Counseling

30 Day Writing Challenge- Days 6 & 7: The Past Informs the Future

2019-05-06-and-07SpeakWriteNow30DayChallenge

Prompts
06: When was the last time you _______________?
07: What will life be like for you in 2025?

The last time I really tried to think ahead to 2025, I was graduating from a high school completion program. That was in 1990 . . . 30 years ago. I had a hard time imagining it then, I have a difficult time imagining it now. I couldn’t really figure out why it was so challenging then. Now, I know why. PTSD and “trauma brain,” plus Bipolar II Disorder . . . none of which I was diagnosed with until I was almost 45 years old. Those diagnoses didn’t happen until five years ago.

I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not scared of that number. I’m looking forward to it, as a matter of fact. After five years of therapy and learning about how these things affect the brain, how and why I’ve done many of the things I’ve done, I feel like I’m finally starting to “grow up.” In a way, I’m like that 20-year-old young woman who thought she could bulldoze her way into a different, better life than she’d had before.

I learned early that the only constant in my life was going to be change. Major change. Epic change. Frequent change. Every six months to three years, my life was turned upside down. New people. New places. New schools. New kids. Even new dads. By the time I was six years old, my mother had been married three times and we had made countless moves between Los Angeles, Abilene, Houston, and Birmingham; California, Texas, and Alabama. We sort of stabilized with the third husband for a few years. However, it turned out that he’d married my mom in order to get to me. We moved three times during their marriage and I lived through a year and a half of grooming and a year and half of emotionally manipulative sexual abuse. So, we moved again . . . and again . . . and again. I wound up attending three schools in sixth grade.

That was when we landed in Oregon. (The state I’ve spent most of my life living in and acclimating to.) More upheaval and life altering changes. My mother’s undiagnosed mental health problems came to a head. She surrendered custody of me to her younger brother; he was only 15 years older than me. Then she moved back to Houston and the Depression killed her. At 12 years old I, essentially, became an orphan. I won’t go into details of the next four years. Suffice it to say, there were several more moves and new powers in charge of my life, until I became the child in charge of adult realities, including being a primary caregiver to my baby cousin.

Then, I met the “love of my life.” Another predator. He was 14 years older than me and a professional, low-level con artist. From 16-19, I lived out of cars, hitchhiked across the country, became a teen mom, and learned how to manipulate people into giving me money and other things he wanted. At 19, I was done. When he couldn’t use me anymore, he nearly killed me in front of our two-year-old son and abandoned us. Since that time, I’ve moved a lot more, parented two more children, lived through an 18-year toxic, some would say abusive, relationship, and much more.

When you’ve lived that kind of life, it’s difficult to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the next 30 years. On top of that are the ongoing mental health issues. The Depression aspect of the Bipolar Disorder has always had a strong hold. Today, even after five years of therapy and med management, a lot of days it’s hard to do the self-care basics…tooth brushing, showering, eating nutritious meals, and so on. I’m functional enough to parent in semi-constructive ways and attend my therapy groups and counseling appointments. Mostly, I’m functional for the benefit of others and not for myself. It’s hard to think about what I want for myself beyond being able to get my kid and I to both take a shower.

I know what kind of life I hope to be living in 2025. I want to be more than functional. I want to be mentally and emotionally stable enough to be financially independent. I want to be disciplined and confident enough to at least put forth the effort to pursue my writing in a professional manner. I want to be in a vocation where I’m helping others navigate their way through life with mental health issues. I want to be a fully engaged parent and grandparent. I want to care enough about me to take care of me.

In order to bring those things to fulfillment, I’m committed to keep doing what I’m doing with my mental health recovery process. That’s all I know how to do, for now.

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30 Day Writing Challenge- Days 6 & 7: The Past Informs the Future

Prompts
06: When was the last time you _______________?
07: What will life be like for you in 2025?

The last time I really tried to think ahead to 2025, I was graduating from a high school completion program. That was in 1990 . . . 30 years ago. I had a hard time imagining it then, I have a difficult time imagining it now. I couldn’t really figure out why it was so challenging then. Now, I know why. PTSD and “trauma brain,” plus Bipolar II Disorder . . . none of which I was diagnosed with until I was almost 45 years old. Those diagnoses didn’t happen until five years ago.

I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not scared of that number. I’m looking forward to it, as a matter of fact. After five years of therapy and learning about how these things affect the brain, how and why I’ve done many of the things I’ve done, I feel like I’m finally starting to “grow up.” In a way, I’m like that 20-year-old young woman who thought she could bulldoze her way into a different, better life than she’d had before.

