Resiliency – Perseverance 

Going into the New Year, I find myself again reflecting on all the ups and downs over this past year. Every year it amazes me to watch not only myself but others go through so much in a year and to keep pushing on. Through all the ups and the downs, I am always amazed at the strength I and others all have to keep moving forward time and time again, even after experiencing a year of hardships.

I love the concept of resilience and it has been something I have always taken a fascination too. Resilience is the process of adapting in the face of adversity. I know throughout my life, it has given me a lot of strength and hope. I have been through some really difficult times in my life and struggles and knowing that I have gotten through tough times in the past, with help of course, always gives me some hope that I will be able to get through tough times in the future, whatever life throws my way.

I learn a lot about human resilience not just from myself and my own experiences in life but a lot from others and the world around me. I think it can be really easy to focus on all the negatives in our world and around us, as so much negativity is focused on throughout media, but I like to seek out the positives, light out of the darkness, silver lining etc..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, seeing and hearing stories of resilience is a way to get a small glimpse into the vast array of positives in the world. This has a way of lightening up my heart, my thought life and even my soul or spirit. Hearing peoples stories of resilience and their strength always makes me reflect on just how strong we can be in the face of adversity, even within those dark moments when life itself often hangs in the balance. There is also a hint of humility and of my own mortality when hearing about the really terrible things that people around the world experience, manage and overcome.

I encourage others, like I do myself, to seek out and share stories of resiliency… including our own. It is easy and even natural to focus on negatives (for survival), to sink into negativity during tough times, dwelling on the times we failed at something, the times we could have done more and those times we could have done or said less. It is naturally and socially more challenging to see and recognize the amazing capacity, strengths and courage we all have in these moments and the resilience and perseverance adversity has built into our character.

Many of the most difficult and painful moments in my life have taught me my most cherished lessons for living – such as lessons about human relationships, honesty, compassion, trust, grieving and loss, kindness, forgiveness and love.

Moving soon into this New Year, I hope to continue to strive daily to see the strength and courage within myself, through both the difficult and the good times no matter what comes my way. I know that it is not always easy to see these positive, colourful and beautiful things clearly, in oneself and in others. I also know that it is quite often a struggle in life, yet, through every struggle I know there is a story of resilience to be told when we are open to accepting help and willing to persevere.

 

Submitted By: Mallory (masters in counselling student)
photos by J. Packer

 

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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Do You Feel You’re Not Getting Anywhere?

How often do we feel frustrated and alone, like no matter what we try life doesn’t seem to get any better. We might change this or that behaviour, for at least a short while, only to end up back in the same situation. We can gradually or not so gradually get more down, hopeless and tried as we seem to return to the same ‘rut’. I heard once the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth?

The poem below, written by Portia Nelson, conveys these very sentiments and walks the reader through five ‘chapters’ in order to signal a flicker of hope somewhere on the road of life.

There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk (five chapters)

                     1

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

5

I walk down another street.”
Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

I think most of us want to believe we can change, that things will improve, and that one day we will reach that illusive better place? While there are certainly no guarantees and we really don’t know anything for sure about the future, what is life without hope? How do we, in the face of severe difficulties, loss, pain and grief, manage to hold onto hope? What can we do to regain a sense of hope we may have one had?

These and other questions strike a nerve in our spiritual being. Who am I? Why be good to myself and others? What does the end of life really mean? Almost all people will contemplate questions like these, pondering issues that do not seem to be answerable by science; at least not yet anyway. This is both a frustrating and exciting element of human life. This is where faith and one’s belief system becomes essential. Our task is to examine our hearts and minds, our emotional selves and seek to discover an improved understanding of ourselves and the amazingly contradictory world we live in.

A journey that doesn’t include the unknown is not really much of a journey at all. Imagine a trip with no surprises, no unexpected discoveries, whether this is an actual holiday or the challenging journey in a close relationship. As we said to our children in preparation for our adventures, “let’s find a way to look forward to and enjoy the journey”.   Rather than being a burden, this attitude seemed to improve our ‘getting along’ and each leg of the trip a more enjoyable and exciting adventure.

