Family Answers

Anxiety, depression and PTSD and my family and I don't talk.

Hello there Ant,  Thank you so much for reaching out and taking the time to seek some clarification of your concerns and therefore to gain some additional support.  I am pleased to be able to try to shed some light on your questions and offer some education and information in response. It sounds as though you have some difficult history and experiences with your family of origin and are struggling with some of the duality of both recognizing that this history has not been the healthiest for you, but also the recognition that they are, in fact, your family of origin and cutting ties physically and/or emotionally is not as simple as it may seem from the outside looking inward.  This can be a very common experience within various family structures and dynamics and one that comes with many challenges and layers.  Without knowing the specifics of your history with your family and the hurts that have been inflicted upon you, it is difficult to provide any specific guidance or advice of course for your unique situation, however some general concepts and healthy living approaches may be valuable here.  Please feel free to take whatever fits and feels relevant to you and leave the remainder as it feels appropriate.  We don't get to choose our biological family from which we originate.  Sometimes our parents are not able, ready, or willing to provide the love, care, and support we need as children.  Sometimes there are dynamics within the family structure that impede us getting our basic needs met.   If there is any presence of mental illness, substance abuse, or unhealed trauma by our parents when they are caring for us, there may be a disconnect in their abilities to provide adequate love, support, nurturing, and safety.  This does not mean that as children, we don't deserve or require that, but simply that our parents are ill equipped to provide what we need and require to grow into more self sufficient and emotionally healthy individuals.   Attachment theory speaks to the ability of our caregivers to provide safety, affection, and responsiveness to our needs as infants and young children.  If this attachment or nurturing responsiveness is disrupted (due to depression, social stressors, addiction, or other psychosocial concerns) this can directly impair our abilities as adults to form and maintain healthy relationships with others.  This can lead to things like disrupted relationship patterns, depression, anxiety, insecurity, or inability to form intimate connections with others.  Additionally, if these skills are not modeled for us, it can become even more difficult to step into these healthy functioning relationship roles as we try to navigate what it means to be in a healthy partnership. It sounds as though you have a history of trauma as you noted PTSD in your initial question.  The effects of trauma can have a profound impact on our overall functioning as an adult.  Additionally it sounds (unsurprisingly) like you are experiencing some simultaneous depression and anxiety as well.  This could connect to a genetic component if your parents also struggle with these concerns, but also could potentially be a result more directly of the environment in which you describe being raised in.  The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Fortunately trauma, depression, and anxiety can all be addressed with mental health support (therapy) and you can gain skills, knowledge, and experience working with how to best manage your symptoms and create a life you enjoy living that aligns with your values, interests, and needs.   It would be recommended that you consider connecting with a licensed mental health professional who can better assist you with learning more about the impact of your history on your current functioning, how and whether or not you want to proceed with a relationship with your family of origin and how to better heal from the hurts of your past so that they are not impeding your life you are trying to live now and in the future.   I hope this helps somewhat to get you started on your journey.  I wish you well and hope that you are able to continue to walk the path towards healing and wellness and to begin to live your life to its fullest potential going forward!! Until then...stay well and stay focused on keeping your face towards the light! -Jen
Answered on 02/06/2023

How do I stop letting my parents thoughts and words affect my decisions and my relationship?

Hi Lei, Some people may feel a lack of connection or come to therapy blaming their parents for difficulties in their relationships and feel a negativity toward them for the problems they may have or the life they live. It is not uncommon to have anger toward parents for what they see as criticism or lack of encouragement and to also blame parents for any shortcomings in both personal and professional life. Holding onto this negativity toward a parent may cause a person to be stuck with feelings of anger and could also interfere with any potential to change or improve a current life situation.  It may be difficult to separate yourself from what your parents think you should do or from the criticism they have toward people you chose to be in a relationship with. To build confidence in pleasing yourself, start reaffirming your opinion with a trusted friend or other relative, even if that means that you are not pleasing your parents. Practice saying positive things about your relationship to yourself and to those you trust. To avoid conflict with your parents, you can utilize “l” statements to express yourself without causing confrontation. You can try saying, “I understand your opinion, but I feel differently”.  Utilizing this type of statement to express yourself is effective because it is not judgmental and does not cast blame. You can also set boundaries, not only physical boundaries, but emotional boundaries, and let your parents know which topics are off limits to them, such as your relationships, if that is an area that causes the conflict.  One of the things that we are free to do as adults is pick the relationships we have and the way we want to have those relationships. This also includes relationships that we have with our parents. Although you may feel you have to do things the way your parents would want you to do them, the reality is that you can make your own choices and live your life based on what you decide is right for you.
Answered on 02/05/2023

How can I get past the effect of my dad passing?

