Friday, August 7, 2015

Just Show Up

We’ve all seen them in our facebook newsfeed…
Heartbreaking posts from someone who has lost a loved one or diagnosed with cancer or enduring financial hardship, or painful divorce…the list goes on. And as women, we deeply desire to comfort these broken hearts through words.
But can I honestly say, there is one repeated comment I see on facebook…over and over again. I cringe when I see it. And then I cringe again.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
Have I ever told a hurting person this in the past? Unfortunately yes. But I have learned through my own trials a better way to comfort.
Four years ago, I was struggling through a very difficult time in my life both physically and mentally.  I had to take a 4 month sabbatical from my counseling job and was unable to care for my 3 small children without constant outside help from family and friends.
For a high functioning, dependable woman who had worked since 11 years old, I can not begin to express how painfully discouraging my inability to quickly “pick myself” up was at this point.
On a Saturday afternoon I watched an unrecognized car pull in my driveway. It was Sherry, our secretary, who lived in the town nearby. When I opened the door she lovingly explained, “Melissa, I was out picking blueberries with my grandchildren and I wanted to bring some to you for your kids. They are already washed.”
They were already washed.
Tears are running down my face as I type– thinking about that white colander of washed berries, ready to set on my table for my children to eat. Because of my health, standing at my kitchen sink washing fruit was a chore…yes a chore. I am sure there many of you that can relate. So those washed blueberries were very meaningful to this mama.
That life touching experience taught me a very significant life lesson….
Too many times, we wait for a struggling person to ask for help. They may need someone to help put laundry away or take their children for a few hours so they can rest. Unfortunately, their mental and physical energy may be too low to be able assign us to these needed tasks. Or they may not want to feel like a burden or even know what they need. That’s why we just have to SHOW UP, look around and offer to do what’s needed without being asked.
Are there some people who are very private and possibly offended by help? Yes. And we want to respect their boundaries.
But who could seriously be angry at a plate of brownies or a pot of soup? My bet–they’ll be grateful.
Here are some simple ways to help a struggling person in their day-to-day life.
  • Take them a meal- it doesn’t have to be fancy!
  • Drop off some groceries
  • Walk their dog
  • Take their kids for a few hours
  • Cut their grass or weed flower beds
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean dishes in their sink
  • Offer to run errands for them
  • Drop off a cup of their favorite coffee
  • Make a fruit and veggie tray for their kids.
I know this post is not necessarily about overcoming a specific hardship. But I hope this post can offer to each of you a purpose in your suffering–to learn how to comfort others. (2 Cor 1:4, Gal. 6:2)
Contributing Article to Comfy in the Kitchen
Written by Melissa Yoak

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stigma and Robin Williams

Precious Robin Williams and the other one million people who killed themselves worldwide this year, I grieve for you.

I grieve that you felt so hopeless that in your mind there was no other choice but death.

I grieve for the families you leave behind.  They must have so many unanswered questions.

I grieve that your depression and/or anxiety won the fight.

These past few days, we all have been bombarded with Facebook posts, blogs, quotes, and debates---all related to whether or not suicide is selfish or whether or not depression is a disease or a choice. In my mind I ask...who cares? Does it really matter?  Someone who feels so hopeless and helpless that they will purposely terminate their own life makes my heart break.  It drives my desire to help hurting people even more - cry with them, pray with them, assure them they are going to get to the other side of the pain.

Unfortunately, there is still a great societal stigma on mental illness, counseling, and therapy.  As a therapist, I see it. 

All. The. Time.

Many clients will start off their first session describing how embarrassed they are, or how weak they feel to have to see a counselor.  Others will continually make sure that everything they say is confidential so no one ever finds out that they are in therapy.   I even had someone remark how grateful they were that our building was on a private road so they were not seen walking in. 
This stigma is what discourages an untold amount from getting help and thereby increases depression...anxiety...suicide.

How can you help change this?  Share with others your own counseling experiences. Tell someone how medicine may have helped you with depression or anxiety. Normalize a new mom's struggles with your story of postpartum depression.   

If you know someone who needs therapy, offer to take them to their first appointment and affirm their decision to get help.

And to that person who needs help:

You are not crazy, 
You are not inadequate, 
You are not weak. 

Mental illness, depression, sadness - whatever you are going through, there are millions struggling with it too. Counseling, therapy, or meeting with a pastor can help. I have seen it work many times. The Bible says “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel."  Proverbs 1:5

On a side note, if you know anyone who is emotionally or mentally struggling, help them in simple ways.  Take them a meal.  Insist on helping with laundry or clean their bathroom.   Bring them groceries.  Those who have been depressed or severely anxious, know all too well how basic daily tasks can be an exhausting struggle.

Written by Melissa Yoak, MA, LPCC
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Melissa Yoak holds a Master of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Akron and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Malone University. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). She is married to a minister of a local church and the mother of three children.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To Everything There is a Season

With another possible winter storm predicted to hit this side of the U.S. next week, and an unusually hard winter, it feels like spring will never come.

But we know it eventually will. 

For those of you who are struggling with depression, grief, a strained marriage, be encouraged that your "spring" will come too. It may seem on some days that you will never move forward, you will always hurt, you will always feel stuck in the same painful place and at times life may seem hopeless. 

But please keep on fighting.  Please press on (Philippians 3:14).

Because nothing remains the same. Life is always changing. King Solomon declares there will be many seasons of our life--"A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;"  Ecclesiastes 3:14. 

