What Your Secret Eats For Lunch

Close-up of Eastern Water Dragon, Brisbane, Queensland, AustraliaThroughout time, Wisdom Teachers have used the vehicle of story-telling to teach important truths. Stories capture our imagination and convey messages that we identify with and therefore remain in our consciousness long after the story has been told.

This story is set in an isolated place in a forest where a young couple, desiring to ‘escape’ from the frenetic pace of city life, settled down to live a quieter, largely self-sustaining lifestyle. At the onset of each winter, the woman would take a trip to the city to visit her sister and purchase vital supplies.

It was upon her very first sojourn to the city that the man had an unexpected visitor. A faint knock at the door drew his attention and answering it he found a tiny lizard-like creature shivering on the doorstep. “Please Mister, can I come in just for a few moments to warm myself by your fire” said the Lizard. The man hesitated as he heard his ‘house proud’ wife’s voice telling him that she disliked animals in the house, that animals ‘smelt’ and made a mess. He knew that his wife would not approve however his compassion for this vulnerable creature rose up and he invited the Lizard in. It was agreed that this would be a secret between the man and the Lizard and that the Lizard would never come to the house when the woman was home. A small voice in the man’s head speculated the repercussions of his actions if his wife found out: anger, embarrassment, apologies, possible threats and enormous stress. Fear had taken a foothold in his mind and would remain a constant companion as the stress of holding the secret increased over time.

The Lizards brief winter visit became a regular event over the following years. As time passed, the man noticed the Lizard growing; he was staying for longer periods, eating more and moving round the house. When his wife returned from her trips, he was forced to tell lies to avoid revealing his secret. Questions like, “What is that smell?” “How is it that you have eaten all that meat that I left in the freezer?” “How did those large dirty marks get on the carpet?”

His anxiety and stress increased over time and his health began to decline. Just small things at first: frequent headaches, sleeplessness, joint pain, constant colds, a nagging cough, loss of appetite. His wife was concerned for him, and wondered if he had a serious health condition, having no idea of the stress he was under by keeping his secret.

Eventually the Lizard grew into a huge Dragon and now the man could not refuse the creatures increasing demands out of fear that the Dragon would attack him and his wife, if the demands were not met. Each winter, the Dragon stayed longer, until this final winter when the Dragon refused to leave. No amount of pleading could move the Dragon who now regarded the house as his own home. So upon the return of his wife and their 2 children, she was confronted by the secret that her husband had kept for 20 years. Her horror was replaced by rage when her husband told her the story that he had kept secret for so long. She was overwhelmed by the knowledge that her husband could betray her and started to question their entire marriage relationship. She felt she could no longer trust this man who had become a stranger to her.

That day he lost his wife and their 2 children as he watched them pack their belongings to leave. He was a broken and sick man, overwhelmed by shame and regret – the secret that was once a compulsive act contained in a few moments, had become a tyrant that destroyed all that he loved and valued.

What does a secret eat for lunch?

1. Fear

  • Fear of being found out and the repercussions

2. Lies

  • In order to keep the secret you have to fabricate more lies

3. Your Health

Recent research by Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist from Houston Texas, has established that secrets long-kept raise the level of stress hormones in the brain and body. The reason for this is that one part of your brain doesn’t want the stress that holding the secret produces and argues to disclose it while at the same time another part realizes how messy and complicated and even more stressful disclosing the secret might be and votes for keeping everything under wraps.

This conflict of interest within your brain produces tension, confusion of thought and stress – the high levels of stress hormones being produced compromises your immune system and literally makes you sick.

4. Your Relationships

  • Keeping secrets are a betrayal of trust
  • Secrets call in to question the entire history of your relationship “If he was lying to me about that, what else was she lying to me about?”
  • Trust once broken is difficult and sometimes impossible to repair
  • The longer you keep the secret, the less possibility of repair



 If you are experiencing difficulties in your couple relationship and need direction and support to repair your relationship and reach toward your full relational potential then here’s what you need to do contact me on 0434 337 245  for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

6 Tips On What To Do When Your Partner Has Stopped Taking Their Medication But Refuses To Acknowledge That They Are Becoming Unwell.

As a partner of someone who has been dependent upon medication for good mental health, it can be challenging if not ‘scary', to be a witness to their choice to withdraw from that same medication. This is more so the case when your partner has come to this decision without consulting their professional health practitioner . You have  experienced the ‘roller-coaster' ride of their declining mental health; your partner's unpredictable behaviour, the accompanying decline of their physical health, the negative impact on their employment, the additional pressure upon your couple relationship and the negative impact upon other family members. You are  familiar with the feeling of relief  when your partner's mental health has improved, due at least in part, to the introduction of a particular medication.

All of these memories come flooding back as you observe your partner's withdrawal from the very medication that had once been ‘the Hero' of the situation. The doubt, uncertainty and helplessness you feel is reinforced by the small but undeniable signs you observe, of your partner's deteriorating mental health. Your partner's denial of such symptoms I_love_green_blossom____by_captivatedimagesfurther exacerbates  your anxiety, effectively positioning you as caretaker in your relationship.

Here are 6 tips on what to do when your partner has stopped taking their medication but refuses to acknowledge that they are becoming unwell.

1. Assess their level of suicidality

Often people do not disclose that they are experiencing thoughts of suicidality unless they are asked directly. If your partner admits to having such thoughts, it is important that they talk to a health professional about what they are experiencing. If your partner has a trusted health professional, a doctor, counsellor, or psychiatrist, encourage them to check in with that professional. Remind your partner that talking  to their health professional does not mean they have to go back on the medication (though that may be an outcome) but is in itself a therapeutic intervention to cope with what they are experiencing.
 If your partner acknowledges that they are having thoughts of suicide, check out the following:
– do they have a plan as to how they would suicide?
– do they have the means at their disposal?
– have they made other suicide attempts?
– has someone close to them suicided?
– are they at risk to themselves or others?
If they answer ‘yes' to at least 2 of these questions, it is important that they see a health professional as soon as possible.

2.  Calmly share your concerns and invite them to talk about their own concerns

Often when an individual goes off their medication without consulting their health practitioner, they are unlikely to notice the minor changes to their thoughts and behaviour. Talking to them about your concerns and encouraging your partner to become more familiar with, and able to acknowledge the consequences of being unwell may serve to raise their level of awareness. Some of the consequences might include their unavailability to your children or being unable to work. Write these down as future reference. (If your partner remains in denial, be kind and gentle and encourage them to remain open to the conversation)

3. Make a ‘contract' with your partner

Make a written Contract or agreement with your partner to identify the point at which they agree to take personal responsibility to seek out their health professional.
This conversation would include:
  • early warning symptoms that your partner might experience ( as point above)
  • identifying the point at which these symptoms are no longer tolerable for themselves and/or for others.

 4. Encourage your partner to use self care strategies 

Learning to put into practice those activities that soothe and calm a person is one of the keys to maintaining good mental health. When considering what soothes your partner, encourage them to explore with all 5 senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Finding something small that they can carry with them so that they can access at any time (e.g. a grandmother's scented handkerchief) is a  great way to self soothe when needed.

5. Be encouraging

It is very easy to project your anxiety and /or frustration upon your partner. This can have the affect of your partner developing negative mental health symptoms that might otherwise fail to emerge.
For instance, when your anxiety tells you that your partner is undoubtedly going to regress rapidly, failing to get out of bed on time one morning because they are feeling tired, can be misinterpreted  by you as a sign that they are becoming depressed again. This may or may not be the case. The important thing to note is that by anticipating the worst scenario, your partner is more likely to ‘collude' by accepting your statement rather than acknowledging other possibilities (eg. ‘I just feel tired this morning'; ‘I didn't sleep well and need a catch up'; ‘self-care for me includes the occasional sleep in')

6. Deal with your own anxiety

If you have followed all these suggestions and remain anxious, seek out a professional counsellor to talk about your own concerns.

If you would like to know more about how to support someone experiencing mental health issues or need personal support in coping with a partner with mental health issues  contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.

I think my partner is depressed. How do I get my partner to go and see a therapist?

I_love_purple_flowers____by_captivatedimagesI think my partner is depressed. How do I get my partner to go and see a therapist?


This is a question I am frequently asked, be it concern for a spouse, a parent, a son or daughter or even a friend. You can see that they need to talk to a counsellor about what they are experiencing however try as you might, all your attempts to get them there are met with resistance.

Here are some strategies that, used appropriately, may encourage your partner  to see a counsellor:

1. Do not nag or give ultimatums that you have no intention of carrying out. It may sometimes work however generally these tactics build resentment and resistance deeming it unlikely that your partner will be willing to fully participate in counselling.

2. If you haven't already, go to a counsellor yourself. The benefits include

  • getting to know the counsellor and their style.
  •  ‘walking the talk' i.e. your partner will be more open to counselling if they know you have been prepared to ‘try it'.
  •  having a personal opportunity to talk to a counsellor about the concerns you have for your partner. Often we fail to recognise how our own anxiety for the other can exacerbate the problem.
  •  making personal changes is the most powerful testimony that counselling works!

3. If you are linked in with a counsellor, pass on their details to your partner for them to read when they choose to. If the counsellor has a website and/or blog, give your partner the website address and allow them to check it out at their disgression. Often a partner might prefer to go to a different counsellor to yourself. If that is the case, encourage them to do so. You could ask your counsellor for a recommendation.

As a counsellor, in discussion with my own clients, I have actioned some strategies that have been met with success. You may choose to talk to your counsellor about these strategies:

4. The counsellor may write a letter inviting the partner to a shared session suggesting that their knowledge and input would be helpful or alternatively to contact the counsellor for a free 10 minute consultation about what to expect from counselling. This may be hand delivered by you or sent by post.

5. The counsellor might send a ‘thinking of you card' with an appropriate message. In my own experience as a counsellor, this has met with considerable success because it has the effect of reducing the feeling of isolation for your partner and communicates to them the message of care and concern.

Ultimately, it is important to be patient and loving as you encourage your  partner to try counselling. A person's readiness for counselling always plays a significant part in the effectiveness of counselling, so allow your partner to come to their own decision. For yourself, practice patient and kindness as you gently encourage your  partner and be sure to go to a counsellor yourself to deal with the inevitable feelings of anxiety you hold in the meantime. Please let me know on the comments below the effectiveness or otherwise of these strategies. I look forward to hearing from you.

If you would like to know more about how to support someone experiencing depression or need personal support in coping with depression or any other mental health issue contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.

Anxiety: 4 Strategies to Help Calm You

I am feeling sad today as I am confronted by news of another act of violence and suffering at Sandy Hook in the state of Connecticut, USA. Expressions of grief, tributes, words of outrage and anger and numerous photos saturate social media and as a world community we struggle once again to come to terms with this senseless tragedy. How do you try to make sense of this? How does this tragedy impact you? Are you able to acknowledge the tragedy and at the same time, continue to function throughout the day and the days to  come, without the emotions you feel (perhaps sadness or anger)   having a disabling affect? If your answer is yes, then you can continue to read this blog from the perspective of what to be aware of if you know someone whose emotional reaction to the tragedy has a crippling impact on them. If, on the other hand, you are reading this because you are finding it difficult to contain the emotions you feel, I invite you to read on and use these 4 strategies to help you calm yourself.

1. Avoid media/social media if you are aware that what you are reading and listening to is increasing your emotional distress.

Have a break from your electronic devices and  turn your attention to other activities.

2. Do something that soothes you.

Here are some ideas: calming music, candles, spending time with your pet, taking a long walk at a favourite place (a beach, lake, park or outdoor location that has a particularly calming affect), look at some photos, sit quietly and watch nature, draw or colour in, have a bubble bath. I would love to hear other ideas to add to this list.

3. Write down what you are feeling.

You can write it in a special journal or on a piece of paper. Pretend that you are talking to your closest friend and tell them how you feeling, why you are feeling it and write back the response you would expect to hear from your friend. You can keep it and go back to it whenever you feel the need to write down what you are feeling.

4. Try this mindfulness exercise:

Notice your physical sensations, and  where in your body they are located.

If you are feeling sad or angry for instance, notice where that feeling is in your body; pretend you are an anthropologist observing a new species:

What does the feeling look like?

– colour?                                – shape?                              – size?

– solid and hard or soft and pliable?                             – any other features?

Try drawing the feeling/s

Remember that you don't have to be an artist, have some fun with your creature.

Play with the creature in your imagination

Can you make the creature smaller?

Focus on the image and pretend that you are changing the lens on your camera so that the creature is moving into the distance and getting smaller

Now let it disappear in a puff of smoke

Now deeply inhale

Now exhale (do this more than once if you need to)

Now notice how you are feeling.

If this exercise has been helpful, practice it whenever you are feeling overwhelmed with the emotion you feel.


If you continue to struggle with feelings of sadness, despair, severe anxiety or thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek professional health assistance as soon as possible to help you recover. Talking to your G.P. and/or a counsellor can give you the additional support you need to help you.

If you would like to speak to Colleen for additional support you can contact her on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.


Depression: What I Knew and What I Wished Someone Had Told Me

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues that people experience. As many as one in 5 Australians will have this illness at some stage in their life.Depression  and anxiety frequently emerge at times of transition as a consequence of the stress that life transitions bring with them. In my own experience, the transition from a single woman to couple and then couple to couple with children, was a very stressful time and as I now reflect, it was not surprising that I became depressed – but I didn’t see it like that at the time!

At that stage of my life, my husband and I were committed to and worked for The Salvation Army, having been raised within this cultural context. The Salvation Army had been like a benevolent parent who provided employment, housing, community, identity and support. It was all that we had ever known and I felt secure and happy however I had no idea that a life crisis was heading my way.  The ‘clouds of depression’ had been gathering over a number of years previous to my marriage, however I had continued to function, having no idea what the source of my constant fatigue was. The birth of our twin daughters was a joyful and exhilarating time however I could not shake off my feelings of sadness and isolation. My body constantly ached as I struggled to make it through each day. For 2 years I continued to push myself; good wife, mother, daughter, working professional; I fulfilled the roles assigned to me and the expectations that came by association.

The resources that got me through that time

1. Support

I had the support of 2 friends who listened, encouraged me and did very practical things like helping with the ironing and giving me a hand feeding the babies. These mature women understood the struggle I experienced and accepted me without judgement. I have always felt an unfailingly gratitude towards these women. If you have people in your life who want to help you, accepting their support is not a sign of weakness. It is  the recognition that you are not ‘super-woman’ but a normal human-being under significant stress.


I have always had a very strong sense of what is sacred in my life and practiced the discipline of meditation. My personal belief in a loving and compassionate God, nurtured within me a spirit of gratitude and the belief that every life experience has purpose and meaning. Your spirituality can be a rich source of inner calm and groundedness and can be viewed as separate from ‘following a religion. Religion is about following a particular belief system, its rules and rituals. For some people this is very ‘life-giving’ and grounding. I prefer to separate the two because whilst I enjoy meaningful rituals, in my own experience following a religious pattern became ‘life-draining’. This did not mean that I abandoned my faith, only that I needed to let go of religious expectations that had an exhausting and stressful impact upon me.

3. Hope

The hope that things would change for the better. This hope enabled me to hold on to life and not give up, though there were many times when I felt like it.

I survived with these resources for 2 years however they  were not enough to restore my wellbeing. As a consequence, I became seriously unwell, physically collapsing at home whilst caring for my 2 year old twin daughters. This finally drew attention to how seriously unwell I was however if I had known what I know now, I could have received the help I needed well before this and recovered much quicker than the 15 years that my recovery journey actually took. So here are some of the things that I know now that I wished I had known then. I hope they help you.


The Resources that I wish I had known about then

 4. Physical Symptoms are your body's warning alert system

Physical symptoms such as panic attacks, headaches, exhaustion, social anxiety, anger, insomnia, aches and pains are your body’s way of drawing attention to the fact that you need to take some time out to care for yourself. When you no longer have the physical, emotional or psychological resources to cope with everyday life, your body calls attention to itself in very physical ways.

 5. Practicing the things that calm you and nurture a sense of well-being will settle your anxiety, lift your spirit and energize you.

What works is unique to your needs; exercise stimulates endorphins in the brain to produce a feeling of well-being, meditation helps you to calm and ground yourself, massage,  a warm bubble bath, a fragrant candle, music, journaling, art,  are all resources that people sometimes find helpful. Avoid ‘self-medicating’; alcohol, unprescribed medication, illicit drugs, and other potentially addictive and risk-taking behaviours.  Initially these things may bring some relief however they are short-lived and have potentially devastating consequences.

 6. You are important. Your needs are important. Feeling guilty that you feel the way you do is unproductive and self-destructive.

Here is a paradox: If you take the time to value and care for yourself, you will gradually recover your own sense of wellbeing and be able to take care of the people you love.   On the other hand, when you fail to take time to care for yourself, ultimately you will be unable to care for the people you love.

7. Counselling

Talking to a counsellor about your experience provides you with a safe space  to explore your experience and provide clarity about what you need to recover your health and wellbeing and to develop strategies for your ongoing wellness.

8. Talk to a doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing.

Medication can assist you in your recovery to wellness. Anti-depressant medication is not addictive and can give you the necessary help to begin to function while you continue the counselling process. Once you begin an anti-depressant, it is important to take it as your doctor prescribes and continue to use them for at least 6 months. This gives your system time to fully recover and absorb the new messages you are learning about yourself in the counselling process.

If you would like to know more about how to navigate your present life transition experience or need support in coping with depression or any other mental health issue contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.