Cognitive shifting can help us see situations a bit more positively and in a way that helps us achieve a more balanced emotional state. We can change our thought patterns about almost any event or situation when we are determined to stop falling into the holes in the sidewalk.

 

 

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Oshawa therapist, durham region counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Really Does Addiction Mean Anyway?

Addictions impact so many people, upsetting lives and hurting loved ones. Worrying about ourselves and/or others being hooked on work, alcohol, money, drugs, sex, porn, food, cigarettes etc. is a widespread problem. Our focus unfortunately,  often becomes narrowly placed upon that “thing” that seems to be consuming so much of our attention, pulling our attention away from solutions and other important areas of life. As this narrow focus becomes increasingly magnified to a seemingly overwhelming level, negative thoughts increase as well; “This is just too far gone”, “I am awful”, “I’ll never stop THIS!”, “Why even try to stop?”

I think we are out of focus.  Our attention becomes on what not to do or on stopping something rather than on what to do and on action that can improve our situation.  I’m not entirely convinced one’s so-called ‘addiction’ is the real problem. Consider all the things in life we are not free to do because we’re spending so much of our effort, time and money on the addictive behaviour. What is being missed, unattended to and let go?  Now that seems, at least to me, to be the real tragedy; being a slave to a substance, a behaviour and even a way of thinking, not free to really enjoy life to the fullest.

Short changing our health and wellness, missing out on recreational, intellectual, spiritual and social growth options, failing to have time for those we love (e.g. children, spouses, family and friends) and severely limiting development of meaningful and satisfying relationships in favour of that one special ‘addiction’ is the real tragedy. 

What is yours? What robs you of a very important part of your life?

Did you know the term addiction came from the slave trade? Years ago, while working on a paper for the Canadian government, I discovered a book called “Drugs, Morality And The Law” (1994 by Steven Luper-Foy, Curtis Brown). The authors uncovered that the initial use of the term addicted was used when a slave was sold to a master. The slave was said to be addicted to or ‘tied to’ their master. Instantly,  I postulated that just as slaves have been freed, we too could find a way to become free from whatever addictive behaviour that is holding us back. I thought, maybe a little too simplistically, if we can be tied to something we could also be untied.

This is a completely different and more positive way of considering addiction than I grew up with. Many of us learned and were indoctrinated with the view that “once you’re addicted it is very, very difficult to quit”.  Not true!  There are many strategies and approaches that help people uncover the thinking and events that contribute to the development of their particular addiction. These include expanding awareness, realigning goals with core values and teaching new ways to override those thoughts and behaviours so that a healthier and more satisfying life can be enjoyed.

Just as ending slavery began with a shift in the consciousness, untying ourselves from addictions requires a process of cognitive uncovering, thought shifting and persistence. For some, a little coaching can help speed up the process and maintain success. If you’d like assistance becoming untied from an addictive behaviour in order to achieve a more fulfilling life, contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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We may fear heights (acrophobia), close spaces (claustrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), or even public places (agoraphobia). But how do these fears develop? Psychotherapists may believe that presenting phobias act as a defensive mechanism against a more underlying area of anxiety, which is fueled by unconscious, repressed impulses. Behaviourists usually discard the content of phobias and instead focus on what role or how the phobia functions in the person’s life. Cognitive theorists will look into how people’s thoughts can heighten, lower, maintain and reduce their fear.

phobia – noun    (Mirriam-Webster’s Concise Encyclopedia Definition)

“Extreme and irrational fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder (a neurosis), since anxiety is its chief symptom. Phobias are generally believed to result when fear produced by an original threatening situation (such as a near-drowning in childhood) is transferred to other similar situations (such as encounters with bodies of water), the original fear often being repressed or forgotten. Behaviour therapy can be helpful in overcoming phobias, the phobic person being gradually exposed to the anxiety-provoking object or situation in a way that demonstrates that no threat really exists.”

