Articles & Resources

a journey to freedom

Here you will find articles, resources, tips and information that can help you on your journey toward freedom.  My goal is to help you live a focused, rational, enlightened, empowered, and determined, FREED life.  Thanks for visiting, and let me know if these words have had an impact in your life in some way.

– Lia

Here you will find articles, resources, tips and information that can help you on your journey toward freedom.  My goal is to help you live a focused, rational, enlightened, empowered, and determined, FREED life.  Thanks for visiting, and let me know if these words have had an impact in your life in some way.

– Lia  

I wanted to focus on hope this holiday season. Hope is something that alludes many people. Many people grasp for hope but are unsure of where to find it. Others feel hope comes and goes based on their circumstances. What is the importance of hope? It causes people to endure mental, psychological, and physical pain, it helps people to heal, it propels people to move forward in the face of resistance or opposition, and it gives people a reason; a reason to achieve, a reason to sacrifice, a reason to persevere through struggles, and even a reason to live.

Hope is defined in the dictionary as when you “want something to happen or be the case.” There is no actual guarantee with hope, but the possibility of a longing being fulfilled can produce life, joy, peace and determination in people. At the same time lack of hope and unfulfilled desires cause sadness, disappoinment, grief, lack of joy and peace, and despair.

Choosing Hope

Although sometimes it’s extremely hard to find a reason to move forward there is always something to be hopeful for. Is there a person or people you love, a desire you want to come to pass, a goal you are working on, or a future plan you’re looking forward to? Is there a resilient voice inside of you that does not want to give up? Do you believe life can get better? Sometimes just that belief alone can get you through. How will it get better? What would life look like, feel like and sound like when it gets better? What would your thoughts be when it’s better?

Mental health or physical health issues, grief, trauma and addiction can lead to many dark days and it’s often hard to see the good in each day. Focusing on what you’re hopeful for instead of the difficulties of each day can help. Visualize those positive, hopeful moments again and again when you start feeling hopeless, discouraged or overwhelmed by life. Think of people who love and care for you, or that you feel connected to. Imagine what they would say to you to encourage you. Find supports or connections in the community that have common experiences with you, or volunteer opportunities. The more people you are around, the more of an opportunity there is to build hope. There’s a lot of darkness in this world but there is also a lot of love and beauty. Seeing positive changes in yourself or others and positive moments around you is very healing and a reminder that there is still so much good in the world, if you seek it.

How I Found Hope

When I first decided to stop substance abuse I had no idea how to be sober or what life would look like. I was hopeful that becoming sober would change my future and had the ability to persevere but didn’t really have the specifics worked out. Going to 12 step groups, spending time with others with a long history of sobriety, and learning from church and Bible studies gave me hope of what a future could look like, and a hope in Jesus that gave me the will to keep going even on the hardest days. Knowing that his death brought me new life and that eventually I would live eternally with him, free of pain and sorrow and in his presence was enough to give me hope. I went back to college and sometimes was very overwhelmed but I would picture being done with all my classes and getting my diploma and this encouraged me to move forward. I help client’s to envision their future too. We focus on picturing the client’s idea of a perfect life- what it looks like, sounds like and feels like. Then we focus on goals to make that a reality. This builds so much hope! Especially when progress is made on each goal. Life will never actually be perfect but the more you’re aware of what you want the more you are able to take active steps towards the life you desire, which builds hope.

This holiday season if you are struggling to find hope, peace, love or joy, consider focusing on Jesus, who is what Christmas is about. He came to this earth to live a perfect life that you were unable to live and died a death he didn’t deserve so you could be forgiven by God and connected to God. When people used to explain this to me I minimized it, blew it off, thought God didn’t care about me and judged God based on people I saw around me that were imperfect and hurt me. When I read the Bible for myself I realized that God’s love is true and although I couldn’t explain why God allows suffering, I knew He loved me and that in the midst of all the suffering there is hope. I always had a desire to heal and the hope I had through God gave me the strength to move forward in my process.