Hi Kt, I am so sorry to read that your dad passed in November, this I can see from what you write is very raw for you, it has not been very long and I imagine each day feels like such a challenge. You also suspect that your hasband is cheating on you, which is probably adding to the deep sadness and confusion you may be experiencing? Your questioning how you may get passed the effect your dads passing is having on you? Many may tell you that time is a healer - but I have found over the years of working with many clients that actually time infact does not heal our pain this remains the same but what does happen is your life 'will' grow bigger around the grief you feel. This has helped many of my clients understand how we may still live a happy and fullfilled life without our dear ones with us, so grieving a loss doesn't get easier or smaller but our lives grow bigger and become fuller around the grief. But of course there is a process we need to do to help us through the loss and pain we feel when we lose someone so dear.  I don't want it to sound so clinical because it really isn't easy to do. But I hope by explaining how we grieve loss, will perhaps give you reassurance that what you are feeling and experiencing is what happens and help you to heal your pain. I Imagine you feel like there is a huge hole in your world which was, until recently, filled with someone you loved, cherished, trusted, admired and as you say, was your rock! You write you moved closer to your dad, I hope you were able to spend precious time together enjoying each others company? I wonder if the grieving you are experiencing is being made much harder for you because of the suspicions you have regarding your husband and I guess maybe you are feeling quite alone in your pain?   There are 5 stages we need to go through when experiencing grief, there is no order to how we do each stage and it may be that we revisit some to, but let me help you have better understanding of each stage so-as you may acknowledge them as you go through them. Denial- this may show itself as shock, maybe total disbelief, forgetting when you wake that they have passed. Anger- you have irrational thoughts of why your loved one passed, you may experience jealousy or resentment towards others who still have their loved ones. Bargaining- this may be praying to make the situation change, talking in unrealistic ways of how you could change what has happened 'If only' often people are desperate to stop the pain. Depression- Feeling helpless, deep sadness, you may become withdrawn, and avoid situations, gatherings and/or work, you may feel you want to hide away.  Acceptance- This will come and you will find peace and no longer resent the reality that is. I hope you find your peace Kt. I also hope you find your way through the doubts and suspicions you are having about your husband. Please know we are here to help by offering support, a space to express how you are feeling and a compassionate ear to really hear you.
Answered on 02/02/2023

Would therapy benefit me at 56 years old?

Hi Sago!  Therapy is great for any age, from infants (yes, there are techniques to help babies!) to the elderly! I am happy to help point you in the right direction and work on managing those feelings in a more productive way. There is research called neuroplasticity that tells us that the way our brains are wired can be changed, no matter how old we are. This means that you can change the way you think about things and how you see the world.  Part of therapy is looking for strengths and using them to help you work through your problems. I can already see a lot of strengths that you have. Compartmentalizing is a great tool, as long as you are not putting things into compartments and then locking the doors and never letting them out. It sounds like you definitely have "an attitude of gratitude" which is great and helpful to have healthy mental health.  If this burden is too much to hold onto then why are you holding onto it? It sounds like you are doing what you needed to do to make yourself happy. I understand the feeling of letting others down but you can't make other people happy, just like they can't make you happy.  Was the fact that your children, wife and family exist all you needed to make you happy before coming out? It sounds like you needed to come out for yourself. That is a normal thing for everyone. Happiness truly does come from within. Do you feel any differently about those people now that you are out? Do you love them less? Change is difficult to adjust to, but it is possible.  You can't control how others feel. They need to find their own happiness even if they are impacted by you coming out. You can help them through it by answering questions, being open, being an active listener, and supporting their feelings but you cannot change how they feel and you are not responsible to try.  You can love people, be there for them, support them and want what is best for them, no matter what your orientation is. When that guilt comes up, it's important to talk about it with someone, write it down, or express it. Good luck and I wish you the best!  -Melissa 
Answered on 02/01/2023

What do you do in this scenario?

Thank you for reaching out with this question. I'm afraid there's no real easy answer as it all depends on individual circumstances.However, this is the approach I would follow in the scenario based on the information provided. BoundariesIf you're always present for your family, but they're never present for you, it feels very one sided and uneven. It is exhausting to spend mental and physical energy supporting others, and can be really hurtful and upsetting when we don't get any of that support back. I don't mean that we should only support people that are going to support us back, but, if we're the ones doing all the support, we're going to burn out and be worn down. The helpers like to be helped too, right? Setting some boundaries, if possible, might help the situation. Like 'I can do this, but only for this amount of time.' or 'I will help you if I can, however I need to do these things for myself first.'  There might be push back. What can change? If we can't change the behaviors of others, the only thing we can realistically do in the here and now is look at how we respond and process what's happening to us when we're around these people. If you can create a safe space, where you can be separate from the individuals who are being toxic (even if you can't move house, or change living situation) that might be a start. What are your true options? What are changes that will be easy to make and low risk? What are your false options? What changes are absolutely impossible right now and wouldn't be worth the risk or emotional backlash from the family right now? Guarding ourselves and our mental energy Depending on what your therapy goals would be, I would expect a therapist to work with you and explore what's happening and what thoughts, feelings, behaviors and lived experience is happening right now. Through this awareness, plans for management, coping strategies and potential actions can be identified. It's easy to say 'be more boundaried' but in reality, when we enforce boundaries with people, they can take it personally (that's on them) and like an attack. It's not an attack, it's guarding ourselves and our mental energy to keep ourselves OK. What next? I'm sorry it's not a simple 'just do this' answer, however, I think exploring the situation with a therapist you feel comfortable with, or who specializes in family systems, might be really beneficial for you. Not all therapists are a good fit for all clients, and not all clients are going to like the first therapist they're matched with. If this is something you would like to work through with a professional, I hope you're able to find someone you feel safe and comfortable with talking about this situation. Whatever path you decide to take next, I hope you get the support you need. Best wishes, Jess
(Diploma, Psychotherapeutic, Counsellor, Pass)
Answered on 01/31/2023

What would be the best thing to do?

