Sex Education: Wanna go there?

Lately, all my ‘magazines for therapists’ that I get, have one thing in common. They are attempting to educate me on how to work with people who have gender identity issues and/or people who have chosen lifestyles other than heterosexual relationships. There is an ever increasing need for therapy for those struggling with sexual addiction as well, including everything from porn addiction to sexual addiction within and outside committed relationships, crossing the lines of gender, age and species. This rampant addiction is ruining marriages and important relationships. An article I read recently was discussing the need for diversity in sex education at the elementary and middle school level so that all children could have an understanding of the issues they may encounter as they discover their personal sexual identity.

I remember when my own children had sex education in our local public school. We had some VERY interesting conversations in our home during that process. To be clear, I am not averse to sex education being offered at school…for goodness sake there are a lot of good reasons that the people spending most days with our kids need to make sure that they know some stuff. But for those of you parenting our impressionable youngsters, you may want to involve yourself in the process no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Just because there is a curriculum being followed does not mean that the person teaching the curriculum doesn’t bring their own perceptions, opinions and let’s face it, baggage, to the table. For example, 1 in every 6 women has been molested or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Depending on how she processed that event, she may be struggling with her own thoughts of how to be sexually healthy. This is only one example of something that could influence how sexuality conversations might be impacted within your child’s school setting. There are many more.

I also remember my own 6th grade sex education class and when I make the comparison to what is culturally acceptable today, it makes me laugh that my parents had to sign a waiver back then. What we learned back in the late 70’s/early 80’s was mostly science…there was not much sexuality being discussed. From a developmental stand point, this was very appropriate as what 6th grader is ready to make a commitment to a life long decision such as sexual preference? What adolescent should be making decisions that could impact them for life? And goodness knows that most 11-12 year olds are not going to enter into relationships that have good boundaries and heart protecting communication applications. To drive home the idea of who is teaching your children may impact their thought process, I had a teacher who literally told my class that oral sex is most effectively used when a woman is pregnant and may not want to have intercourse…huh? I can still see my mom’s face when I relayed that little tidbit. Oh goodness…I am laughing out loud as I write this, remembering that moment with my mom.

Is it possible that sex education in our elementary schools and junior highs should be focused more on personal development? Maybe instead of focusing on the sex act, we should be teaching communication skills, ways to communicate deeper level emotions, expectations in reciprocal relationships…I could go on. Let me spell it out for you. Very few couples come to counseling because they are confused about how to have sex. They are struggling because they have unmet expectations in their relationship, they have destructive ways of communicating, and life has been less than perfect so their relationship is suffering and thus, their intimacy isn’t near what they hoped it would be.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that personal identity choices are best made when we are emotionally healthy, when we execute good boundaries and when we have a firm grasp on our non-negotiables in our relationships. Teach your elementary school and junior high kids about how to respect themselves, how to have healthy relationships evidenced by good communication and respect, and they have a better chance of making sexual choices that are healthy for themselves. If you don’t teach them these things, they run the risk of making sexual choices as a result of low self esteem, need for validation and the mistaken expectation that sexual interactions are always an indication of true love.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Ministry Update: 2020 was busy!

I lit a candle for my health in this church in Croatia…not my normal tradition but it will always be special to me now in light of this past year.

2020 sure did bring some surprises to my ministry but thankfully, the Lord provided many opportunities for great connections!

I started 2020 working a Thrive retreat in Croatia, just when Covid was ramping up in nearby Italy. It was a last minute trip for me as I had to raise those funds in a very short window after serving in Estonia the previous Fall. Obviously, I had no idea at that time, what crazy times were on the horizon. It felt like as soon as the team landed back in the United States, everything started to shut down. Thrive retreats scheduled for later in the year were all cancelled.

Fortunately, my role as lead mentor for Thrive’s Alongside ministry did not stop because of The Rona. We continue to meet the needs of women serving overseas via online applications like Zoom and FaceTime. Thrive launched an online retreat called Gather and our numbers of mentor and mentee connections continue to rise. I am currently managing a team of 25 mentors who meet with 1-3 women apiece. We are excited about this growth and anticipate even more connections after another Gather event in February 2021. Of course, our prayer is that in-person retreats will resume as well in this next year. I plan to jump into action as soon as it is possible to do so.

In addition to working with Thrive, I continue to offer discounted and free counseling to many women I have met over the years in my travels. These sessions are made possible through donations from my supporters, who I am grateful to, for their ongoing support during this tumultuous year!

Many of you have been so supportive as I continue to battle cancer on a daily basis. I SO appreciate your kind notes and encouraging comments on social media. What a blessing to feel the love when I am at those icky doctors appointments! You may be wondering how this changes my work life. Honestly, it doesn’t. While the chemotherapy and the infusions can be rough, I have found that I do better if I keep a busy schedule. Focusing on my clients, who I meet with via Telehealth, is invigorating and I do not plan to end my time in private practice anytime soon. In fact, Telehealth has made it possible for me to travel to Phoenix monthly for treatment and not miss a beat with my clients. And PRAISE THE LORD…my new protocol continues to bring positive results. I have a great team of doctors who are all working to get me the treatment I need, with the least possible side effects. Some days are rough but most days I live life fully.

For 2021, I am again hoping to raise $18,000 to cover all my ministry expenses. I ask that you consider my ministry as you are making decisions about your year end giving and your philanthropy for the coming year. I know there are many worthwhile causes out there so I am grateful to those of you who continually put your trust in my work. You can donate here…Thank you for your sacrificial giving!

A strange blessing for me this past year is that my almost 7 year battle with cancer prepared me for life in a pandemic. I was wearing masks and over sanitizing long before the whole world shut down. I remember many plane flights in my past where folks would obviously avoid sitting next to me in my mask that I had to wear. Now I am one in the crowd and no one stares at me! I wasn’t afraid in the old days and I am not afraid now. Isn’t it comforting to know that our days are numbered by the Lord and the best place to be is in His will?

Blessings to all of you. My prayer for you as we enter 2021 is that God’s plan for your life will be clear to you in 2021!

With love,

Sonia

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2020: Best year ever?

Wow, it has been a long year. When I think back to my last overseas mission trip last February, it seems like it was 5 years ago! The initial Italy outbreak was occurring when I was in nearby Croatia, so our volunteer team was on high alert, being so close to the devastation. We thought it was a short term current event. Who knew that we were on the cusp of our whole lives being shut down! So much has happened, and not happened, since then.

My girls were on a senior year “Spring break hurrah”, with friends, when they got the news that their university was closing down for an extra week. It would be the last time they saw most of their friends, and they never did get to walk across a stage after 4 years of exemplary work. As one of my daughter’s shared, “I was living my best life and then it was gone in an instant!”

When I talk to clients, I hear stories of incredible loss: Loss of jobs, friends, freedom, community, mental health….and more. Many people have experienced lack of closure with those they used to go to school with or folks they worked with, loved ones who have died during this time, even people who have moved away.

On top of Covid, we in the United States have had political tension that has come between even the closest of family and friends. We are divided into camps where there isn’t a lot of common ground, since many of the polarizing issues rest in people’s core value systems. Even folks who value tolerance are struggling with how to live that in our current climate.

As a counselor, my job has always been to assist people with overcoming trauma and altering victim status to empowerment status, resulting in a life well-lived. Are you able to do this with 2020? I encourage you to try…

Here is what this processing might look like. I use my own life as an example.

I am grateful that even though I was forced to close down the office space that I LOVED, I am able to see clients via Telehealth. Because of this transition, I am able to meet with clients when I travel to Phoenix for cancer treatment! I don’t have to stop working because of my diagnosis, which is an enormous blessing because I love my work and I have to work in these economic times!

I am grateful that my daughter, who had planned to take a gap year to earn money to attend grad school, could not find anyone hiring during the shutdown, so she applied to grad school early and ended up with a full ride scholarship. She would never thought that possible. Covid forced her into pursuing her dream!

I am grateful that my online church encouraged me to join a virtual small group, because they were proactive in creating community during the shutdown. My church is in Texas, so I never dreamed that I would connect, as I have, with anyone in the congregation! Now we have dear friends in town when we visit our girls! I also have numerous friends who I talk to more often because we have scheduled weekly, bi-weekly or monthly conversations using Zoom or Face Time.

I am also grateful that through this last year, I have seen people’s colors…some of those colors darker and some brighter than others. I have been able to see people’s love and hate, and their thoughtfulness and lack thereof. I have been disappointed in some behaviors but motivated by others, as we all respond to the crisis at hand. I have learned who are my people and who are not. As painful as that can be sometimes, it is a gift.

I could go on…but you get the process. Romans 8:28 tells us that, “In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. The promise does not say that life will be easy but rather, we can turn hard times into purposeful living. What hardship of 2020 has lead to an unexpected blessing? Are you able to resist the urge to see this as a terrible, no good year, but rather see it as a time of refinement of who you are going forward?

World-changers are people who take their trauma and do something good with it. They use their character building tough days, as motivation for making their family, their community, and even the earth a better place. Google “People who overcame adversity to do big things” and you will see lists and lists of people who didn’t stop because they endured a hardship. We all have 2020 as a springboard into a great 2021. Do you accept the challenge?

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Moodiness: When It’s A Girl Thing

Let’s face it. Women hate to be called out on mood associated with menstrual cycle. But if you think about it, a system that is designed to create energies in the body, inform sexuality, and when used at full capacity, make a baby, is going to be just a bit complex. To make that system work well, one might have to give it a little attention.

….MIND, BODY, SPIRIT…it is all connected for sure…

As a therapist, part of my intake with clients involves asking a number of questions about diet, exercise, and other life choices that contribute to mood and sadly, cycles in both men and women are often a contributor to low grade depression, anxiety and general irritability.

Most of my job is to do talk therapy around the trauma and/or current dilemma that the client is experiencing but I spend a decent amount of time recommending ways to keep physical health in check, to support mental health. While it is different for each client, I have found some protocols are being suggested on a regular basis, so I am going to include them from time to time in my blog, so that clients have a place to reference this information easily.

There are some women who experience changes in mood every month. Other women are surprised at different seasons of life such as puberty, mid twenties, after the birth of a child or as they approach menopause, and are ashamed that they can’t control the flux in hormones by sheer will power. Did I mention that this system is complex? Take a breath, give yourself some grace and ask yourself what you are doing to create harmony in your spiritual, physical and emotional self. Every little bit helps to getting yourself on the right track.

If you feel that physically something is “off” and you want to support your health with supplements especially designed for the symptoms you are experiencing, here is a protocol suggestion for you. As the disclosure at the bottom confirms, I am not a medical doctor. I am a psychotherapist who loves homeopathy. This is the form I use with young women and older women, who have had enough of the physical part contributing to their mood swings.


Protocol for struggle with mood and menstrual challenges


Symptoms: Fluctuations with mood that coincide with menstrual cycle. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, acne or breakouts, head ache, lower back ache, irregular menses, cramps related to menses (both before and after flow), mild depression or low feeling, irritability

Be sure to cut out sugars, alcohol and caffeine as much as possible, although green tea is always welcome to any protocol because of the antioxidant properties. Alcohol and Caffeine, in soda and coffee, act as depressants and while they can cause alertness at first, the end result is fatigue, sluggishness and even mild depression. Tea is a great alternative since it metabolized differently and does seem to have as many adverse reactions. Also…a little dark chocolate doesn’t hurt anyone!

Daily exercise that includes rapid movement such as 25 jumping jacks, running up a flight of stairs, jumping on a mini trampoline for a couple minutes, running in place, or jumping rope. Do this exercise on the hour, 4x during the day to encourage circulation. Circulation causes supplements to work better and also keeps serotonin from having a “build up” and then “dump” in your system.

Be sure to drink water to encourage supplements to flow through system throughout the day. If possible, that water should be as pure as possible.



Morning:

Multivitamin: Choose a plant based or organic multi vitamin whenever possible. One that I recommend is Pharmaton Advance Multivitamin and Mineral. It has ginseng which is good for energy. Vitamins made in Germany tend to be organic and high quality. This can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Add-on: Vitamin D3, 5000 IU. This does not have to be any special brand, just a decent brand. Take 2 a day for two weeks and then take 1 a day. Vitamin D deficiency is common for most adults, (unless they are a farmer or a lifeguard). Vitamin D impacts serotonin and is essential for mood.

