Couple Relationship, Depression/Anxiety, Trauma

Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021~ Word of the Year

We are coming to the end of 2020. How is 2020 treating you? No matter how odd this year has been, it still comes to an end. 

Before I discuss my 2020 review and the new year resolution, let me rewind to the fall of 2017 first. I saw a news clip on Facebook about a Japanese Temple choosing a Kanji (meaning Chinese characters) to represent the significant event that happened in Japan during that year. I thought the story interesting and wondered what word would I choose for myself. 

Then, again, on Facebook, I saw a link about A Year in Compass at the end of the year. In the website, it invited people to review the past year in different categories: personal life and family, belongings (home, objects), friends/community, intellectual, finances, work/studies/profession, relaxation/hobbies/creativity, health/fitness, emotional/spiritual, and the bucket list. It was quite extensive. I was pretty impressed with the idea of reviewing the year before setting up the new year resolution. I am also impressed with the idea of setting goals in different areas in life, instead of just a list of the goals. So, I decided to try. 

Word of the Year

After I started to review my year of 2017 and set up my new year resolution for 2018, I realized that I need something simple to capture the overall goals. That was when I connected the idea of the word of the year. 

For the year 2017, I chose the word “important” for 2018.

For the year 2018, I chose the word “worthy” for 2019.

For the year 2019, I chose the word “connected” for 2020.

Continue reading “Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021~ Word of the Year”
COVID-19, Trauma

COVID-19 Week 12 (6/1 to 6/5) Journal

week 12

The two important news this week are: 1) the anticipated announcement of phase two re-opening plan in MA; and 2) George Floyd news and the Black Lives Matters movement all over the country.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Week 12 (6/1 to 6/5) Journal”

Depression/Anxiety, Trauma

“What Ifs” (Part II) — “I trust in myself.”

(Curious about the Part I? Part I is here)

CBT control and anxietyClients will sometimes tell me the previous experiences of not thinking enough “what-ifs,” and the traumatic feelings came with the not preparing enough, not planning enough, or not listening to their gut instincts.

Sometimes, clients will share thier childhood trauma that connected to anxiety. For example, they were punished for something that a child can’t see it coming. Or, because of the abuse in the family, they were trained to be observant to cope with the abuse.

Sometimes, clients will tell me that they have never had any failed experiences in the past, and therefore, it is even more anxiety-provoking to have to maintain that record.

Continue reading ““What Ifs” (Part II) — “I trust in myself.””

Depression/Anxiety, Trauma

“What-Ifs” (Part I) — Control and Anxiety

The sense of “control” is often related to anxiety. I saw someone posted a picture on Instagram about anxiety. In this Instagram picture, a man is having an internal dialogue with his anxiety. It goes like this:Whatifs


Anxiety: “What if this happens?
Me: “But it won’t.
Anxiety: “But what if it does?
Me: “You got me there.



I replied to this post with the following statement:

Me: If it happens, I will trust myself to have the ability to weather anything that comes into my way. I don’t have to worry about what’s because I can trust myself.

Continue reading ““What-Ifs” (Part I) — Control and Anxiety”

COVID-19, Trauma

COVID-19 Week 11 (5/25 to 5/29) Journal

week 11



The important news of the week was the business opening. I am not sure what’s qualifying to re-open, but all the hair salons nearby my office have opened. I also can see more cars on the road. The number of confirmed cases stays under 1000 cases a day. I guess this is a good sign.
Continue reading “COVID-19 Week 11 (5/25 to 5/29) Journal”

COVID-19, Trauma

COVID- 19 Week 9 (5/11 to 5/15) Journal

week 9

We are moving into the 9th (5/11 to 5/15) of social distancing and essential business shutting down due to COVID-19.

The important news this week was the possible re-open of the business in the coming week. There are a lot of talks going on in the news and social media about re-open the market.

My emotional brain is thinking: I finally got used to my new schedule and got used to the Telehealth. My logical mind knows that the only thing that is never going to change is changing. So, I better start to come up with some new plans to ease everyone back to the in-person sessions.

I have some conflicted feelings about the so-called “new normal.” On the one hand, I know Telehealth is not going to replace in-person therapy. On the other hand, Telehealth is so convenient for many clients. I have no answer as to how this is going to end, but I know the insurance company is probably going to dictate our decision.

The other situation/realization this week is the idea of “control,” and “freedom.” Somehow, some of my clients just realized the lack of control over the last 8 weeks and a sudden emotional outburst about lacking control. This thing about “control” is a conflicted feeling to me. I used the word “conflicted” to describe the sense of control because I often feel that control is such a paradox. I have come to accept how little control I have about my life as I grow older. In the meantime, I also know that I do have quite a control and power over how I want to live my life. For example, I have no control over whether the people I encountered on a daily basis going to follow the social distancing rules. I live in a big apartment complex. Whenever I leave my unit, I put on my masks. However, many of my neighbors don’t put on their masks. Do I have control over their choices? The answer is no, I don’t have control over their behaviors and preferences, and therefore, I feel very vulnerable in my safety. In the meantime, I do have a lot of control over protecting myself such as always washing my hand when go in and out of any public places.

