Pulling Back the Curtains: An Inside Look at What Really Happens Inside the Counseling Office

Today I was at the doctor’s office and I was asked by the doctor, who was making small talk, what I had planned for the rest of the day. The doctor knows that I am a counselor and I replied that I have clients for the rest of the day. Now maybe the doctor said this because of the physical pain I was in but the next comment was, “So will there be a lot of ‘hmm’ , ‘ahh’ and ‘uh-huh’s’ today? I laughed and told the doctor that for me to treat a client like that would be the equivalent of him having a patient walk in, high-five ’em and send them back out the door. He wouldn’t have any clients if he only gave out high-fives and neither would I if I only made sympathetic sounds. Goodness. Do you think we do 8 years of University and 2-4 years of Residency just so we can make noises? 🙂 (I could do that without all the training- call me skilled 😉 lol).

The event at the doctor’s office reminded me of a meme. And like all the best memes it was from the TV show The Office. In this meme (below), Stanley imitates what he thinks a counselor does and what a counselor makes; both of which are laughable. In fact, even I bust up laughing at most counseling memes … because they’re funny. Enjoy them, laugh, but please, please do not think they are accurate.

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Do we make sympathetic sounds? Sure, if that’s what you want to call it. 🙂  I call it communicating and letting the other person know that you hear them, you understand what they’re saying and you care. Have I heard stories from the Crypt about counselor out there who only stare at their clients and if you’re lucky they’ll make a noise? Yes, I have. However, most of us counselors do not fit in that category. Please, keep “shopping” for the counselor who is a good fit for you – it is life-changing to say the least.

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I am so grateful for my career. It feels like a perfect fit – like the way we all would like our outfits to feel- “right” and comfortable with the elements of style that makes you YOU. Though Stanely likes the idea of an air conditioned office downtown where you sit and judge people, that is not the case.

Fact: I do sit in a chair

Fact: I do have an office that I love and feels like a cozy “second home” to me (and hopefully to you too, should you stop by 🙂 )

Fact: I do have some seriously great air conditioning for summer and heating units for winter

Fact: It is not a physically demanding job. We don’t get “body tired” (except for discomfort if we sit too long- gotta get some laps around the building here and there to keep the blood flowing 🙂 )

Fact: It IS an emotionally demanding job.

Counseling is a career that takes every ounce of who you are into the room with you. Literally. We must take good care of ourselves throughout our everyday lives in order to be able to fully focus on you and your needs. We put every ounce of US into being present with you.

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Fact: WE NEVER JUDGE. This is such a true statement. Another true statement is that I did not laugh with this meme because to me it is sad that someone, somewhere got that idea that this is what we do. 😦  When someone is pouring out their heart, their fears, the things they are scared to tell others, the very crevices of their soul that even they are afraid to look at, I can honestly tell you, judgment doesn’t come to my mind. It is such a privilege when someone trusts us with who they truly are. I cherish, respect and protect that vulnerability. I am honored by someone’s willingness to share, because I know it’s not easy.

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Do you remember when the style of meme above was trending on social media? I found it interesting because there are so many misconceptions from field to field of what we actually do. Even the counseling meme doesn’t match my opinion of what I think I do, and it’s supposed to shed some semblance of light onto this career path! 🙂

Here are the top 10 things that I do in a day at the office:

  1. I form relationships. When people walk into my office, they’re not “one more patient”, they’re not a task to check off or a “disorder” to cure, they’re PEOPLE. And I’m people. And we relate. We talk. We laugh, we cry.
  2. I learn about you. I find out through comfortable conversation what brings you in, what you would like to have change in your life, what your struggles are and what your successes are. What makes you smile brightest? What makes you angry? Learning about you helps me help you. My goal is not to change you to what “I think you should be” (you live your life, not me – and remember, we’re not there to judge). My goal is to learn what you want for yourself, your relationships, your career, your mental health, etc.
  3. I listen. Most of us in the world listen to respond, not listen to hear but wow does it change things when you experience the feeling that someone hears you- someone sees you. And they care. On paper, these are words. In the counseling office, this breathes healing and new life.
  4. I take what I learn and conversationally draw the picture of what I heard as if displaying  it on a white board for the person to step back and look at from an objective vantage point. This tends to bring a lot of clarity as “we can’t see the forest through the trees.” This can induce many “aha” moments (they’re the best, aren’t they? 🙂 ) A lot of times, our friends and family mean well, but they are stuck in the trees with us and often times cannot clearly get a bird’s eye view of the forest either. It is emotional blinders that keep our friends and family from thinking clearly and that is very normal. When we are too close to a situation, we are sometimes absorbed into it, which brings me to the next thing I do.
  5. #5 is kind of like when you feel all emotional and you talk but you feel like you’re making no sense at all and feel almost tongue tied, as if you cannot get the words out so you groan and put your head in your hands in frustration. Then you you look up, wondering if the person you talked to understood anything you just said… AND THEY DID! They “get it”! Not only do they get it but they help you find the words to express the emotions that are all tangled up inside you. Ahh, that feels good. Just think of counselors your emotional constipation relief. 🙂
  6. Back to that white board: Since I am not you, and you are not me, and I am not part of your family, chances are that I am going to have some different insights into the situation to share and perhaps lay some things on the white board that you didn’t notice before thanks to the “forest through the trees” phenomenon. Suddenly you’re not feeling so dang stuck, right? Look at all these things I didn’t even realize were there, you may think. Wow, I have more options than I initially thought... Hey, I don’t have to stay tangled up in this tree! (back to the forest analogy) your brain may shout!
  7. So now you are feeling more empowered, excited and stronger than you were when you walked in 45 minutes ago. You may realize that when you let go of that emotional constipation, you feel so much less pain! Great!! So… now what? You have options, you know you’re not stuck, you’re excited …. but how do I go back home and live this out, Bobbie-jo?
  8. I’m glad you asked 😉 lol. This is the part where us counselors show you a way to take everything you have gathered today and use it to start the process of moving from where you are to where you want to be. Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to go from taking a walk to being the next American Ninja Warrior by the next session. We always work with you where you’re at – it’s not until session 2 that we expect you to be Ninja Warrior material (totally kidding 🙂 ).
  9. Life is always lived one moment, one step at a time and not one second or movement sooner. Well, so is healing and recovery. We take one step at a time. Perhaps that sounds meager but I assure you it is not!
  10. Trust the process. This one always makes me smile to write because I have always been a GOAL! person. Process? Yaaaaaaawn. 🙂 But guess what I have learned about life? Life is Lived in the Process. The goal is the direction, but life is the process. When you’re stuck in the trees and you have someone (your counselor) saying, “This is what the forest looks like. I know you’re struggling to see it right now and I get that. I can show you the way to get yourself out but there are going to be times when it’s dark and you can’t see. You will need to listen to my voice as I show you where the next step is. But you have to take the step; I can’t take it for you. I’m right here and I am going to walk with you through this. Yes, counseling requires a trusting relationship, which is why us counselors are to uphold high levels of personal and professional ethics.

We will cheer you on and  encourage you every step of the way. And when you are in the process of “becoming” as the Velveteen Rabbit says, you can fully step into who you are. Counselors don’t “fix” you. Counselors show you how to find and “follow the yellow brick road” that you’re looking for. But you must walk it. We cannot do it for you. We will walk along side you throughout the entire process.

And when you feel empowered, confident, healed and whole again, when you enjoy life and feel free, you may think we did something extraordinary and that we really do have a “magic wand”. But we will simply smile and say to you, “You’ve always had the power [my dear], you just had to learn it for yourself.”

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And Next Thing You Know…

Time passes so fast, doesn’t it? Have you ever had an “How old am I?” moment? Awhile ago, I had this moment. Imagine my surprise when I found out (after counting on my fingers and calling mom just to be sure!) that I am a year older than what I thought I was! I felt jipped! hahah Truth is, I completely forgot the events of last year’s birthday because life was just spinning so fast. I literally had to sit down and think back through the months to jog my memory of how we celebrated so I could stop (jokingly) telling my family that they must have knocked me out over my birthday week to avoid having to get me a gift! hahah 🙂  I remember when I was about 10 years old and I was making my mom a birthday card; I asked her how old she was going to be and she couldn’t remember.  As a child, that was ludicrous to me! How could you not know?!?!

I get it now, mom. I get it. ❤

It happens to most all of us at sometime or another. One minute we’re going along, doing our thing and the next, we realize  that like a pack mule, we have taken on too much. That’s usually when we forget things like how old we are. 😉 For me, that was a reminder to back it up and slow it down. Because I for one would like to remember all of my birthdays. 😉

Ever heard of the Oola Guys? Oola basically means living your life in a state of awesomeoness. It was created by two doctors who realized the importance of balance but also realize how ridiculously hard it can be to achieve. I was at a conference where they were speaking a few years ago, and they compared life to the constant spinning of plates. The visual being that each of us has all these different areas of our lives (plates) that we are responsible to keep in motion (spinning) and as more and more plates get added, the more other plates fall, drop, break and stop spinning. Because we can only do so much. That is so hard for many of us to accept, isn’t it? So many of us like to think we can – or feel like we have to – do everything. Always. For everyone. And the fact of the matter is, it is just not possible. What usually ends up happening is we start with spinning a plate on each hand, then each arm, then we try to add a few to our head and surely our knees can “hackey sack” a few, right? It does not take much time in this Twister game position to completely and utterly exhaust our bodies and our plates- all our beautiful plates, begin to break. And suddenly, there we are, frantically trying to save the plates. And sometimes we do save a few. But then our bodies collapse. We are trying to save the plates that are falling and keep the plates that are balanced on us spinning and oh, hello there mental break down, what are you doing here?

Did you read about the people in the news who were waiting in line at a buffet for the crab legs to come out. It took about 10 minutes for them to arrive and by that point, two people were fighting over the crab legs and hitting each other with the tongs. Let me say that again: Hitting each other with the TONGS.

Hello mental break down.

So what do we do? How do we keep ourselves from being the ones that are getting arrested for fighting over crab legs or freaking out over not getting extra ketchup at a takeout? (I can hear you saying, ‘pssh, that will never be me….’ Well, I am sure the crabbies didn’t get up that morning and say to themselves, “I am so overwhelmed- that’s it. I am totally going to hit someone over the head with tongs today.”)

Serenity is multi-faceted, but one important- very important thing is balance. Say it with me while taking a deep breath (yes, you DO have time for that!). BAAAAAALLLLLAAAAAAANNNNNCCCCEEEEEEE. The Oola Guys have broken down areas of balance into 7 categories, which they call the seven F’s. They are:

*Faith * Family * Friends * Finance *  Field (career) * Fitness * Fun * 

They encourage everyone to write down realistic goals for each of these areas of your life and then work on keeping these seven areas balanced. If one of these areas is stacked with too many things, the other areas are going to be shaking, quaking and before you know it, toppling. (For goal setting help, Google the acronym SMART goals.)

If you feel like your plates are taking on a life of their own and you would like some help sorting through the chaos and getting yourself back to a comfortable place of balance, give me a call or text at (540) 765-7881 to schedule a session. It is time to get you back to a state of awesomeness.

Bobbie-jo Hurt LPC, CSAC

Hurt Counseling Center

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

 

 

Counseling… Let’s Bust up Some Serious Myths!

Counseling… the “C-Word”? Why is it that in 2018, people are still kind of hesitant to accept that counseling is not for “crazy” people, but for “everyday” people like you and me? We are all people and I have never met a person without problems in their life, have you? We all have some “junk in our trunk!” Sometimes our junk gets overwhelming and we don’t know where to start or what on earth to do with all the crap everywhere and suddenly we’re feeling stuck, trapped and unhappy in our own lives!

Sometimes we need to go to counseling simply to learn what the road of life doesn’t teach us; how to create our own happiness, how to heal instead of hide from pain and how to take your power back during times when you feel like your back is up against a wall.

At some point in our lives, we all have had something that we dealt with and had trouble kicking to the curb (and not going back to get it! 🙂 ). It’s called being human. There’s no shame in that. It is normal to have problems. It is.

