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Children & Grief Grief Life Transitions Loss Terminal Illness Uncategorized

Managing the Emotions of Terminal Illness

How Do I Manage The Emotions of My Terminal Illness?

Being informed you have either a chronic, or terminal illness is news nobody ever expects to hear. So, what happens when you’re suddenly faced with this life-altering information and you have to start managing the emotions of terminal illness?

Diagnosis of a terminal illness brings about a wide variety of emotions – whether you’re hit with them immediately, or you take some time to process them. Your priorities are suddenly shifted, and the amount of challenges you now face has doubled. 

However, hope certainly exists – even in the face of a terminal illness. 

While it might not seem possible, or even easy, keeping a positive  attitude and practicing peace can not only increase your quality of life in the time you have left, but can actually make the entire process easier for both you and your loved ones. 

So, how is this done? How can you practice hope and self-compassion while remaining self-aware during a serious medical diagnosis? Let’s talk about it. 

Your Emotions Post Diagnosis:

If you’ve just been told you have either a terminal illness or a chronic one, you may be surprised at the way you’re feeling. Some individuals are suddenly bombarded with hysteria, depression, and an overflow of tears. Some, on the other hand, feel quite ‘matter of fact’ about death and dying, to their own surprise. 

No matter how you’re handling the news, understand that each person’s journey is unique and there is no right or wrong way to feel

A few emotions you may be going through include:

  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Resentment 
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Denial 
  • Frustration 
  • Hopelessness
  • Relief
  • Acceptance

As time passes you may find you go through waves of different emotions. While at first, you may have felt in denial, after a few months you might come to accept what’s happening. 

Most people, unless they have an extremely high level of emotional regulation, will be unable to take it all in right away. Hearing you have a terminal illness can be quite surreal, so it’s important to show yourself love and accept the emotions you’re feeling no matter what they are. 

How To Cope With Your Emotions During a Terminal Illness:

Knowing that death is near can take a massive toll on your mental health, as well as your loved ones. This is why it’s incredibly important to learn how to cope with these emotions in order to make the time you have a positive experience. 

Healthily managing your emotions has been proven to influence acceptance levels, increase communication with loved ones, and create a balance of hope and honesty during an extremely difficult process. 

Here are a few ways to cope with the emotions of a terminal illness:

Educate Yourself On Fear:

While almost everyone is afraid of death it can help to pinpoint exactly what part of death you’re afraid of most. Do you wonder if it will hurt? Are you struggling with the unknown of what comes after? Is it the impact on your loved ones after you pass? Or perhaps it’s something else completely? For some of us it is physical, for some it is spiritual and for some it can rest in logistics or relationships or something entirely different.

Empowering yourself with education on exactly what you’re afraid of can help manage it. Fear can drive emotions such as depression, anxiety, and helplessness so taking time to face it head-on can diffuse such powerful feelings. 

Channel Your Anger:

It’s quite rare someone ever feels ‘ready to die. However, these feelings of resentment and anger toward our situation can lead us to take our negative emotions out on those closest to us. 

A terminal illness is unfair – and your feelings are completely valid! However, it’s not in your own best interest – or the interest of your loved ones – to spend your days angry at them. Try and find an outlet to release your anger directed at your disease, rather than at anyone person or thing in particular. 

Tackle Guilt and Regret as Quickly as Possible:

It’s very normal for a person nearing the end of life to feel immense regret about things they did or did not do. You may feel like you should have made different choices, said something you should have said, or taken a risk you should have taken. 

While this is common to feel, guilt and regret changes nothing. It’s unhelpful to think about the would have / should haves unless you have a time machine. 

Worrying about your past won’t relieve your burdens, in fact, it may make them much stronger. In this particular instance, it’s extremely helpful to allow yourself a ‘free pass. Guilt and shame have no place in your end-of-life care, and it must stay that way. 

Nurture Your Grief:

One of the scariest emotions you may be feeling is the immense grief that comes along with a terminal illness. You may be grieving the loss of a life you had planned, grieving your children or significant other before you’re even gone, or you may be grieving the physical functions you no longer have. 

Many, many emotional losses come before the loss of life itself so it’s important to take time to nurture that grief. Instead of isolating yourself from others and choosing to deal with grief on your own, talk to someone. 

A friend, a partner, or even your medical team. It may take a few times, but talking about your grievances will help alleviate the burden they cause. 

How To Maintain Self-Awareness During The End of Life:

While it’s likely you have a team of medical professionals by your side day and night, you’re the only one who knows exactly what you’re feeling at exactly the time you feel it. 

While the thought of your final days can feel overwhelming, it may make it easier to understand what that process may look like. Knowing what to expect can make it less frightening and more prepared.

There are a few conditions to look out for in order to maintain a more positive level of self-awareness during this time. 

  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Decreased appetite and thirst
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Delirium 
  • Restlessness
  • Seeing loved ones that have passed
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Skin mottling 

While each person’s death will look different, being on the lookout for these can help you become more aware when death may be near. This can give you time to say goodbye to your loved ones, and have those you care about around you when you pass. 

Dying Is a Natural Process:

Everyone will die eventually. If you’re an individual with a terminal illness it just may be that your time has come sooner than others. Once you accept you have limited time left you can begin spending your final days, weeks, or years living each and every day with meaning and fulfillment. 

It’s common for terminally ill patients to feel as though they’re a burden and to begin to isolate themselves from loved ones. But I want to reassure you this is certainly not the case. In most circumstances, loved ones simply don’t know what to say or how to act, so it’s up to you to keep communication open with them about the way you’re feeling. And yes, there are counselors who specialize in helping people and their families through this transition.