Add on: Vitamin C, 1000 mg. Liposomal vitamin C is the best, as it is better tolerated, but get what works for your budget. Vitamin C helps with infection, including breakouts. It is best to take it early in the day because it provides energy and may disrupt sleep if taken too late.

Vitanica Brand supplements for hormone imbalance:
1. Slow Flow Menstrual Flow Support
2. Fem Rebalance, Hormone Balance Support.

Take as directed on packaging. After 2 weeks, evaluate if this can be altered.

Nightime:

Liv Lullaby CBD for sleeplessness, headache, cramping or night time anxiety: Take one soft gel 30 minutes before bed. Use pharmaceutical grade only. Here is a link: couchtime.livlabsnow.com

Other CBD products can be layered for high levels of depression and/or anxiety. Seek consult before layering.


Sepia: Sepia is a homeopathic remedy created from fish oils. It helps with most of the symptoms listed above. Take 5 pellets daily, each night before bed to help with mood, cramping, flow, back ache and vaginal dryness or aches. I like the brands Boiron or Hylands. Sepia can be found at your local or online health food store or amazon.com.

Hepar Sulphuris: This is an all natural antibiotic that addresses chronic or cyclical breakouts related to hormone imbalance. Can be taken daily or at the time of the breakout. 5 pellets before bed is a good place to start. Schedule can be altered as symptoms occur. I like the brands Boiron or Hylands.

Other products recommended at consultation: (this is specific to each client)

Remember that every new protocol might need a little time to work well. Give yourself grace as you implement new habits. None of these remedies require a prescription and the above protocol should not be considered medical advice. These are supplements that have shown to help women who struggle with symptoms related to menstrual cycle. If you have an adverse reaction to any of the supplements, please discontinue use immediately. It is recommended that this protocol be shared with any medical professional that is treating you so that they can evaluate interactions with any prescription medication. Pharmacists are often the best resource for supplement interaction information.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia





Community: Health depends on it

How could any of us know that when we read George Orwell’s 1984, in high school, we would actually live it one day? It was presented to us as Science Fiction, and something that was thought provoking. We should have read it like a training manual. One of the best quotes to describe our times, inside this epic piece of literature was:

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four.”

I sat with a client last week, who is as frustrated as the rest of us, with regulatory guidelines that keep her from interacting with friends and family. She said, “I know a lot of people, who also know a lot of people, and none of us know anyone who has died of COVID, so it is hard to understand why we can’t interact with one another.” She, like many of my clients, is fighting hard to keep upbeat, pushing off depression, during this time. Statistically, the numbers are staggering right now. Depression, anxiety, addiction, abuse…all on the rise. Some reports are showing a 30% increase in reported suicide attempts. At some point we need to consider that advocating for mental health is self defense, during this freedom-less time.

Recently, I ran across an article put out by the CDC, that warned about the dangers of isolation. Recent studies were cited in the article, studies that proved that Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia. As a mental health professional, I am appalled that along with suggestions of social distancing and mask wearing, there were not guidelines of how to maintain a healthy emotional state during this time. I see firsthand the damage as I sit with clients (all via Telehealth now!) on a regular basis, who now struggle with increased anxiety and depression or who never experienced symptoms before, but are now battling sluggishness, sleeplessness, lethargy, hopelessness, lack of motivation, apathy, and many other symptoms associated with depression.

I am an introvert, who already worked from home as much as I went into my office. So, at the beginning of the shutdown, my life did not change as much as it did for others who were working from home for the first time. But I knew, that over time, the shutdown would start to feel suffocating, even to my love-my-alone-time-self, if I did not proactively make sure that I had community during the weeks (who knew it would be months!) ahead. I immediately put a plan in place for myself that included my neighborhood besties, who live, work and shop at my same haunts, so our exposure is almost identical. We met regularly, but were careful and responsible, so much so, that one of our members had COVID and the rest of us stayed healthy! Having this interaction made this shutdown doable for us. Some people have openly criticized my willingness to risk human interaction at the level I have chosen, because they know that I am immune compromised. For me, mental health is as important as physical health. How do you think I continue to beat the life sentence I have been given?

What are you doing to keep human interaction at a healthy level? What are you doing to protect your mental health and thus, your survival?

