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  

You are in control of your life. After experiencing trauma, especially long term, it can be difficult to believe this. Trauma scars deeply. It causes so many intense emotions and negative self thoughts (ex: I am not capable, I am not smart, I have no common sense, I cause bad things to happen). It is difficult to follow your own intuition and conscience because of shame, fear, self-doubt and negative self beliefs ( I am bad, I am unworthy, I am weak, I have no value). Often issues related to feeling helpless or believing you do not have control over your life occur. This is termed learned helplessness, and this belief prevents many people from moving forward in life, even when opportunities arise.

Taking Responsibility for Your Life

Learned helplessness sounds offensive to many and may cause anger. There is a negative connotation to this phrase; no one likes to think of themselves as helpless. The majority of the time this pattern of behavior is subconscious and we do not realize we have the ability to take ownership of our lives. There is a belief that they cannot change their circumstances. Why? A pattern of helplessness has formed after repeated situations when the individual’s control was taken away by someone else (for example some type of abuse or neglect) or or something else ( for example a severe mental or physical health disorder , substance abuse, prison system or foster care system). People who experience secondary trauma may feel helpless in their jobs after seeing extensive trauma and not having any control over the outcome. An example would be someone in law enforcement that witnesses a lot of overdoses, death and/ or violent crimes. Continuous placement in systems like rehabs, jails, juvenile facilities, and residential programs can cause learned helplessness because of the lack of independence and forced reliance on staff to have needs met.

After reading the examples above and thinking of learned helplessness as a conditioned response to repeated, traumatic life events it should no longer sound like an offensive term. It is not something you chose or desired for your life, and it does not have to be the way you respond to your future. The first step to healing is to admit to yourself that this is occuring and don’t guilt yourself! Think of it as a typical response to life by many that experience lack of control repeatedly. Many of you may have tried to change the outcome of your life or a situation and it felt futile or pointless and you gave up because you were tired, overwhelmed or sick of being disappointed and hurt.

Think of when and how this belief that you have no control started. Most likely it is tied to a situation when this lack of control was real. Coping with this can be very difficult on your own and I recommend speaking with a therapist to process through all the emotions related to this. Once you identify and process, use this new awareness to view your life choices. Is there an area or areas where you’ve wanted to do more, learn more, or change and you haven’t because of a belief that you’re incapable, nothing will ever change or get better or no one will ever help you so there’s no point in trying? Are there times where you wanted to help someone else but gave up for the same reasons? These are the thoughts of a learned helplessness response, and they can be changed.

Changing Thoughts and Behaviors

How can these thoughts be changed? Small steps! Do not start big or you will set yourself up for failure. Small, planned steps can lead to bigger steps and bigger changes. For example, I believed I had no control over relationships. I felt unable to say no to people, and it was definitely related to feeling that I had no control over my life or myself as a person; I believed I had no right to say no to people due to trauma related shame and lack of self-esteem. I slowly started saying saying no to small things- giving someone a ride, or eating something I didn’t want to eat. I gradually went on to saying no to bigger things- family or friend functions that would be unhealthy or put me in a difficult position with my sobriety, completely ending contact with harmful relationships, and not allowing my children to be in certain places or around people I wasn’t comfortable with. I would have never imagined I was capable of doing this, but the more I said no, the more I was able to take ownership of my life, use my voice, and build confidence.

Psalm 9:9 (NIV) says the Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,a stronghold in times of trouble.I am so thankful that God is my stronghold. Stronghold is defined as a place that protects by resisting or preventing attack, or a place a specific cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld. Knowing God is with me everytime I decided to speak up has helped me immensly because I did not feel alone in my fight.

You have value and you have a responsibility to yourself to protect your body, mind and heart. You may want to read that statement multiple times because it is hard to believe and understand after experiencing so much pain, trauma and lack of control. I struggled with the idea that I had the right or ability to say no to others, even though my profession called for me to advocate for others and say no on behalf of others. Sometimes trauma is unavoidable, but often you have the ability to protect your mind, body and heart by using your voice, and making decisions that benefit yourself and your family. You are NOT helpless in any way, and even though fighting for yourself is exhausting, I promise it gets easier. As you overcome each obstacle there is so much freedom and a new level of confidence and empowerment with each time you say “NO”.

