When going home hurts

Stress Management

The holiday season is in full swing.

In the United States, Thanksgiving through the New Year is a magical time of year for family, love, friends, and celebrating life. Hanukkah started last night and Christmas is tomorrow. Everywhere I look, I see holiday lights, candy canes, Santas, and other festive decorations.

For those of us who were raised in abusive or neglectful homes, this time of year can be very stressful and confusing. We feel nostalgic for a childhood we never had (but saw in all of those Christmas movies). We have a hope that this year will be different. This phone call home will go smoothly. This time so and so will be nice to us.

To make it more confusing, many people who were raised in abusive homes would not identify themselves as survivors of abuse. This is mainly because there are different types of abuse.

Physical abuse includes:

  • punching, shaking, kicking, pinching, hair pulling and many other terrible examples.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • unwanted touching anywhere that is typically covered by a swim suit or underwear. Sexual abuse also includes being forced to watch others engage in sexual acts against our will.

Emotional abuse is:

  • when people try to break our spirits by calling us names like “stupid”, “worthless”, a “mistake”, “fatty”, and even worse. Emotional abuse leads to feelings of shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, and anger. Emotional abuse is often not recognized as often as it should.

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse can all cause life-long problems, but especially when they are inflicted on us by the very people who are supposed to love us and keep us safe. Some of us continue to live and interact with our families on a regular basis and some of us have to make the decision each year whether or not we want to go home for the holidays.

Part of us really wants to go home. Part of us wants that love and validation that we have never been given. The other part of us already knows it will, in all likelihood, not happen that way yet we go home anyway, out of duty. Because during the holidays, that’s what you do, the holidays are all about family after all.

How do I fix myself?

I recommend developing coping skills first and foremost. You cannot dig into all of the deep pain of a broken childhood without having coping skills already in place. A mental health professional can help you learn, practice, and use these skills correctly.

Coping skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Yoga
  • Using music effectively
  • Exercise
  • Hiking
  • Reading particular books
  • Meditation
  • Learning to use and guide your thoughts and imagination
  • Guided Imagery
  • Support groups




The day Jennifer Lawrence broke twitter


If it is possible I am even more bothered today than yesterday over the leaked photos of Jennifer Lawrence. A crime was committed people’s personal information was hacked, and no one seems to care about that because Jennifer’s nipples broke twitter. I know that photos of other people besides Ms. Lawrence were leaked, but most of the hubbub I personally saw was related to Ms. Lawrence.

I am disgusted at the misogyny of the act. I am angry at the total lack of respect for women in general that society seems to possess. People are treating this gross violation of privacy as a joke. The memes that I have seen are shameful. I am disappointed in the blatant objectification of women. I am sickened at the fact that the hacker is being celebrated.

It is entirely irrelevant that those women chose to record an image of themselves of a deeply private and intimate nature. It is not on the victim to take “enough” measures to protect herself, to dress a certain way, travel in groups, wear special nail polish, or what-have-you to in hind-sight to protect one’s self.

What is missing here is a little thing called consent. When actors or models are photographed or videotaped for work (I am thinking nudity in film) there is consent. And these actors are made to feel safe on sets. If someone really wants to see nudity, browse or purchase nudity which has been created with consent. 

We all should have a reasonable expectation to privacy. I am trying to think how I personally would feel if I had nude photos of myself posted to a revenge porn site. Even if they are not nude photographs, we all have items on our smart phones that we would not want not want leaked to the world.

Celebrities don’t sign away their private rights for a movie deal or recording contract. Celebrities are human beings and should not be treated as commodities in their non-working moments.

I know that pictures of say, Brad Pitt or Niall Horan from One Direction would also generate publicity, but I don’t think it would have been the same in volume or tactlessness.

I am angry, but I am also resigned, disgusted, and saddened. As a human, these people deserve basic dignity and I cannot believe how many people are laughing and making jokes at these women’s total violation of privacy. Celebrities are humans, too. Give them some damn respect.

Back-to-School, Back-to-Bullying


Back-to-School, Back-to-Bullying

Cyberbullying is electronic communication via the Internet and other digital technologies to frighten, intimidate, and/or threaten another individual causing emotional distress.

