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"Dear Sherry" Opinion and Advice Column

If there is something you are struggling with and you would like to hear my thoughts, I would love to hear from you! 

I will respond in written format to you personally within one week. Using a tag name for anonymity, your question and my response will also be posted on my social media platforms and on this website to assist others who may be looking for the same information.   

You can describe a problem you have, ask a question, or both! I look forward to helping you.

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How To Support A Friend's During A Difficult Time?

DEAR SHERRY:  I have a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship. She has made the mistake of sharing some of the hurtful and emotionally abusive things her "on-again-off-again" boyfriend has done. It is really difficult to sit by and support her going back to him again and again after her confiding in me how bad he is for her. What can/should I do? 

Sincerely,

CONCERNED


DEAR CONCERNED:  I know sometimes it can be hard to support a friend when they are making choices that are not in their best interest. The reality is, it can take going back and forth many times before someone ultimately leaves an emotionally abusive relationship. There are many reasons people stay in unhealthy relationships. These patterns are usually deep-rooted in dynamics from one's family of origin and require therapy to break free from them.

I may ask your friend why she keeps going back? She may be afraid to be alone or she may not feel good about herself and believe on some level that she deserves to be treated that way.

I would also ask yourself what comes up for you when she keeps going back? It sounds like you are investing a lot emotionally, listening, and perhaps advising her. Perhaps you feel like you have no control over the situation? It could be reminding you of another situation that you invested a lot of time in that you couldn't change?

If you find that it is too hard for you to listen to stories about her being mistreated, I would just be honest, and let her know that. Only listen when you are in the space to do so; it is important to be aware of your own needs and limitations.

The reality is, we can't change other people and that might bring up feelings of helplessness. We can't truly understand or judge someone's situation unless we walk a mile in their moccasins. If you deal with your own emotions, that may help you to listen with an open heart and just be there for her.

With Love,

SHERRY 

Should I Let This Relationship Go?

DEAR SHERRY:  I am in a long-term relationship which is in its 12th year. I have various moments throughout the relationship that made me wonder if I was with the wrong person. This feeling is becoming stronger and stronger during the past 6 months or so after I landed a new job, but he is still struggling with his job/career, plus being together 24/7 in a one-bedroom apartment in NYC is not helping the situation. I feel that we have drifted apart and became two different persons vs. at the beginning of the relationship 12 years ago while we were just graduate students. My struggle is that I know I should let this relationship go now (can't drag along another 12 years like this), but I am also afraid if it's a wrong call. Dear Sherry, can you please help me? (1) What is the sign(s) of when I should let go of a wrong relationship, especially when it's a 12 years long relationship? (2) How to break up with a guy you have been with for 12 years? How to stay strong after that?

Sincerely,

SCARED AND CONFUSED

DEAR SCARED AND CONFUSED:  How does someone truly know if they are with the wrong person? That can be complicated. The most important relationship is our relationship with ourselves. We all have an innate knowing, and the more we are connected to ourselves, the easier it is to access our truth.

Relationships take work. Whether it is the relationship with yourself or a significant other, you will drift from that person and yourself if you don't tend to it.

We grow and learn about ourselves through every relationship we have, especially our intimate ones. Keep in mind that we can tend to follow patterns in relationships. The problems you see in this relationship may happen in your next one unless you make some changes. The things that bother you about a person you are in a relationship with are often a reflection of a part of you that may be hard for you to acknowledge.

What comes up for you in any relationship, especially a relationship with a significant other, provides you with an opportunity to deepen your relationship with yourself through self-reflection.

Whether you choose to stay or not, it is important to take an action step to cultivate the relationship or to end things. As you said, you can end up being in the same position 12 years from now.

You may want to ask yourself, do I have a desire to work on this relationship? Have I given it my all? Perhaps you may find it helpful to write a list of why you think this is the wrong person for you? You can then see if you have any similar characteristics in yourself that you need to work on.

You may not be confused at all, just scared. I believe we can live life in faith or fear. If we make decisions based on fear, we won't be truly happy and end up creating more of what we don't want. Any steps we take in faith lead to more opportunities and greater fulfillment. Trust that.

