The musings and rants of Julie Marie Miller, Special Needs Specialist, Parenting Expert & Mental Health Caregiver
  • Julie Marie Miller

Response Ability

Oh how I wish I could take responsibility for this clever phrase but I can't. I heard it on KFI AM 640 this morning as I was driving, while listening to a home improvement show of all things. I love it, though, so I'm going to use it.


I've heard a lot of clever and relatable phrases through the years. Some had profound impact on me, yet it took years - even decades - for some to sink in. You know, like Spiderman quote, "with great power comes great responsibility." Then I hear this clever phrase I'm using as the title of my .


Response ability.


Response includes your behaviors. But wait no. I have reflexive responses that are feelings. No. This literally took me years to understand. I envy those more enlightened who've gotten this all along...now wait. Is envy a behavior or a feeling? Oh jeez



Feelings literally just happen - it doesn't require you punch a wall no matter how much your FEELINGS make you want to do that BEHAVIOR. That one, I get.


We are responsible for our actions (behaviors), i.e. power over our feelings. Wait. Nope. No power. Just feelings. Feelings have no power. Wait. Feelings are powerful. Ugh. See?


The very thing I constantly remind my children of is I can't “make you...” (anything) - no one can. I can't "make you mad" because that would mean I'm in charge of your happiness; I can't "make you sad" because that would mean I'm in charge of your joy. Although feelings can be quite powerful they truly only exist within us.


That's the only place they have power - use it wisely.


Unless, of course, you've been diagnosed with ADHD and you have an impulse control problem. So I can choose to blame my disability but I could also choose to adapt and learn the skills to control those impulsive behaviors (working on it, folks, working on it). Which brings me to another clever quote I've learned from a wise soul, “When you point a finger at someone how many fingers are pointing back at you?" I'll let you do the math and visualizations on that one (hint: 75% unless you include your thumb).


I spent ten years being reactive. Blaming, pointing, victim-ing, suffering. I had Irresponsible Abilities. My thinking was broken.

Honestly, my limbic system was completely shot for about a decade and I was stuck in fight, flight, or freeze. Our hormones are designed to work fluidly through that system much the way animals respond to it from the reptilian brains. However, another quote I didn't understand until I did, “In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.” I've been great at giving advice. I believed things I'd read. I understood them intellectually - so why the hell was I still stuck?


I couldn't live the way I was any longer. I couldn't allow my children to witness another panic attack. I couldn't suffer another "maybe that was a stroke." I got desperate enough to seek treatment - again - and I was diagnosed with and treated for PTSD (about two years ago). The treatment was highly effective, actually cured me. Neurofield and biofeedback, I'm told (specifically by one of the treating psychiatrists during my daughter's most recent 72-hour hold) is a waste of time and money and has no scientific evidence to support it. [I] "was scammed." Whelp, my external temperature was 67 degrees on any given day during any weather season for about a decade. I was that chick who would grab her sweater “just in case” no matter if it was 90 degrees at night as I left the house. I was literally frozen. Just a few weeks into my stress treatments, and since, I now maintain an external body temperature of 95-97 degrees at all times - did you know that your internal and external temperatures were supposed to match? I didn't. Now I'm the girl who often forgets my sweater.


“...take the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." In the previous decade, I've been through...

  • Talk therapy

  • Emergency Room visits (I always sign myself out AMA)

  • Lexapro (8 years)

  • EMDR (8 sessions)

  • More talk therapy (months, years, whatever)

  • Biofeedback (43 treatments)

  • Xanax (on a rare occasion, you know, when I feel like I'm having a heart attack)

These all worked in a way... "did you do the best you could with the tools you had to work with at the time?" Hint: the answer is ALWAYS yes. I'm grateful. They worked as best they could.


You don't know what you know until you know it, is one of the truest truths I know (for now) and have learned that is better than therapy, better than treatments, better than Xanax is asking “what's that about, Julie?”


...instead of a throat punch (100% of your fingers are pointing backwards when you make a fist - fun math facts). So when I experience a guttural response and physically react to words (typed or spoken) this is my only and best way to cope with anxiety. Being the caretaker of someone with a Mood Disorder, it's essential to have feelings rule the moments...


One of my wise, unapologetic Facebook friends commented once (which I wouldn't have understood when my body temperature was 67 degrees): “I'm responsible for my words. You're responsible for your inferences.” He’s absolutely correct. I steal that one all the time.

“You've got to feel it to heal it,” Todd Jacobs (a guy I dated for 5 minutes)

...true. Wait.


The Great Master Closet Panic Attack of 2017 did not heal anything but I sure felt it. Note to self: don't listen to guys who haven't mastered their behaviors before using profound quotes of advice.


I would not have made it much longer with these feelings ruling my thoughts and behaviors.


Did you know that ruminating thoughts are not normal? I didn't.


I'm hoping to help people - "hope" ... feeling? Behavior? I guess that one's both.


My abilities. My actions. My choice of words of response.


I have the ability to choose how I respond.



Recommended reading:

Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine

About Byron Katie | The Work

The 5 Love Languages®


Recommended therapies:

Trauma - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) , (I used Dr. Andrea Bernard - tell her I sent you)

ADHD, Autism, Stress, PTSD Non-drug CURE (they don't claim this, I do): The Drake Institute


Profound alternatives to therapy:

Saying, “I love you, (your name)” every night aloud and “wonder what that's about?” whenever you FEEL an emotional reaction.



Julie Marie Mille Parenting Expert Caregiver Support
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