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Everyday Therapy

The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

A Series of Articles: 1 of 6 – The Reality of Being Human

This is the first in a series of 6 articles relating to developing quality relationships and the associated, at times, painstaking issues to consider along the way. An individual has choices as to who s/he has a relationship with, to what degree, and in what manners to engage. This includes the degree to which an individual engages with family, friends, romantic partners, and within the community.

It’s important to consider that those an individual chooses to have a relationship with will engage in different roles at different times. First, it is important to consider meeting a level of your own needs. At times, individuals have difficulty developing the skills it takes to nurture one’s self. A combination of a quality relationship with one’s self and different types of mutual relationships to assist one whole human (you) and give the opportunities to work towards relationships where two or more humans help enhance, nurture, strengthen, and balance each other in healthy ways. In today’s society, life has the propensity to become busy. A great way to stay connected is by taking time to call, text, check in on one another, and/or set up a lunch date; each are important factors in maintaining a relationship. Relationships take work, which increases commitment, investment, and value.  Relationships benefit from being nurtured and having the opportunities for growth, change (this is an important facet), mutual support, laughter, increase listening skills and being heard, and the numerous psychological and physiological benefits associated with each.

At times, humans appear to sacrifice the opportunities to have higher quality relationships- one’s that are mutual, positive, nurturing, fun, supportive, and giving from each person in the relationship. Many times, this brings a person into therapy seeking out support, healing, and learning ways to build strong, positive, and supportive relationships.

Consider the following and how each applies to your current relationships:

  1. Who do you have relationships with & who do you avoid relationships with? What are your motivations for each?
  2. Do you take the opportunities to build relationships with family, friends, and within community?
  3. Does fear and/or anxiety contribute to limiting the opportunities to create mutually caring relationships; if so, in what ways?
  4. What type of relationship(s) do you desire in your life? How will each enhance your growth as a person?

The Realities of Being Human

At times, a person experiences neglect and/or trauma throughout childhood and/or in an adult relationship (this includes romantic partners), and the immense amount of pain associated with interpersonal relationships containing the above mentioned behaviors. Many times, clients feel a level of obligation to have a relationship with a person even after what happened throughout the relationship or is currently a part of an individual’s daily environment; which obstructs growth, development, and contributes to physiological and psychological issues over time. Seeking out therapy assists an individual in processing what happened and is happening internally, contributes to healing the immense pain, and moving forward from, many times, decades of harm.

An individual will then have the opportunity to choose to continue the relationship as it is and find ways to cope with the trauma, stress, and/or anxiety, to minimize interactions while benefiting from a shift to lighter subjects that are void of a deeper connection (which many times exist only from one person), or to cease the relationship entirely.  Each are associated with a psychological process and a high level of pain that benefits from long-term therapy. Many clients experience the memories and contend with the pain and/or rumination of a harmful relationship; many times, as if it was happening currently.  For many, even thoughts of healthier relationships evoke fear, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance. During the therapeutic process, internal healing begins and assists clients with allowing one’s self to move towards a healthier set of relationships in the future.

Consider the following:

  1. Do you give yourself permission to love, miss, or have a level of affection for a person knowing the relationship is best kept as part of a past learning experience- even if it was a difficult one or would benefit from change moving forward?

    Many times, this is where realistic expectations and healing begin.  The thoughts and feelings associated with any significant relationship take time to decrease in intensity, whether a family member, close friend, or romantic partner.

  1. Are there behavioral health or mental health issues that make it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship for either individual or for each person involved?

    It’s important to seek individual therapy, couples therapy, and/or family therapy to learn how work together in positive manners and communicate well- including difficult times.

Most individuals, engaging in relationships consider the differences of being human, while working towards developing relationships that encompass respect, appreciation, a level of graciousness, communication, support, acceptance and adaptation during change, and growth. Each will be discussed throughout the 6 part series. COMING SOON: article 2 of 6 in the series: How Respect & Appreciation Increase Rewarding Relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

Peace, Love & Anxiety

The Shape of Fear

by Christy Gualtieri

On a recent episode of NPR’s “TED Radio Hour,” I listened to a man, named Isaac Lidsky – a very successful child actor, Harvard graduate, and law clerk to two Supreme Court justices – give a talk about how he shaped his reality. It’s something we all do; how do we see ourselves, how do we see our lives? The interesting challenge for him is that he suffers from a rare genetic disease that rendered him completely blind in his mid-twenties. Up until the time he lost his eyesight, he had shaped his reality based on what he could see, like most of us do. He did that until he couldn’t…and then he figured out that he had to shape his own reality in other ways. I was drawn to his story by the truth of this one section of his talk:

“Sight is just one way we shape our realities. We create our own realities in many other ways. Let’s take fear as just one example. Your fears distort your reality. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing off what you dread for what you know, offering up the worst, substituting assumption for reason…fear replaces the unknown with the awful.”

