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Holding on to emotional pain…

Whether we call it a grudge, bitterness, resentment, or something else, most of us have difficulty letting go of our emotional pain. I have to admit, I was taught by the best. My mother could hold a grudge like no one I’ve ever met. I remember my aunt Linda, my mom’s sister, once saying, “Nobody can hold a grudge like your mom.” That hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never thought about it before. I knew it subconsciously, but I had never put a name to it. That statement has pinged around in my consciousness for over 20 years now.

Growing up, my mom was always battling with someone, usually one of her 5 sisters. It got worse as she got older. My mom was a mean girl who was often very vindictive and manipulative when she was holding on to emotional pain. I learned these interactions from a very young age and that’s how I interacted in relationships, too until I was in my early 20s.

I remember standing in the kitchen of the home I shared with my ex-husband and a realization hit me that he was so incredibly easy to manipulate and that is exactly what I had been doing in our relationship. From that day forward, I realized that I did not want to behave that way ever again. I started changing the way I interacted in relationships and stopped holding on to everything that hurt me. I stopped hoping for vindication and started trying to grow and improve my relationships. Many times I failed, but I’m still working on it.

I’m far from perfect. I still feel myself wanting to hold on to pain when someone hurts me. I admit that I also find myself wanting justice in unjust experiences, especially when it involves someone I love and care about. For the most part, though, I don’t have the energy to hold a grudge and want revenge. I don’t want to manipulate anyone. I want people to be healthy and functional and if they choose to be dysfunctional, then I don’t want them in my life.

I’m so blessed to have gone to therapy for years now and have learned, instead of throwing daggers at people who have hurt me, to resolve the pain for myself. I only hurt myself when I don’t tell someone how something they have said or done makes me feel. I only hurt myself if I hold on to the pain. I only hurt myself if I try to manipulate others. I only hurt myself if I continue to participate in toxic relationships.

Not everyone deserves the privilege of being in my life and I’m okay with setting boundaries to keep toxic people out even if that includes most of my family. I am also very grateful to the wonderful people I have around me who love me and show their love for me on a daily basis. Thank you to my husband, Lynn, my daughter, Hazi, my daughter’s boyfriend, Grant, my sister by choice, Melissa, my brother by choice, Dave, my biological brother, Michael, his wife, Tallusa, my friends Tammy, Lynnette, and Cindy. I’m also very thankful to all of my clients whom I get the privilege to work with. I am nothing without all of you.

“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.” – Unknown

You can only change you…

One of the biggest issues I see as a mental health therapist is that people often come to me, whether as an individual, couple, or family, and want to focus on the behavior of others. We can’t control the behavior of others. We can, however, choose whether we want to interact with their behavior, so we have control over ourselves. With that said, the only change we can create is within ourselves.

When I look at relationships, including my own, the question isn’t what are they doing? The question is, what am I doing? How am I participating in the relationship? What do I need to do to change myself? How am I contributing to the problems in the relationship? Am I looking to resolve conflict, am I participating in drama, am I creating change within myself to set boundaries and interact with others in a healthy way? You may not be doing anything to contribute to the problems or cause them, but if you don’t set boundaries to not participate in the toxic behavior of the relationship, you are part of the problem.

We can’t change other people. We can’t make anyone feel anything. We can only change ourselves. We are only responsible for our feelings and what we do about them. We are responsible for how we interact with others and what we do to participate in or resolve problems. When we improve ourselves, our relationships will either fall apart or improve. The ones that fall apart aren’t healthy enough to sustain your positive growth and the ones that are sustained, are strong and will only continue to improve.

Think about it, what are you doing to change yourself?

Every Human Has Mental Health

I was born in 1968, so I grew up in an era when people thought of mental health care for only those who had serious issues, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. We didn’t understand trauma back then, nor did we understand anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, personality disorders, or stress disorders to name some of the many mental health disorders. 

Let’s look at some facts. Every human has mental health, just like we have physical health. It may be on a spectrum from good to bad and somewhere in between. Let me repeat, WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH!

The majority of people my age and older ignore that they have mental health and do nothing to monitor or maintain good mental health, so as you can guess, it’s probably not great. The younger generations are better about knowing they have mental health and working to make sure it’s fair to good, but that’s probably still under 50%. The cold hard facts are that the majority of humans do not do anything to monitor or work on their mental health. If you think long and hard about the dysfunction in society, that explains a lot.

I remember when my mother made my first counseling appointment on the recommendation of my pediatrician. I was 11 years old I started crying and asked, “Does this mean I’m crazy?” Remember, this was probably around 1979 when we were still very ignorant, as a society, about mental health. 

I had shown signs of anxiety since the day I was born and depression was starting to rear its head around puberty. I became suicidal and wrote poems about it that my mother read and I shared with my friends. No one knew I was having suicidal ideation, not me, not my parents, not even my counselor. Not one person, even my counselor, ever asked me if I wanted to harm myself. It just wasn’t thought about or talked about back then. I was suicidal from the age of 11 to the age of 29, when I was finally properly diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. 

