It is Dark

It has been a whirlwind of a year as I have transitioned to being a mother of 4 to a mother of 5, while also trying to restructure my business. It has been daunting to think of all the overwhelming responsibilities I have while trying to stay afloat. And after having my 5th baby, I continuously felt the fear and anxieties of whether postpartum depression would be knocking on my door as it had with my 3rd child. So, I stayed focused, steady, and managed to compartmentalize my thoughts and feelings so as to not let the dark hole of hopelessness seep through my being.

I studied post-partum depression in college and worked with clients who have suffered from it. And then, IT hit me. May 2010. Feelings of vanishing from a world that was closing in on me because my internal thoughts were being slaughtered from believing any positive thought of myself. I constantly saw darkness as though I had fallen in a hole, without a trace of light. It is dark. And it was dark for a long time. All I could envision was driving off away from anything that made me see myself in the mirror. It was scary. What I never realized was how scary it was for those close to me. They had never seen me in this type of desperation. I look back on that year and thank God with my entire being that the type of postpartum depression I was experiencing was not that of wanting to hurt my baby. Rather, I NEEDED my baby. It’s what kept me alive. It was my reason for breathing and getting out of bed the next morning. It was a year that I look back on and still, 8 years later, have a difficult time conjuring constructive thoughts about. Needless to say, when I had baby number 4 and 5, my anxieties were intense for the sheer fear of the dark looming over me after having a baby.

I cannot explain my feelings last week after reading about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s death. My two best friends contacted me the moment the news came out as they knew it would trigger me. And, it did. My mind raced throughout the week and tears would stream down my face as I drove around. It was difficult. What was even more difficult was all the articles and commentaries that are available to read or hear at the click of a button. Noise and encouraged darkness. It was overwhelming and it made me feel angry. Everyone has an opinion on suicide. Even those who have attempted. Those who are therapists and in the medical profession. Those who are family members. Those who have survived. Everyone. I am not here to give my opinion on anything, unless you are a client (or friend) in my office. I am not going to give my thoughts on suicide and those suffering from mental illness. I am here to explain the darkness.

It is dark. It is what our world can feel like, but without a trace of a baby reaching for you; without a smile; without the light blue sky and the sun peering through; without a flower; without affection or affirmation. The current state of our world is questionable and people are experiencing anxiety with where we as a society are going due to the prominent noise of hate. It is dark. And instead of the media shining light and breaking through the jail cell bars with sunlight, they have continued to flood our screens with more darkness and a pit filled with extraneous noise. So, how does one find the light?

Here is what took me out of the pit of darkness – my own therapist, my friends, my family, my husband and children, my faith, and my persistence to find the good. The latter was the most difficult and it is an overwhelming task when all that is on our screens are words masked in concern that only encourage the darkness. It is strenuous work when I work with clients who feel nothing but hopelessness, but I am there. Standing. Half in the light and half in the dark. But, my hand is outstretched for you to grab my hand. We will walk this walk together though the journey looks bleak. There IS light. We may need someone to open the curtains, but it is there. And, I am here to try and help pull back the shades so that you are able to see the rainbow in the distance.

 

Charise

Another One?

However one wants to define the current state of the “women’s movement,” it is safe to say that women will not stop talking. The topic of sexual harassment from men such as Matt Lauer, Mario Batali, Charlie Rose, Larry Nassar, and the list continues on and on….. There will always be another one.

From a previous post, I addressed what seems to be an “epidemic” of men being accused of such behaviors. I wanted to address it in a manner in which I could focus on raising our boys or changing the culture. However, there has not been a week in my private practice in which this topic does not arise. Last week, a young adult female expressed her annoyance with her father’s response at “yet another allegation” with an eye roll. This week, I had a few men share their feelings and their own experiences in the work force, whether it be them witnessing inappropriate behavior, not recognizing that their own behavior was perceived negatively (especially back a few eras where such nasty talk was considered a norm and not exactly crude), and being falsely accused. Listening to all my clients, I must be honest in saying that I have not really read up or watched the latest news of all those coming to the table with their disclosures. I have tried to stay focused because here are two facts – I, myself have dealt with being sexually violated and second, there are good men out there.