So, for me, “control” is such a paradox thing and probably is one of the main themes in psychotherapy.

There are two incidents that I am very grateful for this week. One of the clients whom I have worked with for over a year with EMDR. This client is also a health care provider. This client suffered a long-term depression since adolescence. When the pandemic started, this client was already under a lot of stress to have to react to the pandemic. In the meantime, we were in the middle of processing a very traumatic childhood memory. Now, two months after the epidemic started, I was talking to this client to cut down the frequency of the therapy because the client has been doing so well in the past couple of weeks.

The other incident was the conversation with another client who had to put the therapy on hold due to being a health care provider. The client called me last week to start the treatment again. This client told me this during the session this week:

“I was so overwhelmed and anxious in the xxxx (client’s work place) with the machine beeping around me. Suddenly, I heard your voice telling me to breath and notice what my body feels. I can feel myself in ……. (the client’s calm place) and you are reminding me to knead my toes. Suddenly, I know I am going to be OK and I can continue to do my job for people who needed me.”

After doing this job for so long, it’s hard for me to say I feel “satisfied” or “fulfilled” daily. These are two of those rare moments when I did feel fulfilled about my job. It’s not about what I do for the client. It’s to know that I was there or my voice was there with this particular client when needed. Knowing that I can be a source of grounding when the client was at the worst moment was a fulfillment for me.

Also, seeing my client who suffered depression for over 15 years to enjoy life ad to feel the joy of life and people around her gave me hope. Why? I know that this client’s family of creation can enjoy their lives together. It gives me hope that the client’s next generation can grow up in a happy family with happy parents than in the family where my client grew up. That’s what made me feel hopeful.

This week, I actually have two of those grateful moments. I feel thankful for being able to provide EMDR therapy and for what my job brings me.

Couple Relationship, COVID-19, Trauma

COVID- 19 Week 8 (5/4 to 5/8) Journal

week 8

Week 8, (5/4 to 5/8), is it week 8 into the COVID-19 State of the Emergency in the State of Massachusetts?

It seems that everyone is adjusting to the new normal. All the training scheduled are all online. I jsut signed up another 5-day training online in the end of June. Most of my clients are getting into the routines of the Telehealth.

Positives, a few clients who have been working with me for over a year, actually started to feel much better than they can decrease the frequency of therapy to every other week. I was really happy for them because they have gradually moved out of their childhood trauma as the pandemic is slowly getting under control. When this pandemic is over, they will be ready to face the new world with their new self as they have worked through their childhood trauma with a new sense of identity.

The interesting observation is the number of calls I received for the couple’s therapy. I think, this week along, I have received at least five inquiries for the couple’s therapy. Many people, over the phone, told me that the conflicts have been increasing. Similar to my observations on some of the clients from the early weeks, it seems that one of the conflicts among all the regular topics is “safety vs. risk,” meaning, the partners have different ideas considering what’s safe and what’s a risk.

I found this interesting and sad. The conflicts between the couples about “what’s safe” made me feel interesting because the friction of safety wasn’t the focus in the past. Or, let me rephrase it, security is often not the focus of the conflict but hidden with some other topics. For example, some couples’ might fight about the savings for future retirement. The sense of security is hidden in the financial dispute. The other example is parents often fight about what’s the safety of their children. In this case, safety is hidden in the parenting issues. I live alone, and I have been single for many years.

I often envy people who have family members living with them during this period. I have not seen my mother and brother for three years. I just saw my sister right before the pandemic breaks out in early January in Taiwan. So, it’s been five months since I saw my sister. I feel sad when I heard people saying: “I can’t wait to go back to work so that I don’t have to see my partner 24-7.” It made me sad when I heard statements like this because I can’t help but wonder: “what happened? This was not how you feel when you walked down the aisle.”

In the past few years, I have found a group of close friends who live very close to me. We checked on each other during this period. One of them always asked if I needed anything when she went to the grocery store. She worked from home and didn’t have to check Clorox or Lysol, but she checked them for me whenever she went to the grocery store. When she dropped those supplies to me, if she was lucky enough to find a bottle, I savored the moment when we can be each other’s presence with the masks on and standing 6 feet apart.

I can’t imagine living with a significant other but wanting to get out of there. Maybe I am wrong, but it made me sad and wondered how did a happy couple walking down the aisle become a couple who just wanted to get away from each other.

So, notes to myself is to figure out how to help those couples communicate their sense of security of unsafely during this period and to build a new meaning of safety within the couple’s relationship.

COVID-19, Trauma

COVID- 19 Week 7 (4/27 to 5/1) Journal

week 7.jpg

Moving into week 7 (4/27 to 5/1), this is a stressful week for me. I felt very powerless and hopeless frequently. Why?

