(Disclaimer: This transcript was made using AI technology. Please excuse any errors.)
Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery. And now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri
Adina Silvestri 0:11
Hola Atheists in Recovery, and welcome to Episode 80 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And today we are talking to Elizabeth Cush, all about trauma sensitive mindfulness. And so in today's episode, we talk a little bit about Elizabeth's deepest roots in her early years, growing up with childhood emotional neglect. And as being an adult looking back, she recognized that she took that pain that she was living with and began to use substances to cope, which is a very familiar theme. Yeah. We talked about the biggest challenges. Now as she is a practitioner, in helping people with trauma, start to work through the pain and develop a mindfulness practice, and how mindfulness and meditation can really decrease the chances of using substances to numb and just really creating that stop gap when you're having mindfulness practice because you're more aware, and your awareness is just more enhanced maybe of what's happening inside your body. And you're just less likely to when you feel the pain to reach for the bottle or the drug, because you're just, it's just as emotional and cognitive awareness of the self. And so it it's very helpful. Okay, let's talk about Elizabeth Kush. Elizabeth is a licensed clinical professional counselor, business owner and blogger in Annapolis, Maryland, where she hosts women warriors, a podcast for anxious women. In a private practice progression counseling, she helps men women who feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed out find more connection with themselves, and others, allowing them to live their lives with more ease, intention and purpose. She's worked in the mental health field for over 10 years and as a certified clinical trauma professional. And she incorporates mindfulness and meditation into her psychotherapy work with individuals and groups, you can find Elizabeth app regression counseling.com. And for more information on Elizabeth and how to connect with her and any of the links in the podcast, you can find that at atheists in recovery.com forward slash Episode 80 Alright guys, let's get started. Lizabeth Cush, welcome to the show.
Elizabeth Cush 2:52
Thanks, Adina. I so appreciate your asking me to be on. I'm excited.
Adina Silvestri 2:56
Yes, me as well. So I want to start our conversation, just by getting to know I'm always interested in learning how people sort of get to where they are in life. And so I'm wondering if we can start this conversation by just inquiring about your deepest roots from childhood?
Elizabeth Cush 3:20
Hmm, wow. So I grew up in a middle class family in Philadelphia, and parents were together, I'm one of four kids. So two girls, two boys, I'm in the middle with my sister, the younger of the two sisters. So on my younger sister, third child, I think that's impacted who I am in terms of, you know, sometimes not feeling seen and heard being middle child. But to my mother and sister we're very close, just her being older and, but my parents divorced when I was mid, like probably Middle School. And that really turned our whole family kind of upside down our family pretty much it was an ugly divorce. an affair. You know, my dad moved across the country like it was hard and our family pretty much I don't know, I say it shattered It was tough. So that has shaped me in a lot of ways, has helped me learn how to be very independent and but also very committed to when I did get married that like working to make this work like I do not want to so I'm also I am married and have been for we just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary, which is crazy. Congrats. Thank you and have three young men all launched and successful and thriving, as well as can be in these times. But yeah, so and that family, my family that I've created with my husband really has kept me rooted in myself. Like, for the longest time, I just I was like, all I want to do is be a mom. And that I found out it wasn't fulfilling enough. And really wasn't sure how I wanted to where I wanted to put my energies in the world. So I've done a lot of I've waited tables, I've managed restaurants I, wow, retail. Yeah, I managed a big department for Bloomingdale's for a period of time to daycare, worked in a preschool, and then decided it was time to I didn't complete my undergrad degree, for a lot of reasons. In my 20s. So went back when my baby who is now 24, when he was born, went back to school. Got my undergrad degree took a long time, like took like one class at a time. And then
Adina Silvestri 6:04
Wow, that sounds painful.
Elizabeth Cush 6:07
Yeah, well, I did it online back when online school wasn't that big a thing. Okay, I did a lot of it online. So I could do it at home and work. And yes, it took a long time. But then by the time I finished, my oldest kids were ready to go to college. So I wanted to get my master's but we really couldn't afford because my two oldest are like 17 months apart. So their college tuitions were like, boom, boom, together. So we really couldn't afford to send me back to school for my masters. So I waited. And once they graduated, I went back and graduated with my Masters when my youngest graduated from high school. So I'm a late bloomer, I could consider myself and started my private practice when I was 53. Wow. Yeah, yeah. This is like a new.
Adina Silvestri 6:59
Well, I don't know how new it is. But it was a new chapter for you, then for sure.
