Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Why Do I Bother?

I try very hard to do whatever I am doing with ethics and passion. Sometimes, though, that has to be balanced with realism. Watching out for burnout is also important.

My cousin challenged me to push the system this week and I told her, “Girlfriend, are you kidding me? I do almost every week of my life!” She is younger than me and in graduate school. She is fired up to fix this broken world and all of its broken systems and I will be her loudest cheerleader! There is no way I am going to damper her enthusiasm by suggesting she get a helmet so she doesn’t get concussions from beating her head on the wall.

Besides, what if she is one that can actually make it happen?

I had a client tell me in her frustration with the mental health system that had failed her, that we (mental health professionals) all needed to march to Albany and demand change from the higher-ups. (She is much younger than me!) I told her that I am just the type of person to do that. And I would if I thought it would help but I truly don’t think it would. The brokenness starts at the top and then trickles down.

On a much smaller scale, I had a frustrating weekend with another job. I did my usual OCD arrangements with several different parties. I had everything organized and the details mapped out. I group texted all the parties involved and told them all the particulars. I even did a call out for specific details that related to specific people.

Then over the next two to three days, I just started getting the questions. Hey! What’s the plan? I just copied and pasted the text and sent it again to him.

Hey! I was looking at the contract and this isn’t supposed to happen. Oh, well look at the text and the part that is particularly spelled out and tagged with your name about that. It absolutely is supposed to happen.

On and on.

Not a big deal in the picture of life. But when you are already exhausted and worn out, you go the extra mile and do an excellent job, and others aren’t even bothering to read the texts, it gets aggravating. While I’m doing the actual job, I’m being interrupted. And when I’m tapped out, things feel more annoying than usual.

I’ve tried many times in my life to say, “Screw it. Why should I try so hard when other people don’t do their jobs?” But I can’t. Thanks to my upbringing, I have to give it my best anyway.

Thanks a lot, Dad.


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Balance

Life is a big yo-yo most of the time. Most things are little up and downs and some things are a bit more dramatic. I was having a really rough time for a few weeks in December and then a few weeks in January. It hit me this weekend though that I actually had a decent week!

Getting to see your busy therapist an extra session during the week

Having your meds tweaked just a bit but it seems to help

Seeing a dear friend from high school who I really admire

Getting feedback from my consulting job that my dumb jokes are “making a difference” for staff and patients alike at the cancer hospital. (This was a complete surprise because my job is just to do interviews. Sometimes we make the biggest difference when we aren’t trying to.) And YOU think my jokes are bad. (They actually are.)

Getting a bowl of soup at Tim Horton’s and having them give it to you and say, “Sorry. We are out of spoons. Would you like some bread to soak it up?”

Asking for a half tea/lemonade at Tim Horton’s and having them say with disdain, “We don’t have lemonade here.” Sorry for asking. You have a big sign right there that says you do.

Asking for half sweet/unsweet iced tea instead and having them say with disdain, “We can’t do that.” For cripes sake. I’ve gotten that from Tim Horton’s for years.

Having your client say, “I just need to tell you something that has been bothering me. You really talk too much in sessions. You use up too much of my time.” I can’t even be offended because I know it’s true. I’m thinking of the hundreds of clients over the last almost 30 years that have wanted to say that to me but haven’t had the guts.

Now I’m just wondering if watching the Buffalo Bills will be a laugh or a cry. The ups and downs are normal for life. Most are small, but the Bills game will be a ginormous thing here whether they win or lose. I don’t even watch football normally, but I won’t miss a minute of this one.

Fingers crossed!


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Faking Humor

I have to admit that refractory depression, a worldwide pandemic, a local shutdown, a breakup, parenting, financial stress, broken phones, computers, and kitchen ceilings, and being there for really intense pain (for example, a family that lost TWO children in the last TWO months, etc., etc., etc.), I have found myself worn out. My latest cry in the morning is, “I don’t know how to do this another day.” I really don’t. Ask my therapist. I had two sessions with him this week.

One of my jobs is dealing with some higher-ups in a hospital down south. My contact there told me I could use this. “Elasticity limit.” Perfect, perfect description. Like so many others, this rubber band has stretched further than I ever believed possible. But even a rubber band eventually breaks. And it hurts like a **** when it snaps.

So I’m just going to tell dumb jokes.

