Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Faith, Family & The Follies - My Sister's Brave Battle With Breast Cancer!

I could not let this month go by without paying tribute to all the women - and men - who have
Bravely Fighting Breast Cancer
fought or who are bravely confronting their battles with Breast Cancer.
I feel so encouraged that in my lifetime, I have witnessed incredible support, attention, and financial resources being directed towards early detection, effective treatments, and finding a cure for Breast Cancer. Indeed, amazing strides have been made. At the same time, women and men -and their loved ones - continue to be affected by this insidious disease.

With the diagnosis of Breast Cancer  or when an individual receives a life –threatening or life-altering diagnosis – of any kind - each person responds or reacts in different ways.  There are so many variables at play such as age and overall health issues, family members and their ages, financial resources and means, professional constraints, and personalities, just to name a few. And of course, there is the fear and uncertainty of what lies ahead. All of these factors can and do affect stress levels as well as one’s physical strength and mindset to navigate through the treatment process.

Over the years that I was in practice, it wasn’t uncommon for clients to experience life-altering or life –threatening diagnosis during our treatment time together, or because of a diagnosis many clients came for counseling to help assist with the emotional and psychological challenges that often accompany serious illness.  From my experiences with clients, I’d like to share a couple of keys that may help us in understanding some of those feelings or emotions that accompany a diagnosis such as breast cancer.

First, I remember clients who experienced tremendous grief.  This makes sense. There are  feelings of loss – certainly the loss of one’s health, loss of one's physical appearance, and/or the uncertainty of returning to a healthy state .  However, there can be additional losses as well: financial, relational, professional, etc. (as we have alluded to).  So, as with any kind of grieving process, it is understandable that individuals go through the stages of grief –  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  It is important to understand that these feelings are normal – and to give oneself time and permission to process them.

Secondly, another very common reaction or response to a life-threatening or altering diagnosis that I heard from many clients was,

”Holli, I feel like my body is betraying me. I’ve eaten right – I’ve exercised – I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. Why is this happening to me?”  

Again, my purpose here in sharing this response is to normalize it.  Yes, many individuals do experience a sense of betrayal and their feelings of confusion, worthlessness  and powerlessness over the diagnosis are real and they are deeply painful. And, it is critical to give ourselves time to honor those feelings and work through them, just as we would work our medical/physical treatment program.  

Performing At The Follies

When my older sister - Terry Peterson - was diagnosed 20 years ago with Stage Three Breast Cancer, I remember feeling one emotion - fear. We have always had an extremely close relationship, and at age 44, I was so afraid that she was going to die. Although there is much to share about her remarkable recovering journey (for more, listen to our interview Faith, Family & The Follies - My Sister's Brave Battle With Breast Cancer  ), for the purpose of this blog, I am going to share briefly how Terry battled Breast Cancer with grace and with courage - incorporating 3 Keys in her journey.

  • Faith - Terry's Christian faith is a guiding principle in her way of being and of living. Her unwavering belief provides her with an inner strength that serves her well in all aspects of life. Whether it was finding and securing the best medical care to treat her cancer, turning to her support system at church for help with food, travel, family  needs, etc., or leaning into her God for peace, promise, and for prayer - Terry's faith has been and is her source and her force. 

  • Family - When I think of a female who is the consummate wife and mother - who is good at anything she does or puts her mind to - but who always puts family first, I think of my sister. So, it was no surprise that when Terry became ill, she never complained and she continued to model uncompromising spirit and strength. I remember when she lost all her hair and when she was incredibly weak and horribly sick to her stomach - Terry made time for her children and her husband. She laughed with them, made memories with them, and she prayed with them. Terry's selfless giving to her family gifted her with healing in return. 
  • The Follies - After Terry had been taking Tamoxifen for two years (following a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatment), she knew she had to do something more to feel better. After attending a performance of the Santa Cruz Follies(a 50 plus theatrical ensemble),Terry knew she wanted to be a part of it. Although she was still too young to join, Terry immediately started taking beginning tap, ballet, and jazz. Even during her most difficult times, Terry was dancing up to 12 hours per week. In, 2001, Terry officially became part of The Follies. Today, she celebrates 15 years performing with them.  This year, Terry created, directed, and performed in their production of Those Were The Days"!
So proud of my sister - Terry Peterson!

Because there are other women in the ensemble who are also Breast Cancer Survivors, Terry openly shares,

"The camaraderie, encouragement, and understanding of one another's experiences is invaluable to one's perspective and healing."

Each person's journey through a life-changing or life-altering diagnosis is unique.  Although we should not make judgments or draw comparisons, it is encouraging to learn from the lessons of others. When I think of my sister - Terry Peterson - of her commitment to Faith, Family, and The Follies, I am in awe of her...

And, when I think of Terry's legacy, these words from the song I Hope You Dance seem to say it all...

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out  or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Domestic Violence - Peeling Away The Shame, Secrecy & Stigma

Domestic Violence is one of the themes of Awareness for this month. Sometimes, I feel like it is an issue that doesn't get the attention it deserves. Of course, October has other important causes - such as Anti-Bullying and Breast Cancer Awareness - but I also think that it is an issue that we are uncomfortable discussing. It often isn't until an individual has lost her/his life because of it or until a high-profile celebrity makes the headlines because of a domestic violent incident that it captures our attention.

Even though these tragic stories grab our interest for a short period of time, I
Shame, Secrecy and Stigma
believe it is hard to look deeper into the topic of Domestic Violence because although we have made strides in its awareness due to the ongoing work of countless individuals and organizations, Domestic Violence remains an issue that is shrouded in shame, secrecy and stigma.

Why does this continue to be the case?

First of all, there are many long-held misconceptions that surround Domestic Violence. Let's take a look at a few of them:

1. DV affects only women from low socio-economic and educational backgrounds.This is not true.  It crosses all barriers - age, gender, ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, educational, social and economic. No one is immune.
2. DV only affects a small percentage of the population.  This is incorrect. According to Domestic Violence Statistics , every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
3. Women who are battered deserve to be. Unfortunately, this mindset is quite prevalent as abusers displace their blame so as to avoid responsibility for their actions. Healthy individuals maintain an attitude in which every human being deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and human regard.
4. DV affects only women who are married. This is untrue. DV affects hetero-sexual couples as well as gay and lesbian couples. DV occurs within marriages, partnerships, and friendships.

Another common misconception is that "If a victim really wanted to leave her abuser, she would". This could not be further from the truth. There are personal, financial, spiritual/cultural/religious, and emotional as well as psychological reasons why victims are unable to leave their abusers. (I discuss this point in detail on today's show - link listed below). Most importantly, a female's ability to leave a battering environment is always contingent upon her safety and that of her children.

A final misconception is that "If a victim really wanted help, all she needs to do is call the police." At times, the police can intervene, diffuse the batterer, and in some cases, take the abuser into custody. However, when the victim calls for help (from any source), she immediately puts herself and her children at risk for retaliation and re-injury. And, typically, the degree of abuse increases in severity and lethality.

Because of these misconceptions in conjunction with the different kinds of abuse and the cycle of violence (see link below), victims of DV are not unlike other
No voice and No choice
victims of abuse and trauma who have experienced or continue to experience deliberate harm or threat of harm.   

  • They live in constant fear, for themselves and their children.
  • They are afraid to report.  Even if they do, they may not believed; the authorities may not be able to do anything; and they put themselves at risk for further injury.
  • Over time,victims begin to believe that they are to blame; they are at fault; if only they had done things differently; things will be better next time. Victims sense of identity and of self continue to erode, as does their esteem and worth. 
  •  Along with the fear, victims feel tremendous shame and embarrassment - especially as the cycle of violence escalates and  intensifies; and if they return to their abusers. 
  • Victims have no choice and no voice in their situations - therefore they are powerless to change their circumstances.  Many live in secrecy and in a state of hopelessness. 

In closing, I believe that whenever we look at any behavior that depicts man's inhumanity against man, it is our tendency to want to look away or even excuse it; to say that it is someone else's problem; and/or to judge it as being the manifestation of a lesser people. 

When, in fact, with Domestic Violence, it very well could be our own sister, mother, daughter, best friend, co-worker, boss, etc. who is living in violence and who is keeping it secret because of the very stigma and shame imposed upon the victim by us.

Let's work together.  Let's keep the conversation going - not just today and not just this month - but whenever we are called to make our voices heard. And, in our own ways, let's be available and present for those who may need us. 

More information:      National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 
 1-800 - 799-7233 or 1- 800 -799 - SAFE.

Today's show:
Domestic Violence - Peeling Away The Shame, Secrecy & Stigma

Note: In this blog, I have consistently used the female gender is reference to Domestic Violence victimization. It is important to note that males are often referred to as the over-looked victims. As previously stated, tragically, no one is immune.

                             For more healing tools and resources, please visit Holli Kenley.
Follow  us on Twitter and like us Facebook - Author Holli Kenley

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Information Age Wellness - Keys For Being In Balance!

We live in a time (and have been for decades) of incredible advancements, discoveries, and inventions. Every day, we learn of new discoveries that will make our lives easier, safer, healthier; for the most part, they will enhance the quality of our lives. Just think for a minute about the strides being made in medicine, in Eco-friendly manufacturing processes, and in the fields of technology. It is indeed amazing! At the same time as these advancements bring about positive changes in lifestyle, health and well-being, there are times where we are also at risk of experiencing unhealthy, sometimes life-altering consequences.

Let me explain as we examine two behavioral concepts.  

Finding Balance!

First, over time and with repeated usage of any advancement, discovery, procedure or practice, we can expect to experience side-effects, consequences, unhealthy or unpleasant co-occurring symptoms. Sometimes we find this out right away such as when we take a medication that does not agree with us. Other times, we are not aware of the social, behavioral, physical, or psychological side-effects until longer periods of time have passed and the presences of additional serious issues make us aware. An example of this would be consuming processed foods for lengthy periods of time; then experiencing health related problems.

Secondly, as we continue to embrace or engage in various discoveries and advancements, we - as humans - begin to adapt and evolve to the changes that these very discoveries bring with them. Of course, this is only natural. This can be positive change; however, it can also be harmful or detrimental in nature. For just a moment, think of all the various medications that augment, enhance, and even save lives. And yet, over time and with repeated usage, we know that some individuals develop abuse and dependency issues leading to addictions. Our bodies change as they experience the unpleasant side-effects of tolerance and withdrawal.

These two behavioral concepts hold true with our relationship with technology, especially as our dependence and reliance upon it continues to increase. Although it may be happening slowly and subtly, our bodies, minds, and spirits are experiencing both the harmful side-effects as well as the detrimental adaptations and unhealthy evolution in our ways of being. A few of the more serious symptoms and manifestations of an over-reliance on technology (in all aspects of our lives) are the following:
  • Feelings of disconnection and detachment from others.
  • Feelings of disregard for others and an inability to feel empathy for others.
  • Feelings of autonomy, entitlement, and  empowerment that lead to bullying and other aggressive behaviors.
  • Internet Addiction Disorders:  cyber sexual addiction; cyber relationship addiction; net compulsion; information overload; computer addiction ( Dr. Kimberly Young - Founder and Director of Center for Online & Internet Addiction Recovery).
  • Personality Disorders: Exacerbation of narcissistic and anti-social personalities.
  • Other medical issues (where research is still needed): sleep disorders; developmental disorders especially in children.
  • Relationship and inner personal issues: losing sense of connection with partner; losing sense of self.
As I have written about in my cyber bullying no more blog, technology with all its wonders is here to stay. And it should be! However, it is important to pay attention to the 'warning signs' of an over-dependence upon its usage.

Just like most things in life that serve us well, we want to keep our relationship with technology in balance.
Achieving Balance!

I encourage you to take the following steps:

1.  Take a personal inventory of your relationship with technology. For one week, chart how much time you spend on all your devices.  Be honest!  
2. At the same time, take an inventory on how much time you spend in face to face interaction with others (with absolutely no technology around).  Also, write down how much time you spend tending to your self-care (without technology): exercising, journaling, praying, walking, reading, sports, hobbies, etc. Do this for one week. 
3. At the end of the week, look over your chart. Ask yourself, "Is my life in balance?" Again, be brutally honest! Start making changes right now...don't wait. Do a little at a time; then with each week, add more changes.  This helps to be more successful when changing behaviors. 

One of the aspects that I struggle with in my use of technology is that 'time just seems to run away' when I am on my computer or phone.  So, I do watch the clock when I am working or just playing around, and I monitor how much time I have set aside. I have 'start times' and 'stop times'; this really seems to help!  And, I feel better when I am making time for other activities or spending time being quiet and still... It is all about balance! 

For more healing guidance on how to achieve Information Age Wellness, please take a listen to my  interview with Nancy Ferrari. Nancy is the author of Discover the Essence of You; she is a new thought leader and inspirational speaker!
Information Age Wellness with guest Nancy Ferrari!

Homework:  Take you self-inventory!  Balance out your tech life with your real life! Start today....start now!  


Featured Post

Protecting Our Youth Against Campus Sexual Assault: 3 Key Strategies

Today's blog is for mature audiences: ages 18 and over. Today's conversation is not an easy one to have, but it is critical.  Wha...