The loss of a Giant

Shock woke us up on Sunday morning.

Instead of rooting out Munster scarves and jerseys and organising lifts in and out of town, my husband and I sat and stared at our phones in shock and disbelief.
And how do you explain to a five-year old that you’re upset because a man you’ve never met has died? How do you understand it yourself?
The ordinary tempo of the family home continued, as it must; after all, he wasn’t my husband, uncle, friend or cousin…
There’s no allowance for grief here.

Except for all of us, perhaps without even knowing it, that’s precisely who Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley had become. He, like others without us noticing, seep into our consciousness, and our lives. Often unspoken, we hold these men and women as personal heroes, as the standards we want to reach, what we want for our children. And when they go, the void that’s left is as shocking to us as it is painful.

The grief in Limerick this week is palpable.

This open pain is at once comforting and upsetting. It hurts to see others hurt, but it helps so very much, to know we are not the only one grieving for this loss, the loss of a stranger we knew so well.

Grief is a process, without efficient timelines or tidy linear progression. There is no correct way to heal. There is no point at which we should be over it by now. The heartfelt responses of his friends and teammates simultaneously speak to shock and anger, bargaining and depression. That it, “didn’t make any sense yesterday… it doesn’t make any sense today” (Keith Wood), echoes in us all. How many of us asked “Why Anthony Foley”, like David Corkery, feeling defeated in the face of such a cruel God?

But the solidarity in Limerick this week was humbling.

So I ask you to continue to be kind to yourself and to the person standing beside you.
Allow your grief to be. To happen. To take its path.

No, We don’t “accept”, in any way, this loss. To accept it would seem to legitimise it and that is certainly not the case. It’s not ok. We are all too shocked and angry, hurt and confused. But, in the past week, Limerick took his lead, shared in his strength and his leadership and unified. Shoulder to shoulder, side by side, we are standing strong for one another, and through tears, We are proud. Munster Proud.
Irish by birth, Munster by the grace of God.

R.I.P Axel.

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Coping with Child Sexual Abuse in Adult relationships. Part II

In the psychotherapeutic treatment of adult survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) therapists are often mistaken in treating the survivor in isolation and fail to include in their therapy, the role of the partner in their couple relationship. This is to limit and detract from the therapy on offer as “If, as we can all agree, healing takes place in moments of secure attachment (Solomon, 2003) then the opportunity provided for healing within the current couple relationship is a vital and dynamic opportunity that ought not be overlooked” (Quinlan, 2013).

In my practice at Midwest Counselling I too have found it common that adult survivors of CSA seek out and replicate the trauma of their abuse (Briere & Scott, 2006). Attachment theory, (Bowlby, 1988) may account for why in some cases the “normal” attachment processes formed in early childhood are replaced in adulthood by this re-enactment of disruptive relationships, and may even lead to re-enactment of traumatisation (Allen, 2001). Because of unresolved issues arising as a result of the CSA, such as fractured impressions of how adult sexual relationships are supposed to work, or errant self-images as a result of childhood programming, then often the adult generalised view is fractured and errant. For instance they may view all physical contact as frightening, painful or abusive, or that all men/women are inherently dangerous. It follows then that these views shadow them into their adult couple relationships.

Subsequently then in treating adult survivors of CSA, the circularity of systemic family therapy may also be helpful. As mentioned in Coping with Child Sexual Abuse in Adult relationships, Part I, in couple relationships, it is commonly found that the partner of the survivor of CSA is bringing with them their own problems of equal measure. Therefore, as the therapy investigates the paradigm that exists between the couple, a pattern of co-dependant coping strategies may emerge. This iterates the importance of treating the client in a holistic way, and of looking at more than just the trauma of the CSA but also at the extended influence this is having on their couple relationships. So too, the benefit to couples counselling is massive, it can help raise a number of questions that could facilitate to a great extent the investigation into the nature of the couple relationship that exists that is been brought to couple therapy for “fixing”.

Given the aforementioned propensity for adult survivors of CSA to seek out and form relationships that emulate patterns and elements of the original abuse, then the benefit of including the partner in therapy is inherent. By engaging with both partners the therapist can work on limiting the re-enactments and re-traumatisation of the client. Furthermore and equally as importantly by soliciting the participation of the clients partner, the therapist can encourage and facilitate the growth of understanding and respect, and the identification of mutually beneficial goals that may ultimately lead to a constructive and nourishing adult relationship.

