All posts in Family Life

STDs CAN BLOW YOUR MIND

STdsIs there a correlation between the rise of “hookup” sites like tinder and the increase in STDs? How do you ask your new partner about their sexual health? Or, are we just a more hyper-sexualized society that just throws caution to the wind when it comes to protecting ourselves? Well, I’m not quite sure which is the right answer. However, we can take a look at a smaller sample size in the state of California, more specifically the county of Los Angeles for some possible answers.

Current studies are indicating that theses stds, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have consistently been the highest infections in California. This a real concern! It is also a difficult conversation to have or bring up with your partner. Now I’m not going to dedicate this space to exploring our sexual health, rather, it is the psychological effect that contracting an STD has on a person that I want to address in this blog.

Have you considered what happens to a person when they learn that they have an STD? What I have witnessed take place with many clients is that suddenly their emotional state of mind becomes unstable, their anxiety rises, and eventually depression follows. Simply put, the dominoes begin to fall. Rarely, do I get the client when they are newly diagnosed, rather, they have already been battling the depression, anxiety, and accompanying stress for quite some time.

In reality, when people receive their diagnosis, life is never the same again. This is extremely difficult to wrap their heads around. Many times, this revelation of a sexually transmitted disease literally brings to light previously undetected, repressed, or eschewed mental illnesses.

On the opposite spectrum, my experience with some teenagers and some adults has been a interesting choice to pursue extreme sexual activity with the knowledge that they are suffering from the effects of their mental illness related to their contracted STDs. Remember, depression can cause isolation, break off connections and make one feel like they are the proverbial “island.” The psychological impact of contracting an STD is far greater than what you think, so please think and educate yourself, partner, friends, and your family. To help, their are a number of good studies written here that I suggest you read, so click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

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Some Advice from Yoda for 2016

star warsWith all the excitement surrounding the latest “Star Wars” movie, I thought it was only appropriate to start 2016 off right with wisdom from the green one. I remember it was 1980 something and I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico sitting in a theater, which had previously been a catholic church, watching the “Empire Strikes Back.”  I was mesmerized, thrilled, and just could not wait to go out and get the action figures.

Well, as the years have gone by, I have found that there are some good messages/ teaching moments that can come from these movies. I still have a growing family, so I felt it was time to get everyone up to date on these sci fi classics. So, we all discussed the following:

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

“Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.”

This was actually a lot of fun and quite insightful as everyone had something to say that tied in with the movie and their life. So Parents, you might want to give this a try when the family is gathered around.

To read more of what Yoda says about these topics, click Here

 

 

 

 

 

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Alone or feeling lonely?

alone on the roadInteresting title, isn’t it? Did you realize that 4 in 10 people (40%), in our population will experience some sort of loneliness at different times in our lives? It hurts, it feels empty and cold. However there is an important distinction between feeling lonely and being alone. Understand that there are people who feel alone and really are alone. On the other hand, there are those people who actually choose to be alone, but, are not really alone.

Of course, we have all either been left alone, experienced the feelings of being alone, or possibly both simultaneously during some point in our lives, right? I think back to when I had to relocate to a new state and when I had to start different jobs throughout my career. I did not know anyone which really caused a lot of anxiety and those ugly feelings of loneliness took a toll on me. Naturally, these experiences can produce solitude and loneliness. So, if we are not careful, these feelings can have a negative impact on our physical health, as well.

Now, I want to point out that there is both a medical and psychological element attached to this discussion that I will touch upon. We do know that being alone, which we often refer to as solitude, can arouse one’s artistic talents and boost our concentration, yet, there is a frightening effect on your health. Mind, body, and our ageing process are all  negatively affected when we socially isolate ourselves.

Scientists have identified that our loneliness is tied to our genetic makeup. More specifically, those who experienced what we call “chronic loneliness,” their genes expressed a distinct pattern that produced inflammation in their immune system.  So, what does that really mean? Well, it means that lonely people have a higher probability of dying earlier because their immune system is not strong enough to fight off infectious diseases.

Psychologically, the impact is just as uncomfortable. Loneliness can lead to a mood disorder widely recognized as depression. It can wreck one’s self-esteem.  Confidence becomes fleeting as the tentacles of loneliness squeeze any and all feelings that one might yet have regarding being worthy of the attention of others.

If you sit back and really think about it, we as a collective society are are a social  bunch. We are wired to be that way since we were kicking to get out of the womb! We really do need to interact with each other to feel connected, be alive, and progress. Just as important, is cultivating an environment around yourself with those who you can mutually enjoy meaningful relationships with are, at least in my opinion, the best medicine.  Enjoying a life that you can be content with, active in, and flourishing is in itself the treasure of being connected.