My favorite quote is to “Be the light you wish to see in the world”. Look for opportunities to get involved, serve or join others so you don’t feel alone. Be honest with others about how you are feeling. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and you will find that so many others are suffering too. You may actually find that your experience helps others who are hurting and discouraged, and by sharing your story it can build hope for you too.

Please contact me with thoughts or questions on this blog at lia@freedlifecounseling.com. I’d love to hear from you!

#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing

The movie It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic, and so well known. There is even an It’s a Wonderful Life festival and museum in Seneca Falls, NY . The actors and actresses portray the characters in a way that makes them seem real. The movie is full of loss, but with a clear message of hope. 

A quick summary of the movie is about George Bailey, a man who wanted to grow up, leave home and explore the world. He spends his life sacrificing his desires to help others and eventually decides to commit suicide on Christmas. This is because he was at risk of being arrested for not being able to account for $8,000.00 that belonged to his business. The money was actually stolen by an enemy of George’s. George leaves his home after having an anger outburst. He meets his guardian angel who shows him what life would be like if he hadn’t been born. He realized how many people he has helped and how many lives were impacted in a positive way by his good deeds and sacrifices. In the end all the people he helped joined together to raise the missing money to prevent him from being arrested. 

I want to focus on George’s anger outburst. The anger outburst in the movie that I referred to includes him being distraught over the idea of going to jail and feeling helpless after years of making decisions that he feltbut felt were . His family was carrying on as usual when he arrived home, but he was preoccupied and not able to focus on their needs. He shook his wife, yelled at his wife and kids and was throwing things, which was out of character for George Bailey. He had become extremely angry, desperate, hopeless and felt trapped. If you’ve seen the move you know the scene seemed real. This is because it WAS REAL. Jimmy Stewart, who played George Bailey, had recently returned from World War 2 and was experiencing PTSD. He was experiencing nightmares nightly and was having flashbacks, had difficulty focusing, and was not able to eat most foods. His acting became an outlet for his PTSD, and was a way to release his emotion in a healthy, structured environment. It’s A Wonderful Life was his first acting job after returning home from war, and it was apparent to many if not all on the set that he was experiencing what we call PTSD but was not known as PTSD at the time.

Jimmy Stewart’s story is an example of how powerful PTSD can be. Many can relate to the loss of control and hopelessness Stewart experienced personally while portrayinbg George Bailey. His story is also a reminder of how much trauma is stored in the body and the need for mind body healing. Many people try to avoid working through their pain, but that is the only way to heal. Jimmy Stewart could not prevent his PTSD from showing and movie staff actually said Stewart was not acting, meaning his responses were real, not acted out.

Like Stewart, you will not be able to completely stop triggers and accompanying emotions from surfacing.  You will need to find a way to let yourself feel the emotions and use skills to deal with them and let them out appropriately, like Stewart did. This is because triggering and responses are related to the brain and vagal nerve. You cannot stop your brain from being triggered, and it only takes recognition of one sense to trigger a body response. Meaning, if you see, smell, hear, taste or feel something you’ve experienced in a traumatic situation your body remembers and goes into a survival mode to protect you. This includes the fight, flight or freeze response and hypervigilence among others. Because your brain controls how your body responds, you cannot change that, but instead recognize it, work through it, and let it go. The key will be figuring out what the trigger was and working through it. If you try to shove the triggers and emotions away you will not learn how to control triggers; they will control you. By facing your triggers and using grounding skillls and other skills tsuch as writing, drawing, acting, or sports you can ground, express and move forward. As you work through your pain, it gets easier to control and there is less fear and more hope involved in the process. 

George Bailey was loved and supported by many. His outburst was forgiven and he was able to recover and feel joy again. He could not take away the pain or loss experienced. He could not take back anything he said or did that he regretted. But he chose life, love and to move forward. We all can learn from George Bailey and decide to embrace the present despite the pain of our past. We can all choose to cope and continue moving forward even when we suffer unjust treatment, abuse or emotional pain. It can be exhausting but the freedom, peace and good that comes from it is worth it. 

