Tag Archives: health

The Other Side of the Couch – Is There Hope?

As I write this article I am listening to my friend’s beautiful cello arrangement of the familiar hymn, “Amazing Grace”.  My friend is a professional musician who shares her gift freely with our church and with so many others, including the terminally ill.  As I listen to the sacred chords and lift up the words of the hymn in my heart, I am also at this moment so aware of the pain that has engulfed our nation in the last two weeks.

Tonight marks the fifteenth night of protests ignited by the death of George Floyd, a black American who was killed in full view of the world.  We all saw a police officer calmly holding his knee in Mr. Floyd’s neck as he struggled, saying over and over again,  “I can’t breathe.”  As he lay there dying he called for his mother.  The officer never moved, even had his hand in his pocket.

This is an image that can never be erased from the world’s consciousness.  We saw it happen.  We saw a man die.  And yet, it is only because someone had a video camera and filmed it that the world knows.  How many other lives have been taken without any record and without any possibility of accountability?

We will never know.

After all the words, all the protests, all the promises, all the political uproar, only one thing is left.  Black people are dying at the hands of authorities, and no one is held accountable.

I am hoping that change is coming.  I am hoping that this time the reality that we are seeing will make a difference.  Things like the NFL’s commissioner admitting his error regarding black players’ protests at games, the NASCAR group announcing that Confederate flags are banned from cars and arenas – these are promising.  I just heard that “Gone With the Wind” has been removed from streaming and will be returned only with an explanation of the historical inaccuracy of its presentation of the institution of slavery.  Perhaps these are only cosmetic changes, but perhaps also they reflect an awakened sensibility.

Maybe more people are getting it – not just black and brown people, but white people, who have to get it in order for real change to happen.  It is no longer up to black and brown people to teach white people what to do.  We have to be willing to learn, and to do that we have to look at ourselves.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind, but now I see.”

May a world that has been blind to the death of black and brown men and women be awakened by this new reality.  May the world truly change.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Hero Fatigue

A few years ago, everyone wearing a U.S. military uniform was called a hero.  Now every firefighter, police officer, EMT, nurse and doctor on the frontlines of the covid-19 pandemic is called a hero.  It’s inexpressibly fatiguing.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a hero as “one that shows great courage”.  Doing your job should not be equivalent to showing great courage.  Undoubtedly, there are times when individuals in all these professions (or any other) go beyond what is expected of them and perform on a heroic level. But calling everyone a hero diminishes truly heroic action.

It’s like elementary school sports where every child gets a medal or an award to “build self-esteem”.  But it doesn’t.  Children know when they haven’t put in the extra effort that would justify receiving an award.  Knowing they haven’t earned their award can lead to shame and insecurity that undermines their confidence the rest of their lives.

If a child can recognize hollow praise, so can an adult. Being called a hero heaps tremendous pressure on the recipient. Must the individual take outrageous risks every work shift in order to perform deeds worthy of being called a hero?

What of the emotional toll?  Heroes are generally portrayed as individuals without fear or self-doubt or exhaustion.  But everyone has fears and self-doubts. Everyone suffers exhaustion.  Trying to live up to being heroes may deter emergency response and medical people from seeking help to cope with their fears and depression lest they be thought unheroic.

Some might see our hero worship as acceptable based on another of Webster’s definitions for a hero as “an object of extreme admiration and devotion”.  Certainly we can admire the emergency response and medical staff for continuing to do their jobs despite the danger of infection and possible death due to infection.  But those risks existed, even if they are now enhanced, the day they signed up for the job.

I’ve read many interviews given by World War II medal winners who are now labeled as heroes.  Each of them denied being a hero. They said “I just did my job” or “I didn’t think about what I was doing, I just knew I had to do it”.

Let’s show our appreciation for the emergency responders and the medical teams working the front lines of the covid-19 pandemic by reducing the pressure we put on them.   Let’s drop all the hyperbolic hollow talk about “heroes” and just let them do their jobs.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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The Other Side of the Couch – Goodbye to the Music

 

“It’s a lesson too late for the learning, made of sand, made of sand

In the wink of an eye my soul is turning, in your hand, in your hand

Are you going away with no word of farewell,

Will there be not a trace left behind

Well, I could have loved you better, didn’t mean to be unkind,

You know that was the last thing on my mind.”

 

This song by Neil Diamond has been playing in my mind off and on for days.  I know it is meant to be a song about a lover who is leaving someone behind – but what it is meaning to me is something else.

I learned this week that the process of making music – of singing in a choir, or playing in a symphony, or listening to a congregation singing hymns, or attending a concert – all cause greatly-increased possibilities of exposure to the Corona virus.  Going to a play is also part of this problem – the projection required to be heard in a theater increases the risks of infection.  Time exposed plus being in a closed environment plus the presence of people who may have the virus but don’t yet know it results in vectors of disease.

