Is it Possible to Sustain Well-Being and Joy Despite One’s Circumstances?

Dear Liz,

I am a woman in my upper 40s. I have a job that has very good health benefits. Also, it pays enough to support my family. The issue is that I am very unhappy in my work environment. Sometimes, or I should say, often, some of the people are hostile. This has caused me to wake up many nights upset. At times, I feel alone and stuck. I stay at the job because I know that I would not realistically be able to find another one like it where I can support my family. I know this probably sounds like such a cliché, but when I look at myself in the mirror, I do not see a happy, joyful person. I see someone who is tired, stressed, and has aged tremendously. The years are going by and I am afraid of never finding a peaceful work environment. It is hard because of the many hours spent at work, and then I find that my poor children see all my unhappiness.

Thank you for reading this. Many blessings to you. Continue reading

Hope Amidst Traumatic Grief

Dear Liz,

A very good friend of mine was murdered about four months ago. Her death outraged and saddened my entire community, and I’ve had a hard time accepting that she’s gone, because it just doesn’t seem real. I’m writing because I’ve had many dreams about her since it happened, and I’m not sure what they mean. Maybe she’s visiting me? Maybe my brain is rewinding to that event? Could you help me out? Continue reading

Victimized by Crime: Hope and Healing After Trauma

Dear Liz,

I’m a 26-year-old woman living a charmed life: 2 great kids, loving husband, well-to-do, intelligent, very attractive, very outgoing personality. A week ago I came home from shopping around noon and walked in on 3 teens (probably) burglarizing our house. Thankfully I was unhurt but was left tightly bound, gagged, face down and hogtied on the kitchen floor. I struggled furiously but couldn’t get free. Three hours later my kids and two of their friends arrived from school and found me “mmphing” and lying all tied up in a helpless, embarrassing heap. They removed the gag from my mouth but had to get a neighbor to untie the rest of me. I was humiliated and felt my self-esteem completely evaporate. A week has gone by and I’m depressed and feel like a schnook. For my kids to see me so utterly bound has destroyed my pride, sense of dignity. How do I recover from this mental ordeal and regain my sense of confidence, pride? Continue reading

What is a Relationship?

Dear Friends,

Over the last few months, I’ve received a number of questions about relationships, all of which shared a common theme:  one person appears to be 100% invested, while the other is not.  I’ve heard from a number of women who are upset and confused, because while their partner is professing his love, he is also questioning the relationship.  I’ve heard, “he needs to treat me better” and “we love each other, but we’ve started to fight Continue reading

This Holiday Season, Don’t Forget Your Inner Gingerbread Person

Our holiday celebrations form around stories that remind us of the invisible, the unexplainable, the liberating, the joyful, and the miraculous. Whether we realize it or not, our holiday stories are there to remind us of all that is within us, waiting to be touched, to be illuminated, and to be shared.  The oil that kept the lamp burning, the star that led to the humble manger, the baby who grew to be a man of wisdom and miracles…This holiday season, as the material world beckons your attention, Continue reading

Fear of Relapsing Into Isolation and Pain

Dear Liz,

Recently, I have been internally going in a downward spiral. I have been waiting for, and dreading this moment to come, as I have been in this state before. The world seems to keep turning while I am invisible and stationary– stuck in one moment in time. No one can see it because it doesn’t seem like I am in as bad of a place as I was, but what they can’t see is that I am. No one has ever been able to really see me. Even I have trouble seeing me. I’ll have to have a few more sit-downs with my gingerbread person before I’ll be able to see myself and the good that I carry. I’m not sure if there is a question to pull from this. Maybe since I am more aware of my symptoms I can ask, how do you stop a relapse from ruining a portion of life? How do I get myself up and going every day, if only mechanical body? At the end of the day, I am the only one who will have my back. I have no one to take the pain away or to walk and talk with me every day. The only person who can do that is myself. What are some ways to get to the point of holding enough self-love so that I am able to walk with myself every day? 

I realize there are no right or wrong answers to my questions. I know whatever you have to say will be helpful. Thank you, Liz. Continue reading

Am I too Broken to be Fixed?

