The Invisible Illness

The Invisible Illness

            You’re sitting at a restaurant and you see a family with a child. This child has breathing tubes in and out of his mouth and strange sounds emulating from some type of machine. When mom goes to feed him and the child kicks or screams you say to whoever you’re sitting with, “poor thing”. An hour later as you go to exit the restaurant, you paid no attention to the tantrums of this young child, because you felt bad for everything this child had to go through. You walk up to the mother and give her a pat on the back and say something to the extent of, “you have such a wonderful family” or “you are such a good mother” or something like that to give her a piece of encouragement. You leave the restaurant feeling good about yourself and the world in which you reside.

            A week goes by and you find yourself at the grocery store. You are killing time and just decided to pick up a few things to add to tomorrow’s dinner. Immediately you feel the jolt of a cart hitting your leg. The pain isn’t immense but you definitely feel it. You are slightly irritated as you turn around to a mother with a red face. Her hair is in total disarray and she seems to be fumbling her groceries around as she tries to bargain with her child to stop ramming into things with the cart. You notice the child pays no attention to what the mother is saying, and the mom quietly mutters an apology to you as she quickly slams her items into the cart and appears more than ready to leave the store. You mutter to yourself, “that kid needs a good swift kick in the butt” or “if I had that child…” You leave the store disgusted with society and ready to condemn all young mothers who have no idea how to raise their kids. You are proud of how well you did as a parent and you are quite certain you could educate at least half the world on how to be a great mother.

            Here is my question to you; “If you had that child, what?” I would like a response to that. Honestly. I would like a response. The problem is, if you had that child you would be going through the same exact problems this mother is going through, or you would be a child abuser. I guess the choice is yours. See, society tends to judge parenting on what they see, not what they don’t see. The mother at the grocery store could be ten times the mother you or the lady at the restaurant was because she can tolerate her child’s illness, though she gets absolutely no credit at all. Children who have invisible illnesses get picked on, judged at school by teachers and students, get discriminated against by society, get told constantly how “bad” they are, and the parents of these children have it no better. They are constantly condemned for not measuring up to parental expectations. They are constantly told how to raise their kids and are often called, “bad mothers” by others.

            These mothers hurt. Not only do they hurt due to the way society treats them or their ill child, but they also hurt because nobody recognizes the pain they and their child experience. They are constantly put down, scolded, or pushed away from society. These mothers try to shop during off hours, they don’t go out to eat for fear their child will cause a problem that offends patrons, they constantly endure ridicule, and quite frankly they don’t deserve it. Invisible illnesses such as Autism, separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, childhood depression, oppositional defiant disorder, Asperger’s, mental retardation, etc, are not easily recognized by appearance. These children look “normal” (I DESPISE that word!) so people expect them to act as such.

            My point is to not fall victim to being a complete and total idiot. If you go to the store and you get hit in the leg with a shopping cart, and mom looks extremely overwhelmed, smile at her and tell her she’s doing a good job. Chances are- she really is. She’s loving a child that society rejects. She’s loving a child with an invisible illness, and that can be just as difficult, if not more, than loving a child with a visible one. And the next time you say you would spank that kid, think of a child full of breathing tubes- would you hit him for being frustrated about his illness? Nope. Now try again. 

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Christmas Magic

Green Christmas Tree With String Lights

I was feeling a little nostalgic yesterday. I was thinking about Christmas as a kid and how magical it was.

My parents were “extra”. They went all out for Christmas. I never had a bad Christmas. As kids, we were NEVER spoiled, except at Christmas time. My parents were so clever that I think I believed in Santa until I was a teenager.

In my mind wandering, I kind of started to think about how nice it was to have so much magic in our home. The excitement, the anticipation, the true knowledge that this one time of year was going to be a spectacular event. From sleigh prints outside to Rudolf’s nose lit in the house, Santa was something else.

I know I was fortunate to have magnificent Christmas’ as a kid. In some sense, I try to do the same for my kids. However, the truly magnificent part is the knowledge that Christmas doesn’t have to be exciting for just a child. Just because Santa kind of goes away, doesn’t mean Christmas isn’t magical.