Hi Leyley, That sounds like it is a lot going on. There are a couple things that need to be explored here. In the end you are going to have the answer in what you need to do in this situation. You are considered an adult at this point in time, are you in school? Do you have a job? Have you had a sit down conversation with them about how you are feeling about all of these things without it turning into a fight?  I understand that it is hard to address things with our parents and have these kind of conversations but in this situation it does sound necessary. You are no longer a child and your relationship is shifting over to an adult relationship with them. You guys have to figure out what that looks like. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries with your parents. It actally is important to set and learn your boundaries with them.  Maybe approaching the conversation in a non confrontational manner and a way where you are also open to what they have to say as well. Explain to them it is important to talk to them about all of this because they are important to you and you do not want to feel like you are in a toxic relationship. When you do have this conversation with them you have to understand that you can not control what they do or say. The only thing you can control is your response and your reaction. Be careful not to go into the conversation with expectations because when we have these expectations or how we think things should go is when we can fall into disappointment and that brings more negative feelings. Let them know this conversation is not to start an argument but to come to solutions together.  Starting out writing down exactly what you want to say and address would be important to start this overall process. If you write down main points then you are able to focus and accomplish some goals and have a beneficial conversation. This is hard but you are doing the right thing by having a talk with them as an adult. 
Answered on 01/29/2023

How do I decide if I want another child?

I understand that making a decision about having another child can be overwhelming and complicated, especially with the previous difficult experiences with postpartum. Here are some tips that may help you make a decision that feels right for you: 1.  Take care of yourself first - It is essential to prioritize your own well-being.  Make sure you are taking care of your physical and mental health, and seek support if needed.  Consider seeking support from a therapist to process your past experiences and manage any current symptoms of anxiety or depression. 2.  Reflect on your values - Consider what is important to you and your family in terms of your goals, aspirations, and priorities.  This can help you determine whether having another child aligns with your values and what you want for your family. 3.  Communicate with your partner - Open and honest communication is key in any relationship.  Have an open and honest conversation with your husband about your thoughts, feelings, and concerns.  Listen to each other's perspectives and work together to make a decision that feels right for both of you. 4.  Assess financial stability - Having a child is a significant financial commitment, so it's important to consider your current financial situation and future financial goals.  Consider the cost of raising another child, including childcare, healthcare, education, and more. 5.  Seek outside support - Talking to trusted friends, relatvies, or seeking guidance from a therapist can be helpful.  You can also seek support from a postpartum support group if needed.  Having a support system in place can help you feel less alone and provide additional perspectives and advice. 6.  Consider alternative options - Explore other options that can fulfill your desire for a close sibling relationship for your first child, such as cousins, close family friends or other families in a similar situation.  Adoption or foster care can be alternative options to consider. Remember, the decision to have another child is a personal one, there is no right or wrong decision and what is best for one family may not be best for another.  It is important to trust yourself and make a decision that feels right for you and your family, considering all relevant factors. Take care.
Answered on 01/29/2023

Can you give me some tools to deal with grief?

Our Mind... I wanted to start this out by calling this "our" mind because of our similarities in how we think about things. It seems that in my experience, no matter the culture, the area of the world you live in, or different upbringings, there is a similarity to being human, we are all controlled by our interpretation of events. Your interpretation, as fueled by the tragic experiences and chronic illnesses, is painting life a different color for you and it is time we start noticing it.  Death is inevitable, yet still very sad. Losing someone is difficult, especially when we don't even get to wrap our minds around it. You lost your mother, and depending on your outlook on the afterlife, that can be a permanent loss. Often in these times, hope is found in spirituality, beliefs of heaven, and how we have eternal souls that never die. I have my beliefs, and it allows me to speak from a place of peace, but depending on your outlook, you might not see the same thing. It's cruel when we feel someone was taken from us, and then it is difficult to live with that loss, among other things.  Your chronic illnesses are a lot too. The fact that they are chronic tells me that you are accustomed to living a certain way, and maybe in times like these, they became that much more apparent.  Look, these things you mention, the things you notice and think, they are all very real. Strength is not found in the unreal, but in what has happened and how we feel about it, not in how we sometimes think we SHOULD feel about life. Often when working with people I notice an underlying belief when they are suffering, I notice there is this measurement they compare to, something else they SHOULD be feeling, they think. On the contrary, pain is really the only guarantee in life, and yet we have been told, and we believed the lie that it shouldn't be. We have more negative emotions than positive ones, and when stressful situations occur, we are equipped to deal with them because of the negative emotions. However, angst isn't about the emotions, but our pressure to get over them, to feel happy, that there should be some alternative life for us. Your life is the one that you have been given, and it can be the greatest life there is, with the loss, with the pain, unless you choose not to see it that way. Unless you let grief and the negative consume you.  Much of life is spent in our heads. Do not walk through this situation interpreting these events as something that detriment you. You have the choice with what you do with life; no matter how hard it gets, you can choose to see the good, the beneficial, or at least the positive things. You have the choice not to give up your thoughts to the circumstance. The emotions will come and go; let them pass. Let grief hit you like a wave; it will pass. It is the thoughts and our belief that this will never end, or the expectation to be better, that actually plagues us. Otherwise, what is wrong with the way you are handling things now?  Remember, you have thoughts; they are provoked by circumstance. You are not these thoughts. You can practice noticing them so they can float on by, and you can find purpose and value in all this. I am not saying that is the goal, but it may be the way to transcend all the inevitable pain. Talk things out, get heard, and have the person you are talking with listen. You can fall in love with life again if you see the parts you can control and take hold of them. 
Answered on 01/24/2023

How do I cope with my current situation?

