Holiday Survival Guide

by Nikki Vinsant @ December 7, 2009, 10:51 am

So the holidays are here again and for many of us we visualize it as a time of joy, happiness and release from work demands. We picture the perfectly decorated home, smiling family portraits, children singing and dancing around with glee, opening of ornately wrapped gifts, and carolers singing in perfect harmony on our doorsteps.

If only it were that easy, right? The reality of this time is the stress and anxiety that is brought about with all of the event planning, home decorating, the school pageants, shopping, cooking and baking, finding the perfect gift (that is within our budgets which have already been pushed to the max), the family members that we dread seeing, the weight we have gained over the last year, finding something to wear since we never have time or money to do any real shopping for ourselves, the holiday office parties that will produce hours of awkward conversations and forced smiles, and the list goes on and on….

This time of year we seem to be bombarded with messages telling us we have to have all the pieces in place for a perfect holiday or we will (in some way or another) be the cause of the chaos and stress for everyone we are with. Oh and not just one individual seems to hold us to this, but many, many of our various neighbors, friends, family and colleagues. This can be extremely stressful and frustrating because it can make a potentially happy and connected time of year unnecessarily stressful. We seem to be getting further away from the most important part of the holiday season – the connection and time spent with those we love. People think that spending money and buying gifts is a substitute for love and intimacy. Ironically, most individuals would ultimately prefer the latter.

So, how do we keep ourselves sane and actually find some happiness throughout the holiday season? Well, here are some tips I find helpful for surviving the holidays:

1. Realistic Expectations – Don’t expect everything to be perfect. You won’t get everything you want, things will go wrong, and you probably won’t feel like Bing Crosby singing “Jingle Bells”. Allow for mishaps and don’t create expectations that you or others are not going to live up to unless you become a cartoon character that lives in an enchanted castle.
2. Loneliness – Some of us may not be around as many of our friends and family this year and that can cause us to feel lonely and depressed. There are many events going on that you can volunteer with, go window shopping without purchasing anything, enjoy strolling around the neighborhood looking at decorations, get yourself out and about to help with the lonely feelings.
3. Gratitude – Don’t focus on the material things, but the things that matter most to us – our relationships. Take a moment everyday to make a gratitude list of what you most appreciate and what you really need to feel fulfilled in life. You will soon find that recognizing the simple things that you are grateful for can improve your outlook.
4. Intentions – We may find ourselves zipping through the holidays in a blind rush, forgetting what the season is truly about. Whatever your beliefs, pause for a moment and consciously consider what you feel the holidays are about, what is important to you. This may be spending time with family and friends, remembering what you are thankful for, or giving to those in need. There is no right or wrong intention, just whatever feels right to you. Live your truth. The holidays are a great time to think about your mission statement for life for the next year. Ask yourself, “ Is this the life I want to be living?”
5. Boundaries – Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Holiday stress can come from many places, not the least is overbooking yourself and your family. Many of us feel like we cannot say no; that it is not polite or nice. This is not true! You have the right to set healthy boundaries for yourself and your family. Fatigue, over-scheduling, and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits. Learn to say no and don’t feel guilty. Try delegating as much as possible and manage your time wisely. If you choose to do less you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season – friends and family.
6. Self-Care – Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness; aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.
7. Awkwardness – After the first moments of hellos, how have you been, catch-up and remembrances of times past, topics of mutual interests often wane. If you are not into the football games or the never-ending health challenges of your three oh-so-favorite aunts, you may often find yourself feeling awkward. One of the worst things you can do is fill your time with negative self-talk inside your mind as you stew over hearing these things and are creating a miserable time for yourself. But the worst thing is to drink too much for your own management and make a fool of yourself that you will have to live down the rest of your life. A great stress reducer is to start a puzzle, play games of chess or checkers, or some other option in which you can appreciate each other more.
8. Toxic Food – Okay, I will be the first to admit that I love holiday treats, but one of the worst foods you can consume is processed sugar. The heavy doses of sugar will send you on a roller coaster with a significant downward spiral. A high level of consumption can result in a level of toxicity in your system, which even low-level allergies can begin to pledge you. Do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a depressant. I will say it again, ALCOHOL IS A DEPRESSANT. People with depression should not drink alcohol.
9. Memories – Holidays are significant anniversaries of events for us all. They remind us of people and times we enjoyed as well as regret. There are individuals we miss and missed opportunities that we wish could come again. Then there are also times we want to forget but the stage is set that the cues are so powerful we can’t seem to get the thoughts and images out of our minds. If we are successful in coping through those thoughts and images, don’t worry…. It never fails that someone (Cousin Eddie) will be sure to remind you and want to talk about them. Allow yourself the time to process, remember, and grieve if necessary.
10. Generosity – One of the best ways to stay calm, content and cheerful this time of year is to act generously with your loved ones, co-workers and friends. This doesn’t have to mean your spending a lot of money. You can be generous with your compliments. You can generously offer to do a loved one’s dreaded errand. You can generously write a fun, short poem. When you are creative with your gifts and thank you’s, people appreciate your real, heartfelt sentiment.
11. Forgiveness – Learn and practice forgiveness and acceptance. If some of your friends or relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won’t change. If you know what you’re getting into, it will be easier to not let them push your buttons. If things get uncomfortable go to a movie or for a drive and allow yourself time to regroup.
12. Put on some rose colored glasses – When people try to push their bad habits on you during the holiday season, tune into their motivations. For instance, before you get annoyed at Aunt Bessie, who keeps urging you to try a piece of her famous chess pie, or your co-worker Carla, who keeps trying to fill your glass with alcohol, first take a deep breath. Then, step into their shoes and realize that Aunt Bessie is just showing that she loves you, and Carla is merely trying to be convivial. Then graciously thank them for their misguided attention. Rather than view your situation with annoyance, be grateful instead.

