Monday, April 11, 2022

My Therapist’s Cape Is at the Cleaners

“… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48 (AMP) 

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault not leadership.” Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Being a therapist comes with much responsibility. It is a duty in which people entrust you with their most vulnerable thoughts and feelings. Our clients look to us to lead them through darkness and confusion into the light of knowing. At times, I believe our clients think we just sit around waiting to do therapy all day – ready to answer at their beck and call. Or maybe that is the expectation I have created for my clients – because I genuinely care about them, their feelings, and their lives. Unfortunately, I think our clients forget that we are human and have lives of our own. And our lives are not perfect because we are therapists. 

We don’t really wear a superhero cape. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t know everything. We try our best to guide our clients in the best way for them. But sometimes, our lives have us living in chaos, hurt, fear, anxiety, confusion, and impostor syndrome too. Sometimes we feel unlovable, defeated, broken, tired, emotionally drained, and hopeless too. We go to therapy for our personal issues so that we have room in our psyche to help our clients process theirs. Some have a foundation of faith on which we rely to comfort us through some of the roughest times. But just like I tell my clients, “The Teacher is always silent during a test.” So, we pray and search for answers just like you. We cry. We hurt. We quit. We yell. We cuss. We fuss. We get angry. We get overwhelmed. Just like you. 

Unlike you, however, we have to deal with our shit WHILE continuing to see clients. Because those of us in private practice, don’t earn a living when we don’t see clients. While money is not the motivator for me, I have come to learn that it is necessary to survive here on Earth. And I have also tried to explain this concept to God. We need money, not manna, on which to live down here. So, imagine this: 

You are the one that all your friends and family come to in order to “run something by you” or “get your opinion” or “just vent.” And they start talking before ever asking how you’re doing or if you even have time to talk. They have no idea that: 

  • your paycheck has been jacked up over the last few pay periods, 
  • you have no significant savings because you’ve been trying to make ends meet, 
  • your significant other, whom you help in any way you can, just told you they don’t really love you but have fallen in love with someone else & want to have an open relationship, 
  • your youngest child just got diagnosed with asthma & will need daily breathing treatments, 
  • your oldest child was caught lighting fires in the school bathroom and has been suspended pending a psychological evaluation, 
  • your father is battling cancer, 
  • your kitchen floor is buckling for some unknown reason, 
  • your dog had to have emergency surgery that cost you $2500, 
  • your wages may be garnished by the IRS, 
  • you haven’t been able to work out for your normal stress relief because of a knee injury, 
  • you can’t get a doctor’s appointment until next month and even then, you still must meet your deductible, 
  • your car needs to be washed from when your friend got sick out the window on the way to urgent care, 
  • your bills are due for both your house AND your office, and
  • you have no available sick leave or vacation time to just take a break from it all. 

And after you finish running through this list in your head, the person, to whom you are supposed to be listening, is STILL TALKING. So, you try to stay present with a smile on your face, hear them out, offer what you can, and head home. To what? More chaos. More problems. After you’ve put out the fires at home, you are dead tired. There’s no time to even think about how you are going to pay the bills with no more money coming in for weeks. There is no time to figure out how you feel about your significant other, much less, having an open relationship. You try to sleep but your knee keeps you from getting really comfortable. Your significant other is not next to you so there’s that thought again. 

What do you do? It’s almost 2:00AM and you forgot to call your therapist to make an appointment. Your friends are all asleep at this hour. You try to pray but it’s the same prayer you’ve prayed a thousand times, “I need help, Lord. I need a financial blessing. I need healing. I need peace in my life. I need a vacation. I feel like I’m drowning. Help me, Lord.” So, you cry into your pillow until you fall asleep only to hear the damn alarm clock go off four hours later. It's 6:00AM and you’ve got to face another day. 

Now put yourself in the role of your therapist. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe they didn’t return your call because their kid was having an asthma attack? Have you ever thought maybe the reason they didn’t get your paperwork out early was because they had to bury a family member? Have you ever thought that the reason they cannot “fit you in this week” is because they are already booked and need to have time to eat at some point during the day? What are your therapist’s off days? Do you know? If you know them, why would you text, call, or email them on those days, much less, expect a response? If you don’t know them, you should find out because we need our personal time too. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I hope my therapist is okay” when they are late, don’t show, or have to cancel an appointment? Or do you just get annoyed or angry? 

What I’m saying is going to be hard for some people to hear but I always speak my truth from a place of love and respect for what I do. All my clients know, and love, that about me. Here it is with no sugar coating: 


Anything could be going on. Your therapist could’ve gotten sick or fallen and hit their head. They could be talking to a suicidal client or their father’s oncologist. Their dog may have just pooped right in the middle of the floor. Their significant other could’ve just walked out. Maybe they were taking some Tylenol to combat a headache so they could go ahead and talk to you. Maybe they were taking a breathing treatment for their own asthma. Maybe their kid didn’t get off the bus. Maybe they had a flat tire. Maybe they stopped to help a neighbor. Or, maybe, they are just human and running late or forgot or fell asleep from exhaustion. Shit happens – even to your therapist. So, here is my challenge to you: 

Care about your therapist as much as you want them to care about you – human being to human being - and realize that sometimes our capes are at the cleaners. 

Thank you to all my clients who check on me, show me grace, give me the benefit of the doubt, send cards, pray for me, and encourage me to take time off. Thank you for your forgiveness when I fall short and for reminding me that it is okay for me to be human too sometimes. You may never know how much your caring gestures mean to me. Many a time a message from a client – “just checking on you,” “I appreciate you,” “praying for you, Dr. G,” etc. – has kept me from walking away from private practice to go get a job as a night stocker at Kroger. 😉