Over the weekend (4/25 & 4/26), few clients popped back, leaving messages that they needed to see me via telehealth. These are the clients who were all nurses. I saw them right around the time when the pandemic breaks, and all of them “disappeared” after that. During the last session, we, meaning clients and me, knew that their life would be kind of crazy for a while. We didn’t set up any follow-up appointments, pending on their work situation. Over the weekend, I got quite a few messages from these clients. I was able to set up meetings with them quickly.

So, I talked to quite a few clients who are nurses and have been battling the pandemics in the past 6 weeks. Some of them contracted the COVID-19 and have been in the recovery enough to contact me. The psychological symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, sadness, and worries they have experiencing, have been so hard for me to hear and to experiences. They also had to worry about preventing their families from getting the virus while taking care of their recovery.

I found myself in two emotions. The first one was a complete sense of powerlessness to do anything for them. Other than holding a space for them to talk about their experiences and their emotions, I can’t do anything. The other feeling was anger. I found myself wanted to shout out to the people who haven’t taken the situation seriously. How could you not to take the social distancing seriously when these nurse and doctors are risking their own life and their families’ life to take care of us?

I wish I can end the journal this week in a much more optimistic note. Unfortunately, I am not able to find some optimistic feelings in me, and I am still struggling with processing the emotions that I absorb from my clients.


COVID-19, Depression/Anxiety, Trauma

COVID- 19 Week 6 (4/20 to 4/24) Journal

flash II Training 2Moving into week 6 (4/20 to 4/27), I am tired and exhausted from another weekend training. I also found myself settling into a routine in the past few Sundays. I usually ran out of the house early Sunday morning, waiting in the line outside Market Basket, hoping to get the cleaning supplies but no luck, and then, driving to Target, Walmart, and then CVS in the hunt of Lysol and Clorox, often with no luck.

I felt depressed over the weekend and decided that I can’t continue to do this routine on Sundays after another weekend of EMDR Webinar. So, I decided to give up my “Lysol & Clorox” hunt past weekend.

The positive news this week is that most of the people who stayed in therapy or returned to therapy since five weeks ago continued to stabilize.

I saw some of my clients who were first respondents, and luckily, the Flash Technique I learned in the last two weekends have been helpful to them.

The not-so-great news this week was the EMDR with some clients who haven’t gone through EMDR processing with me in the office didn’t go well. There were many reasons why their EMDR sessions didn’t go well. The main reason was this was the first time they experienced the Phase 4 processing at home, and there were many confusion, but I wasn’t there to hold their hands. The 2nd reason was there were many emotions popping up during the Phase 4 processing, and that could be overwhelming. In the meantime, I wasn’t there to hold their hands while they were experiencing these overwhelming emotions. The 3rd reason was due to privacy. Some of them didn’t have secure privacy at home, and to try out the processing was very anxiety-provoking for them. To sum up, as much as I am grateful for the Telehealth to allow me to continue to support my clients, the presence of the human contact is needed. 

So, this is something to keep in mind for future reference. It would be wise to incorporate the Flash Technique for those new clients who have not yet to experience phase 4 processing in the beginning. The other takeaway is the importance of human presence. From the attachment theory perspective, I am establishing myself as a new secure attachment figure for the clients. My physical presence with them helps to develop a sense of security. Online Telehealth can only go this far.

The highlight of the week is the announcement that the school will be closed for the remaining of the school year. Many clients are concerned about how to help their children to cope with this news. As to me, I also start to wonder if I should take a break.

Here are some interesting articles about the effectivenss of Telehealth that you might be interested in reading.

Telemedicine: The Good, the Bad, the Pleasantly Surprising

The reason Zoom calls drain your energy

How to Actually Have a Successful Teletherapy Appointment

COVID-19, Trauma

Crisis—- A Dangerous Opportunity

“The symbol in Chinese for crisis is made up of two ideographs: one means danger, the other means opportunity. This symbol is a reminder that we can choose to turn a crisis into an opportunity or into a negative experience.”

~ Virginia Satir

In Chinese characters, the word crisis looks like this “危機”. There are two characters, danger and opportunity. So, a crisis is a dangerous opportunity.

Traditional Chinese is my native language, and I am familiar with this concept. I often wondered whether this is the reason I always feel intrigued by this philosophy: crisis can be a dangerous situation, but it also can be an opportunity.

At the end of the 3rd week after the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through Massachusetts, I asked myself: what do I want to see myself at the end of this pandemic?

In the first three weeks, I went from shocking to accept my new life. It reminded me of the Merrimack Vally gas explosion situation, except this is a bigger, more extended, and much more unpredictable situation. I realized that the stress reactions my clients and I are experiencing might have some connections to the prior personal traumatic experiences. In this article, I wanted to talk more about these stress reactions. In the meantime, if you are reading this article, I would like you to share this journey with me with this question in your mind: “What do you want to see yourself coming out on the other side at the end of this pandemic if this crisis in the human life is an opportunity for you?” Continue reading “Crisis—- A Dangerous Opportunity”