Posted in Children, Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Home

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 5 at Home

tree with green blossoms

Saw this lovely tree during a walk in the park on Sunday.

I read recently that this is a good time to analyze your life strategyThis assumes we have a strategy. I haven’t really thought of a life strategy, in those exact words. Now I’ve been looking at my life to see what sort of strategy I have and it’s caused a bit of a shift because a strategy involves a plan and an objective–how to get the thing we want.

When I think of strategy I imagine scrambling to the top of the heap and I’ve never been that kind of a person. I like to come alongside. I like to help others. I’ve worked under people who clearly had a life strategy and I was part of their success plan. I actually didn’t want to be like them. My life has been guided by principles like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Give and it shall be given unto you,” and be “faithful in the little things.”

Yesterday my husband explained to me why I am having a difficult time with this isolation. It is because I want to help everyone. This morning I checked a few sites I follow to see what others are doing, what “strategies” they have, or words of encouragement. Here are samples of what I found.

Tim’s Blog “We are wandering, perhaps, but we are not lost. And we are not without opportunities.” Taken from his audio recording while he walked in the early morning. This is a great time to look for opportunities.

Another Slice writes with a beautiful pathos and optimism about an 18 year old son who is missing out on all the celebrations around graduation that we have always taken for granted.

Harsh Reality ‘s ten year old daughter set up a google classroom and was discouraged when no one showed up. Her father told her something I needed to hear today, too, that “if she wanted people to interact she needed to really take the reins of destiny and put herself out there.” Sometimes I wait when I need to take action.

Diane Reed is going through her house and reflecting and organizing, as many of us are doing these days. She ran across cards she made years ago and writes about the Early Diane. I encourage you to check out her lovely artwork and maybe buy something from her Etsy site Diane on a Whim.

Patrick Ross shares some insights for creative types who may wonder why they are not able to seize this opportunity for creativity as well as expected.

What I know from my past experience interviewing creatives about their process…suggests this isn’t a great time for many of them. A key element found in most creatives is empathy.

Empathy is what allows creatives to produce works that move the reader/viewer/listener. It also makes them more vulnerable to experiencing the pain of others, in ways that can at times be debilitating to the creative spirit.

I love these glimpses into the lives and thoughts of others at this time. They are so relatable.

This week I heard about one of the many amazing new things that have come out of this isolation. On Sunday friends and family celebrated two very special women by doing a drive-by “birthday parade” for one, and an encouragement “parade” for the other who will be having cancer surgery shortly. I was moved to tears by this show of love and support, even though I wasn’t there to witness it. There were cards and signs and balloons and gifts left at the end of the driveway. Both of these women are very giving and social. This isolation is particularly difficult on them. Maybe it is not a coincidence that the birthday girl is also a cancer survivor in the same family.

On a somber note, I’ve heard this week about a nurse whose ears are raw from wearing a mask as she sometimes works back to back shifts covering for others who are sick. Isolating may be difficult. Wondering how we will pay the bills may be difficult. Looking after young children 24/7 may be difficult. Not getting out to see the people we love may be difficult. But I could think of worse things, like being on the front lines without relief.

These days I draw encouragement from whatever sources I can, and try to give support in return, without beating myself up over how little I feel I can do. I remind myself, everything counts. This is my short term survival strategy (as I keep looking for ways to serve). Smile.

After four weeks of solitude, I broke out of jail for a few hours this week. I bought flowers at Superstore, making a swift ‘in and out’ of the store, from the outdoor, fenced, gardening area. We did our first take-out meal in five weeks – burgers at DQ. We took the burgers to the home of a senior friend and sat outside on the patio and shared them with her. It was lovely. Chilly, cloudy, but lovely. Human contact is suddenly so precious. (I know the admonitions to not meet with anyone outside your family, but let’s be reasonable.)

Once again, we recorded an episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon for the children. I’ve discovered a new gift. I simply love editing and producing video! This is not work for me. It is pleasure!

Now I have started a new prayer for wisdom for those who are deciding how to open up the economy again. I pray for creative ideas, things that may not have been considered, which can be implemented to help keep people well and make things work out better than expected. I also pray for the right timing. I’m leaning towards sooner, like two months, maximum, of isolating before beginning to loosen restrictions.

There are concerns about which I am not writing here in the interest of being mostly uplifting in my conversation. Our words make a difference. During this pandemic I am paying more attention to how I use my words.

tree curved branches

I saw this unusual tree on our walk. A good root system helps this tree to survive. If I think about my life strategy, I would say it boils down to learning to draw sustenance from my Source.

Trust in the Lord, with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6

 

Posted in Abuse, addictions, anxiety, domestic violence, Love, Marriage & Family, Self Regulation, women

Reducing the Likeliness of Domestic Violence

horse ridersAs a person with training in counseling, I am writing this for adults in a relationship that tends towards abuse. Tensions rise to a point where there is a real threat of violence.

