9 Things I'll be Talking About in 2016: What to Expect on the Podcast In the Year Ahead

At the end of the year we tend to take stock and notice themes. In the beginning of the year we tend to plan and look ahead. So I've taken stock and looked ahead.  CLICK HERE OR ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE #17!

Over the past year there have been certain themes that have been really prevalent in my practice and because of that I want to talk about them more on the podcast in the year ahead. There are several big issues - I actually made a list - and came up with the nine things that have been common themes in my practice this year and I feel will be important to discuss on the podcast in 2016.

The first theme that’s really been prevalent in my practice is body image. Men, women and children in my practice talk about wanting to have a more loving relationship with their bodies. As you may know, most people I work with have experienced trauma. I think there is a link between healing trauma and having a loving relationship with one’s body, because we know trauma is stored in the body.

A second theme which has been really prevalent in my practice over the past year is craving deep, meaningful and authentic connection. I live in a wonderful community where people tend to gather with neighbors and friends and people are very kind, but relationships tend to stay at a surface level rather than delving into feelings. People say they wish for friendships in which they feel truly seen and heard. I will discuss this more on the podcast in 2016. 

Along with the theme of craving connection there’s also a theme of allowing connection. The problem is not feeling comfortable letting people in - and again, I work with a lot of people who have experienced trauma, so trust is often a major issue. When you’ve experienced relational trauma somebody has hurt you and it gives you a different perspective on whether or not it’s okay to trust people. So naturally, allowing people to really know you - showing up and being seen as who you really are - can be a challenge for people who have experienced trauma and that’ll be something I’ll be talking about more in the year ahead.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 17! 

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 17! 

The next theme I identified that I want to talk about is workaholism and perfectionism. Here in the DC/Baltimore area we are working, working, working, working, working, working, doing, doing, doing, never wanting to slow down. It never seems like enough. It can be really hard to make time for oneself - including for therapy appointments - if you feel that without you at work something is going to fall apart. Another theme that goes along with that is being distracted, avoiding, numbing, dissociating, being disconnected from your body. Again, that goes along with trauma too so I’m going to be talking about that more.

When you are avoiding your feelings by numbing, staying busy with work, never giving yourself a moment to be still, you’re not in present moment awareness and you are, as I like to say, on the fast train to burnout city. People are expressing feelings of being burned out - on work, on caregiving, on parenting - all of those things can be very stressful! So it makes sense that you would feel burned out, especially if you never give yourself a chance to rest. And our culture does not encourage that! Wanting to increase self-care but not knowing how is a big theme that I’ve been talking about with people in my practice and I want to talk about more on the podcast. Actually, it’s a pretty consistent theme on my podcasts so far and it will be in the year to come as well.

One thing that I want to change about the podcast this year is that even though I talk about the fact that I’m a trauma therapist I don’t think I really talk very much about trauma on the podcast. I guess I just expect that people really know what it is but I’m realizing that when I say trauma you may be thinking of someone who has experienced a house fire, natural disasters or combat. Those are certainly traumatic event but I’m also talking about childhood experiences of no one attending to your emotional needs or being physically abused.

9 topics for the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast in 2016

Many people don’t consider some experiences that they may have had as physical abuse even though they may qualify, like being hit with a hairbrush, being slapped, punched, spanked with a belt...whether or not it would be something that a court would prosecute a parent for doing when you were younger (because it may have been seen as normal then), the effect is traumatic for child. I think there’s an under-recognition of how serious the problem of trauma is, how much it affects so many of us. I will be talking a lot more about the effects of childhood trauma, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, and things that I talk about in therapy sessions but I haven’t mentioned much here on the podcast.

The last theme that I want to cover on the podcast more in 2016 is negotiating relationships with family of origin when one has had an unhappy childhood. It’s a problem for so many people and one that people don’t frequently speak about. We have this American cultural ideal that families are always there for each other, families come first, etcetera. But if you had an abusive childhood and you are uncomfortable being around your family, where do you fit into our American cultural ideal if that’s your life? It’s true for so many people. We’ll be talking more about that in the podcast this year.

So these are the themes that I’ve heard about in my practice over the past year and want to talk about more in the podcast in the coming year. I would love to hear your thoughts about these topics and any other themes that you may be interested in hearing covered on the podcast so please leave comments on this post!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast

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Here's to an interesting 2016!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Think You Might Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Do you have Seasonal Affective Disorder or are you simply sad? 

I often hear from clients that the winter months are hard. A common statement is, "I think I have Seasonal Affective Disorder." Seasonal Affective Disorder refers to having less energy and increased depressive symptoms at certain times of year, particularly during the Fall and Winter months. It is thought that less sunlight during the winter interrupts the body's cicadian rhythms and causes changes in Serotonin and Melatonin levels, causing mood changes and sleep issues. You can find more detailed information about the definition, causes, risk factors and treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder by visiting the Mayo Clinic website

Much has been written about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I invite you to consider another possible cause for this seasonal sadness. Trauma anniversaries can cause intense feelings at certain times of the year. A trauma anniversary is the date that something traumatic happened in your life. I will explain more below.

winter tree

Susan felt that her symptoms were completely unexplainable and unpredictable, but when talking in more depth about the story of her childhood and the loss of her mother, she revealed that her mother died on May 31. She also pointed out that she never had a chance to grieve her mother's death since she was too busy trying to survive in an abusive home without her only protector. Her father was not attuned to her emotional needs and he lacked the ability to cope with his own grief. 

Susan's annual experience of overwhelming depression in June makes sense when you consider that her mother died at the end of May, so that incredible pain she experienced throughout the month of June 28 years ago, when she was 12, was never processed. Trauma is held in the body, and feelings which are outside of our conscious awareness can show up seemingly at random. You can learn more about this by reading Bessel van der Kolk's book "The Body Keeps The Score," Peter Levine's "In An Unspoken Voice,"  Babette Rothschild's "The Body Remembers," and many other books on the subject of trauma and the body.

Considering whether there is any explanation which may relate to prior traumatic experiences helps us take back control of our own wellbeing.  Susan's body was reminding her every June of the deeply painful loss of her mother. She struggled all year with depression, which is common for survivors of childhood abuse, and in June it became unbearable every year. Susan was able to break this annual cycle and take back control of her emotional and physical health by working with a therapist specializing in trauma. She was able to process these traumatic experiences and she felt better than she had ever thought possible.

*Susan is not a real person. Her story is a composite of many stories clients have shared about their trauma anniversaries. 


This is by no means a comprehensive list of traumatic experiences. If you believe you have experienced trauma, and you are ready to start the healing process, find a qualified therapist who has specialized training in trauma. As difficult as it may be to begin therapy for trauma, it is so worthwhile to find out that you can feel better than you ever thought you could. I know this is true because I have personally witnessed that transformation. 

If you don't have trauma and you really do have Seasonal Affective Disorder, the article I cited above recommends getting more sunlight, taking a vacation to a sunny place (heck yeah!) and/or trying therapy or medication. If you're not sure, talk to a helping professional, whether your primary care doctor or a therapist. 


Susan's Story

Susan* had experienced depression throughout her adult life. Despite taking medication faithfully, she found herself being hospitalized for inpatient psychiatric treatment once a year -always in June - and she lived in fear of when her next depressive episode would cause this disruption in her life. When Susan was a little girl her father was an alcoholic. Her mother tried to protect her from his rage but when her dad was drinking, he often physically and sexually abused Susan. When Susan was twelve her mother died suddenly, and Susan was left alone with her father, who continued to abuse her until she was able to move out on her own at 18. The effects of her traumatic childhood continued to haunt Susan when I met her at age 40. She explained that she felt sad much of the time and her pain would build throughout the year, until in June she would have a breakdown and end up in the hospital because of suicidal thoughts. 

morning light
sunny winter light

So Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder or Trauma? 

So before you assume that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, ask yourself whether there is a certain date or specific month that is especially difficult for you. Is there any event you can recall which happened at that time of year which might relate to your feelings about this? Have you experienced trauma? It's not always as obvious as we think. Some situations which can cause trauma include:

  • Loss of a parent or other primary caregiver during childhood
  • Sudden, violent or traumatic death of a loved one or close friend
  • Witnessing domestic violence in childhood or being in a physically violent relationship
  • Growing up feeling that your emotional needs weren't met, that no one was there for you
  • Experiencing physical abuse, including being "spanked" with a belt or other object, or being hit in any way when you were a child, even if you don't consider it abusive
  • Being bullied
  • Any unwanted sexual contact, from touching to intercourse without your consent or when you were incapacitated in some way
Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

If you'd like to talk to me about working together click here or send me an e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can reach me by phone at (443) 510-1048. For more from me, sign up for my newsletter! I send e-mails every so often when I have something to say, and I definitely won't overwhelm your inbox. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest and Google+. I have a weekly podcast which you can listen to here.

Source: 

Author Unknown. (2015) Retrieved on November 10, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Forgiveness: Is It Necessary for Healing?

Forgiveness: Is It Necessary for Healing?

I recently attended a beautiful healing retreat in San Diego. I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. While reflecting during the retreat I realized that I've been holding on to some resentment that has been a barrier to my relationships with important people in my life. As painful as it is to have this barrier in those relationships, I realize that it is actually creating a barrier to my own relationship with myself as well. Self-forgiveness is a key factor in being able to forgive anyone else. Taking the time to reflect helped me see that and let go of that old stuff, and as a result, I feel better and I'm relating differently to the important people in my life.

This subject frequently comes up in my therapy sessions with adults who have experienced childhood abuse, neglect, or other traumas. It's also a popular theme in our culture. Click on the image to the right to listen to Episode #10 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on forgiveness.In it, I discuss the concept of forgiveness and offer some thoughts on the role of forgiveness in the healing process. I also offer resources for forgiving in a way that is authentic and true. Here's a summary of what I said in the podcast:

In the last episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast, I asked whether you'd ever had a loss of relationship with someone with whom you were formerly very close. Something happened which led you to decide that you do not want to communicate with this person anymore. Or maybe you are setting boundaries around the role they have in your life because continuing to be close after what happened feels too painful. 

I raised the point that our culture tells us, both through religion and our popular culture, that forgiveness is a requirement for healing. But what if the person hasn't asked for your forgiveness? What if they deny that they did anything wrong? What if they have passed away, and you will never have the discussion about how their actions hurt you? What if they have apologized in a way that feels hollow? Is forgiveness really about the person who did wrong or about the person who has been hurt? Is it for your healing or theirs? Or the healing of the relationship?

Healing childhood trauma involves allowing oneself to feel the painful emotions we may have been avoiding, consciously or unconsciously.  Before jumping to forgiveness it is important to acknowledge these painful emotions. Self-compassion is extremely helpful to healing these hurts and moving the process of forgiveness forward. I offer resources for increasing self compassion in the podcast.  

Researcher Kristin Neff, PhD has researched and written extensively on the subject of self compassion. I highly recommend her book, "Self Compassion," and her website: http://www.selfcompassion.org/ to facilitate healing and allow forgiveness of yourself and those who have hurt you. 

If you're in the Baltimore area and looking for a therapist to begin or continue your journey of healing childhood trauma, get in touch with me at (443) 510-1048 or laura@laurareaganlcswc.com to talk about how I can help. See below for places to get more of what I have to say. 

Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here.  Check out my website, www.laurareaganlcswc.com for information on upcoming workshopsgroups and retreats. I'd love to talk about how we can work together!  

 

                      What does asking for forgiveness look like?

                     What does asking for forgiveness look like?


Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode on forgiveness.

Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode on forgiveness.

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, Podcaster, Consultant

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, Podcaster, Consultant