There is no word or title to describe me

It occurred to me recently that there is no title for me that my ex-husbands new children can use when referring to me. There is not a single word to describe ‘my-half-siblings-mother’ or ‘my-fathers-ex-wife’ in the English language.  This made me think of how important titles are to me and that each one comes with a built in group of expectations and beliefs — mother, daughter, sister, friend, partner, step-mother, cousin, niece, woman, professional…ex-wife.

Yup…despite trying to fulfill as well as I can on all of the expectations of all of these titles, I still ended up as an ex-wife. Which is a title that I did not want. I am keenly aware of the beliefs and expectations that people have of someone with the title of ‘ex-wife’. Especially my ex-husbands’ beliefs and expectations.

So this thought that I need a title for what my ex-husbands new children can call me seems important to me. These titles tell us and the rest of the world how we relate to one another and what they can expect from us. A title is helpful and makes it simple and straightforward for people to lump us in to their own thinking so they can move on with their day.

I most certainly don’t want to take up anyone’s time by trying to describe the complex-messy-fullness that is my life and the relationships and people in it. It would be so much easier to just say a word and everyone – including me – can immediately understand the relationship.

The fact that I am thoughtful about what my ex-husband’s children will call me is a sign of my growth and progress.

6.5 years ago my thoughts were occupied with my immediate survival of being heartbroken.  With two very young children I was worried about waking up each day and doing the next thing required of me. I had a new title – single mother.

And then, as time went on, my thoughts and energies were devoted to the process of living each day and trying…trying, to fulfill on these new titles that I grappled with wearing. Separated, ex-wife…high-conflict divorcee. I was living each day doing the best I could trying to wear all of the new expectations and

beliefs about these titles that I would never have chosen for myself. This violent shove into a new reality was more than I thought I could handle. I did my best.

We were stuck for years in our roles and titles as ‘ex’s’ in a ‘fight’. Not ‘fight’ in the messy yelling kind of way (although we’ve had our moments); more a ‘fight’ in the legal wrangling kind of fight. We added ‘client’ to our list of titles. Our divorce lawyers happily became our guides through the family court system.

We had a couple of legal issues, but mostly we just didn’t have the skills to

resolve issues with our enemy — a new title we both wore. Enemy. Nemesis. Again, living up to the beliefs and expectations of these titles for one another.

We both believed that we were doing a great job of insulating our children from our battle. We didn’t argue in front of them. We were exceedingly polite when we did speak. We effectively ignored each others’ spouses, but again, we would never be overtly rude! We did not think we spoke badly of the other parent. We both believed we were doing a great job protecting these beautiful children from our inner, legal and financial turmoil. We were both fighting the good fight. Doing what the family law system tells us is the right way to serve our children. This allowed us to add “martyr” to the long list of titles we were accumulating through this process.

We ended up being very angry, bitter, broke, suffering – all titles I wore proudly to show the fight was worth it. Fighting endlessly with the only result being that one of you loses is stressful and painful. It’s frightening. For some reason, we also felt like our children didn’t see or feel our fear. After 6+ years in the family court system we were at an impasse.

Family counselling became a way out of the wet paper bag that was our lives…no judge could solve our issues. No two lawyers would encourage us to just speak to one another! We were ingrained in our titles of warriors and enemies. Then we began family counselling.

The humbling experience of family counselling began in earnest…with bi-weekly appointments and tension that you could cut with a knife. We all met together, the four of us; me and my spouse with my co-parent and his wife. We had to deal with our titles and our beliefs about one another. We had to learn how we would speak to one another and the basics of human interactions. We said our fears out loud. We listened and heard one another for the first time. We got angry. We got resolution. We got to laugh. We cried. We reached…agreement. An agreement about how we wanted to co-parent going forward.

 

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Through this process I have come to accept that we all carry another title…a title that overrides any of us as individuals. We are a SYSTEM. Each part of the system is critical. We all have roles in the system. We each have impact on the others. This was a humbling thing to accept  because you can not stay enemies with someone your system/team depends on! You need them to be happy and healthy so that your children, and ultimately the system can thrive. We are a family system. None of us chose it. None of us know how to do it well. We are all learning. We are all figuring it out as we go.

Through the process of accepting the system  I could still name my roles in the system. Mother. Partner. Co-parent. I was defining how I wanted to look and feel in these roles and with growing confidence we were all wearing our titles with some pride. We were developing new expectations for those titles in our system.