Whether you feel denial, anger, shock, sadness, grief, or acceptance it’s all normal. The sooner you can embrace your emotions, the sooner you can make your time count. 

Resources:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/end-of-life-care/coping-with-a-terminal-illness/#:~:text=It%27s%20normal%20to%20feel%20shock,to%20talk%20to%20a%20doctor.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/dealing-with-terminal-illness-1132513

https://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/today/article/during-terminal-illness-hope-can-have-a-dark-side/

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/end-of-life-care/nearing-the-end-of-life/emotions.html

Categories
Addiction Recovery Life Transitions Loss Organ Transplant Pre & Post Surgical

Quick Look at Kidney Transplants

The Quick Look at Kidney Transplants

The kidneys are a fundamental element of our excretory system. The two bean-shaped kidneys play a very critical role in the human body. They are responsible for filtering out the blood and other body fluids. In this way, they ensure the release of waste that we don’t need and that can actually be harmful to hold on to. But when serious problems arise, a kidney transplant may be needed. And that can be a bit scary and overwhelming. You don’t have to go it alone. Below you will find a quick look at kidney transplants and a few ways we end up getting there.

There are several sorts of kidney problems that can occur. You might experience a kidney stone, swelling or deterioration. All of these kidney problems can halt those “exit” functions. For example, if the kidney becomes unable to filter blood, then the wastes accumulate within different body parts, causing numerous issues like high blood pressure. When approximately 90% of a kidney stops filtering and excreting, it results in kidney failure. 

Kidney transplantation is a life-saving procedure – and more frequent than you might think. It can be a solution for  kidney failure and other conditions requiring the removal of one or both kidneys.

In the initial stages, kidney “wash through” machines and dialysis might work. However, in severe kidney failure, the likely option is a kidney transplant. 

Although a human body can survive on one kidney, more health compromised people need another. And people with other medical ailments or second kidney failure will have to rely on an outsourced kidney; a kidney transplant. 

Causes of Kidney Failure 

Despite occurring naturally as we age, a few other factors can also cause kidney failure. Individuals having diabetes are more prone to kidney problems. Chronic or uncontrolled blood pressure levels also add to kidney damage. (the consistent inflammation can affect the filtering process). Unchecked, these all eventually lead you towards severe kidney failure. Increasing the chance that you will end up needing a kidney transplant.

Dialysis Vs. Kidney Transplant

With failed kidney, there can be two available options. First, you can go for dialysis, which is a machine-assisted excretion treatment and requires regular treatments for a lifetime. Second, you can seek ti have a kidney transplant. 

No doubt, a kidney transplant can seem scarier than dialysis. When is surgery not scarier? But it can be effective in the long term and raise the improvement and quality of life. With dialysis, a person has to continue undergoing the same procedure again and again. There is no point at which you recover -it’s an ongoing treatment process. It is because dialysis is a more of a maintenance procedure rather than a fixed point treatment. 

A kidney transplant, on the other hand, is a distinct and hopefully one-time procedure. Once you have a matched donor, undergone surgery and completed your recovery your health status, ideally, you should be improved. That is why a kidney transplant is often a preferable choice. 

Some people are afraid of surgery or getting rejected during kidney transplants. And let’s be very clear, you need to be willing to care for the new kidney and the recovery has a lot requirements and continued success depends on your ability to make a lot of lifestyle changes and keep them. Many people are ready to promise anything in the face of a serious medical condition – the reality is, with a transplant you are already very lucky to get a new organ to begin with – you need to be serious in your commitment. It’s rare enough to get a great match, you aren’t likely to get another one. 

In the end, it’s up to the patient and their physician to determine what is the best path for them.

Why Choose a Kidney Transplant?

When compared to dialysis, a kidney transplant can be preferable because of the following reasons;

• Low Treatment Cost – It is one-time, whereas dialysis will continue to cost for a lifetime. 

• Better Quality of Life –It gives you the opportunity to live the rest of your life in a better state of health – for many, this means in peace and comfort.

• Fewer Dietary Restrictions –Unlike dialysis patients, there are fewer limitations on what or what not to eat. 

• Lesser Health Risk –Unlike dialysis, it enables you to stay healthy in the long run.

Kidney transplant is not always an option. A few things might restrict you from going for a transplant. It is potentially unsuitable for people with old age, severe heart diseases, cancer, mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction, etc. So, everyone needs to consult with the doctor first, and if it comes under any no-go category, the person will have to continue with dialysis. 

Types of Donors for Kidney Transplant

For a kidney transplant, there can be two types of kidney donors. They are the following; 

1) Living Donor

A human body can rely completely on one healthy kidney for all metabolic activities. That is why a person with two healthy kidneys can donate a kidney to someone else who needs one. However, there are criteria to be met, such as blood group and tissues, to matchto either donate or accept a kidney. 

A kidney donor can be a family member or someone else. It is always preferable to receive a kidney from a blood relation as it lets you avoid the risk of rejection and is usually beneficial. 

2) Deceased Donor

Another way of getting a kidney is from a deceased person. It happens in a way that hospitals usually gather data on people needing a kidney. The hospital is informed immediately whenever a deceased person’s kidney matches the patient. The doctor prepares an instant surgery for a transplant. It is a very time sensitive process because the kidney transplant should take place shortly for a kidney to be valuable. 

Kidney Transplant Procedure 

Kidney transplantation is more or less like other surgical treatments. During a kidney transplant surgery, the doctor injects the anesthetic dose within your blood through an intravenous line in your arm. It is basically to make you fall asleep or for a while to undergo the incision. Once unconscious, the doctor makes an incision to open up your abdominal region. He then puts in the donor’s kidney and connects the arteries and veins to your circulatory system. As the blood starts flowing, the new kidneys function within your body.

