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We’re Staying Together for the Cats

Laughter is good for your mental health. So, I wanted to post something on the lighter side for you.  I got some good giggles when I posted my favorite bumper sticker of all time on Facebook

“We’re staying together for the cats”

Funny thing is that I hate cats. (Sorry cat lovers. I understand if you unfriend me)

S0, after I posted on my wall last week I got tons of responses from friends posting their favorite bumper stickers.

Here are some that made me laugh:

“What if the hokey pokey is what it’s all about?”

‎”I don’t suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it”

“Give Whirled Peas A Chance!”

“Honk if anything falls off!”

“Where the hell are we going and why are we in a hand basket?” —>

‎”It’s not pretty being easy.”

 

OK, now it’s your turn. Post your favorite bumper sticker in the comment below. Your email will not show publicly. I promise.

Ask Julie: Depression, ADHD, Self-injury, & No One Cares

Q: Hello, I am a 16 year old Sophomore in high school. For the past 5 years I have struggled with addiction to self injury, depression and ADHD.

My parents refuse too believe anything is wrong with me and every day scream at me and break things as well as insult me about how useless I am and how I am always ruining their lives! My friends all say that I’m amazing and such a good friend but I have a hard time believing them when my OWN parents seem to hate me…My grades have gotten a lot worse because my parents deny that I am ADHD even though my doctor has said I need therapy and medication.

I failed three of my classes and the fights and insults got worse, my parents took away nearly everything I had and I almost committed suicide twice, My doctor finally told my mother I NEED to get therapy so she did reluctant, and told me the entire way about what a failure I am.

I went to therapy for about 3 months and stopped, my therapist was ignorant and treated me like a little kid. She blew off how I was upset about my parents and my hair falling out due too PCOS and being diabetic. I hate my parents but I love them at the same time… they always yell at me and get angry and things I don’t do and forget… I have ADHD and it’s not my fault! but they just yell a me about how I use it as a crutch. Right now I am not allowed to go out with friends and am constantly threatened that if I don’t start getting straight A’s they will take away my desktop and my books… I’m scared because I just keep hating myself even more! I can’t sleep at night and I can’t concentrate in school, I keep having mental break downs and freaking out and am nearly ready to start cutting again because it makes me feel amazing, I’m scared but my parents don’t care! I’m tired of working my butt off just to get yelled at and I really don’t know what to do anymore…. My school even won’t do anything when I talked to my teachers, I am really lost.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help to figure out how to manage your feelings of loneliness and hopelessness and stop your self-destructive behavior.

It’s not uncommon for adolescents to love and hate their parents at the same time when they feel invalidated or misunderstood. It sounds like you and your parents aren’t sure how to help you. My guess is that they’re very scared and are trying to motivate you by grounding you from friends and threatening to take away privileges, which in turn makes you feel punished and hopeless.

Don’t let the fact that you didn’t connect with your therapist before discourage you from seeking therapy again. If you don’t want to go back to the therapist you’ve seen previously, ask your mom, your physician, or a school counselor to help you find another therapist who you feel more comfortable with. Self-injury, suicide attempts and failing grades are all signs that you need professional help as soon as possible. Please don’t wait. To find specific therapists in your area, please click the Find Help link at the top of this page.

In addition to individual therapy, I highly recommend family therapy. Your family can learn new ways of relating with each other and dealing with conflict, and healthier ways to manage emotions. The therapist can also help your parents learn options to support and motivate you other than putdowns and punishments, and can help you understand and express your deeper feelings and needs to your parents in a way that your parents are more likely to hear.

It sounds like you’re trying to tell your parents, through your symptoms, that you’re in a lot of emotional pain, and instead of hearing your pain they’re seeing your choices as “bad behavior” instead of as a desperate cry for help. A family therapist can help you and your parents understand what’s going on below the surface for you, and help you understand your parents’ fears and intentions. The fact that your mom was willing to take you to therapy before is a sign that she recognizes that therapy can be valuable, and that is a good sign. Please talk to her and get the help you need as soon as possible.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Ask Julie: My Son’s Illness Is Ruining My Life

Q: My son is now 13 and had been diagnosed ED / ADHD since he was 3. I was a single mom the first 4 years of his life, and married when he was four.

I now have two other boys, 2 and 4, and my husband and I are struggling to deal with the oldest’s behaviors. It is actually causing me to be very depressed at times and it is straining our marriage. I’m not sure what I can do, to help him and us. I feel like I’m going to literally lose my mind on a daily basis. I end up snapping at everyone or not dealing with normal issues, because I feel so overwhelmed.

My son’s therapist suggested I see someone, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing I need. Help? I’m afraid of losing my son to his illness, my husband because of the difficulties with son, and my sanity in it all.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help. You’ve hung in there a long time with your son’s illness and it sounds like it’s wearing you down emotionally.

I’m glad to know that your son is in therapy, and from what you’re describing, it sounds like it is time for you to get some help. I suggest specifically being assessed for depression and anxiety. The irritability, overwhelming feelings, and fears you’re describing deserve attention and treatment. It’s common for parents of children with chronic mental health issues to feel discouraged, down, overwhelmed, and scared. It’s also common to feel isolated, alone, and helpless.

After seeking support for you, I recommend accessing additional help for you and your family. Since you already have a relationship with your son’s therapist, he or she may be an excellent referral source for additional support services. Have you discussed with your son’s therapist your need for specific skills to manage your son’s behavior, or requested to include the family in the treatment process? If your son’s therapist isn’t comfortable with family therapy, ask if there are any recommended colleagues who work with marriage and family issues. Also, ask your son’s therapists for book recommendations about your son’s specific struggles. If you haven’t already done so, it may be helpful to read about your son’s illnesses, and encourage your husband to do the same. Gaining more understanding about what your son is going through may help you frame his illness in a more manageable way, help you less overwhelmed, and help you feel more prepared to support him.

Check with your local school district about parenting classes and support groups for children and families with ADHD and other behavior problems. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by my suggestions, ask your husband to help you research additional services to help your family during this time of crisis.

Take good care of you and yours!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

This post was originally published on my PsychCentral Ask the Therapist column

Ask Julie: I’m Depressed & No One Knows

Q: First off I would like to thank you for taking the time out to help me. But the problem is I’m depressed but nobody knows it.

Half the reason I am is because I have no really close friends to hang out with or etc. While everybody is usually going to the movies, the beach, or somewhere fun I’m at home. My mother has started to notice it, she always suggests I hangout with my friends but truth is I don’t have the heart to tell her I don’t really have any. It started at the age of 11 when I started to notice I didn’t have a lot of friends like all the other kids did.

I have tried on several attempts to makes friends, but all miserably failed. I try not to be clingy or to appear desperate. I think I have

been cursed not to have any friends and it kills me every single day. I don’t wanna go talk to a counselor in person, it makes me feel even more abnormal. And I don’t wanna tell my parents because they’ll feel bad for me and I hate it when people feel sympathy for me.

I’m just tired of feeling so alone all the time, I mean it used to not bother me as bad but now that I’m getting older it really has taken a toll on me. I just wish I had somebody to talk to, or to share my feelings with. I’ve tried to make friends before but I’m probably what you could call a “outcast” I don’t really fit in and it really does bug me.

Another reason why I’m depressed is I get made fun of a lot. Every time I got to school I get called fat, ugly, pig, horse face, I know I shouldn’t let it bother me but it does. It gets so bad sometimes that I feel like just running to the bathroom and cry my eyes out. Getting made fun of has really taken a toll on my confidence as well. I used to be really confident now I can’t even stand looking at myself in the mirror.

Another thing is I always compare myself to my cousins. I mean I’m the youngest of the family. All of my cousins are gorgeous, have an abundance of friends. They always have someone took talk to. They don’t know it but their the only ones I hang out with. I haven’t been to an actual friends house in over a year. Which is pretty bad if your my age. I just wish I could be happy and perfect like they are.

Thank you for listening and really do hope you respond, because the truth is this is my only hope. And again thank you for taking the time out to read my “story”.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help so you can start to feel better. It is painful, especially during the teen years, to be excluded from peers and to feel on the outside of social events.

I feel bad that you’ve been so mistreated by your peers. No one deserves to be bullied, made fun of and tormented, including you. If this is happening at school, please reach out to a counselor or administrator so they can help put a stop to this cruel behavior and make sure that they keep your identity private so you don’t have to suffer retaliation from peers. Their behavior is unacceptable.

I’m curious about your comment, “I hate it when people have sympathy for me.” Sympathy and empathy are ways that people express love and concern for you, which is what we all ultimately want and need. I know it feels like a huge risk, but the only way to help the loneliness is to let someone in and share your painful feelings with — your parents, or a trusted teacher or school counselor. Please let someone know how down and alone you feel. Please talk to your parents about your depression and ask them for help in finding a counselor in your area who works with adolescents. Also, your parents or counselor can help you find an adolescent therapy group to help you practice relating to peers in positive ways, help you understand why relationships are so difficult for you, and develop the skills to build and maintain strong friendships.

It’s hard to believe, but your life can get better and you can have meaningful relationships, but the first step is to let someone in your life know about your pain and ask them for help.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally published in PsychCentral.com’s Ask the Therapist

Pack Rats-Why We Hold On To Stuff & How To Let Go: Studio 5

Is your stuff taking over your house? Find out how to tap into the emotions that keep you from letting go and de-clutter your life.

Studio 5 Contributor and therapist, Julie Hanks, explains why we hang on to stuff and how to let it go.

In recent years shows about home organization have cropped up on just about every network. From the Style Network’s Clean House, A&E’s Hoarders, to HGTV’s Mission: Organization, we are obsessed with people and their “stuff”; with watching self-proclaimed “pack rats” learning to de-clutter and transform their homes and their lives.

Just like excessive clutter and collectibles can get out of control, an excessive focus on cleanliness and order can become problematic. I call this end of the spectrum the “neat freaks”. In April Women’s Health Magazine I was interviewed for an article called “Worried Sick” about a woman’s story of becoming obsessed with cleaning and detoxifying her home. Read the article online.

Why We Hold On To Stuff

Perfectionism

Believe it or not, just like neat freaks, pack rats are often perfectionist, too. But, instead of wanting a perfectly organized bookshelf, a toxin free home, or uniformed stripes on the vacuumed carpet, “pack rats” are paralyzed by not being able “to do it all” says Judith Kohlberg, author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization (source). Messy folks tend to feel overwhelmed by deciding what to keep and what to let go of, so they put the decision on the shelf, literally.

Solution: Decide On the Spot

Remember, there is no “wrong” choice. Too often small decisions feel like moral issues when they are merely preferences or benign choices. Dr. Gerald Nestadt Director of Johns Hopkins Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic suggests that when you pick something up is the time to decide its fate. Either put it in its place or throw it away (source). This is a means of preventing unnecessary clutter from ever entering the house.

My kids bring stacks of papers home each week and I frequently move the same piles of papers to several different locations around the house for months. But since working on this segment, I’ve actually tried to decide the fate of each paper the moment I touch it and it works! My kitchen counter isn’t cluttered with various piles of school papers. The things I decide to keep are stacked in a cute basket on the counter.

Solution: Face Your Fears

Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen if I throw this paper away or if you donate this piece of furniture? Is your fear that you might regret it? Is it that someone may be upset with you? That may have to pay to replace it? My favorite question to ask myself is “Can I buy it back on Ebay if I change my mind? ”

Several years ago I worked with an overwhelmed client whose home was littered with piles of books, papers, clothes, and she felt unable to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Her daughters didn’t want to have friends over because they were embarrassed of the clutter and chaos. My client’s family of origin didn’t have enough money to provide for my client’s needs or wants when she was a child. Through therapy she discovered that she was holding onto things because she was afraid of not having enough, like she felt as a child. Being surrounded by “stuff” gave her a sense of security that she and her family would always have more than enough. Through facing her fear of not having enough, and through grieving her early losses and unmet needs, my client was able to find the motivation to let go of much of the possessions she was clinging to.

Sentimentality

You may hold on to things as reminder of fond memories of the past, of close relationships, or of people who have passed on. Consider that the meaning isn’t in the object itself, but in the meaning you ascribe to that particular treasure. You have the power to change the meaning you give to an object.

Solution: Keep Just One

Holding onto boxes of every piece of art that your child draws doesn’t freeze time. Saving boxes of clothing from your great grandma’s closet that you’ll never wear won’t bring her back to life. So, hold on to one of the dresses or your child’s favorite drawing and let the rest go.