There is also evidence that suggests genetic factors that may predispose some to phobias rather than others. Sixty-four percent of patients with a phobia have at least one first-degree relative with the same fear (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002, pg. 167). Some may argue it is possible to learn or “adopt” a fear or phobia from a close relative as a function of repeated, chronic exposure to the behaviour.

Regardless of the specific fear an individual has, its symptoms can have a significant impairment on the person’s life and day to day functioning can be severely limited. Because the onset of phobias (especially social phobias), is usually during adolescence, when untreated, there is a likelihood of dropping out of school and experiencing a decreased quality of life.

“A parent who consulted us for treatment for her son, who had gradually decreased school attendance, was somewhat unaware of her own heightened social fear that restricted her behaviours to home and work for years. The son’s own anxiety was further exacerbated by the onset of puberty, transition to highschool and the development of compensatory behaviours such as excessive computer and video gaming activities. Eventually, school staff negotiated a reduced class schedule which, inadvertently, affirmed the problem. Through the assessment process using both the cognitive behavioural and systems lenses, changes in thoughts and behaviours helped this student to gradually improve school attendance and social involvement. His mother also became more socially involved throughout the therapeutic process.”

There are many approaches involved in reducing phobias, so it is important to create a treatment plan (which may include a combination of different therapies) that can serve you best:

  • Systems theory helps identify multiple factors contributing to a problem and quite accurately informs change options and solutions
  • Psychotherapeutic treatments (such as free association) attempt to uncover repressed conflicts that are assumed to be the underlying explanations for extreme fear and avoidance.
  • Systemic desensitization (exposure to specific fears while increasing the state of improved relaxation) has shown to eliminate or at least reduce phobias.
  • Depending on the severity of anxiety developed from phobias, some medications may be prescribed for fear-induced symptoms (e.g., sedatives, tranquilizers, or barbiturates).
  •  Cognitive techniques paired with social skills training (safe exposure to phobia-induced environments) can lessen people’s reaction to their phobias as well as enhance people’s sense of self-worth.

You may find it becomes necessary to seek professional help to gain a thorough understanding of a specific phobia or area of anxiety and how it impacts your life. For professional and confidential help contact us today!


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It almost goes without saying that media has a major impact on our perspective on many issues: mental illness, love and relationships, as well as body image, health and wealth. Here is one way in which the media can do some good for young girls and teenagers who are coming into their own bodies, adapting to hormone changes, and who are exposed to peer pressure.

The following link shares Lupita Nyongo’s acceptance speech at the Essence Magazine awards.

We are too often exposed to extremely thin waistlines, airbrushed faces, flawless skin, and long and flowing hair.  Little girls are growing up watching cosmetic commercials and teenagers are reading fashion magazines. As a result, their perception of beauty can become easily skewed by the media’s “acceptable” ideologies and portrayals of beauty.

This can, unfortunately, create inner turmoil in a preteen or teenager who does not resemble the bodies and faces seen on screen. Females, and even some males, may excessively strive to adjust their behaviours in hopes to eventually become the “beauties” they idolize in magazines and on television. These behaviours may include: restrictive eating, binge eating, vomiting, disordered eating, excessive dieting, manipulating medications (e.g. lower insulin dosing) and excessive exercising. These behaviours, when prolonged, have a severe impact on overall health (social, psychological and biological).

Fortunately, once in a while, we are able to hear celebrities comment on real beauty like Lupita did in her speech. However, is everyone listening to this message? Sometimes family support, well-intentioned comments and repeated requests just don’t seem to be enough. In fact, many common statements and approaches can actually, unintentionally, add to the problem. And it takes much effort and professional help to change disordered eating behaviours. Contact us today to get professional help!