship. Fear that he’d leave. And I didn’t want to discount, invalidate, or avoid this fear, as the fear of losing or damaging significant relationships in one’s life can be daunting, vastly uncomfortable, and even paralyzing. However, what was the cost? By avoiding the first situation of having a discussion due to potential negative consequences, I was causing other, very real, negative consequences to occur in the place of ones that had not even occurred yet, and might not even occur. Based on consequences that had a 50% chance of materializing (It might ruin our relationship, it might not. He might leave, he might not.), I was creating a second situation with a 100% chance of damaging my self-respect…and I still didn’t even know what might or might not happen in the first situation!

The founder of DBT, Marsha Linehan, describes mastery as doing something that increases one’s feelings of competence, and sometimes, if you fail, doing it over and over and over again until you succeed. With regard to self-respect, Linehan notes that one builds self-respect when he/she acts in ways that support his/her personal beliefs, morals, and opinions. Mastery builds competence. Competence builds self-respect. Take the example of a newborn learning to walk. When little Joey takes his first steps and falls, what would happen if he never got back up? Would he ever learn how to walk if he never tried again? How would he feel about his walking abilities? Furthermore, would he be more or less likely to get up and try again if he were to succumb to his inundating thoughts of, “I’m a failure. I’ll never learn how to walk. All the other babies will learn how to walk and I’ll be stuck here, crawling on the floor, forever (insert sad-face emoticon here).” I’m concerned about Little Joey’s self-respect already.

It’s not easy to do things we perceive as potentially threatening, and it’s also not easy to deal with the inevitable thoughts/feelings that show-up when we don’t take action when we want to (or act when we don’t want to). And while the blow to our self-respect can be equally devastating, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn how to skillfully manage difficult situations.  So, the next time you find yourself in a particularly tough situation with another person, just remember this is probably not the last complicated situation/interaction you’ll be faced with in your lifetime… AND every difficult situation you encounter is another opportunity to build your mastery at effectively handling tough situations and to enhance and deepen your self-respect! Be kind to yourself, validate your fears, and grow.

For more information on me, visit my profile on psychologytoday.com

Julie

Your Weekly Meditation: Hard Work is Not a Substitute for Grace

Hard work is not a substitute for grace.

We live in a very industrious, hard working world. We do work so hard! Sometimes we work so hard that we forget to cut ourselves any slack at all. Hard work is not a substitute for grace. Grace is the small still voice inside of us that quietly observes, “You are so tired right now. Why don’t you take a rest.” Grace is the gentle unseen arms that move to hug us – right before we push them away, saying “But I haven’t achieved enough yet today to relax or receive.” Grace is that moment when we look up and spontaneously ask ourselves, “Does this task REALLY matter to me?”, even if we do not give ourselves the gift of waiting long enough to hear our own answer.

This week I resolve to: pay attention not just to my outer to-do list, but to the inner direction that guides me subtly but unerringly towards my heart’s true priorities.

 

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Putting Fear in its Place

Many of us have been shamed at one point or another in our lives for the simple expression of fear.

Feeling fear – it is something that animals, small children, birds, express so naturally. They feel fear, recognize it for the messenger that it is, and do the next right thing. This is because in its primal state, fear is built into our primitive limbic brain – the part of the brain that is wired to alert every sentient being to danger and give us a head start in finding safe shelter.

So how did fear evolve to the point where the simple expression of feeling fear can lead to shame, a desire to hide, or a need to camouflage fear with anger, rage, sadness, blame, or various addictions, just so we won’t be found out?

The actual definitions for fear range from an unpleasant feeling of perceived risk or danger, real or not to a reverential awe.

One interesting question I often ask those I work with is – “who told you fear was unpleasant?” Who would we be in the presence of our own fear if we weren’t so keen on labeling it as unpleasant? These are interesting questions to ask.

Another revealing question those I work with sometimes find helpful is, “since when is risk or danger ever perceived?” By this I mean that when we say these things to ourselves, we are in essence saying to ourselves, “I don’t trust you.” This is very frightening, and our fear only grows.

The truth is that when we feel fear, it is real to us – period, the end. We won’t accept others’ assessments that we really aren’t afraid when we are. We don’t have to stop and ask ourselves, “are you sure you are afraid?” We know. Questioning our fear shames us, and cuts us off from taking the necessary action to move through our fear towards resolution.

Similarly, when we spend precious moments believing that the emotion of fear is unpleasant, unwanted, unnecessary, or untrue, we resist the fear and….you guessed it….become even more afraid.  It is at this point where we may find ourselves turning to various thought or behavior patterns or addictions such as drinking, drugging, using other people’s bodies, stuffing our own bodies when we are already full or not feeling hungry, watching hours of mindless television programs, losing ourselves on the internet, or otherwise “checking out” from our own lives and the people around us.

We are afraid. We don’t want to feel afraid, we don’t know if we can trust that that feeling is fear, we judge ourselves for feeling the fear, we resist feeling the fear….and yet still we are afraid.

I’d like to propose a simpler way to put fear in its place. Let it stay where it is.

Fear is there, knocking on our awareness, for its own reasons. It has a message for us. It comes respectfully, and not without its own trepidation given the often cold reception we offer it. Yet it continues to come. Fear is kind. Fear wants us to deal with what is causing the fear and find resolution and peace.

So the next time you feel fear, before you move on auto pilot into arguing with its presence, discounting it, shaming or judging yourself for feeling it, blaming someone or something else for inducing it in you, hiding from it, or drowning yourself in addictive thought and behavior patterns to escape it, try this.

Simply stop.

Breathe.

Notice.

Ask yourself kindly, “What am I feeling afraid of?”

Write down your own answer.

If you find you are turning towards any exterior crutches or supports, like alcohol or other people, before doing a thorough self-investigation of your fear, then notice that too, and ask yourself kindly if you can wait just a few moments to do self inquiry on your fear before you have that first drink, make that phone call, or switch on the computer or television set.

And if you find that you are still too afraid to proceed without those crutches, it may be the right moment to consider reaching out for help.

Fear is a great teacher – if we will allow it. Fear can be a good friend – if we will allow it. Fear can teach us that it is okay to reach out and ask for help, and that in the very act of asking for help, we find our first taste of freedom from the fear of our own fear.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of expertise with guiding people just like you through the experience of their own fear towards understanding, action, and resolution. Our caring professional staff is skilled in individual and group facilitation methods which can allow fear to safely arise, deliver its message, and depart, leaving us stronger, wiser, and more confident for the experience. Contact us today to find out how we can help you say “no” to discounting, shifting or hiding from your fears, and “yes” to learning from a very wise teacher – fear itself. www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly