Archive of ‘Love’ category

Kings & Queens: Tips from a Therapist on Coming Out

In honor of October being Coming Out Month, I wanted to write a blog very near and dear to my heart. Easily over half of my clients identify as LGBT, non-traditional, non-monogamous, and have some form of a coming out story. Whether they did not feel attracted to the opposite sex, they did not identify as the sex they were born, or the idea of a traditional monogamous marriage was not attractive to them, over 60% of my clients have had to go through the mystical, terrifying, and liberating experience of coming out. 

If you are questioning your sexuality, myself as well as the folks at Austin Family Counseling want to reassure you that you do not have to go through this alone. Coming out itself is a very isolating experience, and given the current pandemic, we need as little isolation as possible. Per my previous blog, social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. When a human comes out to their friends, family, and coworkers, their need for emotional support is so strong as it is one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. 

Below are helpful suggestions from an out-of-the-closet gay man turned therapist to the LGBT community of Texas who had his own share of struggles coming out in early adulthood. These tips are generalized as every person’s story is unique and beautifully different. 

Know Who Your Cheerleaders Are and Are Not

As the great Dr. Brene Brown talked about in her book “Daring Greatly”, all of us in some way, regardless of if we have a coming out history, are walking into some kind of arena in life. We are showing up and being seen, regardless of where we are. And in this metaphorical arena she has so beautifully drawn, all of us have the Support Section. This is the section closest to the arena where the cheerleaders in our lives belong—the people who get the closest and most intimate perspective of our struggles. And these people we absolutely need in our lives when we come out.  Siblings are often the first people who non-heteronormative people come out to first. They can also be parents, close friends, teachers, counselors, mentors, and close relatives. Consider who is going to be cheering you on and in your corner when you come out. Messages like “This does not change how much I love you”, “We are still your friends regardless”, “We love you no matter what” are messages that ideally should be told to someone who is so vulnerable when coming out. 

Being someone’s cheerleader when they come out does NOT sound like: “Well, just don’t hit on me if you are gay”, “It’s okay, I won’t tell anybody”, or “It’s okay, God will forgive you.” There are sadly still families who disown their children for coming out, and in lieu of the recent banning of Conversion Therapy this is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that has no place in our current climate. 

Be Mindful of What Could Change

Since coming out can be such a freeing and liberating experience, it is almost counterintuitive to say that there can be “consequences”. As mentioned above, some families disown their relatives for coming out (the amount of homeless LGBTQ youth makes up 40% of the entire minor homeless population). Some workplaces still discriminate against LGBTQ employees for coming out at the workplace. Though we should ALL be able to live authentically as our out and proud selves, I know several clients and several close friends who have had an adverse experience when coming out to their friends and family. 

Be Mindful of Mental Health

Bias aside, it is almost always better if you have a therapist to stay with you during the coming out process. As mentioned, coming out can be very isolating and is linked to depression, anxiety, compromised immune systems, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol abuse. In extreme cases, some people never come out of the closet and suffer from very high anxiety and feel obligated to live a double life which can be very harmful for mental and physical health. 

Bullying Sadly Still Exists in 2020

I am filled in by a lot of my queer teens and early adults who sadly experience an enormously high level of bullying both in person and through apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Teens who are forcibly outed are prone to suicidal thoughts, feelings of humiliation and embarrassment, and lower senses of self esteem. Having gone through my own fair share of bullying in high school, I am fully empathetic to how painful and scary repetitive bullying can be. 

Bullying for queer people can also be present in the adult world. As women, racial and cultural minorities, and persons with special needs can empathize with, bullying in the workplace is alarmingly common. Workplace discrimination based on sexual identity is still sadly alive and well. However, if bullying in any capacity (from coworkers, managers, supervisors, bosses, etc) is present, it is NEVER okay and does not need to be tolerated. 

FOR TEENS:

If you are an in-the-closet teen and reading this, please know I am here, I am with you, and I am here to help. I have been through some of the worst parts about coming out (before and after) and I can probably relate to the struggles of coming out in a world that is more straight-friendly. Please let me reassure you that you do not have to go through the process by yourself. One of my favorite kind of client is a teen who is going through the coming-out process as I was there not TOO long ago. 😊 If you are not in a place to tell your parents why you need counseling for coming out, feel free to email me at [email protected] with questions about resources I can give you—and there are plenty in Austin! 

Written by: Ian Hammonds, LPC, LMFT

Looking for more resources? Click here!


How to Fight *Fairly

As we continue to live in a socially distant world, we may be finding ourselves spending more time with our partners and/or family members, inevitably increasing the likelihood of conflict and/or miscommunication. 

Conflict in relationships is normal — the way we choose to “fight” defines whether or not the conflict is healthy or unhealthy. 

Here are some tips for fighting fairly with your loved ones:

Start with curiosity versus judgment – notice the conflict cycle. Ask yourself:

  1. What role am I playing in the conflict? Notice how you are usually reacting – defensiveness? Yelling? Walking away? What could your reaction be telling you? Is a boundary of yours being crossed? Are you carrying a responsibility that you don’t need to? Be curious about your reactions by simply noticing them versus judging them or being hard on yourself – you’re human!
  2. What headspace am I in when entering a conversation with my loved one that turns into conflict? Chances are you may be entering into important conversations while already feeling dysregulated from the day – lots of work calls, managing the kids new online school, running errands (let’s be real – we all have a lot going on as we continue to  adjust to life in a pandemic). Start with taking some time to take care of yourself – this can be something you do for 5 minutes of the day to an hour!
  3. When are my loved one and I usually having these conversations that turn into conflict? Set a time for important conversations so you both have time to regulate before entering the conversation.

Reframe. View the goal of conversations as finding a solution to the problem versus winning. 

  1. You and loved one versus the issue NOT you versus your loved one

Use I-statements.

The two words that often increase the likelihood of defensiveness in the person being spoken to are, “Why” and “You” when used to start a question or statement. Try the I-statement model instead, starting with how YOU are feeling versus what your loved one is DOING.

  1. “I feel ______ when ______. I need ______. What do you think?”

Repeat back what you heard BEFORE answering.

When we repeat back what we heard our loved one say first, we focus more on listening BEFORE coming up with our own response. 

  1. “I heard you say ________. Did I get that right?”

Ask for a break.

If you find yourself or your loved one escalating emotionally – name it AND choose a time to reconnect. It is impossible to have a productive conversation when we are only speaking from an emotional place – logic is no longer present.

  1. “I’m getting angry. Can we talk about this again in an hour?”

Incorporating even one of these tips into your communication pattern will inevitably change the conflict cycle you and your loved one may be engaging in.

Practice.

Practicing these tips is synonymous to learning a new language. 

Learning to communicate is difficult! Give yourself compassion as you navigate this process. Lean in to what you are needing in a healthy way. Wishing you all fair, healthy fighting! 

Written By: Sarah Shah, M.S., LPC-Intern 
Supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S


Pregnant During a Pandemic

My dear friend, a Mom of an adorably-perfect-two-year-old, recently asked: “What is it like to be pregnant during a pandemic?” My friend is contemplating jumping back into the world of pregnancy tests, OB/midwife visits, ultrasounds, belly kicks, weird pregnancy symptoms, and of course, newborn life. My actual first words to her question were “NO. Don’t do it!”. But, as a therapist, and Mom of two little children (a two year old and a three year old), I figured I should stop and actually contemplate her question. Here is what I have come up with… 

What is pregnancy during a pandemic like?

To start: wanting to be pregnant and then becoming pregnant is a freaking MIRACLE. My husband and I were lucky enough to have access to fertility resources and physicians for babies #1 and #3. We are blessed beyond measure to have healthy bodies and access to healthcare to make our dreams of a family of five possible. 

With that being said, here is where I begin my rant on PREGNANCY DURING A PANDEMIC! It’s hard. It’s no joke. It’s weird. It’s isolating. My husband and I found out we were pregnant on March 18th, 2020, the same week our Mayor issued a city-wide Stay at Home Order. Every step of this pregnancy has been under the umbrella of COVID-19 and the scary unknowns that come with that. 

Moms are superheroes!

I think whether you’re a first time Mom or a second, third, fourth…time Mom, it’s hard. However, it’s my opinion that first time Moms have it the hardest out of all of us. The first time I was pregnant was the scariest pregnancy of all of mine (so far). You question every weird pregnancy symptom and constantly worry about the health of yourself and the health of your baby. Plus, now with the pandemic, the fun things that you were joyously looking forward to have been stripped away: no ultrasound visits with your partner or family, no baby showers, and not a lot of opportunities to show off your miraculous baby belly… 

Yet, then again, second, third, fourth.. time Moms know exactly what a pregnancy “could” or “should” look like and how, like me, our plans for self care and survival (child care for our older children, prenatal massages, Mom night outs, working out at the gym…) may have been washed away completely. 

But, the good news is that we are MOTHERS. And nobody knows better than us that we can shift and move on. During a time that is very inflexible, we know how to be flexible. Mothers, after all, are superheroes. But, now more than ever, pregnant women must ask for what they need, take time for themselves, and nourish their bodies with self love and self care. 

A few tips for surviving pregnancy during a pandemic: 

  • Facetime your partner, family members, or best friend during every OB or ultrasound visit. Include them. Your tribe wants to support you and this will lessen the feelings of isolation. 
  • Move your body and I don’t mean chase around your older children. Exercise however and whenever you can. If it’s not 102 degrees outside, like it is in Austin, go on a walk. Do an at-home workout or zoom class. Your body deserves to be taken care of, now and always. 
  • Find COMFORTABLE maternity clothes. Beg, borrow, or steal, I mean, buy whatever will make your body feel a smidge more comfortable as it grows bigger (and stronger) every single day. I can’t say enough good things about these leggings
  • Find a friend that is also pregnant. A preggo buddy will offer support and validation as you grapple with the ups and downs of creating life… and bonus: you can support one another during the newborn stage too! 

So, what is my final answer? I told my friend to DO IT. Life (quite literally) must go on. Again, mothers are superheroes… And, whether it is your first or fifth time with pregnancy, put your mind and your body first, and everything else will fall into place. 

Stay tuned for my thoughts on how to stay sane (and contribute safely) during a Civil Rights Movement and an American Presidential Election. 

Written by: Sumati Morris, LPC


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