The treatment from the time of my diagnosis was prescription medication and therapy. I have been taking meds since then and going to therapy since then and I will tell you it saved my life. The longer I stayed undiagnosed, the closer and closer I inched toward doing something about my suicidal ideation. 

Every human has trauma, from the time we’re born to the day we die. If you’ve read the books, ‘It didn’t start with you’ or ‘The body keeps the score,’ you know that trauma will be passed down through our DNA on the cellular level. So, let me repeat that EVERY HUMAN HAS TRAUMA.

Think about yourself, your family, your spouse, your friends, and your children. How’s your mental health?

Preventing Suicide

This is a topic that is very difficult for most people because we’ve either lived it in some way, or we haven’t and don’t understand it. I understand it because I’ve lived it and I work with it every day, so I want to talk about it, educate others, and hopefully prevent this horrific tragedy.

From the time I was 11 until I was 29, I was suicidal. I prayed every day to die. My depression and anxiety were so bad that I was in excruciating emotional pain, which manifested into physical health issues. I just wanted it to end and the only way I could conceptualize that happening was to die. I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. It was a very dark time for me. I was in therapy since age 11 and not one therapist asked if I ever thought about suicide. I planned my suicide a couple of times in my 20s and bargained with God that if I called someone and they agreed to come over, I wouldn’t do it. Obviously, they came over because I’m still here. Finally, when I was 29, I went to an amazing therapist who suggested that I try antidepressant/antianxiety medication. I resisted for months. Then one day I had a very serious breakdown and knew something had to change or I would end up completing suicide. I called the doctor and started on medication. After about two weeks, I remember saying to a friend, “I had no idea this is what normal felt like.” Not that everything was perfect from there, but with the medication, I was able to manage my anxiety and depression and still do so to this day with medication and therapy. I might add since then, I have lived a very happy life!

The thing is, no one actually “wants” to die when they’re suicidal. We want the emotional pain/physical pain to stop. We want to matter to someone. We want to be noticed and cared for. Being suicidal is very lonely and confusing. We know we don’t want to die, but we are in so much emotional and sometimes physical pain that the only way we think it could end is to end it. There’s also sometimes the factor that we believe that no one would care if we die. No one who is suicidal is mentally stable. In that instability, ending the pain is hyperfocus and it’s hard to think of anything else, let alone look beyond the moment of intense pain.

Keep in mind, it’s common for people to think of suicide at intensely difficult times in their lives. Just because someone is thinking of it, doesn’t mean they will follow through with it, but we should take every single thought of suicide or the threat of suicide very seriously. If someone is thinking about it, they could follow through with it. No one uses it as a manipulation tactic, so again, always take it seriously if someone tells you they feel suicidal.

When most people hear the word, suicide, it’s terrifying for them. It is a myth that anyone uses this as a manipulation tactic. If they say it, they’re thinking about it. For the general public, when we hear the word “suicide,” we often shut down mentally and may possibly avoid dealing with the person who is crying out as it’s very disturbing and overwhelming. I cannot stress enough to always, always take this threat seriously!

There are some filters many in the mental and behavioral health field recommend for assessing suicide risk. I will post the clinical assessments and policies and procedures from the National Suicide Lifeline. Below is a rating scale that person may use to briefly assess suicide, but I will post the clinical assessments further below.

1 – I feel fine. I am happy and do not feel suicidal at all

2 – I feel pretty good and do not feel suicidal at all

3 – I feel fine and may have a few fleeting thoughts of suicide

4 – I feel okay and have more than a few fleeting thoughts of suicide

5 – I am a little down and am having some thoughts of suicide, but I don’t think I would hurt myself

6 – I am feeling down and am having more suicidal thoughts, but I’m not sure if I would hurt myself

7 – I am feeling really down, and am thinking about suicide, I have a plan on how I would do it, and I might hurt myself

8 – I am very down and am thinking about suicide, I have a plan, and I will self-harm, but not complete suicide

9 – I am really down, am thinking about suicide, I have a plan and have self-harmed and I am afraid  I will complete suicide

10- I am very down and am thinking about suicide, I have a plan, and I will act on it

Risk Factors and Warning Signs:



  • Mental health conditions
    • Depression
    • Substance use problems
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Personality traits of aggression, mood changes, and poor relationships
    • Conduct disorder
    • Anxiety disorders
  • Serious physical health conditions including pain
  • Traumatic brain injury


  • Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems, or unemployment
  • Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions, or loss
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide


  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma

Protective Factors

  • Access to mental health care, and being proactive about mental health
  • Feeling connected to family and community support
  • Problem-solving and coping skills
  • Limited access to lethal means
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that encourage connecting and help-seeking, discourage suicidal behavior or create a strong sense of purpose or self-esteem

Warning signs

Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.


If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain


Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss, or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue


People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation/Shame
  • Agitation/Anger
  • Relief/Sudden Improvement

What to do

If you or someone you know has exhibited any of the above risk factors or warning signs for suicide, get help immediately!

  • Call 911 (Be aware that if you call 911, they will handcuff the person who may be suicidal)
  • Take the person to the nearest Emergency Room

Information from the National Suicide Lifeline

You’re NOT Lazy!