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Suicide Note Like No Other

People who lose a loved one to suicide are often left in shock and wondering, "What were they thinking?!" As a suicide survivor, I try to help people understand the darkness in which we live when are at the point of wanting to end it all. More often than not, there is no suicide note left. And if there is a note, it can often leave more questions than answers. I wanted to share this suicide note because I felt it explains the nuances, and misperceptions, of a depressed person's thoughts and feelings. It also debunks the myth that, as therapists, we do not have issues of our own. It also speaks, compassionately, to the family members and friends left behind, in an attempt to genuinely ease their pain. Typically, when we have gone that deep into the vortex, we are not thinking about anyone but ourselves. So, this is definitely a note like no other. I have done my absolute best to remove all identifying elements out of compassion for both the victim and the family. 
Today is Saturday, October 9th at 7:21PM. I am writing the following memo/letter under NO DURESS of any kind. I am not under the influence of alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription medications. I have thought about my decision constantly over the last 4-5 days. In fact, I have thought of nothing else really. I am not making an emotionally warped or overly sensitive decision. I know that suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” But that is what I want: a permanent solution. I have suffered from depression since my teens and have survived multiple previous suicide attempts. So, I know, clearly, what I am doing and why I am doing it. At no point, following a failed suicide attempt, did everything become okay. I was never happy to still be alive; I simply conceded that living in Hell on Earth was my fate. I believe in God and His almighty power. I pray daily and I try to be obedient to God’s calling on my life. But in my humanness, it has simply become too much; I am exhausted. I am tired of giving all I have to other people and rarely feeling like my tank is full. I am not a disciple; I am not Job. I cannot live on the bare minimum and continue to follow God. I would lose the very house with which He blessed me. I live on Earth; I have bills to pay. I’m tired of working hours on end only to still be wondering, at the end of the month, if I will have enough money to pay my bills. I’m tired of not having a sincere life partner who can uplift, encourage, and pour into me the way I do for others. 

I have asked God for His help, His mercy, His grace, and for some reprieve in both these areas and have been met with nothing. So, it’s not that I irrationally felt like there were no other options to solve my problems. I did everything I could humanly do to keep going and keep giving. I tried to get a full-time job, with benefits, to supplement my income. I have worked extra part-time jobs to sustain my income – never asking for a free handout. God said NO. I’ve dated. I have loved and not been loved back. I’ve married. I’ve divorced. Ultimately, God said NO to a life partner – leaving me to walk this journey alone. Please know that I have tried other options. I even went back to school again to boost the earning potential for my business. Couldn’t get that done either. So, all options, including continued suffering, have been addressed and/or attempted. I am just beyond tired of living life like this. Therefore, this is a conscious, intentional decision on my part. This was not an accident. This was not foul play. I made the decision this morning. I ordered the cinder blocks, rope, and zip ties. I paid for the order. I picked up the order. I tied the knots. I restrained myself. And I slid under the water in the deep end of the pool. No one pushed me. No one saw me – I made sure of that. This was all my doing. 

I am sorry for the pain this has caused all of you. It could not be avoided. So many times, I have sacrificed my feelings for others. This time, I want PEACE; so, today I choose myself. I’m sorry if that means that others must hurt. You will heal and, eventually, go on with your lives. It may sound callous, but it is true. I’m not doing this, well, I didn’t do this, to be spiteful or vengeful. I didn’t do this looking for attention. It wasn’t just one thing that made me choose death. It’s been years and years of shit piling up inside. Don’t get me wrong – I have a GOOD life overall – if you base it on success, education, and material things. But the internal pain never seems to end – the pain of failure, the pain of hitting the wall and never getting any further, the pain of abandonment, the pain of dreams that never came to fruition, the pain of faith met with silence and broken promises, the pain of never feeling like you’re doing enough to deserve to “stop treading water and get in the boat.” 

I can’t help but think that if I’d succeeded in my last suicide attempt, a few decades ago, so much bullshit could’ve been avoided:
    • I would not have struggled for the past few decades.
    • I would not have experienced so many heartbreaks.
    • I would not have had a kid in the streets doing God knows what. 
    • I would not have had grandchildren suffering the trauma of abandonment.
    • I would not have experienced any more sadness. 
    • I would not feel like I sacrifice everything for no equal return of time or effort. 
    • I would not be exhausted from answering God’s calling – which requires you to give all you have and        then some [expecting nothing in return].
    • I would not have more than one ex-husband who didn’t appreciate anything about me except what I           could do for him. 
    • I would not have had any financial stress. 
    • I would have had no more hopes dashed or prayers unanswered. 
    • I would not feel like I will never be good enough for God to cut me some slack. 
    • I would not have had to hear my mother admit that she doesn’t like me. 
    • I would not have wasted time believing that God might reward me for being obedient. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am no saint! I’m the first to admit that I was mean, hateful, judgmental, immoral, pottymouthed, and just plain cold at times throughout my life. I smoked weed and drank alcohol. I was not a criminal and I did not violate anyone’s civil rights, but I was no saint. On the same token, I am not an awful person for choosing suicide either. While you have every right to be angry, you do not have the right to judge me and how I chose to deal with my pain. You have not lived my experience, do not know my struggle or the battles I’ve fought; you certainly do not know how hard it is to choose to die. If you think that’s an easy, or cowardly, decision, you are very wrong. I’m grateful that you do not know how it feels to want to die. It’s a dark, empty, hollow space where, no matter how loud you scream, no one can hear you. And you feel like no one would care if they did hear you. I cried out, constantly, to God; begging Him to just let me “get in the boat,” to “stop treading water,” to rest for just a little while – not forever but just for a little while. And His answer was always NO. I loved God. I believed in His almighty power. I saw Him breathe life into an infant who was born dead. I know He can work miracles. My relationship with Him was extremely personal and I could hear Him as though He was sitting right next to me. I heard His calling on my life and I answered – not knowing that it would require me to sacrifice everything I had inside for the sake of others. I believed God would keep my tank full so I could pour out freely to feed His sheep. I believed God would calm my greatest fear – being broke – so I could focus on my work for Him. But he did neither. I felt like God wanted me to follow Him like a disciple – walking away from everything, and everyone, I knew and depending solely on Him. I’m not built that way. That’s just not me and I always reminded Him that I couldn’t stand up to the tests which Job endured. Whereas the widow’s flour and oil never ran out, my money often did – or I would have just enough to pay the bills, but nothing left over for self-care. I kept reminding God that I felt like I was dying from the inside out. I kept warning Him that I was reaching my breaking point – that I was running on fumes – and that I needed His help in a critical, and miraculous, way. I loved my work, and the work God did through me. I would have done therapy for free if I could have. I did do pro bono work and volunteered my time through my non-profit to give back. But one cannot live on good vibes and fulfillment alone. On Earth, it requires money, safety, security, and good credit. It wore on me - giving my all, but still having no guarantee that I would be able to pay my bills each month, being unable to afford health insurance, and having no financial cushion for emergencies. I was tired of “just getting by.” I worked for nearly 40 years and saw no way I’d ever be able to retire. Because I wasn't a fast enough runner, my military career was cut short less than five years shy of retirement. And yes, I even played the lottery too. I just wanted to feel the stability and confidence of financial security. 