Elizabeth Cush 7:02
Yeah, it was it was and I had been working in the mental health field. So I worked during the time that I was completing undergrad and getting my master's and just finding, you know, just working, I was working at a local hospital, in their domestic violence program. So the hospital had a domestic, it was basically a trauma response group. So if somebody if a child came in with abuse, or a woman was either sexually assaulted or had been assaulted, and a relationship issue, we were called in and did some crisis counseling, offering resources following up to make sure they were safe. So I did that for like 10 years while I was going into getting my masters and masters in private practice. Yeah, so so quite a journey, but really solidified how much how important it was for me to work with women. That was really the thing I think I took away from that. There's so many obstacles and potential traumas in our lives that to be able to support women through therapy was really important for me.
Adina Silvestri 8:14
And I'm wondering to how much of that you know that for, those formative years weighed on your decision to be in the helping profession? Because I feel like you have to you give a lot in this field? hinzu. Yeah, you can maybe talk a bit about that.
Elizabeth Cush 8:31
Oh, definitely. I think for me, recognizing the, and this really came later in life, but it's really shaped by therapy practice is that recognizing how much a lack of emotional attunement, parents with children can have on your adult life really has helped me better help the women who come to see me with similar issues. So you know, when there is what, you know, we now call childhood emotional neglect, or attachment issues. It impacts all of our relationships. And can I think, you know, just talking about, you know, the fact that your podcast is a recovery podcast to that, like, I managed all those really hard emotions, because I didn't know how to with substances. I smoked a lot of pot. I turned to cocaine at one point. I you know, I'm not proud of that. But I recognize too, that I just did not know how to manage my emotional state. Mm hmm. And, yeah, and so yes, definitely. My formative years have shaped how I yeah, how I approach therapy, but also my understanding of how to be better attuned with ourselves, and work to help women and men find that more authentic way of living. Yeah.
Adina Silvestri 9:56
Thanks for that.
Elizabeth Cush 9:57
hmm hmm. Sure
Adina Silvestri 9:58
so you are a trauma specialist, and you incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your work. And that's, you know, that was part of the reason why I wanted you to come on. Because they feel like, Well, before for a lot of a lot of individuals I see mindfulness and meditation, those are dirty words.
Want me to do what? So I thought maybe we could start a little broad and then sort of narrow is we go or not? We'll see. But yeah, but who do you sort of see in your practice? Mostly? And maybe some of that? What are some of those challenges that you're that you're helping people with? Yeah,
Elizabeth Cush 10:47
yeah. So I am absolutely a trauma specialist. And but market myself more as an anxiety specialist. So because a lot of what I experienced, because of the childhood emotional neglect, that I experienced that I had a lot of anxiety around big emotions. So I learned how to not feel them pretty early on not to ask for big needs. And that created a lot of anxiety for me. So I know what that's like to live with an extreme amount of anxiety, and I wanted to be able to help others. So my mindfulness practice, and my meditation practice has really helped me manage my anxiety. And so the women that I market to but I see men and women come to me for typically anxiety or relationship issues due to anxiety, you know, that it's impacting their life, they're so stressed out at work, they're so stressed out with their boss, they're having trouble in their partnerships, or they're, you know, mothering or whatever it is. So we they're coming to for help for that. And often there's underlying trauma.
Adina Silvestri 12:01
And Elizabeth, I wonder if we could just define childhood emotional neglect for people that don't know what that is? Sure, sure. So,
Elizabeth Cush 12:09
childhood emotional neglect, is when you are raised in a family, with parents or caregivers, who have not learned how to manage their own emotional needs. So maybe they were raised by parents who also couldn't manage their emotional needs. So emotions aren't validated, they aren't promoted. So if you have if you're really stressed out, or really scared, and you go to your parent and say, I'm freaking out about this test, they're like, Oh, it's no big deal. Get over it. Suck it up.
Adina Silvestri 12:44
Yes. Sounds like my childhood.
Elizabeth Cush 12:47
Well, and, and in my family, like my sister, and I joke, like, we say, Buck up, like, that's what you do, you just Buck up, you get in there, and you just handle it. And so you learn early on how to deal with those emotions. But the way you learn is to put them away. Like that's the message, don't have them. Don't be too big with them, figure out how to manage it yourself. So oftentimes, with clients, I'll if I'll, if I ask, like, Who did you go to, to when things are really hard? Yeah. And they'll say, Well, I just kind of figured out how to do it on my own. I go to my room, I'd read a book, I'd go cry. So that to me is a sign like, okay, and I have learned, I used to hold a lot of resentment toward my parents, but I have learned that says, they weren't given the skills either. Like it wasn't because they were bad parents they provided and a lot of really great ways. And I know they loved me, but I wasn't given the skills to figure out how I was feeling and have managed these big feelings on my own.