If you decide to end things, I would be honest and compassionate. That will help you both to grow and evolve. Take time to process your feelings and grieve the relationship. Ask yourself what you learned about yourself and what you want in a relationship, and keep that in mind when you start a new one.

There will be moments where you have doubt, and it will be hard to stick to your decision; that is just fear creeping in. Work through your fears and keep moving forward. You deserve to be happy!

With love and light,

SHERRY

Worried About Daughter's Symptoms

DEAR SHERRY: I'm concerned about my teenage daughter's mental health since she has been learning virtually all these months. She recently developed a tic. It looks like Tourette's syndrome. Suddenly out of nowhere, she will shudder loudly as if she just caught a cold breeze. Sometimes she jerks her head and neck too. At first, I thought it was for attention, but now I can see that it's involuntary, and she can't help it. It seems to get worse when she's stressed about schoolwork or when she's out with friends, which is very little these days.

Should I worry about this new symptom? Is there something I can do to help her deal with it, or should I just ignore it? Will it go away eventually?

Sincerely,

WORRIED

DEAR WORRIED: I am sorry to hear your daughter has developed a tic. I would recommend taking her to the doctor to rule out a medical problem. The Tourette Association of America has a wealth of information and a list of providers in Connecticut. https://tourette.org/find-a-provider/

We can have various reactions to stress. In my experience, this type of reaction isn’t permanent. However, it is important to learn how to regulate your nervous system so that you can bring your body back to equilibrium after a stress response.

The iChill is a free app developed by Elaine Miller, a trauma specialist. It is a great resource to help anyone navigate stress and feel more at peace.

www.ichillapp.com  I hope your daughter feels better soon!  

SHERRY

Uncomfortable About Winning

DEAR SHERRY: I hope you can help me with this. I’m a very good tennis player but when it comes time for a game, I feel so bad if the other team is losing that I will throw the game. It’s not that I’m not competitive - the funny thing is I am! But seeing the other people look sad just gets to me. I wish I could play and win without feeling this way. Thank you!

BAD WINNER

DEAR BAD WINNER: No one likes to see anyone sad, but you aren't doing yourself or your opponents any favors by throwing the game.

Does it sound like this situation may be reminding you of a past experience? You might want to ask yourself if there was a time when you shined at something and you were given a direct or indirect message that it wasn't okay. Perhaps you had a sibling that wasn't as smart as you, so your parents didn't celebrate your achievements in an attempt to spare your sibling's feelings, for example.

Maybe your opponent's sadness is reminding you of a time when you were sad about something. So you might feel uncomfortable being in the presence of someone sad because you don't want to be reminded of your own sad feelings.

In life, we win and lose. Losing helps us to develop character and build resilience. We learn how to pick ourselves up, which helps us trust ourselves and develop a sense of confidence and security. When you rescue someone from their feelings, you inadvertently give them the message they aren't capable of dealing with things.

Be the best you can be; it truly inspires others to do the same!

SHERRY

How Can I Have a Positive Mindset About Money?

DEAR SHERRY: Both of my parents have a poverty mindset. Their parents went through the Great Depression and this impacted their beliefs and my parents' outlook. My parents are much older now and doing very well financially, especially my father (they divorced and remarried others) but their views remain the same. They do not trust wealthy people and are verbally disparaging towards them. How can I change the impact of my parents' ideas about money, on myself, so that I can embrace it in my life? I find I am very self-conscious around wealthy people. - POVERTY MINDSET

DEAR POVERTY MINDSET:  No matter how old we are, there is nothing more important than being loved by our parents.  If your parents don’t trust and judge wealthy people, whether it is conscious, subconscious, or unconscious, if you embrace money in your life, in your mind you will risk losing their love and acceptance. You may have a hard time being yourself around wealthy people because it triggers a lot of emotion in you regarding this. I recommend working through these fears within yourself or having a conversation with your parents so that they can help to alleviate your fears about losing their love. You will then be able to live your life in abundance!

With love and light,

SHERRY

How Can I Handle My Fears About My Daughter?