And always remember to add some humor into your holidays. Laughter is great therapy in any situation. I sincerely hope your holidays are a wonderful time of year for you and your family. Take the time to create the experience you deserve and desire for yourself this holiday season.

If you are really struggling during this holiday season, take a look at Brookhaven Retreat’s website at You can also contact me on my personal cell at 865.712.4372 if you would like to know more about Brookhaven Retreat and what we can do to help ladies who are struggling.

About Brookhaven Retreat
Brookhaven Retreat is a unique, voluntary residential treatment facility specially designed to help women overcome emotional trauma or addiction challenges. The fully accredited and certified dual-diagnosis center is America’s premier treatment center for emotional trauma and addiction and offers female-specific treatment. Located on 48 beautiful acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, it offers modern, holistic care with compassion and respect from a highly trained expert staff of licensed therapists, physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses. Visit for more information.


Stuffing, Stuffing and More Stuffing!

by Pat @ November 24, 2009, 5:27 pm

Okay, I’m sitting here surrounded by piles and piles of crumpled note paper. I have got to get this menu finalized. The only consistent item on each page is the turkey and now after talking to Gretchen, the official health nut in the family I’m not really sure if I should do an organic turkey or a regular turkey. To be honest with you I want lasagna! Now that will go over like a ton of bricks! I can see it now, all eyes glued to my beautiful covered roaster and voila! Lasagna. Yeah, that’ll teach’em!!!

Get back to reality Miriam. If you don’t want heart attacks, World War III or a threat of divorce you need to get focused. Pies, cranberry sauce, stuffing, stuffing and more stuffing!!!!!!

Oh my goodness is it 25 or 26 counting uncle Joe’s new wife’s brother? Wait a minute that doesn’t include the kids’ table! Maybe I should do little lighted scarecrows for their table!

Every year I ask myself why my house? You know why Miriam! “ Oh Miriam, we can’t wait to see what theme you’re going to use this year, you are so crafty”, “ Miriam we love it when you have the little surprise gifts at each place setting”, “ “Hey, Miriam you make a mean spice punch.” “Oh my gosh, is this house really 10,000 square feet”?

You know what the problem is, Miriam can’t say no. She is overwhelmed and unappreciated. She really wants this year to be different. For some reason she takes on this paramount task right after Halloween to make sure her family feels like they could be experiencing the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. Complete with all the food and fanfare. Before the evening is over and once the family drama surfaces no one is sure if a lot of giving of thanks is involved in the Thanksgiving celebration.

Miriam spends way too much on decorations and the caterer then hides the receipts from her husband.

She calls and invites family members who constantly remind her husband that he is way too good for her and why doesn’t she get a job already!

She buys magazine after magazine looking for the best decorating ideas trying to be more over the top than last year.

She doesn’t call her favorite cousin and invite her because her husband’s sister can’t stand her.

She does have to invite her husband’s nephew who always shows up smashed with a case of

cheap champagne.