I’d love to hear your story. Please contact me with any questions or comments at lia@freedlifecounseling.com

Self sabatoge is a behavior or pattern of behaviors that has the potential of leading to self-harm, broken relationships and/ or unhealthy relationships, and goals that are not achieved. Self sabatoge may include a variety of harmful behaviors, including any type of addiction or risky behavior, procrastination, or leaving healthy relationships. There also tends to be a tendency to gravitate away from healthy behavior that improve overall health, mental health or social and emotional well-being. Examples would be exercise, attending necessary health appointments, or having healthy friendships or and/ or romantic relationships.

Finding the Root

Self-sabatoge often results from trauma and chaos. It is difficult to allow your self to be content, happy or at peace after experiencing trauma and developing a negative view of yourself. Negative self-talk and negative beliefs are often involved in self-sabatoge, as well as not valuing yourself or seeing your worth. If you notice yourself procrastinating often, quitting things that are good for your, continuing harmful behaviors, staying in unhealthy relationships, or ending or avoiding healthy relationships ask yourself what the root of the behavior is. For example, if you break off healthy romantic relationships and continuously find yourself back in abusive relationships or alone you may have some underlying shame issues, or a fear of rejection that causes you to end or avoid healthy relationships. If you stop showing up at work, procrastinate on assignments or fail to complete job duties, underlying causes could be a fear of failure, believing you are an “imposter” or fear of being successful. The root of this may be low self esteem, difficulty dealing with pressure, or a fear of being controlled by your job or schooling. It may also be a fear of responsibility. Both of the examples I gave have multiple possibilities of why self- sabatoge could be occuring. This is why finding the root is key, which can often be difficult on your own. Talking with a therapist would be a great way to process this issue and determine a course of action to prevent continued self- sabatoge in the future.

Changing Behaviors

Behavior changes are very important once you determine the cause of self-sabatoge. Making small changes daily is key. Making a choice to consistently continue to move forward and not quit is huge. It is best to avoid making impulsive decisions or decisions based on emotion. Slowing down is so important to prevent impulsive decisions from being made. There is a skill I like to use with others (and myself) from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is a specific type of therapy that focuses on being more mindful of thoughts and behaviors, and acting on rational thought not emotions. The skill is called STOP (Stop, Take a Step Back, Observe, Proceed Mindfully). This process is focused on stopping in the moment to think about the situation and focus on what you’re feeling, and choosing to stay in the moment and refrain from immediate decisions based on emotion. Try writing out pros and cons before making decisions, especially when you have the desire to make decisions based on emotions rather than facts. Weighing your options on paper can help you to avoid self- sabatoging. The more you do these steps the better you will feel about yourself as you see growth and improvement in your life, which in turn will help you to see yourself as having value.

I often struggled with self sabatoge with addiction and in relationships. I often tried to get sober but sabatoged myself each time. I also found myself in bad relationships, including friendships. Once I was really ready to be sober, I tried very hard to completely change my life and not sabatoge. I stayed away from hurtful relationships and friendships. I met my husband after 4 years of being sober. Within a couple months of meeting him, I remember thinking that a relationship would never work. Why? Because he noticed my favorite color was purple. Strange, right? But it’s actually not as strange as it sounds. I thought he was so together and I was so…not together. I took him noticing my favorite color as a sign to me that he was getting too close and that I needed to get away before he realized how “bad” I was and rejected me. Luckily I had a mentor that was someone I respected and listened to and when she pointed this out it made so much sense to me. I realized that I was fearful and about to make an irrational decision, and that I really wanted to continue forward even though I was afraid. I saw no value in myself and thought no one good would want to be around me. There were many similar moments that followed when I had to let my guard down, be vulnerable and be open. Each situation became a learning opportunity where I had to STOP and then proceed mindfully so I did not sabatoge. I learned that I do have value, and other people see value in me. Every person has value, including you!

Learning Your Value

We often self-sabatoge a relationship with God, because we think we aren’t good enough, pure enough or don’t have it together. This could not be further from the truth. God hates all sin but loves every single sinner, no matter what they’ve done. By sinner I mean me, you, and every person on this earth, Christian or not. It took awhile but I realized that God is always faithful. He will continuously help you to change your thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and your entire life. It is hard to self-sabatoge with a God who loves you unceasingly and knows you better than you know yourself. God sees value in you even when you don’t see the value in yourself; you are made in God’s image.

