Monday, October 29, 2012

Anxiety and the Horrible Breakup

So your relationship is over? Whether it is a divorce, a breakup with a long time partner or the dissolution of something that you felt would have potential, breakups are painful. My clients report being in literal physical pain after a breakup, and many do not know how to soothe the pain or where to turn to get better. Let’s discuss the energy of ending a relationship.

When a relationship ends there is a grieving process that is rivaled only by death. I have heard some say that death might be easier.  I believe it was Alice Cooper that said he felt like  “the man with no skin” after a breakup. This is echoed by my clients over and over. One client stated that she felt like someone had poured gasoline on her and lit her on fire. This is no small pain.

Anxiety prevails alongside the pain as the major emotion that is reported to me. What will I do now? Will she come back? Is it really over? Will I ever really heal? Having to rebuild a life that you thought would be different is a monumental task when you are in pain and twisted in knots with anxiety. Doubting your ability to make decisions and lack of confidence in yourself comes with the blow to the self esteem. Learning who you are all over again seems impossible, since it feels like half of your identity walked out the door.

I have been told that the feeling of grief of losing someone is the same feeling of loving someone. The difference is the story that the brain is telling about the sensation. Since you are already in that energetic space in your body, you can leverage the energy by focusing on something that you love and dwelling on that instead of the lost partner. Learning to shift out of the energy of grief and into the energy of love is very helpful in transforming the pain. Transform the focus from the lost partner to your dog, or your child, or even your wounded self can help change the story your mind is telling your body.

Allowing the pain and anxiety to flow through your body without resistance is so important. If you resist the waves of pain and anxiety they will set up residence in your body and will be unremitting. If you can focus on your body, visualize the pain there as transitory and actually visualize it passing through you you will find some comfort.

Common advice like the “no contact rule” is hard to follow, but I promise if you block their number, unfriend them on Facebook, and give yourself a chance to breathe, you will feel a small surge in anxiety at first, but you will notice a feeling almost like a buffer between you and the energetic tie to the partner. There may be times that feel almost like panic when you realize that those ties of communication are cut, but if you breathe through the panic, and get really grounded (notice the sensations in your body, be aware of what is going on in the moment, feel your feet on the floor) the panic will pass.

Actually determine what your emotional needs are. Do you need to socialize? Friends are a life line during this time. Lean on them and let them meet some of your social needs. Do you need to spend some time in the cave? Stock up on comfort food and Kleenex and give yourself time alone to lick your wounds. Do you need to keep busy? Make some plans to start a project, finish one, or pitch in to help someone else with theirs. Really knowing what you need during this time will help you process the grief.

 When you love someone, what you are really loving is how YOU feel when you think about that person. Given this, know that you can feel that way again about someone else because the feeling comes from within you. During a breakup it is hard to look for the gift. You will know that you are beginning to heal when you notice that you can look at the things you brought out of the relationship that made you stronger, helped you learn to love deeper, or that made you a better communicator.
In some people the discomfort passes quickly, in others it feels that it will never go away. Learning to function with the pain and anxiety is key to moving on and thriving after a breakup. Look for small things that bring you joy, notice the change of the seasons, really tune in to others, looking for things you have in common. Making deep connections with others is an activity that stimulates oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and can help ease the pain for awhile.

You will get better. One day you will wake up and notice that it does not hurt to breathe, or that you are looking forward to your day. When you can tell your story without wanting to cry you will know that healing is taking place. Until then, be very gentle with yourself. You deserve your love!

The anxiety of what your life is going to be like after a breakup is very uncomfortable, but there are a few things you can do to help you to understand the healing process and to ease the discomfort. If you find that the grief if not passing and that you are not able to move on, maybe counseling or life coaching are an option that could help you. TRU Integrative Health and Wellness had psychotherapists and other healers that can help you. See or feel free to call me directly at 770-789-0847 or see my website at to set an appointment.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Anxiety….What If I am Not as Happy With My Baby as I Expected?