DEAR SHERRY: I have a teenage daughter whom I love very much and am very close to. The issue that I am having is that I see myself in her so much that it is really hard to separate and not project my fears consciously or unconsciously onto her especially when I see her struggling. When I see her struggle it really brings up all of my childhood pain and rather than go into a positive mindset I go into fear that she won’t be ok. This has heightened during covid time as I see so many teens struggling. I get afraid for her. She doesn’t want my fear and quite understandably will repel from it because I am sure that makes her scared. How do I manage my emotions and fears and work on being the nurturing trusting loving parent that she needs? My mom was a very fearful and aloof mother who was unable to nurture so it’s difficult for me. I find myself getting frustrated with myself.

Sincerely,

FRUSTRATED

DEAR FRUSTRATED:  Being a mom is the hardest job in the world, so first and foremost, it is important to be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up won’t help you or your daughter.

It is amazing that you already recognize that seeing her struggle brings up pain from your own childhood. Our children are our greatest gifts; they truly teach us more than we teach them. Their struggles and our struggles with them provide us an opportunity to look within ourselves and to heal from our own childhood wounds.

The suggestions I have are endless, so I won’t write them all. Two books immediately come to mind: The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary and You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. These books are excellent guides to help you on your journey within.

Again, be compassionate with yourself and trust the healing process. Accept your feelings that come up; they provide you an opportunity to heal. Journal to help process your emotions, allow your tears to flow. It can also be beneficial to have a therapist support you on your journey.

Practice self-care, whatever that might mean for you. It might be meditation, a bubble bath, walking in nature, etc. The more you love and nurture yourself, the more secure and peaceful you become. You can then navigate any storm in life and be the calming presence your daughter needs.  

With love and light,

SHERRY

How Can I Stay Motivated in School?

DEAR SHERRY: Recently I have found it really hard to stay focused and motivated with my school work. As Covid hit and school became online, I figured it would be easier and more laid back. Throughout each day I have noticed that every day feels the same and I am losing the passion for handing in my school work and wanting to achieve with my classes. I have also noticed with myself that if I am not told to go to class I will simply not go which will hurt me in the long run, but I have been feeling so mentally drained that it doesn’t affect me as much anymore.

With that being said, are there any tips that can help me and other students my age that feel the same way in order to get motivated? Or even methods that can help myself and other students to cope with all the negative thoughts that come along with struggling to maintain a healthy mental state.

Sincerely,

UNMOTIVATED

DEAR UNMOTIVATED: I am sorry that you are struggling. It sounds like you might want to ask yourself what do you want out of life? When we are doing what makes us happy, we are naturally motivated. If our behavior is externally motivated, for example, perhaps to please our parents,s our teachers, our friends, or by the number of likes we get on social media, it is hard to be motivated if there aren't a lot of expectations.

Covid has been very difficult, there has been a lot of loss. At the same time, the world is in a major stage of transformation for the better. All the pressures, prior to Covid, were creating a lot of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse in teens and society as a whole.

Other teens have shared with me that less is expected of them during the pandemic, which can be positive because it is a time for not only teens, but everyone to reevaluate what they want their life to look like.

So, it is important to engage in two vital activities. Firstly, maintain a healthy state of mind. To maintain a healthy mental state it is important to develop a routine and practice daily physical and mental hygiene. Physically, you might want to ensure you are getting proper rest, eating healthy foods, exercising and showering, and getting dressed, even if you have nowhere to go.

Mental hygiene might include journaling about your thoughts and feelings, talking to a trusted adult, writing a list of 5 things you are grateful for every day, listening to uplifting music, or guided meditations. Start slow and build on a routine as you go.

Engaging with friends as much as possible in person, safely, is also highly recommended. We are meant to connect with each other, meaningful connections lift our spirits.

Secondly, focus on your aspirations. I suggest writing a list of all the things that you truly desire in life. Double-check that they are for you, and not for someone else, and then ask yourself what you need to do to get what you want. What you want may be the same as what the adults in your life want for you, but if you have never asked yourself that question, it might be hard to access your internal motivation.

Remember, we all have a guiding light within, and there are better days ahead.

With love and light,

SHERRY