As a chronic worrier and someone who has suffered from anxiety for much of my life, I totally understood what he was saying. I could affirm it all, because I’ve felt it all. Even when things in my life are going well, I sometimes walk on eggshells, looking up, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  If things are going badly, it just affirms my worry, and so it’s conditioned me to keep worrying, since I was “right,” anyway. And when things have been going well for a while, I will create things to worry about, because it’s hard for me to adjust to things going well. (And not that I’ve had this horrible life, at all — I have had, in fact, a wonderful life filled to the brim with countless blessings — but I have so trained my brain to only search for the bad for so long that it honestly can’t always deal with the good. It feels downright uncomfortable!) And if I did have a situation where the outcome was unknown, you can bet that I’d be imagining the worst case scenario.

It’s not the healthiest way to live, but I’m working on it; and with years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to practice, it gets a lot easier with time and with work.

Lidsky provides his solution for dealing with fear, and I found that pretty spot on, too:

“See beyond your fears.  Recognize your assumptions. Harness your internal strength. Silence your internal critic…open your hearts to your bountiful blessings.”

Mr. Lidsky’s talk in its entirety can be watched here, and I highly recommend it.  It’s a brief guide to help you navigate through the fear that might dictate your life – and proof that it’s something that can be overcome with time and hard work. (I also highly recommend working through this process with a licensed therapist, who is specially trained to help you through this experience and can provide a solid sounding board to help you work through fears and anxieties.)

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Peace, Love & Anxiety

Summer Sweetness (With Bonus Recipe!)

by Christy Gualtieri

It’s Summer, and the kids down the street have set up a lemonade stand.  There are about eight kids; the oldest is about ten, and it’s pure mayhem at first: running back and forth into the house to get the pitchers and cups, long disappearances to make the lemonade (both pink and yellow), splashes and spills galore.

And not one customer…yet. It’s blazing hot, one of the first really hot days of the year, and I think about how growing up in Miami, there weren’t many lemonade stands in my neighborhood because no one would be crazy enough to set up shop in such intense heat and humidity.  I loved that these kids were out here, though: I loved their hustle, and I loved the fact that even though we live on a street that gets very little traffic, both foot and car, they were out there anyway.

I walk down with a few bucks (each cup costs a quarter, but I knew once both my kids got a taste of it, there’d be many cups asked for), sit on the steps, and observe. The older kids busy themselves with pouring out the drinks, as the littlest ones try to learn how to wait in line patiently without crowding. Two middle school boys walk up the street, each walking a dog, and buy a cup. They look so grown up contrasted against the toddlers, and I wonder what my own kids will be like, perched on the edge of teenagerhood like that. My son takes it upon himself to stand at the very edge of the driveway and put his hand out to stop cars passing by, trying to force them to stop and buy a cup, but no cars come by.  A neighbor’s getting their lawns landscaped, and their team comes over for a few cups. It’s a big order, and the kids rush back to the house in their excitement to hurry up and make a fresh pitcher.

After about an hour, the heat is just too much, and the kids decide to pack it in.  They’ve made eight dollars, and they want to donate it to Children’s Hospital. The mom in charge thanks them and wisely suggests that they should run a few more stands throughout the season and make a bigger donation at the end. The kids try to clean up, but it’s mostly the mom who does it as the kids run around back and hit the trampoline. Summer achievements, lemonade stand and trampoline time, unlocked!

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Lemonade is not really my thing, it’s pretty sweet, but I am a huge lover of iced coffee, especially with half-and-half. For Mother’s Day last year, my husband gifted me with a two-gallon glass beverage container, and so I use that to make several batches throughout the season (the iced coffee should last about three weeks). The recipe is below, and it’s perfect for powering through a hazy Summer afternoon both at home taking care of children or at the office waiting for that end-of-day whistle to blow. This makes a huge amount (about two gallons), but feel free to halve the recipe (or even quarter it) for your needs.

You’ll need: A large plastic container, 10 oz. (a full can) of espresso (I prefer Cafe Bustelo, in the yellow can or the vacuum pack), water, a dishtowel, a large pitcher or other container that will hold your finished iced coffee, a measuring cup, and cheesecloth or some other fine mesh or synthetic strainer (I recommend these from Amazon.)

How to:

  1. Fill your large plastic container with 2 gallons (8 quarts) of water.
  2. Open the coffee can and pour it all in, mixing it around with a spatula so all of the grounds are saturated.  It’ll float on top for a while and take a couple of minutes to descend down. (You can also start out the opposite way, with the grounds in the container first, and then add the water to it.  Just make sure all of the grounds are wet.)
  3. Cover the container with a dishtowel and leave it, unattended, for 8-12 hours.
  4. Uncover the container, and bring over your pitcher or whatever you’re going to use to hold your finished iced coffee.  Affix your cheesecloth or strainer on top of the pitcher, and using a measuring cup, start pouring the coffee into the pitcher.  The grounds should stay in the cheesecloth or strainer.
  5. That’s it! Discard the grounds, or save them for your compost pile – excellent for the garden! Store your new iced coffee in the fridge, pour over ice in a glass and add whatever you like, sweetener, half-and-half, milk, or even sweetened condensed milk – and enjoy!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

Peace, Love & Anxiety

First Time On

by Christy Gualtieri

Here in Southwestern PA, Spring decided to just skip right over us, and we’re experiencing Summer’s high temps and intense storm systems. At the school bus stop in the mornings, it’s meant no sweatshirts, shorts and tees; and on the weekends it’s meant time in the wading pool.  And last week, it’s meant a trip to Kennywood!