Christmas can be a difficult time for many who are living in traumatic situations. Jimmy Stewart once said Christmas “has come to be connected with Santa Claus, gifts, lights, decorations, trees. We may be guilty of forgetting that Christmas is really the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.” There is always hope in Jesus. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3), and because of his birth and his death for our sins, we are able to be forgiven of all sins and made new and white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). That makes every Christmas special and every Christmas filled with hope. Your past is not your life, and a new beginning is possible every day in Jesus. 

Stress is defined as emotional or physical tension, feeling pressured, or experiencing frustration. Most, if not all people, experience stress frequently throughout their lifetime. It would be odd to live life without any stress. Can you even imagine a life without any stress? What would it look like to have no stress? The first thought that comes to my mind is that if there was no stress there would be constant peace. I found defintions from Oxford Languages that describes peace as “a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended” or “freedom from disturbance; tranquility”.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker I have counseled so many people on stress, and I have come to understand that there are not many times in life where there is total freedom from disturbance. Instead, there are many “wars” experienced in life, whether it’s conflict, trauma, addiction, social or emotional struggles, illness, financial problems, parenting difficulties, or employment issues. So, I believe that in order to peace the power is in transforming your mindset, not your circumstances. I realize this is not new to many people, but it is such an important concept it needs to be emphasized over and over again.

If you wait for the absence of stress to feel peace, it is not likely to happen. If you control your mindset peace is possible. How? You are choosing what to focus on, how much energy you give to your stress, and how much power you give to negative thoughts and emotions, including anger, fear, doubt, shame etc. The stress is in your circumstances but the war is in your mind. I am in no way minimizing stress, trauma, and difficult life situations. With every trauma, loss, and stressful situation it is a process to feel peace. There is often a need to choose peace over and over again, and focus on hope rather than pain. This is not easy at all, and there is a lot of healing that needs to take place throughout the process. There are also usually false beliefs that need to be exposed in order to take away the power the beliefs have over your life. Examine your attitudes about both stress and peace, and you may find that you have beliefs that are hindering your ability to feel at peace.

When I first became a Christian I expected constant peace and no stress. I thought that I would heal quickly from all my past and current trauma. I quickly learned this was wrong. I eventually realized that my peace came from Jesus, my trust in him, and focusing on the Bible and scripture, which really does transform the mind. I learned that the process of choosing peace over and over again, rather than being healed immediately, grew me and gave me skills that I wouldn’t have learned without the struggle of changing my focus and mindset. This has not been easy to do, and I often fall short or fail. But, I continue to try. and have definitely improved. The key is to stop thoughts that are stressful and fear filled as quickly as possible.

Phillipians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This is so important. These are thoughts filled with faith, hope, love, peace, joy, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. These thoughts focus on moving forward, new beginnings, and overcoming instead of fear, shame, or lack of faith or hope. When negative thoughts come in , focus on positive activities, self care, and gratitude. Mind and body are linked and it is easier to think differently when you are involved in activities you enjoy and/or activities that distract you. There is a strong body-mind connection and caring for both mind and body at the same time eases stress and increases peace. This is meant to be a regular practice, and not just during times of increased stress. If you regularly focus on caring for your mind and body stress becomes more manageable.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions on how you manage stress please let me know. I’d love to talk with you. Feel free to email me at lia@freedlifecounseling.com

#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing

Trauma And Loss

We often think of grief as relating to a death or loss of a person in our lives, and this is often true. Death of a loved one is extremely traumatic, stressful and terrible. Workers in the helping professions often witness death or are exposed to death due to employment, including myself. There’s no specified length of time or end point when experiencing grief. Grief involves so many emotions and memories, and there is often a rush of unexpected emotions that have to be dealt with.

The majority of the time we think of loss as related to death, but loss and grief can also include emotional and physical loss, and/or loss of what could have been,never was, or what we hoped would be.