We have endured so many losses due to this pandemic – loss of control, loss of the illusion of control, loss of being able to be with and hug our loved ones and friends, loss of safety, loss of income in many cases.  My personal loss involves being unable to be close to my daughter and granddaughter – she is only two and would not understand social distancing. Losing music – that really was the last thing on my mind.

Finding out about the music and about live theater has really thrown me.  Being able to sing together is such a wholesome thing, such a joyful experience.  People who sing together experience a symmetry of rhythms – blood pressure and heart rates synchronize, breathing synchronizes.  Studies indicate that group singing results in increases in positive affect and decreases in production of cortisol (the stress hormone), as well as increases in immune functions.  To lose all this to a virus – incredibly sad.

It feels as though the music has gone – gone in the wink of an eye, with no opportunity for farewell.  Who knew that mid-March would mark the end of symphony as we know it, the end of church choirs, the end of group singing?

I would like to come up with something positive and hopeful at this point.  However, the truth is I do not feel hopeful.  I feel sad, and bereft, and lost – and loss of the music is part of that reality.

I can listen to music – and I do.  I can sing, and I do.  It is the creation of music together that is lost.  Creation of music in real time, in the same room, breathing the same air.  This will not come again – not until there is a vaccine and better treatment.  The time will come – but oh, I am so sad for now.

“Could have loved you better – didn’t mean to be unkind,

You know that was the last thing on my mind.”

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Pandemic Overload

blue and white face mask on white laptop computer

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Okay everyone, I am about to unleash a whole pile of emotions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the new “Safe-at-home,” lifestyle we’re all now living. I say, “lifestyle,” because as far as I can see, life as I knew it is officially over. Yes, we will eventually leave our homes and go back to work, to shop, to gather in small groups and maybe even larger ones. But honestly, can anyone imagine that our pre-pandemic life is out there somewhere, waiting for us? Will we ever think the same way about a cough, a sneeze, a fever? Will we ever not think that the stranger next to us in line at Starbucks might be carrying a virus? Will we ever hug someone who does not live in our house without asking for permission? Will we ever forget that for a time we were confined to our homes, isolated from our children, grandchildren, siblings, friends and extended family? Will I ever erase the images of people dying alone in a hospital with only a doctor or nurse for comfort?

For most of the last couple of months, I have cycled through the stages of grief over and over. From shock, to denial, to bargaining, anger and acceptance and back again, sometimes not even in that order. I’ve observed the social media accounts of people I know, and don’t know, who seem to be enjoying this time as some sort of staycation. And yes, everyone copes differently. I suppose if my children were young and needed to be schooled, entertained and otherwise taught the lessons that are part and parcel of this historic time, I’d also find the wherewithal to be a good model. But honestly, I just can’t seem to shake the grief and despair that I carry all day and most of the night. My usual exuberant energy feels dampened, my sunny outlook is overshadowed by sadness and my heart literally feels heavy.

I read once that trauma can be characterized as splitting life into two parts: life before the occurrence and life after. I believe our world is experiencing one giant collective trauma that will forever divide our lives in two. There will undoubtedly be other traumas that come along and supersede this one, much like my parents’ generation defined life before the Great Depression and life after and then, life before World War II and life after. And on and on and on…I. Hate. It.

Are there lessons to be learned from this crisis? Good that will come from all the deaths, the risks on the part of first responders and others who face danger everyday delivering essential goods and services? Who knows? There are those who believe this is some sort of cosmic payback for our collective bad behavior and disrespect of each other and our planet. Some believe this is nature’s way of thinning the herd and cleansing our overpopulated world. Some even believe this is all a hoax perpetrated by one political party or the other, one government or another, this or that corporate giant. I have become distrustful of most of the information I hear or read. There are a few sources I rely on, but I’m often skeptical of even those.

So how does all of this stack up for me? I still don’t know. Every day is different. I’m working on finding some peace, but it’s a struggle. I dread leaving my house, but when I do, I feel a bit better. As for some sort of deeper meaning, I just can’t see it, but maybe in time I will. Maybe it’s all just a senseless tragedy with no explanation or meaning to be found. I do hope that I can learn to be more patient, more compassionate, more accepting of things I can’t control. Mostly I hope someday to again feel safe in the world.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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The Other Side of the Couch – Denial in the Time of Pandemic

As the corona virus pandemic enters its third month, the United States continues to struggle with a coordinated response to the situation.  A strong federal response has been hampered by misinformation, ignored information, and struggles for power.  States have been essentially left to go it alone and as a result have been caught in some cases in a bidding war with other states to secure the essential protective equipment needed by health care workers and the essential medical supplies needed by patients.

