Couplespeak™ Blog

Some insight about managing your anxiety amidst Covid-19

(Here’s an article my cousin sent me I’m reprinting so all of you can benefit from the honesty and wisdom in it):

I have clinical anxiety. If the coronavirus scares you, this might help

I’m not a doctor, but what I’ve come to learn over 20 years is that you really can master your anxiety.

By Kara Baskin Globe Correspondent,Updated March 25, 2020, 2:08 p.m.
 
ADOBE STOCK IMAGE; GLOBE STAFF ILLUSTRATION

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a Globe Magazine special report, appearing in print on Sunday, March 29.

You might think that this is a terrible moment for someone with a clinical anxiety disorder. But here’s the thing: It’s like the rest of you have finally caught up with me. Hyper-vigilance? Insomnia? Catastrophizing? Extreme fear of uncertainty? Welcome to my Isle of Dread. Care for a cocktail?

I’m kidding, sort of. Panic disorder and extreme health anxiety have alternatively propelled and paralyzed me for two decades. For the most part, I exist as a fully functional human being thanks to 10 milligrams of Lexapro, an insightful therapist (now available on video chat), and long-practiced behaviors that keep me even-keeled.


But many friends, thankfully never touched by the cold paws of anxiety, are now asking me how to deal. They don’t know what it’s like to awaken each morning wondering what kind of mood they’ll be in, or to contemplate whether today will be the day that mortality — in the form of a rash, a lump, a tremor — descends. They have never gasped for breath, ridden the acidic wave of heart palpitations and clammy sweats, and clawed for reassurance like a feral cat only to retreat into a mind that offers no solace, only more questions.

Most people move through the world assuming it has a veneer of predictability, or what psychologist Luana Marques calls a “thin veil of certainty.” We are not wired to deal with open-endedness; under normal circumstances, for example, we can feel fairly certain when we go to the grocery store that we’re not going to contract a virus. That has changed.

“But uncertainty is there all the time, and we just don’t feel it,” says Marques, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety sufferers know this intimately. You might be realizing it for the first time.


Please know that it will be OK. What I’ve come to learn over the course of 20 years is that you really can master your anxiety. I’m not a New Age guru or a doctor; I’m just a person who’s ridden it out. Here’s the trick: Don’t deny it. Accept that you are absolutely, 100 percent going to feel awful sometimes. I know, I know — the world is rife with mindfulness apps, breathing strategies, glamping retreats, and drugs aplenty to keep your unease at bay. These have their place. We cannot live in a state of heightened vigilance at all times.

But engaging with discomfort is its own therapy, too. It’s the most un-American thing ever, yet: You must sometimes feel bad. So accept the anxiety. Don’t blunt it; summon it. This sounds counterintuitive, I know, but anxiety isn’t a mark of shame to hide from people whom you assume are far more resilient than you. (They’re not.) It will continue to bounce on your shoulders like a thorny goblin until you grab it, stare it in the face, and have a firm chat.

“The first thing I’ve been making people understand is that anxiety is a normal response to a threat,” Marques says. “We want to run away from discomfort, but pushing anxiety away makes it worse. We’re living in times when most of us are comfortably uncomfortable at a minimum. Understand that by embracing our emotions and labeling them, we can ride the wave a little more smoothly.” It’s like surfing. You’ll be jostled by the ocean, tossed around, and eventually tumbled back onto the shore.


Of course, this is all academic until you’re hiding under a weighted blanket scrolling Twitter, wondering about that tickle in your throat. A behavioral way to cope is by doing something action-oriented, Marques says: cooking dinner with your kids, going for a walk. You’re forcing your brain to deal with what’s right in front of you.

Yet those of us with anxiety disorders also know that the only way out is by sitting with the discomfort until it dissipates. It’s like stepping into a hot tub and staying there until the water grows lukewarm. Acknowledge that you’re scared, and then tell yourself that you’ll sit, and you’ll breathe, and you’ll exist — yes, you will exist, minute by minute — until the feeling goes away. And, of course, reach out for professional help if you feel you need it.

Frame it as what we’re being asked to do in quarantine, on a smaller scale. Your mind is your own private bunker. You can’t just get up to leave, but when the door finally opens, think how much stronger you’ll be.

Marital Crisis After An Affair

Although tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, not everyone in a marriage will be celebrating.  If you are in a marriage and have experienced infidelity or an affair, then you know how painful a close relationship can become. As the hurt spouse you have been robbed of trust, joy, self trust, your history as you’ve known it, a feeling of specialness, and most importantly, any secure sense of the future you had anticipated. Certainly, the romance and promise of Valentine’s Day has been shattered, at least for now.

If your spouse who has had an affair minimizes the circumstances and your response to it, trust that it is a function of their dread of consequences, / their entitlement, / their refusal to take responsibility for their behavior, and certainly their lack of empathy for the impact on you. Get support from a trusted friend, family member, group, and especially, a  therapist. Whatever you do, DON’T buy into your spouse’s denial about the seriousness of the situation. Get help, and honor your experience of grief and betrayal as valid. Know that you or you and your spouse are probably ill equipped to go this alone!