Alongside that, your kidneys need a connection to the ureter. It can only then carry on the excretion process smoothly. The doctor connects the newly induced kidney to the ureter and the bladder. 

As far as your original kidneys are concerned, they usually remain inside the body and aren’t disposed of. However, in some cases, when the failed kidney causes trouble, it is removed too. 

Risks of Having a Kidney Transplant

Although a prevailing treatment for severe kidney issues or kidney failure, a kidney transplant is not a full-proof solution. It causes multiple risks either during the transplantation surgery or afterward.

• Rejection of the Donor Organ – While operating, the donated kidney might not be compatible with your body. It is possible to even after undergoing the matching tests and everything else. So, there is definitely risk, even beyond the ones typical of surgery. 

• Kidney Diseases –The transplantation, although it eradicates the ailment, for the time being, there are chances of the patient regaining a mild or severe ailment. 

• Side-effects –Undergoing the surgery can cause you side effects. It will leave an incision mark and temporarily cause redness, swelling, and pain. 

None of the above three risks is unpreventable. Almost every doctor provides medication to minimize donor rejection, kidney diseases and surgical side effects. And there is a lot that you can do to help or hinder your own success.

Postoperative Possible Complications of  Kidney Transplant

• Infection – Minor infections like urinary tract infections, colds, and flu are common after kidney transplants. However, in most severe conditions, pneumonia or CMV (cytomegalovirus) infection may occur.

• Blood clots –  The most common complication after a kidney transplant is the development of blood clots in the arteries connected to the donated kidney. In some cases, medications can be used to dissolve the blood clots.

• Urine leakage –  Sometimes, after a kidney transplant, urine may leak through the connection between the ureter and bladder. This usually happens during the first-month post-kidney transplant.

Conclusion 

Opting for a kidney transplant requires you to think twice before jumping in. It ultimately, is up to you because you must live with both the benefits, risks and lifestyle changes required of the transplant. You must be brave enough to analyze the situation and make a decision. 

Facing this decision and the life changes and commitment it requires can be extremely stressful. And not just on you, but also on your loved ones whose life will also change in the process. You both may feel worried about you undergoing surgery, fear of rejection or other complications. It marks a transition period in your life and theirs – and that is stressful all around. Be gracious and kind to yourself and each other. Stress directly impacts health, so consider working with a professional counselor who is experienced at working with transplant patients and their loved ones.

Do exercise, eat healthy, engage in positive activities, and take good care of yourself before and after the kidney transplant. And obviously, alcohol and other drugs will only damage your chances and your new kidney – you need to leave those behind. Change your lifestyle so you can spend your life in style.

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK567755/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553074/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230851/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549004/

5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6716102/

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8711553/

Categories
Anxiety & Stress Children & Grief Critical Incidents Death in Workplace First Responders Grief Loss Uncategorized

Everything You Need To Know About Mass Shootings and What You May Experience Afterward

Everything You Need To Know About Mass Shootings and What You May Experience Afterward

With a steady increase in mass shootings and violence in the United States, more and more people are left as primary or secondary victims  to these heinous crimes. 

Shootings aren’t anything new to the US, sadly. The rate at which they’re occurring has drastically increased over the years leaving a gaping hole in resources and education for those struggling in the aftermath. 

What exactly is “normal” to feel in the days, weeks, and months after being witness to a shooting event?

Is the way we cope with this trauma different for kids vs. adults?

Let’s talk about it. 

What You Need To Know About The Increase In Mass Shootings:

Why is there such a spike in mass shootings all of the sudden?

Is there a common underlying problem, or is the media just choosing to cover more of these stories than ever before?

Is it because we all have the latest news at our fingertips – making these tragic stories more accessible?

The term mass shooting refers to any situation in which a gunman shoots 4 or more strangers in a sudden attack. While the attack is unexpected the perpetrator may have been planning their crime for months or years before the incident. 

In addition,  in order for a shooting to be considered a ‘mass shooting’ it must occur in any public space such as a school, shopping mall, store, or workplace. While there may be a target of the attack (such as an employee targeting his boss) others are wounded or killed in the process. 

So, why such an increase?

There hasn’t been a single week in 2022 without some instance of a mass shooting. (look at the data on school shootings in 2022)

It’s a heartbreaking statistic that shows that each year our community is left with literally hundreds of survivors and witnesses. These people then have to face the mental, emotional, and physical trauma left behind. 

Many mass shooters are incorrectly labeled as “mentally unstable individuals” who suddenly snap at the drop of the hat. But taking a deeper look shows many of these crimes are either

  1. Hate crimes (such as the shooting that occurred at Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida) or are
  2. Directed by some agenda and a desire to “send a message” (such as those perpetrated by various extremist groups) 

Shooters are more likely to be vengeful, angry individuals who are seeking revenge on society for their perceived wrongdoings done against them. 

What’s ‘Normal’ To Go Through Emotionally After a Shooting?

While mass shootings should never be considered a ‘normal’ event in society, there are some ‘normal’ emotions and feelings you may be working through after being trapped in one of these terrifying situations. 

One thing we do know, however, is that everyone processes the aftermath of a shooting differently. People may experience a wide range of emotions that come and go like tidal waves, while others may take much longer to overcome the initial denial of their experience. 

No matter what you feel, remember that it’s all subjective to your own personal experience. There is no right or wrong way to handle the aftermath of a shooting. 

