50 Shades of Caution

Today is the release of “50 Shades Darker,” the second installment of the 50 Shades series.  As fans across the nation gear up for a weekend of girls’ nights out and couples make plans for a slightly naughty Valentine’s Day, I feel it’s important to throw a few reminders out there.

At any given time, at least 50% of my client population identify as “kinky.” Some have identified this way for decades and some a shorter period of time.  Say, about six years, or right about the time 50 Shades first became popular.  The trilogy did something wonderful – it gave people permission to explore different aspects of their sexuality.  Perhaps BDSM had been a fantasy viewed as forbidden or maybe the books served as a cure for bedroom boredom.  Either way, feeling able to explore and express sexuality in healthy ways is something I encourage.

The devil is in the details, however.

  1. CONSENT. When I talk to patients about consent, I don’t just leave it at that. I use the new buzz term “enthusiastic consent.” What this means is that everybody knows what is currently happening, what’s going to happen, and they verbalize agreement to all activities. Never assume consent. Ever.
  2. EDUCATION. If you’ve never engaged in BDSM, you have some homework to do. If you stop by Adam & Eve on your way home from the movie, buy a flogger or riding crop, and use it with your partner that night, somebody’s going to get hurt. It’s irresponsible for either party (Dominant or submissive) to engage in kink without doing a little reading first.  I always recommend “Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns.”  It’s a good beginner book written by experienced kinksters.
  3. REALITY vs FICTION. 50 Shades are books and movies.  They are not an accurate portrayal of how BDSM does or should work. The other thing is that fantasy is almost always better than reality. In your fantasy, you don’t have to consider your pain tolerance. In reality? Probably a little different. Nobody ever uses a safeword, gets a leg cramp, or has gas in the midst of a scene in your fantasies.  But things happen differently in reality.

Enjoy.  Explore.  But be SAFE and SMART!


Checking In On Those Resolutions

Some people see the New Year as an opportunity for a fresh start.  A chance to leave behind old behaviors that may have been unhealthy or unfulfilling.  The perfect time to dust off abandoned goals and continue work on them with renewed determination.

Others don’t make resolutions, and that’s okay, too.

We’re nearing the end of January, and most people have an idea of whether or not their New Years resolutions are going to stick.  How have you been doing?  Are you managing not to drink this month?  Staying away from the trigger foods?  Going to the gym a couple times a week?

How about your emotional health?  Are you managing your anger in a healthy way?  Taking care of your relationship?  Is your sex life satisfying?  Be sure not to neglect the mental, emotional, sexual, and relational aspects of your life!  These are also worthy of resolutions and goal-setting.

If you realize your resolutions are starting to go by the wayside, it’s only January!  Get refocused and keep going.

A Word on Robin Williams’ Suicide

The news of Robin Williams’ death spread quickly across the nation and throughout the rest of the world.  People were shocked, saddened, grief-stricken as they learned that a man who had made them laugh, cry, think, and laugh again had passed away at what is a relatively young age.  Then came word that his was not merely a death but a suicide.  Another shockwave.  Another collective gasp. Another shared feeling amongst strangers of bewilderment, a lack of understanding, questions that can never be answered, and, finally – simply – profound sadness.

I’ve heard many reactions to Robin Williams’ suicide.  Speculation that his was an inadequate relationship with God.  Confusion about how he could be depressed when he was rich, famous, and seemed so happy.  Mostly, there seems to be a deep, empathic connection from those who have suffered from depression or felt that suicidal despair of “It’s never going to get better.”  There’s been an urgency to speak out on his behalf about the dangers of untreated depression.  Pleas for understanding because this isn’t a solitary battle…or it shouldn’t be.

For those struggling to understand his suicide, you aren’t alone.  It’s difficult to reconcile the smiling, laughing person presented to the world with who we’re now told was the real person.  It’s difficult to wrap our heads around the idea that someone could so brilliantly use humor as a defense against his inner struggles.   It’s hard to know that he really was always playing a role for our benefit, even if it was to his own detriment. But that’s the reality of the situation, and it’s causing some cognitive dissonance on a national scale.

Social media has become ground zero for a depression awareness movement, with advocates posting wise quotes along with the toll-free number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).  As a woman in midlife, I’ve known my share of people who have committed suicide.  As a resident of the South, I’m used to the religious rhetoric that follows.  However, this has been different, for the most part.  In what I’m left to assume was unintentional, Robin Williams has sparked an awareness of the necessity for mental health treatment.  Hopefully, this will save someone’s life, even if his could not be saved.

Is Your Marriage Headed for Divorce?

I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries lately from people seeking either marriage/couples counseling or individual counseling with a distressed marriage as the focus.  Relationships are always an issue in therapy, so I was happy to run into this blog:  6 Signs Your Marriage Could Be Heading to Divorce.  If your marriage isn’t in the best place, then read this.  It might be time to start doing things differently and possibly seek the help of a therapist.  In therapy, you and your partner can identify unhealthy, even damaging, patterns of communication and learn how to replace them with healthier tools.  Issues of trust, spending/budgeting, parenting, sex, and more can also be addressed in a safe and supportive environment.

Additionally, it’s fairly common to get into marriage counseling and discover that one or both partners also need individual therapy.  Doesn’t that make sense, though?  Each person really does need their own time and space to sort out the issues that they brought with them into the marriage (and everyone brings issues into marriage!).  To try and do that during couples counseling sessions would take too much time away from the relationship work itself.  So, don’t hold back from simultaneously diving into your own individual work with your own separate therapist.  (I would advise against the couples counselor doing the individual therapy to avoid a conflict of interest.)  Good luck!

– Kandice

Holding grudges

PsychCentral has a great blog post on the topic of holding grudges.  Many people experience situations in which they’re hurt by others and feel unable to forgive.  Even after receiving a sincere apology, they feel unable to move forward in the relationship.  More often than not, the person this hurts the most is YOU.  The anger festers and eats away at you like a cancer.  It causes anxiety and interferes in your daily happiness. 

One key note that the PsychCentral blog makes and that I want to emphasize:  This discussion excludes those who feel unable to forgive someone who has abused them.  That’s an entirely different conversation, as an abuse victim has no obligation to forgive the person who hurt him/her.

As you read this, think about your own life.  Has there been someone who hurt you?  Has that person apologized (and was it a genuine apology)?  Have you been able to forgive the person and move forward in the relationship?  If not, what’s holding you back?  Are you holding a grudge or is it that you’ve decided the relationship can’t be saved?


News Story: Pregnant Mom Drives Minivan with Three Kids into Ocean

This story has been all over…well, everywhere.  Television, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet in general.  Ebony Wilkerson, a 32-year-old mother, drove her minivan into the ocean.  In the vehicle with her were her three children (ages 3, 9, and 10).  She is also pregnant.  Fortunately, bystanders intervened and rescued all of them.

Several additional important pieces of information:

1)  Ebony’s family had asked police to do a wellcheck on her earlier in the day.  Why?  Because she had been talking about demons and had the children in the car with her.  Though her family didn’t believe she’d hurt the kids, they were concerned about her behavior.

2)  She was a domestic violence victim, trying to avoid being found by her abusive ex-husband, and was on her way to a safe shelter.  Recent trauma could certainly have impacted her state of mind.

What really strikes me about all of this is the reaction of the public.  I’ve seen many people post about this on Facebook, many more people commenting on those posts, and endless analysts on tv weighing in with their opinions.  EVERYONE, so far, seems to have a great deal of empathy for Ebony.  The reactions are that of concern that she get the help she needs.  I’ve seen nothing but understanding for this woman, who desperately needs exactly that right now.

Not so long ago, there would have been no questions about what had led to her actions.  No curiosity about the context.  The public would have had her charged and convicted, regardless of the circumstances, and there would have been no discussion of getting her mental health help.  We, as a country, have come a long way in a short time toward embracing mental health awareness and removing the stigma associated with getting therapy.  That can only result in making us happier and healthier!



Toxic Parents

PsychCentral is an excellent mental health resource, and a few days ago, they had a blog featured about how to deal with toxic people in your life.  It was very informative, telling people what the signs are of a toxic person (or relationship), and also what can be done to cope with this.

The final piece of advice was that, if all else fails, perhaps it’s best to go your separate ways and end the relationship.  This seems like sound, logical advice.

However, what happens if the toxic relationship is with a parent?

I’ve seen many patients over the years who struggle to deal with the fact that one of their parents has them locked in an unhealthy relationship.  If any other person – friend, partner, spouse, employer, or other family member – treated them this way, they would have cut ties long ago.  But the fact that it’s a parent behaving this way has a different meaning.

As children, we’re taught to obey our elders, often without question.  That way of thinking doesn’t simply evaporate and transform once we become adults.  To complicate things, the reverse is also true:  parents don’t always view their adult children as, well, ADULTS!  So, there’s a constant tug-of-war, where the adult child is struggling for recognition and respect, yet may feel guilty (“Maybe I’m being a bad child…”), and the parent is unable to view their child as a grown-up.

Of course, there’s usually much more baggage attached to the relationship, such as a history of child abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse, a parent with a personality disorder, and/or difficulty respecting boundaries, to name but a few.

The results?  Chaos.  Turmoil.  Drama.  Hurt feelings.  Resentment.  All of the things that make holidays and family get-togethers uncomfortable.

Some people do make the decision to discontinue the relationship with their toxic parents.  I’ve seen it happen many times, and it was never an easy decision nor was it easy afterward.  However, it was the right decision for those people.  Others continue to engage in the relationship with various amounts of contact (very little contact to complete enmeshment).  This also isn’t an easy decision to make.

There are many, I think, who would like to walk away from the toxic people in their lives.  However, when those people are your parents, it complicates things and makes it an even more painful situation.



The 360 Blog is Here!

I’ve never blogged before, but I thought that this would be a great way to keep everyone updated on the latest mental health news, topics that are of interest to those looking for answers or insights, and, of course, the goings-on at 360 Counseling.  If you have any suggestions for a topic that you’re curious about or a news item that you feel is important to highlight, feel free to email me at Kandice@360counselingnc.com and I’ll do my best to get it out there.

Looking forward to this new adventure!