This is no one’s fault. None of you are responsible for my choice. You are not responsible for my depression. You are not responsible for my suicide in any way, shape, or form. I promise. I am not blaming anyone for my life experiences. Like I said before, I had a good life, but it was never great; I just got tired of mediocre - especially as I watched misogynistic narcissists, like Donald Trump, make more and more money and achieve more and more success. That was a slap in the face to all us veterans who risked our lives for these United States and our motto – E Pluribus Unum (out of many, ONE). And that bastard is staging his comeback! So, if I didn’t end things today, I would have done it on election day when Trump gets back in office! I could not live through that nightmarish buffoonery again! 

You didn’t see this coming because I didn’t allow you to see it coming. I didn’t say anything before I did it because I didn’t want to be stopped. Nor did I want to have to try to justify my actions. There is nothing you could, or should, have done to change this outcome. So, don’t woulda, shoulda, coulda yourselves to death. There is nothing you could have, would have, or should have done to change my mind. Even if you’d found a way to stop me, I would not have been okay. Each unsuccessful attempt left me sad and angry that I would have to continue to live. I was not grateful to be alive; I simply conceded defeat as I said earlier. I begrudgingly kept moving forward because, as Andy Dufresne said, in The Shawshank Redemption, I had to “get busy living or get busy dying.” I chose the former as long as I could; now, I choose the latter. 

I know this would not be the choice any of you would make; it is the choice, however, I’m making. And even through “understanding,” I know this will be hard to accept. You may hear, or read, things like, “the primary goal of suicide is not to end life but to end the pain.” That is not what this was. I have never been able to end the pain – not completely – but I can end my life and that is what I have chosen to do. I know you will be angry. Again, you have every right to be. I, admittedly, made this decision knowing the incredible pain it would cause. But I did not make it to cause you pain. I made it to stop my own. Often, people feel guilty after a loved one has completed suicide; guilt is often misplaced anger or anger inappropriately directed inward. I would not ever tell you how to feel or what not to feel. However, try not to place your anger where it doesn’t belong. Place it all on me because I am the one with whom you are angry. It’s my decision at which you are angry. You would’ve wanted, or even expected me to make a different choice. I know; I’m sorry. I accept your anger and I understand. Your anger is normal, and it does not mean that you love me any less. And even if you don’t feel bad, or are relieved somehow, that’s okay too. Not everybody liked me, and I know that. I was okay with it then and still am now. 

I am truly, truly sorry for the time it will take you to grieve and to heal. I have tried to answer all the questions you might have so you can at least skip the confusion, misdirected guilt, and anger. Your life MUST go on!!! You are still here and still enjoying your life! And I am happy for you. I find comfort in knowing that you all have people on whom you can lean for support and love during this time. I want you to live your best life! I am no longer hurting so I got what I wanted. And as crazy as it may sound, I hope, one day, you can forgive me and be happy for me that I finally found peace. How do you know, concretely, that I didn’t? I know forgiveness and joy may be a long time coming; I hope, eventually, you will be able to accept that I did what I believed was the best decision for me – whether you agree or not. 


But don’t be mad at Him either. I had a good therapist. I was a good therapist. I took my medications as prescribed. This was not a fluke or a rash decision. I thought about it for days before executing. I made the final decision; ordered, paid for, and picked up all the necessary supplies. I restrained myself and I slid under the water. I realize mental health and suicide are still stigmatized in our community. And it may have an even deeper meaning, to some, because of my profession. I encourage you to avoid negative, ignorant people who don’t understand or are insensitive. People will always have their opinions. But as they say, “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and some of them stink.” You do not have to give any asinine people, or comments, the power to upset you, especially if they did not know me or our family. There is nothing wrong with our family because of what I did. Nobody failed me. I hope my colleagues, and my clients, will realize that therapists are HUMAN. We hurt. We break. We cry. We struggle to think positively. We battle the volume of the same gremlins in our head that our clients do sometimes. We reach our limits and our capacity too. We are not supernatural beings nor superheroes. We are certainly not perfect. Nor were we granted a counseling license because we had all our shit together and had figured out all the answers to the test. People are people before they are any title or role. As much as I loved what I did, I got tired of people always needing me and rarely respecting the fact that I needed rest, love, quiet time, and space to deal with my own shit. That may have been partially my fault, though, for caring so much; and therefore, making myself available more than I probably should have. I always tried to be the kind of therapist I would have wanted to have though. I was proud of that. I still advocate for every therapist to have a therapist by the way. 

Speaking of therapy, I have left you all with some therapeutic resources that I hope will be helpful to you. I have left for you: 
    • a guide for surviving the suicide of a loved one from the Academy of Suicidology, 
    • a list of local support groups and other organizations available to help you, from SOSGA, as well as, 
    • a guide for how to tell children and teens about the suicide of a loved one from NAMI 
because I know I have a niece, nephews, and grandchildren that must be told of my death. I am terribly, terribly sorry to my brother and sister-in-love, for leaving you with this tragedy to explain. I wish it could’ve been avoided. I really do. And while I believe heaven is real, I don’t know where I’ll be in the afterlife. But if I can find a way to let you know, I will.  

