Lake Norman Counselors

Prepared Not Scared

It’s a funny thing, being a Katrina survivor. I always found it amusing that people would ask me so casually, and upon meeting no less, about Katrina. It’s rare that in meeting a stranger you would ask them about their greatest traumas and losses in life so casually… unless you’re a therapist, maybe. But I had my “ready responses” – well rehearsed. “Yes, we flooded.” “About 4-6 feet in the house.” “No, it really wasn’t that bad considering some of my friends had a foot in their attics!” “Yes, my family is still there.” Blah blah blah.

I’ve lived through a disaster before, and I came out of it stronger; I believe it positively shaped my life, and I was a part of a community that was able to come together to support one another and bounce back stronger than ever, so I wanted to lend my personal and professional expertise.

-Jamie L. Cheveralls, MA, NCC, LPC

What was always so hard to impress upon people was the community impact – the daily impact of Hurricane Katrina. There was truly no escape. It’s not like a personal tragedy or loss where you’re affected, but you can go out in the world and forget for a minute. There was no way to forget Katrina. It’s literally how we measure time now in New Orleans: pre- or post-Katrina.

Katrina impacted every person I knew: my family, my friends, my teachers, my neighbors, my hair dresser, the grocers, the mailman. Everything was closed! There was no where to go. Or very limited options. No movies. No malls. Very few restaurants. And it was like that for a long time. Too long.

Until recently, this was the most difficult aspect of describing post-Katrina New Orleans. Suddenly, I have a feeling people will understand or will be able to better empathize. Because I can’t help feeling a certain sense of de ja vu… I can’t help feel like I’ve been living in the days leading up to “the big storm.”

I lived through the worst natural disaster to hit US soil before, and I came out stronger as a result. I believe that it positively shaped my life (and certainly influenced my profession – which I love!), and I was a part of a community that was able to come together to support one another and bounce back stronger than ever, so I wanted to lend my personal and professional expertise. My goal is to help prepare – not scare – in my analogy to Katrina. Because like a Hurricane, there is a lot that we can do to be proactive and stay safe in this storm.

One of my favorite therapeutic skills is radical acceptance. When I teach my clients about this skill, I always use the example of my office being on fire. You see, the longer we sit in the burning building, the more dangerous the situation becomes. If we ignore the alarms, the heat, and the smoke coming in from under the door, there’s only so long before we’re in serious trouble. Denial is dangerous. Which is why the burning building analogy is such a great analogy for radical acceptance. The sooner you come to a place of acceptance, the sooner you’re able to utilize the tools at your disposal. If you sit in the fires of denial, you’re in danger. But the moment you come to accept the situation, you can get up and run, you can call 911. You can save yourself, others, maybe some valuables. You can call your insurance company, etc. Now do you have to be happy about this situation? Hell no. In fact, radical acceptance usually indicates some level or relationship with pain.

With COVID-19, the sooner we all accept that this is our new normal, the healthier and happier we’ll be in the short & long term. Please, read that again…

Now, you don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like that my office burned down in my example. But the sooner we all accept we’re in a burning building, the less likely we are to get burned and the sooner we can utilize the tools at our disposal to make the best of this situation! Now remember, radical acceptance usually implies a relationship with pain – this is a grieving process. So please, give yourselves time to grieve. Some of you are grieving major milestones like prom, graduation. Some of you just miss the sense of normalcy, your friends, and coworkers. We miss being able to go outside, to the movies, shopping whenever we want to. Some of us really miss our baristas at Starbucks… but jokes aside, many of us have lost jobs, stability, and financial security. Allow yourself to grieve for these significant losses!

One of my biggest concerns about our community as we face COVID-19, especially having been through Katrina, is not about illness or physical health, it’s about our mental health. It’s about grief and the ways I’ve seen people “handle” (not using the word cope there) with their grief and loss. So utilizing these proactive measures is important, because it wasn’t the Hurricane that flooded the city of New Orleans and it certainly wasn’t the flood waters that was taking lives years later. It was addiction. It was unresolved complex grief and trauma. There were failures on systemic levels. Levees literally broke. So, I would much rather see preventative measures put in place now, than see too little done too late. I’ve already lived through that once & that experience is why I am in the profession that I am in today. It’s why my profession is helping people.

So, you’ve come to a place of accepting this is the new normal. You’re coping with grief and loss in healthy ways. Now what? It’s time to create routine and structure. Routine is your friend. Especially if you have kids. Children thrive and feel safe when there is structure, order, and they know what to expect. That doesn’t mean you need to have every minute planned or color coded. But a general sense of the familiar and routine is helpful – we wake up, make our beds, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, walk the dog, two hours of school work, lunch, hour of play time, two more hours of school work, hour of computer time, dinner, shower, bed. Vague but you still get a general sense of a day.

