My New Plan, Part 2

Well, I'm excited to share Part 2 of My New Plan!!

As a counselor, the two most common issues I see are depression and anxiety.  In fact, 40 million people in the United States have an anxiety disorder.  But many go untreated.  Without proper treatment, we know that people can and often do fall into much deeper issues, like self-harm and suicide ... both of which I also tend to see.

In order to help, I'm always sharing strategies and tools with clients and, together, we work toward healing ~ it's an amazing experience helping someone through a difficult time!

Although there are a lot of things out there that can help, there are also a lot of gimmicks, scams, and really bad advice.  Unfortunately, when we are struggling, we more easily fall victim to this bad information.

So, in an effort to help make sense of what is out there, I created a new Facebook Fan Page.  I will be sharing the very same advice, strategies, and tools that I share with my clients.  I have also created a website for my new private practice, Britta Neinast, LCSW where I have moved this blog!  Check it out, post a comment, or message me! I'd love to hear from you.

My hope is with these changes, I can continue to share valuable information with you and hopefully make a difference.  Feel free to visit my Facebook Fan page and share your own thoughts and comments.  I welcome your ideas and am glad to help.

My new plan ...

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream"
~ C.S. Lewis was so right ~

I'm a huge thinker and dreamer, and also a big fan of setting goals.  It's what I do.  For the most part, people agree that goal setting is a good thing.  Thinking, on the other hand, can be considered both a good thing and a bad thing.  While thinkers tend to burst with ideas and can often see possibilities, thinking sometimes leads to over-thinking, which easily becomes overwhelming.  What we desperately need is to stay grounded while we envision the beauty of what could be.  So yes, in a sense, it can also be bad.  But regardless, thinking is simply who I am, and thankfully, my husband is very instrumental in keeping me grounded!!

So here I am ... I've finally reached some goals and am now ready to set some more.  You see, several years ago, I set a goal to go back to college, get a counseling degree, and become fully licensed.  It was a long haul but I'm proud to say I did it!!  I'm scheduled to take the exam in just a few short weeks and will have met some short and VERY long term goals.  So what do I do now?

Well, I'm bursting with ideas (there goes that thinking thing again)!  I thought I would set out on a different course for my blog.  You may have noticed the format is a little different, I'm still thinking about that.  But I've also created a new website and will soon be sharing news, thoughts, research, videos, and even ideas for an e-book!  Gotta love the internet and all the possibilities there!

I'm excited to see where all of this will lead.  I invite you to stay tuned to see where we go from here.

Here's to thinking and dreaming!  Where would we be without it??

We can be the 20%!!

Here we are again.  Another year down and I began wondering ... why do we celebrate New Year's Day?

It's a holiday, we even get a day off work.  But isn't it just another date on the calendar?  Yet, we celebrate.  Why?  It's nobody's birthday, or at least nobody famous.  As far as I know, nothing particular was discovered on that day.  So what makes it so special?  Well ...

New Year's Day is about hope!

It's the chance to look at the past and empower us toward the future.  It's a chance to revisit a dream, envision the possibilities, maybe even realize the life we were meant to live.  New Year's Day allows us to look at where we were, where we are, and where we want to be.

But did you know that 4 out of 5 people will NOT stick to their New Year's resolutions.  In fact, a third will not make it to the end of January.  So that means nearly 80% will fail.  Not because they are a failure, but simply because they gave up.  So, that means, we have a choice.  We can either be the 80% or ...

We can be the 20%!!

What are your goals for this year?  Maybe you decide to keep going in the same direction and that is success.  You checked things out and realized you are exactly where you want to be.  Great ~ keep going!

Maybe you decide to make changes, realizing some things needed fine tuning.  That's okay too ~ keep going!

But for some of you, maybe, just maybe, you are ready for a complete change.  Imagine the possibilities.  We live in a time where we can do just about anything ... opportunities are endless.  Generally, the only one holding you back is you!  So make a commitment to get out of the way.  And then ~ keep going!

What are my plans, you ask?  Well ... I've definitely got some ideas in the works.  There's a lot floating around in my head, some definite and some not so definite.  But whatever they are, I know one thing ... I'll keep imagining and see what happens ... that is of course, as long as I put that imagination into action.

