Many common themes run through the diverse stories of anxiety that I help people explore. A big one is that folks feel isolated, alienated, and alone in their relationships with anxiety...which makes their anxiety even worse!
This post - my very first blog post under Heart & Oak Therapy - is an intentional challenge to anxiety on two important levels:
First, it is a direct challenge to my own anxieties and fears around expressing myself in a public forum. I have thought about blogging for a long while, but have always felt afraid of putting myself out there.
Second, by acknowledging in this very public way that I have felt anxious expressing myself to the world, I am challenging the idea that you are alone in your feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear. From here on, my commitment to blogging is an expression of solidarity with all people who experience anxiety.
I am standing with those who wish to take action in any way, but feel stifled by fear.
About This Blogger
So who is this quirky counsellor writing at your from across the internet? When I really think about it, I guess I'm a whole bunch of things. Just like you, there are many parts that make up my identity.
I'll start with the light and fluffy stuff.
I have a deep love for all things cute, sweet, and pretty. This is probably why I'm obsessed with my cats, Roxy and Ernie (not to mention cats in my neighbourhood, and cats on the Internet...don't even get me started on kittens!)
I am a highly visual person, and I like to think of myself as creative. Awe heck, there I go minimizing my talents - a classic hallmark of anxiety showing up.
Let me try that again: I am a creative person! In another life I would have been on stage acting or performing in some way. And if I'm totally honest, I am still wishing that an opportunity will somehow fall into my lap to be on Saturday Night Live!
Most psychologists would diagnose me with a reality television addiction. I like to tell myself it's research into the human psyche, human relationships, and a critical exploration of our dominant culture.
Fun, love, and happiness are three primary driving forces in my life. I am currently at a place where I am privileged to see the silver lining in most things, have fun even in serious moments, and feel love and compassion for those I see as acting in hateful or hurtful ways. It hasn't always been that way for me, but this is a testament to the fact that things can get better when we work on them.
My Therapeutic Journey
For the sake of transparency, I want to let you know that for a long period of my life (a good 15 years or so), I struggled to hold onto happiness for any sustained stretch of time. Some would (and did) diagnose me with having depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.
After working tirelessly on myself for years through a diverse range of therapies and reading a library worth of self-help books, I have finally come to recognize that the problem isn't me, and it never really was.
I do not have any mental illnesses, I am not broken, I am not crazy, I am not a depressed individual, or an anxious individual, or a disordered person - statements that can reduce us to an essence and ignore exceptional qualities that don't fit those labels.
I do not define myself or others in these terms because I no longer believe that most people are sick in the head (mainstream psychology would have us thinking otherwise).
Instead, I believe that the culture and world we live can be a really challenging place for a of a lot of people, and most people are doing the best that they can to respond to the adversity in their lives.
I now believe that instead of having a psychological disorder called depression, I was legitimately sad that I felt like an outsider and felt I didn't belong to a group of loving, caring peers. My sadness was an expression of profound dissatisfaction.
Instead of having an illness called anxiety, I was legitimately worried about being able to take care of myself and being independent after the security offered to me from my parents.
Instead of having a disorder called bulimia, I found a way to soothe my worries and sadness with food while avoiding gaining weight, and allowing myself to better fit society's ideal standards of female beauty.
Having had these experiences in life, it makes sense that I chose the profession I'm in now, because I get it.
I can relate to a lot of the feelings and challenges that the folks I work with want to talk about. And my hope is to have useful conversations that help people to experience life in ways that feel better, however that may look for them.
How I Became a Therapist
My first dream was to become a politician or international lawyer in hopes of changing the world for the better. (Ok, ok, so my true first dream was to be an academy award winning movie star...) However, in my learnings I came to realize that I might have to sell my soul to be able to get anywhere in my career. Upon realizing this, I started to think about what I really enjoyed doing, and it came to me that I loved talking with people and offering them some sort of help and comfort. I also thought that it might be somewhat in line with my big headed idea that I could somehow change the world.
So off I went to the psychology department and enrolled myself in class after class that studied various mental health and behavioural conditions that people struggle with. Multiple choice exam after exam tested my knowledge on what conditions were genetic and which were environmental (Let me save you some time and money: most studies suggest it's 50/50). I was fascinated by all of the so-called symptoms that people were afflicted with, and secretly diagnosed family members and friends with various conditions. I was confident that I could "fix" myself and the other folks who fell outside of the bell curve.
Soon enough I was ready to embark on my journey to learn the ins and outs of counselling: the tool I would use to fix all of these "sick" people. Little did I know that I would come to realize that all of my "expert" knowledge of mental illness would stand in stark contrast to the new insights and perspectives that I was offered. A short summary of these insights include:
- The parallel qualities shared between colonialism and psychology;
- People at all times act in ways to preserve their safety and dignity in response to acts of oppression against them;
- The ways in which people respond to challenging experiences can sometimes look like symptoms of mental health diagnoses, and make a lot of sense when exploring the context of people's lives;
- The things that other people say and do after we have challenging experiences plays a role in how we might respond to such experiences.
Given where I am at in my life now, I work hard not to define myself as an expert on other people's life experiences. I kindly correct my mother when she refers to me as a psychologist (she means well). I like to think of myself as someone who is striving for social justice, and I hope to provide the most useful, helpful, and dignifying service to the people I work for directly, and for my community overall. For people who need an ally, I work hard to help them feel heard, supported, accepted, and strive for our conversations to hold a fine balance between being serious and light-hearted (or even fun).
I am seriously passionate about people experiencing great happiness, acceptance, love and satisfaction in their relationships with their bodies or to intimate partners. For me, this means being a bit of a detective and learning the ins and outs of these relationships, and working with people to make sense out of how things came to be the way they are. From this point, I believe that space opens up for a change in perspective or behaviour that aligns with people's initial goals before seeking therapy.
How Can I Help You?
How will you know if I am going to be a good fit as a counsellor for you? Well, I can tell you I'm your gal if:
You're comfortable with a light-hearted approach to therapy;
You want to feel heard and have your feelings and experiences validated;
You want to reach new understandings of your problems and experiences;
You're looking for someone you can be real with, and who will be real with you.
I love hear from new people, and would be thrilled if you think it might be helpful to drop me a line. I love answering questions and having rich conversations, so don't feel shy about getting in touch.
Have something to say? Leave a comment below, or shoot me an email!
If you'd like to talk more about how I can help you