Adina Silvestri 13:56
Mm hmm. Because maybe they didn't know exactly,
Elizabeth Cush 14:00
yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah. So that can lead to a lot of avoidance pushing away, sometimes using substances to dull or numb food. Yeah. Nowadays, social media to numb the feelings because we really don't know how to tolerate them.
Adina Silvestri 14:21
Yeah. So alcohol and drugs become those go to?
Unknown Speaker 14:26
Yeah, yeah, they can for sure.
Adina Silvestri 14:28
Elizabeth Cush 14:29
Yeah. And I do think that has as difficult as it can be, you know, when especially for new clients, you know, and you're saying, well, I really want you to learn how to feel your feelings.
Adina Silvestri 14:45
Oh God. That's the worst thing that I can say really.
Elizabeth Cush 14:51
But it's so true, right? Like we have to figure out how to handle we have to know what we're feeling.
Adina Silvestri 14:58
start with a diagram. Maybe that's, that's the next thing that I need to do diagrams. Okay, kidding aside, mindfulness and meditation has been shown to, to really transform people's healing. And so,
you aknow, what do you think the biggest challenges are with helping individuals with anxiety? Or maybe depression? Or just, you know, how do they deal with that? How do they work through that? Because once you put down the alcohol and the drugs, you have to replace it with something?
Elizabeth Cush 15:38
Yes. Yeah. I think one of the biggest challenges for people with anxiety but depression too, is that yes. When you decide like, okay, the substances aren't working the way they did you know, that I'm avoiding I'm not feeling or I'm, I'm just putting aside until later. Yeah, it is. It's like the learning that as hard as it is to feel the emotional stuff. It doesn't kill us. Like, sometimes it feels like it's going to like it doesn't pull us under Yes, we can feel bad for a while. But that passes, like the anxiety, the depression, unless you are, like, seriously clinically depressed and need to be on medication, or having panic attacks, you know, where you're not leaving your home. Like, if you're dealing with sort of generalized anxiety or, or depressive symptoms, like these come and go, you feel bad sometimes. But you have good days, too. And I think what's hard to remember when we're in it, is that this too, will pass. And for me, that's where mindfulness can be so helpful, and a meditation practice that all of this comes and goes, the good and the bad.
Adina Silvestri 16:52
Yeah, I love what you just said, and I just want to highlight it because because I feel like I have this conversation on a weekly, if not daily basis, is that the emotions will pass and there's no way around it. You know, Can Can I get better? I hear this question all the time. Can I get better without having to work through the pain?
Elizabeth Cush 17:17
Adina Silvestri 17:18
And, and I know, it's scary. And I know that you're using the substances so that you don't have to go through the pain. You know, those are our defense strategies for what ails us. Yeah. But if we could just put like a, like a time limit on it, you know, okay, you're only gonna feel this much pain for this amount of time. I know. That's, that's not
realistic. But yeah, yeah. Maybe you could talk to that a little bit.
Elizabeth Cush 17:44
Yeah. Well, that's it. That is a hard, I think oftentimes with new clients, especially. But even older clients, too, you know, like, why isn't this going faster? or Why do I continue to get tripped up by this? What if it's a trigger or a person or a thing? You know, why does it feel like, I'm going three steps backwards each time I hit this Roadblock, but you know, what, I try to how I try to approach that as saying, you know, most of my clients are probably 35 and older, you know, so they, I want to say to them, you know, you have been dealing with this like this in the same ways. For 35 years, like you've turned to these coping mechanisms that worked to begin with, because you had to figure out how to get through, right. But now you're realizing it's not helping anymore. But we've got to rewire we've got to redo that 30 years of doing to start to do things differently. And it just takes time. And even when it feels like there isn't forward motion. There is and it might just be a slight shift, a little bit more awareness that you're knowing that Oh, yeah, that thing happened. And I am back to those old habits. But I know it I can let you know that I did
Adina Silvestri 19:09
They acknowledged it.
Unknown Speaker 19:10
Yeah. And to me, like that is what I like to then bring to the forefront. Okay. Yep, sure you fell backwards. But you saw even looking back, you were like, Oh, it was that thing that did it? And now I can remember, you know, that's your brain sort of solidifying that memory of, Oh, yeah, I have to be aware if I'm entering into a certain similar situation. This could trip me up. And I just need some awareness so I can take care of myself and maybe do better this time.
Adina Silvestri 19:46
These are the consequences and you need to be able to bring them up quickly. Before you take that next drinker. Right. Next hit
Elizabeth Cush 19:54
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Mm hmm. And so to me, Awareness is just such a huge, huge, huge component of growth and moving forward. And that's where mindfulness and meditation can play a role to bring a greater awareness to all the things that are happening inside you. I love that. Mm hmm.
Adina Silvestri 20:20
So the next thing on my mind is if we are maybe newly recovered, or maybe we're right out of the hospitalization, what would you recommend? How would you recommend getting started with a mindfulness
Like maybe what are some tools that you recommend? Yeah,
Elizabeth Cush 20:44
yeah. Well, I think, for anyone coming out of recovery at whatever stage you're in, one of the key parts of mindfulness is the non judgement like so being kind to yourself around how hard it is, but being kind to yourself around the potential missteps mistakes. So self compassion, is self compassion, practice, you know, learning how to not give yourself a pass, which I think a lot of people think, well, I'm just allowing myself to make mistakes, but it's owning that we're human, and that we all make mistakes, and that we can't get this next thing perfectly. Because we're human, we just can't, like we're gonna, we're gonna mess up. And whether that's, you know, falling into old patterns of behavior, whether that's relapse, whatever that might be, you know, to be kind to yourself around that, that I've made a mistake, I can be kind to myself within this mistake and do it differently next time. Hmm. But more practical. So there is a whole website self compassion.org with by Kristin Neff. She's a researcher in self compassion. And so she has exercises and meditations that are free there on the website, plus all of her research, which is amazing. Okay, so that's a great resource.
Adina Silvestri 22:10
Yeah. And I'll link to that in the show notes.
Elizabeth Cush 22:12
Awesome. But apps are a good way to start. For anybody who is considering starting a meditation or mindfulness practice, there are some really great, like insight timer has hundreds of 1000s I think, of free meditations. And you can also choose to purchase the app and get I think it's a yearly fee, and you get all their courses and everything. Okay, but there's a lot of free stuff there with a lot of different practitioners. So I think it's important that you find someone whose voice you like, whose message resonates with you. And there's a lot of people you can try. That's why I like that insight timer. Yeah, yeah. And I've got a couple meditations there, just to disclosure. Yeah. And I can't think of anything off the top of my head in terms of a mindfulness daily, you know, sort of getting more mindfulness into your life. But they're often free courses like 30 day mindfulness class, you know, that are free that other mindfulness practitioners are offering. It feels like all the time, so you can Google it, you could search out a 30 day mindfulness challenge or something like that. And that was kind of how I got started. I use headspace. Yeah, I've heard great stuff about headspace and calm. I've heard really like yeah,
Adina Silvestri 23:37
people really like calm headspace. I just I love the the voice. Voice and the headspace. So I use that a lot.
Elizabeth Cush 23:46
Yeah. And I think that is so like, you want to feel sort of almost bathed in their calm energy, whatever that is, then yeah, finding those voices that resonate with you. And that's so different for every person. So finding the ones that make you feel relaxed? Yeah.
Adina Silvestri 24:10
Well, I feel like we could probably talk for another hour, but I know that we're running late. So we'll just have to do this again.
Elizabeth Cush 24:18
Absolutely, definitely. Oh, my gosh, you made it very easy to
Adina Silvestri 24:25
So Elizabeth, before you go, I want I have one more question. You have a podcast called Women warriors?
Elizabeth Cush 24:32
I do. I do.
Adina Silvestri 24:34
Yeah. And you focus on helping women to build a caring, compassionate relationship with their anxiety and I love this part, unleash the Warrior Within.
Unknown Speaker 24:43
Adina Silvestri 24:44
I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about you know what informed your decision to start this podcast? Hmm.
Elizabeth Cush 24:52
Well, as I said, like, I am a woman warrior, right. I struggle. I still have days. Mostly nights, late nights where my anxiety peaks. And I understand how hard it can be to live a life of stress and anxiety. But I know too, there's so many things that contribute to the anxiety and stress that we hold as women. So I wanted to bring to light sort of some of the potential traumas that are impacting the anxiety we carry, but also offering options, ways to help and support women be more connected within themselves so that they can live a more productive, purposeful, easeful life.
Adina Silvestri 25:39
Elizabeth Cush 25:40
Adina Silvestri 25:41
Well, thank you for that. And so how can the listeners best find you and say hi, on the social?
Elizabeth Cush 25:48
so I'm on Instagram @ woman warriors. Also on Facebook, same thing. My website is my business website. It's progressioncounseling.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there. I do a monthly blog. And within the newsletter, you also get all the updates on the new podcast episodes. So podcast is there at progression counseling.com/woman warriors.
Adina Silvestri 26:18
Awesome. All right, Miss Elizabeth. Well, thank you again for being on Edina.
Elizabeth Cush 26:23
Thank you so much. It was great talking
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