In some ways, Christmas is even more exciting. You get to be that magic that people feel. And the cool thing is, it doesn’t have to be limited to Christmas. You can bring the joy, surprises, and warmth that so many don’t feel. Even better, it doesn’t have to cost a dime. It comes from a place so much deeper than that. It comes from your heart.

So, like the Grinch’s heart grew three times bigger that one magical year, mine will too. Who would have thought? The magic of Christmas time not on Christmas. What a concept! I hope that you will join me and offer your loving kindness as a little Christmas magic throughout the year.

Exciting News!

Exciting News!!! A Frame of Mind is at it again! We are adding Single Session Therapy to our practice!

What?!

That’s right! Starting Wednesday Nov. 20th if you want to talk to a therapist, but don’t want to commit to THERAPY, we have what you need! $50.00 is the price, you have something going on in life and want help RIGHT NOW, come on in. No assessment, no telling an entire history of personal business, no diagnosis, no loads of paperwork, no dealing with insurance, no appt. reminders and scheduling conflicts. Zip, Zero, Zilch. You need a listening ear and you want it now- We’re here. We’re available.

*Scheduled appointments are our priority, walk-ins welcomed around scheduled appts. Want to know how long the wait will be (if any) you can call ahead. Or stop by. 2836 E. Apple Ave. Muskegon, MI (231) 340-2263

A Frame of Mind has therapy the way you want it.

We’ll post a lot more about this in days to come! Stay tuned…

A Frame of Mind

So, I’ve been asked a few times how my first day went. More than that, I’ve been asked, “What EXACTLY is your business?” The truth is, I’m not really sure how to explain it. It’s unique. So, I’ll try my best…

First, my first day went well. It was interesting to see the reactions of everyone who came. Most of what I heard was, “Oh my goodness, the only place I have been able to find these is on Amazon…” This is true. I am trying to stock therapeutic items in a place where you can learn about them, ask questions about them, see them face-to-face and eliminate the guessing game of having them shipped.

So, what is ‘A Frame of Mind’? The best way to describe it is we are addressing mental health by encompassing every aspect we can. I think the only thing we don’t address is medications, however, we do carry some supplements. So, basically it looks like this…

People can make an appointment for therapy. I’m fully licensed and trained in multiple areas to do therapy. I currently accept Blue Cross and I also accept Medicaid. I will be accepting more soon as I am just opening.

I offer cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, family therapy, and also I am doing a trial on virtual reality therapy to address trauma, anxiety, and phobias (yes, you actually get to wear a headset and practice talking, addressing fears, etc.). The virtual reality therapy is NOT covered by insurance at this time. I use it to supplement therapy, or as a cash only therapy in itself.

Next, I offer group therapy. This will be conducted after normal office hours because I can’t have people roaming the store while we’re doing group.

A store? Yes, it’s small, quaint, but full of items that enhance therapy, help with mindfulness and self-soothe, including sensory items, advertise mental health and removing the stigma, and incorporate family togetherness.

What else? We also offer a place for people to relax, drink coffee, shoot the breeze, listen to music, beat on the drum, or even paint canvas or river stones.

In addition to what is described above, ‘A Frame of Mind’ offers a therapy incentive program. Some of the items we sell in the store have a ‘green dot’ sticker on them. Every person that has been to therapy 10 times is able to get a ‘green dot’ item from the store for free. Why? I do this because I believe that achieving your mental health goal is worth celebrating!

We don’t have a lot of space, but in the space we have, we do a lot of things. We are adding a few more therapeutic type activities as time goes on, but for now I think this is the most accurate description of who we are and what we do- with more to come.

‘A Frame of Mind’ is working hard to help people accomplish their life worth living and we approach mental health non-judgmentally as we celebrate everyone’s success.

 Any questions, please feel free to stop by, say hello, message us, or give us a call. (231) 340-2263.

Thank you everyone for supporting us!! (Nan, thanks so much for the flowers!)