I went to the dentist and he told me that I needed a crown. I said, “I know, right???”

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhinoceros? (Make sure you say this answer out loud or you won’t get it.) “Elifino!”

Did you get that email I sent you with “canned meat” in the subject line? You didn’t? Thank God. Don’t open it. It’s Spam.

What did the left eye say to the right eye? Between you and me, something smells!

I changed that last one to this: What did the left cheek say to the right cheek? Between you and me, something smells! I figured that was a double entendre which I should get extra credit for.

That’s all I got.


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When Travel Was Allowed

A trip down memory lane. Yes, that was a pun. I can’t go to some sunny destination so I thought maybe I would remember a really amazing trip I made in 1991 with my former husband John, my parents, and my aunt. The latter three are now deceased.

It was one of those opportunities that only come once in a lifetime for most of us. Six weeks in an RV traveling around the west. The scenery and experiences were incredible.

It started in Colorado when we went to the Garden of the Gods. We visited a great-aunt there who I had only vaguely heard of. It was beautiful. One day we drove around in the car and experienced sun, rain, and hail, all in one afternoon.

Next stop was the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It’s hard to describe but one time we were sitting on the edge and we saw a rescue helicopter. It looked like a tiny toy. Until we say that, we didn’t even have the perspective of just how massive it was.

One of my lifetime memories occurred there. As I get older, I sometimes wonder if I really remember things factually, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

John and I were sitting and watching the sunset. Several other families were doing the same thing. There were a few people who spoke different languages. It was eerily silent as the sun slowly went down. It was breathtaking. Someone started to sing How Great Thou Art. Everyone joined in, some in their native language. Even my atheist husband sang. It still gives me chills to remember it.

Badlands, South Dakota
Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

The Badlands and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota did not disappoint. Although I admit Mt. Rushmore took about five minutes to see.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming- buffalo

Yellowstone National Park, WY was incredible in its own way. Bubbling puddles of water and mud were everywhere. It was fascinating. We saw the most animal life there. There were deer, elk, coyotes, and buffalo. One buffalo slowly walked down the middle of the road oblivious to anything other than enjoying his leisurely stroll. The cars were backed up for miles in both directions.

By far though, the most memorable moment on the trip had nothing to do with scenery and everything to do with relationships. We were at a camp site and there was a small pond. Mom and I decided to venture out in a canoe. Of course, neither of us had ever been in one before.

I wish I was capable enough to post a video of it. It was classic. Dad was trying to help us with his typical impatience and disgust. You would have thought we were battling Niagara Falls and all he could do was keep yelling at us two numbskulls.

When we finally managed to move the damn thing, Mom starting screaming out of fear. It was hilarious.

Me? Well, I’m recorded asking, “So how do you oar?” And then in true Darcy Thiel form, I hit my head with an oar.

John was a smart ass but I have to say his narration behind the camera was award winning. He tried to answer my question by telling me to slap the water with the oar. Of course I did it and of course that drenched Mom. He then told Mom to hit me in the head with the oar. Now that wasn’t necessary because I had already done that.

Dad finally went from annoyance to laughing when we ran into another canoe so he had to walk all the way around the pond to get to us. Did I mention that the other canoe was just sitting at the water’s edge? It wouldn’t get out of our way.

I know things are not the same in writing, but I hope I’ve shared a smile with you.


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Gift Giving

I don’t know if you have ever heard of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, but it basically says that the millions of ways we show love boil down to five basic groups. One of them is “gifts”, which I scored a big, fat zero on it when I took the test.

I feel bad for the people whose love language is gifting if they have to interact with me. Some people are truly great at it. They give thoughtful, loving gifts that are personal and meaningful. It hurts them when they are unable to express love in their language.

I keep trying slowly take gifts out of Christmas. Besides my small efforts to be a pseudo-minimalist, I am also an organizer. As I get older, clutter has gone from something I don’t like to something I get completely anxious around.

Stuff, more stuff.

Americans are consumers, big time. Buying for people becomes so hard because frankly, almost everyone of any age has more than they can possibly use or need. But a couple of things happened this year that made me happy.

It started with my friend Nina. I arrived at an appointment with her and she handed me a wrapped gift. Oh no! We don’t normally exchange. I know you aren’t supposed to feel this way, but I thought I had better run out and get her something. Let’s face it. We all feel a sense of “obligation” to reciprocate.

