Saturday, August 22, 2020

Support for parents and families of transgender individuals

 No one ever said being a parent was easy. But when someone comes out to their family as transgender, parents may have no idea where to turn. Knowing they face unique challenges, I started a support group for parents and families of transgender individuals, TransParents. It meets once a month, usually the third Sunday of the month, at 2 pm CST. Originally it met at OutMemphis, the local LGBT community center, but since the Covid-19 outbreak, it has met online via Zoom. While I am present to answer questions and provide guidance when warranted, my primary goal is for it to be a place where families can support each other, can know that there are other folks dealing with the same challenges they are. While attendance has been smallish (usually 3-6 attendees a meeting) I think it has provided a safe space for parents and other family members to connect and know that they are not alone.

Up until now, the group has served the Memphis/Tri-Cities area. After recent discussion, we've become aware that now that we are meeting via Zoom, the group could be made available to individuals who aren't local. If you or someone you know is interested in the group, contact me at and we will get you connected. Being a parent is hard; you shouldn't have to do it alone.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

How can we keep going on? I think Gloria says it best...

 Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive

-Gloria Gaynor

Many of you probably recognize this chorus from the song “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, which has become one of the anthems of the LGBT community. The song itself is about a break-up, but I think the essence is very applicable to us today. Right now it feels like the world is out to break us. First was the Covid-19 virus, then racial inequality became a problem we can no longer ignore, and finally yesterday we learned that gender identity is no longer protected within healthcare. I’ll be honest; yesterday when I learned about the change in protections within healthcare, I was about ready to give up. I kind of felt like I might crumble, like I might lay down and die…

But you know what? I think I’d rather survive. Sometimes hope feels a little slippery, and I struggle to hold on to it. I don’t know what the solutions are to the problems we are currently facing. I do believe that dismantling racial inequality, in all the various ways it manifests, is probably going to take years, so I’m strapping in for the long haul. I don’t know how the virus and discrimination around gender identity are going to play out, but I plan to be around for it. Right now, every day, I will put one foot in front of the other, do what I need to do in the moment, and survive. Some days are going to be hard and scary, and that hope is going to be flopping all over the floor, seeming just out of reach. Other days will seem easier, with hope solidly in my heart. I’ll reach out for support and assurance as I need to, and provide these to others as I can. I’ve still got some life left to live, and there’s still some love in there left to give, so I think I’ll stick around and survive. Will you join me?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Telehealth is my new best friend

On Sunday March 22, I stopped face-to-face sessions completely and went entirely online (telehealth). I decided at some point that I would do only online until the end of May and then re-assess. May is almost over, so I've been looking at statistics and thinking about safety, and have decided to stay solely online for now.

I know that some of my folks really prefer in-person sessions. Honestly, I do too. I find that it can be harder to connect with someone over the computer, and lately I've felt more tired than usual at the end of the day. However, safety is the top priority, and right now I think that dictates continued quarantining for my household and business.

I think the city opened back up too soon. Now, that is probably easier for me to say than for some folks. I have continued to work throughout the quarantine. I am able to do my work online just fine. My wife continues to work so our income really hasn't changed. I am definitely blessed as a small business owner to be able to work under these circumstances as so many other small business owners are in a very different place financially. I don't know what the right answer is; actually, I don't think there is a right answer. Keeping the city closed longer probably would be the right decision health-wise, but opening back up, at least to some extent, is better for business (at least in the short-term).

Even though the city is now mostly open, I don't have to re-enter myself. I have chosen to continue to self-quarantine; I do believe that is the right decision for myself, my family, and my business. Because I work in my home, if a client was infected but didn't know it, my family is at a higher risk of being exposed than if I worked in an office somewhere. I won't put my family in danger. However, it isn't all about my family. If I had a single client who was positive for Covid-19, then over the course of two weeks I would expose at least 50 people (besides my family) and that is definitely not something I am willing to do. So for now, I am going to keep my practice 100% online.