She prays that all four of her children will come, but she’s not quite sure about Matt, her oldest whom they haven’t heard from in weeks since he dropped out of law school and his dad told him he was a disgrace to the family.

Of course her husband’s personal assistant, Meagan will be there. Good old Meagan, who always looks like she just stepped out of a photo shoot. She never fails to capture everyone’s attention with one tale after another about how she managed to get my husband through yet another crisis while on their latest business trip. Nope, she doesn’t have to call her. For some reason Meagan has a personal invitation to all of their family functions lately. I bet she can’t make a mean spice punch!

This last thought reminds her that she has exactly two hours, to drink the last bit of her weekly stash before her husband gets home. She only buys enough for the week. She keeps telling herself, “this way I can keep tabs on it, whatever that means.” It sounds good!

The Thanksgiving holiday is days away. No one sees the anxious days and nights of preparation. No one sees the self –loathing and Miriam’s desperate need to feel accepted. No one sees the empty wine bottles that have to go out in the special trashcan at the end of the week.

This holiday season say no to others outrageous expectations, take time out for yourself, realize you can’t fix the world, pace yourself, and most importantly seek professional help if you become overwhelmed.


Don’t Fall Apart This Fall…

by kristin @ September 30, 2009, 10:07 am

The kids are back in school, the weather is getting colder, and while I set my day to make Halloween costumes and place my orders for Sally Foster wrapping paper, I just can’t.  I spend my mornings getting back in bed after the bus has faded from sight and when I finally commit to a shower I cry with the water for nearly an hour.  I don’t know what is going on.  I don’t know why I feel so empty, and I don’t know where “I” am. I feel blank.

Numb. Completely emotionless except for sadness.  Before I know it 2:30 p.m. creeps up on me and it is time again, time to put the smile back on my face and force myself to focus on homework, dinner, and doing everything I do so that people will not know that I am not okay.

I read “Goodnight Moon” to my youngest, but even she notices mommy is off her game.  “Mommy, read it like you used to, with the voices.” I explain to her, “Not tonight honey, mommy has a headache.”  She then replies, “I’m sorry mommy,” and gives me a kiss on my check and says, “I love you.”  I feel nothing.  I don’t feel connected at all.  I know I should, I just can’t.

I slide out of her room just in time to meet my husband in the hall who asks if his new pinstripe pants are back from the dry cleaner yet.  He has a big meeting tomorrow and really needs them.  I leer at him anduncontrollably reply, “You ask me that like you don’t know where they would be if I had.  If you wanted them that bad you should have picked them up on your way home.  I can’t read your mind.  How was I supposed to know you needed those by tomorrow?  You don’t appreciate anything I do around here.”

I move past him just in time to close my bedroom door behind me and start to cry.  I cry now because I don’t connect with my kids anymore, I don’t communicate with my husband anymore and I HATE myself for being so weak and pathetic. I have a beautiful family, a great house, everything I always wanted and I don’t appreciate it.  The reality is that they would all be better off without me. ..

These words are the words of so many women.  But why don’t we know that, or hear more about it?  The sad truth is that there is such a stigma in this country that mental health is scoffed at.  Depression is for the
weak, anxiety is for the unorganized and addiction, well that is for the truly pathetic.

The reality is that if more of us would be comfortable in our own skin, the good days and the bad days, we would find out that our neighbors, friends, and family members may know exactly what we are feeling.  And if they don’t, there are plenty of women out there that do.

The truly “weak”, “unorganized” or “pathetic” thing we can do is NOT get help for ourselves.  Hiding what we are feeling to disguise our emotions in an effort to “save face” is unfair to our families and all those around
us who do care.  When you feel like you are lost don’t give up. Give yourself permission to go find you!


