When Your Past Is Haunting You.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You are on your way  home from work and you decide you want to take the subway home. As you enter the subway entrance, someone came up behind you, push you down to the ground, physically beat you, and then stole your IPhone, wallet, and jewelry. The cops didn’t find the savage jerk who did this to you and you kept wondering if they ever will. A week later you were walking home from work and you came up to the same subway station that you usually take when you go home. You stop in your tracks and you hesitated to enter that subway station. Your heart races, your body tightens up, your palms become sweaty and then you walked away very quickly.

What the hell just happened there? 

It’s called trauma. When a bad and stressful experience happens to you, it does something to your mind and body where its not going to forget the incident and it will haunt you. The bad memories start to come back when you encounter that environment. For example, a person has been sexually assaulted and there was a particular song that was playing in the background during that time. Every time you hear that song days later, it will bring you back to that incident that happened when the sexual assault took place.  Flashbacks and nightmares are very common in this situation. The effects of the trauma can leave people feeling powerless, sadness, and irritable. 

When people think of trauma they think of a person who is been sexually assaulted, being mugged, or being kidnapped. There are so many instances of trauma that a lot of people often forget such as car accidents, escaping from a burning house, witnessing a crime, domestic violence, natural disasters, animal attacks, 9/11 World Trade Center survivors,  child abuse victims, the list goes on. Some people experience frequent workplace trauma such as law enforcements, EMT workers, fire fighters, military staff, emergency room doctors, convenient store workers. The question is can a person who has been traumatized do something about their experience or should this be something they should sweep under the rug?

If you try to pretend the trauma didn’t exist, you are setting yourself up to a miserable life. Trauma can affect your workplace performance, family life, intimacy, physical health, mental wellness, and your relationship with friends. Understand that there is nothing to be ashamed about when experiencing a traumatic event. It can happen to anyone. The first step is that you have to be ready to seek help from a therapist. Therapists can guide you in moving pass this ordeal and not allow the experience control your life. This process takes baby steps but there is never a time limit when it comes to healing.

Beautiful Sideways Shot Of Young African American Man Looking In

Is College For You?

Oh damn, the summer is coming to an end (booo!). While many people are returning from their vacation, there are thousands of 18 yrs old entering college for the first time. Entering college can be exciting (Shout out to the students at my alma mater SUNY Old Westbury) but it can be stressful experience.

When I mean by stressful is a lot of young adults are entering a major change in their life that often times parents and other people don’t realize. Let’s face, it going to a college is a major transition in your life. When you were younger, you attended to going to the same school district from the time you were kindergarten all the way till your senior in high school. College is a new school with new people, new professors,, and a new way of living (i.e. doing your own laundry, buying meals, etc) . What about the other issues that is going through your head as you are sitting in your college classroom listening to your professor’s lecture? Do you ask yourself “Is this is something that I want to do? or “Do I really want to study teaching, engineer, law, etc?”. This is something to think about.

In May 2016, 19-year-old Nayla Kidd experienced that dilemma herself. She she was an engineering student at Columbia University in New York City and was finishing up her sophomore year in college when she realize that this is something that she does not want to do anymore. She took all her money, shut down her Facebook profile, changed her phone number and decided to move to Williamsburg section of Brooklyn because she wanted to re-discover what she want to do with her life. Luckily for her when the police found her and contacted her mother, who was more than understanding about her situation. Nayla decided to not return to Columbia University and choose to focus on a career in the arts.

Often times people choose a career or the school based on what they think their family wants them to do or they may have receive the pressure from others expectations.  But this creates a problem for the college freshman who may not want to take the career path.  They often feel that they are not able to speak to their family, friends, or professors and feel unworthiness and withdrawn. Unfortunately, this issue has serious consequences such as substance abuse, severe depression (uh oh that D word), or suicide.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with rediscovering who you are and what you want to do with your life. Maybe college isn’t for you and that’s OK. Maybe going to a technical school is the right choice and that’s OK.  Becoming a freelance writer and focus on the arts might be for you but that OK. If you’re stuck in school and you’re not sure if this is the right path for you there are counselors on campus you can speak to. You have the option to speak to a therapist in the community who can help you get through this dilema. At the end of the day you have to be OK with the decisions that you’re going to make that’s going to help you transition into the adulthood.

