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Stay.Right.Here.

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Life seems to be serving up the same lessons that I seem to either forget or think I will eventually master.  In this week’s servings there was nothing over the top out of the ordinary, but none-the-less the challenges of parenting and adulting and relationshiping drudged up old responses that I thought I had out grew.  Just like an old, familiar space my responses were filled with anxiety and worry and a nagging voice that I-am-just-not-doing-enough and that I-will-never-be-enough.

These are the ghosts of my past who somehow fill my present and urge me to problem solve a future that still has yet to become.  

And so I do the old patterns that I’ve learned do not serve me well and this is that I try to control for the circumstances in which I have no control.  Usually how this looks is I try to out do myself– be better– be perfect– be a perfect mom– present a competent, well-put-together adult self for co-workers, be the best listener to my friends, have the patience of a saint for my children, stave off exhaustion or weariness, appear brave, commit to being a giver and resist being a receiver…

I know this is usually a fruitless, soul draining endeavor for me.  I know that the more I live in my head to be perfect and to present perfection the less I live authentically.  Authentic for me is to be in the moment– open to whatever life offers so that I can learn and grow.  Authentic also means that I am where I am… I’m giving what I have… I’m receiving what I can hold and I’m listening in the here and now.

And I’ve learned in the four decades of my life that the efforts to control exhaust me and wear me thin yet, I found myself doing this by default– just easing into this old pattern without giving it a second thought.  In my 20’s and 30’s this likely would go on for a long time, but thanks-be to the development of skills like mindfulness and self-awareness I was able to eventually notice that this pattern had snuck back up.  I was able to evaluate myself and make some different decisions regarding the anxiety and stress I was bearing and the response I wanted to extend to myself.

When I got down to it I realized that the anxiety I was holding was about an uncertain future that I have very little to no control over.  I mean to get really honest with myself I had to realize that I cannot predict or control what is to come and that scares the shit out of me.

I mean…

I can pour every ounce of parenting energy and wisdom into my children, but what they do with that… how they actualize is not in my control.

I can love with every ounce of love my heart and body can muster and I can’t control the outcome and the return of love or of loss or of illness or of death.  (Loving my mother meant taking care of her body and her health toward the fruit of her returning to complete health– I could not control for how her illness was going to compromise her and ultimately take her)

I can make all the ‘smart’, future forward career investment decisions to ensure a future of bright opportunities and financial security, but I can’t guarantee that these opportunities will be extended toward me.

And this lesson presented to me what it always presents to me– that what I have is right now.  I have today.

A few years ago, I did some crazy stuff.  I left everything behind: a marriage, a career, a community, a belief system– on the notion that leaving the toxic aspects of my life would lead to more health and growth.  I had a certain kind of optimism or hope about that decision.

In terms of my mental and emotional health I can say that I’ve seen the fruits of that decision produce the capacity for me to think and to breathe and to live in peace.  It’s in part, why I can presently be more mindful, but in terms of what the future holds I have no certainties and I think that some days I’m still waiting and watching with bated breath– I’m peering into the future, anxieties rising, lungs full– wanting, longing to control the outcomes.  And then life (sometimes in gentle ways and sometimes in not so gentle ways) brings me right back to where I am and says stay.right.here.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You have today.  You have this moment.  Stay right here and listen– don’t lose this moment.  Don’t let it slip away.  Bask in it.  Let the sun shine on your face and breathe, because this is what you have and this is what you can be certain of– this- right- here.

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UPDATED: ‘About’ Page…

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The ‘About’ page has been recently updated and will give you more information about what you will find on this blog.  This blog is meant to be a resource for the community, as well as a place to dialogue and share ideas!  Here is the new missional write up for what this blog is ‘About’.  I hope this can be a resource for you and please, please, please (not to sound desperate or anything ;)– I just think we’re all better for hearing from one another) share your ideas with the community.  We need your voice!

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What “Created for More” is all about:

Welcome to Created for More.  This is a blog about sustaining and maintaining healthy lives and relationships.  In this blog you will find tips, ideas, life lessons and advice on balancing your life.  

My name is DeAnza and I am a licensed therapist in Seattle.  I have devoted my life’s work to assisting people to living lives more authentically and compassionately.  I am passionate about helping people to thrive, grow and hope.  I acknowledge the fact that we live in a society that does not embrace all people.  There are many ‘isms’ that push people to the margins of society.  Yet, despite that stark reality– I think there is a way to live liberated, brave, courageous lives through self-acceptance, compassion and hope.