Cyberbullying includes:

  • Obtaining information on the Internet about the victim in order to harass or intimidate online or offline
  • Sending or posting false information or messages about the victim
  • Impersonating someone online
  • Posting personal information about the victim online
  • Sending computer viruses to the victim

Cyberbullying occurs via:

  • Chat Rooms
  • E-Mail
  • Instant Messaging / Texting
  • Blogs
  • Social Networking sites

There are many different forms of cyberbullying, but seven are commonly encountered:

  1. Flaming: Sending messages that are rude or vulgar in nature about a person via an online group, e-mail, or instant/text message
  2. Outing: Posting or sending content about a person that is sensitive and/or private
  3. Exclusion: Deliberately and cruelly excluding someone from an online group
  4. Cyberstalking: Harassment via the Internet involving threats and intimidation
  5. Online harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive messages online
  6. Denigrating: Sending or posting untrue and cruel statements about a particular person. This can include e-mail or text insults about another peer’s physical characteristics, such as looks or weight. Girls are the more frequent target of insults than boys, and the insults often focused on weight (e.g., calling someone a “whale” or “ugly pig”) and promiscuity or sexuality (e.g., calling someone a “whore” or “slut”).
  7. Masquerade: Posing as someone else for the purpose of sending information via the Internet that makes that individual look bad. Some perpetrators manage to steal victims’ passwords in order to access computers or cell phones and pretend to be that person. Adolescents report that it is not difficult to obtain a password, and exchanging password information is often a sign of friendship.

Online sexual solicitation is another form of cyberbullying, whereby perpetrators identify victims online and entice them to perform sexual acts on or offline.

Boys have been found more likely to be perpetrators  and the peak frequency occurs between 13 and 15 years of age while girls and women tend to be the victims.

A full 50% of our youth are bullied online!

Cyberbully victims also tend to be victims in other areas of their lives, such as traditional bullying. Not surprisingly, victims of cyberbullying tend to use the Internet more than non-victims.

Although this can have devastating effects on victims, many are reluctant to seek help. Adolescents have stated they would not necessarily seek help from school staff due to:

  • Fear of being stigmatized as an informant
  • Fear of retaliation from the perpetrator
  • Concern of getting friends into trouble
  • Belief that it is not a school problem
  • Concern that parents would restrict their Internet activities

Youth feel that their parents, and adults in general, are unable to understand the cyberworld and cyberbullying.


Signs that youths may be victims or perpetrators of bullying on the Internet have been identified. Parents should be aware of:Signs of depression or anxiety, particularly when the Internet is not available or is inaccessible for periods of time

  • Signs of depression or anxiety when e-mails or instant/text messages arrive
  • Academic difficulties or behavioral problems offline (e.g., not being on time at school, dropping grades, relationships suffering)
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Viewing pornographic material on the computer
  • Sacrificing normally enjoyed offline activities to participate in Internet activities
  • Attempting to maintain level of secrecy about online activities (e.g., quickly turning computer off when parent is walking by, deleting browsing history, turning monitor screen off when someone walks by)

Effects of Cyberbullying

Youths who experience bullying of any kind often face academic problems, perhaps in part because they are distressed and preoccupied. Teachers will often report that victims’ grades drop, and some will have other academic problems, such as cutting classes, increased detentions, and carrying weapons to school.

The most significant psychological effects appear to be depression and anxiety with victims also reporting increased anger.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the Internet and technology, parents, educators, practitioners, and youths will require continual education regarding cyberbullying including how it occurs, and its impact.

In cases of identified cyberbullying, victims may benefit from crisis intervention and counseling.

Bullying and the hierarchy of needs


Bullying: what is it? What are the consequences of it? And how can we fix it?

Bullying is known by lots of different names: Social exclusion, being ostracized, peer rejection, being left out, feeling like you’re alone in a room full of people, hazed, (and the list goes on).

Bullying includes (but is not limited to): getting teased, picked on, singled out, getting pushed, name-called, made fun of, misogyny, being tripped, always being picked last for teams, being systematically never invited to any birthday parties or pool parties, excluding you from team meetings, belittling you in front of co-workers, (and the list goes on).

Victims of bullying are often called names like: loser, fag, social misfit, loner, outcast, she-male, weirdo, four eyes, bitch, he-she, it, (and the list goes on).

Intended consequences of bullying include:

  • to hurt the person,

  • to make the other person feel small,

  • for the bully to feel powerful

  • to make sure the bullied person KNOWS they are not liked

Unintended consequences of bullying include:

  • increased aggression in the bullied (both toward self and others)

  • increased stress-related physical illnesses

  • decrease in wages across the lifespan for the bullied

  • increased impulsivity and self-destructive behaviors for the bullied

  • increased sensitivity to hurt and rejection in the bullied individual

  • increased mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and anger

Now, what can be done about it?