Whatever your plans for this year, make it a good one.  Do something crazy, wild, and unconventional.  Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and be free.  Happy blogging everyone and here's to being the 20%!

With freedom comes responsibility

This past holiday, we decided to spend time with my husband's family at Fontana Village Resort in North Carolina.  With no cell phone and limited wi-fi, we were ready for some much needed rest and relaxation.  The Resort was awesome, with plenty to do.  On the evening of July 4th, the excitement was contagious.  Dressed in the familiar red, white, and blue, we shared a wonderful dinner and soon, a parade ensued while children ran around with sparklers and glow sticks.  As the night wore on, we were standing on the balcony of our cabin watching a display of colors explode throughout the empyrean sky, celebrating a 200+ year old tradition honoring our fight for freedom as a sovereign nation.

Later, exhausted from the day's events, we eventually went to bed.  Sleeping soundly, I was awakened by the telephone.  It was my sister.  Realizing the time, I had that familiarly dreaded feeling, "this can't be good."  My mind began racing ... was it my brother, was it my mom???

"Mom's had an accident," she declared, "she's in the hospital."  An accident?  What kind of accident?  But before I could get the words out, she continued, "Mom was with friends on a cruise in the intracoastal watching fireworks and a stray bullet hit her in the chest.  She's in intensive care, they had to do emergency surgery."

I paused, trying to take in her words ... did she say bullet?  I couldn't imagine.  Why would anyone shoot a gun in an area where people were celebrating?  It made no sense to me.

As it turned out, my mom was hit by a stray bullet.  It entered the left front area of her chest near her clavicle, traveled downward bruising her lung, and eventually puncturing the left ventricle of her heart.  She was slowly bleeding out.  My mom had been a victim of "celebratory gunfire."

I have read about celebratory gunfire before and even watched it happen on TV shows.  Though I knew about it, I never really understood the impact it can have.  After all, it only happens on TV, right?  But, unbelievable as it seems, celebratory gunfire is a real problem!

In a Tampa article, police shared that people get hit by "celebratory gunfire" all the time but "trying to stop it can feel all but pointless."  That's a pretty sad statement.  Although the practice is uniquely dangerous and illegal, the difficulty identifying the trigger happy celebrant makes it nearly impossible to enforce.

How interesting and ironic that this happened on Independence Day.  This is the day we celebrate freedom ... the freedom to govern our country as we see fit, the freedom to practice whatever faith we choose, AND the freedom to own guns.  The problem is, with freedom comes responsibility!  Yes, we are free but where is the line between our freedom to choose and our responsibility to recognize the impact our choice has on others?  After all, someone abused that freedom and it nearly killed my mom!

If you are wondering ... my mom is a walking miracle!!  To the amazement of medical staff, friends, and family, she recovered quickly, was home within a week, and continues to improve each day.  God truly was watching over her that day.  But the event left me wondering, what does it take for society to learn?

I cannot force anyone to take this information and make a difference but I do hope that it causes one to stop and think, even for just a moment.  I lost my father to gunfire by his own hand six years ago.  Like a perpetual ripple, he made a choice that impacts my life everyday.  And now, the choice of a stranger has done the same.  While my mom is healing on the outside, the inside is a very different story.

Thankfully, we live in a free country and I would not want it any other way.  But freedom is a very powerful privilege ... a gift that must be handled with care.  For in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, "Freedom is the will to be responsible for ourselves."  Let's please take that responsibility seriously!

Don't blame it on the stars

Did you ever wonder why it is on the days you are in a hurry, you get stopped by the train, traffic is slower than usual, or even worse, you end up behind the slowest driver in town?  How frustrating!  Just when you think you are getting somewhere, there they are, moseying along just trying to annoy you!!

We've all been there and when it happens we wonder ... "Why do these life forces seem to stack against me?"  As if the stars initiated some cosmic plot for the sole purpose of adding even more stress to an already hectic day.  But when we really think about it, that's not what is really happening.  The fact is, being in a hurry virtually guarantees ending up behind a slower driver since we are driving faster than most of those around us.  But, in our rush, our anxiety heightens and we become our own worst enemy.  We focus on the negatives and assign blame.  We look for reasons outside of ourselves, a type of conspiracy theory, to justify our sense of victimization against forces beyond our control.