Which brought me to the realization that started this entire thing…there is not a word for me and my role in the lives of my ex-husbands children. What do Luke and Emily call someone who loves them simply because they were born my children’s sibling? What title would apply to someone who values and cares for you as part of a family entity that all works together?

I have heard that the number of words a society has for something indicates how important it is to the society. Is it true that my role in their system is not important? That can’t be because I have seen evidence of the fact that we are a system. And I have empirical evidence that all of our lives are improved with the acknowledgement that we are a system. A living and breathing and evolving system that must work together to the benefit of everyone in it. Does everyone else get a title except me?

Looking back on all of the titles I have worn during this process I have to wonder…do these titles actually help us? Are the beliefs and expectations for each role even true? Do titles alone describe the value of each role in the system? Have these titles and beliefs that society puts on all of us helping us forge ahead in this new world of blended families, problem solving with the enemy, and embracing the fact that we are a system…that no individual is more valued than another?

No!!! Living up to these titles might be the reason we stayed so long as a failing system.

I choose to see this lack of a name and title as liberation…we can all define my role in their little lives in a way that works for us in our system – no expectations or set beliefs. If my role is not immediately clear and understood by others, that’s okay because maybe in describing the role I play to others we can all move the needle on how we understand and name people in a blended family system. How we can move past the titles and become valued parts a system that thrives. It is not perfect, but it thrives. It is not our choice, but it is our reality. I, for one, am ready to break out from the titles and beliefs and expectations everyone has of divorce and blended families and I want to say….”I’m ready to try this in a way that honours everyone in the system. In a way that honours me”

Who needs a title when I have a name. They can call just me Karen  🙂

 

(editors note: this post was submitted by a mother, co-parent, person … who was brave enough to imagine, seek, find and adopt a different outcome after separation and divorce)

I Throw Up Almost Every Time I Eat – What Can I Do?

This post is primarily a compilation of negative thoughts about eating, body image, binging and purging shared by many who are/were struggling with disordered eating behaviours.

The way ‘It’ see’s eating

Imagine… every time you bring a mouthful of food to your mouth… hearing the following echoing with every chomp, swish and swallow. Even after it goes down the constant ringing of the voice always saying…

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“you pig, why would you do that”

“oh look who messed up again, shocker”

“Oh really another candy bar, well you’re already FAT… go ahead eat it fat ass”

“have another, it won’t do any more damage than you’ve already done, you’re going to throw it up anyways”

“wait where are you going to throw up so no one knows/will hear”

“do you have perfume/gum nearby so no one can smell the vomit on you after”

“I’m so proud of you for figuring out which finger works best”

“don’t you dare get it on your clothing, people would be disgusted with you and your gross throwing up”

“ahh see there you go, now you don’t have to feel guilty for eating now that it’s all out of your system… but aren’t you a little hungry again, maybe go have some more to eat, just do it again… it was easy the first time”

“okay so you’ve already done it twice today… just do it once more, then that’ll be the last one”

“if they keep asking why you go to the washroom after every meal just blame it on PMS, depression or something”

“okay so if I go do it on my lunch break that’ll leave me 5 minutes after eating, and I’ll go to the far washroom that no one ever goes to that way no one will hear me”

“you better hurry and do it quick, you know the longer it stays in you the more you’ll absorb, god forbid you need any more layers of fat on you”

“my favorite thing to throw up after anything I eat is ice cream, it comes up nice and smooth”

“think, if you do this for just a few more weeks you’ll be able to fit in and actually look normal”

“who cares if people want you to stop, it’s your body not theirs, you’re doing no harm to them, why are they being so selfish, let me make my own decisions”

“never give up on doing this, or you’ll never be worth anything”      

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… pretty serious things to be hearing ‘It’ or that negative voice constantly tell you. Most people eat three meals a day with a few snacks and barely consciously think about what they consume. To someone with bulimia, it comes down to the moment the food touches your lips you start calculating how fast, where and how you can go unnoticed when getting it out. Crazy how ‘It‘ makes it seem like without the bulimia you’d be nothing.

If you or someone you love struggling with an eating disorder or even if you feel you have disordered eating patterns, I encourage you to find a therapist to assist you with your recovery / change process. For more information  Contact us today!

