Every heart has so much history, it’s my favorite place to start.
— Sara Groves

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! A whole month dedicated to promoting the conversation surrounding our emotions, our hurts, our struggles and the normalcy in these topics. We can raise awareness and draw attention to the almost 20% of Americans who suffer from mental illness* (Anxiety and Depression Assc of America ADAA.org)*
But, if we truly want to drive the conversation, those of us in the helping industry MUST lead by example. We are not immune, we are not perfect, and while we may have more insight or knowledge about why we do what we do it’s only because the best therapist has done their own work.
This month I’ll be sharing more into my mental health journey, from both a narrative and educational perspective. I truly believe in knowing what it feels like from the other side of the couch because I too have been under the trusted care of various therapists in my life.
There is NO shame in a mental health story and I excited to share mine with you.

The First Appointment

The first time I sat in a therapist’s office I was 15. I can’t remember if I requested to be there, but I do remember being excited for the appointment. I knew enough to know that I loved talking about myself (what 15-year-old doesn’t?!) and if I got to talk about myself for an hour while some old guy asked me questions then I was all in. But I also needed help, advice. More than anything I needed hope.

The Other Side of the Couch

The first time I sat with a client I was petrified.

I was barely 25, at the end of my graduate school experience in my practicum and I was slated to do six sessions of pre-marital counseling with a newly engaged couple. There was a workbook we were going to use so I was just there to be their guide and help with communication techniques as they worked through any confusion or conflict that might emerge.

Mean Girls

I do a lot of speaking to high school and college age students and a few years ago as I was speaking to a group of college women without even thinking I said, “I don’t know that I would be here today if social media existed when I was in high school.” I was taken aback at my own statement, but I believe it could be true.

Kids were brutal to my face, I can’t imagine if they could have done it behind a computer screen.

Big T, Little T, Trauma Starts with T

When I was a young professional, I was naïve to think that trauma was exclusive to sexual abuse, abandonment, and deep dysfunctional families marred by drug use, addiction and neglect. The Hollywood version of trauma. If you aren’t in the trenches of the helping industry, you might think this of trauma as well. Really though trauma is everywhere because trauma isn’t so much about the incident but the perception of the victim to the specific incident. Of course, understanding the incident is necessary but the same event can affect two different people in two very different ways and that is what makes understanding and treating trauma so complex.

On Learning to Like Me

College was a true refuge. But for a girl who may no longer look like someone with deep insecurities I certainly had them. A search for significance was deeply embedded into my soul and I was willing to find the fastest way to happiness, which if you have ever been around a college student is most often found in a red solo cup. I was ready to party (even though I didn’t drink), get a boyfriend (even though I had just received my first kiss weeks before at a summer camp) and be popular (again zero experience in this department) so I had a big game mentality with backyard game talk. However, the recipe for the girls in high school that were brutal to me was boys + party = popularity so why couldn’t it work for me now?

Green Eyes Baby

And at that moment, in the quiet of the night after an exhilarating day,

I learned something new.

At 25 years old I discovered that I had green eyes.

On Understanding Anxiety

I was doing laundry the first time my anxiety storm hit. There weren’t any signs and we were both caught extremely off guard. Keith was about to take his first trip after we had been married (maybe about 6 months at that point) and I would be alone for a few days. I didn’t know what was happening to me…but it turns out that most people don’t when anxiety hits for the very first time.

Good Therapy

I reflect back often on that season of therapy. There were numerous lessons learned in both his content and his character. I built a safe alliance. I felt valued and heard. I was supported and validated, and my story was contained in a way that communicated I was worth listening to. The insight that I gained is something that I still rely on even today. I am so thankful for that experience and hope to emulate that for my clients now.