My Rock


My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
Psalms 62:7 NLT

https://bible.com/bible/116/psa.62.7.NLT

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WHO am I?

I am Mommy to four very special kids. They are 10, 6, 4, and 2. I have been married to my soul mate and father of my children for almost 11 years. I was an elementary teacher and am now a tutor for students with a wide range of needs. I love helping others and tutoring is one way I can do that. It is also the reason I started my blog.

I have lived with trichotillomania since age 6. In the past 24 years I have tried every treatment, strategy, medication, and therapy. I still pull, but I use strategies I know work for me. I do hope to overcome this demon, but its presence in my life will not keep me from loving myself and enjoying life. Everyone is fighting some battle or has hurts that we do not see. It is learning to live despite these trials that I find very important.

Personally, I seek recovery while still accepting the reality of trich. There is no right or wrong way to view or live with trich. I simply blog about my experience in hopes of helping others feel less alone.

The Best ACT: Designed for Trich

Trichotillomania: An ACT-enhanced Behavior Therapy Approach Therapist Guide (Treatments That Work)

By Douglas W Woods, Michael P Twohig:

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Amazon Product Description
Trichotillomania (TTM) is a complex disorder that is difficult to treat as few effective therapeutic options exist. Behavior therapy has the greatest empirical support, but the number of mental health providers familiar with TTM and its treatment is quite small. This manual was written as a tool for therapists to become familiar with an effective treatment for TTM. The treatment approach described in this guide blends traditional behavior therapy elements of habit reversal training and stimulus control techniques with the more contemporary behavioral elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Unlike traditional interventions that aim to change type or frequency of pulling-related cognitions in the hopes of reducing urges to pull hair, this innovative program uses strategies to change the function of these cognitions. Clients are taught to see urges for what they really are and to accept their pulling-related thoughts, feelings, and urges without fighting against them. This is accomplished through discussions about the function of language and defusion exercises that show the client how to respond to thoughts about pulling less literally. Over the course of 10 weeks, clients learn to be aware of their pulling and warning signals, use self-management strategies for stopping and preventing pulling, stop fighting against their pulling-related urges and thoughts, and work toward increasing their quality of life. Self-monitoring and homework assignments keep clients motivated and engaged throughout. Designed to be used with older adolescents and adults, this innovative intervention has proven efficacy and is sure to be a powerful tool for the clinician who treats TTM.

ACT Therapy: Acceptance

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ACCEPTANCE: allowing urges, emotions, thoughts and feelings to occur without attempts to control them.

Acceptance does NOT mean a hopeless acceptance of the fact you have trichotillomania.

ACT is an acceptance-based, behaviorally oriented therapy.  It was first proposed by Hayes et. al. (1999), but I believe Dr. Woods is the first to study treating ttm with ACT.

ACT Therapy � TLC Retreat Notes
Credit Sue Price notes – TLC Conference Session

TLC Retreat Session September 2002
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Douglas Woods, Ph.D.

Why work on acceptance? Dr.Woods conducted an online study which showed that pullers who are less accepting of private events tend to have stronger urges to pull and more severe pulling. [I found the concept of “private events” confusing at first. From what I can tell, it’s anything that happens inside you that you experience privately. As he said: thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges].

People follow rules not experience. He cited a study where people played a slot machine that was rigged to never pay off for the player. The people who were told that the machine WOULD pay off eventually, played longer than the people who were not told anything. The point is, people follow rules over their experience.

Where this fits in with trich: the rule is, “if you feel bad, get rid of it.” This is what society teaches us. This works well in many situations (if the kids are too noisy, send them outside; if someone is tailgating you, change lanes, etc.).  But this does not work with private events such as feelings. Trying to just get rid of bad feelings, urges, etc. does not work long term. But we keep doing this anyway because that’s the rule we’ve been taught.

ACT breaks down rules by emphasizing experiential exercises over verbal rules. The idea is that the person accepts that while the rule they’ve been taught is “get rid of it”, their experience shows that this has not worked, and then they can learn a willingness to experience those private events. [Side note: the addiction book that I’ve found so helpful makes similar points: that our society teaches us that feeling bad is intolerable, to be avoided, and if you feel bad you must do something to stop feeling bad RIGHT AWAY. This is the kind of thinking that fosters addiction, and changing this way of thinking and being willing to FEEL bad is a major part of combating addiction.]

Steps to Acceptance

1. Creative Hopelessness

Focuses on getting the person to see that attempts to stop, alter or avoid private events such as thoughts, emotions or feelings have been unsuccessful. Pulling is often another way to avoid or control private events. He asked us to think about an uncomfortable private event that we’re dealing with right now. He asked how we tried to deal with it. The common answers people gave were: avoided thinking about it, distracting themselves from it, and denial. We confirmed that none of these things work long term in dealing with the private event. It comes back.

2. Willingness

Focuses on getting the participant to be willing to experience negative or uncomfortable private events. If trying to control private events is the problem, willingness to experience uncomfortable feelings may be a solution.