Coping with Child Sexual Abuse in Adult relationships. Part I

In my practice at Midwest Counselling, of the many long-lasting impacts child sexual abuse (C.S.A.) and one of the most prominent is the difficulty for  adult survivors of C.S.A. to maintain healthy fulfilling couple relationships. The merits of focusing on the role the partner has in this recovery is becoming more and more apparent (The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 2012) as too is the value of using a multidisciplinary approach (Ibid). For many therapists the focus of the therapy is the healing process for the traumatised individual rather than looking at the potential healing opportunities provided by a safe and trusting couple relationship. Furthermore, in many situations it is a couple who have presented with relationship, intimacy or sexual issues stemming from CSA and are looking for help from within dynamic of the relationship; and so the work of treating CSA needs to take place within a couples counselling  paradigm.

Ignoring the impact of CSA on adult relationship or focusing only on the survivor of CSA or ignoring the role the other partner can play may limit the healing opportunities within the therapeutic relations and can level the client feeling let down or dissatisfied particularly if you are working within the confines of couples counselling. Similarly it is a well-established consensus within the psychotherapeutic and counselling communities that treatment of complex trauma, especially with regard to CSA that survivors of sexual abuse require safe and healing relationships from which recovery can most ably begin. (Courtois, Ford & Cloitre, 2009)

While this notion had generally been accepted to apply to the therapeutic relationship, it is important not to overlook the restorative opportunities and potential offered from with the confines of existing couple relations; especially when the clients have expressed a desire to work on and improve the sexual contact, intimacy or other aspects of their relations. If, as we can all agree, healing takes place in moments of secure attachment (Solomon, 2003) then the opportunity provided for healing within the current couple relationship is a vital and dynamic opportunity that ought not to be overlooked.

As per the attachment theory the security of the existing couple relationship (as well as the security of the therapeutic relationship) can allow the therapist to encourage the client to explore the trauma and its impact from a safe place.

In using this approach is it also important to recognise the frequency with which one finds that if one partner bring to the relationship a history of CSA, then the other partner will bring problems of equal measure, often, though not necessarily always, sexual abuse. Therefore it may very well be the case that as a therapist you may find yourself treating not one, but two separate victims of traumatic childhood or early life experiences.

January Blues???

It’s dark, cold and a very long way to pay day.

Is it any wonder that the third Monday in January has been awarded the dubious honour of being called Blue Monday – the most depressing day in the year?

The resolution to begin a lifestyle overhaul got postponed till all the Quality Street were finished, the exercise regime is impossible in the dark and wet… and sure you can’t quit smoking when it’s this gloomy out?? Hardly inspiring stuff, is it?

Putting a little balance back into our lives is really what these resolutions are about and are a big help in finding a bit of peace for 2013.

Take 10 mins and look at your life in terms of 8 different categories and try to (honestly) give each one a rating out of 10 – if you’re falling below 5 in any of the areas it may be time to take a look at it and see what can be done.

  • Health
  • Money
  • Social life
  • Partner/relationship
  • Work/career
  • Friends/family
  • Home
  • Personal growth/spirituality (religion, interests, hobbies,)

Set yourself reasonable and attainable goals and as always feel free to fail and start again.

Best of Luck and Happy New Year!

If you feel you many benefit from talking to someone,

please feel free to call me on 087 709 74 77 or

email me in confidence at midwestcounselling@gmail.com.

The Budget 2013; Financial Strain and Your Mental Health

Financial strain is probably one of the biggest causes of stress, especially in today’s economy and is only getting worse. With so many losing their jobs, cutbacks and tax increases just trying to make ends meet can cause immense stress to already stressful lives.

This year’s budget has promised to be tougher and more hard-hitting and may cause many of us to despair, panic and fear for the future.

If the stress and worry is becoming too much or if you feel you many benefit from talking to someone, please feel free to call me on 087 709 74 77 or email me in confidence at midwestcounselling@gmail.com

Understanding anxiety disorders

It’s normal to worry and feel tense or scared when under pressure or facing a stressful situation. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger, an automatic alarm that goes off when you feel threatened.
In moderation, anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, anxiety can help you stay alert and focused, spur you to action, and motivate you to solve problems. But when anxiety is constant, excessive or overwhelming, when it interferes with your relationships and activities, it stops being functional — that’s when you’ve crossed the line from ordinary, productive anxiety into the territory of anxiety disorders.

Do your symptoms indicate an anxiety disorder?

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, then it’s possible you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
• Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
• Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
• Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
• Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
• Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
• Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
• Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?

If you’re experiencing a lot of physical anxiety symptoms, consider getting a medical checkup. Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isn’t caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, your doctor will also want to know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs you’re taking.
If you can rule this out maybe you would benefit from speaking to a psychotherapist in your area. Anxiety disorders respond very well to psychotherapeutic treatment. The specific treatment approach depends on the type of anxiety disorder and its severity. But in general, most anxiety disorders are treated with behavioural therapy, medication, or some combination of the two. Sometimes complementary or alternative treatments may also be helpful.

Fell free to call me, in confidence, on 087 709 74 77 for an appointment.

Extract abridged from helpguide.org 22 July 2012