Growth is Life

 

As I calculate my hours and notice I have less than 150 hours face to face hours left to accumulate as an LPC-Intern.  I am excited, however I notice changes within myself as a clinician and a person. Noticing these changes has allowed me to realize a few things about change itself. Change requires work and an abundance of self-compassion! Change is not always dramatic. Sometimes the most impactful changes are subtle.

Letting go of things, ideologies, and perceptions that once served you takes a daily conscious effort to not do what you have been trained to do your entire life. Personally identifying behaviors YOU don’t necessarily find healthy, productive or desirable is a start. There is an emphasis on “you” because change for someone else can lead to resentment of that person or a complete lack of knowledge of self. Yes, others may reap the benefit of your change, (i.e improved partner, mother, father, friend relationships) but ultimately it’s for you! The work comes in making the effort to change and awareness. Compassion takes work as well. You have to be lenient with yourself.  You’ve been beat up with enough criticism, you don’t have to beat yourself up with criticism too! Tell yourself, “It’s okay, I’m trying.” It takes more courage to try than it does to do nothing at all!  After all, the behaviors took a lifetime to learn, unlearning them will more than likely not happen overnight! Enjoy the process and pay more attention to your success than your failures. Your success is what motivates you to keep going, it is a constant reminder that you are capable of change and achieving your goals. Focus on what you can learn from your mistake and not on the mistake. Mistakes are inevitable, and change requires work. Growth is uncomfortable and can be painful, but it is a necessary part of life. Once you stop growing you stop living. You’re a body that is able to walk and participate in life, but not completely be present. Meaning you are not able to experience emotions and feelings related to an event in life. It’s okay to be effected by life, which means you’re human, you’re growing and that you’re alive and present.  Change is as constant in its evolution as time. We don’t have to acknowledge that time has gone by just as we don’t have to acknowledge change in order for it to happen. It just is; adjusting to change can be hard, but it is a vital part of life.

Crying Space

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Photocredit: Patrice Hartsfield, LPC-Intern

 

 

I consider myself and emotional person, but maybe not in the traditional sense of displaying outward emotions. I will cry when I feel safe or feel like I can do it without being bothered. Others can be present, just don’t ask me 5,000 questions. I can’t handle it. I am particular, I don’t need anyone to kill my vibe! I believe crying can be beautiful, even during the “ugly cry”!

Some of the people you may consider to be the strongest people need a space to be vulnerable and cry. They know that it will be okay, they haven’t given up, they just need a moment to catch their breathe, a moment to breath. That may mean a place to cry, release, and keep going. Sometimes people wait to see their therapist for that “good cry”. It’s like they’re running in the office and can’t wait to close the door and hear the magic words, “How are you doing?” They are vulnerable with someone or a space that they trust.

Recently I needed a moment. A space. I couldn’t wait to see my therapist for a good cry. I had held it for an entire day. I think I was more concerned that I wouldn’t be able to control what or how it came out, but with my therapist, that wasn’t my concern. I didn’t have to hold it, I trusted that my therapist would. I may be a little biased, but I think therapist are designed to hold emotions. I didn’t want that to be my design this particular day. As a therapist I have been taught by some of the

people who I respect in this field to “hold space” for people who haven’t found or do not have the capacity to hold emotions, situations and issues for themselves. We all run out of space and need help holding the events of life. When I went to see my therapist this visit was an EMERGENCY…9-1-1! I simply just needed and wanted to cry. I no longer wanted to hold space. I needed someone to hold my “stuff” for an hour. I desperately needed to be the client for an hour.  I needed to not be rational for an hour. I needed not understand for an hour. I didn’t really need anyone to talk with or make sense of the situation. I understood the situation and the circumstances, I simply needed to cry. I knew that I couldn’t return to my daily routine and life without crying at the very minimum. It’s not that I didn’t feel that my daily space wasn’t safe to cry, I’m surrounded by mental health professionals 40 plus hours a week and have access to some of the best via a pop up visit, phone call or text. My friends are therapist! This day I had held everything that I could hold, my basket was full. I’ve been in my therapist office numerous times and wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I don’t know if I didn’t want or feel safe to do so. I think I am one of the people who needs help with crying. I’m almost positive my therapist knew I wanted to cry sometimes, but maybe thought I would do it when I was ready. I was ready, I just needed help. I think individuals needs assistance in this area just as they would with any other area of their life. It is my thought that sometimes a client wants nothing from you, but to hold everything they are holding for an hour so they have room to cry. Sometimes as the therapist you can facilitate the cry. The days I wanted to cry, but couldn’t I was wanting my therapist to do something, and I didn’t know what. Maybe I wanted my therapist to facilitate my cry. I’m not meaning say horrible things or make a person remember horrible or emotional evoking events, but sometimes help your client to dig around their box to see what they need to release. Help them to push open some compartments they’ve kept tucked away. It’s not in a homework assignment or a book, it’s not in thinking about something when they leave. Therapy happens in the room, life happens outside the room, you get to practice therapy outside the room.