Everywhere I looked today as I was running errands, I noticed people with high stress, anxiety, anger, depression, insecurity, apathy, low self-esteem and huge, painful, aching hurts. People everywhere are struggling but somewhere along the line we must have learned that feeling like crap is “normal” or that feeling the way you do is “the best that it gets”.

We also may have learned from somewhere that we have to paste on a smile and keep our pain “in house” because getting help would be shameful or a sign of weakness-or perhaps even feel like a betrayal to someone or something.

I think it takes A LOT of courage to walk into counseling (even though my office is so comfy! 🙂 ). I see you as brave, determined and intelligent because you recognize the need for good health and you are willing to pursue it.

There are a few misconceptions out there about counseling and I want to address a couple. Why? Because inaccurate assumptions can keep so many people from help.

Misconception #1: “Counseling? That’s just talking; how is that going to fix anything?” I am grinning as I write that one because counseling is not a passive process. If that were true and all I had to do was “shoot the breeze” while you lay on the couch (PS. I don’t have a couch!) and chat:

  1.  How on earth would I have a job? If just talking worked, then most of us would be good to go after “venting” to your friends, spouse, parents, etc. … but even after the rant, the problem is still usually there, isn’t it? Sometimes, the “venting” can actually cause you to feel more stress, not less… so there must be something other than “venting” going on in the office… And usually we are venting about the symptoms of the problem (everyone and everything but ourselves) but not acknowledging-or knowing-what is really causing the distress.
  2. Why in the world did I have to go to college for 8 years, get 3 degrees, do thousands of hours of residency, and get tested and licensed by state boards before I was able to even step foot into this career? And why do I have to keep current in the field of counseling by doing 20 hours a year of Continuing Education? I mean, if this is just talking, well, I learned how to do that as a little baby! SO… maybe I learned a little something about helping people re-wire their brains so they can make the changes they desire for their lives, perhaps? 🙂
  3.  Just like going to the gym, counseling works if you work it. If you jump in and start walking or jogging, I am going to pace right along side you, working just as hard to help you reach your goals. The same way a physical trainer would develop a workout process with you, a counselor is going to do that as well to help you get where you want to be. But if you’re not willing to do the work… well, you can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.

Misconception #2: People thinking that mental health medications are “Happy Pills”.

Excuse me while I pause to throw my head back and laugh. Do we call the diabetics’ insulin shots “happy injections”? Or chemo “going to get your feel good on”? Yeah, right.

Don’t you think if there truly was a happy pill, the government and big pharma would be all over it, advertising on billboards, TV, and all over social media, working together to roll bank? Ummm, most definitely. But we already know this: There are no quick fixes in life. You don’t get a Ninja Warrior bod from sitting on a bean bag, eating Cheetos. I mean, that’d be kinda cool but… nonexistent. 🙂 Anything worth having requires an investment of self. And if it doesn’t take some level of investment, we don’t value it very highly anyway.

Misconception #3: The lie that tells us, “I just need to be stronger; I don’t need anyone’s help.”

If we were to break our leg, we wouldn’t tell ourselves that we “just have to be stronger” and “suck it up” or that “we can fix it ourselves.” We wouldn’t say, “oh, it’s not that bad” … “the pain comes and goes so I’m probably fine”… “it’s all in my imagination”…. Uhhh, no. We would go to the doctor to get it fixed so we can walk again and not have a limb hanging at an odd angle.

Yet when we feel overwhelmed or tortured in our minds, most of us tell ourselves these very things, though what is happening is just as real as a broken leg! I once listened to a man who was diagnosed with cancer. Due to this diagnosis, he fell into a deep depression. Thankfully, he went into remission from the cancer and recovered from the depression. After going through these huge ordeals, do you know what he said? He said that he would rather go through cancer again than go through that deep depression again. That is a pretty bold statement and I do not take cancer lightly at all. But I don’t take depression lightly, either.

So why is it if we feel awful physical pain, we rush our butts to the ER, yelling, “Fix it!” … “Help me!” … “Make this better!” but it we feel like we are falling apart in our minds, we tell ourselves minimizing statements or tell ourselves that this is the best it gets anyway. Is living with a broken leg the best it gets?

No, you don’t “see” depression as immediately as you do a limb hanging off (well, sometimes you do actually…). But we do see it. We don’t see the wind. But we do feel it. And we all acknowledge that it exists. We don’t pretend a migraine doesn’t exist because we don’t see it visually.

I have NEVER heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t believe in headaches.” Or “No, wind isn’t real- it’s all in your imagination.”  … We acknowledge and believe that fibromyalgia is real, though it is something that has no known cause or cure and cannot be seen… but we ignore mental struggles that can be just as debilitating. Why?…

You know what has always been interesting to me? People think that no one can see their internal. mental suffering -that they can ignore how they feel, push aside their emotions and as long as they put on the smile when they go out the door and laugh at the right times, then no one knows.

But think about what would happen if you ignored that broken leg. You would have major painful consequences that would affect your career, family, activities you used to love, your relationships and your wallet from trying to band-aid this break yourself instead of going in to get the real work done. And yes, people would see it.

It is the same if you ignore emotional pain.  You may push it aside for the moment and then later snap at loved ones, yell at the dog, fight with your husband over nothing, sleep a lot, cry often, have to take time off from work or cancel with friends from mental exhaustion; you may end up in a broken relationship, being left because the other person couldn’t compete with what you were pretending wasn’t there. You may lie to try to cover your tracks, especially if you are dealing with stress a way you know others wouldn’t approve of, knowing the people and things you value in life could fall apart if anyone found out. So when we think we are hiding internal struggles, just know it comes out one way or the other.