There is a process in dealing with this – with both the men and the women. Every summer, I have a former client who comes back to see me because they were assaulted in college and they proceed to tell me how their colleges handle such situations. It has become a rising acknowledgment and to some people’s view, an “epidemic” that needs to change. Yet, students attend Freshman Orientation with the disclosure that sexual harassment occurs often and the correct protocol to take when such an event occurs. They are then told how and who to go to in order to press charges. This direction in the #metoo #timesup movement does not necessarily promote change. Rather, it stimulates the culture by installing fear in our young women (and men) about the statistics of how many college Freshman are raped. Let’s proactively change the culture. Why are the college campuses and work forces not offering free martial arts/defense classes? And if you really want to throw out statistics, then let’s address it appropriately because those who have been assaulted or are doing the assaulting are more than 50% of the time inebriated. So, why not have strict consequences for drinking under age or no alcohol on campus living? Why isn’t every college offering free cabs for those who are inebriated so that young women/men do not feel stuck in a physical space if they are feeling unsafe? When our children are young, we look at programs like cotillion so that they learn manners. Why are we not offering classes or programs for men to learn about women? I personally get rubbed the wrong way when a man is guiding another man about women. How the heck do they know considering the last time I checked, men don’t hear, process, feel, or perceive things or moments the way women do. I did not learn about men from my mother. I learned about men from my father. Why? Because he is a man. He can provide me insight about another man that I would not even think about. Here is an example: I have a male colleague who would see couples and the wives would share their discomfort in seeing him because they would feel that it was mostly about giving the men more “power” in the relationship to be “men” and that they should, as a wifely duty, have sex with their husbands. I, on the other hand, took a different approach – I educated, guided, and role played with my male clients as to how to better navigate through a woman’s mind and show a sense of appreciation and acknowledgment for the woman. Not the sexual being in front of them, but rather a complete woman. Surprise, surprise! It was inevitable that a man would come back in to my office sharing that they had sex! They realized that when they can respect a woman, that a woman can be safely vulnerable, appreciate them, and also, to let their guards down and feel safe and comfortable to be sexual with their partner.

Women – I have noticed that there are two type of women I observe – those who seem to have the courage to speak up and those that are apprehensive due to fear and possible repercussions. My challenge to you is to process what you would do differently when you think back upon the time that a male offended, harassed, assaulted, or violated you. Then, practice with good men you can trust (maybe your father or brother) so that they can give you feedback as to what will work and why.

Men, you do NOT have to violate a woman! Your power does not come from being a person who enforces physical strength or mental control over someone because you feel entitled to take something that is not offered or given to you. Real men of power are those who give. Give respect, kindness, and genuine love. Here is my challenge to men – everyday for 30 days, you will give a woman a compliment, but not a compliment on her physicality. You will start a habit of not looking at women based on their appearance, but rather focus on what women bring to this world that is positive.

With time, we will eventually change the culture of our society.

Charise

Hello 2018!

There have been many people expressing their elation that 2017 is now considered the past. As I have heard people’s stories of sadness the past year, I could not help but reflect upon my own 2017.

2017 began with my husband and I processing the surprising news that we were pregnant with our 5th child. It filled us with stress, anxiety, and many reflective questions of ourselves. I maintained a steady course of constructive thoughts and redirection to the positives throughout that time, despite what felt like me navigating through high tides. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel if people actually go through it. You cannot reach land unless you sail through the raging waters. There will always be a calmness after a storm. And, yes, the tunnel can be dark, smelly, dingy, and often times scary. But what happens when we get out of the tunnel or when the tide settles in and the waters are no longer rough. Hopefully, we can settle in and bask in the warm light and calm breeze. Sometimes, we can even be blinded by the sunshine. Mid-2017 arrived and my new baby girl came with more than sunshine. No one can prepare you for the amount of sunshine you can receive if you embrace your strength through the trial of treading the horrendous waves and open your arms when you reach the end of that tunnel. My baby came with so much joy and despite the chaos of 5 children, there came a sense of calm and peace. There will always be scary, questionable, and anxiety-provoking moments. But, as we walk through our swells of life, we must remember that our journey is never straight and narrow. We wouldn’t grow otherwise.

So, as we let go of 2017 and enter 2018, let us all see the new year with grace, strength, love, and kindness. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. My baby is now 5 months old and as much as 2017 had anxieties, I could never look back without sheer joy of knowing the reward it gave me in the end.

 

May everyone have a prosperous New Year!

Charise

The Gratitude Exercise

Thanksgiving should be everyday!! It’s one day in which we really focus on gratitude and yet, we really should be grateful everyday. As a therapist, I often advice my clients to utilize the gratitude exercise. Especially for those who struggle with depression. The gratitude exercise incorporates finding something to be grateful for everyday. I like to have a theme and to say 3 grateful things regarding that theme. For example, a theme could be our health/body. We then state 3 things about our health/body that we are grateful for: 1) I am thankful for my eyesight; 2) I am thankful for my ability to run; 3) I am thankful that all my senses work well. Then, the following day could be the theme of work, then household, and then, nature, and the list goes on. And this is done everyday. I have my children state something they are grateful for at the beginning of the day on our way to school and at the end of the day during our nighttime prayers. It gives them the opportunity to recognize that although we may have rough days, there is always something to be grateful about. The gratitude exercise allows us to reframe our moments and experiences to something positive and can encourage choices that can make life more fulfilling.

In the midst of tragedies and hard times, having a positive mindset in which we can find things in our daily life to be grateful for only empowers us to make choices to live a happy life.

So, while we focus on giving Thanks today, let us remember to give thanks everyday!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Charise

#ManEnough #redefinemasculinity

Last post, I spoke about “boys will be boys” and our need to change the culture of men. Interestingly enough, I have had women come out of the woodwork, needing sessions because watching news on Harvey Weinstein and constantly hearing #metoo stories have triggered them back into PTSD. I could write forever on this topic, both personally and therapeutically. However, I really wanted to have a direction and as stated from my last post, give concrete tools on how to raise our young boys.

Last week, I had a client angered by men going to “rehab” to fix their “problem” in a luxurious, high-end, five-star rehab facility to supposedly understand their behaviors, when they will never experience the mental, physical, emotional, spiritual anguish along with the damaging ways they have sexually violated us. Unfortunately, I agree whole-heartedly with this client and although I have my own two cents with regards to what I believe “rehabilitation” should consist of (think of boot camp-style facility with no affluent amenities), I was so relieved and felt a sense of renewal to come across Justin Baldoni’s Instagram posts. I instantly re-directed and felt more compelled to use his Hashtags of #ManEnough and #redefinemasculinity than using #metoo.

If you don’t already follow Justin Baldoni, I highly encourage you to. As a father to a daughter, and now a new son, he understands the immense responsibility we have to our children. Not only to empower our daughters, but also to redefine what manhood should be for our sons.

Being “Man Enough” should not equate to physicality or physical strength being projected into sexual prowess towards women in a violating manner. So, what are tools we can give our sons to change the culture of what has been accepted by society?

*First and foremost, be honest with the men in our lives and let them know in the most direct manner how we feel about specific behaviors or verbiage they use that come across demeaning or derogatory. Often times, they are unaware of how we feel about specific comments and in turn, they feel it is ok to continue with such “humor” or commentary. In addition, teach your sons that under NO circumstance is he ever to call a female a swear word. EVER! I am amazed at the couples who come in and call each other names, let alone swear at each other. It is not constructive, nor is it uplifting. (Even if it’s a joke – calling a woman a b*tch is not funny to me no matter the context.) And, if a female is calling your son a swear word, it is time for your son to walk away. We need to honor each other with our words and not be destructive.

*Talk with your sons about girls’ sexuality. My son has 4 sisters, but he did not become sensitive to their being until his peers began to talk about “girls who wear bikinis or have big breasts are sexy.” I am very honest with my children and as my son goes through puberty, it is very important for him to hear from me (and his sisters) as to what we think and feel when males talk about our physicality in a purely sexual manner.

* Chivalry is about being a man. It should NOT be dead. Yes, “feminism” has confused men into believing they should no longer open the door for a woman, or carry their bags, or pay for a meal. Men in my practice actually disclose feelings of frustration and contradiction because women will either yell at them because they can “do it themselves” or because they wish their mate would be more “thoughtful.” Boys – do not be discouraged and continue to behave in a gentleman-like way. I remind my son to always let a woman go first, help their sisters when they are carrying too many bags, open their doors, walk behind them when walking up the stairs, etc. And, when women scoff at that and consider that anti-feminist and insulting, this is my response: the Queen of England is the most feminist woman I know who not only is the Head of the Commonwealth, but is also the Queen of 12 countries!! A leader and yet a woman who still expects a man to open the door for her, assist her in carrying items, allows her to go first, and so on. She commands respect and so should we all. We should not be ashamed of our femininity and we should allow men to acknowledge it – it is not insulting, it is respectful!

* Be honest with your son regarding sexual temptation and the effects of pornography. Please do not normalize these behaviors; rather educate them. It is important to keep an open door of education when these topics arise because they are bombarded by too much mis-information from the web and their peers. I┬áhave already spoken to my son regarding the moments when he may feel tempted or peer pressured and how to cope with those feelings, so as to never disrespect any female. Remind him always that “NO means NO! and STOP means STOP!” Always. With no exceptions.

* Role play with your son how to stand up and protect females. One of my proudest moments I had was a few years ago. A couple mothers from school called to thank me because my son intervened and “protected” their daughters from being teased and harassed by a few boys in their class. The boys were making fun of how the girls looked and were also trying to take their money from them. Boys will encounter situations in which their peers are mistreating girls. It is important to role play with your son how to have courage and stand up for girls, while risking being made fun of or taunted themselves.

* Surround your son with kind men who speak of and treat women in the utmost respect. There are many men out there who really are good men. Those are the men we should be celebrating and focusing on, not the Harvey Weinstein of the world.

 

These are only a few of the tools I use with not only my son, but some of my clients. Open the door, talk with your son, and let me know how it goes…

 

Charise