cougar grandma

There is no age limit for intimacy

Human beings like intimacy. We need to be touched and to feel sexually-wanted and attractive. We want to experience the benefits of good old sexual pleasure—the release of endorphins, the natural stress buster. We want to feel good. These needs don’t end as we age, they might change a bit, but they don’t end. 

I read an article the other day about an 83-year-old woman who is using the popular dating app Tinder to find much younger men to have sex with. In the article, she says “My life goal is to change the awful, decrepit view of aging – view and experience, and turn it into something exciting. A life-loving adventure. The depth of life, you can’t avoid it. But the shallowness of good sex, that’s what is good enough for me.”

I found her openness and her passion for life exhilarating. Who said that getting older meant you had to stop having sex? Or stop trying new things? Stop having adventures? Life is short and it is what we make of it. We can choose to enjoy it until the very last drop or we can decide to put an expiration date on certain behaviors because, well, we just don’t feel they are appropriate. But, let’s get real here. We are all human. We all enjoy connection. This is a very basic part of being a person that should be enjoyed to the very last drop. 

Getting old doesn’t have to be depressing. Being older just means we have had more experience, we might be a little frailer or struggle with our health in ways we didn’t use to, but we are still on this earth. Each day gives us a whole 24 more hours to enjoy being on earth. 

Take a tip from grandma Hattie, and love your life. Do what your heart desires. Enjoy being you. 

narcissist-codependent relationship

When Addiction is About More Than Substances

The Narcissist-Codependent Relationship

When we think of abusing drugs and alcohol and the nature of an addict, we generally think mostly about the substances they are using and the individuals themselves. But, that is not all. Sometimes it is the relationships they are in and the people in their lives contributing to their underlying problems. 

One such problemsome relationship is the narcissist and the codependent. Narcissist personality types tend to put themselves above all else. They use other people to benefit themselves, exploit relationships without feelings of guilt, blame others for their missteps, and look down on others to make themselves feel better. Codependent personality types lack self-esteem, rarely make decisions for themselves, always put others first, feel they must always be in a relationship and are overly dependent on the other people in their lives. A relationship between the two personality types often leads each person to reinforce each other’s negative behaviors. 

A codependent won’t stand up to a narcissist about unhealthy behaviors and a narcissist won’t listen to a codependent. One is too fearful to lose the other, and the other wants to stay in control of their partner and doesn’t care how he/she/they feels. Codependents often become the enablers in these relationships. They don’t stand up to their partners and they often financially support their partner’s negative behaviors, after all, they don’t want to make them mad. The codependent might also help the narcissist to hide his/her/their addictions.

It is obvious this kind of relationship is unhealthy and can’t last. If we want the addiction under control the narcissist needs to get away from the enabler, the codependent. The codependent also needs to work on being their own person, and stop being the doormat for the narcissist and increase his/her/their self-worth and self-esteem. 

It is possible to end these types of relationships, it just takes some work. The codependent needs to take a serious look at themselves to realize how dependent they are and to end the cycle, and let go of the narcissist. Seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional can help end these behaviors and turn things around. Sometimes it takes an intervention from people outside the relationship, who see things others do not, to get the ball rolling. 

These behaviors may stem from something much deeper—a childhood experience, past relationship, or trauma. Getting help can help each person to heal. 

human connection

Our Need for Connection and What We Can Do About it

Human connection is about sharing experiences, ideas, and feelings with others. It is a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. And, it is crucial to our happiness, our health, and our overall survival as a species.

Yet, why are we so bad at connecting?

In our ever-connected world, where we can catch up with our high school math teacher or college roommate with a click of a button, scroll through images of our coworkers’ weekend adventures, or send a text in a matter of seconds, we are becoming increasingly unconnected. It is damaging to our happiness, our health, and our overall wellbeing. How can a world that is so focused on this idea of always being reachable be drawing us further apart? 

We are spending so much time with our heads in our devices we are missing that authentic face-to-face connection that is so important. We are losing sight of authenticity. It is so easy to leave a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall pretending to care when the reality is we haven’t thought about them in years. We don’t know what is real anymore. We choose what photos we are posting, what information we are sharing with the world and we create our facade, whether it is a true picture of our lives or not. We edit and re-edit ourselves. We tend to share the best in our lives, making things look picture-perfect, but leave out the struggles, the challenges, the stuff that makes us who we are.

There is a reason we used to function as tribes, all the woman working together to care for the families. All the men hunting and gathering. It is the same reason that often people who live alone die earlier and get sicker before they pass. Human connection, the need to connect with others, is at our core as people. 

