Monday, April 15, 2019

Now in Network with Aetna!

Hope Grows is excited to announce that we are now in-network with Aetna at our Glenridge location.  We are looking forward to welcoming new people.  We are still empaneled with BCBS/Anthem and Cigna as well.  Sometimes, change is a good thing.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

"You're Worth It" vs. "No Problem": The Importance of Inconvenience

If you ask anybody who comes to talk to me, they will tell you I have a slightly different response to "thank you" than what most people would say.  When I hear "thank you," my preference is to say, "You're worth it."  This may sound silly, but it is very important to me.  Lately, I have been reflecting a lot on the message that we give others when we say something along the lines of "no problem" or "it's nothing."  Other languages do the same thing.  In French, they say de rein ("it's nothing") or pas du tout ("not at all").  Spanish speakers say de nada ("it's nothing)".  What does this say to others?  You may think I am overthinking this (it wouldn't be a great stretch for me), but it seems to me that this implies that one is only worth giving to if it does not create inconvenience to someone else.

Think about someone you love.  It might be a child, a partner, a parent, a pet, a friend... Are they ever inconvenient?  I would guess so.  I have two children and a husband that I love devotedly.  Are they ever inconvenient? Of course!  Children wake up in the middle of the night and need tending to.  My husband sometimes forgets upcoming events or can't find things that seem to me to be readily visible.  My cat is getting old, possibly senile, and occasionally incontinent.  Are any of those things inconvenient? Of course! Does that mean I love them less? Not at all.  I am inconvenient, too.  I don't have much energy, and I don't get the things done around the house that need doing.  My laundry hasn't been folded in God-knows-how-long (my job in the house) and Mt. Cotton has turned into a range of not-yet-folded mountains (earth science joke for the nerds out there).  My kitchen floor has not been mopped in... way too long.  I can be lazy, irritable, sarcastic... super inconvenient.  Am I still loved? I believe so. Nobody's left yet.

What if the message we send is not that people are not inconvenient but that they are worthy of inconvenience?  Life is not easy, and it is not straightforward.  It requires us to deal with stressors that we cannot bypass or easily reconcile.  What we need is not the belief that things are going to be easy but rather that we can make it successfully through the stressors. Feeling valued and supported helps us have the courage to face change and take risks.

The problem with "no problem" is not just that others may not recognize their value but also that we tell ourselves that we are not worth inconvenience.  Inconvenience, to be clear, is different than entitlement.  I find, myself, that I tend to give up on something for myself when it becomes inconvenient.  It's not altogether laziness, I don't think.  I think it's that I have never learned to value myself enough to cope with the inconvenience.  Discipline has always been an issue for me, though I think my values are good.  I am responsible, but I don't always have the energy or willingness to push through on things for me.  Exercise is good for me.  I know this, but I have not been willing to push past the physical or mental discomfort.  I need to do a better job of keeping up with documentation and finances in my business, but I have not yet motivated myself to do so.

Now, to be fair, I don't think these things are because everyone said "No problem" to me when I said "Thank you." It's not that simple.  Depression, anxiety, and ADD are significant contributors, to be sure. At school, I learned most things pretty easily and did not have to struggle overmuch.   I do think, however, that I never consistently got the message that I was worth inconvenience.  This is not to say that nobody ever did anything inconvenient for me, but more that I got the message that it was a lot of trouble and not something others wanted to deal with. I learned to focus on others and their needs and not to prioritize my own. I don't think anyone intended me to develop those beliefs, but there was not a lot of focus on teaching me something different. Changing those thought patterns will take time and effort, which, I guess, is ironic.

How does this change happen?  Patience, I think, and time.  Replacing criticism with curiosity. Practicing trusting. (Yes, none of these are complete sentences -- poetic license?)  I don't have all the answers yet.  Maybe that's another post.

None of us is responsible for others' beliefs or feelings.  At some point, we are all responsible for ourselves.  We have a choice, however, to consider the messages that we give and reinforce in others and ourselves.  I hope to give my children the idea that they are worth inconvenience and struggle.  I joke that they still live at home and don't bring in any money, but they are seven and four.  Ultimately, their value is not dependent on whether they make me happy or meet my expectations.  They have value simply because they are. 

