Common Life Challenges, Challenges, life Challenges
Life is full of change, just like the old saying goes, "The only thing in life that is constant is change." Change forces us to grow as individuals, it is what keeps us developing as people. But change is often very difficult to deal with, even if the changes in life are ultimately for the better! If you are anything like me, you hate change. It represents the end of something and can trigger all kinds of feelings of loss and abandonment, even though you know in your head that it will end up being for the better someday. Some people welcome change. They are able to see the potential in change and grab hold of it, and they are the better for it. Whether you are going through a positive or negative change, change always brings on major adjustments in our lives. And most of us need support to get through these times.
We all go through major life transitions several times throughout our lives. It is inevitable. Some examples of common major life transitions, include starting school for the first time in your life, graduating from High School, obtaining a new job, getting married/committed, having children, entering a new career, getting divorced or separated, or the break-up of a significant relationship in our lives, the death of a loved one, moving away from home, changing jobs, retiring, discovering your sexuality or gender identity, etc. These transitions, in psychological terms are know as "Phase of Life" issues. They have to do with the major changes that happen at certain periods in our development. Every time something changes in our lives, it is a transition from one thing to another. Major life transitions have a dramatic impact upon us. Things will never be the same again and this is a difficult adjustment for all of us.
It is important that we do not allow the major transitions in our lives to impair us. The goal in any transition is to learn to manage the changes, readjust to the new lifestyle and continue to grow and learn. Change and major life transitions can bring on or be caused by a major life crisis. In fact, if you are struggling with a phase of life transition and have a tragedy strike, it is more likely to create a major psychological crisis and cause a family or relationship crisis. The more a life transition alters our existing lifestyle, the more of a crisis it can create.
Adjusting to Life Tragedies and Crises
Did you know that in the Chinese language, the symbol for crisis is also the same symbol for opportunity? Boy did they get it right! With every life transition and tragedy, the crisis it can create always opens the door to a new opportunity. Some of the most inspiring people in the world are those who rose above the changes that inflicted their lives, those who literally took their life crisis and turned it into an opportunity. Christopher Reeve is a great example. Christopher Reeve is the actor who is best known for playing Superman in the movie, "Superman." During an equestrian event in May of 1995, he was thrown from his horse, landed on his head as his hands were caught up in the horse's bridle, and became instantly paralyzed from the neck down. His injuries inspired he and his wife to start the Paralysis Foundation. They educate others on the realities of paralysis and work in conjunction with the CDC in finding effective treatments for major spinal cord injuries. Christopher Reeve speaks about spinal cord injuries across the country. In addition, Christopher Reeves continues to appear in the hit TV series, "Smallville," and has continued his acting career, starring in several movies. He struggles daily with physical therapy and is now able to have some movements in his shoulders and arms.
Another great example of this is the story of John Walsh, the host of the hit TV show, "America's Most Wanted." In 1981, his 6-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped and murdered. Adam's killer, prime suspect, Ottis Toole, was never charged for the crime and died in prison for other unrelated charges. This Walsh family tragedy was used to create new legislation: the passage of the Missing Children's Act in 1982 and the passage of the Missing Children's Assistance Act in 1984, which later resulted in the founding of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. John Walsh developed the hit TV show, America's Most Wanted, to help other people receive the justice that the Walsh family never received. In addition, he starred in his own talk show, the John Walsh Talk Show, and he and his wife, Reve started the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to legislation reform. John Walsh has starred in several movies related to the protection of children and crime-stopping. He has also produced one film.
Yet another inspiring accomplishment out of a life tragedy comes from the mother of Matthew Shepard, Judy Shepard. Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old young college student in Laramie, Wyoming who was gay-bashed and robbed by two men he met in a bar. He was beaten, his head was bashed in by the butt of a gun and he was left to die while tied to fence for more than 18 hours in the freezing cold. Matthew's mother and father, Judy and Dennis Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation, in his memory, and now speak out against violence and intolerance against gay people. They are strong advocates for parents to love and support their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered children. They helped produced the educational film, "Out in the Cold," a film about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth who are thrown out of their homes or face other discrimination due to their sexuality. A very inspiring look at the level of intolerance aimed at sexual minority children, which ultimately took their son's life.
Obviously not all of us are going to start our own foundations after a crisis, produce films, or start our own talk shows, but these examples illustrate the opportunities that can come out of life's challenges. These inspiring folks used their tragedies to help others. Usually, we learn to use the changes in our lives to better ourselves. Going to college, moving out on your own, changing careers, leaving a relationship that was no longer working,... all improve our life. Life's transitions and crises are our opportunities to grow and develop.