I learned early that the only constant in my life was going to be change. Major change. Epic change. Frequent change. Every six months to three years, my life was turned upside down. New people. New places. New schools. New kids. Even new dads. By the time I was six years old, my mother had been married three times and we had made countless moves between Los Angeles, Abilene, Houston, and Birmingham; California, Texas, and Alabama. We sort of stabilized with the third husband for a few years. However, it turned out that he’d married my mom in order to get to me. We moved three times during their marriage and I lived through a year and a half of grooming and a year and half of emotionally manipulative sexual abuse. So, we moved again . . . and again . . . and again. I wound up attending three schools in sixth grade.

That was when we landed in Oregon. (The state I’ve spent most of my life living in and acclimating to.) More upheaval and life altering changes. My mother’s undiagnosed mental health problems came to a head. She surrendered custody of me to her younger brother; he was only 15 years older than me. Then she moved back to Houston and the Depression killed her. At 12 years old I, essentially, became an orphan. I won’t go into details of the next four years. Suffice it to say, there were several more moves and new powers in charge of my life, until I became the child in charge of adult realities, including being a primary caregiver to my baby cousin.

Then, I met the “love of my life.” Another predator. He was 14 years older than me and a professional, low-level con artist. From 16-19, I lived out of cars, hitchhiked across the country, became a teen mom, and learned how to manipulate people into giving me money and other things he wanted. At 19, I was done. When he couldn’t use me anymore, he nearly killed me in front of our two-year-old son and abandoned us. Since that time, I’ve moved a lot more, parented two more children, lived through an 18-year toxic, some would say abusive, relationship, and much more.

When you’ve lived that kind of life, it’s difficult to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the next 30 years. On top of that are the ongoing mental health issues. The Depression aspect of the Bipolar Disorder has always had a strong hold. Today, even after five years of therapy and med management, a lot of days it’s hard to do the self-care basics…tooth brushing, showering, eating nutritious meals, and so on. I’m functional enough to parent in semi-constructive ways and attend my therapy groups and counseling appointments. Mostly, I’m functional for the benefit of others and not for myself. It’s hard to think about what I want for myself beyond being able to get my kid and I to both take a shower.

I know what kind of life I hope to be living in 2025. I want to be more than functional. I want to be mentally and emotionally stable enough to be financially independent. I want to be disciplined and confident enough to at least put forth the effort to pursue my writing in a professional manner. I want to be in a vocation where I’m helping others navigate their way through life with mental health issues. I want to be a fully engaged parent and grandparent. I want to care enough about me to take care of me.

In order to bring those things to fulfillment, I’m committed to keep doing what I’m doing with my mental health recovery process. That’s all I know how to do, for now.

Both And

I’ve been going through a lot of therapy to learn how to cope with and manage the symptoms of PTSD, Bipolar II Disorder, and Depression. I’ve been struggling since about mid-October 2018…six months. It’s what I call a low-level depression. It’s under the surface at all times. It’s enough to keep me on a “moderate” and intermittent binge eating episode. It saps my personal motivation to do more than the bare minimum of ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), unless I’m leaving the apartment to attend a group, appointment, or an obligatory errand. Then, I’m motivated to look (and smell) presentable, as well as be functioning at a higher level for the sake of the people I’ll be around. So, I’ve been scheduling or trying to schedule something each day to get me out of the apartment.

Mondays are my open days for scheduling random appointments. Tuesdays and Thursdays are DBT & Seeking Safety groups – DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is about developing skills to solve problems, navigate stressful/triggering events, improve interpersonal interactions, and basically manage everyday life. Seeking Safety is part education and part skills training regarding PTSD and Substance Abuse/Maladaptive Coping Behaviors. I also try to schedule my 1:1 appointments with my therapist and my daughter’s therapist. Wednesdays I try to meet with my Mental Health Case Manager for the Supported Employment Demonstration program, a study for the Social Security Administration. I also try to meet with the Employment Specialist on those days, if we have something to address. Fridays are my “on the go” days which include laundry, dealing with the ex, and transporting my daughter between school and her dad’s. On Saturdays I was going to a NAMI Family to Family class, a peer support group for family members who are support for someone experiencing mental health issues – meaning I’m not the only one in my family with mental health struggles. Sundays are my church days.

Anyway…most of these activities are about me working on my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I’m learning a lot about myself: I talk a good game; despite my knowledge and understanding of thinking errors and fallacies, I’m still operating under several of them; I’m the one in my own way and keeping myself “stuck.” I’m REALLY good at talking about my issues and what I need to do regarding them. However, I’m not good at following through. While I know on an intellectual level the truths and actualities of life as it is now, I’m still living as though I’m the same person and my life is the same way it’s been for the majority of the time I’ve been on this earth. Basically, I need to do the things, instead of just thinking and talking about doing the things.

One of the most important lessons I’m working through is that life isn’t an “either or” thing and that, often, it doesn’t have to be a “first, then” situation. Most of the time, I have been living and acting as if EITHER I’m operating in depression mode and unable to make progress OR I can only make progress if I’m not depressed. I’ve also been in “future tripping” mode: I can’t do C until A and B have been accomplished… ” I can’t write until I have a clean, uncluttered living space. Additionally acting as if I have to be in the “right mood” to get something done that I’m resistant to…like writing when I’m not feeling inspired to write.

Of course, neither of these things are usually true. I can be experiencing the symptoms of depression but still making progress. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing and have been doing over the past five years. Which has brought me to the point where I’m in daily “crisis mode” and must deal with the crisis in front of me before I can do anything else. So, the laundry doesn’t all have to be put away or the kitchen clean before I can sit down and write a blog post.

Easier said than done when I’ve lived nearly 50 years of my life in these ways. It’s time for a new way of thinking. I can be resistant to change, and still make the changes needed to be the me I want to be.

C’mon Get Happy

Click image to see the YouTube video

This week’s WW topic is “Happiness.”

Today was the first of seven of these workshops I’ll be attending this week on my “90 meetings in 90 Days” journey. (I owe you a post to explain that. Tomorrow. Maybe.) Today’s discussion was interesting. I’m looking forward to see how it gets addressed in the other workshops.

The weekly handout suggested that being happy makes the healthy activities we do in our lives more possible and increases the experience of those things. It also acknowledged that partaking of those activities increases happiness.

The workshop’s Coach listed a formula that determines one’s happiness level:

50% Genetics
+10% Life Circumstances
+40% Attitude, Thoughts, & Actions

My immediate reaction was to scoff at the Life Circumstances percentage. I mean, although it hasn’t been as painful and difficult as other people’s, it’s been generously peppered with a lot of trauma. Consequently, I have PTSD. Plus, I experience Depression, Bipolar 2 Disorder, fibromyalgia, and am parenting a child with regularly tells me things like she wishes I would kill myself or that I had been born dead.

Yeah. Happiness is HARD. That’s a LOT of genetics and life circumstances.

I spend a lot of time fighting tears, dealing with bureaucracy, and managing conflict. I’m skeptical that Happiness is a state of being that’s more than occasionally possible for me.

I think Acceptance and Contentedness are much more doable. I think there can be moments of happiness. I think we have to be emotionally and mentally healthy and functional to be able to experience even those moments of happiness. I simply don’t believe that Happiness is achievable as a permanent state.

All that being said, I have my own formula:

Psych meds
+Therapy
+A supportive community
+Activity
+Self-Care
+Choosing to be in positive environments


The ability to experience happiness.

What say you?

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My whys


I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) mid-September this year. I have a laundry list (Why “laundry”? Wouldn’t “shopping” make more sense? I think so, too). Correction, shopping list of whys. Not the least of which is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a rare disorder of the ankle, similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Here’s the complete list:
Family – I have two adult children (32 & 25), three grandchildren (4,3, & 1), and a nearly 10 year old on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum and who experiences ADHD.

Physical Health – Fibromyalgia, Hypothyroidism, Type 2 Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, High Cholesterol, and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Mental Health – Bipolar 2 Disorder, PTSD, Depression, Binge Eating Disorder.

Because I’m worthy of self-love and self-care.

I’ve spent nearly five years of hard work to reach this point. I had been a toxic person in a toxic relationship. I had severely broken relationships with my two adult children. I was so overwhelmed and depressed I was barely functional. I was so consumed with self-loathing that I hid from the world, making myself sicker and sicker, consuming all the food and media I could numb out on.

Now, I’m working on staying centered in the here and now, continuing to heal, grow, and build relationships with my children, engaging with the world and people around me, and learning how to treat myself with the care, compassion, and love I have and want to have for each person I encounter.

It’s past time for me to become the best version of myself.

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Liebster Recipient: Sovann Pen

Sovann is one of 11 Noteworthy Bloggers I listed in my Liebster award post. He opted to answer the questions and submit them to Human In Recovery.

Here are his responses:

1) Is your blog personal or professional and what is its primary focus and/or topic? Personally professional on counseling, marriage and parenting.

2) Do you have a YouTube channel or podcast? If so, please provide the title or link. No podcast yet but I’d like to do a podcast to encourage families, especially those who do foster care and adoption, in the future. I love talking with people and learning from them about their marriages and families.

3) Are you a contributing blogger/writer elsewhere? No (Does Facebook count?)

4) What is the most valuable, free product/app/service you have found as a blogger?

Definitely Facebook and Facebook groups. It’s fun to be a part of groups with kindred spirits who share and write about similar topics.