With the people I see, I also want them to develop the same beliefs.  I hope to help them get to know and value themselves.  To do that, I need to model respect for them and for myself. Boundaries, compassion, and patience all help in that area.  Whether you come to see me or not, I hope that you will learn to be gentle, to be good to yourself, and to remind both you and the ones you love that

You're worth it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Importance of Right Now

This is a theme I have touched on before, but I find it is relevant again. As much as I might need a good thought on the evils of procrastination, this is not about that.  This is more about the importance of perspective.

There have been a number of changes and transitions in my life lately, some of which were anticipated, and some of which I did not see coming.  Where I have had some clients leave therapy because the time was right to do so, I have had others who have stopped for other reasons. I expected to need a dental cleaning but not to have a crown fall out.  Life, I guess, is like that sometimes.

In those moments when I start feeling overwhelmed and chasing multiple rabbits down multiple holes, it is difficult to maintain a sense of perspective.  It seems like, however life is at any point, it will always be that way. This is great when things are going well, and we can feel optimistic. When things are not going well, time seems to slow down and illuminate problems in technicolor. Depression, in particular, is excellent at making painful moments feel like forever.

Aaron Beck, founder of a school of therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT), described a "cognitive triad" or "negative triad" of thoughts that occur in depression.  Casually phrased, the triad  of thoughts says, "I'm terrible, the world is terrible, and things will always be terrible."  While I'm not altogether sold on CBT, I think Beck nailed those thought processes.  When we are down in the pit of depression, it can seem impossible that there could be a way out or that we deserve one if we can find it.

I remember a few years ago being afraid that my life would be either staying at a job that was horrible for me or having to go back to retail for a living because things would only get worse.  Now, two years into starting my own private practice, I have a job I love that mostly pays the bills.  When the census drops or when financial stressors pop up, it can be hard to trust that things will rebound or that life will get better.  Experience, however, has shown that things generally do get better... perhaps not on my preferred timeline or in the manner that I would expect, but I have never yet lived in the pit forever.  This goes back to that old %100 success rate of surviving everything life has thrown at us so far.  We've all done it.

So, what do we do in times when we are overwhelmed, depressed, and scared? First, we can try to be grateful for what we do have.  I have a home I'm not going to lose, I have a loving husband and two amazing children, and I have a job that I truly enjoy. Being grateful doesn't mean we can't be sad, but it does help us remember that we are not without resources.  Second, we can try to show compassion toward others.  Recently, I've been listening to The Book Of Joy, written about a week-long meeting between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in which they discussed what joy is and how joy can be attained. In that book, both of those wise men discuss the power of showing compassion to others.  When we feel compassion, we recognize our connectedness and feel less alone.  It's not about looking at others and being grateful that we are not in their place (this is not connection but separation) but rather recognizing that all suffer and that we are all human beings together. Third, we can practice whatever basic self-care we can: eating healthful meals, sleeping, exercising, spending time in the presence of safe others, etc.  One of my favorite self-care activities is snuggling -- with my husband, my children, my cat... Safe physical contact is a great healer.

All of us get in spaces where we feel trapped.  Sometimes, that trap is in our own minds. One of my favorite maxims is to "keep your perspective in perspective."  When I am aware that I am depressed, I am also aware that my perspective is off and that I am likely less able to see positive things, be creative, or think clearly.  In those times, I try to practice the above and reach out to my support system as I am able.  If you find yourself feeling trapped, I hope the above is useful to you. If it's not enough or if you just want another connection point, I hope you will come find me. Then, the two of us can walk your path together. We'll start where you are right now and move into whatever comes next.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hope Grows is Changing Gardens!

Hi, All.

Due to lease changes, Hope Grows Counseling, LLC is moving to a new location effective March 1, 2017.  The new location will be:

5555 Glenridge Connector
Suite 200
Atlanta, GA 30342

Phone number and e-mail contact information will stay the same.  I am currently working with insurance companies to ensure a smooth transition. I look forward to continuing the work I love in my new space.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Thanks!

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Power of Intention

So, I've been quiet on here for awhile, and somehow we are almost done with the first month of the New Year.  A new president was inaugurated sometime in the last hour, and we are all waiting to see what will come next.  Many of us have also been thinking about resolutions for the year and setting goals for what we would like to achieve.  It's funny how easily, I think, we tend to dismiss the worth of the plans we make at these times or the effort of making the plan.  How often do you hear someone remark that politicians never keep their promises? How often do we laugh and joke about violating our New Year's Resolutions the next day or the next week? "My New Year's Resolution is not to make any more New Year's Resolutions. Ha, ha!"  While I think it is true that we often do not follow through on those goals, and despite what has often been said about the "road to hell," I think intention has great value.

When people ask me about the value of therapy, I think many of them expect me to elaborate on the relief of depression or anxiety, the improvement of relationships, or the increased capacity to manage stress.  While I believe all of these are definitive and worthy benefits of therapy, I find that I tend to focus on a different aspect -- living life with intention.  Many of us live life essentially on auto-pilot.  We do the same things we've always done and expect that life will generally stay the same. People may come and go, we may change jobs, and the weather may become interesting from time to time, but life in general will be predictable.  The sun will rise in the east, my five-year-old will plunder the refrigerator for fruit any and every time he is hungry, and traffic will be generally miserable in Atlanta at 5:00 on Wednesday.  After awhile, we stop paying attention to our lives, ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

One of the core benefits of therapy is that it shakes us out of our complacence.  We start to look at what we are doing, what and who is around us, and how we respond to all of that.  We start to explore who we really are, what we really need, and what we really want.  So much of our reality is taught to us: what to attend to,  how to respond to pain in others and ourselves, what to value, what to ignore, what to expect of ourselves and others, what our worth is.... Much of this is not verbally expressed but is learned through interaction and implication. One of the beauties of therapy is that it helps us to stop and evaluate for ourselves the lessons we have learned and whether or not those lessons hold true. We learn to explore and trust ourselves.

From that exploration and trust, we can then develop true intention.  When I know who I am and what I value, I can make decisions about what is best for me and how and what I want to share with the world. I am no longer a passive recipient of what others tell me or what I expect to see, but I am open and curious and attentive. My world, both internal and external, becomes alive for me and I engage with it in new ways that create strong and impactful meaning.   I am aware of the choices I am making and why and how I anticipate those will affect others around me.

Therapy is not about changing who you are but connecting with and becoming more fully who you are.  Depression, anxiety, relationship problems and life stressors can all complicate or obscure our self-awareness and sense of empowerment, and as we resolve those issues, we likewise become more intentional. Intention gives us a sense of direction and a motivation to stay open and aware.  I wonder how much longer our resolutions would last if we had more self-awareness?  We all slip back into old patterns and Auto-Pilot from time to time, but trying to live with intention helps us to do so less often and for shorter periods of time.

Self-awareness can start with practices of mindfulness - focusing on awareness without judgment. Paying attention to physical sensations is often a good point of departure. What do I notice in my body and where? Where do I feel pain or tension? Where do I feel relaxed? Is there a pattern to when I feel tension or relaxation? What can I do that changes that?  What message does this pain/tension/stress have for me?

We can also practice mindfulness of our environment.  What does the space you are in look like? What do you see around you?  What do you hear immediately around you? What do you hear that is further away? If you are quiet, do you hear something you hadn't noticed before?  What do you smell? Does that smell have undertones you recognize? Do you have a taste in your mouth? What are your hands touching? What does that feel like? What does the floor/ground feel like if you stomp on it? How does your body feel where you are sitting/standing/lying down? What is it like to focus on the here and now? How is your body responding to that?

There are many other practices that can help develop awareness. In therapy we also look at emotional awareness and engagement. We look at family history and relationships and the messages that were passed down in the family.  We look at life experiences and how we interpret and respond to those.  As we look at those things, we develop a sense of self that can lead to a sense of intention.

Who are you? What do you value in yourself? Others? The world?  What gives you confidence? What creates fear? What and whom do you trust? How do you decide?  All of these are difficult questions, but, I think, worthy of exploration.  If you would like some help in finding your answers to your questions, I hope you will find me. It is my intent to help my clients connect with themselves in such a way as to be able to live in intention.  I may not always succeed, but it gives me a framework and a path to act on what I value.  I wish for you to be able to find the same for yourself.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hope Grows on the (Internet) Radio

Hi, All.

So, by some odd sequence of events, I will be the featured guest on Professionals Radio.com. tomorrow, 11/29/2016 at 10:28 in the morning EST.  It's an odd time, right?  Anyway, if you want to listen in, you can go to http://professionalsradio.com/listen-live-studio-2/ or http://tunein.com/radio/PRN-FM-2-s274393/.  For those of you I haven't met, you have a chance to hear me being me (as best I can in an interview). For those of you I have, you maybe will get to hear a part of my story you haven't.  I hope you are well, and I look forward to speaking to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"A Change Gon' Come" : Thoughts on Choice and Responsibility

As we all know, Americans made some significant choices yesterday. For better, worse, or otherwise, elections are over and winners have been chosen.  Whatever my own leanings might be, I believe we need to respect the process we chose and the people we elected.  For many of us, however, we have some discomfort about what has happened, and I think this is reasonable.

