Counseling and Medication

Counseling and Medication

The world is experiencing a mental health crisis.

We all had trauma pre-2020, but we got really good at ignoring and coping with that trauma. Then the Pandemic, politics, racial tension, and global panic piled on top of that trauma and we attempted to carry all of it without breaking…cause we really didn’t have a choice.

Our minds and bodies can only take so much before they give out. And I believe 2021 is the year of “Giving Out”. I’ve had so many people reach out to ask about counselling and medication because the way they are feeling is scaring them and their loved ones. They’ve always known something wasn’t right, but now, things are VERY dark and they aren’t sure what to do.

So, if you find yourself there, you are in VERY good company.

And…you are going to be okay.

When should I get into counselling?

Yesterday. But seriously. Getting into therapy/counselling is not a question of if, but of when. EVERYONE SHOULD BE IN COUNSELLING, whether you’ve experienced trauma or not. We are all human. We are all broken. And too often, we are responding to triggers in ways we just don’t need to. We are being hurtful or distant or are unable to be vulnerable when we could be kind, close, and authentic. We can learn to be comfortable in our own skin, in the quiet, and have healthy, full relationships with others. We can do these things! But we have to learn them. “Oh, it’s just my anxiety,” can’t be the excuse anymore.

Anxiety has become the catch-all for our bad habits and responses. Because we are minimizing the stigma, it’s now an acceptable excuse for just about everything…and I’m kinda over it. Why do we insist on living and acting this way? We don’t need to!

Others are so sad because their closest friends aren’t aware that they are hurting so badly. We have to ask the question: Why aren’t we letting people in? We are we not living in community, which is essentially what counselling is? Are we afraid of appearing weak? Are we afraid of what we may discover? Are we afraid of the emotional task?

I really want to encourage you to do the hard thing and get into therapy/counselling. Here’s how:

  1. Ask a friend for a referral. You don’t need to find a counselor on your own. Ask someone you trust for a recommendation. Counselors are booking up like crazy right now, so you may need to ask a counselor for a referral as well. But just because you don’t know where to start doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  2. You can research good counselors. Hop on Google and research “Licensed Mental Health Counselors”. Then, read the reviews. Most counselors will offer a free 15-20 minute phone call for you to get a sense of who they are. I recommend you attend at least 2-3 sessions before you decide how you feel about the therapist. And if you don’t like him/her, find another one! Don’t quit because you haven’t found the right fit. Finding a counselor is like dating: It may take a few bad experiences to find “The One”. But you will be so happy you put in the time and effort once you do.
  3. Don’t be afraid of Tele-Health. A lot of therapists are offering services via Zoom, Facetime, and other apps. I actually am a HUGE fan! All of my appointments with my counselor are now done via my phone or computer. It keeps me from having to drive an hour and find a babysitter (in other words: I cancel less frequently because I have no excuses as to why I can’t make my appointment!). It is so convenient! I realize face-to-face is more ideal, but I also know that right now, we’ve got to appreciate and use the technology that we have. Tele-Health also opens the door for you to find a therapist that you trust from just about anywhere. So don’t let this intimidate you or limit you.
  4. Put in the work. Let the counselor know why you are there – even if you can’t explain your dark feelings, let him/her know you have them. Let the counselor know what your goals are: I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want to be addicted, I want a strong marriage, I want to learn to open up, I don’t want to be sad anymore, etc. And then lean into what the counselor says and asks. Counselors aren’t there to coddle you…they are there to break the chains of generational baggage and it can be painful. So, put on your big boy or girl panties and get to work. The next generation will thank you.
  5. You may need medication. I ALWAYS couple medication with counseling. I am also in communication with my general physician and my counselor when I am on medication. If you are juggling multiple medications, a psychiatrist is a great idea. They are familiar with all medications and side-effects and they can help you monitor your meds. You therapist can help you find one.

Btw…I use “counselor” and “therapist” interchangeably. They are basically the same thing.

I have been in counseling for over tens years and have been on medication for seven years. Yes, at first it was hard to admit that I needed BOTH therapy and meds. But now I realize this makes me courageous: I am strong enough to admit I need help and I am brave enough to seek it…not just for myself, but for my husband, kids, and friends.

Not only that, but I work to put into practice what my counselor says. It took me twenty-five plus years to get to where I was. It was going to take awhile to unlearn coping mechanisms and to apply healthy outlooks. But gosh, the hard work has been so worth it and paid off in dividends.

So please…do what you need to do to get healthy.

For more information on counseling, check out my Scar Stories Podcasts with Megan Richardson and Mike Brannen.  You can also leave some questions in the comments and I will answer them!