Feelings you may experience after a shooting include, but are not limited to:
  • Sorrow 
  • Shock 
  • Fear
  • Numbness
  • Denial 
  • Anger 
  • Grief
  • Disassociation 
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Paranoia 

While people are incredibly strong and most often bounce back after difficult times, shootings are events that can greatly alter your entire sense of safety and belonging. 

For example, some people struggle with feelings of survivors’ guilt or even just to sleep, eat or perform other daily activities. Some no longer feel safe in large or public places. Others find it hard to be around people and begin to pull back and disconnect from their community.

How Are Children Handling Life After School Shootings?

Children are some of the most resilient creatures on Earth. Have you ever seen a child completely face plant into the ground and then get up and keep on running?

However, the traumatic events of a school shooting are likely to disrupt all of their ‘normal’ emotional and behavioral tendencies.

Emotions and behaviors they may experience:
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • ‘Acting out’
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Being afraid to sleep alone 
  • Shock 
  • Anger
  • Grief

It’s likely that after a shooting children are faced with navigating complex emotions they may not fully understand. Trauma is difficult enough without loss of lives. Grief for children amidst the chaos only makes things more difficult. It’s important as caregivers to nurture these wounds and support them in whatever way possible. Keep home a safe space to talk to them about what they’re experiencing in the aftermath of a shooting. While forcing or pressuring them to talk about what they have gone through isn’t helpful, remind them often that you’re here when they’re ready to talk. 

When To Seek Help After a Shooting:

There are 2 major interventions needed after a traumatic event like this.

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing / Management (CISD / CISM)

The first should ideally happen within a couple of hours and that is a special type of intervention/debriefing called Critical Incident Stress Management. These CISM professionals are highly trained it what to do right after such event to help the victims and first responders begin to process and deal with the emotional aftermath of the traumatic event.

A Professional Who Specializes in Traumatic Events

The second is to work with a professional psychotherapist who specializes in helping people who have been through a traumatic event, not just one who works with anxiety or PTSD. The best of these are likely also trained in CISM and have many years of experience as well.

While some effects of a shooting may dissolve after about 4 to 6 weeks, in some instances you may be suffering from more long-term symptoms, otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The acute stress that can follow after an incident of gun violence is nothing to mess around with. Be mindful of your emotions and behaviors in the months following a shooting. It’s always best to seek help if you:

  • Experience frequent flashbacks or nightmares 
  • Have trouble concentrating on everyday tasks
  • Are having difficulties completing work 
  • Are experiencing intrusive thoughts related to the incident
  • Become easily triggered by things in the environment
  • Feel as though you’re in danger whenever in social settings 
  • Are feeling like you’re constantly on edge or irritable 
  • Have a hard time falling or staying asleep

PTSD can quickly spiral into self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, self harm, and other harmful methods aimed at easing your distressing symptoms. If you feel as though you’re not returning back to yourself after a few weeks or months have gone by there are many mental health professionals trained and ready to assist you in overcoming this trauma. 

Remember, while shootings are tragically becoming more common they’re still rare. Focus on your village; your support systems such as close friends or family. While they may not be able to fully understand what you’re going through, you don’t have to walk this journey alone. And if you are live in an area that has suffered such a tragedy – lean in and support your neighbors however you can.

Cultivate Communitywe heal together.

 

Sources:

https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/coping-in-the-aftermath-of-a-shooting

https://www.apa.org/topics/gun-violence-crime/mass-shooting

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/processing-grief-after-a-mass-shooting

Categories
Anxiety & Stress Children & Grief Critical Incidents First Responders Grief Loss Uncategorized

The Mental Health Impact of School Shootings

The Mental Health Impact Of School Shootings In The United States

In response to the multiple tragic school shooting events in the United States, there has been a great deal of discussion about the emotional and mental health impact that these events have had on the kids, teachers and families involved. School shootings are a very traumatic event for everyone involved, and it can take a long time to recover from the physical and emotional injuries that are inflicted.

The impact of school shootings goes beyond the immediate victims and families. These events can have a ripple effect that extends to the entire community. Schools are a place where children should feel safe and secure, and when that feeling of safety is shattered, it can have a lasting impact on the students, teachers, staff and community.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a school shooting, it is important to seek professional help to deal with the trauma. There are many resources available to help you through this situation.

Effects on School Shootings Child Development 

Since the onset of gun violence in schools, there has been a significant amount of research on the effects of this type of violence on child development. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to school shootings are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder. They may also have difficulty concentrating and experience changes in their eating and sleeping habits.

This research highlights the need for more support for children who have been affected by school shootings. Such support can help children to cope with the aftermath of these events and to reduce the long-term effects on their development.

Students who don’t witness the shooting firsthand can still be negatively affected. They may have trouble concentrating in school and have anxiety about going to school. Keep in mind that everyone impacted is a survivor.

Effects on Parents

No definitive answer exists to the question of how school shootings specifically affect the parents of the victims. Each situation is unique and parents will react in their own individual ways. It’s not surprising that most studies generally concluded that parents also experience a wide range of intense emotions in the wake of such a tragedy.

The most common emotions that parents report feeling are grief, anger, shock, and guilt. Many parents also report feeling a sense of responsibility for their child’s safety and well-being, and this can often lead to feelings of guilt and regret. In some cases, parents may also struggle with anxiety and depression. It is important to remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after a school shooting, and that all parents are simply trying to cope in the best way they can.

Effects on Teachers

As of October 2018, there have been 307 mass shootings in the US, which is an average of almost one mass shooting per day. These shootings have had a profound effect on teachers, who are often the first to respond in these situations.

Teachers have to be prepared to deal with the physical and emotional trauma that comes with a school shooting. They are often the first people on the scene and have to deal with the aftermath of the violence. This can effect their both mental and physical health. In addition, teachers have to be extra vigilant in their classrooms in order to prevent something like this from happening. But our teachers can’t do this alone – they need help. And there is something that each of can  do to help.