Instead of letting mental or physical wounds fester and get worse day after day, what if we worked at repairing it so you could feel better? If your car had a few flat tires or your alternator went out, you would go get that fixed, right? But when our lives feel miserable, we just let ourselves stay in that tortured state. Again… why?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, constantly down, moody and sad, always feeling guilty, not good enough, not perfect enough, pretty enough, thin enough; feeling as if you are “wrong”, “bad” or “dirty”, feeling like you always have to prove yourself, explain yourself, “fix everything”, do everything for everyone, make everyone happy… if you continuously tell yourself, “If only I had this…” or “If only___________ would change, I would be happy. That would make it better… I can tell you right now that it is not true. We would like to think that something or someone else is causing our unhappiness because it is so much easier to “explain it away” then to take a look at ourselves, our lives, our behaviors and what is really going on inside ourselves.

Therapy is kind of like taking [cognitive] medicine for your mind and every time you come in, you are getting your treatment. It is not just talking while someone listens. It IS treatment. And after you finish all your treatments, you leave feeling better and more equipped to handle what comes your way… just like people in the maintenance stage of a physical issue- things have stabilized and you have the tools you need from the health center to continue maintenance. Occasionally you may come in for a check-up, another treatment, etc.; other times you simply leave feeling relief and knowing you can always come back if you need anything in the future.
If any of this “hit home” for you or you think this information could help a friend or family member, please don’t hesitate to share this with them.

I am a counselor. I love what I do. And I would be honored to walk with you to on your journey. At Hurt Counseling Center, we offer hope, help and healing in a comfortable, nonjudgmental environment where the focus is on helping you. Don’t let fear of misconceptions keep you from feeling better.
*If you are currently in an emergency, call 911 immediately.

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The Mason-Dixon DIY Diva: The Prequel.

Whenever I do an introduction of myself for a bio or a class, I always mention that I am also a mental health therapist. Then as Autumn was beginning to come to a close, I did a show on WSLS10 that I thought was imperative to get the information out: Getting help for depression. (Oh how I wish people could know how much better they could feel!!)

This blog could be titled, “The DIY Diva Starts her own Counseling Business” but it sounds a little long and boring. I don’t do boring; automatically puts me in nap mode 🙂

Here’s the scoop: I AM opening my own practice. I HAVE been working as a therapist the entire time I have been The Mason-Dixon DIY Diva. I LOVE helping people empower themselves. Love it. Am I still the DIY Diva? YES. Am I still a Therapist? YES. Nothing has changed… except I am opening my own practice 🙂 So… that is actually pretty exciting. Being a DIY Diva and doing a TV show is something I never envisioned that I would do- not even in my wildest dreams. Nope, not even then. And all those years ago when I was pursing my degrees, certifications, licensures, etc., I always said I didn’t want my own practice. (It is easier to work at someone else’s! LOL!) But here I am, with these doors swinging open, and I feel no fear for moving forward, only excitement to see where God takes this. I am along for the ride! 🙂

Hurt Counseling Center is the name of the new practice. My husband and I met in graduate school and he too has his degree in Professional Counseling, along with being a Certified Life Coach. He is in this venture with me and will be available for appointments as well. (And we may or may not have a few more fun surprises up our sleeve this year!)

We are officially opening our doors January 2nd, 2019, so now is the time to call or text for an appointment (540) 765-7881. My new office is located at: 402 Hershberger Road Roanoke VA. Below is a picture.

I specialize in depression, anxiety, addiction and relationship issues, though I have worked with most all mental health and co-occurring disorders. There is no shame to mental health. We don’t shame someone for diabetes or cancer, so why in the world would we do that for depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.? Our bodies need support. Our brains need support. The sooner we can accept this, the sooner we can get people finding out how much better they can feel. Did you know that you don’t have to live your life feeling blah, nonstop stressed, or miserable? Most people are so used to feeling crappy that they don’t even know there are alternatives to feeling how they do. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, have thoughts that go-go-go and don’t seem to stop, feel completely lethargic, exhausted and don’t feel like you have the energy to do what you need to, or if you keep doing the same thing that you don’t want to be doing over and over and over and…. maybe you should come see me. From someone who is constantly working on becoming a better, healthier version of herself, I can honestly say that peace of mind and relief from all the mental pressure we put on ourselves is priceless. Healthy physical and mental health is immeasurable in a numerical value. I don’t know about you, but these are two areas I “spare no expense” in because they are the cornerstone to all we do.

I want counseling to be accessible to each and every brave person who is willing to come in and admit that things are not perfect and perhaps feeling a little stuck, down, overwhelmed, etc.. If you want to feel better, well, as they say on the Price is Right, “Come on down!” 🙂

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Life is Short

This is not the post I intended to write. I was going to jump on here and give you some Diva updates. But there is something else that came to me as I began to write and I know I must share this with you. (And you can edit this in your head if you want, my friends, but I do not have time right now to do so and I want to get this information out ASAP 🙂 )

I have had some heavy past few months. As you know from being a part of my life, a very close friend of mine is in her last days of life. She hasn’t even reached the age of 60 but it looks like her time is coming, whether I like it or not. We have spent the past months making big end-of-life decisions together and holding each other’s hands with our heads together sobbing, knowing that when she went off to Texas to an Assisted Living facility near her only family, that everything was our “last” together. The last hug was the hardest. For a short while after her move, she was able to send me a few lines via the internet here and there on how things were going but she was so exhausted that it would drain her. We knew we had to move her soon before she didn’t have it in her to physically ride across the country. It is so hard helplessly seeing the physical break down of her body. Her last message to me was that she finally gave in and allowed Hospice to come (my tough warrior was holding off until the very last minute and has been turning them down for a few months already). I called her the other day and knew it took everything in her to answer. It broke my heart to even smaller pieces, hearing her weak voice and her laughs at my silly life antics. The Evil has gotten into her brain again and she is having difficulty communicating. Her brother has been keeping me updated at this point. The thought is that she will not be seeing next month. Lord, help me. I am shaking and can barely see the screen through my tears.

Then I had another surprise. My niece who is 18 came over the other night, so excited to tell me about her first date. She was showing me the cute messages they were sending back and forth via FB messenger, etc. and we were pondering those fun teenage jitter questions like, “Is this a date?” …”Will he try to hold my hand… or kiss me?!”… “Will he buy the tickets?”… “Will we get our own popcorn or share one?” Her adorable excitement about this cute boy who likes her and thinks she’s awesome was creating those fun butterflies in her stomach that we all remember from days gone by.

This conversation got me to thinking about who I was dating at 18. Back in those days, we communicated by phone (GASP!), e-mail, or by making plans to get online (dial up) at the same time so we could talk on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). 🙂 I still have my very first email address that my dad set up for me when I was 15 and I don’t delete anything from my email, because… what a waste of time 🙂  (I know, some of you are cringing right now. Sorry my Type A friends, love ya!).

I pulled up some emails from a boy I went out with when I was her age, and read her a few of our “flutter” messages such as him saying, “I miss you sooooooo much. T-7 hours [until we saw each other again] TTYL hun” … “Hey Shawty, I can’t wait to see you. In school today we ….” etc. etc. I bought a car while we were dating and named it after one of the things he would say to me, that I was “The Shizzle to his Nizzle.” (What does that even mean? LOL. Who cares! In 18 year old world, it was goose bumps!) I named my car Shizzle. Maybe it had something to do with his favorite candy being Skittles? haha who knows 🙂

After my niece went home and my own cute memories of innocence and excitement were flying back to me at rapid pace, I began to wonder what he was up to today. We hadn’t talked or even seen each other since we were 18. So of course I do what we do in today’s world: I typed his name into the FB search bar. The only thing that came up with his description was an obituary someone posted in 2012. No way, I thought, that can’t be him. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I opened the page. There was his picture right on top of the obituary. All the information listed matched that boy that I had many fond childhood memories with. We were the same age. But he died at age 25. 25!!! I reached out to some people that were mutual friends of ours (and set us up). I find out from his past best friend what happened as the pit in my stomach grows deeper. He took his own life.

I just sat there crying, with these ridiculous thoughts of wishing I could have done something; wishing I could have “fixed” someone I haven’t seen or talked to in 15 years.  As if we can help anyone who doesn’t reach out for it (and I have no idea on those details when it comes to him).

I have felt so blessed these past 10+ years of being in the counseling field, having the opportunity to help people find a way out of the dark by walking beside them in the deep pits of pain and hearing them- really hearing them. And showing them a process of how to get out of the pitch dark woods. My heart bursts every time I see another person in my office find healing, freedom, empowerment, peace in their minds and excitement for life again.

Sometimes I wish life could be more often like a Hallmark movie, you know? Here’s what my 18 year old boyfriend’s story would have looked like if I could rewrite it. We would be walking down the street and randomly run into each other. We would begin catching up and I would be able to pick up on his emotional state and would point him in the direction of help. And of course he would take the help with little resistance because it’s the Hallmark channel. He would find healing in the core of his being and from all the pain inside. He would be truly happy. He would marry a cute “girl next door” type that was sweet and kind. They would start Christmas morning by having an adorable, fluffy puppy with a red bow on, playing excitedly between the happy couple, while they sat in front of the tree, with their hand entwined, a look of love and contentment on their faces. And when we passed each other on the street, we would give each other a wave and a big, genuine smile because we both found true happiness in our lives.

In our Western world 1 out of every 4 people have depression or anxiety (and the other 3 are lying 🙂 ). But we put this stigma on it such as, we just need to be “strong enough….” HOG WASH! We need to have the courage (and it takes a lot to admit we need help!!!) to reach out and get our butts in counseling with a great therapist!

No one would EVER tell a diabetic that depends on insulin for their life survival that if only they were “strong enough” or just “shook it off” they wouldn’t need that medication… BULL HOGIE!!

We don’t tell Cancer patients that if they just tried harder …. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?

Mental illness is just as real as diabetes, cancer, broken bones and autoimmune disorders. And guess what? They are just as catastrophic because we receive the message that “just need to be stronger”… or that getting help is for the weak and getting help for this area of our lives is embarrassing… psssh, we women let doctors stick tools up our vaginas and men let doctors do the “cough and grab” on their gentlemen bits. And don’t even get me started on Colonoscopies… yes, if you can do those things, you can come TALK to someone about what’s going on emotionally.

Mental illness is just as debilitating as physical illness, just in other torturous ways. And the saddest part of all? They can both end in premature death. Pretending we have it all together, you know what that is? A death sentence. Get help. I don’t care if it is for a lump you want to pretend isn’t there of a feeling of hopelessness that you tell yourself is normal. Yeah, right.

My heart reaches out to you in this last statement: Get help. There are hotlines everywhere that can be found with a quick google search on your phone. Just call a random counselor. Or you know what? Just show up at the ER. Or a counseling office. I don’t care. JUST. GET. HELP. And don’t accept NO for an answer. If the person you turn to doesn’t have the expertise to realize what’s going on, don’t minimize what is happening inside. Go to the next professional.

You all know that my office is in Roanoke. I’m real, I’m fun and I’ve been through a lot so I may just be able understand more than you might initially think. I would be honored if you would let me walk with you down this dark road and travel together to happier times. Trust that it can get better. BECAUSE IT CAN.

Here is my office number 1-434-237-2655. It is a Lynchburg number but I am based in downtown Roanoke. And it doesn’t have to me that you see. I just want you to reach out to someone and don’t stop reaching out until you get what the help you need. You’re worth it.

Love and Hugs,

Bobbie-jo Hurt, The Mason-Dixon DIY Diva & Mental Health and Addictions Therapist, who truly, sincerely, cares about you.

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Bust Out of The Winter Blues

Winter is coming, the temperatures are dropping and so is the amount of daylight we receive each day. When I was a kid, my dad would come home from work into our Upstate New York living room, stomping the snow off his boots and taking off his layers of added warmth, and would say, “I feel like a Mole; I leave when its dark and I get home when its dark.” As a child this just produced giggles- thinking of my dad as a Mole 🙂  As an adult, I realize that this is the reality of many people. 😦

There are a lot of studies showing what produces the winter blues and the SAD effect in a percentage of the population. As a psychology-research-counselor person, I really enjoy them. But for the purpose of sharing tips on how to break out of the blues- probably not necessary to get into all of them 🙂 Please be sure to read the bottom of this blog though to discover a bit about the differences between the blues and depression! It could save a life-seriously. One is like having a small cut on your leg that needs some cleaning and a band-aid. The other is like having your limb hanging off and trying to convince yourself that it’s fine. BIG DIFFERENCE.

These tips are for the Blues Only. Here are some ways to shake out of that cabin-fever feeling:

  1. Sunlight! Get out during the brightest part of the day- for AT LEAST 10 minutes with bare skin so you can absorb that amazing Vitamin D! Good mood food!
  2. Exercise. 35 minutes/day for 5 days a week is recommended but just do what you can! If you can walk for 10 minutes at lunch, do it! Walk to the mail box, park farther away at the grocery store or coffee shop, etc. Endorphins come from exercise and those are feeeeel gooooooood chemicals for your brain! More Good Mood Food!
  3. Remember that you’re not really hibernating. This is my hardest one in the winter because it is waaaaaay too easy to cozy up with some tasty snacks and Christmas movies! However, too many simple carbs and too much sugar does not necessarily do a body – or a brain – good. Bummer, I know.  :/
  4. Happy music! This has been shown to uplift your mood and light up some feel good portions of your brain! My current favorite is “Grace Got You” by MercyMe. Check it out and tell me if you can keep your toe from tapping!
  5. Hydration! It is so common to overlook this in the winter because we don’t feel as thirsty. (And cocoa tastes better than water, amIright?!) But we must remember to nourish our body to keep the energy flowing! (And hello… winter dry skin? Water can help that too!)
  6. Plan a trip! Pick a fun destination and get to planning a fun time for you and your family- or just you! Whatever 😉 The point is to have something fun to look forward to! When you finish one, plan your next adventure!
  7. Herbal it up! Get yourself some Happy Teas that have organic ingredients like St. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Lemon Myrtle, etc. Make sure they are  the beneficial parts of the plant in there 😉
  8. Essential Oils! Gaaahhhh, such an overused word right now and you know what? It drives me crazy! All these crappy oil companies coming out of these unknown dingy underground tunnels, with greasy long hair and dirty chipped fingernails, putrid breath and holding out a bottle of “oil” from the sewage system and people are actually reaching for it. SMH. I can’t even. Get some good oils that aren’t so dang cheap and shady so they can actually help uplift your mood! Citrus oils, Lavender, and my BFF Frank are always good choices to soothe the soul!
  9. HELP OTHERS! I love this one. Probably because I “get my kicks” from helping others. You know what’s cool though? This is truly the pay-it-forward effect because not only does the giver receive feel good chemicals for doing the kind deed, but the people that witnessed it get a chemical boost too! Good deeds = Good moods 🙂
  10. Don’t be Scrollin’! Say what?! Yeah you heard me. Only get on social media for short, purposeful moments of time. Why? Well here’s the long and short of it- you get on social media, you post something. You know your cats the cutest, so it’s going to be a hit. You get a bunch of “likes” and tons of “hearts”. Woo, feel good chemical rush! Just like Pavlov’s dogs, we go back because we want the rush (the brain treat) again! But when you posted that awesome pic of your new haircut, barely anyone commented or “liked” it. Instant downer. Instead of feel good chemicals, how about feelings of insecurity, anxiety, etc.? Oh and let’s not forget that little comparison game that people like to play on social media. JUST. DON’T. You’re comparing someone’s highlight reel against your lowest moments. Yeah, that’s an idea for the trash can. There is a direct correlation between time on social media and depression. Interesting, isn’t it? … you gotta save yourself and look up and out at the rest of the world . There’s some really cool stuff out there. 🙂

Okay, I could go on but it is almost 1am and I need to go get my butt on tv in the morning so I should probably jump in bed! Say you’ll join me and give me a dopamine rush for the show, would ya? 😉 In all seriousness, knowing that you all like the show is the entire reason why I do it. I mean, it’s hard to stay in hibernation season when you get pulled in front of the camera! LOL!

**Notes on the Winter Blues vs. Depression: You NEED to be sure you are only experiencing the blah’s of weather changes and NOT something more serious, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other type of depression/mental struggle. A big indicator for the blah’s is that you may feel down and a bit lethargic as the weather changes, but it DOES NOT STOP YOU from enjoying life. On the other hand, if you are becoming uninterested in things that you previously enjoyed, are breaking off planned appointments and get-togethers with friends, etc., and are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, despair, frequent periods of crying or anger, deep sadness that won’t go away, increase or decrease of sleep, appetite, etc. than it may be more than the winter doldrums. In these cases, I highly recommend a counselor. There are very high success rates of overcoming and handling feelings of depression by seeing a counselor. If you need a counselor, I have an office in the Roanoke, VA area (you can find my info on psychologytoday.com). If you are out of the area, you can use that same site to find someone nearby that is suited to what you need. Please keep in mind that if you are experiencing feelings of wanting to hurt yourself, someone else, are feeling unable to take care of yourself and/or those you are responsible for, contact 911 right away. Do not pass go, do not collect $100.00. Make the call.

Whether it’s the blues, depression, or any other feelings that just feel overwhelming, please know that it CAN get better. There is help. Just call up a licensed counselor and get in the office for your appointment ASAP.

Make this Fall and Winter the best yet 🙂 Come along with me, the best is yet to be…

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Kettle Corn

My friend has cancer. Not just any cancer but Stage 4 breast cancer that has spread throughout her entire body. And not just any friend. She is my soul sister, my mama hen, my bff. She is the kind of friend you always feel comfortable with no matter what.

She has been fighting stage 4 cancer for almost 17 years- can you even believe it?! This woman is a fierce warrior. The doctors have recently finished trying the last strand of chemo that they can give her. They are out of options. What awful words. Unacceptable.

I know she is in pain. Not because she tells me-she has never ONCE in all our years of friendship complained to me about having to go through all of this. She amazes me. I know she is in pain because of tumor markers, doctors appointments, how much hair she has, the way she may walk/her gait, her level of energy and how much she is able to move about.