I love you guys!
There will be a Part 2, and maybe a Part 3, to this post as I share the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the next day. We often get stuck in the grief and offering our condolences - not realizing that those left behind experience many different, confusing emotions. What a gift you can give them if you can learn to provide a safe space in which they can talk about the things they are feeling. Because they do have to figure out how to go on with their lives at some point.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Triggering the Inner Child

Picture this:

A 13-year-old girl, whom we will call Lynda, is in her bedroom doing homework on a rainy night in Georgia. She hears her parents arguing loudly, which is not something she has heard before. She doesn’t know what they are saying but she can tell that her mother is crying. Finally, Lynda opens her door only to see her mom on the floor holding on to her dad’s ankle begging, “Please don’t do this,” as he drags her along the hardwood floors; continuing to walk towards the front of the house. Lynda closes her bedroom door and tries to go back to doing her homework despite being confused and a little nervous about what she’d witnessed with her parents. Her parents had been together 15 years and had never argued like this. So, life was good, wasn’t it? Grownups argue. It’s okay. They eventually make up, right? The next sound she hears is the carport door slamming shut. Lynda knows it’s the carport door because the blinds slammed against the window in the door when it was slammed. There’s no more arguing but her mother is wailing. Lynda runs to the window in time to see her daddy sling a garment bag over his shoulder, walk down the driveway, turn left, and go up the street a little way. He throws his bag in the trunk of a black BMW parked on the curb, gets into the passenger seat, and rides away. Lynda was a “Daddy’s Girl” to her heart. Her daddy was her hero, her safe place, her first true love. Lynda’s daddy had just abandoned their family; more importantly, her daddy had just abandoned her. What had she done to make him go away? Why did he not love her anymore? Lynda sat by that window all night waiting for her daddy to return. He had to be coming back, right? He didn’t say goodbye.

Now, picture that same little girl, 37 years later:

At 50, Lynda is a twice-divorced, successful mental health professional in private practice. She is living out her purpose daily, feels fulfilled, and has a delightful life overall. No real complaints. Business is booming. Bills are paid. She’s got a fabulous house and plenty of friends. And about 4 months ago, the absolute love of her life, whom she had set free 8 years earlier, returned to her life. So, as the saying goes, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you, they were meant to be yours.” So, life is good, right? One rainy weekend, Lynda and her significant other, whom we will call “Walker,” are excited about a new project they’ve decided to do together. They’re discussing logistics, equipment, and exchanging ideas. Then, a loud argument ensues, seemingly out of nowhere, between she and Walker. He walks out of the room “because he needs to cool off,” Lynda thinks to herself. She continues to brainstorm about the project on which they were working. The next sound she hears is a door [to the outside] slamming. She is slightly startled, because slamming doors have haunted her since she was 13; but she goes back to working on the project. About an hour later, she goes downstairs to check on Walker and he is gone. She checks the bedroom and realizes that his duffle bag is gone too. And her first thought is: “He didn’t say goodbye.” In the subconscious recesses of her psyche, she has learned that when people don’t say goodbye, they are never coming back – they’ve abandoned you. So, 47 years later, the love of her life had slung a bag over his shoulder, slammed the door, and walked out of her life without saying goodbye. Her anger quickly turns into deep hurt. What had she done to make him go away? Why did he not love her anymore? So, Lynda sits down to write an email – apologizing for anything and everything she could think of that she could have possibly done wrong to make Walker leave. She apologized for her expectations. She apologized for pressuring him [if she had]. She apologized for causing him stress, for making him angry, for loving him, for not being enough for him, for asking for too much attention, and the list went on. Lynda reconciled herself to the fact that Walker was out of her life again; and she heard her inner child wailing.

The mind may compartmentalize memories, but the body remembers trauma. Trauma is defined as the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. While there are no objective criteria to determine which events will affect whom, circumstances typically involve the loss of control, betrayal, abuse of power, helplessness, pain, confusion and/or loss. The event need not rise to the level of war, natural disaster, nor personal assault to affect a person profoundly and alter their experiences. Traumatic situations, and their effects, vary quite dramatically from person to person. The experience of trauma is very subjective; it is defined more by its response than its trigger.

And a few nights ago, I was Lynda, and my body remembered the stabbing pain of abandonment again. You see, I felt empowered when I divorced my two husbands [for egregious behaviors I could not forgive and would never forget]. As I always say, when you know your worth, you stop giving discounts. And as Maya Angelou suggested, “when people show you who they are, believe them.” So, knowing I deserved better than the men my exes had shown themselves to be, it was not hard to let go and move on. It was not hard because I knew their choices were not about me but rather their lack of conscience; and, admittedly, I was not in love with them. When you are in love with someone, you are them and they are you in a sense – there is no end or beginning – just an incredible existence of connected souls. People often ask me, “Is there really a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone?” And the answer is: Absolutely, yes!!! 

Loving someone is a choice; being in love is not. Loving someone means wanting the best for them; being in love means being intentional about putting them first. Love can end; being in love cannot. Loving a person means always needing them; being in love means there is equality and reciprocity. Loving is a fantastical rush; being in love is figuring things out together and being there for each other. Loving someone is about how the person makes you feel; being in love is about how you make them feel. Loving someone is ownership; being in love is partnership. Loving someone is an uphill battle; being in love is effortless. Loving someone can be affected by circumstances; being in love defies circumstances. Loving someone can be verbally explained; being in love is deeper than words can express.

My significant other and I have been in love with each other for almost a decade and we’re finally together again. He holds my heart in his hands. I am like a little schoolgirl around him. I don’t feel the need to protect my heart from him because there is mutual love and respect and a renewed commitment to forever. And I did not believe he would ever hurt me again. But a few rainy nights ago, my significant other, like my daddy, had argued loudly, grabbed his bag, slammed the door, and driven away without saying goodbye. And the heartache seemed just as deep as it had 37 years earlier. My inner child was triggered, and I didn’t even realize it.

We all have an inner child. They helped us get through all the bullshit when we were growing up. They are not malicious; they are not adults either. No, I am not saying that you have multiple personalities. Your inner child is just another part of you. Our inner child represents our emotional age. And biological age and emotional age do not always match. Our emotional growth gets stunted, or stagnated, when we experience trauma whether mild or severe. So, your inner child ends up running your “emotional” life into adulthood quite often. My friends have said to me, “Geez! When you get your feelings hurt, you are like a different person.” To which I respond, “Yeah, she’s six-years-old, has a real quick temper, and sharp tongue. Let me put her back in her room and come back and give you a 51-year-old response.” LOL. My inner child is a pistol – she’s a little bitty thing who stands there with her hands on her hips, ready to roll her eyes [and her neck] as she proceeds to tell you how you are not going to speak to her a certain way or treat her a certain way. The problem is, she says it in such a nasty, biting tone that people may be too offended to hear the message of “stop disrespecting me” or “stop hurting me.”