For school-aged people, what we are finding is that the best approach is for other students to stand up for the youth being bullied. This is referred to as the bystander approach.

Another approach is making sure teachers and school administration are aware of the problem, but all too often they turn a blind eye to bullying and resist becoming involved.

The child may also benefit from either therapy or a social skills group where youth can practice getting along and practice conflict resolution skills in a safe space.

For adults, Our choices involve having a direct conversation with the person who is bullying us. If that does not help we can have a conversation with that person’s supervisor or with human resources in order to develop a fair plan.

Another choice is to seek new employment because the stress related health problems are just not worth it.

If you have an on-going problem getting along with others (during school and work, or you have had a problem getting along at several jobs), then I strongly recommend therapy.

Therapy is a great tool to practice conflict resolution, anger management, and considering other ways we can handle our situations. Therapy can be short term, and you don’t even have to talk about your mother if you don’t want to.

Work-place bullying is more common than we would like to admit. In fact, some states are now considering bullying laws for worker protection.

We all have needs. Maslow’s hierarchy is a great guideline that any of us can look at to see which stage we are having difficulty with. In general, one cannot move up the triangle until the bottom is taken care of. This means, if you are struggling with securing food or shelter, then your esteem needs are not generally on your radar.

For most of us, our physical needs of food, air, and water are met easily. Our safety needs of a place to live and sleep without fear are also met.

Some individuals start to struggle with the need for love and belonging. For some us the struggle is temporary (like being bullied in middle school). We have family or we have friends who we share things in common with (volleyball, video games, music, etc). Some of us are lucky enough to find friends to pass the time with and some of us even fall in love and get married.

Esteem needs are a bit harder. This includes feeling like we are smart, capable, and contribute to society. Esteem is often met from having a career or a degree we are proud of or doing volunteer work for a cause we believe in. It is very difficult for those who were bullied in school or are bullied at work to ever truly meet this need.

The hardest need to meet is self-actualization. It is so hard that, in fact many people never make it. Self-actualization includes wanting what is best for others and not just for yourself. It is seeing things from the perspective of others and being able to do good to those who may be rude to you. So, chances are, if you see someone (anyone) holding a sign or screaming at you about some controversial topic, they have not achieved self-actualization, either.





Bullying at school affects health 40 years later


Bullying at school affects health 40 years later

A major long-term study found children who were bullied were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and poor physical health when they were 50-years-old than those who had not been victimized.

A team at King’s College London examined data on 7,771 children whose parents provided information on their child’s bullying when they were aged seven and 11.

More than one in four had been bullied occasionally and around one in seven frequently.

They then underwent several tests throughout their lives and gave feedback on their own health.

At age 50 they were less likely to have qualifications, less likely to live with a spouse or partner and have less social support.

Those who had been bullied had lower scores on a word memory test designed to measure cognitive IQ even when their childhood intelligence levels were taken into account.

Miley Cyrus Vs. Sinead O’Connor


So, it appears that a cyber brawl has broken out between Ms Cyrus and Ms O’Connor. It apparently started here: 


where Ms O’Connor offered some unsolicited, but genuine advice to Ms Cyrus. One quote from Ms O’Connor’s letter reminded me of a recent blog I wrote regarding young women believing the only value they have is their body. Ms. O’Connor states, “You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.”


Miley’s response is as follows:


“Before Amanda Bynes…. There was….” before displaying a screengrab of what appeared to be O’Connor’s Twitter account (Handle: @vampyahslayah) which showed O’Connor asking for help. “does any1 know a psychiatrist in Dublin or wicklow who could urgently see my today please?” the screengrab reads. “Im really un-well…and in danger….i desperately need to get back on meds today,” the tweets read.


As a mental health professional I was horrorfied that Ms. Cyrus appeared so insensitive to the plight of another human being. It is not funny to mock or bully another human being especially as they are seeking help. 

As a woman I am disappointed at watching the industry use and manipulate Ms Cyrus and use her to further the idea that a woman’s only value is her body. Today I read a young woman who was upset at the idea that Ms Cyrus was being “slut-shamed”. Really? We now live in a society where girls are expected to develop and mature and faster and faster rates and we don’t dare call a duck a duck because it might hurt the duck’s feelings? 

I’m sorry, but GIRLS, you are worth more than that. You are of more value than just your vagina. You do not have to bare your body of give a piece of your most precious self in order to be accepted because, truth be told, if you have to give up yourself to be accepted, it isn’t really acceptance. You are worth more than that. I’m sorry that the film and music industry would have you believe otherwise.