Notes and Mentions
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: Today we welcome to the podcast a guest with a variety of expertise and certifications. Some of those are Speech-Language Pathologist, Life Balance Coach, Aroma Freedom Practitioner and Clinical Aromatherapist.
Tina: And like many of us, she brings her lived experience as a mom of three young adults to everything she does. Tobi Feldman, welcome to the podcast!
Tobi: Thanks so much for having me! I love that you two are the “Mental Health Mamas.” I refer to myself as the “Resilient AF Midlife Mama” My kids are now 21,18, and 14 and I’ve got only 1 at home. It’s been quite a journey!
Serena: Yeah, so Tobi, you wear a lot of different hats in our community like many of us and you and I actually met through shared experiences in raising children who struggle. Is it perhaps fair to say that many of the hats you wear are as a direct result of the struggles that you and your family have faced?
Tobi: Absolutely. I was so grateful back then to have connected with you Serena because there really was “No Need to Explain”. I’ve got my air quotes there. And I didn't have many other people in my life that really got it. So even though I had a lot of loving and supportive friends and family there really wasn't anyone in my life that had shared the same experiences that we were going through and it was pretty lonely and scary. So the challenges that we had trickled into all areas of my life. So my physical and emotional health were tanking. Our finances were struggling. I was pivoting in my career repeatedly with like these long pauses between things. My friends, there was a good solid group of supportive friends, but there were definitely friends they came and went. And my ability to have fun and travel, we really had stopped making plans to do anything because everything was so unpredictable. The last pivot I had was a complete shift to where I am now that I'm kind of the Mama that came through the fire and now I'm reaching back in to help others out. So it's been quite a journey getting here.
Tina: Mmhm. We can relate to so much of that and it’s part of why we do what we do. Right? No Need to Explain. We get you. And I love that last line about coming through the fire and reaching back to help others out. That’s awesome! We’ve talked before on our podcast about how tricky it can be to share the story of our family’s struggles without going too far into that story that doesn’t really belong to us, right. This can be especially hard with young adults as I know. Given that you have three young adults, we certainly want to respect their privacy. And without sharing specific details, can you tell our listeners a bit about what your experience as a parent has been in the midst of these crises?
Tobi: Mmm. Yeah. For us it was a cycle of chaos and crisis. That’s what I always refer to it as. Chaos and crisis with a bit of calm sprinkled in here and there. It was kind of this intense roller coaster ride so just when you felt like things were leveling off and you could get grounded, everybody seemed good, then suddenly that next steep drop that unearthed you came along. So the first thing I realized was that I had this sort of cell phone trauma response. There were periods of like this 24/7 watching and you know every time the phone would ring I would just jump. And so it was, there was a depth of physical and emotional burnout that got me to like that physical breakdown of needing a cane to walk and then having, oh my gosh, the panic attacks. I was, I was that...I was that mom that ended up in the panic attack place of being rushed to the hospital thinking I was having a heart attack. You know, laying on a gurney all day being told you're really okay, everything's okay. Being sent home with some medication. So yeah. For me it was a dark place and there was a time where I found myself pulled over on the side of the road contemplating driving to the Hospital Behavioral Unit myself. I was, I was in that space of needing some time to check out of life. Not necessarily feeling suicidal but just, you know if I could just create something that happened to just check out. You know, like something about going and being in a hospital bed for a little while felt appealing and that was scary. But it was really just wanting to let go of the responsibilities, it just felt so heavy.
Serena: Yeah. Thank you for sharing all that. I can certainly relate to the idea of just wanting a break, right? Like just trying to find some space and I wonder if you're okay with this I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit more about, sort of your response to your phone ringing. I think there are a lot of people out there who understand that and some who don’t quite understand maybe what that means. Could you talk about that just a little bit?
Tobi: Yeah. Ooh, I just got chills. There was a period of time where, you know, it’s sort of the pros and cons of the technology that we have today, right? Where, you know, we can be reached at any given time. And I remember sitting, it was a very specific moment. I was sitting in a therapy appointment and I had my phone in my hands and the therapist said to me, you want to put your phone down and kind of be present. And I said I can’t. And when he asked me why not, I said well you know, the school might call, my kid might call. You know I just kind of need to be checked in. And I realized at that point in conversation with him that I was so tethered to my phone in that way and that for a long time anytime I would have the ding of the phone it was an immediate response. A traumatic response. Meaning that I, it would trigger my fight flight. I would immediately go into that space okay what's wrong? As opposed to just, oh, somebody’s reaching out. It was always like, what’s wrong?
Tina: I don’t think we ever think that. Oh, someone’s calling. It must be something awesome.
Tobi: Yeah. so it was, there was a lot of deconditioning that had to be done around the phone and that took a long time.
Serena: Yeah, yeah. Thank you. So can you share a bit about how you moved from that place of sort of constant panic and being in that trauma-response to where you are now? Because if I’m not mistaken, I think you’re not in that place any more.
Tobi: Oh yes. Very gratefully not in that place any more. So the first thing was respite. I can't state enough how important it is to just get away from the experience, have space to breathe, and allow the nervous system to settle down. So that looks like a lot of things for me. Sometimes it was taking a few hours to go sit by the waterfall or even to take a drive. Or sometimes it was the children being able to go have a sleepover or something where we were, even if it was just one child out of the house, there was a little bit of breathing space because they weren't all interacting with each other which we know happens. So there was a time when our, one of our kids, was gone for a while and though it shattered me I knew that they were safe and we were in a situation where we were not able to create that safe space. And everything felt out of control. But I was really conscious during that time to take the time to use as respite, to reflect on what was going on, to take on time for meditation. I did a lot of writing, journaling, talking with both therapists and friends and really just allowing myself to process everything that was going on. Not just in the context of with my family but for me personally. What I had been through and kind of where I currently was.
I went to a therapist for a few months and was working on trauma response because at some point I was working with a case manager who pointed out to me that that's what was happening. Like I didn't have a name for it. And she saw what was happening to me with my phone and some other behaviors. And said you know you're having a trauma response. And I was like, what’s that? I didn’t know, you know. So I called up a therapist other than the one I went to with my husband and who essentially kept our marriage together throughout all of it. I found a therapist just for me and said okay I don't really know what this is but I need to work on trauma response. So, teach me.
I had been doing a meditation group and the woman who led the meditation circle one day came in and she just started drawing this thing out on a piece of paper on the floor that was based on Dan Siegel’s Window of Tolerance. And that was an “aha” moment for me because I began to understand the nervous system and the concept of how we go into fight, flight, and freeze. And that just shifted everything for me. I remember looking at it and thinking, “oh my gosh. My window is closed. And my kid’s window is closed. And saw for the first time, like okay, there are tools that we can use to open it and there are tools that we can use to keep it open and stay in that safe, you know, sort of space, where life happens in the middle. And you know when we go into fight or flight or freeze our Window of Tolerance or what I like to refer to as resilience gets shut down.
And so doing all these things like meditation, journaling, breathing exercises, using essential oil, doing physical activity. I learned about this and it just, it shifted everything. And then I began doing Aroma Freedom sessions. So Aroma freedom is designed by a psychologist. It uses the limbic system and our sense of smell, our olfactory system. So we use essential oils to tap into the limbic system because that’s where we hold memories. And the olfactory system is the only way to get those memories. So it uses things from all different areas of psychology, but Dr. Perkus who created it, brought in these essential oils and it just makes it so powerful because we can't hold the same, we can’t hold more than one memory in the same space. So it allows us to go in and tap into memories and shift them. So it's an amazing tool for letting go of trauma and I was able to use this to release a lot of traumatic memories, work through them and then create possibilities for me to be more at peace. So I began to use that as a tool and then I go and got trained in it because I was like, I need to help other people do this. Aroma Freedom also allows us to work towards the things that we want in our lives and to let go of whatever negative voices we might hear or images that may come up for us. Memories that we may have that are holding us back from moving forward. So I began to do that work and then I started looking at sort of the imbalance in my life. You know, I realized that I was spending so much time focusing on the family issues that I hadn't gotten back to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up you know. And I wasn't really focusing on my friendships and I certainly wasn't having any fun and our finances were a mess.
So there were all these different areas of my life and I realized there was a lot of imbalance and I had used a framework called Oola in the past. So I brought that back into my life as a way to help me get back on track. And what Oola does is look at the 7 key areas of our life which are Fitness, Family, Field which is our career, Friends, Fun, Faith, and Finance. And so I began to look and figure out what it was that I wanted in all those areas of my life, create goals, create action steps and really just work on dreaming again and moving forward because I had been so stuck for so long. And, yeah, so I loved that so much I went and learned how to coach in that too. The shift for me was about finding what worked for me and then turn around and use those things to help others which has been such a gift.
Tina: Yeah, it’s such a next-level thing we find, right? That it’s awesome when we become well and we’re still on our journey and yet, we can reach out and help others. And it is kind of this next-level of feeling good about that. We know that you’ve got a lot of different things in the works right now to support parents like us and that you’re a speaker, blogger and podcaster. One of the focuses of your work has been on executive function. You talk about playing the role of “fixer” for your kids and becoming their pre-frontal cortex. Can you share more about what that means?
Tobi: Absolutely. Executive function is really simple. It’s the ability to get stuff done that we all do. So everybody has executive function but for various reasons our executive functions abilities get challenged. So the part of our brain that executes these functions is the prefrontal cortex and when, so when our kids struggle to execute the task and we jump in to do the things we become their prefrontal cortex which inhibits them from learning the skills themselves. So when your child has certain chores that they're scheduled to do and you're constantly telling them, “The garbage needs to go out. The garbage needs to go out”. Or you're going ahead and you're doing it for them so that it gets done, right. Which I know we’ve all been there. Like, these things just need to happen. So the more we jump in and do the things, the less they're learning to create that neural pathway for them to build it into their system to be like, “Okay, It’s Tuesday. The garbage needs to be taken out” and doing the thing. So it's okay to give them the reminders. What I recommend is like a simple text. You know some people like to do a checklist. Some people, you know. I discourage the nag. I discourage being the parent who's constantly verbalizing it because then it's taking out something on you. And you're feeling the stress of it and then they're feeding off of our expression of that needing to get done with the emotion attached to it. And so then that's a whole nother level of executive function which is that emotional regulation and the co-regulation that goes along with it, right. So now everybody's sort of, like, a little bit stressed out because this garbage needs to be taken out. Whereas, if there could be a simple text reminder, then it gives them that little ding. Oh, gotta take that garbage out. So it's finding the ways to support them without really taking over so that they can develop those skills. Because developmentally their brains are not fully developed until 25, 28, you know somewhere in that range and yet neuroplasticity allows them to learn these skills. So it's our job to be able to support and advocate and you know, create the scaffolding but not do the things and that way they can create the pathways to do with themselves.
Serena: Yeah it's a hard thing for a lot of us right? We’re all we’re all fixers.
Tobi: Yeah, I just want to say especially when it comes to things like school or education in general. Because this goes for homeschooling as well as in school since we’re all doing a little bit of both right now. You know, as parents we kind of, we want to help them to stay on top of their assignments and their school work and make sure things are being handed in and you know there's all of that and that is really important for them to take on the responsibility of right?
Serena: Yeah, yeah.
Tobi: Yeah, so this executive functioning thing is everywhere.
Serena: Right, right, Yeah, so tell us about your Facebook group and perhaps some of the other things you have going on right now.
Tobi: I love my little community on Facebook. So I have this group on Facebook that's emerging. It’s called the Resilient AF Midlife Mamas and many of them are women that are still in the fire. Some are emerging from it but my passion is supporting them in their journey so they don't feel so alone. And they can see that there's a light ahead but more importantly if they can find the light within them because too many of us on these journeys during the teen years particularly, we lose our own light and I think it's just so important for them to reclaim that. So what I've created is a 90-day program. It's free in the group and it's simple daily prompts that are things, it encapsulates many of the things that I've done along the journey reclaiming my life so that they can reclaim their lives too. And help them to reconnect with creativity and passion because the creativity and passion just flatlined. So yeah, so that's all I'm that in the group and there's a whole bunch of other resources in the group that are free and then I also offer coaching, Aroma Freedom sessions. I have a few book collaborations coming out. I just signed a contract for one so I’m excited about that. One will be launching in April and the other one over the summer. And a bunch of other stuff. There’s a course in the works and yeah, I'm spinning a lot of plates ladies.
Tina: So, can you share with our listeners the best way to connect with you if someone’s interested in all of these awesome things, all of these supports that you’re offering?
Tobi: The best way to find me is at www.ResilientAFMidlifeMama.com which is my website and that's got links to all the places and all the things. So you can get to the Facebook group from there and the Facebook group is the same name.
Tina: Awesome. Yeah, so we will put that in the show notes so you all have it. A question we often ask our guests is about self-care. We’ve heard you use the term “radical self-care”. What does that mean to you?
Tobi: Radical self care for me is when you put your foot down or you plant your flag and you declare that you come first. We absolutely have to love ourselves first and fully to be able to Mama. And it's not just the oxygen first thing. It’s keeping your cup so full that it's running over and you can be present and nurturing without putting yourself at risk. It needs to be sustainable and what's really important for me is that it isn't always about the things that we go out and spend money on like manis, pedis, massages and all that kind of stuff that people think about when they picture self-care. They picture like the bubble bath or whatever. You know it's, it's things like learning to define boundaries, getting comfortable with using the word “no” and acknowledging that no is a complete sentence.
Serena: Mmm. I love that. “No is a complete sentence”.
Serena: So, one more question for you today. We clearly value your expertise and all of the lived experience that you bring to your work in supporting others in your life. What is something that you wish you had known earlier in your journey?
Tobi: I wish I had listened and not rolled my eyes at all the messages about self-care. I can't, like, so many people would say, like, what are you doing about self-care? I remember that feeling of like, ha-ha, self-care. Whatever. You know who has time for that? I can't afford that. Who has time for that? Whatever. But it's really, it is the simplest, most accessible, most critical piece of the puzzle for anyone, anywhere. But for Moms it is essential. We absolutely have to do it and it is the thing that we really, like fuss about the most. That we don't have time or whatever but, like, we have to make the time. It has to happen. And when we do it the most beautiful part is that we model it for our families and that part’s priceless. For them to see us taking care of ourselves and learning that this is what we do.
Tina: Mmhm. That is an incredibly powerful statement. I don’t think we put enough eggs in that basket, for sure. Yeah. Modeling for our families what we should be doing for ourselves. Love it! So thank you Tobi, so much for joining us today and sharing your wisdom with us.
Serena: Yes, absolutely. And thank you, honestly, for the work you are doing to support the other mamas out there. It is awesome.
Tobi: Thanks so much for having me. It was so much fun to be with you guys. I'm so grateful to be here and yeah. I just want all the Mamas to feel seen and heard and know that they're not alone.
Tina: These deep connections that we feel with people like you, awesome. And so podcast friends, we are, as always, not only grateful for Tobi, but we are grateful for you who listen to us and support us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leave a review, and subscribe. And we would love it if you would share it with others. You’ll also find more content on our website, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks for listening!