Our inner child will jump out and take over, in order to “protect” us, when they feel we are being hurt or are in emotional danger. That is exactly what happened to me. My inner child went into panic mode thinking, “Oh no, we are being abandoned! He grabbed his bag! He slammed the door! He didn’t say goodbye! He’s never coming back! You’ve got to make this right!” Then, I started typing. I hit send on the email and exhaled. I had thrown a Hail Mary in order to get my significant other to see that I could be good, quiet, obedient, not ask for anything, whatever I needed to do for him to love me and not leave me. Are you getting the picture yet?

Have you done, or said, something only to ask yourself later, “Why did I do/say that?” Ever feel like you could hear yourself saying something, or see yourself doing something, that you knew was out of character, immature, or just plain wrong; but you couldn’t stop? Ever feel like you overreacted when you didn’t mean to – coming out the gate like a racehorse and doing a whole lap around the track, only to realize that that people around you are confused because there was no real race or competition? These are all moments when your inner child has said, “Aw hell, here we go again! Somebody is about to hurt us again. So, let me take over before your adult brain can step in and try to handle all this drama.” Afterwards, you’re left feeling bad about how “you” handled the situation. Well, you didn’t. Your inner child did because they do not understand that grownups argue and make up. They do not understand that there can be resolution and apologies or even agreements to disagree at the end. And that is where many of us live every day we exist – with an emotionally scarred, slightly dysfunctional, but strong and courageous inner child who will allow us to live but will be damned if anyone is going to traumatize us in any way ever again. God love the inner child. Their intentions are admirable, but their execution typically leaves you shaking your head.

Once you recognize that your inner child is the one who has shown up in a situation, you must shut them down immediately; so, your adult self can get back in control of the situation. Ultimately, you must fire your inner child but that is a three-part process that I will have to address in a separate post.

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Letter to God

Dear God,

Today, while rested, I still feel tired physically. But my spirit is light and full of joy. I am so amazingly blessed to have everything I both need and want. I live in my dream house. I have a career I absolutely love – working towards having my dream job. I have friends and family who love and support me. I have an amazing dog who wants absolutely nothing from me but love. I have no more leeches, cheaters, liars, or users in my life. I have no need for completion. I am not lonely in, or afraid of, my life as a twice divorced woman. The only thing that would be more freeing is to debt free again; if I win the lottery, I’ll make sure that happens.

I guess my only question, God, is: if you truly have someone for me, how do I say “NO?” It’s not that I don’t believe in, or trust, You. I do. I do not, however, think anyone in my life would, or even could, love me to the depths, or with the fervor, which I love them. No one will ever be as thoughtful s I am – always thinking of me, wanting the best for me, wanting to ease my burden, or just wanting me to be happy for no other reason than to see me smile. And I’m tired of that – always being the one who is more invested in him and in us – always being the one sacrificing, going out of my way, or being inconvenienced. I give to SO MANY PEOPLE – so many. I just think my focus, my energy, my love, and my care is better in those that need me. That way, I stay responsible for filling my own tank. I don’t get let down or disappointed ever. And I don’t even have to care all the time – only when I’m working. I think that is all the capacity I have right now. 

I don’t need sex or money. I would have to have someone willing to work hard for me – to get my attention – to make me feel loved so that I want to love back. And he doesn’t exist.

Everyone and anyone can appear selfless in the beginning; it’s rarely, if ever, consistent. And it never lasts – especially if they are not getting anything in return. I just don’t have it to give. I’m thoughtful and kind by nature. I love to laugh. But most of all, I just like to BE – hearing another’s soothing heartbeat, feeling safe enough to let go and relax in his arms, breathing in his scent, feeling the warmth of his skin, feeling his breath on my neck or his fingers in my hair. Feeling like he would never let go if he didn’t have to – being able to just share space with me because I bring him the same wonderfulness he brings me. He would have to be a studied romantic – meaning he would read & research about different, unique ways to be romantic – not just do the easiest or the obvious. He would have to put in EFFORT to make sure I knew the depth of his love for me and not just assume I did. He would have to have passion for more than my body! Don’t get me wrong, he would need to be passionate and adventurous, while also gentle, compassionate, and dominant, during sex. But sex cannot always be the go to! Because what happens if one of us can no longer perform sexually? There MUST be intimacy like no other – where nothing has to held back.

I used to say my husband did NOT have to be my best friend. After being married & divorced twice and ending up wishing I could talk to my husband, or immediately knowing I would never talk to him about something, I have come to realize that I want, maybe even need, my husband to be my very best friend. And I’m just honestly not sure that men are even capable, anymore, of being good friends first & foremost. Eventually, they all seem to start thinking with their dicks and that becomes their most important damn need – no matter what else is happening in the world.

Nobody talks anymore. Nobody shares their deepest, most authentic, true self anymore. We’re too afraid that it won’t be good enough. I’m not eye candy to one guy [to whom I would’ve given my whole heart, albeit undeservedly] and I’m hot as hell to another guy because I do “have meat on my bones,” and get this, was NOT wearing heels or being frilly. 

But would either of them know that I miss my daughter and that I am terrified that the next time I see her, she’ll be in a coffin? Would either of them know that I work so hard because I feel the weight of God’s calling on me 24/7/365? Would either of them honor that and bring me dinner or appreciate having a quick cup of coffee with me instead of adding more pressure to my fear of failure by constantly saying, “You never have time for me”? Would either of them know that I feel imposter syndrome just like everybody else at times? Would they realize that I get tired of hearing, “That’s what happens when you’re good at what you do”? Which one would be willing to lay in bed and watch Marvel movies – allowing me to doze off and on and not be frustrated? Some will play golf. Some will not. But none of that matters if they neither know nor understand me.

Lord, I just don’t see that happening. I don’t believe they genuinely have the desire to know, the willingness to learn, the energy to try, or the selflessness to look outside themselves. I can feel the depths of other people’s souls – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the amazing. But men NEVER EVER seem to see, or feel, that I am an incredible gift from You, Lord, to so many – but to the one with whom You would have me. So, we can move on to something else. Please. I’ve had my fill. I know I’m loved by MANY. I know I am EASY to love. But the risks no longer outweigh the benefits I’m afraid. Can we please just focus on my dream job and making sure that I am always financially secure and able to pay my bills with a cushion left over each month? I don’t need any more trips [currently]. I don’t need anyone to share my space. I just need a steady check (and benefits), from an NFL team, that truly represents my professional value, a beach in my backyard, and a consistent five figure balance in my bank account. You’ve prepared me, as best You can, for Your will in Zari’s life and my Daddy’s life. Somehow I will survive those losses, whenever they come, because I know You will carry me through.

