How to Support the Healing of Your Child

I am apart of a powerful women’s entrepreneurial group where we read a book and have a discussion about the impact the book had us. Our first book is Iyanla Vanzant’s Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What Your’re Going Through. This book is an autobiography where Iyanla explores her past trauma and the generational pathology of her family. One of the questions posed by one of the group members was “which adult from Iyanla’s childhood we thought was in the best position to protect her and make everything alright.” My response to the question was  “The adults in her life were not in a position to make everything right as they had never dealt with their issues and trauma. I run across so many families who want us (therapists) to “fix” children when the real issue is the parents. And when I say the real issue is the parents, I mean they have never dealt with their issues and that effects the way in which they parent continuing the passing down of generational issues.” Her response to me was “I see! Wow. Heal the parents which would enable them to support the healing of the child.” I thought, “Exactly! Somebody gets it!”

The first step to caregivers helping their children through issues that require therapy is to first deal with their own issues. One of the statements I make to the parents of the children I treat is “In order for me to help your child, you have to be a part of the treatment. That means there may be times when you have to meet with me alone where we may have to address things from your past that are impacting your relationship with your child. I cannot help your child without also helping you.” Many caregivers do not realize how their past issues have seeped into their current relationships and coping. Ignorance is not bliss! Ignoring what has occurred in your past is the breeding ground for pathology.

Caregivers for the benefit of the children you are raising, please face the issues from your past. Therapy is not for “crazy people” as it has been stigmatized in the past. Therapy is for everyone who is willing to face their past and want to change.

Man and woman holding hands at a table

Close up on a man and a woman holding hands at a wooden table

Shirley’s Sparkle Girls Take on Space Coast!

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I am at it again and this time I have brought my workout partner with me! We are training for the Space Coast Half Marathon in Cocoa Beach, FL on November 27, 2016 to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through Team In Training. We are training and raising money for our Honored Hero, my mother, Shirley. Please help us raise money to help patients and to find a cure. You can make a donation at Shirley’s Sparkle Girls

Fibromyalgia

So since making the lifestyle change to live healthier, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. One of those people is a workout friend Cassandra. Now she was always smiling in Zumba class and brought so much fun. Unfortunately, she has not been able to go to Zumba class for months now because she lives with fibromyalgia. On May 10th, she had one request, that we wear purple in honor of National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I honored her by wearing purple, That day I just happened to be going to court for a case and had another co-worker going also who had on purple. People asked if we coordinated and it gave me the opportunity to tell them why I was wearing purple. When I stated that I was wearing if in honor of National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day they looked at me stunned because they did not know what fibromyagia is. So I decided to write a blog on it.

May 10 National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

The National Institute of Arthritis & Musculosketetal and Skin Disease defines fibromyalgia as “a common & chronic disease characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, and a number of other symptoms.” Other symptoms include cognitive problems, sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual periods, numbness or tingling of the extremities, restless leg syndrome, temperature sensitivity, and sensitivity to light and sound. It is estimated that 5 million Americans 18 years old and older have fibromyalgia, with 80-90% being women. The causes of this disorder is unknown, diagnosis requires ruling out other disorders, and it is difficult to treat. Research has found that stress exacerbates this disorder and it takes a team of healthcare professionals to treat it. Current research focuses on understanding the pain and improving symptoms of survivors who live with this disorder daily.

I am proud of my friend, Cassandra, and the grace she shows in living with this chronic disorder. She continues to smile and encourage others everyday. Her spirit is a testament to those of us who live without chronic medical conditions. Cassandra thank you for giving me this opportunity to bring awareness to fibromyalgia and for being a inspiration to me.

Bleachers

So one of the things that occurred during the mission trip in Jamaica is we have a banquet and dance at the end of the week to promote positive interactions between the opposite sexes. Every year there are issues that come up on both sides that we address in the gender specific sessions. This year I taught the male sessions. During one of the sessions, I asked the gentlemen how was it going getting a date for the dance. Boy did the hands go up! The first question I got was “Why do the girls not want to talk to bleachers?” Now the previous day some of the counselors had approached me and informed me that there were several males who were bleaching their skin. They discussed how they believe that the youth were trying to be like the Jamaican music artist Vybz Kartel who openly has admitted that he has bleached his skin. So I knew what they were talking about, but I was thrown off by the boys direct questioning. The young man went on to say that it is like the girls think they are going to turn into an alien or something. I explained that anytime you are doing something that is outside of what is considered normal in society, you have to be ready to explain and defend your decision. I explained that they have to be comfortable in their decision and feel comfortable talking about it. I was hoping that they would talk about their choice, but no such luck.

Later that day, I went and talked to the girls to get their view on the issue. The response that I got from the girls was “why would we talk to someone with low self-esteem? If you are not comfortable with who you are and you are bleaching your skin, then you have low self-esteem. I don’t want to talk to them.” Bravo to the young ladies for having standards that they are not willing to compromise on. So, I go back to the boys and deliver the girls’ response and they are adamant that they do not have low self-esteem and they do not bleach their skin because of Vybz Kartel. And again they do not give their reasons leaving me to wonder.

This interaction got me to thinking about the deep rooted issues of skin color and how growing up we were taught that light-skin is better. I even asked the boys I work with in group if that was something happening mainstream here in America and they looked at me like I was crazy. Today, I caught up on shows on my DVR and finally watched “Light Girls” that debuted on the OWN Network in January. It was a follow up to the “Dark Girls” documentary that aired in 2011. Both of these documentaries do a good job of discussing growing up dark skinned versus light skinned in America. In was shocked that the “Light Girls” documentary included as a segment on skin bleaching. They discussed how this is a phenomenon that is bigger in other countries, but did not interview any celebrities that have admitted to bleaching their skin to get their view. I Googled skin bleaching and I was surprised by the products that popped up. There were also articles on the issue and even discussed celebrities that have admitted to or are being accused of skin bleaching. This is another layer of body image issues that our youth face today.

While skin bleaching is not mainstream in America, it is still an issue that needs to be discussed and added to the list of body image issues. We have to continue to have conversations not just about the beauty of body shapes, but also the hidden messages about skin color. I hope that this is not something that will become mainstream in America.

skin-lightening

#WorldCancerDay 2015 #KissCancerGoodbye

Brought attention to #WorldCancerDay by wearing green to represent Lymphoma and took a #KissCancerGoodbye photo with my Honored Hero, my mother. To end the night I was given one of the #LightTheNight Volunteers of the Year awards from the Suncoast Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society . I am so honored to be a volunteer for this great organization whose mission is to assist patients and cure blood cancers.
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Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

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So I came across an article by Rose George where she talks about the forbidden thing, a woman’s period or menstrual cycle. She discusses how hard it is having her period as a female professional athlete. She highlighted coaches who are now taking a women’s menstrual cycle into account when determining training.

As I read this article, I remember my history with “getting my period.” I was nine years old when I got my first cycle. It happened during the summer while I was at camp. I jokingly blame my mother because she had “the talk” with me before I left and made sure I had sanitary pads packed. Thanks Mom, good looking out!

I was the first girl to get my period in my elementary school and as it continued I started having severe symptoms. First off there were times when I was on my period for up to 14 days and I started having horrible cramps. I remember wishing I was a boy so I did not have to deal with it. In high school the pains got worse. School was important to me, so missing was not an option. Instead I trained my friends and teachers to  know when I was on my period. The code for my friends was me singing Monica’s song “It’s just one of those days.” That was code for leave me alone for the week or you are subject to get your feelings hurt. I spoke to my teachers about allowing me to be in the back of the room where I could stand or lay on the floor during class. I remember at one point my doctor’s placing me on a medication that cost $10 a pill to help with my symptoms. That only lasted one month because insurance did not cover it and we could not afford it.   My period was so heavy that I wore two pads at one time and had to change every two to three hours. When Always came out with their Ultra Thin line I was the happiest woman ever! And now their Infinity line is even better! I would do a commercial for free! LOL

Most of all I remember feeling alone with what I was experiencing. My mother was always there to talk, but she did not experience what I did so it was hard for her to relate. She was also dealing with her own issues going through…(another forbidden word) menopause. In the work that I do I have come across several cases of girls going through severe measures to hide that they have started their period. And who can blame them when we have movies like “Carrie.”

As I prepared for teaching my Introduction to Interviewing class this week, I was typing up questions to ask clients to assess for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD. I realized that this is the accurate diagnosis for me and what I experienced every month. The symptoms of PMDD must be present the week before to the week after a woman’s menstrual cycle. This diagnosis is characterized by having at least one of the first four symptoms and at least five or more of the eleven symptoms listed below:

  • Have mood swings where you suddenly feel sad or tearful or more sensitive to comments or criticisms of others?
  • Feel more irritable or angry or get into more arguments?
  • Feel depressed, hopeless, or self-critical?
  • Feel anxious, tense, keyed up, or on edge?
  • Feel less interested in your usual activities?
  • Have problems concentrating?
  • Feel very tired?
  • Overeat or have food cravings?
  • Have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much?
  • Feel overwhelmed or out of control emotionally?
  • Have breast tenderness or swelling?
  • Have joint or muscle pain?
  • Feel bloated?
  • Gain weight?

In addition, there has to be significant interference with multiple areas of your life, not be caused by another diagnosis, medical condition or medicine, and have occurred during at least two symptomatic cycles.

Now understand that PMDD is more severe than the normal PMS that everyone talks about. For me I was not able to function. As a young adult, my doctor finally placed me on birth control pills which helped a lot. I was upset because it had not been done before. She stated that she did not want to make the suggestion because of my age. My question was “But why make me suffer for so many years when there was a simple answer?” Taking birth control for a medical reason does not equal a desire to go out and start having sex. This worked for a few years, but when I was in my late twenties (No trying to figure out my age! LOL) I started having problems again. I started missing work. My doctor said she doesn’t see why I need to have a period every month and placed me on Seasonale where I only have a period every three months. This has been life changing for me to only deal with symptoms four times a year. And even when I do, my symptoms have decreased, but I still have some months that are hard.

There are other treatments besides taking birth control pills. There are supplements and herbal remedies that your doctor can suggest, and there are also diet and lifestyle changes you can make. If you feel like this is you, consult with your medical team to devise a plan. No one should have to suffer through this. And remember that you are responsible for the emotional fall out that occurs when experiencing symptoms. I purposefully stay to myself during this time because of my mood irritability. I would never want to hurt anyone around me. It is ok to talk about this and let others support you. Thank you Rose George for being a trail blazer!

Click here to read Rose George’s article:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/22/period-menstruation-heather-watson-taboo.