Turning Worry Into Wellness
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Elizabeth Dossman, LPC-S
July 24, 2017  "I've Got It All Together"

We all want to present to the world our “best self”. This can be wanting to appear intelligent, beautiful, funny, spontaneous, organized and most importantly….Having It All Together. We each have our individual ways of putting our “masks” on every day. This can look like makeup, a power suit, a statement necklace, or Spanx. For me it’s my high heels. I feel my most confident, professional self in a good pair of heels. When I’m hanging around my friends in my jeans, t-shirt and Converse I have my “mask” off. But when you see me at a networking event or a continuing education class or at work, you can bet I will have my I’ve Got It All Together Heels. So, what is your mask? Is it working for you? Do you fear that if you took your “mask” off people would not respect you? Or love you? Or look up to you? Do you forget to take your “mask” off to your friends and family?

Our mask can be useful to us, but it can hinder us from being vulnerable and real with the people that matter to us most. How often do you answer a question from a friend when they ask “How are you?” with a quick “Fine, How are you?” What would it be like to be honest with a friend and say “I know I’m going to be fine, but today I’m really down about a presentation I feel I flubbed at work.” Does the idea of that statement bring a flutter of fear to your chest? Are the excuses already coming to your mind about why you couldn’t possibly say that response?

I challenge you to take your mask off one small statement at a time. Feel the rush of fear and step through it. See if the world falls apart or if your friend stops loving you. I’ll go first. As a therapist, I often try to hold myself to a higher standard. I mean…I know better right???? So here is my big leap of taking my mask off.  

My day overall went pretty well, but when I was setting up my LinkedIn page my inner dialogue took a turn for the worse. You know how LinkedIn always wants to connect you with new people? Well today it asked me Do you know… and it was my Ex! Are you kidding me? How does LinkedIn know about my personal life from 15 years ago? We don’t have any mutual connections! Has LinkedIn been following me around all these years? See, this is why I don’t want to be on social media! 

After the rush of indignant anger, then came the smack of fear to my throat. What if I do connect? What will the Ex think about my life? What judgements will be made? What if the Ex thinks I’m a stalker or worse refuses to connect. This seems too risky!  
Then came the overwhelming blanket of shame. I am a happily married woman and I am getting tweaked by my Ex??? I shouldn’t have these feelings! I must be a horrible person!  

So, I quickly logged off LinkedIn to stop the roller coaster of emotions. When shame hits me it usually comes with the desire to hide under my desk and I really didn’t have time for that today. 

I can’t believe I just told you that! UGHHHH. Exhale. I said it. Is the world still ok? Do you still respect me? Maybe I need to get my heels back on!

Elizabeth Dossman, Licensed Professional Counselor
                                                             Austin, Texas
August 28, 2017  "Hurricane Harvey"

Currently Houston is still under attack from Hurricane Harvey and it is expected to dump more rain on the already flooded area. Many south-eastern towns where it made landfall are beginning the long process of trying to determine the damages and see if they can return to their homes. My heart goes out to all those that are struggling through this natural disaster. Like many of you, over the weekend I could not stop watching the news, checking the weather channel, reading twitter and reaching out to friends and family in Houston. The desire to watch can be a way of getting helpful information, finding out how to volunteer or it could be our brains way of trying to anticipate the future damage. After 9-11, research found that many adults were watching approximately 7 hours of television coverage which led to heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Children can be very susceptible to this as well. 

If you are experiencing anxiety and stress while watching the news coverage you might benefit from reducing the amount of time that you are in front of the television. Another tip would be to stop watching coverage about 30 minutes to an hour before your bedtime. Reading updates as opposed to watching videos/television can also help reduce the anxiety that you are feeling.

Besides my focus on the news, I am also feeling helpless. My donation doesn’t seem “enough” and while I completed the training to be a shelter volunteer they haven’t reached out to me yet. I tried to donate a dog crate to Austin Pets Alive and they were already full of crates. On one hand I am so proud of the Austinites that are jumping at the opportunity to help our fellow Texans, but on the other hand I just feel “stuck.” I feel guilty that I could come to work today and “move on with my life” while so many are still in the depths of despair. 

 Some of the tools that I am using are to recognize and name my feelings. Then give them the space that they need. For instance, “sadness” is an appropriate and necessary feeling that I am letting hang out for a while. “Guilt” unfortunately is based on a negative belief system so I “reality check it” by asking myself a few questions. Have I done anything “wrong”? Nope. Is it helping me be the kind, compassionate woman I want to be? Nope. So Guilt gets to move along. “Compassion” and “Caring” and “Empathy” all get to stay. Hopefully I will be able to help with the efforts soon because I know it’s a long journey and I can be ready for when I’m “called.”

                                                       September 27, 2017  
                                                            Do I have a Drinking Problem?                                                                                               

Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease. In the beginning, it looks like fun with friends, a glass of wine after a long day. Where can it lead to? It is different for everyone. As a therapist, when determining if someone is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism we don’t ask if they are drinking out of a paper bag or an expensive bottle of wine. We don’t require you to smoke a certain amount of methamphetamine's or take a certain amount of pills to say you might have a problem.  

For my Aunt, her alcoholism took her to the “bitter end of death.” My Aunt was very clear that she was an alcoholic and that the disease and her circumstances would just get worse. It was evident to all how this would end for her. As the years passed by her health got worse. She struggled with neuropathy (numbness in her in feet and hands) which caused her to drop glasses and fall often. Her eyesight started to fail so she couldn’t text or use her phone easily. Luckily, she had given up most of her driving due to a broken car that she could never quite get around to getting fixed, so she wasn’t in danger of killing others. She couldn’t keep food down or get any nutrients due to her main food staple being Dominoes’ Pizza.  In between the first and second family intervention I asked her how she saw herself in the next 5 years and she calmly stated “dead.”  Your story or your friends story or your loved one’s story doesn’t have end like my Aunts.

If you think you might have a problem or an unhealthy relationship with a substance, reach out for help. You don’t have to drink or use a “certain amount” to be an alcoholic or addict. As a therapist, when starting to work with someone who is curious about their alcohol or substance use we mainly we ask:

Have you ever felt you should cut down on your use?

Do people bother you about your use?

Do you ever feel guilty or bad about your use?

Have you ever had to use the substance first thing in the morning to reduce symptoms of detoxification?

You don’t have to be ready to stop your use. Most therapists will take you where you are and won’t pressure you. If you think a loved one might have a problem and need to talk about it, reach out and get help. You don’t have to be alone.

Alcoholics Anonymous:  https://www.aa.org/

Cocaine Anonymous:  https://ca.org/

Heroin Anonymous:  http://heroinanonymous.org/

SMART Recovery:  http://www.smartrecovery.org/

Rational Recovery:  http://www.rational.org/

Alanon for Families & Friends of alcoholics and addicts:  https://al-anon.org/