To fulfill that need, we need to get out into the world and talk to people. We need to have face-to-face conversations. We need to do things together — have family dinners, watch a sporting event, go on a walk, have a picnic, connect outside of our electronic devices. And, we need to be authentic. We need to be our true selves. We need to share, ask the tough questions, open up about our lives and who we are. We need to focus less on finding a connection for ourselves and more on connecting with others. I know it sounds like the same thing but I mean to say that rather than waiting for people to come to you, go to them. 

Your mental health, your happiness, your sense of self-worth, all of it, will thank you for putting yourself out there and connecting. 

trauma growth

How to grow post-trauma

It is called trauma for a reason. It is shocking, full of pain, and often difficult to accept and move forward from. But, growth from trauma is possible. 

There are two different philosophies on trauma. The western philosophy is that trauma is an enemy that should be challenged or confronted. The eastern philosophy is that trauma is a “companion,” not an enemy. Victims are encouraged to feel the pathos of nature, the pain. Rather than sticking closely to one philosophy or another, it is best to incorporate both into healing and growth. 

Victim, Survivor, Thriver

Post-traumatic growth involves the passage of being the victim, then the survivor, and ultimately the thriver. Trauma is not fair and being the victim comes with a lot of pain and challenges. Being the victim is not something that needs to result in guilt or shame but rather it is something that happened. It is something that needs to be accepted and grown through — hence the “companion” not the enemy. When you accept that you were a victim, that trauma becomes part of you. You learn how to live with the fact that this happened to you and you learn how to thrive.

A person is still in the victim stage when they feel like they are still in the trauma event, no matter what or how long the actual traumatic event happened. The victim might feel overwhelmed, helpless, angry, etc. A victim moves to the survivor stage when they start to see the resources around to help them, the people in their life that care for them, the good things around them. A survivor is no longer completely encompassed by the traumatic event and is on the road to healing. They are beginning to feel strong and confident in themselves. 

Life Satisfaction

A person reaches the thriving stage when they have taken their healing to the point of feeling general satisfaction with their life. They have crystallized the survivor stage and are enjoying their life. In the thriver stage, a trauma victim sees long-term possibilities. They begin to focus on taking care of their health and loved ones. They also recognize and know how to cope with post-traumatic stress and any other issues that remain related to their trauma. 

A licensed mental health professional has the tools to help trauma victims go from victims to thrivers. Those in the mental health profession know that just because you were a victim of trauma, it does not need to define you. You can grow, move forward, and ultimately thrive in your new reality. 

acceptance over grief

Acceptance is Not the Final Destination

Acceptance is an important part of healing. It is a necessary step to begin moving forward. But, just because you have gotten to the acceptance stage doesn’t mean that all your grieving is done. 

Acceptance of a loss does not mean you won’t feel sad at times or lament every once in a while. You still might have moments where grief overtakes. You still might feel overwhelmed with sadness at times, and that is ok. 

Still Have Moments

Loss of any kind is difficult to accept but even after you learn to embrace your reality you will still be faced with moments. After all, you once had this person, pet, home, a career that you loved, that was part of you and you will still miss it.

Part of acceptance is learning to live with loss and to allow yourself to feel those moments of sadness. Don’t tuck it away or shrug it off, let yourself live it and then move slowly back into your present reality. The loss that you are grieving is just as much a part of you as the person, place, thing that you once had. 

Find The Joy

These moments, while difficult to endure, are little reminders to look at what we still do have in our lives. They teach us to find the joy in the little things and embrace the moments of peace that fall between the moments of grief. 

If you are struggling with moving through grief or loss of any kind, it may be helpful to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help you through to the acceptance stage and give suggestions on how to move forward through the sad times. You are stronger than you think. Your loss is meaningful. It is important. It is not forgotten. It is ok to have moments, to live them, to be in your grief. It is ok. 

healthy relationships after chaos

Having healthy relationships after growing up in chaos

When you are a child raised in an emotionally chaotic environment you learn how to survive in that situation. I am talking about children who are raised in untrustworthy situations where they have become accustomed to the fact that even when things don’t feel right nothing they say or do is going to make things better. 

In many cases, these children have learned that expressing discourse of any kind is a bad thing. They learn to shut their feelings down and ignore the bad they might be feeling inside. This is because as children we know that we need our parents or other caregivers to survive. They give us what we need, so we have to keep things as livable as possible. 

Stuck in Old Patterns

Now, this sort of behavior might work for a child but as an adult keeping your feelings buried and not listening to them, leaves us stuck. As an adult you can’t keep silent, it doesn’t allow us to grow or develop any real intimacy with others. It also doesn’t keep us safe as it did as children. 

By not acting on our own self-protective instincts we end up in harm’s way, consumed by fear, obsessively thinking about what we dislike about our world, and carrying overwhelming feelings of resentment. We become mad at ourselves for not being able to change our situation. 