 

 

 

 

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“Life Events,” What do these mean?

Life EventI’ve seen a tremendous number of clients who have come to me seeking understanding and healing either during or after serious life events. Sadly, some of these client’s relationships go painfully the way of divorce. However, most are at that point in their relationship where they realize that help is needed or there won’t be one.

So, what are “Life Events” and have you experienced them?” Well chances are, yes, you have! Here are the biggies: Chronic Illness (like Cancer), Unemployment (job hunting), Childbirth (who wanted the baby more), Living Apart (thinking about our men and women in the military being deployed), Trauma (could be death of loved one, serious accident, sexual assault etc), and Unfaithful partners. You’d be very surprised, but, this last one seems to be the motivating factor in bringing couples in for therapy. All the cards are laid on the table so to speak and everything can now be addressed openly and with honest candor.

These life events are terribly painful, deeply personal, they drain our mental capacities, and tax us physically. The truth is that none of us will be able to leave this life without experiencing most of these “Life Events.” Did you realize that there are also “turning points” with regard to these events, as well.  Let me explain. A turning point is not just a temporary change in our pathway, no, it is a permanent shift that only becomes recognizable to us as our life moves forward.

The psychological impact can be profound or subtle depending on our understanding of the turning point. Some of us may well experience a turning point that brings to us a much needed opportunity, or possibly brings one to a close. Others life events may create an environmental transformation that is more permanent. Still, one may feel that their life event has caused their turning point to be so deeply personal that it has provoked a complete restructuring of their self-worth, belief system, and expectations for themselves and the world around them. However, let’s remember that for  in many of us these life events cause a turning point in many individual’s lives, yet, for some it may be less severe and therefore the transition doe not transform them.

Life events can bring upon us stress, anxiety disorders, depression and physical illness. Importantly, all of the life events that we will experience do require some form of change or adaptation by us. It can be unpleasant or pleasant. However, these can be valuable life lessons, as well. Can we ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this, and what can I share with others about my personal experience that might help them?” If you are in pain, thinking that you are suffering from depression, anxiety or another psychiatric disorder, get help. You don’t have to do this alone…Be well.

 

 

 

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An Attitude of Gratitude

gratitude note padThere was a time in our country when the leaves changed colors and the air turned chilly we knew November was upon us.  Thanksgiving was the celebrated event and we tried to build gratitude and appreciation into our lives. Well, this week is Thanksgiving, but, the focus really has been turned towards “Black Friday” and revving up our retail energy for the Christmas season. Sadly, we have really just skipped through this holiday and treated it as a smorgasbord of over consuming food, 24 hour football viewing, and frenzied shopping! Yes, I too am guilty of all of the above. What has happened to appreciating this once great holiday of truly giving thanks Where has our “Attitude of Gratitude” gone?

From a psychological viewpoint, gratitude serves to really bring people closer to a like minded and more socially interconnected state of togetherness. Naturally, we feel more socially connected and supported which in turn the relationship becomes stronger and develops. Also, I suggest that we consider gratitude not as a tool, or strategy to be used for ulterior motives, but, it is a more profound appreciation for what we do have.

From a young age, I was taught to live in Thanksgiving daily and to show appreciation for what others did for me. If you think about it, gratitude is the act of being thankful, it causes the human soul to become humble. It’s because we acknowledge these acts of kindness,  times of selfless service, or caring from someone else who lifts our heavy heart and strengthens us.

Gratitude is not a public display, but rather in a quiet way, the expression and feelings that create in us a type of purification and mental healing from our life’s troubles and concerns. Some say the gratitude is the mother of virtue. Wasn’t it Shakespeare that said, “Who lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”

I’m of the opinion, that the commemoration of Thanksgiving should last all year. As we approach Thanksgiving week 2015, maybe we should do a little homework (I know the kids are out of school) on this idea by really reflecting on what we should be thankful for in our lives.

 

 

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“H I V, hard three letters.”

HIVA couple of weeks ago I was intrigued by a frontline sensationalized article in a european newspaper. This online news source was breaking the news that a famous celebrity had HIV, but, was refusing to come forward for fear of the consequences to his career, costly lawsuits, and hatred and vitriolic dialog that would surely come from his announcement. The article was very descriptive and in telling that many famous actresses in hollywood, international models, TV stars, male and female porn stars had sexual encounters with this person. Adding to this, the pressure to come forward now and confess his acts.

Admittedly, I did wonder who it might be, yet, I thought this person was probably really agonizing over this decision and hoped he or she was seeking professional help. However, this article furthered my thoughts on what I could do to be a resource for people like you and me who have contracted HIV.

We all know now that Charlie Sheen is that famous celebrity who has contracted HIV. I watched his interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show and found it to be very insightful. I believe it was a smart move bringing in his personal physician who’s been treating him to explain the difference between HIV and AIDS. Let me pause here, if you did not watch the interview or read the transcript let me point this out, HIV is a virus that leads to AIDS. Charlie Sheen is HIV positive, however, he does not have AIDS! That is a very important part of his story that is being misunderstood.

What I look at are the underlying mental health issues that lead one to make harmful personal choices, put their health and others in danger, cope by way of addictive behaviors. Charlie was depressed. He self medicated with harmful drugs, toxic levels of alcohol, numerous hypersexual liaisons with prostitutes, celebrities, models, and porn stars of both genders. His angry tirades, non-sensical monologues (remember “tiger blood”), and erratic behavior went viral. He was a media sensation, a tabloid punching bag for months, and one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, as well.

I’m certainly not excusing his lifestyle choices, however, what I take issue with is that he was forced (blackmailed) to reveal his illness to the world. In the age of the internet, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat we are in everyone’s business. Personal lives aren’t! Social media is just that, social. Let’s step back a moment and think about this, would you want people to know you have a mood disorder, HIV, prone to long episodes of depression, suffer with paralyzing anxiety that build to spontaneous panic attacks? How about your employer finding out that you have OCD so severe that the compulsions cause you to take an inordinate amount of sick days? What about them finding out that your ADD is so bad that you have a habitual pattern of not being able to complete tasks, meet deadlines, or stay organized? You get my points, right?

This is bigger than Charlie Sheen, HIV and AIDs are very serious and continue to deserve our attention, but, not in this type of public forum. This a very personal struggle. Certainly, we can show compassion for the pain he’s in and he needs to be freed from the haters, opportunists, and blackmailers so he can concentrate on his health. At some point he’ll be able to put HIV in the RIGHT spot light. My hope is that we can be respectful of one another’s privacy, as we would like the same for ourselves.

 

 

 

 

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Let it go, how?

washing-hands-350Sometimes I feel like I cannot write a single sentence unless it’s grammatically perfect. The screen sometimes remains blank for quite a while for fear I’ll say something that might be misunderstood. Wait, is that a smudge on the screen, got it, that’s better. Hold on a minute this keyboard feels dirty…I just need to clean that up too, yeah that’s much better. Now where was I? Ah yes, I was putting my colored pencils in order from brightest to darkest colors, I think. Wait, I need to go wash my hands again.

Does this sound like you, or someone you know? Do you find yourself unable to let unwanted thoughts go? Maybe you perform some rituals like counting, checking, or washing your hands in an attempt to control your thoughts. It’s not helping though, is it? These rituals are compulsions and the unwanted thoughts that you cannot let go of are obsessions. These compulsions (rituals) can become so intrusive that your life begins to revolve around these rituals. This is what we call impairing your daily functioning.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I find,  is often an under reported and underdiagnosed disorder. OCD typically develops in early adolescence and can be easily overlooked as quirky behavior. However, as children grow into their teens the obsessive thoughts and compulsions become more obvious to those most closest to them.  I find that my clients have become expert at masking their symptoms to the outside world, but, it takes a terrible toll on their self-esteem, happiness, and as a result they really struggle to find meaning in their lives.

However, there is hope, there are tools, and there are medications that can all help you manage these symptoms of OCD. Remember, as with everything in life it will take consistent effort, patience in the process, a trusted therapist, a good psychiatrist, and family support. You must see the process through to the finish. There is guilt and shame to work through, as well. At times, you may battle the ugliness of depressive feelings, or debilitating symptoms of anxiety.  Take heart, you will get through this with a good therapist, learned tools, family support, proper medication, and perseverance. I have witnessed this time and again with my clients! So, do your research and become educated. Please do not beat yourself up, but, do get help!

 

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Seasonal Blues, is this you?

sad womanSo much chaos in the world, yet, on the lighter side, do you realize that Thanksgiving is just a little bit over a week away. Then Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are less than a month after that new shopping phenomenon call “Black Friday.” Yes, this truly is the season of giving thanks, spreading cheer, joining with friends and family in seasonal bliss.

However, this is also the time of year that my practice becomes very busy with overwhelmed and depressed clients. Why aren’t they out there enjoying the holiday season? Simply put, it’s the pressure, unrealistic expectations and seasonal blues that get in the way of the enjoyment.

Every year without fail, millions of us pull out the ornaments, prop up the trees, climb up the ladders to hang up the lights, roll out reindeers on the lawn (you know who you are). Let’s not forget the annual family letters that are written (still), cookies baked by the dozens and dozens, gingerbread houses artfully decorated with the kiddos. Then there are all the choirs, school, church and community festivities…oh my!

We are a busy society, did I forget to mention running around searching for this year’s must have gift! What about family visitors for the holidays, cleaning the house, buying all the food and having the carpets cleaned (and the dog needs to be groomed too). You see… seasonal blues!

If we don’t do it all we feel guilty. We look out the window at the neighbor’s house, their lights are up the minute the Thanksgiving turkey was finished.  These feeling create anxiety which in turn fuel what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder which is appropriately referred to as SAD This is characterized by apathy and a general feeling of lethargy. Yes, then comes the insatiable cravings for sweets (more brownies and fudge please) any carbohydrates will do! Naturally, your sleep becomes more excessive, concentration falls off, as does being able to collect your thoughts and sustain meaningful conversation.

All these symptoms lead you eventually to feeling sad, low and depressed. I find that for many of my clients the real triggers seem to centered on their present financial circumstances, or memories of holidays past compared with their sadness of the present season.

As we get closer to New Years, I see new clients who really have unraveled as they struggle with unrealized goals and too many opportunities never taken advantage of, so, their depression spirals. The good news is that all is not lost. The sun is a great disinfectant, tools can be learned that will help you cope and work through the seasonal depression. Therapy is a wonderful way to talk through your concerns and really get to the heart of your problems. So, don’t let the pain take away your holiday cheer this year, get help, and enjoy you!

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Depressed? I’m here for you.

Have you seen those commercials where two women are sitting at a table in one of their backyards, or walking side by side in a public park? Well, the conversation plays out like this, one women says to her friend, “Tom and I just found out Jenny has been doing drugs,” then comes the awkward pause. Her friend finally says, ” oh it’s probably just a phase, she’ll grow out of it.” Pan the camera to Jenny’s mother, yep, she has a stunned look on her face. The other scenario in the park plays out in a similar manner. As I said, they are walking, but then one woman stops and says (with a painful look on her face) ” We discovered that Jimmy(her son) has been stealing Bob’s(her husband) pain medication.” Again, the awkward pause, then her friend leans in and hugs the woman (who is not sure what is happening). The commercial ends with her friend awkwardly continuing their stroll without saying a word.

The above commercials, which are quite dated, serve to illustrate my topic. “Learn what to say to people who are depressed.” The above scenarios related to learning how to talk about drugs. I wish to address how we need to speak to coworkers, friends, and family members who are dealing with or we suspect are depressed. It seems that the stigma continues with regard to depression, however, as more celebrities come forward, the public appears to become more comfortable about discussing this topic and recognizing its effects.

Let me just say that depression is a battle. I treat a lot of depressed clients. I equate depression to a psychic blow that is so intense and emotionally paralyzing that you cannot fully understand unless you have been depressed. Sensitivity is critical, so, as my title illustrates let those you care about suffering with depression that you are there for them. Depression causes the sufferer to feel isolated, lonely, (and depending on their depth of depression) numb as they have lost interest in the world around them. Suicidal thoughts begin to be more common in their everyday thoughts. Remember, if you say it, be there for them. So, check in because it matters to them.

Do you get stuck sometimes? Not sure what or how to encourage someone who is depressed…click HERE

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Sex Works for Both

sexualissuesSex in marriage who wants it more? This is always a point of conflict in every couples counseling sessions that I hold. It is always fascinating for me to discover that the person with the least desire for sex controls the frequency of intimacy in the relationship. Think about your own relationship, which one of you is more sexual, do you see the correlation?

Sex is critical to closeness, emotional stability, and physical satisfaction. If you think that you cannot find some common ground or are you unwilling to compromise, the prospects aren’t good. Both men and women, who continually feel unsatisfied in the bedroom, eventually seek out others who will fulfill their needs. Sadly, this is reflective in the divorce ever increasing divorce rate.

I really believe we need to be realistic with our expectations for sex. If you are the one who is highly sexual, that’s fine and good, if not, ok too. However, sex is a gift and you have to do it for each other!

There is a great TEDx talk inside here 

 

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