New mother anxiety can be overwhelming. Not only do you wake up with a body you don’t recognize, a life that is nothing like the one glamorously portrayed in commercials, but you wake up with this tiny human in your home whom you may or may not connect with. Moms who do not feel immediately connected with their new bundles of joy report high levels of anxiety.
Inability to share these feelings is isolating. There may be reluctance to share with friends lest they be judged, families who minimize the feelings and spouses who may feel helpless or get their feelings hurt by the revelation. No matter what the reason, the new mom feels alone and guilty, and anxious that she is a “bad mother” or that she will never feel connected to this little person for whom she has total responsibility.
In therapy I attempt to normalize these feelings for the new mother. We all experience things differently. I do a screening for post partum mood disorders as well. This is frequently overlooked, and is a simple assessment to identify areas where the mother needs support. Medication is not always recommended. Many mothers want to continue nursing, and medication may compromise this. Nutritional support for the mother can be just as effective as prescription medication and allow the mother to continue nursing, which will enhance the bonding experience, and experience less side effects as well.
Working with the mother to develop bonding by encouraging the mother to notice the baby’s body language, vocalization cues and eye gaze is helpful. Once you start breaking down the baby’s attempts to communicate on a primal level sometimes a mom can step right into her role and be the mirror her baby needs.  Skin to skin contact and staring into the baby’s eyes helps stimulate oxytocin, the bonding hormone.
An exhausted mom is no help to anyone. A good schedule of self care activities is a must. Someone to hold the baby while mom takes an extended bubble bath or long hot shower can make her feel like she has won the lottery. Activities that stimulate the mother’s creative potential are helpful. Taking pictures of the baby can help her feel more connected. Scrapbooking while the baby is sleeping can stimulate those feelings of attachment as well. A mom must be engaged in activities that bring her joy. If she is feeling anxious about the baby usurping her life, then the opportunity to get out for a while during the baby’s nap may help her feel a little more like herself so that when she comes home she is better able to bond with her baby.
There are many reasons that a mom may not feel bonded to her baby in the beginning, some normal, some needing attention. The key is being aware of your feelings and being able to reach out to someone who will not judge you and will be able to ascertain whether you need additional support or not. Know that there are counselors available that can help you get on your feet and that can work with you to develop that relationship with your baby you desire.
In my practice, TRU Integrative Health and Wellness we have a program called TRUbaby, designed to meet the needs of the pregnant or new mom. Clinicians educated on interventions and modalities specific to moms and babies are available to help you navigate this exciting time.  We offer psychotherapy, chiropractic, nutrition, massage, reiki, hypnosis, acupuncture and acupressure, and yoga, as well as several other energy healing modalities that are helpful in getting the new mom on her feet. Please see for more information or call me directly at 770-789-0847, email me at or see my personal website at for more information.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Build a Quality Life Despite Anxiety and Depression

When you suffer the symptoms of anxiety or depression nothing seems quite right. It is like the picture on the wall is slightly crooked, and your perceptions of everything are slightly skewed. Thoughts and feelings can feel muted. It may have been a very long time since you remember feeling good or being happy. To get back to that happy place requires a bit of discipline.

When I ask my clients with anxiety or depression what they do to take care of themselves, inevitably they answer "nothing." The first step to building a quality of life despite anxiety or depression is radical self care.  Taking time to do the things that make you feel pampered is so important to helping you feel better. Some clients like a bubble bath and a candle with some lovely music playing in the background, eating at the table on good china with cloth napkins, or some may prefer a massage or going for a run. Each person experiences the feeling of nurture differently, so it is important that you choose activities that speak self love to you.

Gratitude is a quick way to tune in to life and to turn around negative feelings. Studies show that focusing on gratitude develops new neural pathways in the brain. Develop gratitude for finding a parking space, or for soft tissues to blow your nose on or for a fluffy comforter on a cool evening. Be grateful for the little things and be vocal about them. I personally note three things that I am grateful for every day on Facebook. It keeps me accountable for noticing the blessings in my life. Since I started the discipline I have many friends that share in the practice. Develop a community of gratitude and it will be difficult to dwell on negativity.