As time goes by, these painful life circumstances will change. 

And these circumstances will change you.  

We are encouraged in Romans 5:3-4 to see that "tribulations worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:." These difficult times will eventually strengthen us so much that we will have hope.  Hope my friends!  What a promise!
And then Spring comes...

Written by Melissa Yoak, MA, LPCC, director of DaySpring Counseling.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"We just can't communicate..."

Communication is one of the primary presenting issues reported by couples to counselors. They identify arguing about everything from finances to parenting to what color to paint the house. Often we will hear a wife or a husband state, "we just can't communicate about anything anymore.

But the majority of the time, communication is not really the problem for these couples. When they were dating, engaged, first married, their communication was great.  They could sit for hours and talk about anything and everything without negative exchanges. Something happened along the way disrupting the smooth communication line between these individuals.

So what is the real problem? What is underlying these "communication" issues? Emotional disconnection.  Relational insecurity.  The needs of each partner are not being met in the relationship.  For example, Michelle needs to hear often from her husband Kevin how much he loves and needs her.  When Michelle doesn't hear this from Kevin, she starts to question his love for her and becomes insecure in the relationship withdrawing more and more.  Kevin who feels this withdrawal attempts to pursue Michelle, desperately wanting to feel connected to his wife, telling her he needs more physical intimacy.  Michelle becomes angry and withdraws even more as she can't believe her husband would expect more sex.  Kevin becomes hurt and angry at his wife's rejection to be intimate.  Both feel unloved.  Both feel insecure in their marriage.  Therefore, any attempt at communication, even about minor things, becomes a major battle.

If you and your spouse are struggling with communication,  evaluate whether it is related to a bigger issue by asking yourselves these questions:

  • "Do I feel secure in our relationship?"
  • "Do I feel my major love needs are being met?"
  • "Is this really about my spouse or is this about my childhood or past?"

By answering "yes" to any of the above questions , you have identified underlying problems that could use some work in yourself and/or your marriage. With this awareness, choose today to respond more positively to your spouse endeavoring to meet their needs.  Most importantly, show your imperfect flawed spouse grace. The same kind of grace you would want shown to imperfect flawed you.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Couples Counseling 101

Do you and your spouse constantly struggle with communication? Are you feeling less and less connected to him/her? Are your interactions becoming more negative? These are major warning signs of a relationship in trouble and possibly on the road to failure.

If wishes could be granted, my wish would be that as soon as a couple see warning signs in their marriage they would seek help...immediately!    Immediately! Do not pass Go...Do not collect $200....

Unfortunately this is not always the case. When many couples have waited to see me, they have allowed years of issues to fester.  These issues breed feelings of resentment and bitterness which grow at an almost exponential rate. Before I can even begin to help a couple with the original problems, we have to work through the years of built-up resentment and bitterness.  Some couples greatly struggle just to work through these feelings...

Counseling should NOT be the "last ditch" effort, the "fast food drive-thru" if you will, before meeting with the divorce attorney.  If you and your spouse are struggling, I strongly encourage you to seek help.  Whether the help be from a professional counselor or a pastor, please do not put it off.   You may save yourself years of heartache and regrets!

Lastly, I am a huge proponent of preventative medicine!  Research shows that the best time to do couples counseling, marital therapy, or marital enrichment is when things are going well!  Yes!  You heard me! When spouses feel good about each other they feel safe in the relationship and thereby want to make their relationship even better!   

Written by Melissa Yoak, LPCC, director of DaySpring Counseling.  Melissa specializes in working with couples and families.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Counseling?

You could be feeling overwhelmed or depressed.  Perhaps you're experiencing anxiety or uncontrolled anger.  Maybe you find yourself constantly fighting with your spouse.   Then someone suggests, "Have you thought about talking to someone?"

Before you take this suggestion negatively, become offended and/or wonder if you are crazy...know something very important....counseling is good for everybody!

Yes, that is exactly right...counseling is and should be for everyone.

Who is without pain in this life?  Family and friends die.   We all are under a lot of stress. Unless you are the one of the very few lucky couples in the world, marriages can face a lot of challenges.  Not to mention the tug of war that parents feel pulled in while making decisions for their children.

So what can counseling offer in these circumstances?

1.  Perspective
In a nut shell, it is sometimes really difficult to see outside of ourselves.  Even if we are introspective, sometimes we just miss that one small way of looking at something differently.  A counselor can be that objective voice that guides us to see our circumstances in a different light.   In the marital game of "you are the problem," a counselor can really help couples see each person's part in their marital problems.

2.  Support
Many people don't have a support system. No spouse. Uninvolved parents.  No friends.  Or, their life may be full of these relationships but they don't feel they can be vulnerable or supported in these relationships.  Counselors can offer the support through encouragement and validation of feelings that is needed.

3. Reparenting
Parents are largely responsible for imparting wisdom to their children.  Unfortunately, if parents don't have wisdom, they don't have it to give to their children.  These children then grow into adults in need of healthier thinking patterns and effective ways to communicate.  Counseling can offer this guidance that helps people to "reparent" themselves in a positive way.

And one final important thought: counseling is Biblical.

Sometimes clients come to our office feeling somewhat embarrassed or ashamed for being in therapy.  They think that somehow they are crazy or inadequate    That's when Proverbs 1:5 becomes really handy...  "A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel."