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On Being Understood

My dear friend Traci over at Compassionate Revolt introduced me to this adorable webcomic, Kimchi Cuddles. It's written by Tikva Wolf and features a regular cast of characters that invite you to explore issues around being poly, queer, and genderqueer in a funny and approachable way. I highly recommend checking it out if any of that interests you. 

So, why post this particular cartoon out of so many? I hear people in relationships talk about communication issues ALL the time, and not just in the therapy office. If you've ever had trouble feeling heard or understood by your partner, then you know what I'm talking about. The issues folks bring to therapy often include feeling misunderstood and experiencing a lack of love, affection, and intimacy. In the above cartoon, the character Marco asks a couple of powerful questions about making demands around love and understanding. The cartoon encourages us to examine our own stuff about getting the love we want.

So I ask:

How do you approach getting the love and intimacy you desire from a partner?

How do you communicate what you need?

Do you encourage your partner(s) to do the same?

If you're not satisfied with the level of emotional intimacy in your relationship(s), what steps can you take to increase honest communication and understanding?  

Feedback is always welcome, so feel free to comment below and share what's working or not working for you right now. Thanks for reading! 

 

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On How Therapy Helps

Are you wondering about the benefits of therapy and if it's really worth it? My awesome friend, Jamie Zane, posted an article yesterday that I feel compelled to share. If you're on the fence about therapy or curious about what you can get from it, follow this link to read about seven ways it can really help.

If you're not the link following type, here are the key points:  

1. Accountability

2. The Relationship

3. Saying It Aloud and Realizing It for the First Time

4. The Educational Component

5. Explore Parts of Yourself Without Judgement or Ridicule

6. Repeating Stories

7. Therapy Can Be Reassuring and Empowering

Now don't you want to go read more

Jamie practices in Asheville, North Carolina at Out of the Woods Therapy

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Take the U.S. Trans Survey

If you are trans or genderqueer (or anywhere else under the transgender umbrella), let your voice be heard! Complete the survey by Monday to help advocates better understand your experience and needs. Click here to take the survey. 

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UPDATE: Austin Trans* Support Group Starting August 18th!

After a couple of months of planning, the trans* support group is scheduled to start in a little over 2 weeks! Our first meeting will be held Tuesday, August 18th. Please see the info below for more information and contact me directly if you want to join. I'm looking forward to meeting you! 

This group is for transgender, gender nonconforming, or genderqueer individuals (or anyone else under the umbrella). The aim is to provide a safe space where members have the opportunity to share their experiences and concerns with one another in a confidential setting. Examples of discussion topics include exploring "coming out" challenges and inquiries related to the process of transitioning, examining experiences of transphobia, identifying strategies for maintaining safety, and developing an identity-affirming support system. Individuals at any stage in their transition are welcome to join. 

Meetings will be held in my office at 601 W 18th St, Austin, TX 78701 and will take place on Tuesday nights from 7:15 - 8:45 pm beginning on August 18th. An initial 15-20 minute phone consultation and interview is required if you are interested in joining the group. Feel free to contact me by phone or email to make an appointment for the consultation. 

The cost for each group session is $40. 

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On Irony & Anxiety

I've been a little anxious about not posting anything since my last post on anxiety. Ironic, right? I moved last week and it's been difficult to focus on much else. My thoughts drift to boxes to be unpacked, corners to organize, and furniture to buy. Craigslist can be really distracting! Truth be told, I'm resisting the urge to check it now for a dresser or storage cabinet. 

And then I remember to breathe. I remember to appreciate my new surroundings and trust that things will get done in time. Everything doesn't have to look perfect tomorrow (even if I really want it to). I calm down and tell myself that my blog post can wait. It's my anxiety about it that's paralyzing, so taking care of it is important to get on with my life. 

So what else can be done to overcome anxiety and get on with living? 

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. There are some great articles out there on self treatment of anxiety. One comes from PsychCentral and includes tips such as: tackle distorted thoughts, trust yourself, and distinguish fact from fiction. To read the full article, click here

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has a helpful list of tips here

If you find that you can't manage anxiety on your own, let friends or family know what's going on and/or talk to a therapist for professional help. 

 

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Everyday Anxiety or Anxiety Disorder?

In first grade, my teacher called me a worry wart. First. Grade. I got stomach aches and bloody noses and worried about stuff an eight year old couldn't control. I dreaded field trips. I called my mom to pick me up in the middle of the night if I tried to spend the night away from home. And I couldn't sleep the night before something big was supposed to happen. Like say, a visit from Santa Claus. I've chilled out a lot as an adult, but I still get anxiety once in a while. For instance, when I decided to go to grad school in a city I'd never been to and take out a bunch of student loans for a social work degree. I'm not ashamed to admit that I lost some sleep before that move. But what is anxiety and why do we get it? 

As it turns out, anxiety isn't all bad. It's what some folks might call a biological imperative. In other words, we need a little anxiety to survive in this world. Anxiety helps us get out of harm’s way and prepare for important events, and it warns us when we need to take action. For example, if I wasn't at all concerned about paying rent, I might end up homeless. 

You might be surprised by the number of definitions that come up when you search for the term anxiety in Google. The gist of it is that anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.  Sometimes it is described as the desire to do something, typically accompanied by a feeling of unease. That definition sounds like it fits with my anxiety about going to grad school. I really wanted to do it, but I was nervous about whether I would do well and if I'd like my new city. 

So what happens when anxiety goes into overdrive? Or persists even after we are physically or emotionally safe? Or keeps your eight year old from spending the night with her best friend? When anxiety interferes with your daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder

According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America (ADAA), the term "anxiety disorder" includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),  panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias. Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread.

So how can you tell the difference between healthy, everyday anxiety (the kind that keeps you sheltered and alive) and an anxiety disorder? 

The ADAA has a chart to help: 

                                                                     

                                                                     

If you identify strongly with items in the right column under anxiety disorder, there is help and hope. Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults and they are highly treatable.

You may have guessed that I did get that social work degree and it turned out pretty great. I'm less anxious now because of actions I take to care for myself. I find a home yoga practice is excellent at relieving stress and anxiety. If you're interested in yoga and have no clue where to start, check out Yoga with Adriene. She's a local Austinite with some amazing and free online yoga videos for all levels.

I also try to remember to slow down and pay attention to my breath. If I notice I'm feeling a bit anxious, I stop and take a few long, deep breaths in and out. Here's a link to six breathing exercises that you might find helpful. 

In my next post, I'll talk about some more tips for managing and overcoming anxiety. If you need help now, please call me or another professional in your area.  I offer potential new clients a free 20 minute consultation. And if you're in crisis or it's an emergency, call 911.  

I'm curious about the ways you cope with anxiety. Feel free to email me or comment below with your own suggestions. 

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On Love and Equality

Today marks a big day for LGBTQ Americans. The landmark ruling by the Supreme Court extended marriage rights to all Americans, ruling that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and that states must honor and acknowledge same-sex marriages from other states. This means a lot for couples that want to marry. They now can gain access to the 1,000+ privileges that marriage affords.

But what about couples that choose not to marry, senior citizens living together, blended and extended families, close friends or siblings living in non-conjugal relationships, or households with multiple partners? We have a long way to go until we get to the point that all have access to the rights and privileges that now belong only to those that are legally married.

With that said, I'm elated by today's decision. Any step toward equality is a step in the right direction, but let's keep aiming for justice.

You can read more about all of this at Beyond Marriage

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Mind Your Mental Health

wise man once told me there are five key things related to improving (and maintaining) mental health:

1.      Psychotherapy that changes the way you think that leads to changes in behavior.

2.      Meditation, yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, or some kind of emotional self-regulation.

3.      Exercise – he specifically mentioned martial arts, but it's really about finding something you love so you're more likely to do it. (If you haven't tried it, boxing or kickboxing is great for relieving stress and anxiety).

4.      Medication (if needed) – it usually takes trying 2-3 different kinds to get it right and staying on it for at least 6-9 months.

5.      Five or more important people in your life that you can talk to or turn to with things. Count them up and cultivate these kinds of friendships in your life.

At different times in our lives, we may need some of these more than others, such as psychotherapy or medication. And some of us may never need medication, while others may need it daily, and that's okay. Other things on this list are ideal for daily practice. No one is perfect, so don't beat yourself up if you don't fit in exercise or meditation one day. For me, the negative self-talk becomes more damaging than the thing I didn't do.

Of these five things, what are you already doing?

Today is a great day to try something new.

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Trans Support & Process Group (Starting June 2015)

This group is for transgender, gender nonconforming, or genderqueer individuals. The aim is to provide a safe space where members have the opportunity to interact in a confidential setting to discuss their experiences and concerns. Examples of discussion topics include exploring "coming out" challenges and inquiries related to the process of transitioning, examining experiences of transphobia, identifying strategies for maintaining safety, and developing an identity-affirming support system. Individuals at any stage in their transition are welcome to join. 

Meetings will be held in my office at 601 W 18th St, Austin, TX 78701. Meetings will take place on Tuesday nights from 6:30 - 8:00 pm beginning in June. An initial 15-20 minute phone consultation and interview is required if you are interested in joining the group. Feel free to contact me by phone or email to make an appointment for the consultation. 

The cost for each group session is $40. 

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