 

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One Young Woman’s Journey Toward Change

There was a time in my life when I was feeling stuck and needed something new. I hated my job, I felt unfulfilled and completely unmotivated to do anything. Then I went to a fundraiser and met a yoga teacher who was promoting her studio and her energy and happiness was palpable! Now let me clarify, at this time I tolerated working out and I had tried yoga before and I sincerely disliked it! I thought for sure I would never try this again. However without thinking too much, I jumped in a class and tried it. My life transformed and I have found myself yet again.

Sometimes we need some transformation in our lives, we need to change to grow and feel again. When life feels the same everyday with no hope of growth, it can feel awful and terrifying! There were three things that this practise of yoga offered me that helped me in my transformation: physical activity, self-awareness and community. We know from several studies that physical activity (and yes this is a very physical practise of yoga!) can prevent physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis (Warburton, Nichol & Bredin, 2006). However physical exercise and yoga in particular can also help with mental health issues related to self-esteem, mental fatigue, feelings of depression and anxiety (Taspinari, Bas Aslan, Agbuga and Taspinar, 2014). Not only was I now working out to improve my physical and mental health, but now because it was an exercise I connected with and enjoyed, it really helped me in a more meaningful way.

Opportunities for self-awareness are also built into this practise and in this studio. There are so many opportunities to learn about yourself and what you want! Besides the amazing self-awareness workshops available, the practise itself is meditative and helps you look at how you think, behave and feel in your life. With the yoga teachers’ kind words, accepting nature and words of wisdom they transform your practise from a work out to a chance for transformation.

And let’s talk about those people some more! The community of people within this studio are loving, funny, supportive, accepting and were a huge part of my ability to have the courage to transform my life. I took me a year but I was able to find my purpose again and find the courage and strength within me to transform my life. I had settled for a job that I was not happy in, felt no fulfillment in and was not in line with what I always wanted to do with my life. I have always wanted to counsel and support other people and with the support of this practise, studio and family I quit my full time job, went back to school and now have plans for my future that I’m excited about!

So in what areas of your life are you feeling stuck, lost or hopeless? How is this impacting your mental health, physical health, relationships and feelings about your future? What action will you take to take back your life and transform it? Yoga is just one method of transformation. It has worked for me and many others. The great part is that there are many other methods and journeys to transformation and growth.

There are so many things that can help people cope and regain a sense of themselves again – reading helpful books, counseling, reconnecting with friends and family, meditation or joining community groups. However, as I have always envisioned being a counselor and am now furthering my education to become a registered psychotherapist, I really believe and value the immense support and growth a therapist can help people find. A person’s struggles and journeys do not need to be handled alone. Talking with an empathetic, supportive and non-judgemental counsellor can truly change a person’s life and provide a means to transformation.

I encourage you to find your method of transformation today.  Contact us today!

 

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Coping After Breaking Up  –  What Can I Do?

One of the most difficult things to do when a relationship ends is to let go of the strong emotional ties that we may have for our ex-partners. It is hard not to think about what they are doing or thinking, how they are feeling, or whether they are okay or as miserable as we are. We have spent so much time making decisions that revolved around them adjusting that framework afterward takes time as well as intentional effort.

When is it time to stop investing our emotion into a dead relationship? Intentional effort is needed to identify when our thoughts hopelessly gravitate toward our ex-partners overshadowing the fact that most of the evidence points to ‘its over’. Easier said than done so how can we begin to heal and adjust?

Some strategies may include:

  • Allow yourself the right and time to grieve the loss as this is a normal process that is as essential to being human as breathing.
  • Creating and repeating uplifting / affirming statements about ourselves when we catch ourselves emotionally over-investing in.
  • Identify an emotional over-investment in our ‘dead’ relationship and do three push ups, sit ups, squats etc. (consider how fit we might become 🙂 .
  • Take three to five deep breaths (20 seconds each -> 5 inhale, 7 hold & 8 exhale) thinking of a positive during inhaling and a negative when exhaling (e.g. inhale calm… exhale upset)
  • Plan schedules heavily with activities to refrain from having “free-time” for a few weeks or even months
  • Increase self care activities (biking, bathing, reading, music etc.) catering to your personal likes and interests can be helpful distractions.