First I want to explain that violence is not just hitting. It is also shoving and restraining and blocking. Here I will deal with preventing escalation to physical violence. I acknowledge that emotional abuse is occurring in these situations as well. Below are starting points for resolving conflict that escalates. This is by no means a complete anti-dote, but it could provide some help in certain areas.

  1. Triggers. We all have triggers. These are the areas where we are sensitive. We can get angry when someone triggers us. Knowing someone’s triggers can help us to avoid going there. Triggers are areas that need work. However, the work takes a lot of time and effort, usually under the guidance of a counselor. In the short therm, certain confrontations can be avoided if we think ahead about not triggering someone in their sensitive areas.
  2. Bait. If your partner baits you, this is a pathological relationship. This is not normal. This personality actually wants an opportunity to act hostile and feels the need to be abusive. This is a relationship you have to plan to leave. You are dealing with a dangerous person so you will need to plan your exit carefully.
  3. Impatience. A lot of flare-ups can be traced to impatience. Someone reaches the end of their fuse. The answer is to get a longer fuse. The person with the short fuse needs to see this is their problem. Practicing patience can make a big difference. Learn to give the other person more time, more space, more understanding.
  4. Inappropriate Entitlement. We are entitled to respect. But this is not a one-way street. Both are equally entitled. Neither has the right to be demanding.
  5. Competition. A little bit of competition can be healthy. It becomes unhealthy when one person cannot tolerate losing, or being seen as less competent.
  6. Put-downs, insults. Look beneath this kind of behavior. It is a form of non-physical violence that attacks another’s person. Why are you putting the other person down? In some cases this is a bad habit that needs to be broken. It may be how someone was raised, and they don’t know better. They might not even know how their words are effecting the other person. Deflecting by saying you were joking when you hurt someone is a further form of aggression. Ask each other, how much truth is there behind these words? Does the person intend to be cutting? Also examine whether this is in fact a reaction to words or behavior that hurt them earlier? It is not easy to stop any form of aggressive or inappropriate behavior. It requires a person to humbly admit they have a problem and then commit to changing.
  7. Blame. The blame game is never a winning game. Figure out what is the problem, not who is the problem. Focus on solving one problem at a time. Address other issues at a later date.

What are some positive preventative actions to take?

  1. Be kind. Think of considerate things to do for the other person. Do them out of the goodness of your heart, without expecting anything in return.
  2. Give a compliment. People who abuse others tend to have a distorted view of themselves which is often the consequence of how they were treated by others, especially as children. They have developed various forms of coping with feelings of unworthiness. Show you value the person. Compliment good qualities. Start with, I liked how you. I like that you….When you did that it made me happy. People are starved for words of affirmation.
  3. Listen. Listen well. Let the other person finish. Let them express their complete thoughts. Then respond with, Thank you for sharing that. Or, I’m glad you told me how that impacted you.
  4. Empathize. Say things like, That must have been difficult for you to do/witness/go through. Or, I’m sorry that happened to you.

This is only a beginning. Your relationship is at a low point and will take a lot of work to rebuild. It may also be a situation you need to leave, for your own safety.

Understanding how vulnerable your partner may feel, can help you to be supportive. Just because a person is tough on the outside does not mean they feel that way on the inside. If a person is pathological, meaning they do not experience normal feelings of empathy for others and actually gravitate towards violence to get them high then you need to get out of that relationship. However, a lot of progress can be made when two people are willing to work at their relationship by being more open, communicating what you both want in your relationship, and showing you are for the other person.

It must be understood, and expressed to your partner, that violence will not be tolerated. In other words, “I love you and want to be with you, but if you continue to behave in this way, then I will have to leave you.” If you need to say this, then you also mean to follow through.

One last thing, which is by no means the least of problems, is the influence of mind-altering substances like alcohol. Alcohol tends to bring out the worst. If this exacerbates the problem in your relationship you can say, “You lose control of yourself and become a different person when you drink. When you drink to excess, you make me afraid.” In a normal relationship one partner will not want to cause the other person to be afraid and will in fact be willing to take steps to move the relationship in a positive direction.

Harmful behavior must not be allowed to continue. However, moving towards a more consistently loving and caring relationship will require commitment and hard work. It may be well worth it if there is an underlying desire to be together. Your future years together can be better than your past.

Posted in Marriage & Family

Some People are Stuck in the Dark Ages About Mental Illness

Here is a blog from a woman who knows what she is talking about. Re-posted from: To Walk in Another’s Shoes.

