Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Life is full of change. Some changes we desire and choose, others are unwanted, overwhelming or even devastating. Having a new baby, getting married or starting a new job are all major life changes that are usually seen as positive. he truth is that even happy and exciting changes in life can be overwhelming, can throw us off balance or result in questioning who we are. Events like the death of a loved one, divorce or the end of a relationship, serious illness or the loss of a job are not changes that we hope for in life and can be extremely difficult to cope with.
Our responses to changes are as unique as we are and can depend on so many factors. Responses to life changes can be joy or relief or they can be depression, anxiety, confusion, anger, fear, feeling overwhelmed or the feeling of being in crisis. Even the natural process of aging can be difficult for some people to cope with. This is especially the case for people entering midlife. Questions of self worth, identity and the reality of our own mortality begin to come up.
When life changes or life transitions happen it is important to be gentle with ourselves and allow time to adjust. Sometimes the changes can be so abrupt, devastating or disruptive that we may need to seek out support or treatment. Leaving serious reactions to change unaddressed can be dangerous, as they may not resolve without some sort of treatment. An example of this is if someone has the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) they have experienced a traumatic event such as natural disaster, life threatening event or witnessing something scary or disturbing. Symptoms can include anxiety, anger, depression, isolation, even suicidality, drug or alcohol abuse, nightmares, insomnia and more. PTSD does not resolve on its own but can be successfully treated with therapy.
Getting a divorce or ending a relationship can be extremely difficult and is another example of change in life that can be so hard to cope with in the absence of support. Graduating from college is a transition for some people that can be overwhelming and confusing. Questions start like "what is my purpose" or "what do I do know" or " who am now that I am an adult" start to bubble up as young adults move away from friends and the safety bubble of college life and are expected to get jobs and live independently.
No matter the type of change, if you are feeling lost or overwhelmed by it, getting support is an important step toward feeling better. Finding a therapist that you easily connect with will allow you to find peace and energy and to feel proud of who you are.
Hi again. Today I posted a new recording in the quick tips section of my website. It is only about 6 minutes but it is one of my favorites to practice. I finding it deeply relaxing and centering. I hope you have the chance to check it out and let me know what you think of it. In working with people experiencing high levels of anxiety it becomes so clear that not all anxiety is the same, just as not all people are the same. That is why I am so happy to be finding new relaxation and grounding exercises all the time. I am even more excited to share them and see the change they can bring to people who are struggling. Sometimes anxiety or stress are temporary and for some it seems like they become a way of life. The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. There are things you can do to get control of stress and anxiety. I hope this is a useful tool for some of you. You can link to the guided meditation here relax_white_light__1_.wav
As most people are aware, addiction is a pervasive problem in our society. It is killing people across generations, races, economic classes and more. It does not discriminate and it is not gentle. It is sneeky, deseptive and leads people to do the unimaginable. People will kill, lie, steal, degrade themselves in horrible ways to feed their addictions, to get their drug, to chase that high. As a person who has addicts in my family, I am speaking from personal experience. An addict in their addiction is not themself. They are the shell of your loved one. That shell can be deceiving and heartbreaking, but just remember. Its not your person, its the drugs that are hurting everyone around them. To see a loved one being sucked into the spiral of addiction is scarey and sad and leaves you feeling so so helpless. Addiction can destroy a person if left untreated and it can destroy the people around the addict if left untreated.
One of the most important things to learn, for anyone who loves an addict, is that you can not control other people. No matter how hard you try, the only person you can control is yourself. You can chose what you do in your life, how you respond to people and situations and what your boundaries are. This is so hard to accept, because as a person watching addiction take hold you want your loved one back. You know what they need to do and how they should do it and you are desperate to force them to somehow stop. But they have to do these things themselves.. They have to find help and ask for help and take the help and learn to help themselves.
Trying to control "your addict" is like banging your head against a wall and will shorten your life and take the joy out of your life. You get to make this choice. Will you let their addiction ruin your life too? I have to make the conscious desicion to live MY life. I still love the addicts in my life and will do anything I can to help them. But here's the thing . I wiil NOT do anything to help their addiction! That means if they want a ride to treatment. I will be there. If they need money to get high. I will not help them. This is confusing at times, but if I go back to this idea, it gets easier to know the right thing to do. It helps me not get furiouse and crazy. I still feel sad because I am loosing those people while they are using. Its normal to feel sad, but it is not healthy to let their addiction take over my life. This is the idea behind not enabling a person in their addiction. I will not enabe them to continue using.
By stopping the enabling behaviors, we are actually doing the most powerful and helpful thing we can for our addict. We cant control them but we can start to limit the power their addiction has over us. We are also allowing them to take responsibility. We are letting them know that we trust that they can get well. That they are strong.
When you hear the phrase Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for short, what comes to your mind? Many people think about combat or war veterans or survivors of torture. These are examples of trauma, but there is also so much more that can be traumatic. For example any experience where a person's life is at risk or they even feel like their life is at risk, is traumatic. The loss of a loved one, witnessing violence or death and extreme changes are all potentially traumatic events.
One of the biggest factors that influences a person's response to a potentially traumatic event, is whether or not the person felt like they had any control over the situation or the outcome. And if you think about it a little, this sort of makes sense. Lets say you decide to go sky diving. That is a risky behavior that could feel overwhelming and life threatening and for some people it feels exhilarating. Now consider being on an airplane that has engine failure and you have to jump out as your only chance for survival. The second scenario is much more likely to have a negative impact on a person. The big difference between these two situations is the part where a person feels like they have a choice over how, where, when and with who they jump from an airplane.
Trauma and trauma treatment is a huge topic and I am only touching on it here. My purpose in bringing it up is to say its okay to say you feel traumatized by an event. There is no rule about what is bad enough or anything else. People often say that they feel like they should just be able to get over what happened, but sometimes its not that easy. Sometimes we need help to get past something bad happening and it doesn't make you weak. Facing the reality of whatever has happened can be hard. But I think that carrying it unresolved for as long as your whole life, is worse.
There are lots of treatments for trauma and as many or even more theories about trauma. The good news is that there are options that make it possible to find the treatment and the therapist that feels right for you. Signs that you may have PTSD or just need help getting past something, include the following.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.