How to Cope with the Trauma After a School Shooting?

The trauma of shooting can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. If you or someone you know has experienced a shooting, it is important to get help from a mental health professional to cope with the trauma. 

There are a few first steps you can take to help cope with the trauma:

1. Talk to someone

When people experience a traumatic event, such as a mass shooting, they may feel a range of emotions that can be difficult to cope with. Fear, anxiety, anger, and grief are just some of the emotions that may be present. It can be helpful and encouraging to talk to someone about what you’re going through. This can help you to process the trauma and to start to heal.

Talking to a therapist or counselor can be helpful. You may also find it helpful to talk to a friend or family member. It’s important to find someone who will understand and who will be there to listen. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, there are also support groups that can help. Whatever you do, do not try to go through all of this alone. 

2. Write down what happened

In the aftermath of a mass shooting, it can be difficult to know how to cope with the trauma and grief. For some people, writing can be a helpful way to process these feelings. Writing can provide a space to express what you’re feeling, process your thoughts, and work through your grief.

If you’re interested in using writing to cope with trauma, there are a few things to keep in mind:

First, it’s important to find a safe and comfortable place to write. This could be a journal that you keep private, or a blog that you only share with close friends or family.

Second, don’t feel like you need to write every day. Some days you may feel like writing more than others, and that’s okay.

Third, there’s no correct way to write about your experiences. Write in whatever way feels most natural and most comfortable.

3. Find way to release your negative emotions

A traumatic situation of this is like a forced marathon for your brain’s survival management department. It’s more important than ever to find healthy ways to release your emotions. Events like these can be very difficult to process and can have a lasting and detrimental impact on your mental health. If you witnessed a mass shooting or if you know someone who did, it’s important to find a way to release your emotions in a healthy way.

4. Stay connected to your loved ones

The aftermath of shooting can be extremely difficult for both victims and witnesses. It is important to stay connected with loved ones during this time in order to help cope with the trauma. Some of the ways to stay connected with your loved ones include:

Sending handwritten letters

Calling or texting regularly

Spending time together in person

Sharing photos and memories

Each person will cope with trauma in their own way, so it is important to be supportive and understanding. Staying connected with loved ones can help the healing process after a difficult event.

5. Avoid drugs and alcohol

It is understandable that many people may feel overwhelmed or frightened after witnessing a shooting event. Some may feel the need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the trauma. However, it is important to avoid drugs and alcohol for several reasons.

First, drugs and alcohol can make it difficult to process and cope with the event.

Second, they can make it more difficult to remember what happened, which can be essential for providing information to law enforcement.

Third, while drinking and drug use, may appear to ease distress at the front end – but they actually make things much worse. They disrupt normal sleep and eating patterns, wreak havoc on frustration tolerance and memory (which directly impacts mood) and can raise the chances of a more serious mental health problem following a trauma. 

It is important to deal with the aftermath of a shooting in a healthy way. Avoiding drugs and alcohol can really help your efforts to cope with feelings and make it easier to heal the trauma of witnessing a shooting.

6. Get plenty of rest and exercise

Studies have shown that taking time to rest and exercise can help people who have witnessed shooting events. Resting helps to allow the body to heal, and exercise helps to release built-up stress and tension. Both of these activities can help people feel better both physically and mentally after a traumatic event.

Conclusion

Trauma can have a lasting psychological impact on those who survive such an event, as well as those that love them. It is important for those affected to seek professional help and support in order to cope with the emotional damage. Schools, parents and the community can also play a role in supporting those affected by trauma.

Categories
Addiction Recovery Anxiety & Stress Cancer & Medical Grief Life Transitions Loss Survivors of Suicide Terminal Illness Uncategorized

Simple Buddhist Concepts for Recovery and Personal Growth

Many years ago a mentor of mine encouraged me to begin to explore simple Buddhist concepts for recovery and personal growth. That started me on a winding path of self discovery through Buddhist, Taoist and other Eastern philosophies that continue today. Below is a brief review of some simple concepts that aren’t typical in Western thought. Even so, they are growing in influence just as practices such as meditation and mindfulness have become more widely accepted.

Everyone experiences highs and lows throughout their lives. But not everyone’s story, self-image, or actions are a reflection of our hardest moments. As people, we are only defined by the current narrative we speak about ourselves and how we live it. Each and every day, we’re given the opportunity to grow and expand beyond what we always have been, allowing ourselves to unfold, heal, and release. If you’ve struggled at some point in your life or feel as if your past actions or choices have kept you from being the person you want to be in this world, following you will find a few key Buddhist practices that may help you achieve this. 

Suffering as Inevitable

All of us will experience pain and suffering, but ongoing suffering is at least partly, our own doing. One concept within Buddhism is that suffering can be overcome. This concept is the key to many intentions behind personal growth, whether you’re wanting to overcome suffering imposed upon you or suffering you impose upon others.

Suffering is an attachment to what is no longer wanted or wanted but no longer available. These may be negative experiences, thoughts or even emotions. When you allow yourself to continue to be attached to these experiences, you continue to empower them within your life. 

Learning to let go of this resistance in your life allows you to view these experiences in neutrality. This means not being swayed or affected by them in a hindering or diminishing way.

Suffering is also about perspective. If you are able to change your perspective of a painful experience, you may be able to dissolve the suffering surrounding it. Learning to find the positive in a situation, or even just the lesson learned, can help you find value in life’s darkest moments. 