Afraid to Change

Afraid to Change

Full disclosure: I wrote this blog sitting in car line (the longest line you will ever sit in – where your soul dies). I came home and read it to my husband, Bryant, and then he read me his message for that week (surprise – he’s a pastor) and gosh were we so in sync. So, after you read this, I’d encourage you to listen to this podcast.

But without further ado, here is my car line blog.

We are afraid of our own brokenness.

Admitting we are broken would be to admit that we have a past that we don’t know what to do with. What do we do about all of those things we regret? All those seasons and situations and circumstances that we wish with all of our might we could go back and change – for ourselves, for our marriages, for our families, for our relationships.

We already know the answer and that’s what scares us to death: We will be able to do absolutely nothing.

We cannot change the past. We can only own the past. And gosh almighty that is so painful. Embracing the fact that there are things we could have done differently and therefore our life wouldn’t look like it does now is nothing short of daunting. This is why we tend to rewrite history. It’s the best form of self-defense. Your brain cannot face the fact that certain relationships, seasons, opportunities are lost or broken because of your choices. Living with that grief is too overwhelming. So we lie to ourselves and others, not out of spite, malice, or ill-will, but out of self-protection. Our pride becomes our saving grace and that leaves no room for God’s grace.

Here’s what I think we all too often forget…

If we don’t deal with our pasts and failures, then we will live enslaved to them. That kind of bondage looks like living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, a lack of empathy, an obsession with control, ignorance, manipulation, rejection, passive aggressiveness, arrogance, and abandonment.

That sounds like an awful way to live.

So you have a choice: You can decide not to deal with your past and remain enslaved to it…or you can go back, with the help of a therapist/counselor, and do the hard work of getting healthy.

Yes, it will be grueling at first. But you will be guided by someone who’s been trained to take you where you need to go and not to leave you there. If you choose not to do this, you will constantly sabotage the relationships that are most important to you…not to mention your own life.

Once you’ve dealt with your past, you may still have some pain, regret, and emotion around certain people, situations and circumstances. But you won’t be controlled by those triggers. You will live free and be able to embrace a healthy future with a healthy you fostering healthy relationships.

So the choice is yours. But so many people’s well-beings depends on your choice.

Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends…YOURSELF.

Jesus wants you to escape from the prison that is your past. He will guide you and He will never leave you. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. You have to do what only you can do and then trust God for what only He can do – and that’s wash grace, forgiveness, and love over your past so you don’t have to live any more of your life behind it’s bars.

So go ahead. Call that friend. Attend that community group. Make that appointment. The future you is begging the current you to take the steps you need to get healthy.

See you on the other side.️

Break Free

Break Free

Speaking out about your anxiety, depression, or other mental illness is frightening. It’s humiliating. We don’t want to look weak. Or weird. Or crazy. People will look at us funny. Think we are nuts. Put us in a mental hospital. Think we are broken. But aren’t we? Aren’t we all broken? Isn’t that why Jesus Christ died on the cross – because we are so messed up we don’t even know how messed up we are (Jeremiah 17:9)? Ya’ll – It’s time we got a grip. The very thing that keeps people from accepting Jesus as their Savior is keeping you from getting the healing you desperately need: Pride. Admitting you need help. You don’t have it all together.

And maybe you can readily admit: “I don’t have it all together.” But what about that insecurity that is crippling you? What about that exhaustion that won’t go away no matter how much you sleep? What about that sadness that keeps creeping in for no reason? What about your thoughts that you can’t quiet down? What about the fear that keeps you awake at night? What about the incessant control you demand to have? What about the people you are sucking dry because of your identity issues? What about your need for perfection that is debilitating you? What about it? Why can’t you face it? Why can’t you speak out about it?

We have to fight. Listen to me, I’m pleading with you. This isn’t going away. It’s just not. And it’s going to strain your marriage, damage your kids, mess with your job, and leave you lonely. It will eat you alive. I promise I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. But we can’t keep thinking these things will deal with themselves. That’s what Satan wants you to believe. But you have to realize he is out to destroy you.

When we give in, we give up the abundant life God promises those who trust Him. We can’t keep giving in to our anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. We have to stand up. That’s where true courage lies: With those who say, “Enough! I am going to stop the cycle. I am going to fight for my spouse, my kids, my job, my friends. I am going to fight so I can be a testament to the grace of Jesus. The power of Jesus. If He can heal me, He can heal you.”

I speak openly about my anxiety, depression, and personality disorder because I want people to know that it isn’t an easy fight, but oh so worth it!!! When I was diagnosed with these mental illnesses several years ago, I was so discouraged. But then my counselor helped me to see how strong Jesus’s grace was in me. He had preserved me from some terrible decisions that could have destroyed my life. And while I battled with suicidal thoughts and nearly dissolved my marriage, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness chased me down until I couldn’t fight Him anymore and I finally surrendered. I surrendered to His love: The Love I was so desperate to feel. He met me face down in the dark. Alone. Scared. Hurting. Desperate. And that’s when Grace took over. It was a long road. And sometimes still is. But I wouldn’t trade the healing I’ve received from the hand of God for anything.