Emotional Loss

Emotional loss can include loss of safety, loss of peace, loss of joy, loss of innocence, loss of protection, loss of identity, loss of hope and loss of love. There are likely other emotional losses that you can think of, and each person is affected differently. All of these losses can lead to fear, anger, sadness, numbing, rigid boundaries due to a lack of trust and emptiness. What does this feel like? Fear often takes over in relationships and it’s difficult to be hopeful about people and relationships. Loss of identity prevents people from having a sense of self, of boundaries and knowing what they want or need. Self- protection and/ numbing may feel necessary to prevent further loss or hurt, preventing closeness in relationships.

Physical Loss

Physical losses may include homes, insurance, personal belongings, vehicles, jobs, food, money, mementos, and/or clothing. Injuries can lead to loss of limbs, damage to the body or loss of brain functon. Physical loss can also include loss of limbs and brain function. Loss of control over your own body occurs with sexual crimes against adults and children.

The reason I bring up such a variety of loss is because it all is hard and it all hurts. There’s definitely a spectrum of severity with loss. Losing personal belongings is definitely less difficult than not having food, losing brain function or mobility, or losing identity after years of abuse. However, every loss is hard and many times there is mourning over what could have been or should have been, not just the loss itself.

What Could Have Been?

When experiencing trauma, your life is altered. Some of the things that you expected to happen did not happen. This is a loss. In the death of a loved one we mourn everything that was, but also everything that never was. The same goes with physical and emotional losses.

As a survivor of trauma, I did not give myself time to grieve losses. I worked non-stop, and used drugs and alchohol to avoid dealing with pain. I threw myself into helping others instead of dealing with my own needs. I would read books or watch movies and cry for a long time for the characters who experienced similar trauma to mine. It took me a long time to realize that I was crying for myself and my own losses, not the characters. Instead of allowing myself to grieve, I tried to bury my emotions, but it only worked for so long when I reached my mid 20s.

I made the choice to have an abortionin my mid 20s. I made this decision as a substance abuser and alcoholic, in an abusive relationship, and thought I was sparing my child. I realized that this was wrong but it was too late. I spiraled into the worst self-hatred and depression I had ever known, and there was nothing I could do to bring my baby back. I hit rock bottom after this decision and went through a little over a year of trying to avoid feeling and thinking by increasing substance use. I finally ended up getting sober, becoming a Christian and grieved the loss of my baby with the help of a class at a local pregnancy center, counseling, and a lot of prayer from women in my church who helped me process. I experiencedalong a peace that came from being forgiven by God and knowing my baby was with Jesus. This came after one of the worst periods of my life, and reaching rock bottom forced me to deal with a lot I had been avoiding coping with for years. Once I started to face my past I became unraveled, but then began to put the pieces of my life back together in a much healthier way. I needed to grieve the loss of many could have beens, should have beens, and emotional and physical losses over the years.

I have never talked about my abortion publicly until today, but feel it is so important to help people to know that there is healing possible, even when your own choices cause trauma and loss. There is always hope. You may have made terrible choices and hurt others or had terrible things done to you that robbed you physically or emotionally. You are not your past, you are not your bad choices, you are not your tribulations or your hurtful behaviors. You are so much more. There is so much healing that can be done and much of it starts with processing loss, not running from it. Label your emotions, think about what could have been, and then let it go. This is not easy; It is a very complex process. It involves self care and allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest. Once you experience freedom you can begin to rebuild and move forward, because the weight of your past will not hold you back as often as it did before.

True freedom from grief and loss I experienced came from my relationship with God. I felt a peace I had never known after becoming a Christian and being vulnerable with God first, and then others. There is a scripture that states “And provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3). This is the heart of Jesus for everyone, no matter what you’ve done or had done to you. It is about the healing, and the redemptive power of God. It is through relationship with Jesus that we can truly transform and heal and have freedom. He sees who we are meant to be and who he created us to be, not just what we’ve done or what was done to us.

I’d love to hear your story and help you to process your trauma and losses. Contact me at freedlifecounseling@gmail.com .

#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing

Send a Message

Get In Touch

Address

PO Box 4293 Butte, MT 59702

Email

lia@freedlifecounseling.com

Phone

+ 406 490 4674

Follow FREED Life