Crying is cathartic. As therapist we often tell a client it’s ok to cry, but I don’t know if we feel comfortable facilitating crying outside of saying it’s okay. It’s an awkward situation. Crying is often considered as signs of being weak or that you’ve done something wrong. In my opinion facilitating a cry is one of the many intricate pieces of the art of therapy. Daily life and task often does not give us room to cry or nurture our emotions. You’ve been holding your cry waiting for a restroom break or a break long enough to let a tear drop. You’ve done the mental work, but now you need to do the emotional work and sometimes literal work that includes crying. This can be handicapping; you may need to release something through tears to make room for something or someone new.

I’ve watched clients come into my office and explain to me the reason they were emotional, tell me why they shouldn’t be feel the way they feel, and fight with everything in them to hold back tears. I’ve looked at them and felt the pain of holding the cry that looked greater than experiencing freely crying. I’m thinking to myself they need help and I’m a helper. Also simultaneously thinking if this goes wrong I am going to feel like horrible person. What if I push too hard and lose this moment all together? I’m not going to feel good about it all. My client could potentially feel worse. Through this I develop enough courage and a new level of trust in “the process” of therapy to proceed. Besides, I’ve accepted I never am 100% sure of the results. I compare this to my experience zip lining through the rain forest of Jamaica. I was scared of the initial jump, hoped nothing happened in the air and was hoping for a safe landing. This particular instance it was rough patches, and when I felt I was losing my client, and it was coming to the top of the hour. I’m looking at the clock saying slow down and asking myself, how do I wrap this up? BOOM! Therapy happened! I have yet to formulate accurate words to describe those moments. Boom is all I have right now! They stopped struggling with the cry and allowed it to happen. I felt the weight lift. It’s like the air became thinner, and they were able to breathe and through those breaths were free-flowing tears. They left smiling and their step appeared to be a little lighter. It was amazing and beautiful all at the same time. I was so happy for my client. It was a muggy session from beginning until the last 10 minutes that I went over! In hindsight the entire session was beautiful. The tears that the client walked in fighting to release were not the same tears that flowed throughout the session, especially at the end. The topics changed throughout the session and each release was different. I could sense that these were tears that were stored from different situations and experiences, because the last realization put a smile on the clients face and a relaxation in their heart. I saw the strength be restored, it looked almost like permission was given to keep going. It was exhilarating. I felt so fortunate to share that moment.

When I went to see my therapist on my 911 call I cried not only for the event that initiated the call, I cried for every other event that I didn’t feel was worthy of an emergency call. I cried for everything I held while I watched my therapist hold it, and at the end of the session I left some things there for my therapist to decide what to do with them and picked up what I needed and felt was still mine and went about my life.

Crying can be an example of strength, victory and joy; it is not always sadness and defeat. It can be a combination of things. Your tears can symbolize whatever you need them to symbolize. It’s about release and/or acceptance. Whatever it means is for you to decide, not society, not your friends and family, but YOU!  Please know it is a part of your process that we sometimes need the space and help navigating.

 

My Hair in the Work Place

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Approximately eight months of hair

 

Nine years ago I decided to no longer use chemicals to straighten my hair. My natural hair is a daily adventure. I never know what hair I’m going to wake up to in the morning. I never know what the result of a product will be, even though I’ve used it before. I only hope for the best and make the best out of the worse. Ninety-five percent of the time you will see my natural hair in whatever form it is in that day. Sometime I will have a nice puffy pony-tail, an afro with some type of product to enhance my natural curl pattern that will vary from day-to-day. You may see me with individual braids with weave added, you may see me with my natural hair straighten using a flat-iron, or you may see me with a full head of weave down my back. Why? One reason is I live in Texas and with Texas 100 plus degree summers, protective styles such as braids and weaves are essential.  The heat is not forgiving to my hair, and sometimes I just like to try new things. I’ve been seeing some of my clients for a while, so they’ve had the opportunity to see my various hair options. At one point, long 20-inch weave extensions was my hair of choice, and my entire body is roughly 64 inches! This particular day I was seeing one of my newer clients, who happen to be Caucasian and they said to me, “Oh, I didn’t realize your hair was so long.” My response was, “Oh, it’s not!” and that was the end of the conversation. That was the best response I had, we were too close to each other to pretend I didn’t hear the comment! I can only begin to imagine the pin ball machine game of confusion that was going on in her head. She probably just decided to drop the subject too.

I try to be as transparent as the situation permits also being mindful to keep “my stuff” out of my client’s therapy session. (I discussed this in a previous blog titled, “Relationships”. You should check it out!! #shamelessplug) Sometimes, I’m just caught completely off guard! Then I thought how my response could have had several negative perceptions, such as rude, sarcastic, or just plain confusing. Here my client was looking at how my hair was in an afro one week and a week later it’s literally down my back. I didn’t perceive the comment as anything, but an observation. I have another client who isn’t so new anymore, but she lives for my transformations. I believe she’s seen it all, and sometimes is completely confused by it all. I found myself not trying to change so much because it became a weekly thing, and sometimes therapy is the only consistent thing in a person’s life.

I’m trying to formulate a way to truthfully and directly respond to hair questions to my clients without “hijacking” the session, because I’m very open to talking about cultural differences with anyone who’s willing to explore their own curiosity about the topic. My clinical supervisor is a Latino male whose hair cut is pretty consistent, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t explored this topic with him, simply because he’s a guy and I think he’s sometimes just as curious about my new hair as my clients. He’s super polite, very culturally aware and probably would never say, “Hey what’s going on with these hair situations?”

How do I say to my clients, “Hey, FYI my hair may change throughout this process!” One may ask, why am I putting so much thought into this aspect, it’s because I honor and respect the relationships I have with my clients. I constantly review my interactions with them to make sure I’m always present and making whatever space I am in with them a safe space. If you feel your therapist isn’t being honest with you about very obvious things such as hair, then how do you feel safe. I know my clients will probably not discontinue therapy because of this interaction, but it may spark a conversation about my hair that I’ve never even considered when it comes to client and therapist relationships. These are topics that are not discussed in school. We are taught to be mindful of what we bring in the room, but there are some parts of ourselves that may not be present or noticeable in the room one day, but could take over the room other days. I think some therapist may choose or naturally take a more conservative approach when it comes to hair or fashion. I think I take a more conservative approach most days and then there are days I decide to step out of my box. Those days could be a little bit of an adjustment for my clients that I may have to one-day address, but then again maybe not, because there are bigger issues in the room than my hair.

Growth is a process, and in a process one may try several different things to simply see how they look and feel. I remind myself I am growing just as I would like my clients to grow. Sometimes growth produces physical changes and my hair could be a reminder. Though I may change outwardly I try to be as consistent as I can when it comes to the actual work and art of being a therapist.

I’m Back!

I’ve been M.I.A, Missing in Action from my blog! This journey has been a roller coaster of experiences and emotions. I plan to bring you up to speed in the next few weeks, in no specific order…starting TODAY!

 

 

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In the mountains of beautiful South Africa with my friend, Sylvanie! #Summer16             photo credit: Patrice Hartsfield, LPC-Intern

 

Motivation Madness

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Lioness at Aquila Private Game Reserve in Western Cape Province Safari in South Africa Photo credit: Patrice Hartsfield, LPC

Lately, I’ve had a hard time attaching words to my experiences, which I think may have a connection with my issues with being the big “V” word…VULNERABLE. The heart of this post was written months ago, but after sorting through all of my anger, disappointment, frustration, disbelief, and simply trying to understand. My experience isn’t always pretty or easy.

I’ve spent many hours wondering, how do I, as a black female, in a helping profession be conscious and objective about situations that have such a close vicinity to something I can never escape…the color of my skin? How do I keep helping when I’m fearful and disappointed? How do I help when I’m still deep in my own processing of death after death, argument after argument? I was struggling to be objective! This particular struggle was different for me, because I’ve been directly affected by social injustice. At the age of 18, I, along with many others were gassed using CS gas by the local police for no reason. There was no history of violence occurring at the particular location, the police simply decided to use CS gas on a crowd of young black people, not provide medical attention and close the only store in which we had access for that night. We received very minimal compensation for this event, but the damage was done. Through the course of the events I discovered the scars were deeper than I knew. I’ve healed, but my wounds were repeatedly agitated over a short timeframe. There was no amount of money that could erase what happened to me, and how it shapes my perception of the killing of people of color and other minorities. I don’t agree with ANY of them, officer or civilian!

So, I’m listening to Solange’s new c.d. “A Seat at the Table” and the song, Mad featuring Lil Wayne began to play. What I received from the song is that things happen in life, and in particular to individuals of African descent and others who are considered as a minority. People, I, have a right to be mad when considering the circumstances in which we live. Individuals life are ending at the hand of people who are were sworn to protect and serve or individuals who simply hate and have nothing to do with the uniform or job. The song goes on to also explain to not be consumed by your anger, as it can also hinder your progress and process. Song lyrics help me to put words to my feelings. I can’t play one instrument or sing a tune, but I love the art of music and musicians for that reason alone. I had to keep going, keep pressing and keep achieving despite the anger. In these particular circumstances that was my struggle. I knew what I needed to do, besides I had done it before. I was struggling not to be mad when being made was appropriate, but it has somehow been given a completely negative association. Anger can be used as motivation for change. One can be mad and not be violent or allow anger to manifest into hate.

I didn’t know how to do what has become comfortable to me, being objective and being able to separate the person from the behavior. It’s hard sometimes, especially when things hit so close to home. I’ve helped and know various people from ALL backgrounds and walks of life, and I believe we forget that we are all connected at some point in our lives in some shape, form, or fashion. When things are happening in other countries it doesn’t mean that people in America aren’t directly affected. We forget people visit other countries for various reasons and connect with the country on various levels for various reasons and now when something happens in that particular country that person can be affected. When a person of color is killed doesn’t mean it only affects people of color. We go to school and work together, help each other or know someone who may be directly connected to an incident. We all know the feeling a pain, and to see another person in pain affects me. When people are affected by situations it creates an imminent fear of it could have been me or someone closer to me. I believe at that point people go in to primal survival mode. Today, we have a nation of hurting people in survival mode. In the mode it’s hard to think and feel. Everyone is just simply trying to survive and live through the hurt, pain, and anger of simply turning on the television, getting a news update on your phone or scrolling through various social media news feeds.

The question I began to ask myself is how disconnect and connect at the same time. As a clinician you must have some connection or understanding of what’s happening. My struggle was how do I connect without feeling my own trauma, because trauma doesn’t go away you learn to manage. How do I be sensitive to my own needs, along with not wanting to be in the situation to have to figure this out. I didn’t want to figure out how to engage with people, I didn’t want to figure out how to feel. I intentionally do not watch or participate in certain events or watch the news because it’s just too much to sort out or the risk of being affected is too great sometime. Honestly, watching the news, for me, is too much emotional work. I don’t want to see the world through the eyes of the media, it’s awful and makes my life and the work that I do hard. I don’t know a therapist that faithfully watches the news. We would lose hope if we did, and one thing you never want is a hopeless callous therapist. So to wake up day after day to news of lives being taken took a toll on me.

Sometimes, as a therapist we are forced you to manage things in ways you may not want to in that moment. The world is in an uproar and a new “hashtag” is created every few hours to honor a person, state, city, country. I became lost in the “hashtags”, and I struggled with staying there, because some moments it just felt easier. I knew it wasn’t me. Sure it’s in me to be angry, but circumstances and situations do not define my state of being. Sounds like something I have said or will say to a client, but at that time I needed to hear those words. I knew someone else would need to hear the exact words. I chose not to remain lost for the next person who would potentially sit across from me with the hope of being helped and gain clarity, hope, and comfort for the same situations I saw on the news daily. I went to a group to help me process what I was feeling, and it made me angrier because I again came to some harsh realities, but again I had to fight to not remain angry for the next person that may have needed my help. Being a clinician comes with a lot of unmentioned and undefined responsibility. People trust that you have assessed yourself before or while you assess someone else. People trust that you will be non-judgemental and have their best interest in mind ALWAYS! As I explained to one individual, one “perk” of being a therapist is people more than not perceive you as being nonjudgmental, and for me that is a huge compliment that I value and I know facilitates the work that I do with my clients.

I feel I have been pushed into situations that caused me to revisit and visit situations that I thought were done and well maintained. I have made choices that I probably wouldn’t have made had I not been a therapist. As a therapist you process and push through events for your benefit as well as the benefit of the people in which you serve.

Africa…My Muse

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It’s amazing what different environments will allow u to birth. We are all creators in some capacity! Today, I went to the southern most tip of Africa and reached a new height in my creativity. I birthed things I didn’t know was there. I wrote 3 poems! Keep in mind I have 7 blog post including this one. I’ve  never written a poem a day in my life outside, “Roses are Red, Violets are blue…” and I can’t lay claim to that phrase. But the words I produced today belong to me and the southern most tip of Africa. Thank you Motherland.
Ok…here goes nothing! I’m a writer. Whew, there I said it! It was an overwhelming feeling.  I just allowed it to happen. I didn’t attempt to confine myself to a blog post. It was something outside my blog post there and I allowed it to happen. I lived in a moment that produced a confidence and comfort for other moments. Will I ever right another poem again? Do I believe I’m capable of writing another poem? Are they good poems? All of these questions are irrelevant. Why? Because they’ve happened and energy focused on reproduction is misfocused energy. Be a vessel for opportunity and your opportunities are endless. I believe we limit ourselves in search for perfection and opportunity. My intention is not to say we shouldn’t focus on goals and seize opportunities, but my hope is that were not so focused on the the goal that we miss opportunities in between the goals. The “in-between” opportunities are contributions to the journey to our goals. Sometimes what we feel is an “in-between” moment is really a goal achieved that you unconsciously set for yourself. What I mean by that statement is this; I believe when we set goals, we don’t have the ability to understand what goals we will achieve along the way, or what set-backs will propel us to our goals. We have no way of knowing what the future will hold. So, in the meantime, allow yourself to be a vessel of opportunity and create. You can recreate an event, but you can’t recreate that initial  feeling. You can feel something twice, but you can never feel that feeling for the first time again. That feeling has then become a feeling of the past you are attempting to recreate. “Re” means to do again, implying something has been done before. Learn to be. Live in the moment! A lifetime is a collection of moments that can’t be reproduced in its initial capacity. Are you being a vessel or hindrance to your next moment?

Flowers or Weeds?

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As I was walking through the Kalahari Desert in the great South Africa enjoying the unrivaled beauty of the red sand, kudu, springbok, and eland…just to name a few. These are things while surprising weren’t unexpected. I was hoping to see them all. The two most unexpected things I see are flowers in the desert. Yes, beautifully bloomed flowers in the desert. I was astonished that these beautiful flowers were in the desert in autumn were temperatures can reach the negatives during this time. This is proof that you bloom whenever and wherever you are intended to do so. I could put a rose in the exact same place at the exact time and not yield the same results. So often in today’s society we often try to emulate and compare ourselves to each other, which in the long and short-term results in us being frustrated with ourselves. Understanding that what may appear to be a great place for someone else can be a horrible place for you. We can’t compare our valley to someone else’s mountain top. You’re being unfair to yourself! Some of the roughest events in our life produce some of the most beautiful accomplishments in life. So, at the end of the day, my advice to us all is to simply just BE and enjoy being! Trust that you are where you are supposed to be when you’re supposed to be.

My intention is not that you not be motivation to others or allow yourself to be motivated by others, but to understand we all bloom in different places that may not be suitable for others. Your timing is your timing and your season is your season. Your place is your place.

After all, I learned that one of the flowers that were beautifully bloomed is actually a weed. What appears to be someone’s mountain top may actually be a valley. Who are you allowing to influence your perspective of you and your life? Flowers or weeds? As we can see what may appear to be a flower is actually just a weed, and it’s hard to tell the difference.

Does the Clock Define You?

coffeeI had the privilege of listening to a presentation entitled: Talk about Time: Why We Fail at Work-Life Balance, given by, Dawna Ballard, Ph.D. I went into this thinking it was going to be a stereotypical motivational speech on how to fit more into my already packed day, and I was ready to hear it and be motivated. Instead, my thoughts on time management and productivity were confirmed and changed. Confirmed in the sense of me constantly finding myself saying, “This time management thing doesn’t always work for me.” Changed in the sense of provoking me to redefine my definition and idea of time management. I briefly spoke with Dr. Ballard after the presentation to thank her for her timely revelation. Pun intended! Sometimes I feel confined by time and causes me to feel resentful. She explained to me I had to let go of the resentment and make the proper adjustments that would make time work for me. I walked away more informed than motivated. Motivation can disappear without warning. There is no guarantee you will stay motivated, but you can never be uninformed. Being informed changes your perception. It allows you to learn to interpret information and apply it accordingly. You gain a personal understanding. The application of information induces change. During the presentation I understood that there is not a direct correlation in managing your time increases productivity. There is no guarantee! Long story short, you can manage your time down to the millisecond, but it’s about what you’re doing with your time. How comfortable are you during this “managed time”? Are you accomplishing goals or are you just calculating time and dreadfully moving to the next task. There is a difference in a goal and a task, but that’s another subject! Do you feel completely drained and resentful at the end of your “well-managed, highly productive” day? Some things are time-consuming purely by the nature of the work. How are you managing yourself through these times? I learned I needed to manage ME and not my time. Time is going to pass and task will need to be completed, how am I making the once unbearable bearable? Understanding what is going to cause me to be frustrated in one hour versus being frustrated in 10 minutes. Identifying ways to managing stresses that naturally comes with day-to-day task helps to manage what I’m doing with the time I’m given. Am I spending my time angry that I have to complete the task, or focusing on my favorite music in my ear while completing my task? Am I focused on the sun shining through the window that I enjoy so much? What am I doing to make my environment a place I can enjoy doing something I may not enjoy as sitting on the beach?  When I think of equipping your space and daily activities for maximum production the word “ergonomics” comes to mind. Merriam- Webster dictionary describes ergonomics as, “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely—called also human engineering, human factors engineering”. I’m learning that in order to be more productive and more successful has NOTHING to do with this thing in which we have bound ourselves called a CLOCK! It’s about how I engineer my day and my space. I’m learning how to make it work. How to manage myself throughout the day, and not let the day manage me! It’s about doing what you need to do to make the task personally manageable. No matter how much money a person has, they all have to do things they don’t like or are inconvenient. They don’t always change the task, they create an atmosphere in which the task is manageable and/or cause as less stress as possible. This may be the reason you hear celebrities make what we may consider “unreasonable request” to participate in a movie or T.V. show. What we don’t know is yes, they may enjoy making movies or appearances, but we don’t know what personal stress and strain this is causing. Time coupled with the events of life is possibly one of the most abstract things we attempt to make concrete. YOU get to define how productive you are, not “time”. You can’t control time, but you do have a choice in the encounter. I create things, thoughts, and ideas; therfore, I am a creator. So, I am productive regardless of what the clock tells me!  How are you managing you?

 

 

 

“You’ve got to learn to enjoy the process!”

-Dr. Beth Peters