The flip side of these transitions is that you can also get stuck in them. Some folks find that coping with the pain and loss is too overwhelming, or the fear of change is too great. Some turn to alcohol to cope, others to drugs, sex, surgery, gambling, or just despair. Families in transitions can have real trouble with changes. Change in a family can destroy a family, especially in the face of major crises or tragedies, such as the death of a child or parent, for example. Finding ways to get through these times together is crucial. You may have all sorts of experiences that are mystifying; you may feel isolated and alone, depressed, scared or even fantasize about dying. This is where therapy can really help. Therapy works great for people undergoing major changes and crises. Therapy can help a family adjust to the changing circumstances in their daily lives, individuals cope better with crisis and couples struggle through natural transitions in their relationships as their relationship evolves. Therapy is a great tool that helps many people get through the hard times or changing times smoother and with less "bumps." It can help save the relationships being tested by tragedy, prevent you from self-destructing and help you make the best out of the worst. If you are currently struggling with a difficult life situation, please contact me. I can help support you through the crisis, offer you resources and provide you with additional information you may not have access to alone! Contact Me!
One thing that creates a lot of major changes in your life is trying to cope with a major illness, traumatic injury or surgery. Whether you have HIV, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lost a limb, had a hysterectomy, etc., there are many changes that you will have to make in your life. If your disease or injury is debilitating, you will need support, help from the community and access to resources. Frequently, people who have been newly diagnosed with an illness go through a series of grieving stages in trying to come to terms with the reality of having a disease.
Illness can change how you live your life permanently. Many people become so frustrated will illness that they seem to give up or go into major denial about it. They may lose contact with friends, they find that people respond differently to them. Many people become afraid of illness and you may lose some very valuable support systems. Other people seem to want to take over your illness. All of the sudden, all you are identified with is your disease. You lose your basic self-identity to the illness and can no longer relate to others without illness being a major topic of discussion for you. Sometimes this is good and supportive, but other times, it can really get in your way. Worst of all, many people may just not relate to what it is you are going through. That can be especially painful if loved ones don't seem to get it or want to avoid it all together.
It isn't uncommon for people with a major illness to feel suddenly betrayed by their bodies. Once your body worked properly and was able to manage all of the things you wanted to do. Now your body is not functioning as well or has been seriously altered. You suddenly are aware of all the things you are restricted from doing or lost as a result of the disease or injury. Perhaps it has altered your outward appearance. Or maybe it just altered your sense of the world. There may be many things you didn't expect to change in your life with the disease or surgery. Often there are complications as well. Some seen, some not.
You need support while trying to deal with the change diseases and major surgery causes. Don't just try to deal with it alone. Seek out people who understand, who have similar experiences. Seek out the community resources in your area, or national resources. Find ways to get the support you need. If you are having trouble making the adjustment to your injury or disease, contact a therapist who can help with this.
I have a lot of experience in helping people who have HIV, STDs, cancer, and women with reproductive organ problems and who are considering or have had hysterectomies. I am also able to help women who are entering menopause, have symptoms of pre-menopause (perimenopause) and who are in menopause with symptoms (not a disease, but often requires medical management or alternative methods of support, which is typically inadequate in main healthcare settings). I know a lot about therapies for these areas and can support you with these processes. In addition, I may not have had direct experience with your particular problem, but am able to offer support, understanding and resources, even if it is not in my area of expertise. I will work in conjunction with your hospital social worker or other community organizations to ensure you are getting the support you need. Contact me!
If you have lost a loved one, had a traumatic loss in your life, are going through a major life transition or crisis, or are separating/going through a divorce, you will go through a major period of grieving. While there are differences in the grief reactions you have when a loved one dies, there are also many similarities in grief reactions with other losses. Grief associated with death is more intense in some ways and specific to losing the loved person in your life. The more permanent the loss, the stronger the response to it. Feelings of grief and loss are common to all people's experiences. People need support during times of loss. They need to talk about their losses, get angry, depressed, and sometimes just forget about it for awhile. There are many confusing emotions one goes through with the loss of a loved one, a part of your body or in a crisis. Therapists are trained in helping you work through these feelings. Don't allow them to take over your life or create major upheaval in all of your relationships. Come to someone who can help you deal with these emotions, someone who is just there to be with you. Also, many people get "stuck" in the grief process. The emotions that accompany grief can be so powerful and overwhelming that some people learn to compartmentalize these feelings, isolate them away from their conscious experience, and develop additional problems as a result.
I have a lot of experience helping people cope with grief and loss. I also have experience in traumatic losses and death experiences, which have unique problems that require a specially trained person to help with. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, homicide or another traumatic death, or if you have suffered a traumatic loss of some other kind, I am highly skilled in working with traumatic losses. There are a lot of difficulties coping with these losses. Sometimes there might also be public media attention, which can feel completely overwhelming and invasive during a time of great tragedy. Police involvement, media attention, or just the reality of trying to cope with a traumatic crisis in your life does require the assistance of someone trained in helping you through. Call me to help! I am also available for crisis calls during emergencies. See the Trauma Page for additional links and resources.