Rediscover Healthy Relationships

When you have spent your whole life ignoring your nervous system, how do you then recover and allow yourself to develop healthy relationships? 

The first step to any change is to recognize what is happening inside of you. How are you feeling when? What causes you to react in a certain way? Then confront those feelings. Instead of pushing them down, react. Stand up for yourself. Speak your thoughts. Remind yourself that this behavior no longer takes care of you, and allow yourself compassion and gratitude for the fact that you once did exactly what you needed to survive. 

Let Go of Toxic People

Then, ask yourself what you need to know and hear from others in your life. If those people can’t provide what you need, then understand it is ok to let them go. You don’t need to hold on to another out of fear. Find the courage inside of you to speak your truth and to acknowledge what you need. You may not have gotten what you needed as a child, but you don’t have to live like that anymore. The time is NOW to take care of you. 

You can make changes for the better. The power is within you. Seeking help from a licensed professional can help you to identify these feelings within and confront them head-on. A mental health professional can guide you and help to give you the tools to make positive changes. 

support partner with depression

How to support a partner with depression

Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression can be difficult. It is hard to know what you can do to help and you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. It can also be difficult to know if what you are doing is helping, causing you to get discouraged and feel helpless.

Depression is a tricky thing. It is an internal struggle, a mental illness that ebbs and flows. People who are depressed have good days and bad days just like everyone else. Those who struggle with depression need love and support from those around them. They need people with knowledge and understanding who can give them grace during bad times.

That being said, as in any relationship, you must take care of yourself too. Make sure you take time to breathe, relax, decompress, and practice self-care. Supporting someone who is depressed can take a toll on you, as a partner, as well. Take the time to recognize your needs.

Here are some ways you can help a partner with depression:

1.) Learn about depression— It is hard to help someone who is struggling with their mental health if you don’t have some knowledge. People who are depressed often have angry outbursts, moments of withdrawal, days when they want to stay in bed all day, bouts of crying, and unexplained sadness. If you aren’t aware of the symptoms then you, as a partner, might get angry, take things personally, or feel hurt. Understanding and making sure you also have a support system is important.

2.) Just be there — Sometimes caring for another is as simple as sitting with them, giving them a hug, rubbing their back, checking on them, etc. You don’t have to do any huge acts of kindness. It is more about showing your support by being present. Letting them know you care about them. Say things like “we will get through this together.”

3.) Encourage treatment — Often those struggling with depression get so down on themselves that they don’t have the energy or the motivation to get help. They might not even know why they are feeling this way, or notice changes in their behavior. As a partner, you can be a voice of reason. You can encourage them to get help, maybe even schedule and take them to the first visit. Tell them what you have noticed and explain to them you want them to feel better. You can assist in the research of mental health options. Let them know you are on their team.

4.) Create a supportive home environment — It is important to recognize that depression is no one’s fault. It is not yours and it is not your partner’s fault for being depressed. Create a healing environment in your household. Make plans to exercise together. Choose a healthy diet plan to help you both feel your best. Limit access to things like alcohol or drugs. Make time for counseling appointments. Create routines and work together to limit overall stress around the home.

5.) Positive reinforcement —People who are depressed often feel the worst about themselves. Everything they do is wrong, everything is bad, they feel worthless. Noticing small improvements and mentioning them to your partner can go along way, “I think it is great you got up to workout this morning,” “I am proud of you for making that appointment,” etc.

6.) Set small goals — Depression is overwhelming and overcoming symptoms can feel like a mountain to climb. Instead of looking at the big picture, focus on the day-to-day. Set small, manageable goals. Maybe it is taking a walk a few nights a week after work, going to bed by a certain time each day, making and keeping an appointment, or even getting out of bed and doing one thing — like making a meal, taking a shower, something attainable.

7.) Know suicide warning signs —It is hard to think about but suicide is a very real result of depression for some people. You must acknowledge the risk and keep your eyes peeled for signs. Talk to your partner about how they feel, is this something they think about? Keep notice of them making plans, talking about death, giving things away, or finding a sudden calm, see other warning signs here.

Supporting someone with depression can be hard on the partner. Make sure, as mentioned above, to take care of yourself as well. You can’t be expected to carry all the burden but you can show those you love that you are there for them. Seeking help from a licensed professional counselor can be helpful for both yourself and your partner. Don’t hesitate to get help. You don’t have to do this alone.

foods to battle depression

Foods To Help Battle Depression

When you are feeling depressed, you probably aren’t thinking too much about the foods you are eating. But, research shows that eating right can give your brain the tools it needs to avoid (or even treat) depression. 