Thank You, Lord, for all the blessings You have bestowed on me. Thank You for my spiritual gifts. Thank You for trusting me to feed Your sheep. Thank You for allowing me to experience marriage and childbirth. If You never bless me again, Father, I have enough and I am enough simply because I exist. I love You, Lord; and I thank You for loving me too. Thank You for always reminding me that even broken crayons still color!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Sagacious Sting of Accountability

I honestly believe that most people genuinely try to be their best selves most of the time. No one is perfect, however, including me. It doesn’t bother me to fall short of perfection [if I don’t land on mediocre, or worse, on failure]. In nursing school, I remember one of my classmates asking why I worked so hard to get A’s – “because C’s get the same degrees,” she said. I have just always prided myself on doing my best in everything I do – especially when it comes to how I affect people. My philosophy has always been: Position does not equal power; power is determined by how you affect people. So, when I do less than my best for a friend, family member, or client, it hurts me to my core. I am, admittedly, extremely hard on myself and show myself very little, if any, compassion when that happens. The only thing that hurts worse is when someone adds salt to the wound by saying:

You’re a mental health professional/psychologist/counselor; you should know better or you should’ve been able to fix [it].

Even worse than that low blow, however, is when the person I failed must bring said failure to my attention; and I am slapped in the face with my own accountability. That’s a damn hard pill to swallow! But it happened recently; and I am still reeling from it because it was an epic fail, in my opinion, for several reasons:
  • I was insensitive and unintentionally dismissive of a friend’s pain.
  • I made a bad situation worse for someone for whom I care deeply.
  • I was too focused on myself to even ask what he needed.
  • I was barreling full steam ahead with my own agenda – what I thought was best – with absolutely no regard for the effect I was having on him.
  • I was blind, deaf, and dumb, initially, when he called me on it.
Once my eyes were open, however, I saw pain, disappointment, sadness, and something else in his eyes and on his face that said I had failed him in an epic way. But that look in his eyes, and the “why bother” tone in his voice, stung like a mother***er! I was overcome with embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, and shame all at the same time – and yes, they are all different. I felt embarrassed because I had done something stupid. I felt humiliated because my friend had called me on it; and he was right. I felt guilty because I had [done a bad thing] by hurting my friend. I felt shame because I believed [I was a bad person] because not only had I failed a friend that I love to death, I had failed myself, and in my opinion, I had failed God by being an overall shitty person. See. Told you; I don’t show myself compassion [at least, not the first day].

On the opposite end of that spectrum, are the people who are never responsible for anything in their lives, relationships, or on their job. Everything is someone else’s fault. Someone “forced” them to make a specific decision (especially if it was not the best decision). They cannot get ahead in life because they have the worst luck, or they are the victim of a conspiracy. They are not happy because no one understands them. They’re broke because “everybody needs them,” not because they mismanage their money and cannot say “no.” They use drugs, as an adult, because they grew up with dysfunctional parents in childhood. They abuse their spouse because their spouse talks too much or doesn’t do anything right. And the list goes on. They have an excuse for everything that happens in their life, but it is never because of their oversight, insensitivity, bad decision, impatience, inability to cope, laziness, etc.

So, what is it about accountability that either makes people run from it, like the plague, on one end of the spectrum, or makes people strive for, or demand it, as a high standard on the other end of the spectrum?

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions.” Some synonyms are responsibility, culpability, duty, and liability. It is not a passive noun – not something that “just happens.” It is an answerability of performance that results in either reward or sanction (Romzek, 2015). Accountability is an active noun something that must be intentionally and consciously implemented. And accountability starts with YOU. If you expect the people in your circle to be accountable, you must model it yourself – keep your word, follow through, honor commitments, and own your crap. Accountability applies to everyone; no one is exempt. It cannot be delegated; it must be accepted by the owner. Accountability is the single biggest differentiator between successful and unsuccessful teams – corporate, governmental, social, sports, and romantic.

Accountability can be internal and/or external. Internal accountability is being accountable to oneself. It’s an individual’s personal commitment to be true to their values and to fulfill their promises. It comes from the inside out and creates a credibility that others trust and respect. External accountability comes from the outside in, being accountable, not to oneself, but to others. It creates an environment that people feel compelled to follow, a set of social norms and standards. Its role is to support the resolve of internal accountability. It creates the climate that allows people to fulfill their best intentions. External accountability cannot manufacture commitment, but it can fan its flame.

Accountability is the skill that every relationship must have in order to thrive. It’s not enough for just one partner to be able to take ownership of the things that they inadvertently do that hurt the other partner. Both people in any relationship really must be able to take accountability. Now, accountability requires taking ownership when we have accidentally done something wrong, hurt someone else, or let someone down. It entails being responsive to your partner’s needs. Responsive means that when your partner tells you for the 17th time, “You know it really doesn’t work for me when you yell at me like that,” in order to take accountability we have to own it and figure out how to do it differently. We must respond to their request that we do something differently and that we shift it. However, here is the challenge and why more people don’t take accountability. It requires a lot of confidence and belief in yourself as a good partner in order to take ownership.

There is nothing more frustrating than being in a relationship with someone who refuses to take accountability for his or her actions. In his or her mind, whatever happens is either someone else's fault or bad luck. Almost like a toddler, the person refuses to take responsibility for anything, no matter what. In their mind, they are the victim. They rationalize things in any way possible to avoid taking ownership or any type of fault. In other words, they have no ability whatsoever to say the words, "It's my fault," "I caused this," "I take full responsibility" or "I'm sorry." People who can't or won't take accountability lack self-awareness, humility, maturity and courage. Taking accountability isn't easy. It takes the courage to engage in introspection, humility and true honesty. Accountability means taking a hard look in the mirror and owning up to a problem you caused or contributed to. Furthermore, it means having the guts to attempt to fix what you did, either by asking for help or applying the discipline to change the behavior.

