Marriage Meetings: Not for Everyone?

“I’ve been married 38 years. Are you saying my husband and I need to hold a formal meeting when we’re doing fine?” a radio talk show host challenged me.

Up until this point her tone had been contentious while I focused on practicing active listening (1) and on staying composed. I couldn’t blame her for being contentious. Her job is to inform and entertain listeners. Who doesn’t enjoy hearing a little skirmish now and then along with some good sound bites?

“Are you saying there’s no room for growth in your relationship?” I asked, in a puzzled tone.
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Helping Children Cope When a Loved One Suffers from Mental Illness

I have a loved one that suffers with severe mental illness. He's a brilliant, beautiful, creative person who told spellbinding, captivating stories of far away places and taught me to not be afraid of the dark. But just as quick and easy as flicking a light switch on and off, our lives changed from moment to moment.

As a child I didn't understand. I remember thinking everyone's home was just like mine... a place where the stairs turned into an escalator only for the person who knew the magic word and where the cupboards were locked at night to keep out the mischief-making fairies.
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A Box Full of Darkness: Growing Up in the Shadow of BPD

Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver

I can’t remember now how I ran across this poem by Mary Oliver. I saved it, because the box-full-of-darkness metaphor seemed genius. As time went by, its relevance to my experience became clearer. The poem eventually served as an epigraph for my book Missing: Coming to Terms with a Borderline Mother.

First, here’s what I won’t be saying about these lines. I won’t say that all dark boxes become gifts. The loss of a child or debilitating pain or one’s own mental illness? Starvation? Violence? Are these gifts, or can they become gifts? It feels presumptuous to say so. I can speak only to my own experience, and a largely blessed and lucky experience it has been.
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3 Tips for Helping Your Kids Develop Empathy

Every child is already empathic. We all are (with a few exceptions). We are wired for empathy. We are wired to connect, communicate and collaborate with others.

Empathy develops in infancy. “A child first learns to tune in to his or her mother’s emotions and moods, and later on to other people’s,” write Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl in their new book The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids.

They further explain, “What the mother feels, the child will feel and mirror. This is why things such as eye contact, facial expressions, and tone of voice are so important in the beginning of life. It is the first way we feel trust and attachment and begin to learn empathy.”
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Children and Teens

Your Children Keep You Sane

We’ve all heard the old saying “My kids make me crazy.” But isn’t it also true that kids keep us mentally sound?

I’ve been a parent for 12 years, and this is the most important thing I’ve learned: A parent simply can’t shut down, lose it, and ignore her kids. She must hold it together for them.

It was a cold day last January when Kathy, my neighbor, and her daughter were moving out of their house. Kathy had asked her friends to help her because she couldn't afford the cost of a moving company. So I arrived at 8:00 A.M. to load boxes onto a rented truck.
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7 Questions and Answers that Reveal the Truth about Your Marriage

Do you know your marriage as well as you think?

I’m a relationship coach and normally when people learn what I do, it sparks many conversations and even more questions. A lot of the time I sense they want to know what category their own marriage falls into.

They want reassurance that all is well on the home front or that what is going on for them currently is a normal part of married life.

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Beyond Ending the Stigma: Radical Compassion for Suicide Prevention

When my dad ended his life, it felt like I arrived somewhere I had always been headed. I was 13 years old when I first saw the signs. I was 15 when he was hospitalized for his first attempt -- his life thereafter owed to the vulnerable courage he demonstrated by calling 9-1-1 on himself. I was 26 when, after a long recovery, he spiraled downward again. 27 when we intervened and got him to go back to therapy. And then, I was 28 when I stood in front of his house last year -- just before Thanksgiving -- and learned that his life had ended. That our brave fight was over.
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Reducing One of the Most Painful Symptoms of ADHD

Many adults with ADHD feel shame. A bottomless, all-encompassing shame. They feel shame for having ADHD in the first place. They feel shame for procrastinating or not being as productive as they think they “should” be. They feel shame for forgetting things too quickly. They feel shame for missing deadlines or important appointments. They feel shame for not finishing tasks or following through. They feel shame for being disorganized or impulsive. They feel shame for not paying the bills on time or keeping up with other household tasks.

Shame is “probably one of the most painful symptoms of ADHD and one of the hardest challenges to overcome,” said Nikki Kinzer, PCC, an ADHD coach, author and co-host of “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast." Some adults with ADHD live with shame every day, she said.
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Children and Teens

5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is vital for adults. It reduces anxiety and depression. It’s been linked to greater well-being, emotional coping skills and compassion for others. Unfortunately, many of us have a hard time practicing self-compassion. Instead we default to blaming, shaming, and bashing ourselves. We assume that self-criticism is a more effective approach. (It’s not.)

This is one reason why it’s important to teach self-compassion to our children — to give them a solid foundation for the future. A foundation for being kind and gentle with themselves and processing their thoughts and feelings without judgment. These are important skills for being a healthy adult and building healthy relationships.

But kids also need self-compassion now.
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Anxiety and Panic

I’m Not Lazy, I’m Agoraphobic: How One Mother Copes

I'm not lazy, I'm agoraphobic.

I used to spend my days at work, my nights in Manhattan, and my weekends filled with adventure and road trips. Now, if I am able to leave my house for a medical appointment, it’s an accomplishment.

I’ve had “episodes” that lasted months, where I’d be unable to leave my bed -- not because I’m lazy but out of fear.

I suffer from a very misunderstood disease called agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces (a very generalized definition).
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3 Strategies for Supporting a Loved One with Depression

Your loved one has depression. Maybe they’re isolating themselves. Maybe their energy and mood have taken a nosedive. Maybe they’re irritable and angry. Maybe they aren’t enjoying much, if anything, anymore. Maybe they’re having a hard time concentrating or remembering things. Maybe they’ve mentioned feeling hopeless or worthless. Maybe they make negative comments about themselves. All. The. Time. Maybe they wear a happy face, but you know they’re struggling.

And, understandably, it’s really hard to watch. Because all you want to do is fix their pain. To make it go away. To make it all better.
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Anxiety and Panic

When Mental Illness is Hereditary

As a child I remember my mom constantly saying "my nerves are bad." I didn't know that my nerves were bad, along with the little pills she took, and her alcoholism, were personal attempts to alleviate the anxiety and depression she felt.

Back then it wasn't talked about. Children were seen and not heard, and that was just how it was. It was very confusing as a child. I didn't understand why my mom was not happy and why her "nerves were bad."
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