With all of the transition and change, it can also be helpful to focus on the familiar. What is the same? Even if it’s something as simple as the same scented body wash or perfume that you use. You’re in the same bed. Have the same stuffed animal to sleep with. You love to make tacos on Tuesday. Whatever those little traditions are that feel familiar and safe – now is a good time to practice mindfulness and really relish in those moments!

One of the other big themes around COVID-19 that has been coming up is control. And I am happy to report that there are a lot of precautions that you can take that are well within your control. The most important is setting healthy boundaries. If the news is scary or overwhelming, shut it off. If Karen’s Facebook posts are getting on your last nerve, unfollow her. You can control the amount of social distancing you’re doing, which is helping to stop the spread of disease. You can focus on your self-care and keeping yourself healthy by getting extra sleep, exercise, and sunshine. Sleep, exercise, and sunshine/vitamin D are all helpful in boosting your overall mood and fighting anxiety and depression as well. Which is important because a reduction in stress is correlated with better immunity. So your mental and emotional health are paramount, which is why we’re also focusing on maintaining clients’ appointments and continuity of care at this time at Lake Norman Counselors. So call your therapist and book a therapy appointment. There are plenty of proactive and preventative steps within your control that you can actively take to feel safe right now.

So to recap:

  • come to a place of acceptance
  • allow yourself to grieve
  • cope with loss in a healthy way
  • create routine & structure
  • focus on the familiar & what you can control
  • set healthy boundaries
  • remember that safety comes first but self-care should come a close second!

We realize that any one of these steps, alone, can be overwhelming and challenging and that this is an incredibly stressful time. As an essential business offering mental health services, Lake Norman Counselors will remain open. We are committed, as we have always been, to serving our community and providing extraordinary care and luxurious amenities. We are doing everything in our power to keep our staff and clients healthy and safe. Even with the stay-at-home order, you can leave your home for therapy appointments. But for our existing clients, who it is therapeutically appropriate for, we are offering telehealth services. We are abiding by the recommendations of the CDC & World Health Organization, have implemented a health screening questionnaire for all clients prior to the start of sessions at the office to limit community spread, and have implemented additional sanitary measures, especially in the play room.

We have always prided ourselves on creating a warm and welcoming safe space for everyone who has walked through our doors. Our mission remains the same!

Lake Norman Counselors, Providers

Transforming Tiger

Hi everyone, Victoria here! I am new to the Lake Norman Counselors team, and am excited to start my work counseling teens, adults, and families.

I received my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health right here in the Charlotte area. However, Davidson is an area outside of Charlotte that is new to me, and I am loving the beautiful views and being so close to the water. As my love for Charlotte grows, home to me is in Columbia, South Carolina. Even though I am from Gamecock country, I received my Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Clemson, and I am a huge Tiger fan- hoping for another national championship this year!

I have learned how a little bit of self-reflection, and taking time to take care of myself can be incredibly handy for getting through obstacles life presents us. I would also say, having a dog and a wonderful support system can help too! I come from a big family, and having their support means the world to me, but there is nothing compared to the love and snuggles I receive from my dog, Ollie. Ollie will soon start training to become a therapy dog, so he can join me in my passion for helping others. 

Becoming a counselor has been a lifelong dream of mine, which is why perseverance is a big attribute that has helped guide me through life. I am a big believer in working through the many challenges life may throw at you. This is where mindfulness comes into play, which is another aspect of my work as a counselor.

I appreciate taking time to “be in the present moment.” When practicing mindfulness, we can realize challenges are only a temporary part of our life, and like so many times in the past, we can get through them! 

I am looking forward to helping others work through their own obstacles and find time for self-care!

 

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

What to Say When There Are No Words

What to say when you have no words: How to talk to your children about difficult topics

As many of us are reflecting on the tragedy that occurred in our city yesterday, please do not neglect the importance of talking to your kids about what happened.

Children are innately receptive to the well being of their caregivers and can pick up on the grief and nervous energy that will be among us as they return to school.

Give your child age appropriate, factual information so that if they overhear their peers or teachers discussing this tragedy they will feel informed. Remind them of the safety plans that are in place at their school and reassure them that they know the drill.

It brings tears to my eyes to even fathom that we now have active shooter drills in schools. So remember, it is ok to tell your child, “It makes me feel sad to talk about shootings, but I am really glad that we can talk about topics that upset us.”