In playing the victim, however, one is giving away their power and their choice. Holding yourself accountable for your actions, especially in a relationship of any kind, is a reminder that you control your thoughts, words, choices, behavior changes, and outcomes. It creates trust in the relationship and shows both your maturity and willingness to be honest and vulnerable. Accountability requires that you:
  • Know who you want to be
  • Know what you want out of life
  • Don’t give your power away by blaming others
  • Don’t waste time blaming yourself; rather own your crap and change it
  • Be honest with yourself
  • Recognize the reward you are getting from staying powerless and helpless when you refuse to own your crap
  • Know that you always have a choice no matter what the situation
Most people take accountability for the good things they do in life, right? It's easy to do that. If we do something kind and someone thanks us, we say "You're welcome," which proves this. But the real heroes in life are the people who realize their imperfections, verbalize their regrets and learn from the mistakes. I am no hero by any means, but I do realize my imperfections, I do regret my actions, my inability to see what I was doing wrong, and the feelings it caused for my friend. I have learned a hard lesson from this mistake. I have apologized and I have asked his forgiveness. If this lesson has cost me an incredible friendship with a great person; I'll hold myself accountable for that as well. And it will sting like a motherf***er!

  1. Christy, K. (2020). Stop playing the blame game: Take responsibility in your relationship. Retrieved from
  2. Pilossoph, J. (2015, July 8). Love essentially: Relationships hinge on accountability. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from
  3. Romzek, B. S. (2015). Living accountability: Hot rhetoric, cool theory, and uneven practice. Political Science & Politics, 48(01), 27-34.
  4. Sasseville, A. (2017, May 4). The importance of accountability in your relationships. Retrieved from
  5. Zipp, B. (2020). Two kinds of accountability: Internal and external. Retrieved from

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

To Be a Kid Again

It’s sad that when we become adults, we sometimes forget simple lessons we learned (e.g., having good manners, keeping your room clean, & always work hard to do your best), how to play (e.g., board games, team sports, & going outside until the streetlights came on), to be carefree (e.g., relaxing, napping, playing with pets), and to just laugh & have fun (e.g., watching cartoons, reading, playing an instrument, & using your imagination). 

I was sitting at my breakfast bar one morning, eating my childhood favorite, Malt-O-Meal, and caught myself humming and dancing in my chair – celebrating how good it tasted. And I swear I heard my mom say, “I’m glad you like it; but we don’t sing at the table.” LOL. Then, I started thinking about what else I do that reminds me of my younger years, when I had no worries, plenty of time to play, laughed a bunch, had oodles of fun, learned some significant lessons, and simply enjoyed life. And here is what I came up with:
  • When I make my coffee in the morning, I think about always being excited when I got to make my Daddy’s cup of coffee.
  • When I visit my horse, Hershey, I am reminded of the book my Daddy used to teach me how to read; a book titled Joey’s Horse.
  • When I ride my horse, I remember when I first fell in love with horses, at Girl Scout camp, when I was nine years old. I won a 2-week stay for selling over 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies!
  • When I read Curious George to my grandson, I remember the hours I spent riding the book mobile, with my paternal grandmother in Charleston, SC every summer; reading all day.
  • When I have a big breakfast, with biscuits, eggs, and bacon, I remember summers with my maternal grandparents. Getting up in the cold dawn going to the hen house to get the eggs and stopping by the salt house on the way back to get the bacon while my grandmother made biscuits from scratch.
  • When I eat Froot Loops and Apple Jacks, I remember when my Daddy and I would sit on the couch and watch cartoons on Saturday mornings.
  • When I watch cartoons from time to time [I still love Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, and the Hanna Barbera ones on Boomerang], I remember rushing home from elementary school to catch Speed Racer and Batman (which I now own the full series of on DVD).
  • When I play with my dogs, I remember the joy of getting my first pet on my 4th birthday, a black Cocker Spaniel, named Sams’n.
  • When I clean my bathroom, I remember how proud I was for getting my Brownie pin turned right side up because I cleaned my bathroom, on my own, without having to be asked.
  • When I hear Ragtime music, I remember taking piano lessons and playing Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, at my piano recital.
  • When I am reminded of my extensive vocabulary, I remember my Daddy’s requirement that I learn a new word every day and use it in a sentence at least five times.
  • When I am complimented on my nice handwriting, I get tickled because I remember how irritated my mom would be when she couldn’t find any blank paper in the house because I had practiced my handwriting on every piece of paper I found.
  • When I hear any opera music, I think about all the hours of voice lessons I took, the beautiful music I sang (mostly in Italian), and how much I loved to sing.
  • When I watch soccer on TV, I remember my Daddy being my coach as a little league player and my biggest fan as both a high school player [on the boys’ Varsity team] AND an adult player [in the Georgia Amateur Association].
  • When I hear a high school marching band rehearsing, I think back to my days as a high school cheerleader – when I was bubbly and fit - LOL.
  • When I watch football, I remember going to my uncle’s games, faithfully, to show support for his team and for him as a coach, at Panthersville stadium; now named after him, the William “Buck” Godfrey Stadium.
  • When I see, or eat, strawberry Mentos, I am reminded of the times, as a lifeguard, I would sit with my bestie, Lisa, in the baby pool, and talk about life as we devoured a roll or two.
  • Whenever I play Scrabble or Gin Rummy on my iPad, I am reminded of my college bestie, Leah, and the many games of Scrabble and Gin Rummy we played over many bottles of wine, and how nice it was to have a friend with whom I could just be myself and on whom I could always depend. I will always remember our friendship fondly even though, sadly, after 30 years, we are no longer friends.
  • When I teach college courses, I am reminded of the value of learning, loving myself, and living a purposeful life, that I discovered in Dr. Nelson’s high school psychology class.
  • Whenever I go to a formal dinner, party, or other event, that requires poise, grace, and proper etiquette, I remember the book my mother made me read (and practice), White Gloves and Party Manners; grateful that I have no anxiety about which fork to use and when.
  • Whenever I see a balcony on a house, I think about jumping from our balcony to my neighbors’ so I could sneak out through their house (a group of Morehouse College students) instead of fooling with the alarm at our house - risking waking my mother and getting caught.
So many things I thought were small, insignificant, or just “part of life,” often pop into my head, bringing forth a fond memory, a smile, and even a chuckle at times. Life was so simple before we had to start “adulting.” There was no stress, no time management (except getting home before the streetlights came on), no social anxiety, no tension headaches, or financial strain. There were no heavy responsibilities and there was not a lot of anger or sadness overall. I had friends who were genuine. I had teachers who cared. I had parents who did their best. I had opportunities that a lot of kids don’t get. I was held to a very high standard; and for the most part, I met it. But I was by no means perfect and still am not. I do think I take life too seriously too often though. Perhaps I need to adopt my husband’s Jamaican philosophy, in Bob Marley’s words: “Don’t worry about a thing ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright.” I just have to remember to make time to play, be carefree, to laugh, and just have some fun so that “adulting” doesn’t seem so bad. I encourage all who read this to do the same.

