I am back in school. The picture is of my cohort and I’m on the bottom right. At 55 I started a Ph.D. program last August. I’m in the Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral program at the Townsend Institute at Concordia University in Irvine, CA. The program is online so I didn’t move to California…although it sure is beautiful there. I have been teaching for the Townsend Institute’s Master’s in Counseling program since 2017. I love teaching but realized I want to increase my effectiveness in my work with students. It’s also a benefit to my clients. The program focuses on expanding my counseling skills, increasing my effectiveness in educating and supervising future counselors, equipping my research-brain to expand knowledge in counseling and counselor education, and advocating for various aspects in the counseling field.
It’s a long road and if all goes well I hope to complete the requirements by December 2024. I hesitated to start this program since I’m kind of old. I know, I’m not 80 but most people my age are starting to think about retiring. I’m not. I’m getting a second wind. I want to stay active both physically and intellectually and this is my way of achieving that. Well, not the physical part. That’s up to me to make sure I take care of my body. But the intellectual part is definitely being challenged right now. I’m in a research methods class that has been kicking my butt! Youtube videos of research terms has been invaluable!
The point of all this is to say, I’m so sorry but posting on this site is going to be very sporadic…like it has been lately. If you are ever in need of encouragement, I have hundreds of posts. I posted nearly every week from 2012 to 2021. That’s a lot of posts! Go check them out.
The second truth about emotional health is it is achieved with others, not in isolation. We can’t simply will ourselves into emotional health by reading a book, listening to a podcast, meditating on a verse or meme. We are social beings. Our emotional health is directly tied to how well we are connected with others. This connection is directly tied to attachment.
Attachment is essential to human growth and development. From the moment we are born, we need to be held, comforted, talked to, and provided for. Remove these elements and there are going to be problems. Just look at the work of Bowlby and Harlow (warning, the Harlow study on baby monkeys is tough to read but it did shine a valuable light on the need for attachment in healthy development). We must first experience our caregiver attaching to us, connecting with us, in a loving, caring, nonjudgmental, and nurturing way to learn how to healthily attach to others.
Unfortunately, flawed people raised us. They were raised by flawed people, who were raised by flawed people, and so on. Mistakes were made. Caregivers were sick, too tired, or perhaps too messed up themselves to attach to us in the most healthy and consistent way. Some caregivers are better than others so the wounding that gets passed on in the attachment realm varies from person to person.
If you received healthy-enough attachment bonding, you likely have healthy relationships with those around you. You have people in your life you can share your messiest parts with and they can sit with you in your mess without criticizing you, fixing you, or trying to solve your problem for you. You can be in their mess with them. You enjoy being with each other. You can share all your emotions and hold all of theirs. When you are troubled, you lean into others instead of withdrawing. When no one is available, you remember the times they have been there, and you don’t feel alone; you can sort of take them with you wherever you go.
Perhaps you read that paragraph and thought you don’t have those people in your life. You don’t open up with others and you feel sad about that. Or, you realize you don’t have people in your life and you feel good because you don’t want to get close to anyone. Perhaps you thought, you’re always there for others but never let them see the real you. These are indicators of a problem with attachment. Lack of healthy attachment equals emotional unhealth.
What can you do about it? Start with therapy. It will be helpful to uncover the underlying attachment deficits you experienced in your childhood. You can gain understanding and some healing experiences with an attachment theory based counselor. It will also help to get involved in a community of safe people so you can start practicing being real and vulnerable with others. It can be tricky to find safe people. Look for those who are working on their own emotional health and making progress. I am partial to the Cloud and Townsend communities. You could start there if you don’t know where to begin.
A good resource for finding a therapist is PsychologyToday.com. I get nothing from them for saying that. It’s where I go to find my own counselors. They have parameters on the site so you can narrow down by preferences like location, insurance they take, cost, and models of therapy they use (like attachment theory, emotionally focused therapy, and EMDR – my personal favorites). You may have to try out a few therapists before you find one you like so give the process some time. You’re worth both the time and money it takes to develop emotional health!
This video, by Brene Brown is a quick and creative guide to how you can best show up for a friend in need. Click here and check it out!
At this moment, Anna is peacefully resting. Over the past 24 hours that has not been the case. She has been feeling bloated, filled with lots of fluid and the usual post surgery/pain med back up in the poop arena. She stopped taking pain meds except for Tylenol a day and a half ago. She rode some nasty waves of all over feeling icky to finding some place of calm in her mind, even if she didn’t really feel it in her body. She used all relaxation techniques: massage, guided imagery, relaxation breathing… They were helpful at times, but at others she just couldn’t take it. Unfortunately there was no relief to be found when she hit the wall. It was rough! I was able to walk away last night and hand the baton over to her dad who had the overnight shift with her. He got two hours of sleep. It really helps to have at least two of us here so we can take turns resting and implementing self care. Sadly, Anna doesn’t have that luxury.
Beyond the most recent crisis, Anna was cleared for thin liquids a few days ago. She has zero restrictions regarding eating and drinking. Her first request was a Starbuck’s Passion Iced Tea Lemonade. She savored it! Of course, the bloating and horrible feeling removed any desire to eat or drink for a few days. Just before resting she enjoyed apple juice and some almonds. A sign that she is moving in the right direction.
I think they are removing two of her chest tubes tomorrow so she will be down to two. She started with six. The chest tubes add to her discomfort but lately she said the transplant trauma and chest tubes were not her problem. She was moved out of the ICU and thankfully into a room just like the ICU rooms. There are two places a lung transplant patient can end up. One is about seven years old, spacious, light, about as enjoyable as a hospital room can be. The other is old, tiny, and depressing. What a gift it was when she learned she would be moving to the new floor. Lots of celebration!!! An interesting note. In the ICU Anna was in room 7 on 7 West. Her new room is 7 on 7 East. She got her call that lungs were available at 7p on October 7. We love all the sevens!
Just wanted to keep those of you who are following Anna’s progress through these blog posts informed if you are wondering about how she’s doing. 🙂
I’m not feeling well (cold), my husband’s bother in law died suddenly a few days ago (heading out of town today for his memorial), Anna was in the hospital for a few days (uncontrollable nausea), I have lots to grade (adjunct professor), and I am perplexed about what to do regarding my business office (I love my office and don’t want to leave but rent is ridiculously expensive and my lease ends soon). As I focused on all of these circumstances I felt overwhelmed by a sense of hurtling through life too fast. So I said to myself, “Breathe, Karen. It’s ok. You are going to get through each of these pieces.” I relaxed a bit. When I woke up this morning, I looked at my daughter Rebekah’s facebook post and I saw these words by Lysa TerKeurst. I found this incredibly helpful for me. Maybe you will, too! 🙂
Self care is a critical practice most of us long to enact but few of us have the time…at least that’s what we say. Reality is, you actually don’t have the time not to use self care. Without self care, you sabotage and run yourself into the ground. Self care is something you do that restores you physically, mentally and spiritually. Not all self care activities address all areas of need, but some do. Not to be missed are the basics like adequate rest, nourishing food, basic hygiene, shelter, clothing and exercise. Once those are met, it’s important to add in at least a few minutes a day of additional self care. Think through activities that you enjoy, that relax you, that fill you up. Write them down and keep a running list. That way, when you’re not sure what to do you can look at what you have already discovered.
To learn more, check out the Journey Forward Workbook. Another option is the Journey Forward Workbook Video Series designed for those who prefer an audio/visual presentation of the information in the Workbook. It will be available very soon. If you want to get on my email list and find out as soon as it’s available click the “Sign Up Now’ button.
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