If your child has questions that you are not quite sure how to answer or that you don’t have an answer for reflect what your child is feeling. For example, your child may ask, “mommy, why would somebody want to shoot other people?” you could say something like, “It is really hard to understand why someone would hurt others.”

Do what you need to in order to get yourself into a calm, controlled state and then initiate this conversation with your child. Stay brief, stay factual, and follow your child’s lead. If you don’t know how to answer your child’s questions you can always say, “I do not have an answer for that, what do you think the answer is?” or “tell me more about what you’re thinking.” Many times children already have the answers to their own questions and it is more important that you are listening as they process the answer than it is to give them your answer.

Some children ask many questions and other children say, “ok” and return to their play. Regardless, what is important is that you’re teaching your child that you are willing to talk about difficult topics. Nothing is more reassuring to a child than knowing their caregivers can handle their thoughts and feelings. 

For more information on this or how to talk with your kids about other difficult topics please reach out to us at LKN Counselors! 

Lake Norman Counselors

Hurrication: No One Prepares for Katrina

Sunday, August 28, 2005. It was a beautiful, sunny day & I was with my best friend and surrogate family at Percy Quin campground in Mississippi. It was such a beautiful day, we were delaying our departure a bit so for the first time since Friday, I turned on my cellphone.

Seventeen voicemails…

Seemed a little higher than normal…

The first was from the guy I was “talking to” at the time. But the second, third, fourth, fifth – all from my mother. In escalating panic, she started to paint an ugly picture. I started to delete through some of them to get to the last messages.

I hurried to the last two messages. Message 16: Mom – Category 5 storm heading straight for New Orleans to hit tomorrow. Message 17: Mom – Contra-flow has begun. I can’t get you even if I wanted to – you’re on your own.

August 28th… It was a gorgeous day. Picturesque. My “uncle” was grilling. The kids were playing. The sun was warm and breeze was refreshing. And I had to go break the news that was going to ruin the day for everyone – Katrina is coming.

We wouldn’t return to Percy Quin, when the pictures above were taken, until 2009. Four years later.

We also didn’t return home from that trip.

You see, even if we had known, our “Hurrication” attitude would’ve prohibited us from proper preparation. No one prepares to lose everything they own.

No one prepares to have their community devastated. It’s hard to mentally prepare or even understand the impact of everyone being hit – your teachers, the grocer, your hairdresser, the cute guy who called last Sunday & asked you out to a restaurant that’s indefinitely closed.

No one prepares for Katrina. No one prepares for Harvey or Hugo or Sandy.

Maybe we expect some rain or power outages. We don’t expect our lives to change forever. Until you’ve been through a Katrina or Harvey or Hugo or Sandy and your life does change forever.

So Charlotte, I hope that Florence comes and goes peacefully. I hope the name “Florence” doesn’t elicit the same gut wrenching, stomach turning, anxiety that the name “Katrina” does for me. I hope you don’t learn lessons like I did: to never freeze meat; that toilet paper stored in low places becomes like papier-mâché when wet; store clothes you care less about in bottom drawers and clothes you like the best in higher drawers; always back up your pictures and important documents.

Prepare for the worst and hope and pray for the best.

I genuinely hope that Florence is no one’s “Katrina” – but for those being impacted, I hope you find the love, support, and community that New Orleans found after the storm.

Post-Katrina New Orleans… near my high school

Lake Norman Counselors, Providers

Join Us In Congratulating…

It is an exceptionally exciting week here at Lake Norman Counselors as we are celebrating our fearless leader, Jamie Cheveralls’, most recent accomplishment! Jamie was chosen as one of Charlotte’s Top 30 Under 30: The Future Leaders of Charlotte, Elevate Lifestyle’s Class of 2018! This select group of individuals are chosen each year to highlight the outstanding work that these local professionals are doing in the greater Charlotte area.

From day one, Jamie wanted to ensure that quality, evidence based services were being offered to the Lake Norman community. Jamie has hand selected specialists in the field to guarantee that each person who comes through our doors will receive high quality services that are tailored to meet her or his individual needs. Jamie has dedicated countless hours to making sure that our clients feel comfortable, welcome, and safe in our office and that each client (from 2 to 92 years old) is provided with quality and compassionate care.

We are beyond ecstatic that our colleague’s efforts are being recognized in such an honorable way and are so very proud of our wonderful colleague and friend.

Please join us in congratulating Jamie on this outstanding accomplishment!