The economic impact of the shut-downs required by social distancing have had catastrophic effects on the financial well-being of millions – and so often, the people who are most affected are those who can least afford it.  Small business owners, members of the entertainment and hospitality industry, artists, actors and musicians, servers, bartenders, taxi drivers, Lyft and Uber drivers – all are suffering.

On an individual level the requirements of social distancing have created huge holes in the normal experiences of family and friends.  Internet virtual get-togethers, carport Happy Hours with neighbors at least 6 feet apart, church and synagogue services played to empty sanctuaries – all underline the radical changes forced on normal social engagement.

People are reacting to all this with a variety of activities and responses.  Some, early on in the shutdown, just seemed to ignore the reality – examples of this were seen on the beaches of Florida as teenagers partied on, ignoring the very real possibilities of infecting others with the virus.  Some became so panicked at the idea of being shut in that they began “panic buying” with the resultant shortage nationwide of toilet paper. Some immediately decided to stay at home before such an order even came down.

Something that I am seeing, and that, as a therapist, I see with a significant amount of concern, is the rush to finding the good in this pandemic.  Please don’t misunderstand – I do think that it is useful to find ways to be grateful even in the midst of turmoil and pain.  Yes, I am grateful that even though I cannot see my family, I can “see” them through technology.  Yes, I am grateful that the stores are still stocked, although not as fully as I am used to.  Yes, I am grateful for the beautiful spring and the lighter footprint on the planet that humans staying indoors has offered.

However, we human beings are often too quick to move to the good – because we are SO UNCOMFORTABLE WITH DEALING WITH LOSS, PAIN AND DEATH.  This epidemic is making us confront the reality of mortality in very direct ways.  People we know and love are at risk.   Every day we hear that more people have died.  By the time this is contained most citizens of the United States will know someone who has died as a result of this pandemic.

We don’t like to think about this.  We don’t like to face it.  We don’t like to recognize that mortality is staring us in the face.  It could be you.  It could be me.  It could be a close loved one.  We just don’t know.

What to do in the face of this?  I would say, face it.  Grieve it, be angry about it, fight with it – but don’t ignore it and move too quickly into the platitudes of gratitude.  This virus is a bear, and unless we face it and its implications head on, we will not heal from the trauma.  It seems easier to turn our heads, to look for the lemonade, to skate lightly over the painful truth.  My fear is that in so doing, we will lose the important and central lesson in this whole experience.

We are mortal.  We will die.  We do not know when or how.  Facing that truth makes living every single moment that we are given in this life a sacred time to be treasured.  May we all face this reality, because in so doing, we can transform our way of living and our relationships with one another.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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So I received this yesterday,

…in an email from an ex.

Don't Worry

 Yeah, perfect.

 

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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The Other Side of the Couch – Staying Safe

     

 

This city’s mental health community was rocked to the core by the sexual assault and murder of a counselor last week.  Melissa Hamilton, assistant director of Crossroads Counseling, was stabbed to death in her office minutes after the conclusion of her last group.  For a time it was feared that her murderer was a client of the agency; this proved to be incorrect as within forty-eight hours an arrest was made in the case.  The crime was described as random and opportunistic by the police; no known connection existed between the counselor and the man who is accused of her murder.

Mental health professionals of all types work in situations that by their very nature are unsafe.  Confidentiality requires that the identity of clients be protected.  The work of therapy is done one-on-one in the privacy and seclusion of a private office.  Many therapists work in solo practices and are often at their offices late into evening hours.

This tragic death has brought into focus the struggle that all of us, not only counselors, face in the world in which we live today.  What are the steps that we can take that can at least mitigate the possibility of harm?  (I would add that these concerns are addressed to both men and women – both are at risk in these situations).

First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings.  Take a moment to look at the situation before you leave a safe place to go to your car.  Have keys at the ready if you are going to a car in a parking lot.  Have a loud alarm that you can activate at a moment’s notice.  If possible, do not be alone in walking to a car in a parking lot.  Don’t assume that because it is daylight everything is fine.  Crimes happen in daylight as well as at night.

When you are in your office at night, if alone, even with a client, lock the outside door.  It is worth the trouble of being interrupted to let your next client in, if it prevents unauthorized access by an unknown person.

What if the situation in which you are with a client becomes volatile?  Installing a security system of some kind that includes a panic button option may be a good solution.

Have a plan.  Rehearse the plan.  One of the stories from the 9/11 tragedy focused on a company whose security officer went through drills with the employees.  When a crisis happens, our bodies go on automatic pilot, and if that automatic pilot has been trained to respond in certain ways, there is a much better chance of survival.  The people in his company for the most part survived because of their training.  It is worth having a plan and practicing it.

We don’t like to think of these things.  No one wants to contemplate the possibility of being harmed.  However, not thinking about it results in putting ourselves in harm’s way.