Here’s for Anxiety!

Image result for pics of scared people

So, I was sitting in the bathroom, phone in hand, scrolling through my emails when I heard it. The problem was, I was home alone. No husband, no kids- just me, alone. My ears perked up and I sat in total silence. After a considerable amount of time of nothing, I went back to my emails.

This time, the sound was distinct, right outside of the bathroom door. The floor was creaking. There was someone standing outside of the door. Mind you, I have no clue why I was still in the bathroom, I was fully clothed, I had just gotten dressed and decided that it was a good time to check my email. However, being home alone and someone outside of the door, I was now stuck.

My brain went back about 15 years, the first time my child told me the house was haunted. Why my brain decided to go there is beyond me. I’m not the kind of person who worries about such things. But then again, perhaps I am because that’s what happened. Then I thought about my son and his night terrors of the “shadow man”. Both my girls swear they’ve seen him/witnessed him as well.

So, now in my brain, as my anxiety kicks in, it’s me against a supernatural shadow fella who’s patiently impatiently waiting for me to leave the bathroom. I realize it had to be the shadow guy because nobody else was in the house, the dog would have barked.

You would have thought that at this point, logic would have set in, but it didn’t. I am now ready to combat a shadow ghost, in which I don’t even believe in- unless we went spiritual like angel/demonic, but that would creep me out even more.

So, ghost against me. Got it. My adrenaline was ready for me. If the typical response is fight, flight, or freeze, I am most definitely a fight girl. So, now I’m ready for a supernatural war in the midst of my home. I decided to make the first move. I yell at the guy from behind the door. No, I’m not lying.

“Get!” is what my brain decided to say. By the way, this is the same response I give the cat when she’s in my way.

Pause. Nothing. Moments later the floor creaks and I hear the weight of his feet shift. Game on. We’re full-fledged heading to combat.

As fast as my somewhat large body can carry me, I bust open the door with all my might. Granted, it takes absolutely no might to open a bathroom door. However, in my defense, I have no clue to how strong shadow men are, so I had to use force. Don’t judge, this is my story.

In addition to the fact that I had to use my strength, my voice decided to be heard. I didn’t expect to yell at the guy, but hey, why not?

So, if you can picture me, hair in a bun, holding a phone, coming out of the bathroom as if the house were on fire and screaming, then you can visualize EXACTLY what my dog saw.

Yep. She looked at me and I looked at her. How the dog was able to stifle her laughter I have no idea. Perhaps she accepted the fact that I am not a normal human. Regardless, the relief I felt that there was no random shadow ready to attack was nice, but it didn’t outweigh my embarrassment as I felt the need to explain to my dog my situation. Which therein lies my other problem…

The Grief of a Miscarriage

See the source image

It was Monday, January 14th.

A day that I never once even considered the vs. in Jeremiah (1:5). Nor have I ever considered Psalm 139:13. However, after feeling a little strange while doing group at work only to find myself bleeding at 5 weeks 4 days pregnant, the verses became a strange reality.

The baby’s name was made official that morning. We were excited to be parents again. We were making arrangements for what to do with the furniture in the house. I had already bought the paint for the living room. Each night, up until that date, me and my husband stayed up fantasizing on what this child was going to be like. We would debate over baby names, what sex it was going to be and why, and how we were going to tell the news to everyone.

They say there’s a glow to you when you’re pregnant. After Monday, January 14th, I started to speculate on that glow. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” I was sitting in the hospital, tearful, because I knew what was going on and I didn’t want to experience it. The hospital staff were arrogant and rude, treating us like we were ignorant. That’s very typical for the hospital when they see me and my husband together. They assume we’re on Medicaid and that we don’t understand things. Making comments like, “Good thing you have three at home. You’re almost 38 it’s not like you needed another one.”  “Is this the baby daddy?” Or the, “Christina, you probably tested early, it’s not going to be any different than your period was.” I’m not dumb. That was all I could think. My doctor knows. Stop patronizing me.

I stayed silent, focused on that glow. After the medical staff left the room, I looked at my husband and said, “It’s because you’re carrying two souls. That’s where the maternal glow comes from. The mom is no longer sheltering her own soul, she has the baby’s soul too.” My husband thought that was an interesting philosophy.

On the car ride home, I was silent. My husband was surprised I didn’t give the hospital staff a piece of my mind, like I typically do. I just wasn’t feeling it. My heart was hurting. I went to bed, exhausted, drained both emotionally and physically.

The next day I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced. I never could empathize with a woman having a miscarriage before. I knew they had to experience grief of some sort, but I never truly understood how it felt. I remember sitting on the couch willing myself not to have to use the bathroom. I think I went twice that day and that was only because I couldn’t wait any longer. Each time you go, everything maternal fights with everything physical. Your heart tries to hold in what your body is getting rid of. It’s a conflict of interest.

You’re ingrained to protect your young and so you try with all your might. The agony of having to use the bathroom forces you to give in to what you’re opposed to. With tears, you feel the glow start to leave you. It’s not instant, it takes a little bit of time. A couple of days. But you feel it slipping away. You’re left feeling empty, hollow even.

The whole time, I was cursing the hospital. I felt bitter, angry, that they could say some of the dumbest things ever. It was nothing like having a normal period. This was far more intense and to be quite honest, never had I had a period where I saw the sac of a fetus and an umbilical cord before. It was a ridiculous statement on the doctor’s behalf, and I hated her for minimizing my pain and every other woman’s pain who has experienced this as well.

That Tuesday is when the phone calls and comments were made. First thing’s first. I have never experienced real grief for someone extremely close to me before and I don’t wish to. I’ve cried at every funeral I’ve ever attended, since I was a small child. I am a true empath and can understand and feel pain regardless if it’s my own. I have learned that if I ever experience grief of someone close, I know I will isolate. I didn’t want to see the comments. I didn’t respond. I avoided. I hated seeing the words I’m sorry. I didn’t believe them. They felt fake. Perhaps not fake, perhaps distant or obligated. Almost like, “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, glad I’m not.”  Or “I have to say something because I’m her friend.”

My daughter convinced me to post it on fb. She was frustrated with me for not sharing my feelings with her or anyone for that matter. I am used to being the one that people talk to. I’m not comfortable being the one to talk. I write. That’s how I experience emotion. I write everything. I had written a little. She wanted me to share, so I could avoid the texts. That sounded reasonable and like a relief, so I did. I never read the comments. I left them alone to sit.

When I started to talk to people, I realized I wasn’t the only one in this position. I realized that most people have a difficult time identifying what it is they’re feeling. People don’t feel that grief is real when it comes to a baby one has never physically held. Abortion is legal and people do it all the time, it’s not a big deal. But the truth is, it is a big deal. When you are expecting, everything changes. Life styles change, plans change, your body physically changes. It’s with you constantly and on your mind even more. When that gets ripped away, it’s difficult.

So many women are talked to like they’re dumb for caring. I was told, “It’s not a big deal, you have time make another one.”

My thought was, “And risk going through all of this again?”

I was perplexed. I was told, “Well this one didn’t work out, hopefully next time I see you, you’re actually in labor.”

“Um thanks.”

“Good thing you have three!”

“Again, thanks.”

“I’m glad this isn’t your first at your age.”

My thought, “Would you say that to someone where it was?”

“30-50 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.”

“Thanks.”

“Good thing you didn’t need another one.”

“Thanks, but really who NEEDS one to begin with?”

These are normal “condolences” to women who are in the process of grieving. Sure, the grief may not look the same, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to. I’m sure grief doesn’t look the same from when your parent dies to when your dog dies, but guess what, people understand it’s still grief.

What’s worse. When a woman suffers with a miscarriage, they then have to tell the people they let in on the secret. It’s humiliating because one day you were all excited, the next time you see them you’re empty- like you lost your glow.

Does life go on? Yes, it does. Me and my husband are okay. In fact, we’re happy even. We had a really tough week that week. It took two for me to decide if I wanted to try for a fourth child or not. I talked to the doctor and let her know my concerns. She assured me I was healthy, able-bodied, and should have no problems carrying a child full-term. But the choice is mine.

When and if we decide to try again, and when and if we get pregnant, I will pray everyday that this does not happen to me again. I will not give it another chance if it does. I don’t think I would be able to. It hurts too much.

However, through this experience I have learned that it’s better to not say anything than it is to try and help when you don’t know what to say. If you know a woman going through this experience and you don’t know what to say, but feel you must say something, here’s a list of a few things you can say.

“I’m sorry for your pain.” (be sincere)

“I’m sorry for your loss.” (be sincere)

“Dude that really sucks.”

“Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?”

“I bought you a candy bar.”

“Make sure you’re taking care of yourself.”

“Screw the doctors! They’re dumb!”

“Did you watch ___________ tonight? It was hilarious!” (This is my personal fave. Takes your mind off the crap your mind is focused on).

Regardless, just because you don’t understand what they’re going through, doesn’t make it okay to say whatever you please. The woman you’re not understanding is losing her glow and it breaks her heart. Remember the human.

Mindfulness

As a DBT therapist the practice of mindfulness exercises is a regular part of my daily routine. The way most of my consumers experience mindfulness when they first start looks a little like this:
They picture themselves walking down the beach with a warm breeze enveloping them. “Oh I forgot to pull the meat out of the freezer. Crap! I am supposed to be mindful for 5 minutes, let me start over”.
They, again, are walking down the beach. “The beach seems sunny. I want sun but it’s supposed to rain today. When in the hell is spring finally going to be here? Shoot. I wasn’t mindful. Grr. Okay, I’m on that stupid beach again.”
The feel the warm breeze against their face, the sand on the bottom of their feet. “The floor needs vacuumed. Maybe I’ll do that when I’m done being… You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s wrong with my brain that I can’t be still for not even a single minute? I hate Mindfulness!”
The problem with this is a few things:
1- Visualization like that is only one method of mindfulness. Mindfulness exercises can be anything that gives one hundred percent of your focus to the actual moment you’re experiencing. When I paint, I’m focusing one hundred percent on the canvas and what I’m experiencing with the canvas. Every brush stroke, every detail, my mind is clearly focused. That is mindfulness. It can happen with any platform. It just has to be purposeful and focused.
2- Mindfulness takes practice. One doesn’t just wake up and stop the hustle of their brain just because they want to sit and clear their mind. Thoughts happen. Accept that and watch them exit as soon as they enter. It’s okay. Why are we judging our thoughts? As you see in the above examples we tend to start judging our thoughts and then that leads to judging ourselves. How is that beneficial to anyone?
3- Mindfulness isn’t as weird as people think. I’ve had a ton of people ask me if mindfulness was Buddhist practice or against Christianity. The answer is, all religions practice mindfulness. All mindfulness is, is focusing on the present moment. What am I doing right here and right now. Or, what can I focus on right here and right now. For example, if you happen to like imagery, you don’t have to be on a beach, but only picturing yourself on one. On the flip side, if you’re in Walmart buying bread, you can focus on the very floor tile you’re standing on, purposefully noticing each scuff mark and mouse dropping you can see.
I encourage everyone to practice mindfulness. Eat something with purpose. Pay attention to things like texture, smell, taste, the sound of it, and sight of it (this can lead to weight loss!). Practice when you tie your laces. Imagine trying to teach a two-year-old the hows and whys of tying a shoe. Practice while you’re stressed. How does my body feel, where is my tension? Etc.
Mindfulness is amazing because you actually get to experience life instead of just exist in it.

My therapist thinks I’m awesome tee-shirt

My therapist thinks I’m awesome shirt

This tee-shirt is for sale in all sizes S-XXL. Please add $2.00 for XXXL and XXXXL. The shirt is made in white, but if you would like gray, pink, or blue please let me know in a message in paypal. As always shipping is free!

$20.00