I recently posed the question on Facebook “What things do you collect and find it hard to let go of?”. The most common answer was “things that my children have made”. Art projects, papers and cards made by your children are precious gifts, but you don’t have to keep ALL of them. Try applying this rule and keep one per year.

Solution: Take a Photo

If there’s an item with particular meaning or special memory associated with it take a photo of it before you toss it, sell it, give it away, or donate it. Just because an item is associated with a special memory doesn’t mean that you have to keep the actual item.

This idea recently came up in a conversation with my mom, who collects vintage kitchen items. I asked her what it was about vintage kitchen items that were so sentimental. She described memories of her mother in the kitchen. The kitchen was the heart of my mother’s childhood home, and subsequently the kitchen was also the heart of my childhood home as my mom raised 9 siblings who are all grown. I suggested to my mom that she take photos of her favorite items and make a collage on her kitchen wall instead of cluttering up her home by keeping all of the actual items in her living space.

Frugality

“I might need it someday” or “I paid for this” aren’t necessarily good reasons to hold on to clutter things but are common reasons for doing so. While being frugal is an important trait for financial responsibility, it can become too much of a focus and lead to holding on to too much stuff. It’s crucial to balance financial concerns with the emotional and relational costs of having a disorganized or in extreme cases, a hazardous environment.

Solution: Toss It After 2 Years

You know those partially finished crafts that you bought, or those piles of fabric collecting dust, or that closet full of old clothes that you’re holding on to just in case you get to that size again, or those shelves of books you haven’t touched in over a decade? If you haven’t touched something for two years then maybe it’s time to let them go.

According to a recent survey on SmartShopper, the average woman owns about 17 pair of shoes. I own 17 multiplied by 7! I realized that my shoes represent being prepared for any event, and they represent that I have options in my life. I also realized that some are also attached to memories. So, I am challenging myself to give away the shoes I haven’t worn for 2 years.

Solution: Put People Before Things

If there’s no place for company to sit down because your couch is covered with collectibles, or your family is standing while eating dinner because the dinner table is covered with boxes of your treasures your are paying a high relational cost. If your stuff is taking priority over your relationships or starting to impact your sleep, work, and other parts of your life its time to take action and ask for professional help. If your piles of stuff put your family’s health at risk or create physical danger it’s time to seek professional help to understand the emotional and mental roots of you’re your relationship with your stuff.

In an A&E’s Hoarders episode a grown woman Darcy shares her pain about her mother choosing to live with “nameless faceless trash” first, and has distanced from her Mom. This extremely sad case illustrates how out of control things can become when you cling to things over people. Watch A&E’s Hoarders Episode 26.


Ask Julie: Do I Have Borderline Personality Disorder?

Q: About a year ago I went to my doctor and told her how I was feeling, she told me I had

symptoms of BPD and to maybe see a therapist.

I never ended up going but I did look it up and a lot/almost all of it related to me. I never thought much of it because I just thought I was a normal teenage girl who liked to party a little too much, didn’t really know who I was, and was sad & insecure sometimes.

I recently got into a relationship, about 4 months ago, I’ve never been in one before. I don’t even know how to act in a relationship because I usually push the other person away in fear that once they get to know me they’ll leave me, so I leave first. He’s the first guy I’ve ever had any sort of real connection with but we fight a lot. For the most part we usually fight because of me, I get these feelings and emotions that come out of no where and I freak out about. For some reason they made me look up borderline personality disorder and I relate more then ever. I don’t know if it’s all coming out because I just have no idea how to function in a relationship or because something really is wrong. I just don’t think it’s that hard to learn how to be in a relationship and I don’t think most people go through this. I constantly need reassurance that he likes, that he thinks I’m pretty, that he likes my body, that I’m important to him. When he’s not around, all I can think is that I could be single, that it would be better that way. When he’s with me all I can think is that I never want to be alone again. Every little detail I found myself getting upset over, I start fights over stupid things. I also find myself thinking; If he’s not with me and he’s not texting me I think he’s cheating because why would someone like him want anything to do with someone like me? But then sometimes I think I could get a way better looking guy then him, that I’m too good for him.