5) What piece of information or advice would you have found invaluable as a beginning blogger? Jeff Goins’ blog and You Are A Writer ebook, join his My 500 words FB group and/or take his Intentional Blogging or Tribe Writers course and listen to his podcast The Portfolio Life for inspiration. Michael Hyatt’s Platform and Donald Miller’s StoryBrand books are helpful too.

6) What social media sites do use use for public interaction and how do we connect to you? On twitter @sovannpen and FB at A New Day Counseling Center. I also invite you to subscribe to my blog at http://www.sovannpen.com

7) Are you an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert (both to varying degrees) extrovert but not life-of-the-party, center-of-attention variety. I like to read and spend time on my own praying too.

8) What core value do you try to live by?

Love God and love others. That and the belief that redemption and healing are possible.

9) If you had to choose an anthem song, what would it be? Can I choose two? Right now, This Is Me from The Greatest Showman, a great song and movie and So Will I (100 billion X)

10) If you had to choose, would you consider yourself an advocate or activist?

Advocate. An advocate for grace and empathy and being brave.

11) What is your favorite quote?

This week it’s: “The opposite of joy is not sadness. It’s hopelessness.” (I’ve seen it attributed to Allistar Begg and Timothy Keller)

Circle of Security: A tool for peaceful relationships

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This month’s Bloggers for Peace challenge is: Peace at Home.

I don’t know if I will ever experience peace in my home – mostly because I don’t ever, truly experience peace inside of myself, for more than a fleeting moment or two.

Things I’ve been labelled with, or have chosen to label myself with, like depression, anxiety, co-dependency, and hypomania are symptoms of the inner turmoil and chaos, which have been such an ingrained part of my existence that it predates my conception and is probably just as much nature, by now anyway, as it was nurture – or lack thereof.

I finally started doing more than just collecting the data and figuring out the likely diagnoses – after all, “knowing is [only] HALF the battle,” right? The other half is figuring out the plan of attack based on what you know.

One thing I’ve been blessed with is the opportunity to participate in a therapeutic parenting group on attachment, Circle of Security. The timing of this opportunity was serendipitous, since I doubt I would have been emotionally or psychologically capable of effectively processing what I’ve been learning, even six months ago.

The timing has also been problematic and inconvenient due to childcare issues and the ongoing issues with our family’s financial issues relating to Keith’s job. This has been the “short” course of eight weeks (there is a 20 week comprehensive one I should probably seek out), and I’ve missed and, thankfully, been able to make up two of them.

The videos, handouts, and group discussions have helped me see and understand in clear and comprehensive ways, why I feel and act the way I do, the things that drive my brand of crazy, and how it not only has impacted my parenting relationships with my kids, but every other relationship I have ever had with anyone and everyone.

The tools and information provided in Circle of Security are not only guiding me in being the Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kinder parent little Luna needs me to be, it has taught me where to see my own disconnects and helped me to understand in deeper and more profound ways what and where the ruptures are in the relationships with my adult children and other important people in my life. This program is primarily a early childhood parenting/caregiving curriculum, but I believe that it is also something that can be effectively adapted to anyone going through a healing and recovery process regardless of parenting status.

Just as in February I had the breakthrough, with the help of a friend who is a college professor and MSW, that I probably have cyclothymia, this course has helped me to understand that in all likelihood I grew up with Disorganized Attachment . I am able to see and understand, on a much deeper level than ever before, exactly why my life and relationships have been as chaotic, conflicted, and painful as they have been – and it isn’t just the dysfunctions and unresolved issues of everyone else; a concept I’ve paid lip service to, but have been in actual denial over.

My relationships are inconsistent, disorganized, and conflicted because I grew up in inconsistent, disorganized, and conflicted ways, surrounded by multiple generations of caregivers who weren’t capable of being or teaching any other way. I have carried that forward into the relationships with my own children.

There is an ocean of grief inside of me that is rising and needs a constructive outlet and time to rise and recede – as in the time of Noah, when the rains began to fall, the barriers to the depths broke apart and waters rose to meet the rains. I pray that my ark is built to withstand the coming flood. I pray also that I remember to rely on the provision to carry me and my loved ones through so that, when we hit land again, we have all we need to start fresh.

I cannot expect the other people in my life and in my home to choose peace with me when I am not able to be at peace with myself. If I am not attached and loving with myself, it is nearly impossible to be attached and loving with them.

Peace in the world begins with peace in the home. True peace in the home starts with peace inside of ourselves. True peace inside ourselves means being willing to go through the inner storms and accept that whatever we are experiencing externally is a reflection of our internal selves, then taking action to address it, in compassionate and loving ways.

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