You doubt?  Then ask this question.  On days with more time, how often do you really notice being stopped by the train or slowed by other drivers?  It's not like it doesn't happen on those days too.  But, if you are honest, you usually don't notice it at all.  And if by chance you do, it does not register as a problem because it isn't a problem.  However, the minute you are delayed while in a hurry, suddenly everyone becomes part of an evil plan!

Unfortunately, we tend to ignore one main reason for our dilemma ... poor time management.  But, by blaming it on the stars or some other intangible force, we forfeit the option to make better choices with our time and ultimately decrease our stress levels.  From now on, when planning the day, let's save ourselves stress and anxiety by doing one simple thing ... add extra minutes to the plan.  And if, for some reason, we still end up in a hurry and things just do not seem to go right, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.  Don't blame it on the stars, they are innocent.  In fact, we owe them gratitude for they selfishly offer light to help guide us through what would otherwise be a dark journey in the night.

Fear of Confrontation = Fear of Change

Last weekend at church, as I was listening to the reading, something came to mind that I wanted to share. With the Easter season upon us, we naturally read the passage where people began to reject Jesus. But understanding human behavior, Jesus knew this would occur. After all, He was challenging the status quo. He dared to defy the powers that be and this caused anger. He even went so far as to state that His good friend would deny Him three times. Peter, shocked by the claim, truly believed he would stay strong and never deny Jesus. And at the time, I am sure Peter meant it. But once confronted, Peter caved. So what made him lie? Was it public scrutiny, the risk of being persecuted, was he unsure of his recent choices, did he think he did something wrong? Whatever the reason, Peter feared the confrontation. Rather than standing firm, Peter chose to hide, to lie ... he denied he was with his friend!

Like Peter, we too must face confrontation. It could be someone asking about a simple matter to something as emotional as questioning a suicide. When asked, what do we do? While some of us might confidently stand firm, most fall into Peter's trap. We feel anxiety and fear, or even anger. Often, this anger is directed at the one asking the question when in reality, the anger is simply a result of the distress. But we feel unsure, we feel attacked, we feel threatened ... and we must fight back! Fearing reprimand, judgment, and condemnation, we become defensive. Consequently, we choose to stay in the darkness of shame and guilt. We may try to ignore it or, using the strength in numbers strategy, we attempt to enlist another to our cause. But at times, like Peter, we will lie. Thankfully, Peter was open enough to realize what had happened

But fear of confrontation is a funny thing. It alters our own thinking and perspective. It convinces us of the lies. It can lead us to minimize or even defend our actions, convinced of our innocence. We may even confuse an apology with an excuse. But maybe we have done nothing wrong ... maybe it is not even about being right or wrong ... but we will never know. Through defensive anger, we shut down any chance to reflect. The reflection that leads to growth and possibly even change for the better! But why change? After all, things are just fine the way they are. Or are they?

This Easter season may we be more open and willing to face confrontation with a confident and loving heart. May we allow ourselves to think beyond the way things are in the hopes of seeking the way things could be. For when we are open, only good things can come! Wishing you all a wonderful Easter season!!

It's time to clean out the fridge!!!

Last week, my family was enjoying a wonderful dinner together. We had juicy steak on the grill, baked potatoes, and a big salad ~ one of our favorite meals!  Upon getting ready to dive into my salad, though, I decided to try another dressing.  I looked in the fridge and found an unopened bottle, one I had not recognized before, and interestingly, I didn't even remember purchasing.  In any event, it looked good.  But, as I got ready to pour the dressing, I began to notice the expiration date ... 2009!!  Wow, I thought.  How did that end up in my fridge for so long?  Even worse, what other expired things are living there?

So, after dinner, my husband and I decided to investigate all that had taken up residence in our fridge.  As it happens, we found tons of expired items, things that were there for years but never noticed!  It seemed they ended up in the back of the fridge, as new items replaced their spots.  Some jars were old and crusty while other containers housed left overs that, I'm embarrassed to say, were growing things.  GROSS!!  Why in the world did we hold onto these things ... and for so long?  We obviously did not need them yet they were taking up valuable space in our fridge.  Though they were there for years, we looked right past them.