The biggest steps involve finding ways to intentionally redirect our emotional investments away from our ex-partners toward ourselves and others. Being loving to ourselves is so important even though this is difficult after a break-up. Positive  and caring thoughts and actions can prevent us from slipping into self-loathing, ‘stinkin thinkin’ and hyper-criticism which rapidly increases feelings of despair and hopelessness. Also, finding ways to do loving things for others (also called altruism), volunteering time to family, friends and even strangers is a great way to redirect emotional investment and soften the impact of grief and loss.

Making an investment in counseling is another form of self care. You can discover additional strategies for coping as well as new intrapersonal and interpersonal skills to help build healthy, exciting and enduring relationships. If you want to find out more contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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Sorting Socks Too Difficult? It May Be Work Related?

Whether it is meeting a deadline, getting along with colleagues, dealing with a work crisis, managing a big deal, catching up on reports or supervising staff—work-related stress can become overwhelming.

Sometimes all we want to do is leave work at work, get out and forget about it. We want to reach our homes and provide our families with all of our energy to help around the house, whether with helping kids with their homework, preparing meals or any of the numerous other tasks around home. When we are overly stressed, time we want to spend with our families may feel like a burden, added things to do on a seemingly never-ending list of daunting duties.

Excessive stress can lead to the failure of our usually effective coping strategies and significantly impair daily functioning. Things like humour, relaxation, music and other coping methods no longer seem to work. We may then appear to be ‘trying’ to do all these tasks and functions with our families, yet not really meeting the mark and finding we feel adaquate in our role.

If we could step outside of our bodies for a moment and watch ourselves try to do it all, what would we look like?

Are we snappy when our kids ask for help? Do the simple requests from our spouses annoy us? Is sleep being disrupted by racing thoughts or tension? Would you see yourself struggling to get to sleep, waking at night or simply feeling unrested in the morning? Do you find it hard to sit down and enjoy a meal? Is it becoming more difficult to show family that we genuinely enjoy time with them?

When we are unable to effectively cope with work-related stress (or other stressors), it resides within us and enters our homes as we do. We may like to think we have a handle on things but our relationships with our families can tell us differently. Others may also become quick to anger, less open to hearing our concerns and feelings and may become more tired and drained. Unmanaged stress can be very draining on energy levels and, of course, get in the way of sleep, intimacy, eating and overall quality of life.

Often, when under too much stress, we can easily turn to less healthy coping strategies such as drinking, smoking, over or under eating and arguing and fighting in an attempt to resolve matters.

Seeking counseling for work-related concerns can help us sort through work challenges and create strategies to potentially resolve some issues and find new ways to cope with stress in a healthy and effective manner.

When we identify our difficulties at work, and home, and talk through them we can find solutions that lead to increased peace and contentment. We can also be more engaging with our loved ones. If you would like assistance  Contact us today!

 

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The ending of a love relationship can be a difficult time in our lives. Regardless of whether the relationship is better off finished, we still can experience pain and hurt at this time. Some of us may experience this pain longer than others. Some may not experience it at all. This is because they have been accustomed to burying it deep or storing it away. Regardless of the length of our pain, most, if not all of us, want the feeling to end as quickly as possible.

Working to overcome pain can also look different to people. Some may ignore it and perform their daily routine as though nothing has changed. These individuals may sound like this: “I’m not going to let this interrupt my life. I’ve got other things to do.”

Some may dwell so deeply in their pain, overcoming it seems impossible. “Why did this happen to me? I will never find someone to love me again.”

Others may want the pain to end so quickly that they jump into a relationship with someone else. They believe that “things will be different this time.”

And then there are others who choose acceptance of their pain. They decide not to rush out of their feeling too quickly, but instead, explore this pain. This decision is brought on by the premise that one can only learn from what one feels; otherwise learning cannot take place.  Some may also find themselves in a cycle leading to increasingly more painful stages when they experience one ending relationship after another.

We will be posting a series of the process of rebuilding oneself when a significant romantic relationship ends. We feel that this process cannot be explained away, ‘put behind’ us or simply resolved in any one post, blog or self-help resource.

You may identify with the different ways people cope with pain mentioned. You may also realize great relationships don’t just happen. If you do know this, you want to get council, coaching or advice to improve your recovery and increase your odds at creating a satisfying and truly magnificent romance. To get help with your specific relationship challenge, call us today.

 

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