Here are two terrific, must-read books I recommend to anyone who has or is currently going through this ordeal. One provides invaluable insights about the process, including the challenges and mandates for the “hurt spouse” as well as the “affair spouse.” The second book, about forgiveness, provides choices for how to move on, and vital repair tools for individuals and couples:

“Marital Peace After An Affair” – BlogTalk Radio Show Wed. 7/27/16 8:30 PM EDT

Hardcover-Book-MockUp (2)

 

In this thirty minute episode I’ll co-host with Dr. Laura Louis, author of the popular book, “Marital Peace,” which is a valuable resource for supporting couples throughout the challenges of marriage.

Dr. Louis has specialized in helping distant couples heal after infidelity, and in the program discusses some of the ways she recommends rebuilding trust, rekindling intimacy and enhancing communication. Her therapeutic approach has been influenced through trainings in Brazil, Mexico, London and Haiti, as well as hundreds of transformative seminars all over the world.

Don’t miss this vital program if you and your spouse have endured or feel at risk for an affair! Learn some key tools to not only help avoid infidelity, but to restore trust, build forgiveness, and promote growth after an affair. You too can achieve marital peace after this traumatic development.

Call in live with questions or comments at 877-497-9046.

If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the podcast afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

One way or another, I hope you can join us!

Love is the Victor

I’m writing this in the aftermath of the most recent terrorist attack in multiple locations of Paris, apparently the 289th attack of 2015. There’s no apt way to describe this scourge of hatred and violence perpetrated against innocent people all over the world. What stands out after each horrific incident however, is the heroism and altruism of first responders, and the humanity of people identifying with the trauma of violation and loss. The victor is love. What survivors of these attacks recount, is how, in the midst of the violence, when they didn’t think they’d survive, they focused on the enormity of love they had experienced in their lives, thinking they were saying goodbye to all the people who were precious to them.

I think the lesson in all this mayhem needs to be love – not only for your family and friends, but for all the people who have helped you, been kind to you, given you inspiration and support, or just made you laugh. If we could all give more energy each day to feeling and showing appreciation and love to the people around us we’d not only be physically healthier, but emotionally more robust, and spiritually more at peace and in harmony with all of life. If we didn’t wait for a catastrophic moment but instead made a daily habit of focusing on this gratitude and our common humanity, we’d be happier, more connected, and more loving as a species.

Ashley Madison Hack: Divorce Not An Inevitable Outcome!

If you or your spouse has been exposed as using the Ashley Madison site to seek an affair, stop and take a deep breath! (Apparently thousands of people have already flocked to lawyers to pull the trigger on impulsively decided divorces).  Driven by the hurt and humiliation of public exposure and profound betrayal, as a discovering spouse you are understandably experiencing the first waves of trauma that this news usually brings. Vengeance and assuaging the broken trust through divorce may seem like the only solution to you at this point.

As the unfaithful spouse you are probably traumatized in different ways: what may have seemed like a discreet, compartmentalized adventure without victims now feels real in its damaging consequences. You are now either bathed in shame and fear, or furious that you can no longer “have your cake and eat it too.” However justified you may feel for your infidelity you know that your world is about to become unravelled. You are about to take the hit for everything wrong with the marriage, and cannot imagine ever being forgiven. If you stay married you imagine a lifetime in the “doghouse.” Whichever end you’re on, the impulse on both sides is often to give up and get a divorce, convinced that healing and reconciliation would be impossible.

As a couples therapist who, for many years has worked with thousands of couples reeling from infidelity, I have a few strong pieces of advice:

  • Slow down!
  • Take some deep breaths!
  • Don’t make any rash decisions now!
  • Don’t impulsively file for divorce!

Here are some things you may NOT be aware of:

  • Many marriages can not only be saved, but strengthened after the trauma of infidelity. It requires a lot of determination, hard work, vision, and a good couples therapist the spouses both trust.
  • Many couples who impulsively divorce deeply regret that decision later on.
  • Children are often the biggest victims, especially in a contentious divorce.
  • If you don’t know what direction to take regarding your damaged marriage there is an alternative to couples therapy called Discernment Counseling. This is a brief treatment designed for couples where one spouse is leaning toward a divorce and the other wants to stay married. It is not geared toward tools and skills for repair, but instead focuses on helping partners make a decision about a direction for the marriage. Only trained Discernment Counselors can provide this service.
  • There are terrific books and support groups for couples wrestling with infidelity.
  • If you do decide to get a divorce you can have a healing, constructive process through Collaborative Law. Divorce doesn’t have to be an impoverishing dog fight.
  • There may be hope. There is help.

Anyone in the greater Boston area wanting more information, feel free to contact me at The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, NH: 603-431-7131.

 

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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