Dear Liz,

I am lost. I decided to start counseling because I was afraid I was getting depressed again. I was depressed back in high school and while my anxiety affects me every day, I thought that depression was in the past until about two months ago. I’ve only gone to two appointments so far. At the second one she asked me about my history of depression, and I told her about it and said that now I have little bouts, like 2 or 3 days a month. That day was a good one. Today is not. Do you think it’s possible to be depressed sometimes, or is it my own anxious self over thinking? And more importantly, how do I avoid letting these feelings affect my life too much? Tonight I have put off doing an assignment I know I can do well and even enjoy and even now at 3 am, I feel so distant from it while also feeling guilty for putting it off. I feel as though I am like a bent tool never to be fixed. I could work properly if someone took the time to straighten me out, but that’s too hard. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and think that this was melodramatic… In fact I feel melodramatic just rereading what I’ve wrote. Basically, I’d like your advice on how not to dwell on the bad times, and how to own up to the mistakes you make during them. I don’t want to let down my friends or teachers, but when I feel depressed, it is so hard to do anything.

Sincerely, Hopeful

Continue reading

Sexual Abuse

Dear Readers:  The person who submitted this question is a young woman—as such, I’ve decided to engage the topic of sexual abuse as it pertains to girls/women.  I am very aware that boys/young men are also victims, and I in no way intend to marginalize their experience by speaking solely about girls/women—I am simply tailoring my response to the circumstances presented to me by this questioner.  

Dear Liz,

I had a horrible relationship with my mother in high school because she was dealing with her newly diagnosed bi-polar disorder.  We would always clash because I didn’t know what she was going through, but now I fear I am turning into her. I see myself lashing out sometimes and getting upset over things that seem to have no substance, and when I do calm down I realize that I shouldn’t have gotten angry. Most of the time I take it out on my boyfriend, and that’s what I fear the most.  I don’t want to upset him over tiny fights and push him away. It’s like I have in my head this “self-fulfilling prophecy” that of course I’m going to turn into my mother—I feel like I’m making that fear come true.  My boyfriend is very supportive of me trying to deal with this situation. He never gets mad at me in return—when I am angry he tries to solve where it is coming from and why.  My worst fear is pushing him away while trying to figure this out. 

I don’t know if this aggression I have is stemming from me thinking I am turning into my mother, or from the sexual abuse I suffered in high school from my first boyfriend at the age of 14. My boyfriend would hit me, cheat on me, and sexually assault me—this was all very frequent for 9 months.  I was so young and sensitive and he was 17 and I didn’t know what to do, so I put up with it.  When I’d tell him I wanted to end it, he would threaten to kill himself.  He finally hit me in public once, and my best friend and her boyfriend saw, which gave me a way out because he got scared that I wasn’t the only one to know anymore. 

While all this was going on with my boyfriend, my mother was dealing with her anger over being raped by her cousin.  When she returned home for a wedding, she saw him and he hugged her as if nothing happened.  It brought up so many emotions for her and she ended up taking it out on me—she would lash out and hit me—it got so bad that my dad and I had to move out for a few months.  I went to a therapist for a while and I thought I had dealt with my pain, but with all these emotions now I’m not sure what to think. I get so angry at little things, like my personal short comings and when things don’t go as planned—it’s starting to affect my life.  I just want to get my anger or whatever seems to be happening to me under control before I turn into my ex or my mom.  I’m lashing out like I did before I went to my counselor in high school.  I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t know if you have any insight for me, but I’ll wait to hear back.         Continue reading

Depression as an Opportunity for Emotional and Spiritual Transformation

Dear Liz,

So over the past few months I haven’t felt like myself.  I’ve realized I’m not the happy, outgoing girl I used to be. I barely ever hang out with friends, and when it comes to making a decision on something simple, I tend to get overly frustrated and break down. I’m afraid to talk to my mom about this because it may not even be a big deal to her. And in the past when I have struggled with my weight, both my parents would tell me I’m too skinny and yell at me to eat more. I don’t know if that plays a role in this situation, and my happiness—I just want this feeling of helplessness to go away. I don’t know how to tell my mom, and need some advice.
Continue reading