Why are you living this way? Why so trapped? Why so scared? Break. Free. Your future isn’t worth your pride. Jesus wants to heal you, but you have to stop fighting Him. So step out in faith. I promise you the freedom you will receive will be worth more than the momentary humiliation you may feel.

Break. Free.

Self-Medication

Self-Medication

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago…just in case you are like, “Oh hot dang…I need to send her a text or a coffee or chocolate!” I mean, you can still do that, but my yesterday-yesterday was good! My couple-weeks-ago-yesterday, not so much…

Yesterday was not a good one, ya’ll. It was a tough go. I was angry. I was yelling at ERRRRRRRone. My anxiety was through the roof. 

Today, as I was on my morning run, I realized something: I was using the three things that were stressing me the most to self-medicate. 

What does it mean to self-medicate, you ask? Self-medication is when you attempt to feel better by addressing the symptoms and not the actual issues. In other words, when you feel worthless, sad, anxious, stressed, angry, or hurt, you try to eradicate those feelings instead of uncovering why you are reacting these ways

Self medicating is lazy, temporal. You will feel better for a minute, sure. But self-medication creates an incredibly unhealthy cycle. I will use myself as an example, but you have to promise not to judge. Here are my three main stressors from the other day:

  • Money
  • Chocolate
  • Social Media/TV

You said you wouldn’t judge. I realize mine look benign. Maybe yours are pills, alcohol, pornography, sex, whatever. Our vices are our vices. If it’s keeping us from truly getting healthy, if it’s distracting us from the main issues, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s deadly. But back to me. 

I have been so obsessed with money. I’ve been obsessed because I haven’t been disciplined and living on a budget. Spending money has always given me a high…I’ve learned this over the years and specifically when I was diagnosed with Borderline (reckless spending is a symptom). So when I’m feeling down, I buy an outfit or something for the house or for the kids and I feel better…for the moment. But then I get upset because I’ve overspent on a budget category and now I’m stressed. So what do I do? You probably guessed it…Hello Amazon!

I really work hard to stay fit and healthy. Chocolate, as you know, does not keep you fit and healthy. On a hard day, I attempt to cheer myself up with something sweet. I’m an all or nothing gal. I can’t just have two or three M&Ms. I have to eat dozens, which doesn’t make me feel well physically and then that affects me mentally and emotionally. So I’m down again and so are the chocolate morsels…down my throat that is (insert hand on head emoji).

When I’m feeling hurt, ignored, or rejected, then I turn to social media, cause like, duh, this seems like a really wise idea. People there will like me. Or I’ll make them like me by producing content that they will enjoy. I fall down the rabbit hole of comparison and jealousy and I end up only feeling worse and empty. So back to shopping on Amazon with a bag of chocolates.

You see, we are all looking for love, acceptance, worth and security. But we are looking to everyone and everything other than Jesus. And this creates unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs that we are trying to heal, resolve and meet…on our own. 

Some of you know exactly what your unhealed hurts, unresolved issues and unmet needs are…but some of you have no idea because you’ve been white knuckling your life and self-medicating for so long, you don’t even see it anymore!

You may have to go back…waaaaay back…to figure out what unhealed hurt, unresolved issue and/or unmet need is making you get angry with your spouse over stupid things, or why you push your kids too hard, or why you work too much, or why you have to have everything just so, or why you are always afraid, or you have no friends, or none of your marriages have worked. You have been looking to other people for love, acceptance, worth and security – and people were never created to give you these things. Only Jesus can.

So you are self-medicating in order to cope…

Through counselling, I’ve been able to recognize my triggers and my coping strategies and I’ve been able to work to rewire my mind to think healthily and to then respond to these fight or flight situations appropriately. Did you know that anxiety and depression are basically adrenaline rushes? You sense danger and you fight or have an anxiety attack, or you take flight and hunker down in depression. 

This is why my Three C’s for Healing (corny, I know), are:

  1. Christ
  2. Community
  3. Counselling

Jesus is the only One Who can truly heal you and put your life back together. He wants to enter into the pain with you (the unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs) and He wants to offer you the love, acceptance, worth and security you need to live a WHOLE, HEALTHY life. 

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic, we open the door for others to speak into our lives and help us to see our blind spots that have the potential to derail our lives. Scripture says in Proverbs 18:1 that people who isolate themselves are not wise. Let people in…it makes life so much easier and worthwhile.

And finally, some of you just need to get into counseling so that you can get past whatever is holding your life hostage. We were created to live FULL, ABUNDANT lives. If this isn’t characterizing your life right now, then what are you waiting for? Why wouldn’t you want to do whatever it takes to be FREE and FULL?

Be on the lookout with your kids…when we don’t do the hard work of healing and getting healthy, they inherent these wonderful vices and find their own! Healing starts with us, the parents…and then it trickles down! 

So let’s do this! Let’s stop self-medicating and let’s allow Christ, community and counseling do their thing in our lives!

Fighting for Counseling

Fighting for Counseling

Whenever I talk about counseling, I get four different reactions from people:

  1. I don’t need to go.
  2. I’m not ready to go.
  3. I went and it didn’t work.
  4. I love my therapist and have been with him/her for years!

Which reaction do you relate the most with? I’ve been all four at some point in my life, but for the past ten years I’ve been a Number Four. Counselling is such a process…as is the decision to finally go to counselling. I’m a firm believer that we could all benefit from counselling because we are all broken, but not all of us are willing to admit that we need help, and that’s okay. It takes time…but here are a few things to consider when you think you are almost there…

Counseling takes:

  • Humility – Acknowledging our brokenness and choosing to stop deflecting on and blaming others.
  • Acceptance – Accepting our brokenness and no longer overcompensating for or hiding it.
  • Vulnerability – We won’t be able to be vulnerable if we haven’t acknowledged and accepted our brokenness.
  • Perseverance – Counseling is not a quick fix. It took us years to get where we are…it will take time to unwire our brains and to reframe our triggers.
  • Celebration – Celebrating the victories and the days when we do the opposite of what we used to do to cope.

If you went to counseling and it didn’t work, one of two things happened: You either didn’t find the right counselor, or you really didn’t put in the work you needed to (and I’m saying this in SO MUCH LOVE, fam). Let me explain…

  1. Finding the right counselor: You really do need to connect and build trust with your counselor. If you don’t trust and respect your counselor, you will not be able to hear the hard things your counselor will have to say from time to time. And your counselor SHOULD be saying hard things. Counselling is not just a vent session. Yes, we do need to get things off of our chest and counseling is perfect for that. I vent ALL THE TIME in counseling. But I am also self-aware enough to know that my venting originates from my fear and anger, both of which are unhealthy and need addressed. So after I vent, I ask Kevin what needs to change about my perspective of whatever I am venting about. You need to find a counselor that has your best interests in mind and won’t tell you what you want to hear, but will be an advocate for you and your relationships. Not all counselors are equal and all counselors are fallible! So I always suggest that you find a counselor based on a referral from someone you know and trust. This is the best way to get in with someone that’s good. Also, check out my Scar Stories Podcast (also available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts) with Megan Richardson for more tips on how to find a counselor and get started in counseling: Scar Stories: Megan Richardson, LFMT (Counseling) – YouTube
  2. Putting in the work: I truly believe that God can redeem any relationship (as long as it is safe – I want to be clear that we need distance and safety from abusive relationships) that we are willing to fight for. Some of us come into counseling looking to be told we are the victims and have the right to walk away. I have to tell you that wherever you go, there you are. In other words, if you don’t deal with YOUR brokenness, even if you walk away, your brokenness will follow you and start to rear its ugly head in your next relationship. You have to be willing to deal with YOURSELF. Nine times out of ten when we are dealing with relational conflicts, the crux of the problem is within us…and if we could humble ourselves and choose to be vulnerable no matter how uncomfortable it is, we will begin to see changes. but you HAVE TO TALK. Don’t go in with an attitude. Tell the counselor what you know the counselor needs to know. Fight the fear – you are safe! Counselors are trained to hear your mess and to help untangle your thoughts and emotions. This is the absolute best gift you can give yourself and your relationships.

I have to tell you, that when I first started in counseling, I was so hurt and angry and scared. But I was at an absolute dead end. This was my last resort and since it was, I was going to give it EVERYTHING I had, no matter what I felt inside. I fought HARD for myself – I knew so much of what I was facing relationally was because of the mess inside of me and if I could just get that sorted out, I would start to understand my relational conflicts better. I chose NOT to be the victim. I chose to OWN my brokenness and the roles I had played. I chose to forgive even when people didn’t ask for it. I chose to trust. I chose to surround myself in community with people who were fighting with me and for me. These were all choices I made. It took everything I had…but fam, I did it! And look at me now! If you only knew…

So…this is a question I ask regularly: What are you waiting for? It’s not enough to just get into counseling. You have to do the WORK. Are you willing? Are you ready? Honestly, what do you have to lose and why wouldn’t you? I’m asking for a friend…and you are THAT friend. Love you.