To Walk in Another’s Shoes

Posted on April 7, 2013

Warning: This is a rant of sorts. I admit it. I rarely do this (beyond anywhere but in my own head). And perhaps I am guilty of doing what I am saying others should not do. I get the irony. I do. But here goes …

I am one to believe that no matter what difference of opinion may exist, people ought to set aside judgment and simply walk alongside those in grief. It’s naïve of me, I know, and perhaps it is born of my own experiences, the times when I have felt so alone and abandoned, and subsequently shocked by the insensitivity and abrasiveness of people I may or may not know. My belief system leads me to surmise that, apart from sheer ignorance, people who hurt others the most are the people who themselves are hurting the deepest. Maybe their pain displays as arrogance, bitterness, indifference, or outright assault either verbally, emotionally, or physically. It is heartbreaking to me to see this type of reaction by people who more often than not think they know a situation in its entirety, even though they’ve only caught glimpses of the most peripheral details. From there, right-and-wrong and black-and-white judgments and declarations abound, and the lack of gray (and grace) leaves little to no room for compassion or mercy.

The recent suicide of Matthew Warren, adult son of California pastor and author Rick Warren, is a sad example of this situation to me. I have never read any of Rick Warren’s books, but out of curiosity, I went on a few websites to read comments in response to articles about the Warren family and Matthew’s death. Knowing that mental health issues play into this, I was very interested to see what I would find. Setting aside the fact that this could easily be my family – or yours – I am dismayed at those who are using this grievous situation to speculate, to mock, and even to gloat. Some may blame this on our celebrity-worshipping culture, and the fact that many feel justified in drawing their own conclusions because they read an article or heard what someone said about some hot-button issue, so they feel warranted in making their ill-informed proclamations. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s part of the equation.

Admittedly, I didn’t stick around to read all of the comments; there were just too many. There were those who expressed sadness and support, but it seemed they were greatly outnumbered by those who blamed the parents, blamed their faith, blamed reasons that were admittedly speculative at best. I won’t go into the details because they really are mere speculation. But I will say that I was most taken aback by those who mocked the family, as well as those who felt they had a right to demand more information (as if this family’s grief is any of their business), and those who intimated that Matthew’s struggles with depression were just an excuse for him to be selfish enough to take his own life. Really? To make such blanket statements, to presume that you know the details of, or what is best for, anyone else’s life is sheer arrogance at best. Truth be told, most of us are having one heck of a time just trying to keep our own lives in order. How dare such pronouncements be made upon a grieving family simply because they happen to be more well-known than our own.

Photography by Tina Friesen
Photography by Tina Friesen

As a parent who has walked the path of mental health issues (both my own and that of my children), I find this appalling and offensive. Living with mental illness (however brief or extended the experience may be) can be a living nightmare. To simply wake up and fight to put one foot in front of the other, to dread the thought of going to bed because it leads only to waking up and wondering if your daughter will be dead or alive in the morning, driving your desperate teen to the Emergency Room for psychiatric care, or being forced to call 911 because the child you bore is suicidal and raging … I have lived these things and more. No amount of denigration or finger wagging from those who demand to know details, or think they have it all figured out, does anything to help anyone. Ever. These things are added violence to the already swirling mayhem that for some is daily life.

It takes courage to walk alongside those we love in the best of times. When depression or other mental issues are present, we must gather together more courage than one person alone can possess. We must ask for and accept the courage and hope of those willing to loan them to us, of those willing to bear us up when we are barely able to crawl. Shame on those who think they can render a verdict about a situation in which they are not intimately involved. And at the same time, my heart breaks for you who behave that way; I am sorry you are so wounded that upon seeing another human soul or family in pain, you cannot muster enough kindness to offer a word of sympathy. Or at least keep your mouth shut out of respect. I suspect this is the very thing you want and feel you have not received, either from the ones you harass or from someone significant in your life. And this makes me sad for you.

Some people are still so stuck in the dark ages about mental illness. Why are they so reluctant to admit that there are some things that are beyond our (and their) control? Why the reticence to simply say, “Sometimes things are awful and scary and hard, and we just do our best to love each other through them”? Perhaps because acknowledging that it can happen to others means acknowledging that it can happen to you, too. Knowing that some things are so grievous and difficult that they can actually cause death … this is a terrifying concept, but it is real. Sometimes treatment works, and sometimes it does not. And whether you want to believe it or not, many people wrestle with that truth every day. We are sorry if it scares those of you who have never experienced it, but we ask that you not condemn those of us who have simply because you may not fully comprehend it.

Instead of judgment, a good and courageous start in response to the struggle of another – whether stranger or friend – is compassion, which can be defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune”. Compassion is simply imagining what it would be like to walk in another’s shoes, then responding with empathy. I believe we all long for this most basic of human connections, but our woundedness and fear can make us reluctant to give it.

Compassion is a powerful weapon, one that we must use to fight against the stigma of mental illness as well as many other societal ills. It is one weapon that is, ironically, inherently devoid of violence.