Nothing Is Permanent

Life is always changing, flowing, and transforming. The same is true for people. As you move through time, you aren’t the same person as you were ten years ago, a year ago, or even an hour ago. Even if you aren’t aware of the subtle changes happening within you, they’re still happening. This concept can help you learn to release the past, which can sometimes dictate who you believe you are in the present moment. Also, viewing everything in life as temporary teaches you to enjoy the present moment for what it is, a gift. 

Live each moment as if it’s your last. Ask yourself, “what am I willing to let go of in order to embrace this moment?” How would you treat the people in your life? How would you view the world? Being present and allowing life to flow gives you a sense of freedom and empowerment. Stop allowing the past to dictate who you are and letting the fear of the future influence your present actions. 

Nothing Is Lost in The Universe

Everyone’s life has a purpose and experiences a variety of polarizing events. Some are wonderful, magically blissful, and others are painful, draining, and restricting. It’s easy to view these negative experiences as ‘wrong,’ but they are a part of your story, your history at this point. You cannot change them, but you can change from them. What you experience in life is just as important as the sun, the stars, and beyond. It doesn’t matter the life you’ve been dealt – why struggle against history? It matters what you do with it now. Your value is not condemned or diminished because of the failures you’ve experienced, how you’ve suffered or how far you’ve fallen. Your life has purpose. 

Even when you feel lost, some believe that you’re exactly where you need to be in order to awaken to the life lesson that you’ve been guided towards. Growth and expansion can only happen through change. Oftentimes, real change can only happen when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone or stripped from your attachments. (often resulting in suffering or loss.) Learn to look at life and all of the losses or disadvantages you perceive within your life, and recognize how they can motivate you, inspire you, or initiate a desire for positive change.

Embrace Your Life’s Journey

There isn’t a rule book for life and often no true guidance other than what other people have learned from their own experiences. Life isn’t meant to be perfected; there is no competition on who’s life is the greatest. Your life is unique, individual, and expansive. The journey you’ve walked may not look glamorous as someone else’s, but you’ll never truly know what they’ve experienced or gained from the life they’ve dealt with. 

There is meaning beyond the cycle of life and death. The impact and lessons we learn carry through all the lives we touch. That’s the promise if legacy; “plant the seeds even if you never see the trees they become”. Life isn’t perfect, and the lessons our souls crave can only be gained through experience. Learning to let go, accepting your past, and releasing resistance to any suffering you’ve experienced are achievements that few even choose to pursue. Be the exception! Remember that nothing is permanent; life is always changing and transforming. Rather than try to hold onto things that are changing, try instead to fully embrace the moment. Your life has meaning, you have worth! What you’ve experienced is invaluable and could likely have never been gained any other way than it already has.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is, to some extent chosen. This doesn’t mean it’s your fault. It means you have the power within yourself to step out from the suffering and really live. We all need help with this from time to time in our lives. If you are suffering, get help; whether it be your physician, a professional counselor or someone else. To evolve and grow, it really does take a village. You don’t have to do it alone.

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Anxiety & Stress Cancer Resilience Children & Grief First Responders Grief Life Transitions Loss Survivors of Suicide Terminal Illness

Emotional Support Animals in Texas

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

Emotional Support Animals, sometimes referred to as ESAs, have special privileges in the State of Texas under federal laws; they are not considered pets.; they are assistance animals for people with mental and emotional health issues

Housing providers have to accommodate owners of emotional support animals free of charge as a necessity for their health condition. And, unlike typical pets, you don’t have to pay any extra deposits or fees for housing. Emotional Support Animals are also exempt from building policies regarding size or breed. 

These rights are given under the Fair Housing Act and guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and apply to the State of Texas. 

Any domesticated animals can be kept as an ESA in the home, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and yes…even sugar gliders and turtles! 

In this article, we’ll explain

How you can qualify for an emotional support animal in Texas. 

And, if you qualify,

How you can apply to receive a valid ESA Letter from a healthcare professional (*licensed in Texas) that you can use to secure accommodation for your emotional support animal.

Quick Review of Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

Assistance animals have rights under various laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both are federal laws that apply to every state in the U.S., including Texas

The ADA governs service animals that have highly specialized training to assist people with both physical or mental disabilities. *Emotional support animals, however, are not the same as psychiatric service dogs. ESAs do not need special training and provide comfort for those experiencing mental or emotional distress just by being present around their owners. 

Emotional support animal owners have rights under the federal Fair Housing Act, which mandates that landlords reasonably accommodate tenants who require an assistance animal. 

Texas Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws Allow ESAs to Live with Their Owners Without Additional Fees.

If you own an emotional support animal, have valid documentation and reside in Texas, you do have certain RIGHTS for housing that protect you from discrimination due to your mental or emotional disability-related need for an assistance animal. 

  1. Housing providers such as landlords, condos, co-ops, and HOAs must reasonably accommodate ESAs, even if the building has an outright ban on pets. 
  2. ESAs are exempt from normal pet policies. That means restrictions on size, weight and breed of pets do not apply to emotional support animals. 
  3. ESA owners also do not have to pay any additional fees (including application fees) or deposits to live with their ESA. 

However, there are LIMITATIONS to these rights

  1. An emotional support animal must be domesticated and well-behaved. This means that you cannot bring a wild or aggressive animal into an apartment, etc. 
  2. Your ESA also can’t pose any health or safety hazard to other residents. 
  3. Some small housing providers are exempt from having to follow ESA rules, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent. 
  4. In addition, you cannot bring your emotional support animal into your new home unannounced and expect everyone in a no-pet housing complex will comply. You must submit a request for accommodation to your landlord in advance and provide a copy of your ESA letter. 

It’s important to make sure that you have the right documentation for your emotional support animal. Most landlords in Texas are fully aware of what constitutes a valid proof for an emotional support animal.

*Landlords have every right to validate if you have a true emotional support animal by requesting an ESA letter from you

Qualifying for an ESA Letter in Texas

To have a legally recognized emotional support animal in Texas, you will need an ESA letter from a healthcare professional who is licensed in Texas. 

  1. You can request one from your current healthcare professional who is providing services for your mental health. 

OR

  1. You can also reach out to this counselor and apply online for an ESA Letter without having to leave your home.

What Happens Next?

First, the licensed healthcare professional will determine if you have a mental or emotional health disability that substantially limits a major life activity

Qualifying conditions include:

PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias, autism, and learning disorders. 

Second, the healthcare professional will assess whether an emotional support animal can help alleviate the symptoms of that particular mental or emotional health disability. 

Pretty simple, right? (I told you it wouldn’t be as hard as you might think)

So, How Do I Get Started ?

Just call our number and leave the following. An application packet will be emailed to you and you will not be charged for the service unless you are approved. If approved, an original copy letter will be mailed to your physical residence.

Information we need to get started:

  1. your full legal name, 
  2. city in Texas where you live, 
  3. preferred phone number for contact (in case healthcare provider requires) and 
  4. a personal email where the application documents may be sent. 

(*all info must be that of the owner of the animal/s applied for)

Just Remember

If you’re a Texas resident, your ESA rights require that you have a legitimate ESA letter from a healthcare professional that is licensed in Texas.

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Struggling with Mental/Emotional Health or Addiction in Houston?

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Anxiety & Stress Cancer & Medical Children & Grief ESA - Emotional Support Animals First Responders Grief Loss Survivors of Suicide Terminal Illness

13 Facts Every ESA Owner in Texas Should Know

13 Facts Every ESA Owner in Texas Should  Know

On January 28th, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in housing. 

(*This is a very important development for owners of ESAs and it is the first comprehensive update to ESA housing rules made since 2013.)

13 Facts Every Current or Potential Owner of Emotional Support Animals (ESA) in Texas Should Know

  1. Dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, other rodents and even turtles can be ESAs.
  1. Landlords are required to engage in interactive dialogue with tenants about ESA requests.
  1. ESA requests can be made orally or in writing (ESA Letter will still be required for approval)
  1. Tenants can make an ESA request before or after acquiring their ESA Letter
  1. HUD confirms that landlords are not allowed to refuse based on breed/weight restrictions.
  1. Landlords are prevented from being able to charge fees and deposits for ESAs.
  1. Landlords are expected to respond to ESA requests promptly, and at least within 10 days.
  1. Landlords cannot require your healthcare professional to use a specific form for their ESA Letter
  1. Landlords cannot request sensitive details about the tenant’s condition (your privacy protected)
  1. HOAs and Co-Ops are also subject to ESA rules
  1. Tenants can use the help of third-parties to care for their ESAs
  1. Registrations and licenses are NOT legitimate ways to qualify an ESA
  1. ESA letters can come from online health professionals (must be licensed in your State)

All current and prospective owners of ESAs in Texas should become familiar with these new rules which are now in effect and replace the 2013 rules.

 

Need other Emotional Health or Addiction Recovery services? 

Categories
Grief Loss

How to Handle the Loss When a Loved One Dies of COVID-19

It finally feels like there’s some hope when it comes to seeing the end of this pandemic. But COVID-19 isn’t over yet. Even when it is, it’s impossible to ignore the destruction and devastation it has caused. 

People will feel the effects of this pandemic for years to come. It has taken a toll on mental health; it has changed the healthcare industry, and even the way people work. 

But, for some, COVID hit on a more personal level. 

Over 500,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19. While those individuals might be just another number to add to a statistic for some, when they are a loved one of yours, it’s different. 

So, how can you handle the loss when someone you care about dies of this virus?  

COVID-19 and Accepting Your Feelings

One of the worst parts about losing someone to the pandemic is that it was probably sudden and unexpected. An unexpected loss can feel so much worse, so people tend to handle them in different ways. 

However you choose to feel is completely up to you. Accepting your feelings and knowing that they are valid is the first step to grieving properly. Chances are your grief will begin with very intense emotions. You may be in denial, or angry, or you might immediately try to care for others.  

It’s easy to get “derailed” in your own thoughts and feelings, too. That’s become a common problem with COVID-19 deaths. You might start thinking about why it had to happen, and what could have been done to prevent it.

While those feelings are just as valid, try not to get caught up in the “what ifs”, as they can hold up the natural grieving process.  

Focus On What You Can Control

When you lose someone you love, it can also feel as if you’re losing control. You might become fixated on the things that are completely out of your grasp, which only serves to fuel frustration and hurt. 

Instead, use this time to focus on the things you can control. They might be small, everyday things, like choosing to take care of your physical health, or finding time to be mindful each day. Small choices can make a big difference.

The more you shift your thinking to things you can control, the stronger you’ll become, and the easier it will be to rise up to life’s challenges. 

COVID-19 and Getting Rid of Guilt

There are plenty of thoughts and emotions that will try to derail your grieving process. Guilt tends to be a big one, especially in dealing with an unexpected death. It can overwhelm you, especially when you wonder why you’re healthy and strong and someone you love had to die because of this disease. 

Survivor’s guilt is natural. But keeping an eye on it and making sure it doesn’t consume you is important. Eventually, you need to focus on experiencing joy and contentment in your life again. It’s okay if that takes a while, but don’t hold yourself back from positive experiences and moments of moving forward just because you feel guilty. 