I want it to be clear that I am not proposing that you engage in activities that put yourself at risk for the disease, just so you see people face to face. I do not encourage the immune compromised to rub shoulders with strangers during this time. But most of us have the ability to find a team of people to do life with strategically and still minimize risk.

One of the personal victories that I had during this shutdown came from a proactive attempt to create community. Mike and I have been doing church virtually for the last four years, partially for my health, as I have been a germ avoider for the last 6 years. It was also fun to “attend” the same church as our kids living in Waco, TX. So, when Antioch of Waco offered the opportunity to join an online small group during the shutdown, we took a risk and joined a group. We now have friends that we have met with weekly for the last 18 weeks….who knew?

I encourage you to take a look at this short report that gives some support for maintaining contact with other humans: https://www.khca.org/files/2015/10/8-Reasons-Why-We-Need-Human-Touch-More-Than-Ever.pdf. If you are struggling to feel purposeful, or you find yourself not caring about the future or you are just sleepy all the time, you may be on the brink of a deeper dive into depression that could be reversed with some human interaction. The risk might be worth it, especially if done with care.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Rise Above: There will always be a Covid

Rise Above: There will always be a Covid

I remember sitting at my mama’s feet, as she tried to communicate with the customer service rep on the other end of the line. I am sure, me sitting there while she tried to make her point, was super helpful…why do our littles always sit right next to us when we are on the phone? She was being asked to repeat herself, over and over again…no doubt her accent was making it difficult for the person unwilling to just listen for a second. She put down the phone with disgust and told me to get my shoes on. We were going to go in person, “so that they can see that I have money and I am not stupid.” Before she hung up the phone, she asked for the person’s first and last name, a practice I use to this day to advocate for myself. I hope my girls learned lessons sitting next to me when I was on the phone!

Meeting in person did not always work. She also told me the story of when the Friendly Hills Country Club ladies came to “interview” her and they obviously did not see her as an equal. When she shared this story with me, she reflected that being refused was good information…better than being admitted and treated poorly. Even when the club changed some policies, she knew it wasn’t a home for our family.

My mother was anything but stupid. She came to the United States, brought by missionaries Chuck and Mary Olvey,  to attend their alma mater, where she graduated at the top of her class, in her second language. I still have a copy of the speech she gave at Biola’s graduation, typed out…a message to inspire others. In her life, she overcame obstacle after obstacle, with a grace that probably gave the impression that it came easily to her. As her daughter, I had a front row seat to some of the obstacles, and it wasn’t easy; she had a deep rooted faith and she refused to give up. And she refused to be mediocre.

Here is my mamacita getting her citizenship…fun day!
Green Card photo….how brave she was!

When California held a vote to make Spanish an official language, I learned how very wise she was….”If California says they are willing to loose language, a uniter of people, there will always be two or more groups, and the English speakers will always have the advantage.” Soon after, she began volunteering, teaching Hispanic adults to read and speak English. She also decided around this time to turn in her green card for United States citizenship, so she could vote.

In the last few years, I have been told by professors, friends who have differing political viewpoints, and popular culture, that my story and my mother’s story don’t count, in my perception of how to really change the world. That is fine. Maybe our story is just for us and the children I am raising.

My daughter is teaching dance in Waco, Texas, and after having classes via Zoom, for 10 weeks, some of the girls were not feeling ready to perform. She shared with me that she told those girls that there will always be a Covid, or a current event, or a personal struggle, that will impact their lives…but they have a recital to perform and they can choose to give it their best effort or give up. She has no idea that she inspired me that day. Sometimes in life, it just seems easier to give up. There is a temptation to forget how hard we have worked to get where we are, and in those moments, we can be willing to throw it all away.

Friends, is there a situation in your life that is beating you down? Is there a job situation, an illness, a broken relationship???? Are you tempted to give up, retreat, or forget that you have life to be lived? I have never met a person who didn’t have a situation in their life, where others were to blame, or the unfairness of the situation was unbearable. But we all do have the choice to press on. Every hero, every success story, has a moment in the story, where all the odds were against them, and they did. not. give. up.

Have faith. Do not give up. Refuse to be mediocre. Thank you, Mamacita, for the lessons you taught me, when I sat at your feet.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia