He calls me sister: My dad has dementia

abuThis maybe the first time I’ve written about having a father with dementia. My dad was diagnosed with dementia about 14 years ago. For many, many years it was extremely hard to go see him. I hated to see my father in the condition he was in. I could see his eyes searching for answers as he asked questions and we would provide him answers that he was unfamiliar with or caused more confusion. I hated to see how the spunky, I don’t take no shit, fashionable man was now becoming withdrawn and wearing dickies and a t-shirt as if to be retiring; from life. His spirit seems to be leaving his body.

The hardest part came when we had to put him in a facility about five years ago. He was already depressed but now depression grew as he could not remember any visits from family or friends. Those family and friends visit did become less and less so now he really believed he was all alone. I remember visiting him one day and one of his buddies was sitting with him. He said to my dad, “see you do have family. I told you they come to see you”. I learned that day that he was telling residents that he didn’t have family ☹

This weekend my dad had an episode in which he was not himself. I visited him on yesterday to talk about the incident only to know what I already knew; he would not remember.

Caring for an adult parent can be very hard for a caregiver. Often you feel alone and isolated. You feel overwhelmed with decisions, thoughts, emotions, and trying to balance your own life. Sometimes caregiver guilt seeps in as you find yourself putting off going to see the loved one if they are in a facility or spending less time with your parent because it is hard. For me anxiety was my biggest issue because I was trying to balance making sure everyone was happy and that the right decisions were made or that I would show up to meet everyone’s needs as they related to my dad.

My dad calls me his sister. He sees his daughter but he’s “18” so I can’t be his daughter and be older than him (which is funny every time he says it). So he calls me the next best thing…his sister. Learning this I was sad but I saw the symbolic meaning that he knows that I am so one that cares for him and because I’m not his mom the next person would be a sister.

As his sister I want to share FIVE caregiving tips to help you with self care

  1. Start a daily self care routine. This can be something as simple as meditating for 5 minutes daily; taking a walk alone, getting a hobby, or watching a good movie that has nothing to do with your reality. I like cartoons.
  2. Find a support group for caregivers of parents with… (ie Alzheimer, Dementia, Cancer, Aging, etc.). There is nothing like knowing that you are not alone and can surround yourself around other people who are going through what you are going through. I am a strong believer that people heal through connection.
  3. Ask for help!!!! I was (still am) not a person to ask for help. I would rather get a pulsating headache then ask for help. Over the years this affects your own health when you allow your own issues get in the way. It’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help does not say anything except you care enough to get the best for yourself and meet your caregiving needs.
  4. Accept help. If someone asks to help, accept it. I used to say no thank you. I got it. I got it would lead to more than I can handle and then feeling anxious and later depressed. Again, accepting help does not speak about your character except that you are not stubborn and that you are trying your best to meet your own needs and the needs of your parent.
  5. Take a break. When you feel that things are getting out of control for you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually take a break. There are respite programs out there that will sit with your love one while you take a break. If they are in a residential facility talk to staff. Trust me. They do understand.

Caregiver stress, anxiety and depression is real. It can be managed if you start caring for yourself. Remember how can you take care of others if you are neglecting caring for yourself.

If you or someone you know needs support with managing the caregiver stress, anxiety, and depression please seek care. Here’s a list of resources. I am also a licensed therapist and I do work with families and individuals with Anxiety and Depression and caregiver stress. I will be honored to help. Contact me.

Resources for caregivers

www.alz.org/care

www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com/

www.alzheimers.net

Tahiyya xoxo

STOP

This week I believe everyone’s anxiety has been through the roof. I have really put my DBT training to use and I have been teaching the STOP skill. Not only have I used it with clients, I have actually had to use it for myself. Often we become so quick to react to our feelings and thoughts instead of mindfully responding. STOP is a skill that will help you respond and not react.

So let’s look at exactly what STOP is.

Stop

STOP is a distress tolerance skill that is taught by DBT trained therapists. A distress tolerance skill is a skill that helps an individual that is heading into an emotional crisis and they need help to tolerate the emotional pain. The STOP skill allows one to become mindfully aware of what is going on and to take a different course of action if possible. In other words I like to say it stops you in your track so that you can step outside yourself in order to bring awareness to the situation that is causing distress and bring awareness to yourself.

S= Stop. Freeze in your tracks. Don’t react to the situation just because your emotions is driving you to do so. 

T= Take a step back. It is time to step away from the siutation. Take a break by breathing in through your nose; out through your mouth. Deep calming breaths. Don’t react. 

O= Observe. Take notice of what is going on with you inside and out. What are you feeling? What are your thoughts? What exactly is the situation? What are others doing and saying that are around you. 

P= Proceed mindfully. You should act mindfully; with awareness. Consider your thoughts and feelings when making a decision. You should also take note of the feelings and thoughts of others and the situation before responding. Ask yourself “Which actions will make matters better or worse?”

This skill can be applied to any situation that you believe is distressing such as relationship conflict, urges to self harm or use substances, urges to participate in an addictive behavior, fear provoking situations, anger provoking situations; or any feelings or thoughts that makes you uncomfortable.

As a therapist I help clients put this skill to practice by practicing in session how to use the skill to respond to situations and not react. Reaction is on impulse and usually driven by our thoughts and feelings. Response is with awareness and driven by being mindful and being informed.

If you find yourself struck with an event that is distressing and need to get yourself in check, try the STOP skill. If you find yourself needing some help, hey I am available by phone or teleconference. I provide skills training, coaching, and DBT therapy.  I’m just an email away so schedule today!

 

Tahiyya xo

Resources

DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by M. Linehan.

http://www.tahiyyamartin.com

 

If you like what you are reading and want more; hey follow the blog. I love helping others by teaching new skills, educating and bringing awareness, and just being me…Tahiyya:)

The black woman and depression: It’s not always sadness

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Growing up in the black community crying was not an option. Many families did not know how to embrace emotions because for generations we were not allowed to show emotions. For hundreds of years emotions were a sign of weakness (crying) or short lived (happiness). Over time the one emotion that we were good at showing was anger. Anger showed on our faces even if we were not aware of it. Anger seeped in our conversations even when we tried to be friendly. Anger even showed up in our work as we used it for energy to be productive in the fields. Anger was the go to anger for protection against all the sadness and pain we were feeling in our generational past and even today.

So let’s fast forward to today. In my own personal experience I remember saying “I don’t have time to cry”. That was my go to saying when I was feeling sad, hurt, embarassed, frustrated, or even happy. Crying took time. Crying meant that my sadness was real. So I would quickly resort to being withdrawn and always irritable (another form of anger). I see this a lot not just in clients but also in family, friends, media, characters on television, and on social media posts. Again anger was a way to be protetive of yourself against the vulnerability that came with being sad. However behind that anger was a deeper rooted issue. Depression.

Depression does not always show up as not wanting to get out of bed. It is not always crying for hours or days. It is not always feeling blue. It is not always skipping out on family and friends or things that you love to do. It is not always feeling and admitiing to feeling suicidal (that’s another upcoming post). In the black community depression can show up in those above mention ways but it also shows up as anger. It shows up in spending time with family and friends and feeding your pain with drama to make you more irritable. It shows up as the attitude. It shows up at the dinner table as  we take in more food than we normally would on a good day. It shows up as pretending to have it together. It shows up as emotional suicide as we cope with the red wine every night. It shows up as smoking a blunt or doing a line or two in order to make it through your day. It shows up in yelling  at our kids for simple things. It shows up as being withdrawn from our kids or other love ones. It shows up as the mask that we wear and call it being independent; strong or “that bitch”.

I like to tell people that no matter how we internalize our thoughts and feelings it will show up. Crying makes it obvious and with the stigma behind tears in the black community we dare not cry; not even over spilled milk.  We better get angry! 

We better get help. There are different ways to getting help for your depression instead of getting or feeling angry.

First seek professional help to assess for depression or depressed mood. Talk about what you’re feeling and thinking and how it has affected your day to day living. Sometimes this may include getting a formal diagnosis and medication if the medical professional recommends it (I’m not a doctor so I can’t talk much on medicaiton).

Second find a therapist that specializes in working with depression disorders. There are different types of therapy that can help such as talk therapy, DBT therapy, CBT therapy, and experiential therapy (these are the modalities I use). Your therapist will assist you in developing a course of treatment to help address the underlying issues and develop skills to cope in a healthier manner.

Third utilize your support system. In the black community we also have the stigma surrounding going to therapy and keeping our flaws to ourselves. Let’s end that stigma. It’s time to  connect to those love ones that will be there to help you get through your tough times; make you laugh, and hold you accountable for your treatment. Healthy relationships and connections can lead to healthier recovery.

Fourth develop a routine of getting outside and getting some exercise. This can be something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day. Exercise helps with the whole body; mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Fifth and lastly know that you are not alone. It is okay to not be okay but what’s most important is that you acknowledge what you are feeling and seek the appropriate care.

Ladies we don’t always have to be strong and independent. It is okay to take care of ourselves and get our mental health in check. Sending lots of love and hugs xoxo

 

Tahiyya xo

 

If you or someone you know is depressed and feeling suicidal please get help and call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Other resources

Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting: Terrie M. Williams …

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America: Charisse …

If you live in the Matthews and Concord area and need a therapist please contact me at www.tahiyyamartin.com/contact

 

 

Seeking Safety

Trauma occurs in many different forms from sexual abuse/assault, physical abuse/assault, emotional abuse and neglect, birth trauma, to witnessing and being a victim of acts that are distressing psychologically. When one experiences a traumatic incident they are usually in a crisis and the behaviors that follow can seem abnormal to other people. Often as time goes by the body will begin to respond to the traumatic experience as well (The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van Der Kolk MD is a good book to read to understand this concept). 
In the past, clients that I have treated who have been victims of sexual abuse and physical abuse often talk about both physical and emotional symptoms for example high blood pressure and recurring nightmares or headaches and anxiety. This is very common. The body does keep the score. 
In treating trauma it is very important to first help the client with building self compassion, empowerment, setting clear boundaries for self and developing safety as well as identifying supportive, healthy relationships. No matter the theory or approach used to treat trauma safety has to be established in order for one to trust the process and work on their recovery. 

So here’s just a few tips on helping to get into a safe place when symptoms of trauma become overwhelming 

  • Do some breathing work and focus on your breaths. You want to breathe in to fill the lungs and breathe out to empty the lungs while focusing on your breath. 
  • Close your eyes and visually imagine a safe place. My safe place is being near water. I would close my eyes and imagine myself near flowing water (while working on my breath work)
  • Self talk use self talk to help you deescalte your symptoms (rapid beating heart, hypervigilance, running thoughts, etc) and get into your safe place. You’ll remind yourself that you’re going to your safe place or to slow down your heart beat or to being yourself into the present. 
  • Call your supports. Sometimes hearing a nice familiar voice of someone that can soothe you back to safety can be a great idea. When I’m Recovery or going thorough emotional healing building a support system is very important. 
  • Seek a professional. Therapy is a great place to learn how to manage intrusive thoughts and other symptoms of PTSD when self care is not enough. 

Dealing with trauma and trauma related symptoms can be distressful and challenging but know that you can get through it. You can seek your safe place. 

Tahiyya xo

If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma and the trauma related symptoms please seek help. If you live in NC and would like to make an appointment to see me please call me at 910-434-5325 or email me at counseling.simplelife@gmail.com. 

Seek Safety 

Trauma is my name 

“No one knows the troubles I’ve been through. They don’t see the scars hidden beneath my spirit. They don’t understand the…

💥Hypervigilance 

💥Anxiousness 

💥Running thoughts 

💥Sleepless nights

💥Emotional roller coaster 

💥Irritability 

💥Feeling trapped in my own body

💥Reoccurring nightmare

💥Don’t feel safe

💥Boundaries broken

💥Withdrawn 

💥Walking on eggshells 

💥Loud voices are frightening 

💥Shame 

Instead they see the smile that hides the pain. They see the loving and kind me. The always on top of things me. The beautiful on the outside me. I can’t tell my story. I can’t share my pain. I can’t show my shame. Trauma is my name”

Are you hiding behind the pain of trauma? It’s time to get help. 

Here’s some resources just for you!

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

http://www.mntraumaproject.org/resources-for-clients

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://www.amazon.com/Courage-Heal-Survivors-Sexual-Anniversary/dp/0061284335

Summer makes me lose my shit!

Summer time is quickly approaching. The trees are full and green. The grass grows quickly every week. School lets out for summer vacation. Pools are opening up for kids and adults to splish splash all day. Camps are enrolling children for daily get aways. AND for my house…this means it is time for the kids to be home and utility and grocery bills to go up!!!

I have never been a fan of summer. Although I love sunshine and thunderstorms I hate the heat and humidity in North Carolina. I hate the critters that the summertime brings (aka snakes). There’s nothing like coming home and finding a black snake wrapped around a tree in the driveway and your husband is on the road!!! Oh My God Why!!!!!!

So during the summer my anxiety is on ten  from mommy guilt, wife guilt, work guilt and of course from my phobia of snakes. My cat ran away six months ago so there goes my pet therapy!

Oh sh$@ It’s Summer!!!!


Summer makes me lose my shit!

There’s no relaxing during the summer. The kids take a break not only from school but also from doing chores as well; at least that’s the way I see it. The hubby is gone all week so I’m left to entertain kids who have expensive taste and believe money grow on trees…literally. I am playing the role of working mom trying to build an empire to leave to these kiddos. There’s more cleaning and less me time (gonna miss just sitting alone enjoying the morning after the kids run off to school). And every stick in the yard is a snake waiting to strike (this phobia is serious). 

Mommy guilt. Wife Guilt. Work Guilt. 

Am I good enough?

Are the kids enjoying their summer?

The house isn’t clean enough! Nothing is getting done!

The light bill is going to be high?

Will there be enough food to last for the week? Ugh I have to go back to store!

Am I being a good mom because I’m working during the summer?

I need a break already; we all have cabin fever. Is this bad?

Should I give my son/daugther his medication during the summer?

Should I take my medication during the summer?

I bet my husband is enjoying not being here!

Is that a snake over there! Get the moth balls!!!

and so on and so forth!!!!

Summer makes me lose my shit!

This summer I am choosing not to lose my shit! As a woman, mom, and therapist I completely understand how being a mom during the summer can be stressful. Here’s a few tips to help:

  • Don’t bother with schedules. What does keeping a schedule do for your? Why is the schedule important during the summer? It is okay to not be in control. Relinquish your control over daily operations.
  • Utilize park time. There’s nothing like taking the kids to the park to get out the house for a breather. While the children are playing use this time to do some brisk walking or light exercise to get your body moving and mind clearer or get an escape in a fantasy book. Join a mommy group to meet in the park for play dates. Join a walk and talk therapy in the park to help work on some “mommy issues” while the kids enjoy their play time (mental health is important).
  • Meditation. Since the kids will be home it may be a little difficult to get that morning meditation in that I’m used to getting. Well I plan on making it a family meditation with my youngest son and six month old. Meditation is good for calming any anxiety or thoughts that tend to flow through your mind when you take a quilt trip OR quiet the thoughts of your snake phobia!.
  • Get creative. While the kids are home get creative about the time you are spending together. Understand that not all fun times have to cost you an arm or leg. Mommy groups on Facebook are great resources to find some local happenings in your town to help keep the kiddies entertain.
  • Affirmation. We all tend to question how we are as parents. I do it all the time. As a matter of fact I just did it last week. It is very importnat to do some daily affirmation around being a mom. So what if the house isn’t clean today. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. So what if the kids had to eat a sandwich and some potatoe chips for dinner. It does not make you a bad mom. Ease up on yourself.
  • Self Care. The summer is overwhelming when you have all the kids in the home at one time and you are trying to do your best in keeping everyone sane. However it is most important to take care of yourself. Write down a summer self care routine that will rejuvenate you each week. Post it up on your refrigerator. Do the routine each week.
  • Relax. Don’t be so hard on yourself! You are a good mom. You are a good partner. You are a good You! And all these negative thoughts (like snakes) are in your mind!.

 

Have a funtastic summer!

Tahiyya xo

 

If the summer causes you to lose your shit and you are facing some mommy guilt, wife guilt, work guilt and intersted in working through guilt with some Walk and Talk Therapy in the Park contact me today!  You can reach me by phone at 910-434-5325 or email at counseling.simplelife@gmail.com to schedule a free 15 minute consultation.

***local residents of Matthews and Mint Hill, NC and surrounding areas only***

 

I’m scared

I’m scared…You hit a brick wall while traveling this Road called life. It just got real and now you need to see someone and it needs to be now.


“I’m scared”.

You have all these questions in your head. You have all these thoughts speed racing through your mind. What if they can’t help me? What if I don’t like them? Will I have to tell my secrets? Will things get worse? Cry!!!

“I’m scared”

So you decide to treat the issue yourself. You self soothe or better yet self medicate with your choice of drug, alcohol or process. A nice way to put addiction. It works for a while but when you’re off your “high” the problem returns.

“I’m scared”

Finally you give up and give in and decide to give therapy a try but still holding on to that pacifier. You’re not sure how things will go so it’s your back up plan.

“I’m scared”

But things take a turn. The therapist is really nice. The therapist offered you a space of safety to work on healing and recovery. The therapist helps you to get out of your head and really feel the emotions so you can now do some problem solving and get back on track with living healthier, happier AND without the pacifier.

“I’m not scared. I’m recovering. I’m happy”

Taking the first step to therapy can be scary. But it’s always worth a try.

Tahiyya xo

If you’re ready and looking for a place of safety to address the brick walls in your life or to remove the “pacifier” to stop self soothing and medicating. Please contact Tahiyya Martin here. She is a licensed professional counselor associate and licensed clinical addiction specialist associate in North Carolina. She offers free 15 minute phone consultations.