If you’re not from the area, Kennywood is an iconic amusement park that was opened in the late 1800s (!) and is only one of two in the entire country to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.  It’s home to a variety of exciting rides, entertainment venues, and a special area just for children, Kiddieland, that features pint-sized versions of the park’s most popular rides.

Although my children were born here, we’d never been to Kennywood, and we didn’t really know what to expect – but once we got inside the park, we had a blast. Well, my son and I did at first. My daughter pretty much lost her mind her first time on a ride (the carousel), and was inconsolable every time we tried to get in line for a new one.

After about a half hour I stood there, daughter in the stroller and son on a kiddie ride, and decided that I’d take her on the next one with us. No other adult was with us to watch her while I went on with my son, and I knew it’d be very boring for all of us to just walk around and watch my son ride alone; and so when we approached the next ride, I told her that we’d all ride together.

And again, cue the screaming.  But I held firm, parked the stroller, and picked her up and carried her into the ride car with us. I strapped her in tightly next to me (her screams had subsided a bit by this point), and as the attendant went around double-checking our straps, I leaned over to her.

I’m right here. Sometimes we just have to be brave, Sweetheart.

The ride began, and wouldn’t you know it, she absolutely loved it. She was a bit uncertain at first, but by the time the ride ended, she was asking to go again. We spent the next few hours riding together and having a great time (I especially loved that she fell asleep almost the instant we got back to our car).  And I was proud of her for trying to be brave, and succeeding.

You can never learn these things too early, but it’s never too late, either. There’s been countless times as an adult when I’ve had to face things that have ranged from mildly scary to intensely terrifying, and those same words have rung true for me. I take a deep breath, look at myself in the mirror, and say it:

Sometimes we just have to be brave, Sweetheart.

What are you afraid of? What do you need to be brave in the face of? And who do you have with you who will be right there through it all?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Two Secrets

by Christy Gualtieri

It never really goes away, you know.  I think that’s what I want to tell you the most.

Have you ever seen those pharmaceutical commercials where the person (usually cartoon-animated) has a chronic illness, and that illness is personified somehow? Like it’s a creature in the shape of a bladder or an elephant or a cloud.  And it suffocates the person, or sits on their chest so they can’t breathe, or they’re pulling the person endlessly toward the bathroom (that would be the cartoon bladder). After the person gets fed up and takes whatever medicine the commercial is promoting, the chronic issue is still there. It might be smaller, or have a smiley face, or is now led around on a leash (that would be the elephant), but it’s always still there.

Anxiety always is, too. I don’t know what my anxiety would look like, if you asked me to personify it. But it comes and goes, too – it’s not that special. It’s like any other chronic illness. When things are going well and I’m on top of my self-care game, then it hangs back. But when I’m angry or tired or something stressful occurs, it’s like it’s gotten the signal from the coach to jump back in the game, stronger than ever. And the feelings are the same: near panic. Aching body. Shorter breaths. Quicker tears.

It is better now that I know what it is. Before I knew I had anxiety, it would scare me, not being able to control it. I’d despair because I’d put the work in – I’d go to sessions, I’d try changing up my diet and exercising and drinking more water, I’d take deeper breaths and stay off my phone more – but it wasn’t going away.

But that’s the secret. It doesn’t ever go away.

When I realized that, I felt free.

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When my mother passed away, I read somewhere that grief “never stops hurting.  Over time, it hurts with the same intensity, just less frequently.” And so it is with my anxiety, too. I know the signs. I have strategies ready for when it gets really bad. And when it does, I rely on grace, those strategies, and the love of my family and friends to get through the days. And I get through to the other side.

That’s the other secret. There is another side. Maybe you don’t think there is one. Maybe you think it’s going to be like this forever. And I understand that; anxiety and depression can trick you into thinking it’s always going to be terrible, that you’ll never see the light. But you will. There is another side. There is a way out. It’s going to take work, but most things that are worth anything do. Is it fair? No. Is it your fault? No. But it’s reality, just like it’s a reality that you can and will get through it.

We’re wrapping up Mental Health Awareness month, and if you’ve been looking for a good time to reach out to someone to get you back on solid ground again, I really encourage you to try. If you’ve been in therapy for a while, keep going – keep pushing, keep talking, keep striving.  Drink that water. Get that sunlight. Create those strategies, and pull them out when you need them. No shame.

When you’re feeling better, encourage others. Shine your light on them. When you’re in darkness, rely on others to pull you through, and accept their light. And know that we are with you, every step of the way! Thanks for reading and being a light to me, too.

Until next time, be well!
Christy