When I opened it, we smiled and laughed and I thought about how I wish every gift was this way. A few years ago, I gave her a dress I was “done with” and she loved it. I had recently commented on a shirt she wore and there it was wrapped up and given to me. I absolutely loved it. No money. Just thoughtfulness. It felt great!

Then my friend mailed me a package with her mom’s coloring books. She died this year so the holidays were going to be tough for my friend and her family. I love to color. Not only did her memory pay forward to me, but I also shared them with a few clients who are trying new ways of coping while they are required to be alone. The passing on to me was passed on to several others as well.

My friend told me about her adult son listening to a family member who needed a certain kind of water bottle and put it on her Christmas list. He knew his family had a couple so he picked the best one and wrapped it up for her. She loved it.

Instead of “more,” what a lovely idea it is to “pass it on” instead. No extra money. No extra consumption. Just outright sharing. I think Christmas would be better across the country if this idea caught on.

LESS IS MORE!


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Return Guest Author Jennifer Scott

Image via Pexels

“Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression.  A single mom, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.”

4 Ways to Navigate a Significant Life Change with Your Significant Other

Anytime you and your partner go through a major shift in your daily routine, it can be challenging for your relationship, as well as your individual lives. However, it’s also one of the best opportunities you will get to make your relationship better. Not only does it give you the chance to know each other more deeply, but it also allows you to learn ways that you can better show your commitment to one another.

So, whether you’re self-quarantined for the next few weeks, moving in together for the first time, or going through some other significant change, here are some tips and resources to help you turn it into the best thing ever for your relationship:

1. Get Healthy Together

Now is the perfect time to think about making healthy changes together. This could mean preparing healthy meals, boosting your workout routine, or seeking therapy.

Cooking for Two: 33 Healthyish Meals for You and Your Boo

Use Fitness Trackers to Enhance Your Workout Sessions

12 Ways to Make Your Home Healthier

Reach out to Help for Healing for Compassionate Counseling

2. Make Time for One Another

No matter how busy life gets, it’s crucial that you make time for each other. Here are just a few methods you can try.

Tried-and-Tested Strategies That Busy Couples Use to Spend More Time Together

The Key to Communication in Relationships

Watch a Movie Together To Improve Your Relationship

3. Have Fun

When making plans to spend quality time together, think about activities you both enjoy, or try something new. These resources offer fun ideas including games and hobbies.

Why Laughter Is The Most Important Thing In A Relationship

Top 17 Fun and Romantic Games for Couples

15 DIY Projects for Couples

100 Hobbies For Couples To Do Together

4. Honor the Need for Solitude

Taking some time to yourself is just as important as being with your significant other. If you’re not sure how to go about this, refer to these suggestions.

The Art Of Solitude In Relationships (And Why You Need It To Thrive)

How to Get Better at Spending Time Alone

Things To Do By Yourself

8 Things to Know About Meditation for Health

A significant life change can be the best thing ever for your relationship. Make a point to get healthy together, spend time with one another, add fun to your relationship, and prioritize time in solitude. And if you need some outside assistance, consider taking up couples counseling, offered by Help for Healing. Not only will you be a stronger couple, but you will also be happier individuals.

Thank you Jennifer, and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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Planned aloneness

I mentioned doing a silent retreat in one of my blogs recently. After my friend Summer called and laughed hysterically, I found out that retreat centers are all closed due to COVID. (Honestly, I don’t really get that. You are isolated and silent. How is that dangerous?)

This weekend is my annual Magical Misery Tour. That means it is the “anniversary” of my husband’s death. This year marks a decade. I can’t even believe it has been that long. Normally, my girl peeps and I go away for the weekend. For whatever reason (I blame it on COVID) I only want to go for one night. Anything more than that just seemed overwhelming.

Then it occurred to me that I can go a day earlier by myself and spend the night alone. That is the plan.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I can’t be alone in a room. It’s not that. But I am definitely high-level extrovert. When I hit my low points, it’s when I don’t have a significant other- that kind of lonely. That is not the case this year.

However, I also have lots of intense things swirling in my mind. People to worry about, take care of, big decisions to make, and so on. When I really sit with my thoughts, they can get pretty strong. That’s when I need my peeps. First, because I’m a verbal person who needs to run things by others. Sometimes it’s several times with several people before I’ve worked it through. Secondly, if my thoughts are about myself and they are painful, I also need to touch base.

My goal is to spend time solely with myself and do my own self-soothing if and when I need it.

I plan to:

Enjoy the beautiful foliage and lakes

Paint my nails (without having to rush and ruin a couple because I’m trying to do something while they are drying). Won’t it be nice to just do it leisurely and enjoy it?

Play my favorite solitaire games (without being paranoid that someone will walk by me and think that I am being lazy)

Color (without feeling like I’m doing it to balance the chaos of my day)

Watch home movies. This will be a high-risk activity. My son turned 18 this summer and he’s “been so over” his mom for at least 8 years. We were incredibly close when he was small. I love looking at memories of him. It will be super great to do that. And it will also spark a lot of tears. I know it will. I grieve his childhood being over. I grieve all the mistakes I made after his dad died when he was only 8 years old. I grieve that we can never rewind and squeeze them all over again before they thought it was gross to be hugged.

Journal. I haven’t journaled in years. I’m just taking a notebook and seeing what happens. I’m going to think about a lot of those issues that trouble me. This is also a high-risk activity. I am not afraid of honestly looking at myself. I will take the truth, no matter how difficult it might be. But I can also come undone and need my folks to ground me again.

Wish me luck. I may end up calling someone and that won’t be the end of the world. But I am truly going to try and suck it up and rely on myself. It’s only for 24 hours. I can do it, right?


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Are You a Lead Foot?

gray rock formation
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

I hate to admit it, but I have fallen over the COVID cliff. I’m quite familiar with bouts of depression. I am quite familiar with severe bouts of depression. This is similar, but somehow there is another element to it that I can’t put my finger on.

Earlier this week, the only way I could describe it, was to say I felt like I had lead feet. That is ironic because I’ve had so many issues with my feet and surgeries. Then I realized that my whole body pretty much feels like that. I’m certain someone put a brick into my head when I wasn’t looking. My chest often feels the same.

Every step I made that day felt like I was dragging heavy metal with me. No matter what the task.

Paralleling that, it seems like my clients have similar diseases. Many come in and melt on the couch. They cry, look like they’ve aged, and say gut-wrenching things like, “Then I realized, why am I even here anymore?”

One inspiring ray of sunshine came in this week. A family that spans four generations and is spread across the USA have scheduled Zoom meetings every three weeks. It’s a book club. They are reading “White Supremacy” a few chapters at a time and then discussing it together.

Wow!

You can get your family to agree to that? And they actually read it? And get on the Zoom? And discuss things without yelling at each other?

This topic comes up quite often in my home and in my office. There are usually bitter disagreements, cutoffs, and plenty of anger. No matter what your position is, what could it hurt to read a book together? Even if you disagree with the opinions in it, to put the effort into reading and the dialogue afterward is still a unifying gesture.

I have to admit, a good share of my misery has to be sleep deprivation. I can’t seem to get to sleep at night. I find myself awake at 1 am… A few days later it is now 2 am. Last night, it was 4:45 am until I fell asleep. Getting three and a half hours of rest a night is just not enough. No wonder I have headaches and no motivation.

But I do eventually get up when I can garner the strength to move my heavy body (literally and figuratively). I see my clients and am present with them. I make phone calls, do computer work, deal with electricity going out, the internet going out, and being placed on hold for 1 hour and 52 minutes only to find out I have to start all over again the next day. (That is a literal, non-exaggerated number!)

And the usual gratitude reminders spurr me on. Literally every person in the world is going through this. Many folks have it much, much worse. Many deal with grief and loss, and mourn loved ones who died alone.

I guess we all keep hanging in there and figure out how to get through each day, even though none of us knows what the heck we are doing.

I will be there for you. I’m hoping you will reciprocate!


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Accident Prone

I’m not sure why I am so accident-prone. I’ve been clumsy since I can remember. Is my brain too pre-occupied? Am I overtired? Perhaps I am too much in a hurry. Is it because I’m always on the move?

It’s probably all of the above. Maybe at the same time, maybe for different incidents.

This weekend I finally made it to my boyfriend, Tim’s cabin. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. When it is finally finished, it will be amazing.

Before we left, I had Tim help me pick the raspberries. Every day we have to go out because they are in full swing. He was holding the container for me which is much more efficient than me doing it myself. Except when you turn and hit the container and every single raspberry falls in the grass. We crawled around on our hands and knees until we got them all.

Next, I had to get my pillbox packed. I have one of those two-week ones so I don’t have to fill it as often. When I grabbed it, it dropped on the ground. Every single pill (4 per day) scattered on the kitchen floor. Son of a bitch!

I put the container on the counter and finally got all the pills in the right slot. When I tried to shut the cover… Yep. Spilled one of the weeks all over the counter AGAIN. Didn’t even bother swearing this time.

We pulled into the cabin site a few hours later and immediately Tim helped our friends back up their camper to the most level spot. Within five minutes of being there, I hit my leg on the rusty fire pit. That was lovely. Luckily, my friend had a first aid kit.

Let’s see. What else happened? I think everyone had a favorite story of the weekend.

While walking on the property, the uneven terrain was sometimes wet. It is covered by fosses and ferns of different textures. I was doing ok until my left foot got sucked down (about 6 inches I would guess) and I knew if I tried to step up, my sneaker would be gone. Swallowed in who knows what.

Luckily, my brain kept up and I stood still. Those damn sneakers were the kind my podiatrist wanted me to wear post-surgery. They were expensive and the only pair I have.

With help, I finally escaped with my sneaker intact. It was soaked and full of water though, so I couldn’t wait to get back to the cabin and get it off.

Then there was the time I was sitting in the lawn chair with a cold beer in the drink holder and my cell phone sitting next to that. For no apparent reason whatsoever, I lost my balance and the beer fell over. Got my phone wet and more importantly my clothes. Last pair of shorts I had, beer-soaked. This made my friend giggle.

Another favorite was when we were packing up. I had our two metal marshmallow sticks in my hand and also an empty glass bottle for recycling. Someone said, “Hey Darcy! Be careful. There is a bee in that bottle.”

Now they didn’t yell and they didn’t sound alarmed. But I glanced at the bottle, saw the bee, and freaked out. When I jumped, the metal poker scratched my thigh. When there was no blood (unlike the time I nailed the fire ring) my other friend giggled.

He also suggested I sit in the air-conditioned camper and relax. I thought that was a great idea so I went inside and shut the door. At least I tried to, but I pulled the plastic slider right off the door. Thank God it was an easy fix but I was definitely on a roll.

The last event of the weekend was to go to the watering hole again to cool off. I decided to stay put. The group agreed for safety’s sake that I just wait at camp. Who knew what could come next.

I’m sure if Tim and my friends read this, they will remember more stories I have forgotten. Never a dull moment.

Sigh. I can never lose my sense of humor.


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Afraid of Writing

It’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged, which is unusual for me. I blame three weeks of that on having my grandkids with me. There is some truth to that, but the bigger truth is that I’m scared to write.

I write from my heart. From my experiences. It’s always been that way. I’m not good at making stuff up or having someone give me a topic. It has to mean something to me.

I’ve had folks tell me to write and not post it. While journaling has been a powerful therapeutic tool for decades, I’m also an extreme extrovert. Things don’t mean half as much until I share it with someone.

I’ve learned over the years (the hard way) that when you put something out there, you invite people’s opinions whether you want them or not. Going public requires being willing to have people disagree with you.

In theory, I’m totally fine with agreeing to disagree with people.

Something is different now. I thought the last election caused a lot of division. But this pandemic makes that look minor. As if that wasn’t enough, the protests and riots started. (I’m not commenting on the necessity of it, just the unfortunate timing.)

Talk about division.

I tend to try to find truth on every side of a situation. I think the way you talk sometimes is more important than the content (sometimes). I’ve been preaching about communicating without being divisive for quite a while.

Something is different now.

I wonder if it’s just my perception, but if my fear is coming out these days, it’s the aloneness I feel because I don’t know how to connect with people like I used to. Even people I’m close to.

It seems like the polar opposites have moved miles further apart when I didn’t even think that was possible. No matter what I would say, I know people I care about will be pissed off or offended. Side A. Side B. And the worst would probably be saying anything remotely in the middle.

I think that would be hated most of all.

So I haven’t blogged.

I hope it’s ok to blog about not blogging.