As I cleaned I began to think of how tightly we tend to hold onto things.  We buy, buy, buy, and then shove them in the back, forgotten about.  Going even deeper than that, what about the emotions we protect ... all the anger, fear, hurts, pain, resentment, unforgiveness that are faithfully housed in the back of our heart?  After a while, we don't even realize they are there.  Like our fridge, we allow our hearts to become icy tombs preserving all those negative emotions and attitudes, all the while they are growing old, crusty, and festering toxins in our bodies.

How odd it is to learn something from an appliance, but I did.  With that, I made a decision ~ it's time to clean out my fridge.  It's time to investigate what I am housing in my heart and remove those toxins.  May you also find the strength to clean out your fridge.  It may not be an easy journey but it will be an amazing one, and well worth the effort.

YES ~ we're making a difference!!!

Suicide is a difficult word to say and a hard issue to tackle.  But suicide is not an individual problem ~ it is a community issue!  Given the strong individualistic tendencies of today's culture, we often forget the communal aspect of life.  You see, every decision we make, positive or negative, affects others.  It may be directly or indirectly, but we are affected just the same.

With that, I wanted to share some amazing things that are making a big difference:

In Munster, IN, we recently held our Out of the Darkness walk for AFSP.  Though the day was dark (at 10 am), rainy, cold, and wet, we went anyway.  We had 364 walkers holding pictures of loved ones, banners, balloons, and each other as we shared our experiences.  Though our stories are different, they are also the same.  By the end, we raised over $28,000 toward suicide prevention efforts!!  Given the lack of research, these funds are invaluable in saving lives and making a difference.

Thank you to all who donated and also for those that were not able to donate but kept these and other efforts in prayer.  We had a successful walk and we are so very appreciative of all efforts!

In another example, I wanted to share an email I received from a participant after attending our recent ASIST training (shared with persmission):

Britta-
THANK YOU SO MUCH for the training last week. I thought about those 2 days all weekend and prayed that I would be calm and prepared if/when the time came that I would need to use my newly learned skills. Well, I had no idea that day would be TODAY!!! My very first student today felt like she had no other alternatives. Thanks to the interventions I learned just a few days ago from you and Alan, I was better equipped today. I was able to ask her straight out about suicide. The look of relief on her face when I said "suicide" was indescribable. Being able to identify, understand, and talk about her ambivalence was huge! The understanding phase is just so important! I also found myself using the phrases, "I care, I understand, and I'll help." In the end, I was able to assist her and her mom with coming up with a safeplan and links to resources. From start to finish it all lasted over 3 hours. I have felt so exhausted the rest of today. However, I am SO thankful and blessed to have had the skills to be able to assist. Thank you so very much for training me in the intervention skills I was able to use today!
God Bless!!

How beautiful to know that our training helped a participant use learned skills and ultimately make a difference in a young life.

When each of us does just one small thing, it adds up to so much!!!  The choices we make do make a difference!!!

Photo provided by Photoxpress

Suicide Prevention Awareness

Did you know ...?

September is
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

As you may or may not know, I lost my dad to suicide on December 10, 2005.  Since then, I've become highly active on this issue.  Although more people died by suicide than by Asthma, HIV/Aids, and Parkinson's Disease, funding for research was the lowest for suicide:

Deaths by Cause (2007):

Suicide:        34,598
Parkinson's:  20,058
HIV/Aids:      11,295
Asthma:         3,447


Research spending (2010):

Suicide:        2%
Parkinson's:  4%
Asthma:        8%
HIV/Aids:       86%

While these are all important issues, there is a huge imbalance in addressing the need for suicide prevention.  Unfortunately, due to stigma and the discomfort of this topic in general, it becomes easy to ignore.  In an effort to help, on September 25, I will be participating in an upcoming suicide prevention walk.  These walks are a great way to raise needed research dollars.  If you are able, please consider making a donation of any amount:


If you are not able to donate, please consider simply keeping this and other efforts on suicide prevention in your thoughts and prayers!  Please also consider participating in a walk of your own!!  Thank you!!!

He scammed me!!

I was recently scammed!!  Yes, it's true ~ I found myself buying into his false implications and lies, all in an effort to get my money.  He tapped into the very core of my being, the part that desires so much to help others improve their lives and be happy!

For the most part, I am a strong critical thinker and am painfully aware that there are people in the world who will lie for their own personal gain.  But I misjudged this situation and admit I was angry ~ someone abused my trust.  It is hard for me to understand how someone can do that and still sleep at night!  But, he was a stranger, so I chalk it up to another bad experience and move on.

But, what if a friend or even worse, a family member, scams you?  The difficulty here is that friends and family tend to know us intimately, and can use that knowledge against us.  When this happens, we feel violated.  We let our guard down.  Sadly, the pain here runs deeper than the loss of money or resources.  We also experience the loss of the relationship ~ a relationship we misunderstood, since we believed it was deeper and far more intimate than it really was.  In fact, we realize that the person actually is a stranger!  The pain also taps into our own sense of judgment and trust.  For the record, I've also experienced this kind of pain!!

So what do we do when we are scammed?  Well, we have three choices:  1) we can decide never to trust anyone again; 2) we can pretend like they didn't really mean it and continue to trust blindly; or 3) we can learn to be smarter next time.  Although most of us will say we choose option three, upon deeper reflection, we really tend to embrace either option one or two.  Or, we may even toggle between both extremes.  Let's take a look:


OPTION ONE!

If you already struggle with trusting others, you will probably decide that you just cannot trust anyone anymore!  The benefit here is you will likely never be scammed again.  The downside is you tend to distance yourself, become hardened, and cynical.  You hold onto your experiences like a badge of honor as a way to justify your bitterness.  If, in the event you actually do attempt to get close to someone, your cynical outlook leads you to search for ways you will be hurt.  Like the self-fulfilling prophecy, you find exactly what you seek and the cycle continues!!  If you find yourself bringing up old hurts over and over again, it is a good sign you are struggling here.


 OPTION TWO!

If you have a fear of confrontation, you will likely convince yourself it was a mistake and keep falling for the same lies.  The benefit here is you will continue to give to others, after all, we are called to help others in need.  However, by ignoring abuse, you reveal your lack of self-respect and worth.  You tell the world you can be used, manipulated, and ultimately taken for granted.  As a result, you will continue to fall into the same traps and find yourself mostly surrounded by people that abuse you.  Be assured, they will find you.  Without confronting it, the cycle continues!!  If you find yourself continually being used and taken for granted, this may be your struggle.


OPTION THREE!

Here, you find middle ground.  You first recognize what happened and call it what it is ~ abuse of trust!!  You then recognize that you can no longer trust that person and create a healthy, safe distance.  Keep in mind this may also mean maintaining a healthy distance from those that continue to buy into the lies and have not yet opened their eyes to it.  The benefit of this option is, these experiences are a great way to weed out those that do not have your best interest at heart.  Though it is unfortunate, it need only happen once!!  In your balanced perspective, you embrace the fact that not all people are out to get you but recognize that some will try.

So, you are probably asking, "that sounds great and all, but what about my anger?  How do I deal with that?"  It's definitely not easy but you do have a choice whether to be angry or not.  One thing I do is try to go beyond my anger and pain, and think about the other person.  How sad it must be to feel like they have to lie and manipulate others to get their needs met.  This behavior reveals a lack of belief in their own ability to achieve success honestly.  If only they believed in themselves!  They must also feel very tired and alone.  People who spend their days avoiding responsibility are unable to be their true, authentic selves.  In reality, they continually wear a mask before the world and the energy it takes to keep that up is exhausting. Although they may appear authentic, it is a facade that most eventually see through.  Sadly, they burn bridges and eventually find themselves alone.


BOTTOM LINE!

It is about forgiveness because forgiveness is not for the other person, forgiveness is for me.  Admittedly, I sometimes think about it and get mad again.  But when that happens, I remind myself that I chose to forgive and let go.  The reality is, I have been conned before ~ by family, friends, and strangers.  Although I am more aware of it, I will likely be conned again because, truthfully, I will never stop wanting to help others.  But at least I know that I have a choice in the matter.  With that, I find peace and can sleep at night!!!