– Willingness is not the same as “wanting”. He had a “Joe the Bum” metaphor (acknowledging that “bum” is not PC.) Say you are having a party that all your neighbors are invited to, and everyone is having a great time. Then Joe the Bum shows up. You don’t want him there, nobody likes him, he’s dirty, he’s smelly. But if you spend your time trying to physically keep him out, you won’t be enjoying your party. But if you are WILLING to accept that he’s there and not fight it, even though you don’t WANT him there, you can still enjoy your party.

– Willingness is all or nothing

3. Diffusion

He said that even if urges etc. are not originally language-based, they become so because WE are language-based. (There was a lot of clinical stuff he went over making this point.) We need to understand language for what it is, and that words are powerful only because we let them be. This step is about de-literalizing private events. We did two exercises to illustrate this.

First he asked us what we associate with the word “milk”. We said white, cold, frothy, things like that. Then he has us say, out loud,”milkmilkmilkmilkmilkmilkmilk. . .” over and over. (Try it, it’s physically not easy to keep this up!) Picture an entire room of us saying it over and over, and he had us keep it up for what seemed like forever. When he finally stopped us, he said, “I bet you’re not thinking of that white frothy stuff anymore.”

The idea is that “milk” made us think of the white frothy stuff, but only because of what WE associate with that word. By repeating the word over and over, we de-literalized it. It became just a word, the letters m-i-l-k. Similarly, an urge that’s felt as “I need to pull” can be de-literalized by repeating “I need to pull I need to pull I need to pull” until they are just words, not something that must be acted on. Those words don’t have power unless we give it to them.

The second exercise is to imagine you are watching a parade and a band is marching by. Imagine that your thoughts, whatever’s bothering you, are written up on cards that the band members are carrying. And just watch those “thoughts on cards” go past you.  Acknowledge them but separate yourself from them.

4. Understanding the Self

Who are “you?” Who is your “self?”

– Conceptualized Self: who do we say we are? What do we stand for? How do we see ourselves? (we typically think of this as our only self, and defend it)

– Knowing Self: the “self” that is experiencing events as they are occurring

– Observing Self: the “self” that has always been and always will be. He made an analogy to a chessboard: I am the board, not the game that is happening on it. Whatever happens on the board does not have to affect me.

5. Valuing

– You have the ability to choose your behavior. You must choose to move in your valued direction.

– What do you value? What do you want your life to stand for?

– Need to make psychological room for private events while you move your life in the valued direction.

[I think an example of what he means by the last item is: a valued direction for me, is not pulling. By trying to move my life in that valued direction, I will have uncomfortable private events and I need to accept this and be ready for this.

He also said:

-Committed Action Invites Obstacles (disguised as private events)

– The Journey in the Valued Direction involves fear and action. So I take it as, anything I do to move my life in a direction I value(trich-related or not) can bring up private events that will be uncomfortable. He is saying “choose to move in your valued direction” while experiencing these private events.]

**The idea is to combine acceptance techniques with other behavior therapy procedures. A clinical study showed this is effective, based on five different measures of pretreatment and post treatment hair pulling.

For more info, this book is very helpful:

Trichotillomania: An ACT-enhanced Behavior Therapy Approach Therapist Guide (Treatments That Work), March 31, 2008, by Douglas W Woods and Michael P Twohig

ABC’s of Trich

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Awareness

Be aware of your triggers – study yourself. Is it food, stress, boredom? Where are you when you pull, what are you doing when you pull? Are you driving, reading, watching TV, at the computer, in bed, in the bathroom, looking in the mirror? Be aware of what your hands are doing. Be aware of when the urge hits. Be aware of when you pull. Stay present. Don’t let yourself get into the pullers’ trance.

 

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Barriers

 

Have your barrier of choice readily available, anywhere, any time.

-I have lightweight driving gloves and a squishy fidget the car.

-I wear jewelry that I can play with and keep fidgets all around my house and in my purse.

-I wear a bandana and bandaids or gloves when I do anything that may lead to unconscious pulling such as reading, watching T.V. or using my tablet.

-If my head is irritated I will an ice pack on my head or soak my hair in a tea tree and rosemary essential oil treattment for my itchy scalp (it soothes my scalp and prevents pulling)

Scalp oil treatment for itchiness and hair growth

3 parts grapseed oil, 3 parts hemp seed oil, 2 parts jojoba oil, 2 parts argan oil, 1 part castor oil, 1 part olive oil, tea tree and rosemary essential oils

Commitment

We must accept that progress is not always linear and commit to working at it consistently. Taking 2 steps forward only to take 5 back is not something to despair. All that work was not in vain; each good day fortifies our strength. We are practicing and fine tuning our awareness and use of strategies we have learned along this treacherous jouney. Progrss is through continued commitment to fight and use the strategies we know help us. We must keep coming back to fight this thing, and not be discouraged.
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When God Doesn’t Move the Mountain

Why can’t I  stop pulling my hair?

Why do I still have manic episodes?