I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Please email me at lia@freedlifecounseling.com

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

Fear of the Future

Foreboding is basically fear of the future. It is a feeling that something bad is going to happen. There are some expressions that you most likely have heard before related to this feeling. “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” is one of them. This expression implies that someone is waiting for something to happen. I personally have never heard someone use this expression to imply something positive is going to happen, only negative events. It is infered that the event is inevitable, meaning it is definitely going to happen but the exact timing is not known. Another expression that comes to mind is “Walking on eggshells.” What does this mean? To be delicate and tread lightly out of fear of causing a negative event or angering someone. How about not wanting to “rock the boat,” meaning not wanting to cause some type of upset or negative situation. All of these expressions are fear filled; fear of inevitable future events, fear of upsetting or angering someone, fear of being the cause of a problem.

People who have experienced trauma often do have reason to fear the future, to walk on egg shells and avoid rocking the boat. If you have experienced trauma, especially long term, you may have noticed that anticipating negative events and trying to avoid them or minimize negative effects becomes a way of life. Foreboding becomes a coping skill by anticipating the worst to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally before the event occurs, in order to protect yourself the best you can.

Obstacles to Healing

The problem with foreboding occurs when the trauma is over and healing needs to occur. Foreboding is based on feelings. Feelings shape our thoughts and beliefs. When feelings, thoughts and beliefs are fear filled and focused on the future it steals our joy in the present. This in itself is damaging, but there is more. A large part of healing is focused on changes in thoughts, beliefs, and behavior. Foreboding and fear of the future do not lead to changes in thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. Instead, it actually keeps us stuck in negative thought patterns and old behaviors that are counterproductive to healing. Growth is inhibited and internal chaos and hypervigelence continue when they may not need to.

The first tip to limiting or ending foreboding is to pay attention to your thoughts. Really analyze them. Think about the event that occured that led to the foreboding. Ask yourself if your perceptions and beliefs are possibly incorrect when you start to forebode and brainstorm some other possible outcomes. Assess whether or not your beliefs are tied to something in your past. This is actually known as the ABC method from a type of therapy called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. It is an amazing way to analyze events in your life and resulting thoughts, beliefs and emotional responses. It helps to connect your current thoughts and behaviors to your past so you can move forward by creating new patterns of thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. This process was so healing for me. There are many times that I was foreboding and my beliefs were based on incorrect perceptions and assumptions. I was filled with fear of situations that never occurred. I would remain anxious for periods of time but the negative events I was expecting never happened. I tend to review my thoughts very quickly, and try to be rational and calm without letting emotions control my beliefs and behaviors. I use scripture a lot and prayer to focus on truth, not fears and negative emotions.

The second tip is to communicate fears, beliefs and expectations as long as it is safe and appropriate to do so. This has helped me so much. A spouse or significant other, therapist, trusted friend, parent, mentor or anyone who is loving and truthful with you would be a great person to start with. Often, we keep our beliefs within our mind and do not speak them out loud due to fear or shame. If you speak up you may find that your beliefs were wrong which can stop foreboding and promote healing. Without speaking up the fear can continue in your mind and cause a lot of racing thoughts, ruminating, fear, shame, and avoidance. I learned to be more direct and express myself over the years. It is a continuous process, and it can take awhile to feel comfortable.

Foreboding and Relationship with God

My relationship with God was hindered (and still is sometimes) due to foreboding. I had difficulties trusting God with my future and anticipated “trials” or unrealistic terrible situations that involved God basically manipulating me. This is a very distorted view of God; I believed that God was a “puppet master” creating difficult situations that I’d need to overcome. It took years of struggle and prayer to figure this out. I did not want to think of God negatively but due to my past I had incorrect beliefs about God and people that I needed to correct. I realized after ten years of being a Christian that I was experiencing a trauma response. I loved God and read my Bible daily but it did not erase this belief because I was totally unaware of the root of the problem being my past experiences. Once I was able to understand this, I was able to work to change it through the ABC method, prayer, body work, and reading the Bible. I saw a lot of change in my perception of God, others, and my circumstances since realizing this, and began to look at suffering or the possibility of suffering much differently.