In life, most of us have a small circle of people that we are truly close to and within that circle, there are one or maybe two people that we consider our soul sisters (or misters). It is that person you meet and you know almost instantly that you both are kindred spirits. You click. You gel. You understand each other without even having to speak. You just “get it”.  This is my friend. You don’t get many of these in life, so when you find it, don’t let go for all the money in the world.

My friend does not ask for anything. She is a giver to the extreme. Her heart is so kind and her thoughtfulness in a selfish world is such a breath of cool, fresh mountain air. So when she asked me a question about getting her some kettle corn if I came across some at any Fall events, you know I was going to do whatever it took to be sure she had that treat.

We all have this desire to want to fix or make things better for those we love. I can’t fix this. I can’t make it better. But girl, you want kettle corn? I’ll move mountains!

Today we went to an event where there was kettle corn.

We decide to get it on the way out so we don’t smoosh it while apple picking. As we are heading out of the orchard, we see that the vendors are beginning to shut down. My hubby knows this vendor though so he says, don’t worry, he pops extra.

We get over there and my husband says hello and asks him if he has any kettle corn. The kind elderly man standing by his copper kettle says that he sold completely out. Internally, my heart dropped. This one thing. This one simple thing. And I want to do it so badly for her. To say, “here, I helped!” (in some tiny way). But in that way I hope that maybe, just maybe, that it will be a balm to her tired and beautiful soul.

Just as my heart is moving down the elevator from my chest to my gut, a girl shows up and says “Here you can have my bag; I haven’t even opened it.” I could have cried. I asked her a couple times if she was sure and she confirmed that she was certain. She didn’t know the story. She didn’t know why we wanted kettle corn. She simply came by and gave us hers.

I am so excited about this bag. I placed it safely in the front seat of my blue mom van. I gave the kids a different snack so they wouldn’t be eyeballing “The Precious”. And home we went, where that bag now sits on my kitchen table until it goes over to my friend’s house tomorrow where I will excitedly present the bag of kettle corn and tell her that I know without a doubt that God saved this bag just for her.

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The Signs Are Unclear (to say the least)

I am pretty sure I talked in my sleep last night- and by talked, I mean urgent yelling. I had a dream that I was on my way to the airport. I kept trying to tell Google the address so I could get the directions, as I knew I was drawing closer to my exit but I wasn’t sure which one it was. Every time Google would repeat back to me what I said, “OK, find the airport…” it would be full of fuzzy background noise like a radio station that isn’t tuned and it would give me the address to someplace with a similar name but in the wrong state.

Since GPS was letting me down, I knew I had to figure this one out on my own. I was almost certain that last time I drove to this airport, there was a sign off the interstate indicating which exit to get off for the airport. Well surprise, it wasn’t there anymore. All the signs seemed to be in the wrong places.

I ended up having to turn around in some busy parking lot and backtrack when I figured out that the signs were nowhere to be found. I go up this hill and there it is- finally I find the airport. It is a hot mess. People everywhere, all with somewhere to be. The airlines are in alphabetical order- easy enough, right? Yes, if they were in a straight line. But instead they sort of zig-zagged throughout the parking lot.

I don’t even know which plane I’m on or where I’m going at first but as I’m running through the zig-zagged airline portals, it comes back to me that I am looking for United Airlines and I am heading to Hawaii- no wait, San Francisco. Yes, that’s where I am going. San Francisco. (Though I have no idea why I am going there and I am pretty sure I would prefer Hawaii…) I do know, however, that I have 30 minutes before my flight boards. For some reason my parents are suddenly at my vehicle (well hello there, how did you sneak up on me again? 🙂 )  when I arrive to the airport and as I take off into a run to find the airline, my parents are supposed to be getting things settled with the car and bringing me my luggage.

So there I am at United’s counter, and the lady is trying to sell me this one-way ticket that is way over my price range. I’m racking my brain thinking, didn’t I already buy one- a round-trip one?! Finally she finds my ticket and I am paying to stow my bag. As I am leaving the Kiosk, my father comes up with a smaller version of my purple Liz Claiborne suitcase that could easily be stored on the plane. Thinking that he must have put it all in an easier-to-manage bag for me, I feel filled with good feelings of the cozy sort that someone is taking care of me, and I run back to the counter and tell the lady that I won’t be needing to stow my bag after all. She says no problem and begins typing on her computer to get things switched. I unzip the bag and find all my husband’s dirty clothes and shoes in my bag. Dang it, dad. Didn’t you even look?? It seemed like such an easy task- just bring me my suitcase. Sending my dad back again to the vehicle with those instructions, I head toward my gate.

Remembering I still need my bag as I arrive to the gate and the airline attendant begins boarding call, I run to the escalator and look down to see if my dad is there with my luggage. I  know I can’t go down there or I will have to re-go through TSA and there is no time. I see my dad and I yell to him. He is waving a turquoise cooking pan that looks like a Rachel Ray. Though a nice cooking utensil, it is NOT my suitcase! At this point, the frustration builds to explosive emotions and I begin yelling that the pan is NOT my suitcase and I have to board NOW!

I am pretty sure I yelled this into the real world because my kids are suddenly waking me up in real life and asking me if it is time to get up. My voice fells a little hoarse. I feel exhausted. Tired. My body feels like lead. And I’m irritated.

Getting up, my focus turns to the kids and getting them ready for school, though in the back of my mind, I am feeling pretty dazed and feel like I need to go back to sleep since that entire dream felt like pure stress, extreme pressure and nonstop running.

The signs are all so unclear. The road signs are not in the right places. The Kiosks are in some semblance of order but not really. Everyone around me is doing something but seemingly having trouble getting it right. I am getting through by the skin of my teeth but I don’t have what I need.

In my rational, awake mind, I know I can’t blame anyone for me not having my suitcase or being late to the airport or even the airport’s crazy set-up. It is my life to live and if my father brings me my husband’s dirty work clothing and then a cooking pot as luggage and the airport is set up in cartoon proportions, I should have planned for that… right? I should have just brought my bag with me instead of trying to save time, right? I should have planned for missing signs and crazy airports… right? But… can you ever really plan for some of these things?

But on the other hand of that same statement is the insinuation that you can only trust yourself to get it right and that somehow there is a way to get things “perfect.” And we all know that’s a farce because none of us get it right all the time. And if we think we do, then we are wrong a whole lot more than we realize. Thinking only we can get it right is like having mud all over our face and thinking that we look amazing. The only person we are fooling is ourselves.

What a dream. Missing signs. Stress. Oddness. Unplanned craziness. People who let you down. Letting yourself down. Maybe I made the flight or maybe I didn’t. I don’t think the flight was ever the point. The process was.

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes stressful. Definitely crazy. Sometimes the path we are on makes complete sense and we are filled with such clarity. And sometimes we can’t find any signs, we can’t find the road, everything is zig-zagged, out of place and we don’t feel like we have what we need for the journey ahead of us.

Sometimes the path will be smooth and it will feel like we are gliding- maybe even gracefully waltzing, through life.

Other times we will be at an airport with a pan and no plan. I think it’s fairly easy to see which path I am on right now. 🙂

I suppose I could always find the courage to put that pan on my head (without being mad at those around me for “getting it wrong”) and waltz my way onto the plane, where I will fly into the unknown with grace and humor. It would be way more fun than grumbling and being stressed. And it looks like I’m going for a ride either way…

🙂

Path splits two directions, fork in the road

 

Cancer… I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

All these people with cancer- friends, family… it’s breaking my heart on a most personal level and I know it is breaking yours too. We all know someone… I don’t know if it is 100% avoidable with all the radiation floating throughout our world and the hidden ingredients in our food and products. Labeling lies, false advertising, even the healthiest shoppers can unknowingly fall into some junk because of it.  “Organic” used to mean something important. Unfortunately, that word means less and less to me everyday. Companies interested in making money, not making a pure, healthy product, saw that they could charge more for the label and if you’ll follow this through to DC, you will find lobbyists and changes in what “organic” now means.

So many things in our food and in our products are linked to cancer and it’s still being sold and purchased liked candy in our stores (speaking of candy… huge linkage). Why? 1. We don’t know what we don’t know.

2. Affordability; yeah, we may know that the $20 bottle of shampoo is the best for us and will keep us the healthiest, but sometimes that price just isn’t feasible. But I promise you, we don’t “look smart” like one cheap shampoo company boasts, when we settle. No one looks smart when they settle for less than what’s best for them and their family. And lastly is:

3. We know and we JUST. DON’T. CARE. This one is the hardest for me to see, personally. We bury our heads in the sand because it is temporarily easier but the long term effects of that decision can be catastrophic. It’s the last one that breaks my heart the most.

If we don’t know, we can learn; if we don’t have the income, we can still find ways to live as healthily and affordably as possible. But if we don’t care? If we choose to ignore it because it is easier in the moment…. (or tastes better)….well, there is nothing that can be done for that person, except to keep loving them and hope for the best.

I get it. The junk in food makes the food taste way better. It does. That’s why companies use it- to sell more cheaply and get more sales. I get it. There is no tasty, healthy replacement for some of the foods we have grown to love because they don’t come from any natural source. These companies aren’t playing fair. 

It’s a lot of work to figure out what is and isn’t good for you, all the way down to your toothpaste and toenail polish. I get it. I do. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

And then another question comes to mind, “How do we know who is lying to us and who isn’t?” I totally see where the confusion lies. Advertisements and amazingly cute packaging consume us from all corners and it’s hard to believe that the list of ingredients doesn’t have to list the actual ingredients, right? I know. From someone who truly wants to believe the best in everyone, it is hard to hear about what is really happening because WHO WOULD DO THAT TO SOMEONE?! How do they sleep at night? Girlfriend, I have no idea. But I do know that there are thousands of chemicals in our food and toiletries that do not have to be listed on the “Ingredients” list in America.

This past week was an extremely hard week for me. And during this week, I fell off my farm-fresh, sunshiney. non-GMO wagon. And it tasted pretty good. I mean, I had one of those PB Squared Snickers… and some of those sugar-laden organic treats and… you know what? They all tasted pretty DANG amazing. But you know what else? I am paying for it with my health at this very moment. 

It started as a headache yesterday that just would not go away, no matter what I tried. Then overnight, it turned into a migraine that woke me out of my sleep. Then throughout the day, it hurt so bad I had to stay hidden in the dark with my eyes closed, etc. NOTHING would knock it out. And I still have it but it’s back to a just a bad headache again (thankfully). And you know what? Suddenly those unhealthy things that I chose taste like dust in comparison of how I have been feeling for almost 48 hours. My mood was way worse this week too. Tie together the up’s and down’s of sugar crashes and harmful chemicals that my body isn’t used to anymore, and it made for one crappy mood on top of an already difficult week.

The more detoxed you become from toxins, the quicker your body responds when they re-enter your system. Because it is foreign to our bodies and they actually don’t know how to process it. Because it’s not something natural that our body was created to recognize. Most of us don’t even realize how crappy we actually feel because we have accepted it as our normal. But what if it isn’t?

I’m just a normal person, guys. (In case you thought anything different! LOL!) I LOVE the taste of Reese’s (now switched for Justin’s brand) and I had to do A LOT of research to figure out why on God’s green earth  I would pay that much FOR A BOTTLE OF SHAMPOO!! All I am is somebody who- because I was getting sick from everyday products- took my head out of the sand and figured out what was happening. And now that I know, it would be nothing short of wrong to not tell you too. …Even though I keep kind of wondering if some major company is going to come by and pop my tires! LOL! (Which, granted, would seem far-fetched if this little fish in a big pond hadn’t already received a 6-page letter from a huge company trying to dish me an [ineffective] rebuttal).

Ok. Well. I have already written a ton today and I know most of us don’t enjoy reading huge blogs and just skim for the “good stuff”. 🙂 I will share in my next post and also in  my class this Saturday the most affordable and doable ways to make better choices in the land of things so tasty, they kill. So next time you eat something and think, “This is to die for”, ask yourself… is it really?

DUN DUN DUNNNNNN……. (but seriously)