Many people struggle with a sense that they, and their votes, are insignificant.  How much does it matter what I vote if I am a democrat voting in a traditionally republican state? How much does what I believe change anything?  How did we end up with these two people on the ballot when people keep saying they don't trust either one?

On a more personal level, we ask the same questions. If I matter so much, how come my own parents didn't see me?  Why can't I find a job/friend/date/spouse that shares my values? Nobody will listen if I say no, so why should I bother?

Many of these questions are hard to answer.  I'm not sure why the system works as it does, except to say that systems exist to keep systems existing and not to make the parts happy.  There's a lot of doing the same things we have always done and hoping for different results this time.

I think as a nation and as people, we have to be more responsible for ourselves.  Perhaps we depend too much on the response of others or on our leaders to define us and to determine what is acceptable.  When I say responsibility, I refer less to blame and more to empowerment. I believe that individual choice can be powerful.

For me, I choose to look at differences as uniqueness rather than threat.  I like to learn about people and what makes them who they are.  We need variety and change in the world to keep us healthy and growing. Somebody has to think about things differently, or we become stagnant.  What do I do, then, if the leadership in the country seems to list to the side of intolerance or fear?

My job, then, is to live in tolerance and curiosity. In my own life, I have conquered fear much more by getting to know people I didn't understand than by avoiding them.  During the debates, when they were discussing what to do about racial issues, the focus seemed to be on increasing power in those whose job it is to protect and defend.  My wish would be that the police and the families hurt in those devastated areas could work together to rebuild both the neighborhoods and the trust that was lost.  I think communication is a powerful tool and our best ally.

At a recent training I attended, the facilitator was talking about how the military used to have problems getting soldiers to fight because they would look across the line and see just another teenager/young man, and this made the opponents too similar to themselves to attack.  As people, we are not designed to attack and harm each other.  For this to happen, propaganda became necessary.  For us to attack each other, we have to be taught to believe that the other is a threat or is less than.  It would seem, then, that the best way to counter this teaching is to connect and to get to know others.

I love my job because I do get to connect to others.  I am no MLK or Ghandi or Mother Teresa.  I doubt I will be nominated for sainthood or start a movement that will change the world.  What I can do is make changes in the world around me.  I can provide encouragement and empowerment.  I can choose to be thoughtful about the words I use and the jokes I make.  I can focus on changing fear and anger to curiosity.

I love my country, and I am privileged to live here with the rights and freedoms that were afforded me simply because I was born here.  I didn't have to fight/bleed/die for these freedoms, and I did not have to go through the pain and fear of leaving another country in hopes of finding solace, safety, or a better life.  I live with much fortune that I have not earned. Still, I have responsibility.

I choose to learn about others and try to understand their perspectives. I choose to support others in doing what they believe is right, provided they do not harm themselves or others.  I choose to spend my time empowering and uplifting others rather than attempting to judge or manipulate them.  I believe people are designed to connect and to want what is best for those with whom they are connected.  The more we can connect, the less we will harm others, intentionally or otherwise.

Similarly, the more we connect with ourselves, the less we will harm ourselves, intentionally or otherwise.  When we can approach ourselves with curiosity rather than fear or hatred, we can learn valuable information and make better decisions. When we truly see and value ourselves, it is easier to stand up for what we believe is good and right.

I hope, when you look at yourself, you are able to explore your strengths as well as your weaknesses.  I hope you can see your value and your uniqueness.  I hope you can choose to advocate for yourself and act on what you believe is right without harming yourself or others in the process.  I hope you will choose to connect rather than isolating or attacking. If you have trouble connecting with yourself or finding connection with others, I hope you will find me. I am not the right connection for everyone, but I would like to help if I could.

I hope future generations and other countries will not judge us by the choices our government makes but by the positive choices that individuals make, whether or not they align with the current government vision.  I believe that I can facilitate change in my little corner of the world by acting on my beliefs and convictions and by supporting others in theirs.  I wish for you that same sense of empowerment.  I believe you can do it.