Sleep, Sleep… Please Let Me Sleep…

by Jacqueline @ September 21, 2009, 9:46 am

I had times when I just could not sleep. It was some of my most fearful times. I would go to bed hoping I would be able to fall into some kind of slumber and sometimes I would fall to sleep only to find myself awake at 1am with my mind racing about all kinds of things. I just wanted my mind to stop working so I could experience the pleasure of just one good nights sleep. It just kept alluding me.
I tried everything but there I would be night after night wide awake. I felt so alone and things I would think of I could do nothing about. How memories plagued me. I would feel so much more afraid than I did in the day light.
Why, oh why, could I not just close my eyes and be asleep. I would feel exhausted in the day time but would get through the day. Yet I just knew when it came time to go to bed the struggle would start all over again. I felt so angry that this terrible torture would start every night but I could not find the answer.
No I did not have a sleep disorder. I did all the tests for that. It was so depressing and debilitating. I felt like I was walking dead in the day time. I started not to be able to feel anything at all in the day time but at night I could not stop my mind racing.
You cannot function in any meaningful way when you don’t sleep. I was afraid to take sleeping aids as I had heard so many stories of women who developed other difficulties as a result of that.
I finally knew I had to get help processing my trauma and fears because they were the reason I could not sleep. I learned about sleep hygiene and that my thoughts had to be peaceful for me to achieve at least some quality sleep every night. When a woman has emotional breakage she often does not know why she cannot sleep. It is a process to understand what it is that is keeping you awake. Some people have medical conditions which can be correctly treated medically so as to restore sleep. I was not one of those.
I am so grateful today that I sleep every night and don’t prowl around in the dark waiting for the next disaster to happen. If this happens to you do not give up. Take the time to find out what the source of your night time discomfort is through a therapeutic process and see if you can get a sleep pattern re-established. Talking to a professional therapist may help you more than you know. You may need a little pharmaceutical  support for a time.
Don’t just spend night after night in racing thoughts and imaginings that may never happen. Get a medical diagnosis to rule either in or out any medical disorder you might have.
Some women just need a complete break from the demands of life to process and re-establish a sleeping balance again.
Sleeping is a healthy gift. If you have lost the gift of sleep don’t just accept that is the way things are always going to be. Check all the therapies that might work for you.
Try not to use unhealthy methods to sleep such as alcohol. This will perpetuate the cycle.
Sleep can be regained.


Don’t judge somebody who takes their life

by Jacqueline @ September 10, 2009, 1:12 pm

It has taken me many years to be able to talk about this and it took my mother many years to tell me what happened.

As a young child my mother told us our father had had a shooting accident. There was no reason to question her. As I got older I wanted to know more about it and really did not know the full truth until I was 30.

My father had taken his life under the influence of alcohol after a disappointment. A young man with a lovely wife and a family of young children.

He could not have possible thought of what that was going to mean for everybody else that was left alive after the event.

I have often wondered what his state of mind was when that took place as I look at the photo’s of this happy handsome man. Things happen to people that simple make them feel hopeless and depressed. When a person gets into that mind spinning place they just cannot manage the feeling it has generated so it makes then just want to sleep. To just escape from the racing thoughts that seem to have so much fear attached to them.

When a person feels this way and even expresses it please know it is serious.

Today it is very easy to die. Many people know they are unwell and get help from a doctor to try to stabilize the mood. The trouble is people start adjusting their medications, some have prescriptions for several doctors each not knowing that several doctors are being seen.
When the feeling becomes overwhelming it is easy to just take too much. However when it’s over it’s over and there is no coming back.

I have known very lovely and wonderful people who have just become that overwhelmed with hopelessness that the only option they could see was to take this course. If only they could have got the help they needed to be processed and helped to have what had become distorted thinking moved to another emotionally healthy place.

Nobody can ever know what is going on in somebody’s mind when this happens or could have thought they would actually go through with it. The guilt and shame that is left for others afterwards can lead them to becoming ill also.

If you are feeling this way please reach out for help. It is usually a combination of events and experiences that have happened that have led to this deep depression, some things are almost impossible for you to talk about. By taking time out and being in a safe place you can find the opportunity ant the tools to move forward. For many of our sad losses if they had had the clinical help they had needed things could have been very different.

For me today I believe my father was a wonderful man who for whatever reason had become lost and in his lostness just reacted. I do not believe he is less a person because of what happened. I just want other lost people to know that they can get the help they need to rebuild their self esteem and confidence and to process trauma and events that are just leaving them emotionally dead.

For me I have come to an acceptance that this was not an act of abandonment or rejection or a statement of not loving me. At that moment he was just not able to love himself.

Please, if you hear anybody you are close to speaking in a way that indicates they may take their life. Get them to a safe place immediately.


Cyber Tactics… Can They Kill You?

by Jacqueline @ September 1, 2009, 2:56 pm

The last 10 years or so has produced a communication change of such phenomenal proportion. Lots of two dimensional responsiveness that has almost made body language become out of date, eye to eye contact an occasional expectation and the development of a good strong handshake something of times past.