People suffering with anxiety and depression may have lost touch with a sense of joy. Actively searching for things that make your soul sing is a wonderful step towards creating that life you want. I am not talking big things, but little ones, like noticing cloud shapes or the color of the changing leaves or the feel of the fall breeze on your skin. Put a hard candy in your mouth and be carried away by the taste and the sensation on your tongue. If you are constantly scanning your environment for things that bring you joy you will eventually find quality of life strung together like beads on a thread.
Using these simple interventions I have seen clients literally turn their lives around. People who came into my office only a few weeks before looking morose are almost unrecognizable after instituting these practices. Sometimes it is almost difficult to convince people to try them, but the dramatic impact that I see after a few short weeks is well worth the effort. 

If you need guidance instituting these practices or dealing with the symptoms of anxiety or depression, TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has clinicians that are equipped to help you navigate the path. See for all the services our practice has available, or feel free to call me at 770-789-0847, email me at or see my website at to set up an appointment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anxiety on Crack: Otherwise Known as "My Kid is An Addict. What Now?"

You have just found out that your kid is addicted to drugs or alcohol. This kid could be a young teen or an adult child, it does not matter, finding out that they are owned by addiction is news dreaded by any parent.  You feel confused, terrified, furious and lost. You don't know where to turn. I urge you to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and slow your thoughts. It is time to make an action plan. There are things you can do to make this experience less traumatic for everyone.

The first and hardest step is to watch your mouth. Frustration, fury, feeling manipulated and lied to can cause you to say things you will regret. It is easy to lash out at your addict and say words that will never be forgotten. These words will color your relationship forever and can affect how your addict sees you and themselves for the rest of their lives. Taking that deep breath and getting centered can give you a moment to think before you speak. At a time when you feel like you are living inside of the fear, this is harder than it sounds.

As a parent you are used to being able to kiss it and make it better, to "fix it". You cannot fix this. There are few situations more terrifying for a parent than having absolutely no ability to help your child. Many parents feel guilty, blaming their kid's drug use on the fact that they missed a soccer game once when the addict was a child, didn't potty train them sensitively enough or had a contentious divorce. Once that toxic guilt kicks in the addiction insidiously manipulates the parent-child relationship. A guilty parent will twist themselves into a pretzel trying to make things right. Co dependence kicks in and the parent becomes more concerned with the needs of the addict than their own needs. People who are codependent often take on the role as a martyr; they constantly put others' needs before their own and in doing so forget to take care of themselves.  When it comes to arguments, codependent people also tend to set themselves up as the "victim". When they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty. I heard it put one time, "Do you have to take your child's temperature to see how you feel?" If your answer to this is yes, then you need to take action to address the codependence.

The next step is developing some healthy boundaries. Telling your child "I completely trust in your ability to handle this situation" conveys trust that you believe in their competence, states that you know the problem belongs to them, and empowers them to take action instead of sitting helplessly while you jump through hoops that do not belong to you.

If your child lives at home, defining a zero tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use is vital. Unless you are willing for your child to kill themselves under your roof, zero tolerance is an important first step. You can buy urine drug tests or alcohol breath tests from the drug store or online. Get them and use them on a regular basis and at random times as well. Know that addicts learn how to work around drug screens. If you feel like your addict is using, seek outside testing from a family doctor or treatment center. If the test is positive, I urge you to take action immediately and provide the addict the opportunity to go elsewhere to engage in drug or alcohol using activities. There is no reason your family should have to stand by helplessly watching your loved one self destruct. Siblings can be scarred for life at witnessing ongoing family conflict and using behavior. Many parents will draw the line in the sand and when the addict is caught using will forgive and forgive again when faced with promises and tears. Stand firm. The sooner your addict faces consequences for his/her actions the sooner they can begin facing up to their problem and getting help. Loving the child with boundaries is what will help bring them back to you. Do not allow them to abuse your boundaries to the point where you cannot tap into the love anymore.

Making distinction between the child you love and the addiction is so important. Addiction is a beast that takes up residence inside of your child. It is a beast that will steal drugs from your medicine cabinet, money from your wallet, will lie to you without a blink and will "use" you to the extent that you will allow the using behavior. When the beast rears its head it is helpful to see it as an illness and not as an infraction against yourself and your family. It really has very little to do with you and everything to do with your addict and their illness. Making the distinction allows you to love the child and hate the beast. This is still the same person you rocked as a baby, whose boo boos you kissed and whom you tucked in at night. Do not lose sight of this.

Mindfulness can be so helpful in allowing you to keep peace during this process. Mindfulness is the process of paying attention, without judgment to the present moment. So often when we are feeling fearful or anxious we are actually making up scenarios in our imagination and believing in them. We are living in the future. Radical focus on the present moment, the breath, the physical sensations of the cool air in the room, the feel of your feet on the floor, the sounds coming from the stereo, the smells from the kitchen, bring you into the here and now and allow you to become grounded. Noticing the anxious energy vibrating in your body without resistant is important. That energy becomes trapped when we resist it, and we are stuck with an uncomfortable knot in our stomach or chest. Just noticing that the energy is there and visualizing it flowing through your body instead of resisting it goes a long way towards helping us become more comfortable.

If your child is willing to pursue treatment then your role will be a little easier. If you have insurance, easier still. There are many competent treatment centers in Atlanta that are structured in intensity according to the stage of treatment your child needs. Does your kid need to medically detox? Inpatient medical services may be appropriate for a few days or a week to safely address his/her issues. If not then a few days at an inpatient facility to get your addict stabilized might be in order. There are facilities that have Intensive Outpatient programs that last 4-5 hours a day that consist of individual counseling, family therapy, group therapy and psychoeducation. There are many different philosophies of treatment as well. 12-Step programs are probably the most well known, but there are readiness for change, relapse prevention, enthusiastic sobriety to name a few. You could completely overwhelmed at all of the choices. The job of the treatment center is to help you to navigate the myriad of choices and to educate you on the philosophy of treatment used by the facility and what that will look like for your child. The one thing to remember is that the most important factor in what type of treatment will work for you addict is his commitment to sobriety.

Until your addict agrees to seek help it is important for you and your family to engage in radical self care. This consists of creating an atmosphere of love and understanding that you are all going through stress, and that you are all still learning. Going beyond what you normally need to do to recharge your batteries and to encourage each other is warranted now. If it is a little extra exercise, a nap in the afternoon or an evening in front of the fire just sharing your heart with others who are aware of your family struggle, I urge you to create a gentle, supportive home that allows you to begin to heal.
With every difficult situation in life comes a gift. Look for the gift that addiction will bring to your family. Whether it is better communication, a more honest look at who you all are or eventually having a desire to give back, it always comes with a gift. Never give up believing in your child. Never lose sight of the future you held when you rocked them as a baby. Never give up hope. Keep the porch lights on...

If you need support in navigating the emotions surrounding your loved one's addiction feel free to contact me at 770-789-0847, email me at or see our practice website or my personal website to set an appointment.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Anxiety and the Missing Boundary

Some of us have poor boundaries. Let’s admit it. When we were growing up we were shamed or ridiculed or bullied for asking for our needs to be met. We might have been made to feel “less than” when we stated what we wanted. This left us with a sense that we are not worthy to protect ourselves, that we are selfish or ridiculous to ask others not to trample us with their words or actions.