I don't know when this will change. I am tentatively saying I will be only telehealth until the end of June. Now, if I believe that we get to a safe place for face-to-face before the end of June, then I may shift to face-to-face sooner. We'll just have to wait and see how this plays out.

For those of you who prefer telehealth, I don't know if it will continue to be an option per insurance once we are past the Covid-19 crisis. If insurance continues to cover it, then I will be happy to continue to do it. Prior to the pandemic I already did telehealth if insurance wasn't involved. It may be that we'll be able to continue doing it, with insurance coverage, post pandemic; again, we'll just have to see how this plays out.

All of you, please stay safe. I think the best practice is to continue to wear face-masks right now when in public, and to limit social interactions, but I don't get to make the rules if you don't live in my house (heck, I live with two teenagers, I'm not sure I make the rules for them anymore given that I am now a stupid parent who knows NOTHING about their trials and tribulations). In any case, stay safe, and one of these days I look forward to seeing you again in person.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Surviving the viral invasion, or why my cats suddenly hate me

Every morning when I wake up, I make a plan of action for the day. Until recently that plan might include the errands I need to run, where I want to eat dinner, are there any good movies out I want to see. These days, except for the rare essential exception, my plan includes chores I need to do around the house, what we might prepare for dinner, and is there anything interesting on Netflix. This change in planning happened quite suddenly a couple weeks ago, when I accepted, begrudgingly, that a little one-celled organism that doesn't even have a brain now dictates, to a very large degree, where I go if it's off my property. The introvert in me doesn't so much mind staying home. The human in me is pissed that I'm now answering to a virus named after a crown or a beer, depending on your perspective.

Like so many others, this sense of loss of control is both infuriating and frightening. This is a scenario that never goes well for humans in the movies, and for which we're not getting a great deal of solid guidance. The powers that be can't seem to agree on exactly how to approach this. The scientific community is working tirelessly to gain an understanding of the specific characteristics of this entity. The entity itself is mindlessly trying to find hosts, in this case humans, so it can replicate its DNA or RNA and thus stick around. After all, a virus is nothing more than a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) enclosed in a protein shell called the capsid. Some viruses also have an outer membrane called the envelope. Our little COVID-19 happens to contain RNA, and it does have an envelope with lots of teeny tiny spikes that resemble a crown, hence the name corona (Latin).

Regardless of your understanding of it, we are all pretty much at the mercy of this little replicating machine, and it has turned the world as we know it upside down. How do we cope with all of the recent changes, including the very real fear of death that it brings. I've got a few thoughts that I'd like to share with you to help bring a little hope back into the picture.

For now get your information from knowledgeable scientific sources. There is so much misinformation swirling around that's it's easy to get confused. The CDC is a good source, as well as other scientific organizations that specialize in critters of this nature. For now the government isn't a good source of information so much. The government is mostly politicians, and thus far we haven't gotten much good information from them. This isn't exactly a criticism, after all they're politicians and not biologists.

For now stay home except for absolutely essential trips. This is where the loss of control feels really bad. We don't yet know how long this will last. One thing we do know is if everyone actually does this, it won't last as long as if we don't. The virus wants us (as much as a virus can actually want) to be around each other so it can be passed among all of us and make tons of copies of its little RNA sequence. If we isolate, we deny it the one thing it needs to survive. I don't care to let the virus use my cells to reproduce, and in that way I am taking back some control over my own cells. Staying home stretched out on the couch watching Netflix will literally save lives. Just do it please.

Reach out to family, friends, loved ones frequently and safely. We may not be able to reach out and touch one another (bonus points if you can name the reference) but we can still check in with each other. Use a video service so your friends can see how long your hair (and roots) are getting. Laugh about it, it's happening to all of us. Our hairdressers tell us not to cut our bangs!!!. I say cut your bangs, shave it all off, do whatever you want because you can! Take control over the hairs on your head!!! Our hairdressers can fix it later.

Find things to keep yourself occupied. You do want to do everything you can to avoid boredom, which is more than happy to escort in depression. Typically we encourage folks to not be online all the time, but at the moment you have much more permission to do it for connection and entertainment. Do puzzles. Finish all the home projects you started over the last years but never finished. Start projects with the intention of actually finishing them (even if you don't!). Read. Learn to crochet, then make little cardigans for all of your cats. They will love them, I promise you!!!

Don't spend too much time looking at the news. The news these days is pretty bleak, but it isn't changing multiple times throughout the day. Intentionally get news updates a couple times a day, but other than that, focus on your projects, or what's for dinner, or braiding your armpit hair. And don't forget the kitty cardigans! But seriously, limit news consumption. A lot.

Realize that right now anxiety is a really super normal reaction to what it going. Realize also that anxiety doesn't have to be the focus of your day. Identify, as much as you can, specifically what you are anxious about. Determine whether or not it is something that you have any control over at the moment. If it is, address it. If it isn't, tell your brain over and over that right now that's not a thing that you can address and that your focus needs to be on what you can. If you have pets, spend time with them (that reduces anxiety). Meditate. Do yoga. Watch Yoda. Do what you need to do to distract yourself.

Currently therapists are generally still working as we have the option to do it safely online. If you feel as though you are really struggling and stuff is getting out of hand, reach out to start some therapy. Depression and anxiety are going to pop up; if it seems as though they are in control, talk to us. It's what we're trained to help with.

We're all in this together, even though we're going through it in isolation. It's unclear now when we will be able to stop quarantines, but we will. Find hope in the fact that COVID-19 is not the first virus on the planet, and we will gain back control as we learn more and as we deny it the chance to spread. Lean on each other. Make sure the people in your little corner of the world are doing okay. If everyone did this then we would all still be connected, even if only virtually. Finally, tell yourself every day that we will all once again get a good haircut. Until then, cut your bangs or shave your head. And don't forget the feline cardigans - your cats are depending on you!!!!!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Valuable Lesson from my Dog

Every morning when we get up, my dog Gandalf acts like he couldn't be happier. He's bouncing around, greeting everyone (sometimes to the annoyance of the cats), wagging his tail like crazy, and I swear he's smiling.

I used to ask him every single morning what he was so happy about that he was practically dancing on the ceiling. Recently though, I'm trying to borrow a bit of his perspective. I think he can teach me, and us, a valuable lesson.

When I get up in the morning, I'm typically not in a bad mood. I'm sitting here trying to think of a word to describe my mood in the mornings, but all I can really come up with is preoccupied. That's not necessarily a mood, but I think it describes me perfectly. I am completely in my head, thinking about all of the different things I need to do that day, and not at all aware of what I might be feeling.

I imagine many of you share this experience. We're not focused on what is going on right that minute, we're thinking about things perhaps hours (or days) down the road, and not checking in with ourselves to see how we are doing in this moment. Gandalf, on the other hand (or paw), is completely oblivious to what he might be doing this afternoon, and is completely aware of his happiness at seeing the other members of his pack, and makes sure we are all aware of it.

Now, I realize that Gandalf and I do not have the same cognitive structures nor abilities, that he is unable to process things as I can. However, just because I can, doesn't mean I always need to. It is rare that I have anything coming up that I need to focus on right when I get up. I've got my morning routine, but it doesn't have to include deep thinking. It actually is the perfect time to check in with myself, my dog, my cats, and my family, and enjoy the moments before the workday begins. If I stop thinking and become aware of my feelings, I am happy to see each of the living creatures who live in my house. When I shift my focus from thinking to feeling, with the focus being on that very moment in time, the results are actually quite pleasant. I've got hours later in the day to think about my work, my chores, my bills, my obligations; I don't have to start churning out the thoughts as soon as I am upright.

For most of us, our lives do include a decent amount of stress and concern. However, we aren't directly dealing with those things every second, but if we're thinking about them even when we aren't actively working on them, then we are losing that moment in time. Being mindful of what is going on, and what is important, in this very minute, can provide some time to just be with ourselves and with those around us. While I have found that I don't get quite as excited as Gandalf (which is understandable, because he has the perfect life) I can enjoy some moments of companionship which gets the day started off on a much better foot (or paw) than launching into obligatory thoughts; being mindful of that moment only is a far better way to start my day than endless to-do lists.

I encourage each of you to think about your own days, and identify moments when you can try to be more intentional about the moment, and less cognitive and more self aware. I haven't been doing this for too long, but it does seem to get the day going a lot smoother, and is appreciated by the critters in my life. While I have taught Gandalf some important things in his first year, perhaps the most important lesson (hmmm, besides house-training) he taught to me. Could this lesson help you too?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Hypnotherapy is Here!

I am happy to announce that I am now offering hypnotherapy as one of my treatment modalities. At this time I will be using it to address a number of concerns including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and trauma.

Hypnotherapy is a very safe and effective treatment modality. At no time during the process will the client be told anything that we haven't previously discussed; I do understand that it is a concept that some people may be somewhat uncomfortable with. Many people never lose complete awareness while they are in trance, while some do. Speaking of trance, we all go into trance on our own on a likely frequent basis. When we are day-dreaming we are in a trance. If we're really focused on a book we're in a trance. Trance is really nothing more than extremely focused attention. Often in entertainment it was demonstrated by having the individual watch a clock swinging back and forth. While most folks don't do it that way anymore, it certainly is one way to get there. It works by having the person focus so intently on the swinging clock that they go into a trance. I don't do it this way, but it is real.

When we are in a trance we can access our subconscious, which is the point of hypnotherapy. We can get to the parts of our minds that control us without us even realizing it, and make changes in beliefs that have been keeping us stuck. As I mentioned previously, it is very safe, and I believe it will greatly enhance my work. I am a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnotherapy, which is where I've gotten my training. If you have questions about this opportunity feel free to reach out. Perhaps it could be helpful to you in some way.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Concerns around social media

It is a fairly safe bet that most folks nowadays use social media. I have a Facebook account (clearly, since many of you are probably reading this on it). There are a number of others; Facebook is the one I am most familiar with. Social media comes up frequently enough in sessions that I have seen, over and over again, some of the negative impacts it can have on our lives. Here are a few of the most common.

It perpetuates drama.
I doubt anyone is shocked by this one. Drama in all its glory can and does happen there, and in some ways, it is worse than things that happen in person. Because we feel protected by our computer screen, we may type things online that we wouldn’t actually say to a person. We may see things that wasn’t intended for us. Actual dialogue rarely happens, and it isn’t difficult to find ourselves the bottom of a dog-pile if we share an opinion that on this particular post is in the minority.

Quick, easy access to news that isn’t always accurate or current
I try really hard not to ever post or share news without double or triple-checking to make sure it is accurate and current. I know I’ve slipped up, and it can be really easy to click share before confirming something. At the very least, even if the news we see is accurate, it probably reflects the beliefs of its source; at the worst, it can be absolutely false. For a while I used Facebook as a news source, but I’ve given that up. I’m going to have to go elsewhere to check it anyway, so might as well start with a more trust-worthy source.

It creates and exacerbates depression and anxiety
Depending on the day and time, we may be flooded with negative images, bad news, and scary prospects. The folks I work with say on a regular basis that they feel worse after looking social media. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in psychology to realize social media may be significantly impacting us in some pretty negative ways.

These days I don’t pay much attention to the news on Facebook, at least that of the political variety. If you post pictures of your furry critters, I guarantee at least a like. I post plenty of my own. I pay much more attention to the “lighter” posts, or the posts made by individuals I actually know that has actual content in it. I also limit myself to how much time I spend on it. I urge you to consider how and how much you use social media, and the potential negative effects it may be having on you. Connection with others online is fine, but connection with another individual (or furry critter!!!) in the same space in time with you is better. Way better. So quit chatting (or arguing) on social media and talk to the real person who is sitting across the table from you. Seriously, if you are in a restaurant with someone stay off your phone. Close up the cyberworld and live in the real world. It matters.