(Photos: All rights reserved. Photos may not be reproduced or used in any manner). 

The dark is my light. A look at depression 

The dark is my light. It’s where I’m comfortable. It’s where I’m allowed to be nothing, do nothing, say nothing. The dark is my light. 

The dark is my light. It’s where my soul cries out from pains of my past. It’s where my secrets gather around me to choose which one to think about today. The dark is my light. 

The dark is my light. It’s where my inner voices meet up to congregate about my past, my pain, my failures, my life. It’s where I’m warmed by my blanket and I lay here lonely but not alone. The dark is my light. 

Sincerely 

Depression 😔

Depression can make you feel like the dark is your light because you’re trapped in the dark and light can’t seep through. But it can. 
Getting help for depression isn’t easy. Heck getting help for anything isn’t easy but it is doable. 

The first step to battling depression is to know that you have depression. That includes denial about depression. 

The second step is to seek therapy. A therapist can help you with identifying the origin of your depression as well as help you with regulating that depressed mood using mindfulness and cognitive techniques. In therapy you will develop a plan of action to increase your awareness of your depressed symptoms, acknowledge that they are there, and then get active in redirecting those thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and urges. 

The third step is to get active in life. Exercise daily. Enjoy the sunlight. Meditate and journal your thoughts. Smile when you’re happy and cry when you’re sad. It’s ok. Honor who you are. Be present in the moment. 

If you or someone you know struggle with depression or the dark is your light or you want to know more about how to start the third step please call and schedule an appointment with me at 910-435-5325
If you live out of state and is looking for a therapist closer please use search engines like Psychology Today and Good Therapy to find a qualified therapist. 

Get help. It’s ok. 
Tahiyya xo

Resources
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

1-800-273-8255

https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/resources

It starts young…

Originally published in June 2015 on victoriouswomen.com

It starts young

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It was my thirteenth birthday and he slammed my head up against a car. No adults were around just other children. No one said anything. It was another incident I kept to myself.  No bruises.

I was about fourteen when he pushed me up against a metal fence. I got upset and pulled off his chain he gave me and threw it over the fence and went home. No one was around. I didn’t say anything. I kept it to myself. No bruises.

It was the summer of my fifteenth year and I found out I was pregnant.

As time went on the physical abuse got worse. I was slammed in bushes, slapped in the face, choked but no bruises. I had yet to reach my 18th birthday.

My 18th year and I’m almost an adult. I have a two year old son and a secret. The abuse continued throughout the years. I never questioned why. I knew why. Well at least I thought I did. He was jealous. He was insecure. He wanted to control me. He was just mean. I stayed. I became used to being mistreated but I knew one day it will all end in due time.

A second child later and in our own place things was getting worse. There was hair pulling, hitting me with a baby in my arm, snatching my children from my arms, yelling at the children, threatening both me and the children, and still the slapping, choking, and slamming against property. My first bruise. I remember trying to explain to my father that my busted lip was a result of me biting my lip. He didn’t believe me because he knew all too well. He abused women so trust me he knew. I lied to protect him from my father however at the same time I wanted my father to kill him.

Time goes on and it doesn’t end. At this point I am tired. It has gone on now for fourteen years. I began to fight back. It made things worse but I wanted to fight back. The inner strength in me fought back.

Three children later, almost 15 years later, the last time occurred. Infidelity became a huge issue and I was done. No more praying to God for him to die or I die. No more running away to other states and he find me. No more. He slammed me on the concrete and lifted his leg to stomp me. We fought in front of his friends and our children. No one stopped him, well only one tried but to no avail. The look on my children faces and the screams that were coming out of their mouth was my final NO MORE.

I prayed that night to end it all, to remove him from my life. I told him we were done and I wasn’t going to do this again. He went to jail the next month, not because of me. That was my answer to my prayer. I got out. I got out. I got out after fourteen and half years.

Many asked why I didn’t leave. Sometimes I ask myself why I didn’t leave even after 8 years. Well I was afraid. I had children. My esteem was knocked to the ground because of emotional abuse. I was ashamed because I couldn’t believe I allowed this to happen to me. I felt trapped. All of these thoughts played a huge part of me not leaving. It plays a huge part of many women not leaving. There are many reasons why women don’t leave.

But the purpose of this blog is to say it starts young. There are too many young girls that are in the situation I was in. It is our secret. Many times these young girls go on to marry these same abusive men. It is our secret. Please speak to your daughters about self love, abuse, and telling someone. It can save their lives.

My story

Tahiyya xo