Hello Emma! Thank you for your message, you are brave to ask these questions! I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Losing a parent is a significant loss and very painful. Grief and loss can be a slow process of healing and growth. I have worked with many people who were working through grief and loss, and sometimes people need to slow down and work through the emotions and thoughts with a therapist. Grief counseling can be one on one or in a grief support group setting. A therapist will help you understand your grief and process these thoughts and emotions to find a sense of peace about the loss.  If there is an experience of trauma or a complicated conflictual relationship with your mother connected to this loss, a therapist will help you process the thoughts and feelings associated with these aspects of loss. To answer your question about the anxiety and panic attacks connected to the relationship you are in, I think that would be a good thing to get some support from a therapist as well. A therapist can help you understand anxiety more fully, learn coping skills for anxiety when it happens, and process healthy and unhealthy relationship qualities for you and your mental health. Some things a therapist might want to consider with you is what do you like about this person you have the relationship with, why is it long distance, is long distance healthy for you, why is he not responding to your messages and why are you having the response you are having to the lack of response.  Two years is a significant amount of time and for him to still not be replying to you brings up some questions for me in terms of what is the commitment level for you both in this relationship and do these periods of not responding to you follow a fight or conflict? If I was working with you I would start with some of these previous details about the relationship and listening to what is important to you before offering much advice or direction. I would also suggest you talk with him about this pattern of behavior and let that inform what you think is healthy or unhealthy for you in this relationship. If you have the chance to talk in person, during a calm moment (not in the middle of a conflict), I think that could be helpful conversation for you both. If you would like to explore these topics with me, feel free to message me!
Answered on 01/23/2023

What is one of the best methods to handle feeling as if you’re not meeting expectations?

Hi Cindy! I am so grateful to see that you are reaching out for support at this time. It sounds like you are seeking out methods in which you can explore your feelings. Based on what you wrote in your question, I can see why you would be inquiring about ways in which to best manage your feelings. There are numerous therapeutic modalities and counseling interventions that can assist you in attaining your goal of handling the emotional experiences that you have been having lately. My hope is that I can inform you about these various interventions as well as help you in coming up with novel ways to better understand your feelings as well as manage them effectively. First and foremost, I want to give you my sincere condolences for your recent losses. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to lose your brother and father around the same time last year. It sounds like you went through a lot at one time having them both pass away two months apart. How are you doing with managing this sense of loss now? Where would you say that you are at in the grieving process? It may be helpful for you to take some time to check out the stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The five stages of grief, according to Kübler-Ross, include shock, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Grief can be a circular process and is not necessarily linear. For example, an individual who is experiencing grief may go through more than one stage at a time as well as shift from one stage to another. There are free resources and worksheets online by Therapist Aid that could aid you in organizing your thoughts and concerns regarding where you are at in the grieving process. In addition to reviewing the stages of grief and loss, I would like to encourage you to participate in a therapeutic writing exercise. If you have time and are willing to try, you can utilize therapeutic journaling and writing as a means to foster a sense of relaxation as well as process your experiences and express your feelings. There are countless journaling prompts on the BetterHelp platform. It could benefit you to write in your journal on a daily or weekly basis. Keeping track of your emotions in a feelings diary can be helpful for both short term and long term reflection. In addition to daily journaling, you could incorporate ad libs into your writing. An interesting concept that I came up with when someone that I loved passed away is to create an ad lib about the bereaved person. Essentially, you could fill in the blanks for the following statements as well as come up with your own outlined sentences, as well: "The person I lost is (name). I love how this person would (verb) with (noun/ adjective). My favorite memories with (name) was when (describe memories). The qualities that I admired most about (name) were their (adjectives). If I could tell one thing to (name) it would be (insert thought/ feeling). (Name) will be known for their (adjective/ noun)." Therapeutic art making is another way in which you can engage in self exploration and express your feelings. The benefits of art therapy can be eye opening, healing and incredibly inspiring. Gather your choice of art supplies and paint, draw, color, weave or sculpt your feelings. A well known art therapy directive derived from the Drawing Diagnostic Series (DDS) developed by Barry Cohen is: "Draw your feelings in lines, shapes and colors." As for art supplies, the DDS directive specifically calls for colored chalk pastels and 18 x 24 inch drawing paper. For more information on the benefits of art therapy, please check out the website for the American Art Therapy Association:  I believe that you are so brave to reach out for support at this time. I want to remind you that your feelings, thoughts and experiences are truly valid. Whether they are positive, neutral or even negative, your experiences are so important. As I mentioned before, you can survey your experiences through therapeutic journaling and art making. As another coping skill, I would like to recommend that you try out some mindfulness based techniques. Take some time to practice the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill of mindfulness. Mindfulness essentially means being present in the moment. In addition to fully being present in this moment in time, another aspect of mindfulness includes relieving feelings of anxiety, stress and focusing on the here and now. Try to incorporate a sensory grounding exercise such as recognizing five things that you see, four things that you feel, three things you hear, two things you can smell and one thing that you can taste. Regarding your concerns about meeting expectations and feeling like a failure in your line of work, I would like to encourage you to address this in one on one counseling sessions. The therapy process can give you an opportunity to explore more about your core beliefs as well as your reasons for feeling this way. On BetterHelp, you can request to be matched with a licensed therapist who is trained and specializes in career counseling. For now, I would like to recommend that you combat the negative thoughts you have as well as challenge unrealistic expectations through positive self talk. Simply remind yourself that you are not a failure and that you are doing the best that you can. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies can be beneficial for you to assay. Thank you again, Cindy, for your time asking this really great question on the BetterHelp platform. I sincerely hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey now and in the future. Take good care and have a good day!
Answered on 01/23/2023

How can you forget and forgive the abandonment of your father when you are an adult?

Forgiveness is for You Your view on forgiveness is that it seems to be for your father when forgiveness is really about your peace. Forgiveness isn't a necessity, though, especially not today. True forgiveness takes time and learning to be able to sit with the reality of what he has done and how it has affected you. It will come up at odd times. So, how do you forgive? You start to love the person you are as a result of the circumstance.  I want to take a second to validate your feelings and experiences and the results of your childhood. This validation is critical for you to know you are heard. Being heard is what your father did not give you as a child and what you can do for your childhood self now. You today can allow the thoughts and emotions that were developed early in life when they come up. You can show you respect your childhood self and the pain of it all but allow the hurt to exist. Don't be the disconnected parent to your childhood self who discounts emotions. Find a way to find gratitude for who you are and how you turned out because of that kid, and how they responded to the circumstance they were put in.  Your dad contributed to your formation of self. If you like yourself, then you can be grateful for the pain and hurt you endured. You can forgive then, naturally, because you aren't mad for what you've been given because even though it hurt, you are better now because of it. If you don't accept or like yourself and all parts, even that six-year-old who wants to cry, then it will be difficult to forgive because it's easy to blame him for this less-than version of what you might have thought you could be. Self-acceptance is critical to move forward because without accepting all parts of you, you will always struggle with a self-disdain, and any forgiveness will be falsified. Find the most inadequate part of you and learn to sit with that person because they are you and have contributed to the person you are, which is what parents are tasked with. As for abandonment, that is something that will be difficult to overcome because you were abandoned, and you know, you were. Your father left you with people that was neither mom nor dad. However, it is not beneficial for what that child went through to indulge that abandonment to be a victim. Remember, you aren't forgiving and moving forward for him or even you today, but as the responsible caregiver to your six-year-old self that tells you all the horrible things he experienced. His service was not in vain, for you will take his experience and grow from it. Thank your childhood self, for your pain because it helped you grow. That abandonment the child felt, that isn't going anywhere because that child will remind you. You can thank him and go forth with a sense of peace your father may never know. 
Answered on 01/23/2023

How to deal with a parent that likes to put their beliefs on what happened to them onto you?

I can understand how frustrating this can be for you or for anyone.  As people we never want to be compared to others because we are each unique individuals with our own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We want to be able to be ourselves without worries of others trying to change us. We don't like to be compared to others because many times all the details of their situation is not the same as our individual situation. I think it is important to consider the parent's view point of why they may be doing this such as they are concerned about you as their child and just want what is best for you. They may feel they have special knowledge or experience that you do not have concerning an issue so they are giving you the advice because they don't want to watch you head down the same difficult roads maybe they did in the past. I would suggest being understanding of the whys behind the parent providing that information and being sensitive to their concern because you are their child and they care about you and your ability to have a good life. I also would suggest that you assertively let them know that while you hear what they are saying and are listening to them that you are your own person and would like to experience the world and situations yourself so you can learn your own lessons from the choices that you make. Validating someones feelings can be extremely beneficial when attempting to have assertive communication that is open with each other. With that said it is important that you make efforts to make good healthy decisions in your life. If the decisions you are trying to make could have negative consequences for your wellbeing it is beneficial for you to reconsider your options.  Healthy decision making comes in many ways. Doing our own research, sometimes life experience, and other times asking people that have already experienced the situation and would have further knowledge about a situation. Don't discount the advice given if it could possibly benefit your life in a positive manner.  I hope this has helped. Good luck to you and best wishes.
Answered on 01/23/2023

Is resolving familiar situations essential, or are some things beyond repair?

Dear Beau Please accept my deepest condolences for the loss of your mother and for the distress and upset that the preparations for her funeral are causing you and your family at this sad time.  I wish that we had an easy solution to solve conflict.  Sometimes, unfortunately a loss in a family will bring out the worst in people. From working with people before and after the event of a loss, this has meant that I have experience of hearing about and also seeing behavior that has run along the whole scale of behaviors, both good and bad.  Often when families struggle to cope with the death of the loved one, individuals of the family can end up fighting or disagreeing with one another, this can seem like a secondary loss.  This is due to the loss of potential support network of others but this loss can also be an additional source of stress. You are not alone, many others can relate to family discord following the death of a lost one.  Reaching out for support outside of the family can often be of benefit to gain some perspective and respite from the issues being experienced within the family. If conflict is something that you avoid, the reaction you mention is to be expected and is perfectly normal.  This is caused by our primitive brain that kicks in to keep us from the worst of danger and is known as our flight, fight or freeze response. Unfortunately there is little detail given in your question in relation to what the issues are other than the funeral.  What other issues the families may have had before the loss may be exaggerated as additional stress causes our brain function to be less rational and we tend to think more on impulse and with more of the emotionally influenced parts.  These are the parts that struggle with reasoning, memory and the longer term thinking.  Due to this, when groups under emotional stress interact conflicts are more likely to arise. We all react and behave differently to bereavement and loss, each of us grieve in different ways and on different timescales too.  This too can cause conflict within families as the expectations of those around us are different and not the same as ours.  There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, just ours which are unique to us and each loss that we experience in life.  If retreating is what you need right now, then that is ok. Best regards, Louise
(Diploma, in, Counselling, (Integrative), Diploma, in, Hypnotherapy, Counsellor)
Answered on 01/22/2023

How can a caregiver remain whole while consumed taking care of a loved one?

Thank you for submitting a question. I am sorry that you are experiencing all of these challenges at this time. And I am sorry to hear that your brother is struggling, too. Being a caregiver is a truly noble and loving choice. Wanting to be there to assist your brother is a wonderful, remarkable thing. Thank you for committing yourself to helping your family. But that said, yes, it can be incredibly difficult. Being a caretaker is a demanding job. It can cause so much stress and strain for even the most resilient person in the world. What you are experiencing is quite common amongst caregivers. You are not alone in what is happening to you. Caregiving tends to cause burnout. It is so easy and quite common to shift the entirety of your focus towards meeting the ever increasing needs of your loved one. In the meantime, your own health and well-being get put aside. There are many signs which indicate you are burnout including:Constantly feeling overwhelmedFeeling like you are easily irritatedOccurrence of body aches and painsDevelopment of physical health issuesHeadachesLoss or gain of weightTrouble with sleep – either too much or not enoughConstantly feeling tired and worn downFeeling worried a lotNo longer interested in things you enjoyed beforeCaregiving usually makes large demands on your time. And this often increases as the loved one continues to get sicker. It is common for your relationships with others to be impacted negatively because of this. It is important to take notice when this is happening so that you can refocus on the other relationships in your life which are important to you. Devoting personal time to your spouse and other family needs to become a priority. And good communication is key. It is hard to watch your loved one go through this. You are watching them deteriorate. Witnessing the decline can naturally contribute to you feeling some levels of anxiety and depression. This can endure for years after you cease to provide care. Strategies to assist during this challenging time are varied. One thing to consider is seeking and accepting help. You cannot do it all. There might be friends or other relatives who can pitch in. Every little bit can help. Who can help? Ask them to assist and specify what they can do.  And it could be time to have a loving, yet firm conversation with your brother about the reality of this situation. It is understandable that he would not want to spend money on services. But it doesn’t sound like it’s feasible to continue on this same path. Let him know that you cannot keep doing this because it is taking too much of a toll on you. And that, without some changes, you will potentially be unable to help at all anymore. This is actually a possibility. Discuss with your brother having someone help you, rather than entirely replace you. That will be a more workable solution. Otherwise, the risk is that you cannot help at all anymore and he will be forced to pay for care full-time. It is perhaps a better solution for him to accept your help part-time and bring in someone else to add additional support. You truly are just one person, and you cannot do it all. It is important that you are mindful of taking care of yourself. Make sure you have time to spend doing things to ease some stress. Be sure you are eating well, getting outside for fresh air, and getting in some exercise. Force yourself to take a break if you must. If you are not able to take several days off, then settle for a few hours. If that is too much on certain days, take each and every minute you can find. Ask for help. For yourself as well as for with your brother’s care. Find a support group, either locally or online. Seek out others who are going through the same thing as you. They will be able to offer support and likely will have some tips to help you get through this season. It helps to connect with others who are going through the same thing. Try your best to keep a positive attitude. It won’t always be easy but try to find the humor in things when you can. And try, too, to shrug things off. The grumpy moods? The quirky habits? Commit to shrugging them off. You do get to choose how you will respond to things. This is absolutely a demanding and difficult time for you. If you feel you need support to help guide you through it all then consider seeking out a therapist. Be patient and be compassionate towards yourself.
Answered on 01/20/2023

How can I help my mother feel joy when she is dealing with cancer?

First, I want to commend you on being there as a positive support for your mother in her time of need. I see where you are taking a lot of responsibility for this as it does not seem that many people know and are able to give her the support that you are. I will give you tips that you could do for her and then will also touch upon the importance of self-care for you as I would not want you to have caretaker burnout and the effects that this could have on you.  I would introduce anxiety tools to your mother that could be effective for her managing her anxiety. Anxiety is contributing to some of the irritability that she is experiencing. Positive supports and reaching out would be a great way for her to not have the isolation as well as be able to effectively process her emotions. If she does not want to leave the house she could join a virtual support group. This could be helpful for her if she does not want to be open about her diagnosis or anxiety to those that she knows. It would be a place for her to express her emotions and it would not feel that you were the one that was solely experiencing all of her concerns and expression of concerns. I also think that using coping skill techniques would be helpful. This could include deep breathing tools. Deep breathing is effective at reducing the stimulation that comes from anxiety and can also be practiced at any time and place once it is learned. Deep breathing is also something that is discreet, so it is not something that she would have to worry about others noticing that she is doing. I know that she is home, so I would also suggest personal activities that could keep her entertained- this could be something like painting, planting. It is a good time of year to start growing plants in the home and then transferring outside. With you away, this may be something that would also help her to feel better and have something to "parent" as she takes care of the plant and watches it grow. I am going to talk about self-care tools next as they relate to you and your needs- but I strongly recommend that she engage in self-care tools as well.  Self-care includes taking time to do things that you enjoy, taking time for yourself. One important part of self-care that is often not discussed or talked about is boundaries. Boundaries are important because it is taking the time that you need for yourself and not giving everything to someone else where you are depleted. When we think about caregiver burnout, this is important because if you are depleted, you are not able to be there for the other person in the way that you want to. This does mean saying "no" at times and having a self-focus. With being in school, this may be important if you need time to study or spend time with friends while you are abroad. It is good to have the goal of video calls each day, but they can vary in length depending on your needs as well. I want you to remember that self-care is not selfish. That word has a negative connotation, but again, you need to take care of yourself in order to be there for others. 
Answered on 01/19/2023

how can I accept my mum's new partner?

I would first like to start with validating all of the emotions that you are experiencing. When we have lost a parent the flood of things that we feel and experience is huge and heavy and comes with the need for us to have time to process through it all and really come to terms with new dynamics that will naturally occur within our family system. It is imperative that we remember that what we feel is valid and reasonable, but what has to be looked at and addressed is how we allow those feelings to manifest in our lives. We want to keep hold of and feel all the things that come, without projecting that onto the other people in our lives, who are also feeling and grieving in their own unique ways. While you lost a dad, your mother lost a husband and her own grieving process is not going to progress the same. You lost someone in a role that is never meant to be replaced, and I really hate to pick that word as it is not even replacing but allowing ourselves to move forward. Your mom is likely in a place of forward movement where she can experience love and companionship again, and while it will never 'replace' your dad in any way, it is allowing her to continue to find happiness within her own life.    For this particular situation that idea of replacement is key to look at. This person cannot and will not ever replace your dad, they are coming into your family in a new and unique role that is specific to that person. Sometimes it can be beneficial to work to take the time to get to know this person on a more personal level, versus knowing them only as someone your parent is romantically engaged with. When we can see them on a personal level and be able to learn who they are, likes, dislikes and find some kind of common ground, then it is easier to interact. This person likely makes your mother very happy, if she is allowing them in your life and so making sure to keep that piece in mind as well. She has experienced a significant loss also, but she also is in a place to deserve to find ways to keep moving forward with her own life and be happy. This does not in any way mean she is forgetting your dad, but that she is continuing to live with his memory while not feeling stuck in a place of grief.    It is important to also remember that this person is dating your mom, so naturally they all will want to have a full relationship with you also, but that it is something that happens only within your comfort level. This person does not have to take on a specific role in your life, there are no rules or requirements there. You are able to have clear boundaries that things that are too close to a 'dad' role are off limits for you as you are not in a place where that is something that is comfortable or appropriate. When we can keep that bit of control over how the interactions exist and the closeness to ourselves that we allow then we can feel a bit less elevated by the situation as a whole.    This process will likely have its ups and downs, but working to just communicate with your family the concerns you have and also be open minded that this person again is creating a new space, not trying to fill one that will forever belong to your father. I wish you all the best along this transition.
Answered on 01/18/2023

How do I not let things bother me so much?

Thank you for your question.  It is important to remember we chose the person we marry but that person did not chose their biological family (parents, siblings, grandparents).  Having difficulty with in-laws is common and can be extremely uncomfortable.  The spouse can feel stuck in the middle because they don't know how to navigate interpersonal difficulties between their spouse and parents.   First, I suggest you work on continuing setting boundaries.  You set your first boundary when you decided to move out of your sister-in-law's home.  Good for you for doing that!  It must have been difficult.  Now, you work on articulating your boundaries, such as informing your in-laws you are not willing to engage in this type of behavior.  If they cross that boundary, you can respond by stating something like, "I'm not doing this with you."  Remember, their behavior is not personal. They have probably been acting like this most of their lives, and will likely not change.  It is important to not take ownership of other people's behavior. We get to take responsibility for our own responses to other people's behavior.  Having this outlook can be empowering because the only person we have control over is ourselves. This can be worked on in therapy.  It takes practice, but the result leads to you being free from this negative reaction and having a closer relationship with your spouse. People that behave in such ways as your in-laws attempt to bait people.  It is important to not bite!  If you don't "bite," they tend to move on to another topic. I'm a visual learner, therefore I like to visualize a form of bait being thrown at me when someone states something with the hope of receiving a reaction from me.   I encourage you to also work on boundaries with your spouse in dealing with future issues with his parents.  This can be done in a therapeutic setting as well.  Again, remember, we don't chose our families.  It is not fair to punish or blame the spouse for their parents' behavior.  You two get to determine what you are willing to compromise on and work on in the future to make your marriage stronger without the influence of your in-laws.  
Answered on 01/17/2023

How do I get over my past?