I’m sure I could go on but this is the gist of whats going on. Everything just seems so black and white. Either I think things are perfect or everything has going to shit. Is something wrong with me, I keep wondering? Maybe I’m too insecure or jealous or something. I don’t know whats going on, I don’t know why I can’t let things just be. I just wanted some advice on this, thanks in advance.

A: What an insightful young woman you are. I’m glad that you are reaching out for help with your confusing and painful emotions and trying to figure out what to do to feel better.

I agree with you and with your doctor. What you are describing does sounds like characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder. The fact that you are in your first relationship, and with someone you have a connection to is likely heightening your fears and insecurities, but is probably not causing them.

Please reach out to a psychotherapist in your area who specializes in working with BPD to get an official diagnosis, and to get help to understand and manage your intense emotions, change what you believe about yourself, and to learn more effective ways of relating to others. The good news is that treatment is available and can be very effective, but it will take a long-term commitment to healing on your part. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is among the most effective treatments for BPD. I urge you to contact your doctor to get a referral to a therapist or to click the Find Help on Psych Central’s website and find a therapist who specializes in personality disorders and begin your journey of healing.

Take good care of yourself!

Send me your relationship and mental health questions here!

This post originally appeared in my Psych Central Ask the Therapist column

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Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central! and Latter-day Woman Magazine

Ask Julie: Tips To Control My Builimia

Q: I have been suffering from bulimia for four months now. I realize the health risks and I

know I have a problem. I have been trying to stop for a month now with no success.

Before this problem I was healthy and now I fear that all my hard work I have completed over the years to be a healthy person are going down the drain. To be honest I am not sure what started my ED, but my main focus is to overcome it. I know that I have some self esteem issues and I will continue to work on that, but do you have any advice or tricks to stop these behaviors that have seemed to become habitual and uncontrollable. I know that getting professional help is probably the best way to go, but that is not me. I have always dealt with my problems in the past and I would like to give this a shot. So if you have any suggestions or tips to help me slowly stop these bulimic behaviors I would appreciate it so much.

A: I commend you for recognizing that you have a problem, for acknowledging the health risks, and for reaching out for help.

While I can give you suggestions to try and change your behavior, it’s important to recognize that overcoming eating disordered behavior is much more than controlling your actions. Recovery also requires learning new skills to manage your thoughts and emotions, and learning to get comfort and soothing in relationships, instead of in food.

Out of control behaviors often serve as “relationship substitutes”. Consider that your symptoms may be signaling that it’s time to shift from doing things on your own to learning to ask for and accept help. When you feel the urge to binge or purge call a friend or family member. Even if you’re not ready to openly share your struggle with them reaching out to a trusted loved one can delay the urge to engage in self-destructive behavior and provide you with emotional support.

It can also be very helpful to journal your emotions before and after binging and purging to become more aware of the feelings driving your behavior, and to identify which emotions are most difficult for you to tolerate. You may find the book Mindful Eating and the workbook Overcoming Bulimia helpful in gaining awareness of the emotional and psychological roots of your behavior.

I urge you to seek an assessment with a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders, and to schedule a physical with your doctor. To find a therapist in your area click here. If you do indeed have bulimia, your chances of recovery are higher if you seek help now instead of months or years down the road.

Send me your relationship and mental health questions here!

This post originally appeared in Psych Central Ask the Therapist column

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Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central! and Latter-day Woman Magazine

Join Me for Live Facebook Q & A TOMORROW

Join me for a live q&a tomorrow

Saturday 2/26 from 2:00-5:00 PM MT

I’m thrilled to join Psych Central’s “Ask the Therapist” team and wanted to let you know about this rare and excited event! Get your relationship and mental health questions ready and get FREE advice for 4 licensed therapists TOMORROW in our live Facebook event!

Here’s what to do to participate in tomorrow’s Facebook Event:

1) “Like” Psych Central on FB http://www.facebook.com/psychcentral

2) Post your mental health, relationship, and psychology questions in real time on http://www.facebook.com/psychcentral during 2-5 PM MT

3) Have your questions answered by 4 licensed therapist (including me) who write for Psych Central’s “Ask The Therapist” column

4) Share this event with your friends!

Read my PsychCentral Q & A Column here