As much as therapy is about healing and acceptance in the individual, I believe therapy/psychology is also a vehicle for justice and advocacy.   Societal stigma tells us that to struggle or to be different is bad, unacceptable or wrong when in reality being human is challenging.  We all have challenges and that doesn’t make us bad or wrong it makes us human.

Psychology challenges stigma by giving accurate psychological health information to the public and advocating for those suffering with mental health.  Mental health is a part of our overall health.  Did you know our brains are just as susceptible to disease, dysfunction and malfunction as any other organ of our body– why wouldn’t we take care of it like we do other parts of our bodies?

We need to live without shame in that.

In this blog you will find different articles to healing, establishing healthy relationships with self and others, educational information on psychological issues and ailments, advocacy information and opportunities.

This is a blog about life– growing, learning, developing, creating and the things most important to us like: family, community and relationships.  Topics may vary and include the following: therapy, trauma, theology, feminism, health, sexuality, identity, LGBTQ, race, gender,  society/ culture, justice, compassion and more.

Join in the movement of living a life that is free, liberated– fully embracing all your potential.  You are Created for More then the status quo– what do you dream about, hope for, desire?  And know that you are important, needed and vital to this community!

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Tweaking survival life skills…

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It’s probably not obvious from the picture, but the tools in the picture symbolize the life skills or tools we use in every day life.  Sometimes these tools are developed in childhood and do not progress, especially when trauma is involved.  

In trauma work I notice that many of the emotional skills (tools) developed by clients worked at one period of their life to survive an abusive situation and now no longer work.  I hear stories of trauma or harm done to clients in childhood by an abusive parent or in an intimate relationship by a spouse or lover.  What I’ve observed is whether the person has incurred the abuse as a child or later in life this remains true: trauma is a deep wound sustained by the betrayal of safety in the most intimate relationship(s) of the individual’s life.  

Survivors of trauma develop skills to respond to the danger in order to survive– one manages to learn to survive emotionally, physically, financially, etc.  For one woman, this meant making sure everything was perfect in the home before her spouse returned from work– house cleaned, dinner on the table, children quiet.  She found that if she was able to replicate this formula that her husband was less likely to yell at her, belittle her or physically push her around.  And yet, there were times that even with this formula in place her husband would go off– reducing her to nothing with his attacks.  

If people have the fortune to leave damaging relationships, they often apply their survival skills from the previous situation into current circumstances and relationships.  For the woman mentioned earlier, this meant a kind of hypervigilance of keeping everything in her home perfect, controlled and in place– even though she now was in a loving home, which did not place the same restrictions and limitations she experienced previously.  She was compelled to continue her routines to ensure control of her environment.  It makes all the sense in the world– maintaining safety, security and protection within familiar patterns is very common for all of us.  

Often times what happens is the survivor begins to find that the survival tools do not fit their current situation.  Again, using this woman as an example: she felt so controlled by the need for hypervigilance and control over her environment that she reported being anxious most of the time.  She found herself to be agitated and irritated.  She didn’t have joy in any of her relationships.  She was angry at herself, which fueled a self-contempt.  Her critical attitude toward herself began to overshadow her current relationship with her partner and kids.  

The depression and anxiety became so acute that she eventually reached out for therapy.

Now, I could go into all the helpful trauma therapies out there…  There are some really helpful therapeutic tools to assist someone through this process.  Okay I’ll throw one out there… DBT.  Mindfulness… awe, yes very helpful to someone who is experiencing acute stress or PTSD symptoms.

But what I really want to say is that if this is you…  If you’ve been through a traumatic life event through abuse know that there is nothing wrong with you.  You may be in a place where you are triggered by a stress that brings all that trauma to the surface and you feel flooded, alone and fearful.  Or perhaps, you’ve been dealing with the residual symptoms of trauma in your everyday life and you are trying to cope with survival skills that no longer serve you.  There is nothing wrong with you.  

It may be time to address the trauma though.  It might be time to tweak the survival life skills to better fit your current situation.  It may be time to go through a healing process for the traumas you’ve sustained.  It might be the time to invite other people into your struggles to join you in carrying this burden.  