Monday, April 2, 2018

BDSM 101: What It Means and Why It’s Hot as Hell to More People Than You May Think

Alternative, or “kinky,” lifestyles are still very hush-hush in the African-American community due to conservative views of morality, religious beliefs, and engrained opinions about “what black folks do” and “what white folks do.” BDSM is especially tricky in the black community because of both our history and the current state of our country in which there are constant reminders to black people that we are not safe in America. Can you imagine a sex play scenario that involved whipping & calling someone “master” or playing cop & perpetrator? For black people in America today, that conjures up fear & disgust, not sexual excitement or lustful desire.

So, I am writing about this topic in the hopes that eyes will be opened, and the stigma might be removed from this totally consensual sexual lifestyle in which adults participate in sexual play based on a power exchange that is governed by protocol. The BDSM lifestyle requires that you know and understand yourself on the deepest level, that you know what you want & are willing to embrace your truth, that you are willing to go beyond your own limits and societal constraints, and that you fully trust your playmate.

Since the release of 50 Shades of Grey, however, the popularity of BDSM has skyrocketed. Yet, many people still do not know what the acronym even stands for. BDSM refers to three different sexual “lifestyles” and four different sexual “players.” They are all VERY different. BDSM is NOT about: kids, breaking the law, violating anyone’s consent, violence or maliciousness. It is about pushing the boundaries of sexuality in a controlled and safe environment.

The players:

Dominant – controls play within the hard & soft limits of the Submissive
Submissive – voluntarily relinquishes controls to, and follows the instructions of, the Dominant
Sadist – willingly and intentionally inflicts pain on the masochist
Masochist – voluntarily receives and endures pain inflicted by the sadist

The acronym defined:

“B” is for BONDAGE. Bondage refers to the voluntary restraint of the “Submissive” or “Sub” by the “Dominant” or “Dom” using anything from collars, cuffs, gags, shackles, and spreader bars.

“D” is for DISCIPLINE & DOMINATION. Discipline is achieved in learning how to delay climax. Domination is power, freely-given, to the one who oversees play.

“S” is for SUBMISSION & SADISM. Submission is voluntarily following the instructions of the Dominant. Sadism is the need, or desire, to cause pain to another for arousal and/or sexual pleasure.

“M” is for MASOCHISM. Masochism is the need, or desire, to be subjected to pain or humiliation, inflicted by another for arousal and/or sexual pleasure.

The distinct lifestyles:




Unfortunately, these terms get intermingled, interchanged, and interpreted all wrong. All four players are looking to have ultimate pleasure. That ultimate pleasure is achieved in very different ways, as the terms identify. While all BDSM relationships exercise the dichotomy of powerful versus powerless, they are different in that BD and DS show respect while SM shows degradation (SM).

The Dom-Sub relationship is a powerful relationship in that the Dom has the power to make demands on the Sub and the Sub has the power to end play when their limits are reached. Dom-Sub relationships often involve very detailed contracts outlining the expectations of both parties as well as hard and soft limits. Hard limits are those actions, or implements, the Sub absolutely refuses to participate in or with – so an absolute “no.” Soft limits are those actions, or implements, the Sub is not sure about but will consider – an absolute “maybe.” Actions that might be contracted in a Dom-Sub relationship, outside of intercourse, include, but are certainly not limited to, withholding orgasm, fisting, paddling, flogging, caning, blindfolding, golden showers, or anal penetration. Implements that might be contracted in a Dom-Sub relationship include, but are not limited to, nipple clamps, butt plugs, paddles, floggers, riding crops, gags, blindfolds, spreader bars, canes, and more. The Submissive must have the utmost trust in the Dominant to take them to an orgasmic nirvana by using implements to enhance and intensify their sexual arousal and sensation without inflicting intentional harm. The Dominant must trust the Submissive to use a safe word if they are reaching the point of exceptional pain or any other overwhelming emotion. So, in the Dom-Sub relationship there is mutual respect and mutual trust. The goal is to create the ultimate pleasure for both parties involved.

The Sado-Masochist relationship is a powerless relationship in that the Sadist doesn’t exercise their power to be nice and the Masochist doesn’t exercise their power to stop the Sadist from being cruel. This is not a relationship for the faint at heart. The abuse in this relationship can be physical, mental, or emotional. There may be whippings, cutting, burning, criticism, insults, and other forms of degradation involved.

As much as society has opened up about sex and sexuality, BDSM remains on the “taboo” list for various reasons. Most BDSM players are Caucasian but more people of color participate in this lifestyle than you may ever know. They often meet for dinner, in groups, before heading to the dungeon to play so they can interact with others like them without shame or judgment. More people of color are starting to ask questions about the “draw” to the BDSM lifestyle and admit & explore their secret desires. The topic of sex is handled somewhat differently in each culture, but kinky sex is usually always considered somewhat “taboo” in all cultures. And many people still just prefer vanilla sex. “Vanilla sex” is a term used to describe what most of society considers “normal” or “regular” sex; in other words, heterosexual with one man and one woman, no toys or implements, no role play, no identified difference in power. And in some cases, “vanilla sex” has come to imply “boring” sex. But, to each their own. One person’s kink is not another person’s kink and there’s nothing wrong if you only like “vanilla” too.

If you want to find out more about BDSM in the black community, there are classes, workshops, blogs, chat groups, and forums you can join to learn and keep up with what’s going on in your local area. You can check out:
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (
Black Rose (
Black Beat (

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.