DBT- Breaking it down

Imagine this: You come home from work, your teen is sitting at the table. Her homework’s not done, and you start to get irritated. She slams her books, gets mad and walks out of the room. You follow her and ask her what’s going on. This isn’t like her, she’s a good kid but she’s been down lately. She’s crying and says she doesn’t know what’s wrong. But she doesn’t stop crying and things aren’t getting better. I hear stories like this every day, all the time. Sometimes it’s the teen that needs someone to talk to, sometimes the parents, or sometimes it’s the parents who need to know how to talk to their child. But they all have one thing in common- there’s a challenge. There’s something that could be better, and you know life would be so much better, if not for ___.

I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s something you know, but you need to hear.

It’s going to be okay.

No, seriously, it is.

Let that sink in for a moment. Things are going to be okay.

No, I don’t have a miracle pills. Or miracle theories. But, I have tools. Lots and lots of tools. And one of them I learned about is called DBT.

I sometimes moonlight as a group counselor at a psych (in-patient) facility. Recently, it switched over to a new theoretical orientation. Now, most therapists I know work from what is called CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It ties in what you’re thinking to what you’re doing. A few years ago, a new theory emerged called DBT- Dialectical Behavioral Training. It’s… kinda similar. It’s very core stresses “mindfulness”, a now oft-overused phrase meaning to be aware of within and without. So, it’s being aware of your emotions, your breath, your environment and the way you communicate.

DBT is like any theory, building a house with a foundation of strong “self awareness” skills and crisis management. This would actually be the basement, because it here where people are stuck in their dark and scary places. And let’s be honest? Most basements have a component of creep in them. Then you build the first floor with skills for managing life, problems and challenges. This is where we learn about validation. And I gotta tell ya, this is my favorite part of DBT. This is where we learn about empathy, how to communicate, and how we learn to stop hating ourselves. The second floor is where we learn to be happy, to stop struggling and exist in the moment. It too includes skills for mindfulness but the focus is more about loving ourselves, and working towards goals.

This is the basics. Easy enough, right?

Stay tuned, the next post will be on how to escape the basement.


Judgment as a new mom

posted in: Depression, Family, Kids and Teens, Love | 0

I’ll be honest, I thought I would be a great mom. I thought there would be no television, all healthy home-made food, I would have great ideas to do something new every day and my child would snuggle with me and call me mama. I don’t think I judged others harshly, I suppose, but I thought “I will be different, I can do it”. And then my son was born. It was not the birth I thought I would have. There was no music, no intense labor, no connection. I had a c-section due to a pretty painful back injury I had sustained early in the pregnancy. I didn’t see my son for several minutes, I held him for such a brief amount of time. I was wheeled to the recovery room without my son and waited 2 hours for him to join me. I couldn’t breastfeed as I wanted, as my milk never fully came in (despite tons of herbal supplements and medications).

Before I even left the hospital, I judged myself a bad mom.

Then, kiddo had colic. Holy mackerel. Who knew a baby could cry so much?! How did his voice not get hoarse?! And where did he get those lungs?! For 3 and a half months, kiddo cried. He wouldn’t take a pacifier and only snuggled to breastfeed. I, again, judged myself a bad mom.

I chose to return to work part time as well as open my private practice. My supply dwindled to nothing and by 6 months, kiddo was fully fed by formula. And I judged myself a bad mom.

Everything I thought I would do, I couldn’t. I wanted so badly to be the mom who had playdates every week, who talked to my kid constantly and who tried to teach him something new every day by taking him to museums, story times and zoos. And I failed. I couldn’t do it. Who knew it would take an hour to load a kid and an hour to unload? Who knew I would run out of things to say? And who knew how much it cost just the adult to gain admission to something every day- not including meals and gas.

It was a mix of independent baby and trying-to-stay-sane momma. And you know what? Jasper is happy, healthy and beautiful. He loves to laugh and sing, he crawls to me and gives me books to read to him. He smiles when he sees me and allows brief (very brief) hugs, before he’s off and moving on to something else. I look at his face and see his dad and his dad’s dad. I watch him as he acts just like me. And I think, “I must be doing good, because look at him. He’s awesome.”

I still have days I judge myself, but I think I have found the happy medium into what makes our family work. I’m not a great mom, laundry is in the dryer and there are dishes in the sink. There are baby jars of food on the counter and Jasper doesn’t snuggle with me unless he’s sick. But you know what? I’m okay with that because the proof is in the pudding. My kiddo is a great kiddo, so I must be doing something right.

Jasper day he was born

Spring has been Sprung!

posted in: Depression, Reaching Your Goals | 0


Today is the vernal equinox! Yay spring! I have to say, this winter has been abysmal. Little rain, family tragedies, and a cold that seemed to last the entirety of winter. But today, today I feel hopeful. My tulips are growing, my family is healthy and it’s finally nice to go on a walk- at any time of day.

The first day of spring used to be considered the first day of a new year, and for good reason! It was the day when the year started to rebuild itself. It was the first day of growth, of warmth and of life. Baby animals born and time to plant the seeds. Pagans worship the day as a day of fertility (hence the bunnies and their prolific nature). The myth of the phoenix is rooted in spring. As the story goes, the phoenix refused to eat from the tree of forbidden fruit and gained immortality. Every 500 years, he would lay an egg and then immolate. In the morning, an egg would be found and the phoenix would be reborn of this egg. And this is possibly where we get Easter eggs. In modern day times, we look to spring to bring us the hope of happiness. I think that’s the way it is the world over- the first day of spring is a good day.

Winter affects a lot of people adversely. Seasonal Affect Disorder is real, and there are many contentious reasons for it, such as a lack of Vitamin D and lowered temperatures. But with the first day of spring, depression can ease as people start leaving their houses and resuming a social life outside the home. However, there are those with persistent depression where it will take more than a season’s change to relieve symptoms. For those where it takes more than a little extra daylight, here are some tips for you:


1. Go for a walk– I cannot stress this one enough. Get the heart rate raised for over 20 minutes, and studies show most people will have an increased level of seratonin (aka the chemical that makes us happy).

2. Travel– Get out and see the world. (I make it sound easy, I know.) But take the first step out of your house and go look at the world. Travel locally or afar. If you are local, check out Apple Hill and their blossoms, Daffodil Hill, Hidden Waterfall, Enchanted Pools and the American River.

3. Grab lunch with someone you don’t know very well– It’s hard to make friends, but inviting someone you would like to get to know will help increase your circle of support.

4. Join Meetup.com and go explore your interests!

5. Get off of Facebook– Seriously, if you are prone to depression, social media does not help, even if everyone is being positive. Lots of reasons for it, but Facebook is just not healthy for the depressed.

6. Enjoy the outdoors– sit on your balcony, patio or backyard, and enjoy some vitamin D.

7. Change your routine– if it hasn’t worked for you yet, try changing it up and seeing what happens.

Lessons in Loss

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

I don’t normally share my personal information in a professional capacity, but I thought others might benefit from some lessons I recently learned. When I married my husband, my new father-in-law was already sick. It has been a few years, and on February 16th, 2015, he passed away.

My husband and I flew out with our son to see my in-laws in November and I complained the whole time about the cost, the time and the cold. (Indiana- it was cold. Very cold. Holy mackerel it was cold.) Why couldn’t we wait until spring? Why couldn’t they come out? Why did we have to spend so much to get out there?

When we got there, his dad was irritated, hardly moving without his walker or wheelchair. It took forever to warm up (both physically and metaphorically) but soon we were touring the farm where dad-in-law grew up, his elementary school, his parents’ house. We saw where he got in trouble, and where he found his love of planes. When we returned, he hugged his grandson and talked to his son until he started falling asleep. A day or two after, we returned to Sacramento, to warmth and sun, where snow had never fallen and our lives resumed. In two months time he had passed away, and I never got to say thank you, for raising the man I love, for adoring my son and being a part of my life. And I never got to say goodbye.

Now, I wish we had spent more time there. And I am so incredibly thankful that I got to spend those few days there in the cold, spending time with him and our family.

So the lessons I learned.

1) Family trumps money
2) Learn the stories of the people we love, because there will be a time when you won’t be able to ask anymore.
3) Don’t just listen to the history, if possible, go and visit the sites that were so important.
4) Indiana is cold. Like, think of the coldest place on Earth. Indiana? Yeah, colder than that. (In fact, when we were out for my father-in-law’s funeral, the Arctic was actually warmer than Indiana.)
5) I shouldn’t complain about Sacramento’s weather
6) Say the things you want to say before you can’t.
7) Never begrudge time for family.



Valentine’s Day- Not just another day to buy chocolate!

posted in: Family, Kids and Teens, Love | 0



When I was a little girl, my dad came home with a dozen roses for my mom. It was Valentine’s Day and they were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever seen. He was holding the bouquet with both hands, and as he separated his hands, I saw that there, nestled in a small, cobalt blue vase, was the most beautiful rose I’ve ever seen. He handed it to me and asked if I would be his Valentine, too. At that moment, I couldn’t imagine a man as wonderful as my dad, and it was a wonderful feeling, being my dad’s Valentine. Of course, that would change as I grew up and found (and married) my own Valentine. But that day, that moment, cemented my love for the holiday.


I know, I know, it’s become a bit commercial. However, the day itself has an interesting background and it’s current meaning, while seeming lost in cards, chocolate, flowers and date nights at expensive restaurants with even more expensive cocktails, is about sharing a special day with the ones you love most in the world. Apparently, there was a St. Valentine. He married soldiers in the Roman Army (who weren’t allowed to get married so that they could be sent far away without leaving families behind) and ministered to enemies of the Roman Empire. He was arrested and then executed for his crimes against the Roman Empire. There’s a myth that states he healed the daughter of his jailor. When he wrote his goodbyes, he wrote a letter to her and apparently signed it as “Your Valentine” and thus the romanticism of Valentine.


I like the idea of Valentine’s Day not just being about your significant other, but also about your family. You tell your kids every day that you love them, but reminding them in a special way will help cement this in their minds (even if they don’t seem to appreciate it at the moment). It could be as simple as a special dinner, a card or a flower. So this Valentine’s Day, expand the day to include your whole family and while dinner out without the kids would certainly be wonderful (and appropriate) don’t forget to give a few special moments to the rest of your family.


And by the way, I still have that little cobalt vase.