There is nothing wrong with you and you should not have to do this alone.

If you find that you could use more help with a trauma you’ve experienced here are some places to connect in the Seattle area:

Crisis Clinic: (866) 427-4747 or http://www.crisisclinic.org

My PTSD forum: https://www.myptsd.com/c/

The Fremont Community Therapy Project (DBT Groups and Therapy): http://www.therapyproject.org

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Building from scratch (more life transitions)

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A little less than two years ago I decided to leave.

I made a decision to leave a position of 10 years at the local church that I served, while (at some point) also deciding to leave a marriage of 15 years.  I left a whole life behind.

It’s complicated and I never knew that these two events would overlap or coincide with one another, but it’s the way things worked out.  Many who know of these transitions or are even reading this now may be saying– “Wow, what a nutcase”.  But most never knew the pain.  And so to use the well known saying, “You can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”.  Well, that feels appropriate for now.

Maybe over time I’ll be sharing more of my story, as it might be helpful to others, but for now I share what I’ve learned over the past two-ish years about transitions.  (This will likely be over several blog entries)

Some of the hardest transitions have to do with divorce, death and identity and there are no road maps for these transitions.  Maybe that would be easier in some way, but here’s a freeing thought: the path is really all our own— for better or for worse.  The decision or circumstance around the change is deeply personal.  And guess what?  So is the path through the transition.  That said, it’s really nobody else’s place to assign judgement, criticism or critique about how or what you are doing on that path.  You get to be the one who invites whoever you want to be on that path with you– joining you in exploring and finding insight & wisdom to navigate these sometimes shark infested waters.

And to those who feel that they have the authority or take the opportunity to force their viewpoints on you when you are walking this path well feel free to push back.  There is nothing wrong with letting those know to, “Back off– back WAAAY the F off”, because it is not their place or their path.  This is sacred ground meant for those that can handle with care, humility and kindness– all others, no entry.  Know that this is not unkindness– this is firmness to protect the space you will need to heal, grow and move forward.

In the next few entries I’ll post some of the topics of transition, but I’ll leave this entry by saying that the in-between of transitions can often feel like a kind of pit– not like a deep, black hole but like a plateau-ish space that is in-between the thing that was left behind and the new thing that you’re moving toward.

The plateau can be marked with all kinds of emotions: confusion, grief, discomfort, loneliness– even anger.  It is often uncomfortable and when people ask how you are it is hard to come up with any words to describe how you are feeling or what is even going on.  It’s like trying on a suit that is four times too big and trying to figure out how to make it work so that it puts out the appearance that it fits you and it expresses some semblance of your personality and style.  The longer you wear the suit and reflect on it the more you begin to ask, “Who am I, anyway”?

This is awkward– and so the instinct here is to run and to get out of this stage of transition as fast as you can.  This space is the most ambiguous of the stages of transition and it can feel as though one is not moving, but just standing still.

Pause for a moment.  Don’t rush.  This stage is a vital part of the process.  There is something to be learned and listened to in this moment.  And although, it’s uncomfortable and difficult and– even painful it is an important stage.  In his book called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes William Bridges talks about this shift and he states that you cannot move into the new without the old ending.  This in-between state which Bridges calls ‘The Neutral Zones’ is something we have to go through and not around.

So you might as well sit back and try to incorporate a few things at this stage:

1) Stop fighting & Surrender.  The struggling about and trying to fist your way through this stage is only suspending the inevitable.  So relax and accept where you are at.

2) Pause & be patient.  

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”  Henri Nouwen

3) Take this pause to write your autobiography or your passage journey.  Find time alone– reflect and listen.

4) Be ever so kind with yourself.  You haven’t done anything wrong to be in this particular space in the process– it’s just a natural part of the process so do some self-care and have grace for yourself in all the awkward moments.  

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A moment of silence & meditation

A moment of silence & meditation

This week I have been silent. I want to acknowledge the silence, as I remember all those affected by the tragedies in Boston & Texas.

This picture is a reminder to me the life that is still budding around us– even amidst tragedy & chaos. It has been an anchoring support.

These are the cherry blossoms of Seattle– this particular tree is outside the Buddhist temple in my neighborhood. They hang these beautiful flags in the trees– I’m not sure of the symbolism and meaning, but what it reminded me is a hope for freedom.

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The courage to live

From the very start I had a desire to create a private practice which would engage and intersect my passions for justice & compassion and therapy.  This past year has been an additional step in that direction, as I have freed up X amount of hours toward pro-bono work with women who are homeless due to domestic violence.  As much as I’d like to think that I’ve had some profound impact or influence on these women’s lives– the reality is that being in relationship has found me profoundly moved, changed and influenced by their stories and their courage.  The fact that they look at each day as a new opportunity to begin again despite the burden of their traumas and the present reality of not having a home to call their own astounds me every time.

When a woman leaves her last tier of material security in order to escape the physical and mental violence she endures each day it takes courage that is unknown to most of us.  It seems like a crapshoot of a deal– stay in your home and continue to get the crap beat out of you day-in & day-out or leave the violence and go– where? It’s not an easy decision when the supports seem no where in sight.  I have had women share stories in which they lived with guns to their heads, bodies thrown through doors, threats of death & estrangement,  ridicule and a barrage of insults on a daily basis.  Despite the ability to hold high esteem for self or see their own value due to the abuse– they muster up the strength that resides within and leave.  But it doesn’t mean that today is still not difficult– all kinds of self doubt comes up when sometimes it feels like the alternative to staying offers very little.

All this to say, there is so much need.  I want to do more, but I recognize I am one person.  What would it look like to create a network where we pool our professional resources and offer the skills we’ve been trained with to provide a level of support to those who do not have the means to access those resources?  Do you have any ideas on this subject?  I find myself muttering under my breath (often) that we have to do more.  We do have to do more, don’t we?

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A Shawshank moment.

Shawshank Redemption has always been a favorite of mine. It remains on my top ten films of all time. The storytelling of the human potential to hope, persevere and rise above the injustices of this world is inspiring. It is obviously a painful story looking at the brokenness in the justice system and the jacked-up structure of our prisons. In the midst of this story our hero, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) rises above to connect us with triumph over both. After being wrongfully found guilty for the murder of his wife and serving 20 years of that conviction the film catalogues these injustices from the court to the inside of the prison cell and his final freedom.

We know that the reality of freedom is not attained for most in our prison systems.

90% percentage of those on death row could not afford to hire a lawyer at the time of their conviction. -American Civil Liberties Union

417 people in the past 100 years have been wrongly convicted of capital offenses. -American Civil Liberties Union

123 people released from death row since 1973 were proven innocent. Recurring features in their cases include prosecutorial or police misconduct; the use of unreliable witness testimony, physical evidence, or confessions; and inadequate defence representation. Other US prisoners have gone to their deaths despite serious doubts over their guilt. The state of Florida has the highest number of exonerations: 22. -Amnesty International

Remember this character from Shawshank? The older man who had spent most of his life in prison and who served as the librarian towards the end of his sentence. Upon release he found himself in a completely different world– one he was not prepared for. He had no community, no family, no connections. His story told in such a profound way that the audience could connect with the hopelessness and loneliness of his re-integrated existence. This existence which eventually led to suicide.

This week I met a man that made me re-connect with this prison librarian’s story. Regularly, at Quest, we have folks that drop in for assistance and help. This week after a meeting I felt compelled to ask questions regarding the ways in which we help men and women re-integrate into society after prison. I am not trying to be fluffy, dramatic or sappy but this man’s story brought feelings of sadness and helplessness in me as he described the difficult journey he has been on since his release from prison 1.5 years ago. After 15 years of prison life, *Joe shared that his survival seemed bleak. Over a brief cup of coffee, I saw in him potential and authentic desire to move past the past AND I heard resignation of defeat when he shared that the only opportunity– the only viable choice felt like a return to a criminal lifestyle. He was on a lonely journey– estranged from family, community and connection and yet, I saw his earnestness in desiring for change. It seems to me there has to be a more compassionate means in which we help re-integrate ex-prisoners into our communities. He shared that the lifestyle he knew was only the lifestyle inside a cell. All of the regular, mundane tasks we engage in from taking a shower to eating a meal were new to him and a cultural adjustment that sounded painful and isolating.

I’ll be honest– I have no answers to the solutions here, but I do feel changed– even in the brief amount of time we spent together. I think that is the beauty of human interaction– that although short and limited we were able to connect and it welled up in me a prayer for change and more change.

*name changed for anonymity