Why does this cloud of depression try to consume me?

 I know God can heal me. The creator of the universe can do anything. So I wonder, will He ever heal me? I pray and pray and try to fight through His strength. Some days are better than others, but the bottom line is that these strongholds are the anchors trying to drag me down.  I am the child of the one true King and nothing the devil throws at me will change my unwavering faith and love for my God, my Savior, and my closest Friend.

Through my most recent manic episode that lasted about four months, I have begged for healing.  Through my prayers and seeking God through His Word, I keep getting the same message.  There is a purpose for my pain. God will use me and my struggles in His time. I know His plans are perfect and He is preparing me for what lies ahead.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about his disability. Paul is the guy with an insurmountable faith. He commanded people to be healed in the name of Jesus, and they were healed instantly. He told a demon to flee simply  because he was annoyed, and the demon fled. Paul clearly lacks no faith. He’s the guy that could say to a mountain, “move,” and it would have to move. He says:

“…I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then He told me,

‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift.”  {2 Corinthians 12:7-12}

The poster child of faith could not pray his own disability away. Three times he prayed, using a level of faith that is hard to wrap my mind around…and God still said no. God wanted Paul to rely on His grace to make it through, not on Paul’s own ability. God wanted to bring Paul to his knees so that he would have to rely on Him to get by.

But sometimes God says no.

You don’t have to tell yourself that the faith you just tried so hard to muster up, so intensely that it made you physically sick, wasn’t enough. That if you could just try a little harder, you could make God change the situation. That you could somehow control God.

Because, surprisingly, it’s incredibly comforting to know that God can say no. And he does, often. There’s strength in knowing we can’t control His decisions, and that the outcome does not always, in fact, depend on our level of faith.

And there’s strength in knowing that sometimes God doesn’t move the mountains, simply because He wants us to rely on Him to climb them.

A Purpose for Your Pain

I no longer wish I never had trich or bipolar disorder. Although both come full of pain and suffering, there is another side. Working through my struggles has made me the person I am today. I don’t know if I would have the same faith, spirit of perseverance, or compassion. I think my best traits have been developed through my pain. God did not cause my suffering, but He will use it for good.

I still hope to be pull free, but I am happy now as I am. My moods are relatively stable and I have settled on a set of meds that works for me. I still pull, but it does not rule my life. Yes, I do spend a considerable amount of time practicing awareness and coping strategies. However, I do not feel like less of a person because I do this or because I am missing some hair.

Everyone has some form of struggle in their life. Learning to use that suffering for good is the key to moving through it and finding a purpose for your pain.

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Your Pain Often Reveals God’s Purpose for You

BY RICK WARREN — NOVEMBER 25, 2014

Your pain often reveals God’s purpose for you. God never wastes a hurt! If you’ve gone through a hurt, he wants you to help other people going through that same hurt. He wants you to share it. God can use the problems in your life to give you a ministry to others. In fact, the very thing you’re most ashamed of in your life and resent the most could become your greatest ministry in helping other people.
Who can better help somebody going through a bankruptcy than somebody who went through a bankruptcy? Who can better help somebody struggling with an addiction than somebody who’s struggled with an addiction? Who can better help parents of a special needs child than parents who raised a special needs child? Who can better help somebody who’s lost a child than somebody who lost a child?
The very thing you hate the most in your life is what God wants to use for good in your life.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1, verses 4 and 6, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things” (NLT).
This is called redemptive suffering. Redemptive suffering is when you go through a problem or a pain for the benefit of others.
This is what Jesus did. When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t deserve to die. He went through that pain for your benefit so that you can be saved and go to Heaven.
There are many different causes for the problems, pains, and suffering in your life. Sometimes the stuff that happens you bring on yourself. When you make stupid decisions, then it causes pain in your life. If you go out and overspend and buy things you can’t afford and presume on the future, and then you go deeply in debt and lose your house, you can’t say, “God, why did you let me lose my house?” You can’t blame God for your bad choices.
But in some of your problems, you’re innocent. You’ve been hurt by the pain, stupidity, and sins of other people. And some of the pain in your life is for redemptive suffering. God often allows us to go through a problem so that we can then help others.

 

What Are You Made Of?

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.

Why did you spill the coffee?

“Well because someone bumped into me, of course!”

Wrong answer.

You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.

Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.

*Whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out.*

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled.

*So we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?”

When life gets tough, what spills over?

Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility?

Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?

You choose!

Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation; and kindness, gentleness and love for others.

Recovery Thinking: Love and Healing

Love is the power that transforms your life. Try to love your family and your friends and then try to love everybody that you possibly can, even the “sinners and publicans” – everybody. Love for God is an even greater thing. It is the result of gratitude to God, and it is the acknowledgement of the blessing that God has sent you. Love for God acknowledges His gifts and leaves the way open for God to shower yet more blessings on your thankful heart. Say, “Thank you, God,” until it becomes a habit.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may try to love God and all people. I pray that I may continually thank God for all His blessings.