Over the last couple of years I have had a number of friends who have become victims of Cyber bullying but the fact is that it does not just remain bullying. One of my friends was embarking on a divorce when she suddenly started to receive a barrage of hate email from all kinds of email addresses. Turns out this was orchestrated by the would be ex to get the wife to just agree to the divorce terms.

This was very hurtful but what it started was a whole cycle of self doubt. The whole matter got completely out of hand and before anybody knew how serious it was my friend had taken an overdose. The mental and emotional damage took a person to a distorted place that made them feel that they just did not want to get up. This person was already trying to manage bi-polar which does not need anything to mess with it’s curve cycle.

Now we have these undisclosed bloggers who write anything they want about another person with seeming little consequence although in the news recently we have seen Google “man-up” the identity.

In the past people had to sign their names to things they said about another person so that person could defend themselves. No such privilege in the “blog sphere”. Who wants or chooses to afford to go all through the legal process it takes to bring the rampant writers to heel.

I have another friend who always says, “because you can does not mean you should”.  I have taken that to heart because when people do things to others just because they can and accountability and consequences are easy to hide from; often things that you don’t expect happen.

We know that jealousy and revenge are two great motivators and when those feelings are unleashed who knows what might happen. However the new arsenal of cyber weaponry which plays with the mind and the feelings is not a healthy thing to mixed up in.

If you feel tempted and angry and you just want to send a message to the whole world about a person, think twice as there are more and more people who are going to fight back. My mother always told me to ask myself before I spoke whether what I was about to say was wise, kind and necessary. If it wasn’t one of those three be careful.

I work with women that have become paralyzed with fear from cyber bullying have barely missed death by taking their own lives from the extreme anxiety this creates. One situation I knew about was a story of a woman who revealed some intimate secret about her husbands sexuality to a few friends. One of them chose to blog about it. The husband found out and allowed his brothers to rape his wife to teach her a lesson.
You can only contemplate how mentally sick all parties involved have become from this.

Who will regulate cyberspace remains to be seen. You on the other hand can regulate yourself.

If you are experiencing something frightening that is making you feel overwhelmed. Do not let it get out of control.  Seek professional help to manage yourself safely out of the situation.


I Never Wanted A Divorce

by Jacqueline @ , 9:26 am

Everybody seems to talk about the experience of divorce as an everyday happening.

When I was married I was firmly committed to the constitution of a life long relationship with a person. I believe that is part of the problem today; that people will accept a relationship in any form but not actually be committed to the constitution of the relationship. Do you know what type you are?

The impact of divorce is very significant and is very played down. I don’t know why somebody doesn’t provide divorce preparation classes.  Classes to really outline what the impact for the whole family is going to be at every level.

For women often their whole lives and identities are directly tied into their role as a wife and a mother. Their careers have usually been very secondary to their role of taking care of the children and supporting their husbands in their careers.

What about all the mutual friends. They hardly know what to do. If their are children then they are suddenly thrown into this world of double rhythm;  expecting one thing when they are with dad and another thing when they are with mum. No wonder we are all dealing with so many people who know how to manipulate. Often manipulation becomes the tool of choice as it’s the way to get more of what you want. The trouble is if you do not get what you want through healthier methods it’s only a matter of time until manipulation just spirals totally out of control and destroys everything in it’s path.

Some divorces are inevitable.  In my own case, we lost an adult child and something just happens to a couple that may have been previously very happy. There are some traumas and disasters that a relationship does not seem able to withstand.

Sometimes a problem seems overwhelming at the time causing lots of anger and pain even severe depression. Whilst all that is going on divorce can seem like a solution. The trouble is the down side of divorce is just not taken into account enough.

We have seen enormous strain on the family as we have all endured the economic crisis. Some have experienced tragic events such as losing their homes, jobs and savings which has created an emotional crisis of uncertainty. Many spend their days second guessing the “what if” scenario when in fact nothing can change what has already happened.

The impact of divorce can cause emotional and mental health illnesses that can last a life time and as life moves forward you might ask what you could have done to try to keep and protect the relationship you already had. The fact is there is no perfect relationship and to think there is… that is a fantasy, and don’t we all just love that fantasy.

What gets destroyed is your value system and their are very few programs that teach you to rebuild a value system as a stand alone person.

Do not be under any illusion. Divorce is a trauma. It feels like an abandonment often leaving the person numb and unable to feel when all is said and done.

The sad thing for women, particularly if they have been married for a length of time, is that they will experience an identity collapse if they don’t take the steps that need to be taken for them to know how to move forward.

Look at situations like Jon Kate plus 8.  Nobody really saw that coming although under that kind of scrutiny it’s a tall order for anybody could stand. My question remains the same though. Was Jon ever committed to the constitution of a life long relationship with Kate. Was this just a movie role that you could just walk away from when you were done.

The act of betrayal is devastating but sometimes the act of filing for a divorce is an impulse action of anger. It is often an action that is much regretted later. Many many times I hear of men who still love their first wives and don’t really understand how everything ended the way it did.

Divorce feels like a death and there is grief and mourning that take place. The rejection stays with you for the rest of your life because the memory is not disposable… it stays with you.  None of us can erase what our memory absorbs but we can process it so our thinking does not become distorted and our emotions out of control. If you feel you have just shut down and shut everybody else out you must tell somebody who you think will actively and compassionately listen.

Many women I know become very depressed after a divorce and once it has happened you can’t change the events. What you can do is try to find how to own yourself again. If you don’t own yourself you own nothing.

If you are a woman that is struggling there is no shame in getting professional help. Emotional breakage does not go away on it’s own, it will hang around sometimes to the point of not wanting to go on. Better to be a live dog than a dead lion.


Unexpected Goodbye

by Alumni @ July 20, 2009, 2:45 pm

I miss her. There’s a deep hole in my heart that only she could fill. How could she be gone? Why her? Why did this happen? How can I go on?

Maybe you’ve lost someone unexpectedly. Maybe you are grieving now. I’ve had these emotions myself after losing a best friend and countless relatives. At some point you may face personal tragedy. Some losses are expected, some are not. We often get caught up in this mentality that “it won’t happen to me”, and then if, or when it does, you are left shattered and bewildered. You may ask yourself, “how can I go on?” It would be nice to be able to turn to a book that tells you how to grieve, what to expect, and what timeline your feelings should follow. But the truth is, there are many ways to grieve, and just as the loss was unexpected, so too is the path of healing.

When I was fourteen, my grandma died from a heart attack. I idolized her. And so the news of her death hit me hard. I remember putting up a type of shrine in my room, pictures, things she had bought me, cards she had written. I even had a bottle of her perfume that I kept on a shelf so that I could smell her familiar scent and feel close to her. This is how I grieved.

When I was fifteen, my aunt was murdered by her husband who then killed himself, a murder-suicide. My grief reaction was the completely opposite from losing my grandma. I didn’t want anything of my aunt’s or to be reminded of anything that had happened. I was in such shock and utter disbelief that denial completely took over in our household. After the funeral it was like nothing had happened, but inside I was screaming that it did happen and what do we do now? This is how I grieved my aunt’s death…in silence.

When my best friend was killed in a crash, I was so angry at the person who hit her car and killed her. I went to the court hearings and wanted him to pay. I blamed him for all the hurt I felt. Granted, some of it was rightly placed on him, and the court punished him. But his sentence didn’t take away my hurt. It didn’t take away my anger. And so this is how I grieved at first–angry, and bitter, focusing on how life wasn’t fair.

There are many ways to grieve; some healthy and some unhealthy. One of the most healthy ways to begin healing is talking to someone. There are support groups, therapists that specialize in grief and loss, and there is Brookhaven Retreat that helped me come to terms with many of my losses and my depression from those losses. The therapists, activities, and fellow clients became my journey of healing. I encourage you to take that step. Brookhaven Retreat changed me life. It didn’t make all the hurt go away, but I learned about healthy grief. I learned that it is okay to mourn and to miss. And I learned that it feels better to finally let go of all the anchors of unresolved grief that hold us back.



The “Freshman-15″ isn’t the only thing to worry about

by kristin @ , 8:29 am

As I walked through Bed Bath & Beyond the other day I smiled at all the “decorate your college dorm” items that were on display.  The perfect comforter for the dorm, a stylish lamp that would light up study space, or the “starter” set of pots and pans that would heat up college classics like ramen noodles or mac and cheese.  I smiled reminiscing over my college days but also cringed over the dangerous fun that was a constant in the college world: binge drinking, experimentation with drugs, dangerous sexual escapades, and low self esteems.
I have heard the occasional story on 20/20 about the rise of binge drinking amongst college campuses but I haven’t paid particularly close attention to the statistics until now.  Since I joined the team at Brookhaven Retreat I have been disheartened by the number of college age women that seek support through our facility.  Even more shocking is that these women remind me of me and my friends when we were in college; they are beautiful, intelligent, and creative.  They have bright futures ahead of them yet easily fall victim to the atmosphere that is cultivated when you pair independence with exciting new adventures, and a lack of maturity that society does not expected nor required of you prior to the age of 22.
As we approach the back to school months, I brace myself for the Oct. and Nov. months.  Not because of the holidays, but because I fear that around that time our phones will be ringing off the hook with calls of concerns for young women who have been a victim of date rape, binge drinking, addiction and destroyed self esteem.  While it comforts me to know they have a place to go that can help them find their way back, it scares me this is not something we can prevent.  It almost seems inevitable in our society.
This norm we have dictated as a society is becoming increasingly dangerous, particularly to young women. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), reports that there was a 22% rise in binge drinking amongst college age women, which was nearly double the increase in college age men.  At the same time, 37% of college women said they drank on 10 or more occasions in the last month.
As common as “the drinking game” is in college, so is the drug scene.  While this isn’t a “new” thing, it is definitely becoming increasingly intense and dangerous as new drugs are continuously hitting the market and prescription drug abuse is at an all time high. A survey conducted by CASA of 2,000 students on 400 campuses, found a steep rise in abuse of prescription pain drugs by college students. Nonmedical use of narcotic drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin shot up 343% between 1993 and 2005; an alarming statistic.
As if binge drinking and drug abuse weren’t enough to worry about, young women entering into college need to also protect themselves from increasing rape statistics on campus, something hard to protect yourself from when you are intoxicated.  In fact, according to, one in five college women will be the victim of attempted or actual sexual assault during their college years, and 90 percent of these assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
With all these things to in constant occurrence, I can’t help but wonder what happens to these women’s self esteem.   It perplexes  me that while we are at college to gain knowledge that catapults our minds and spirits into a place of independence and maturity, it often does just the opposite for our own self image.  I remember getting my self esteem in college not from making an A on a paper or exam, but from whether or not I had a boyfriend or if the cutest guy in the bar wanted to flirt with me.  The sad part is that while now I can see how lame that mentality was, we all thought that way.  We all measured our worth internally the exact same way…and so did most girls on campus.   Sound familiar?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take away from anyone’s college experience and I hate to preach when I used to be a member of the choir, but times are changing and if I can save one girl by speaking out about this epidemic, I am okay with annoying 100.
As I get older, I still think of myself as a fun and outgoing person.  I am no prude that is for sure, but I do wish I knew in college what I know now…and I know for a fact I am not alone in that.  I can’t go back and change that at this point in my life, but those who have not lived it yet do have an opportunity to protect themselves from it.
The reality is though that many of us have to touch the stove to know it is hot and thinking we are invincible is almost as common as breathing, so if you or someone you know finds themselves in a situation that seems to be a giant contradiction of what they were actually looking for, and they feel lost or broken, encourage them to give us a call.  The staff at Brookhaven Retreat is always available to help you get back on the right track and rebuild from the inner you - out.


“What Happens Next?” Dealing with the aftermath of infidelity

by Nikki Vinsant @ July 17, 2009, 9:24 am

Recently USA Today published an article regarding South Carolina’s Governor Sanford’s wife, Jenny Sanford, and her intentions to “forgive” her husband.  Mrs. Sanford called the affair “inexcusable” but said she would forgive her husband and stated, “ I hope he can make good on those intentions (to save the marriage) and for the sake of our boys.”  For many, like Jenny Sanford, this is a terribly difficult decision to make and even more difficult to work through.  So many times women who are in this type of relationship turmoil undergo extreme emotional struggles with themselves.  Constantly questioning their own actions, appearance, etc. and many times blaming themselves for what has happened are just a few of the issues plaguing their minds.

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance in which Americans have been exposed to politicians’ extramarital affairs.  Other notable instances that come to mind would include the affair between North Carolina Senator John Edwards and Rielle Hunter which was revealed in 2006 and also noted in the New York Times.