Let’s get real here, when we eat right, we tend to weigh less and feel better overall. But that is not the only reason the food you eat matters:

1.) Protein-rich foods boost energy — Proteins like turkey, tuna, and chicken contain the amino acid tryptophan which can help your body produce serotonin. Eating one of these protein-packed foods several times a day can boost energy and help you to clear your mind. Other healthy proteins can be beans/peas, low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt, and soy. 

2.) Vitamins help you feel better — A Spanish study showed a link between depression and the amount of vitamin B12 women got and the amount of folate men had in their diet. Eating things like legumes, nuts, fruits, and dark green vegetables can help keep folate levels high; and lean and low-fat animal products and fish can help to keep B12 levels where they need to be.

3.) Omega-3 Fatty Acids are good for your heart and your brain — Scientists have found that those who don’t consume enough Omega-3s are at greater risk for Major Depressive Disorder. Fatty fish, flaxseed, canola oil, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables are all good ways to get your Omegas in. 

4.) Antioxidants help prevent cell damage — It is important to keep our brains in tip-top shape and antioxidants can help with that. Our bodies make free radicals which can damage cells and lead to aging and other problems. Antioxidants lessen the destructive impact of these molecules. Foods like carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, nuts and seeds all contain antioxidants. 

5.) The mineral selenium can keep your mood boosted — Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods. Foods like beans and legumes, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, seafood, and whole grains are all rich in selenium. 

Avoiding certain unhealthy foods can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression including limiting caffeine and alcohol. Remember if you treat your body right, your brain will follow. 

men symptoms depression

Men Show Depression & Anxiety Differently

Men and women have different ways of reacting to feelings of anxiety or depression. Where a woman might cry or voice feelings of nervousness or unrest, a man might react in an angry outburst, alcohol-abuse, or even muscle aches and pains.

Difficult to Diagnose

This significant difference in reactions often makes it difficult to diagnose men. Many times they choose to not seek help and those around them don’t recognize the signs.

Often we think of men as jerks when they have a big emotional reaction to something that seems insignificant, when in fact they could be reacting that way because they are nervous or anxious. Men who are depressed have more issues with controlling, violent or abusive behaviors and inappropriate anger, according to the Mayo Clinic. Men tend to turn to escapist behaviors, like spending more time at work or sporting events. They might avoid coming home or attending group events.

Many men also find it difficult to display emotions like sadness or to find a release like crying, and instead hold those feelings deep inside resulting in muscle aches or pains, headaches, and dizziness.

Unhealthy Coping

All that holding in makes it hard to process feelings, leading many men to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse, or turning to risky behaviors like reckless driving. Rather than dealing with their mental illness or admitting they are struggling with some hard times, they drown their feelings turning themselves numb. It is no question that these behaviors are unhealthy and often contribute to relationship failures, job loss, and other personal problems.

Scientists don’t know the exact reasons why depression/anxiety symptoms show up differently in men than women, but it is likely due to many factors — brain chemistry, hormones, life experiences, and learned behaviors, to name a few.

Help is Available

Because men display symptoms differently than women, we must have conversations. Learning and recognizing the different ways men may display symptoms of mental illness, can lead to more men getting the help they need.

woman insomnia

Why Do Women Have More Sleepless Nights?

There is no question that women generally get less sleep than men. They are raising young children and have significant hormone fluctuations making it harder to catch those necessary zzzz’s. In fact, the Society for Women’s Health Research found that women are 1.4 times more likely to report insomnia than men. 

But, research shows there is more to it than that. A study published by the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that women have a higher genetic risk of developing insomnia than men. 

Part of the increased risk of insomnia is also attributed to women being more prone to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Many of the same brain chemicals that are disrupted in someone with a mood disorder are also involved in regulating sleep. 

And, what about time? There is just not enough time in the day to do everything. In addition to being the primary caregivers of their children, women are also the primary caregivers of their elderly parents. Coupled with the desire to hold careers outside of the home, women are forced to decrease their sleep time to complete all their responsibilities.

It is exhausting.

If you are suffering from insomnia, what can you do? 

Therapy can help.

Talking to a licensed professional counselor can help to align your priorities and figure out an appropriate schedule. Therapy can also help teach healthy coping skills to combat symptoms of mood disorders so you aren’t staying up all night worrying.

If you experience chronic insomnia, three or more nights a week, then you should consider seeking the help of your health care provider or sleep medicine specialist. There are solutions to help curb the frequency of sleepless nights. 

Sleep is important to our overall health, and especially our mental wellbeing. When we don’t get enough restful hours we are more easily agitated, anxious, short-tempered, emotional, and it is hard to think clearly and focus. So many women put sleep to the side, they don’t feel like they have the time to get the hours in, but it is so important.