I don’t know whether anything could have prevented the tragic death suffered by Missy Hamilton.  It seems the man had already entered the building before she had a chance to lock the doors.  If her death can help anyone else by heightening their awareness of the need for security, perhaps a tiny bit of good can come from such a tragedy.

I live in that hope.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Waste

Navigating through Nashville is difficult these days with all the construction projects in various stages of completion. The skyline of downtown Nashville is dotted with more than a dozen giant construction cranes.  New hotels, businesses, apartments and condos are opening on a daily basis.

Growth is good. But there’s one thing the city’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about. Waste disposal.

New construction projects must include some infrastructure, such as waste water lines that tie into the sewerage system.  But the city’s sewerage system is outdated. Ancient water mains collapse with depressing regularity.  More pipes will collapse by next spring as the soil contracts over winter and expands with the spring thaw.

During the Great Flood of 2010, only one water treatment plant remained functional.  Since then, the city’s population has increased by tens of thousands of people.  With all that growth, the city should have built more treatment plants but hasn’t.  Meanwhile, thousands of new residential properties and hotels are tying into our decaying system.  Usage is expanding but the system isn’t.

I was reminded of these depressing facts of life recently when I received a notice from Metro Water Services saying that they would be asking for a rate increase.  As someone who grew up in rural areas where cesspits and outhouses were the only options, I place a high value on flushing toilets and safe drinking water.  This is one time I don’t think I’ll protest paying higher taxes.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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The Other Side of the Couch – Taking Care

Image result for nursing caring

I have spent the last several days in another world – a world that some enter by choice, some by necessity.  This world has its own rules, its own norms, its own expectations.  The rules of the world that most of us inhabit without thought are suspended here.  In this world others are in charge. In this world those who enter are dependent on the knowledge and kindness of those who are here by choice, rather than by necessity.

Those who enter this world by choice are an unusual species.  They come from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, levels of education, gender.  They work at a tremendous variety of different jobs, from the simplest to the most complex.  They work long hours, and they often provide backup for others even when they are not actually on the job.

Those who are best at this share one unusual quality.  Above and beyond their training, education and experience, these people are givers.  They experience meaning and fulfillment through the process of Taking Care.

When I was a child I was a peripheral member of this world, born into it by virtue of my father’s profession.  I walked the halls of the places where these givers worked.  I often felt an unusual sense of belonging – perhaps because I felt that I was an insider.  As a child I had little understanding of the world I walked, but I knew that at some emotional level I recognized it.

The world I have been inhabiting is the world of the hospital.  The givers are the doctors – chief surgeons, chief residents, residents, interns, nurses, student nurses, LPNs, bringers of food trays, cleaners, transporters – all the amazing parts of a teaching hospital that work together to give care to those who are fighting for life, for health, for a future.

I am grateful for these men and women who make meaning for themselves and support life for their patients.  The ability to take joy in the process of healing, to see the worst and see it improve, or sometimes to see the worst and know that there is nothing to be done, to live with the daily intensity of facing life and death in all its reality – there is nothing else like it.

So today I say thank you to the lovely nurse who worked with my husband, to the LPN who dealt with bodily fluids in an eternally cheerful way, to all the various helpers who came and went and who made a difficult week tolerable.  You are givers – and I am thankful for each of you.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Kitchen Kitsch

This is a reposting of a blog from about a year ago.

 

 

I love to cook so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My cooking is pretty basic; I don’t use exotic ingredients and I have a battered set of pots and pans.  I grew up poor and learned to use what was available and in my price range.

These days I have more income but I stick by my old habits.  I buy in bulk and I look for what is on sale and then build recipes around those items.  Recently I realized that I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables. I actually enjoy the process because it allows me to think about the various combinations of food, spices, oils, or whatever I need for the finished dish.

Kitchen time fills more than just the need to prepare my next meal. Kitchen time also allows me to reflect on ideas or issues that are important to me. I could get the same benefit from a long walk but at this time of year I’m doing my exercising indoors on a treadmill facing the TV.

Because I spend so much time in my kitchen, I began posting important messages for myself.  I always find it ironic when gifted, educated and powerful women say they struggle or have struggled with their sense of self. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to think of myself in those terms, despite every accomplishment and achievement in my life.  So my refrigerator and kitchen walls are covered with inspirational notes to remind me of what I am; not what I used to think I was.

When I was a child, I was taught to cook because it was considered a “womanly” skill. Despite that handicap, I still enjoy cooking. Only now my kitchen time is usually spent thinking about reinforcing my self-image and building a stronger, successful business.

As a small business owner, I’m constantly thinking about where that next client will come from or the best (meaning most effective) method for prospecting for new clients or what tasks I should delegate to others.  Sure, I could sit down at a desk and cogitate on all these points. But it seems to flow more naturally when I’m doing other things, like chopping vegetables to make a stew.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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