The past is a tricky one. It will always be there but it can never be changed. Dwelling on things could have/ should have been causes only heartache and disappointment in our present. Instead, I offer you to look at such events and learn from them - what would you do differently next time? How can you better yourself knowing what you know now? The decisions made in the past felt like the right thing to do in that moment so please don't torture yourself about things you cannot change. You mention regret in regards to where you could be and where you should be. It's difficult to look at the things we could have in life but I think it's important to look at exactly where you are now. How did you get there? What have you achieved? If you would like to be somewhere else then what do you need to do to get there? Can you put achievable goals into place to get to where you want to be?  'I need to be the man my wife and kids need' what does that look like to you? What are you doing at the moment that is making you feel like you are not what they need? It sounds like you're going through a really tough time emotionally, you are questioning yourself which seems to be causing a lot of grief for yourself so I would like to offer some comfort in asking,  are you being too hard on yourself? It's easy to look at all the things that we're doing wrong and to criticise ourselves but please look at all the things you're doing right! Are you children clothed, fed, warm, safe, loved? Then you're doing a darn good job in my books. It seems like you have recognised a need for change with who you are as a husband and as a father. That is the first step to change. Now you need to look at where you think you need to make changes and begin that process - small steps.   Please be kinder to yourself, I hope you're ok. 
Answered on 01/15/2023

My brother just passed away from cancer and I already have undiagnosed anxiety/depression, advice?

Dealing with the sudden death and grief of a loved one is a challenge that requires the ability to truly allow yourself to process. Sometimes, there can be triggers that can bring about more anxiety and depression with or without treatment. The goal in therapy is to assist in processing this, understanding healthy ways to come to terms with loss and aid in finding appropriate coping skills that can help make the process less debilitating. We often put up a defense unknowingly at times when a trauma is too much to bear. I'd like to help resolve some of that by finding ways that cope.  Trauma can be triggered from so many things as well: a smell, a thought, a phrase, resemblance and the list can go on. In finding out what your triggers are and how they can impact your anxiety and depression is a great tool for you to understand and know when to apply the coping skills discussed in therapy to get through. With grief there are multiple stages as well. It can take some time to truly process, but with patience and consistency as well as the lack of judgement it can be easier to work through.  Recalling memories or expressing the thoughts of what you would have like to say or hope that your loved one understood can help resolve the unanswered questions, racing thoughts and doubts that can arise after losing a loved one. Having a strong support system can also be beneficial as you can process the grief together with those that have also been affected by the loss. It can also be hard to find the words to describe the feelings that can come up. With therapy, there can be a new perspective or way to tackle the underlying feelings and thoughts and help bring you to a space of acceptance and healing. When those memories or thoughts come up for you, let's find ways to get through them. The goal is to be at a space mentally where you can navigate through without being impacted negatively with the thoughts and feelings that can come up thereafter. 
Answered on 01/12/2023

How can I communicate to my wife that she displays the same type of behavior that she accuses me of.

Hello James, My name is James and I am licensed in the state of Florida as a Mental Health Counselor.  As I think of the situation that you describe, I think your wife has 'changed', she has probably become more verbal and less patient than she was at the start of your relationship. I also think that you most likely have changed also. The dialogue that you need is not necessarily about the "things that are CAUSING  the argument in the first place." That discussion might prove fruitful however the dialogue that I believe is needed involves you and yourself. Basically you are the Husband and she is the Wife. You could start your self dialogue by asking what difference the topic makes if the result is that your wife feels disrespected or threatened. Her "throwing on the brakes" could be a stress response. So, having admitted to having certain specific characteristics to your voice ("my voice is deep and loud") and having described her behavioral and verbal response to your specific verbalizations I suggest that you change your tone, literally ! Examine your routine, are you regularly engaging in high stress activities? Do you find any correlation between out of the home stressors (work, traffic, finances) and relationship issues? Many people don't realize their anger cycle until they look for it. If you find that you are bringing outside stress with you when you come home then look for ways to decompress before you engage with home issues. Try to imagine your wife as a frightened child, your voice is going to be received through that fear filter, making it louder and more aggressive to that child than you intended - as evidenced by your repeated apologies and explanations. SHE NEEDS TO SEE A CHANGE not hear apologizing. If the topic is not immediately, physically dangerous then I suggest you hesitate before responding. Take time to process what you are hearing. Ask yourself if you have any active filters that might be impacting your interpretation of what you are hearing. If you have mastered a relaxation technique then do it before speaking. If you have not mastered any relaxation techniques then take a few minutes during your 'personal growth' time and look up, practice and learn to do some of them. LISTEN - the most common complaint that I have heard from couples is one person doesn't listen!  It is always 'the other person'. ASK - make sure she is finished speaking. Make sure she knows you heard her by repeating what you heard (so i need to put the seat down, is that right?) SLOW DOWN- Let her know you don't want to speak without thinking so you need a few moments. SPEAK CALMLY, SLOWLY and QUIETLY- after you decide what you want to say, say it with love. You could start with a hug, 'I love you" etc but remember her complaint is that you yell at her so lower volume is important. I said multiple levels of concern were indicated by your question. I wholeheartedly believe that your family could benefit from couples therapy. Many couples deny themselves this tool until it is too late. Communication techniques etc. can be like a mechanics tune up, skip them long enough and major repairs are unavoidable. What I described is basic anger management or communication improvement related. Ultimately, James, your self described "bad habit" may contribute to your wife feeling  "small and dominated" and if that is not what you want then YOU be the change that you want to see. Change takes time. You both deserve to feel safe and loved and happy in your home. I hope this motivates you! Respectfully, James Pelzer LMHC
Answered on 01/09/2023