Silda Wall Spitzer, wife of New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer is all too familiar due to her husband’s similar situation.  The New York Governor admitted to meeting with a prostitute in a hotel room.  He gave a statement while his loyal wife stood by his side.  How tragic and humiliating this situation is for anyone, but to then be ridiculed by the media while attempting to push through without tears is unbelievable.  Reuters calls this an example of another wife in a “Stand by Your Man Moment”.

Mrs. Spitzer’s stoicism and composure can also be compared to another female political figure that faced the wrath of the media during a similar situation, and known for “standing by her man”, Hillary Clinton.  Both women faced the situation in the spotlight and stayed beside their husbands, and also their children.  Both Clinton and Spitzer have been noted in “enabling” the secrets and lies their husbands have due to political campaigns and images to be upheld.  There were apparently a long string of women within the Clinton’s marriage.

All of these women possess the qualities that many women strive to attain, such as strength, loyalty, and willingness to forgive.  These women faced emotional turmoil with masked faces covering their tears and pain from the public eye.  Although they are the pictures of grace, they are women just like anyone with emotions and reactions that are very normal and justified in these circumstances.  These feelings are real and natural and it is important to recognize what to do with those feelings in the aftermath of heartbreak and infidelity.

Fifty-seven percent of men admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had. So it goes without saying that many women have experienced the same or similar emotions that these political women have.  It is by having support and working through your emotions and feelings that women can begin to heal and rebuild their self-esteem and self-worth after such a situation has occurred.  Emotional infidelity, compared to just physical infidelity, can inflict as much, if not more, hurt, pain and suffering.  And to make matters worse, most infidelity involves both physical and emotional betrayal. .

Remember that it is normal to feel betrayed, to feel hurt, and to feel pain; but in the midst of the turmoil we should remember not to turn to alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to numb the pain.  Instead try to focus on the positive.  Using these political figures as an example, they are attempting to move past the situation that has happened and salvage what they can of their relationship with their spouse.  They do have a family and children that will be affected by any and all decisions that come about from this event.  However, if there is no way to salvage the relationship, take time for yourself.  Do not make rash decisions and seek a counselor or therapist to discuss your feelings and emotions.  Many women bottle their feelings up to keep their children from witnessing them and becoming more upset.  Here are some suggestions for activities and forms of therapy to help you cope:
1.    Find a therapist you feel comfortable speaking with about how you are feeling and ask if they can even be available outside of normal business hours by telephone if you need to contact them.
2.    Surround yourself with people who love you.  Ask for help and support from family and friends.  Don’t be afraid of what they may think, these individuals truly love you and know that it is not your fault.
3.    Take some time off.  Going away for a while helps you gain clarity and strength.  Many of the women that come to Brookhaven Retreat are doing just that.  Taking a “time out” from the noise and stress in their daily life to regroup and refocus their personal lives.  You can view the website of Brookhaven Retreat at

Overcoming betrayal can be a long and painful process.  The road will not be easy.  It will not be quick, but it is a road we all must take in order to have peace within our life again.  In the aftermath of the cheating, the lies, the hurt we must channel our strengths and keep “the upper hand”.  You can view Elizabeth Edwards as a strong example of someone who is a master at channeling strength.  In the midst of battling cancer and her husband’s infidelity, she continued to push forward and is known for being a renowned philanthropist.  She has since penned memoirs of her life and experiences while remaining a respected public figure.  Silda Wall Spitzer is doing the same and moving on as an investor recruiter for Metropolitan Capital Advisors and making her Harvard Alma Mater proud.  Hillary Clinton, a Yale graduate and accomplished attorney, stood up and was a pillar of strength for many women to look to when she ran for president of the United States in 2008.  Hillary is currently serving as our Secretary of State.

These women found that getting out in the midst of other women and being an example was a way to cope with their struggles.  Talking is very therapeutic.  Speak to someone about how you feel.  Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.  You are not alone.  Get out there and channel that pent up energy into something positive for yourself and other women.

To find out more about taking time for yourself and how there are other amazing women who are asking for help and regaining their strength through Brookhaven Retreat you can also go to the Brookhaven Retreat Blog at

About Brookhaven Retreat
Brookhaven Retreat is a unique, voluntary residential treatment facility specially designed to help women overcome emotional trauma or addiction challenges.  The fully accredited and certified dual-diagnosis center is America’s premier treatment center for emotional trauma and addiction and offers female-specific treatment.  Located on 48 beautiful acres in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, it offers modern, holistic care with compassion and respect from a highly trained expert staff of licensed therapists, physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses.  Visit for more information.