This lack of boundaries can cause serious anxiety in us and our relationships, causing us to “over-give” “over commit” or “over accommodate” in an attempt to earn the behavior from the other that we desire, or to put up with bad behavior because we are afraid of having the negative feelings of childhood triggered when the other responds to our boundaries. Couple this with the fact that we tend to be attracted to people whose issues and needs are the opposite of ours and we have a scenario that is bound to keep us in knots.

Developing loving, firm boundaries is essential to maintaining self esteem and a sense of safety in a relationship. Without these boundaries we set ourselves up for mistreatment and resentment whether active or passive. People with poor boundaries have trouble getting in touch with a sense of righteous anger when they have been wronged. They internalize the anger and feel shame that they were not “worth” being treated well or respected.

Learning good communication skills goes a long way towards being able to assertively state your needs. I frequently have my clients practice taking a deep breath to get centered and saying in a very neutral tone  “I feel hurt when you ______, what can you do to help me with that?” in an attempt to get the partner on their “team” and to express their needs without anger. I also like for clients to confront bad behavior in a neutral tone and to move on afterwards so that everything doesn’t have to be about conflict and confrontation “It is not ok for you to speak to me in that tone of voice. What would you like to have for dinner?”  allows you to confront the behavior and to move to a less emotionally charged subject. If the partner does not respond to this gentle confrontation then there are more direct ways of addressing the issues. However since people with poor boundaries tend to be highly anxious I like to start with gently addressing the behavior in a way that feels less aggressive.

Boundaries define who we are. They establish ‘what is me’ and ‘what isn’t me.’ Personal Boundaries help us create ownership and protection of ourselves. Boundaries are our personal security. Limits are really about having preferences. It is deciding who you are; who you aren’t, what is a part of your reality and what isn’t a part of your reality. It’s no different from saying I don’t like Chinese food therefore I won’t eat it, and I like Thai food and therefore I do eat it. Preferences and limits establish a strong sense of ‘who you are,’ which means that only certain aspects of life and others can enter your ‘field of reality’. Life is an unlimited and assorted mix, and we have always filled our personal world with whatever frequency we are vibrating at. Saying “Yes” to certain aspects and “No” to others shapes and creates this vibration – thereby shaping the truth of our life.

Honoring who we are and what we desire and will and will not accept protects the other person in the relationship also. If you internalize your negative feelings about an interaction then they do not have the opportunity to self correct and to be who you need in the relationship. They may actually end up losing you due to your refusal to give feedback that would allow them to meet your needs. You are really doing a kindness when you offer them this opportunity, and you are nurturing your relationship.

Stating boundaries can feel scary at first, especially after a lifetime of not expressing your needs, but getting clear on what is and isn’t you will assure that you maintain your truth in a relationship. If certain situations and people aren’t matching your truth, they will either adjust their behavior or depart from your reality. Boundaries can be a gift to others as well as protection for your time and resources. Telling someone no can be a sign of trust and respect. Setting boundaries with others gives them permission to do the same.

 Learning communication skills to help you assertively state your truth is vital to a healthy relationship. If you do not have good skills I urge you to seek out a qualified psychotherapist or life coach to assist you in expanding your communication tool box. TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has therapists available to help you develop good boundaries see or feel free to contact me directly for further information on setting boundaries  at 770-789-0847, email me at or see my website at to set an appointment to discuss your needs.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Social Anxiety Over the Rainbow

According to  Alan Downs in his book The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. Gay men learn anxiety and anger early in their development. He refers to this development as velvet rage. “Velvet rage is the deep and abiding anger and anxiety that result from growing up in an environment when I learn that who I am as a gay person is unacceptable, perhaps even unlovable,” he explains. “This anger and anxiety push me at times to overcompensate and try to earn love and acceptance by being more, better, beautiful, more sexy – in short, to become something I believe will make me more acceptable and loved.”
“We have created a gay culture that is, in most senses, unlivable. The expectation is that you have the beautiful body, that you have lots of money, that you have a beautiful boyfriend with whom you have wonderful, toe-curling sex every night… none of us have that. To try to achieve that really makes us miserable. The next phase of gay history, I believe, is for us to come to terms with creating a culture that is livable and comfortable.”
There is a significant correlation between gay identity and social anxiety in research. Social anxiety is the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. People with symptoms of social anxiety often….
 fear doing or saying something embarrassing in front of other people
 worry about making a mistake or being judged by others
 avoid speaking to others
 fear meeting new people
 blush, sweat, tremble, or feel nauseous when self-conscious
 avoid social situations and giving speeches
 may drink or use drugs to try to relieve their social fears
Researchers at the State University of New York investigated the occurrence of social anxiety in a sample of undergraduate gay and heterosexual men. Gay men reported greater social interaction anxiety, greater fear of negative evaluation, and lower self-esteem than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men who were less comfortable and less open about their sexual orientation were more likely to experience anxiety in social interactions.
Is it any wonder that individuals who felt the primal fear of rejection, vilification and being ostracized as children and adolescents should develop a fear of social situations? I find that with my clients as we normalize the sexual orientation and work on developing a positive sexual identity and developing a positive, supportive social network that symptoms of social anxiety tend to diminish.
In my experience with my gay clients who suffer from anxiety, we always end up back in the childhood or adolescence. Rejection by parents of their own children, by peers, teachers or church because of their sexual orientation seems to produce a severe emotional impact. Having to lead an inauthentic life for fear of rejection or ridicule can produce a severe sense of core shame. Fear of being found out or judged creates a constant sense of tension or anxiety.
Being able to live an authentic life is key to reducing anxiety for persons of any sexual orientation, but especially for gay individuals who have felt forced to “wear a mask” hiding who they truly are. The mask forces an individual to expend huge amounts of anxiety causing energy projecting an image and worrying what will happen if they are found out. I find that with my gay clients, that getting support and only allowing people into their personal social network who are loving, nurturing and accepting is so helpful in mediating symptoms of anxiety. Taking small risks with safe people goes a long way towards increasing social esteem and diminishing social anxiety.
I have found the most powerful tool to helping my gay clients deal with their social anxiety is to have them talk about it, not only to me, their therapist, but to be open and transparent with their friends and family members about how they feel. Many clients report feeling ashamed of their shame. The most effective way to address shame is to expose it.
Social anxiety sufferers have negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety. If you have social anxiety, you may find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts like:
  • “I know I’ll end up looking like a fool.”
  • “My voice will start shaking and I’ll humiliate myself.”
  • “People will think I’m stupid.”
  • “I won’t have anything to say. I’ll seem boring.”
Challenging these negative thoughts, either through therapy or on your own, is one effective way to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety.The first step is to identify the automatic negative thoughts that underlie your fear of social situations. For example, if you‘re worried about an upcoming work presentation, the underlying negative thought might be: “I’m going to blow it. Everyone will think I’m completely incompetent.” The next step is to analyze and challenge the thoughts. It helps to ask yourself questions about the negative thoughts: “Do I know for sure that I’m going to be judged?” or “Even if I’m nervous, will people necessarily judge me?” Through this logical evaluation of your negative thoughts, you can gradually replace them with more realistic and positive ways of looking at social situations that trigger your anxiety.
Learning to become grounded and centered and addressing the symptoms in the body is very helpful. Identifying the anxious energy and allowing it to flow through the body instead of resisting it and allowing it to become trapped and persist is key. Visualizing the emotion as energy flowing into the body and allowing it to flow out of the body while breathing and staying present can bring quick relief.
Social anxiety is an issue that can be treated. Many have viewed it as something that must be tolerated, but with information, support, the proper interventions and occasionally medication, this condition can be addressed and mediated effectively allowing you to function more effectively and authentically, and to live the life you were born to live!

If you would like to explore the interventions that are available to help you conquer your social anxiety, there are several  gay friendly therapists at TRU Integrative Health and Wellness or at please call me at 770-789-0847, email me at or make an appointment via my website at