One of the most common things I hear from my clients, and I used to think to myself is that if we’re not busy all of the time we’re not productive and we’re lazy. Think about that for a minute. When you see someone sitting on a park bench, in a coffee shop, or on a TV show and they’re laying down, do you think, “They’re lazy!” Maybe, but I doubt it.

Now, consider the battery on your phone. Some days you’re able to fully charge it, but after using it, the batter gets drained. Some days, you may start out with a 50% battery life on your phone, so you’ll have to conserve the battery life if you want it to last the rest of the day without recharging it. Do you think your phone is lazy?

Think about your own energy reserve as your battery. You may wake up every morning with a full recharge and a 100% energy capacity to work through the day, but I doubt it. Most days you may wake up with 50-70% energy on a good day. How much does each task take from your energy reserve? Are you recharging throughout the day? Do you have to conserve your energy toward the end of the day and risk running on 1% until bedtime? Are you really lazy?

I usually wake up with a 50-70% battery on a good day. My work consumes the majority of that energy, so it leaves little energy for me to do much else each day unless I have time to recharge throughout the day. For me, starting off the day with good nutrition and maintaining that throughout the day helps keep my battery charged. Also, taking lunch, exercising, and connecting with family and friends throughout the day, keeps my charge up. Throughout the week I take 2 days off and I make sure that I engage in things that recharge me those two days, so I have a little bit of an energy reserve to start the week. My husband and I take long weekends or a week off quarterly, so we have more time to recharge.

Think about it again, are you really lazy, or are you running on a low battery most of the time?

Getting to Know You

Remember back in the day before social media blew up and we often sent emails of questions to get to know each other back and forth? I thought about that the other day and realized that it’s a fun way for people to reconnect. Maybe you’re a couple, an adult child and parent, friends, or siblings who have become distant but want to reconnect. I will post the 200 questions to get to know someone here and I challenge everyone to try it. Let me know how it goes!

Neurodivergence and Mental Health


Definition: Neurodivergent means differing in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal not neurotypical.

The term “neurodivergent” describes people whose brain differences affect how their brain works. That means they have different strengths and challenges from people whose brains don’t have those differences. The possible differences include medical disorders, learning disabilities, and other conditions.

Several “recognized” types of Neurodivergence, include autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette syndrome (TS).

Those who have a classification that recognizes them as having a neurodivergent brain, are found to have comorbid mental health disorders. 70% of children with neurodivergence are found to have 1 comorbid mental health disorder and 40% are found to have at least two mental health disorders. Such disorders may include depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and suicidal ideation as compared to neurotypical peers.

Children with neurodivergent brains are often invalidated by their social environments as they are peer-victimized and bullied, which leads to a loss of human connection. The trauma that arises is peer rejection, and abuse in addition to social invalidation as they are more sensitive to the tastes, textures, sudden changes in scheduling, sounds, and sensations on their skin. When verbalized, these children are often told that they shouldn’t be upset about it.

In addition, individuals with a neurodiverse brain are affected differently by trauma. Neurodivergent children are naturally predisposed to finding many experiences more stressful than those with a neurotypical brain. Children with neurodivergence do experience exaggerated or altered stress responses. This hypersensitivity may contribute to this group of people having increased anxiety, neophobia, and chronic stress. There is also research that suggests the cortisol levels in this population may also have imbalanced levels of cortisol, so the body’s stress response will last longer, which in turn creates dysregulation that becomes chronic.

These issues may surface as aggression, concentration difficulties, social isolation, relational difficulties, regression in daily living skills, and increased repetitive behaviors. Oftentimes this population’s specific needs are not understood, or addressed, and are often overlooked.

The answer to this issue is to create environments that are nurturing and affirming, removing all stressors, and allowing them to be unconditionally accepted by their peers. Experiencing an affirming environment allows healthy coping for neurotypical individuals, in addition, to support for mental health struggles and a sense of community.

Resource: Fuld. S. 2018. “Autism Spectrum Disorder: The impact of stressful and traumatic life events and implications for clinical practice.

Perception and Perspective

In therapy, we often talk about perception and perspective. While they are similar, there are differences. It’s so important to understand what perception and perspective are and how they are unique to each of us as individuals. Try to remember that they are not right or wrong, good or bad, but just different.

  • Perception is the filter through which you derive an understanding of an experience with a person, situation, or object. (Environmental)
  • Perspective is the lens you see the world through and determines how you view yourself, others, and everything else around you. (Internal)

They are neither right nor wrong, good or bad, but they are different. As we are each unique individuals determined by the culmination of our life experiences, this uniqueness is what determines our perceptions and perspectives.

For example, two people can look at the same sunset and see two entirely different things.

Person 1 sees the sunset as yellow, red, and orange, and to them it resembles fire. This perception makes them feel warm. Their perspective is positive and allows them to recall fond memories of watching the sunset with their grandparents.

Person 2 sees the sunset as a blinding hindrance to vision when driving. This perception came from a time when the sunset obstructed their view and they had a minor vehicle accident. The perspective is that sunsets are dangerous because of a lived experience or perception, which was negative.

Both people see the same sunset, but based on their perceptions, it has given them different perspectives.