I share this to encourage everyone that reads this that even Christians have negative thoughts towards God and their circumstances at times. Before I was a Christian I did not believe this. I thought everyone in church had it more together than me, understood God better than me, and lived in perfect peace. I had no idea how false this was until I learned to understand God’s word (the Bible) and investigated how experiences shaped my thoughts and beliefs about God, others, and my environment. My feelings and fears do not control me anymore, and it’s possible for you to have the same freedom! If you’re interested in sharing your story or learning more please contact me at lia@freedlifecounseling.com

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

Trauma and chaos often go hand in hand. This is because trauma is constantly effecting mind and body, by interrupting daily thoughts, activities and behaviors. Natural disasters, moving frequently, divorce, being placed in foster care, addiction, mental health issues, medical issues, and physical, emotional and sexual abuse are all examples of situations that lead to chaos within individuals and the family system. Routines are difficult to keep when trauma occurs, if not non- existent. Crises take priority over activities of daily living. Personal space may be interfered with. Sleep is often disrupted and a constant flux in your body occurs when your fight, flight or freeze response is initiated repeatedly daily. When someone in the home has an addiction or there is an abuser in the home, life tends to revolve around the abuser or substance user, and this leads to total chaos. Any individual who is addicted to a substance or has addictive behaviors ( for example: gambling or sex addiction) is in a constant state of chaos related to obtaining what is needed to continue with addiction.

Recovering From Chaos

Chaos is addictive. It is a lifestyle. It is hard to live in peace after living in chaos for years. It is difficult for the mind to adjust to peace at first after the  trauma, addiction, or struggles with mental health have ended. It is hard to accept peace and be comfortable in peace. There can be a feeling that something bad will happen and the peace is not real. Or, boredom may set in with routine and no chaos. It is difficult at first for some people to be comfortable in peace and accept that things have really changed. Some people are drawn back into addiction, self sabotage or have a constant fear and worry that bad things will keep happening even when this is not the reality of the situation, which is called foreboding. I will cover self-sabatoge and foreboding in my next two blogs.

When I got sober I remember feeling like I was coming out of a tunnel. I had been feeling empty, alone, and dealing with abuse, self- hatred, panic attacks and nightmares. I had no idea how to live without chaos. I made friends through recovery groups and attended Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery. I went to church, spent time with new friends and did “normal” things like go to movies, parks, barbecues, and out to eat. I felt much better emotionally and had no desire to use any substancs again but I was not accustomed to living a life of peace.  I felt like someone totally different going through the motions of “normal” life. It took a long time to realize this wasn’t pretending to live- I actually was living.  I started to feel more comfortable in these settings and enjoy what I was doing, especially after limiting contact with people that tended to gravitate to chaos and were not healthy for me. I struggled with this at first, as those were the people I were used to and I knew how to operate in chaos, not peace. But, it took a long time. I did not know how to enjoy the moment and realized I had a hard time relaxing around others and being present. I tended to want to help people and was taken advantage of. The healthier I got emotionally the better I did with staying away from unhealthy people that brought unwanted chaos into my life.

I thank God for his mercy and grace in my life.  Even though my life is more peaceful, PTSD reactions can still lead me to a place of chaos emotionally at times, which is very common but totally uncomfortable.  Emotions flood and hypervigilance starts up, leading to difficulty remaining calm and rational. I’d like to say I manage it perfectly but I’m learning it’s impossible to perfectly manage emotions, no matter how much I try or how much knowledge I possess.  I just want to encourage you that this is NORMAL when experiencing PTSD and not shameful and does not mean you’re still living in chaos. It’s not a sign of moving backwards. We are all works in progress.

The Bible says that He ( God) who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6 NLT). This is so encouraging because it means the God of the entire universe, who is never in chaos and always in control, will not give up on you. If you allow Him to work in you He will continue throughout your life. This gives me so much hope because it means I’m never alone in this battle, and you aren’t either! You are so much more than your trauma and your symptoms and your fear and although they bring chaos into your life, they do not have to control your life, or even your day. You can continue to process, learn, grow, adjust, and believe there is always hope.

It is a daily choice to make small steps and enjoy more peace day by day, while eliminating chaos. It is amazing how our lives can change once we begin to transform our minds and connect thoughts and behaviors, in order to build new, healthier ways of life. I can honestly say that I hate chaos and am much better at shutting down chaotic emotions and emotional flooding quickly. This in itself is progress and a way to persevere and keep chaos to a minimum. I’d love to hear your opinion or experience on this topic  Contact me at freedlifecounseling@gmail.com with any questions, comments or prayer requests.

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



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