The grief of losing someone to COVID can be different from the experience of a traditional loss. If you’re struggling to cope, feel free to contact me. This is a unique period of life, and with so many unexpected deaths due to this illness, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed.

Together, we can work on more ways to handle the loss effectively and in healthy ways that will allow you to grieve on your own timeline, with a focus on eventually moving forward in life. 

Categories
Alcohol Anxiety & Stress Grief Life Transitions Loss Survivors of Suicide Terminal Illness Uncategorized

5 Warning Signs of Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. That said, the signs of depression can vary for everyone. Some people might experience more severe symptoms. Others might be “high-functioning” with their depression. Knowing the signs of depression can help you determine when it might be time to get some help.

Despite some of the differences, there are a few warning signs of depression to be aware of. You may not be experiencing full-fledged symptoms yet, or you might be noticing that you feel a bit “off.”

Understanding some of these warning signs early on will make it easier to seek out help sooner. As a result, you can take control of your depression and manage your symptoms more effectively.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common warning signs of depression.

1. Your Outlook Has Changed

One of the most common symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness. If you’ve noticed that you have started to see things in a negative light, or your mood is more “down” than usual, it could be an early sign of depression.

Keep in mind that everyone feels sad and down from time to time. But, if it’s persistent and those feelings don’t seem to go away, it may be something more.

2. Physical Signs

While depression is a mental health condition, there are physical signs to watch for, too.

Some of the most common symptoms of depression are changes in sleep patterns or eating habits. If you’ve started to notice some of those changes, consider why they might be happening. Are they connected to how you feel?

3. A Loss of Interest

Do you find yourself not wanting to do things you usually enjoy? It’s normal to want some alone time or to relax. However, if you’re always backing out of something you typically love, it could be a warning sign of depression. That’s especially true if those things usually bring you happiness.

4. Pulling Away From Loved Ones

In addition to losing interest in interests, another potential warning sign is withdrawing from the people in your life.

Have you said “no” to spending time with family and friends lately? When was the last time you talked to someone you love? Withdrawal is a common sign of depression, often linked with feelings of hopelessness or even fatigue.

5. Changes in Your Emotions

It’s not uncommon for emotions to fluctuate throughout the day. But, depression can take those emotions to the extreme. If you feel sad one minute and angry the next, to the point where it causes an irritable outburst, it’s likely more than just your “typical” emotions coming through.

People with depression also sometimes experience feelings of anxiety. Fear can be overwhelming, and you might feel as though it’s taking over every aspect of your life if you don’t find a way to fight against it.

If you feel like you are losing control over your emotions, or they’re controlling you, it’s essential to understand why as soon as possible.

What’s the Next Step?

Again, the warning signs of depression can be different for everyone. But, the signs listed here are relatively common. If you’re struggling with this condition, you’re likely to display at least one of them.

Thankfully, depression isn’t only one of the most common mental health conditions; it’s also one of the most manageable. If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, even if you’re not sure why, feel free to contact me to set up an appointment or visit my page about Heart Disease and Depression.

Together, we can work out the underlying cause(s) of why you might be feeling this way. Once we understand that root cause better, we can work on a management plan to help you control those depressive thoughts and symptoms.

Categories
Loss

Counseling for Loss

Counseling for Loss

Loss isn’t an emotional experience reserved for only the death of a friend or family member. There are many powerful losses we may experience throughout our lifetimes: loss of employment, loss of a marriage or relationship, loss of social connection (ex: moving to a new town), loss of property (ex: house fire or flooding), loss of a beloved pet and much more. Counseling for loss can be a great comfort and help as you move through this period. Some losses hit us harder than others. Each of us is different and experiencing a loss intensely that those around us don’t experience to the same degree does not make us weak, fragile or wrong – it makes us different. Like grief, every loss experience is personal and unique. And the recovery journey through it will be too.

Many of us also base our identity on our profession. When we meet someone, the first question we are often asked is, “What do you do?” It can be painful or embarrassing to admit to being unemployed. You might be surprised how many people hide the fact their unemployed from even their closest friends.

It can be especially difficult to share our loss and reach out to our friends and family for support if we are embarrassed by the loss, don’t feel others will understand how strongly we may feel or if our support system is not readily available anymore. For some of us the sadness and depressed feelings are the stronger aspect of our experience. For others, there is an anxiety or frustration that dominates this period. Either way is normal. Your experience is personal and unique to you. It does not have to fit into someone else’s idea of how a loss should be experienced.

Losing your home, career or relationship can very be frustrating. It also leaves you feeling very vulnerable. Feeling exposed, especially when it was not our decision to be so, makes many people anxious. Anxiety in turn, negatively impact sleep, which in turn impacts mood and memory, which creates more stress and anxiety…and so on…and so on. It becomes a cyclic and self-feeding problem.

Stress levels can go up with many types of losses and our preoccupation (not to mention reduced quality of sleep) can make our focus and memory a bit more difficult as well. Family and other relationships are usually impacted, adding more stress to the problem. Some of us take our frustrations out on the people who are closest to us – the ones “safest” to be emotional with. Why? Because is easier to be grumpy and grouchy with a partner or kids. But of course, this doesn’t work out so well, either.

Whether your unique and personal loss has you feeling depressed or anxious or both, counseling may be the right support for you at this time. Talking with someone who is trained and experienced in this area and who will preserve your confidentiality and dignity can make a big difference. If you’ve experienced a loss and you are ready to talk to someone who can help – please call.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

Ben Carrettin is Nationally Board Certified, a Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked in the arena of addiction/emotional health and the corporate world for many years. He is also a lay chaplain with advanced training in pastoral care and cross-cultural communication.

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