Why Are You So Damn Angry?

“Why are you so angry?” , “What is your problem?”,  “Why do you have a chip on the shoulder?”,  “Calm down, damn!”. Does this sound familiar to you or someone you know? Is it ok to feel angry at someone or something? The answer is yes, since anger is part of an emotion that we all go through. Should your anger be a permanent mark in your life like a tattoo? The answer is no! The outlook of your happiness in your life depends on how you deal with your anger issue.
Anger comes from various sources. Sometimes these occurrences are beyond our control such as death of a loved one, infidelity, or child abuse.  Ongoing anger can leave some negative effects in your life such as employment termination, being cut off by friends/family, stress related health problems, or substance abuse. I’m sure you heard the old saying, misery loves company!
Is it possible to address the anger issue? Mmmm… that depends on the individual with the anger issue. First of all the person must acknowledge that they have a problem with anger. Second, they have to be ready to accept the help in order to deal with the anger such as individual counseling. Third, they have to be active in the counseling sessions in order to see positive results. Common issues that are address in counseling are past trauma events that left the person feeling very angry, the negative perception/beliefs about oneself, and the negative behaviors that the person display when he or she becomes angry.
The anger will not go away on its own. It’s best to take care the issue or you will end up being your own worse enemy. Real talk!
bitterness-is-like-cancer-300x225

Suicide In The Black Community, An Issue We Can’t Ignore.

Last week one of my co workers reached out to me regarding her concern of her close friend. My co worker explained how one of her friends who is an African American woman has been thinking about suicide. Of course my co worker was shocked but at the same time she was glad that her friend was able to confide in her with this serious situation. I was able to share my suggestions to my co worker who passed it on to her friend. Her friend was able to obtain professional help to deal with her depression.

Did I say that “D” word…….yes I did in fact said the word depression which brings me to the point of this blog post. The friend of my co worker told her that she was not depressed but has some personal issues that she had difficulty in dealing with. Well I have to be honest and educate everyone by saying depression can lead to suicide thoughts/attempts. There has been cases of suicides and suicide attempts in the black community…..yes this shit is real! Common signs of depression is feeling sadness, hopelessness, despair. People with depression often lose motivation and lack interest in activities they use to enjoy. Additional symptoms include changes in appetite, lack of concentration, changes in sleep patterns, and irritability.  Many people do not want to see themselves as “depressed” due to the stigma of mental illness (see my previous blog article dated 5/13/16).

 So what is an African American to do when facing with suicide thoughts and severe depression. First, acknowledge and understand that it is a serious problem. Second, seek professional help. Some people are able to obtain individual counseling from a therapist and consult with a psychiatrist for medication therapy. Some people may require hospital stay where they can receive intense therapy. It’s OK to seek help, and no you are not crazy. Depression is a common condition which can be brought on  by unresolved issues (ex. death of a love one, loss of job, childhood trauma, health issues, violence, racial issues, etc).

Another way to deal with depression and suicide is to further educate yourself. According to US Dept of Health and Human Services, July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month which focus the stigma and education of mental health for people of color. Every state has their own suicide prevention hotline which runs 24 hrs a day/7 days a week. The hotline has trained counselors available to help those in crisis. Please review the resources listed at the bottom.

National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255

Long Island Crisis Center (516) 679-1111

The Samaritan NYC Hotline 212-673-3000

US Dept Health and Human Services Minority Health http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh

 

 

Is Group Counseling For You?

When you think of group counseling, you imagine the typical Alcohol Anonymous group that you see in movies or tv shows. Group therapy are designed in different ways to accommodate people who are facing the same issue. These services can help various topics such as addiction, eating disorder, social anxiety, domestic violence, anger management, etc. Group therapy can be closed to certain amount of members or it can be ongoing where anyone can attend and leave the group anytime. The cost of groups can range from free to a $30 depending on type of group. Some insurances might cover group therapy but it’s important to verify your insurance coverage first.

Group therapy is very common but many people don’t realize the benefits of receiving group therapy.  Group therapy can be use in combination with individual therapy or alone. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. It’s cheaper than paying for individual counseling.
  2. You can learn coping skills from other members.
  3. You will receive support and feedback from members who experience the same issues as you.
  4. The date and time of group therapy rarely changes which makes it easy to fit it in your schedule.
  5. This will reduce isolation as you have a reason to leave your home and be around with others.

Group therapy takes place in different settings such as hospitals, churches, libraries, clinics, community centers, schools, etc. Therapist, social workers, case managers, clergy can refer you to local support groups in the community.

165_group-therapy-quote

 

Free Counseling For Employees..Huh?

How do you know that your co-worker, staff, or supervisor is having a difficult time in their personal life? You can see it in their job performance. You might noticed that one particular co-worker who arrives at work friendly, and cheerful in the past but now he/she is quiet, and withdrawn. As a supervisor, you might notice one of your staff showing up late to work and looking disheveled multiple times. Did you notice your co worker who arrived to work with an alcohol odor in their breath. These are some of the examples of how personal problems can affect work performance.

Let’s face it, people have problems. Domestic violence, alcoholism, caring for an aging parent, marital problems, death in the family is very common. Employees are not comfortable in discussing their issues with their employers and do not know where they can turn to for help. Let me remind you that you might have Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of your benefits.

EAP is a service where employees can receive counseling and community resources with no financial charge. The services is free and confidential for employees (your employer will not know either). Many employees receive EAP benefits through their health insurance however, some employers use EAP services through an independent company. Once you sign up for EAP services, you will receive any where between 2-6 sessions of counseling sessions depending your problem. Here are the steps to obtain EAP counseling:

  1. Call the EAP number provided by your employer.
  2. Explain to the representative the reason you are requesting services.
  3. You will receive a list of therapists near your area to contact and make an appointment.
  4. After you select a therapist and make an appointment you can inform EAP the therapist that you select.
  5. That’s it! Seriously that’s is all!

Some people will continue to see their therapist after they exhaust their EAP sessions for  additional support. It’s very important to inform EAP the concerns that you are experiencing since there are therapists who have different specialties (i.e substance abuse, depression, trauma, grief counseling, etc).

Receiving counseling is a great way to handle your personal problems. You don’t want to face the consequences of poor job performance (i.e. suspension, termination, write ups, demotion, etc). Just for the record, I provide EAP services under Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Cigna insurances.

workplace-support-services-logo

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Do you tend to stick to the same daily routine in your life? Have you ever thought what would happen if you try to do something that you have never done before? Are you ready to break the old pattern and start something new? So what’s stopping ya?

People tend to stick to the same daily routines and hobbies because we are comfortable with the outcome. We get so busy with work, family, or school that we often believe there is not enough time to adapt to the change that we want to make. This is very common for people who are experiencing life transitions such as a death, new family, recent health diagnose, etc. When my father died in May 2014, I spent the next couple of months dealing with his estate, my disabled brother, my two jobs, my car, and my sanity. By the end of that year I realized how emotionally exhausted I was and I was missing something in my life. By early 2015, it was my time to make changes socially and I became more involve in different activities and meet new friends. For the first time in my life I was able to go horseback riding, travel to cities that I never been to before, and brought the little kid back in my soul by going to the roller skating rink hahaha!

Making slight changes in your every day life is healthy. You would be surprise the outcome of changes that you make in your daily activities. That person who you met at your first cooking class could be your new best friend. The person who you met during a group hiking trip might end up being the person you will marry. You might meet a person at a new dance class who can give you a heads up at a job that were goin for. Ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t take the risk and experiment a new, fun activity? You will miss out on opportunities and regret it later.

The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong in getting out of your comfort zone. Think about your fears and the barriers that prevents you from making those changes. Maybe that close friend of yours can give you a support and a boost!

 

outside-comfort-zone

 

Oh No! What Did The Doctor Say?

You noticed something different in your body, you visit your doctor who then took samples of your blood, urine, or tissue for tests. You waited for about 2 weeks till you find yourself sitting in the exam room, alone, and anxious for the results. The doctor walks in and drops a bomb on you…….test results confirms that you have “enter the medical issue here“. Holly crap, what are you going to do now?

Receiving a serious medical diagnose is a common life transition people experience. Hearing it for the first time can be frightening, and shocking but it can leave a person in a panic state as they don’t know what to do next. When this situation occurs, it is consider a crisis in their life. Here are some common concerns people have in this situation:

  1. How can I tell my family?
  2. What should I say to my boss?
  3. Am I going to die soon?
  4. What happens when I become disabled and can’t work?
  5. How would this affect my social life?

The first step in dealing with the recent news is to breathe for a few minutes and allow the information to sink in. Next step is to take it day by day in handling this situation. For example, select at least one trusted person (friend or family)  to share your recent health condition for emotional support. That person can accompany with you to the doctor’s office to ask questions about your condition. Not only you will receive the support but you will begin to learn about your medical condition which can help reduce anxiety and fear.

Support is needed to get through this life transition. For individuals who do not have family or close friends, they can seek support from their local church, support groups, or individual therapy. Doctors can refer patients to other services to better help with this change such as a nutritionist, message therapist, or an organization that supports individuals with the same condition in common. For example, my college alma mater, Adelphi University has been operating a breast cancer support program for over 30 years.

Dealing with this change in your life takes time but you don’t have to face it alone.

HeartHealth

Don’t Feel Ashamed…You Got This.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Many people are suffering of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, post partum depression, and more. The big problem is people are not seeking the help that is available to them. One can argue that mental health treatment is expensive, many people don’t have insurance, or there is a lack of services in the community and so on. But the biggest reason is the stigma. You probably heard these statements before:

  1. Counseling??? I’m not crazy, there is nothing wrong with me.
  2. Mental illness is not acknowledge in my culture/religion.
  3. What would my friends & family think if they found out I’m receiving counseling?

Counseling does not mean your crazy. In fact, you are taking control of your mental wellness when you do seek counseling. Some people may need medication to help ease the symptoms of depression or anxiety and that is ok. If that is what it takes for your to work at your job, attend school, socialize with your friends then go for it. Failure to obtain help can lead to serious consequences such as disability or suicide. Besides, if you have a migraine headache, are you going to ignore it or seek your doctor for a prescription of Imitrex?

To deal with stigma is educating yourself and embrace your support network. National Alliance of Mental Illness is a great resource for individuals, friends, and family. Many professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and clergy are suggesting people to seek counseling.

There is nothing wrong in seeking mental health assistance. It does not make you less of a person but it will make you live a healthy life.

stigma mental illness

 

Just Let It Go!

You had just receive bad news. Your close relative was diagnose with a serious medical condition, or your boyfriend/girlfriend wants to end the relationship, or you were laid off from your job. These examples are a low blow in your life. But what is there to do with these situations? Sure you can beg and plea to your significant other into staying with you or tell your relative to try every medical treatment that is out there. But what if you don’t receive the results that you are looking for, then what? When we receive bad news, it’s very painful and difficulty to accept. This is part of the transitions we all go through. It’s important to ask yourself what are the benefits to hold on a bad relationship, or making sure your love one does not die from the disease, etc. This is the time to accept the situation that just happen and to let it go. When you let go of the situation, it will help you focus, cope, and move on to the next chapter. Counseling can help individuals jump over these hurdles and build resiliency.

let shit go