This week’s Health Tip is from our newest WholeHealth Chicago practitioner, Christine Savas, who is a clinical mental health counselor. We asked her to write about her approach to a new client. Because one day that client might be you, I thought this would be a helpful piece for the new year.
David Edelberg, MD
Time and again I hear variations on the theme “How did I get here?” There’s often tremendous defeat and sadness hanging in the silence that follows, a reminder that perhaps this was not how you felt life was supposed to go.
You can speculate about exactly when the twists and turns of life began to get difficult. Perhaps in grade school, when you painfully sought acceptance, tried to not be a victim of bullies, or wished for a home life that as happy as those of your friends.
Or maybe it was the first time you heard the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We can’t help but smile at our choices, impossible to appreciate back then how our constricted view of the world was powerfully limiting our options. We looked at life as if from inside a mailbox. Today, if we’re honest, we’ve all thought “If only I’d known then what I know now.”
At some point, we become participants in real life. Here’s a quick exercise: think of yourself at age five. Then, move forward to your current age. You might be 25, 30, 40, 50, or older. All those years! Think of everything that happened. Choices about education, relationships, career, and your place in the world. You might have moved to a different city or to several new locations. The thought of that serious relationship in college that was supposed to last forever brings a chuckle or possibly tears.
Who you thought you were in your 20s may have little bearing on who you are now.
Scratching the surface
A helpful idea to keep in mind is that your life is anything but straightforward. And when you recognize that things are more complicated than you assumed, you’re just scratching the surface. Your head swims as the layers of complexity that form you become exposed to the clear light of day.
If you find yourself asking, “How did I get here?” and you realize you’re not happy with your life and need some help from a professional counselor like me, know that moving forward is possible.
By understanding yourself, gaining some insight into the why and the how and the “what can I do,” you can make real progress. The answer to many of our struggles might be found in the popular Serenity Prayer, which has appeared on everything from T-shirts to cocktail napkins. Yet the idea behind it is really quite profound:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The answer to finding acceptance is to look inward. And sometimes, to truly turn your gaze in that direction you need the help of therapy. We therapists are trained to challenge the preconceived ideas you may have about yourself, ask questions you may have been reluctant to ask yourself, offer new perspectives, and listen to what you’re saying…as well as what you’re not saying.
Being a part of the WholeHealth Chicago team allows me the opportunity to use therapeutic tools that are simply unavailable to most therapists. The mental health profession is generally woefully ignorant about the effects of good nutrition, regular exercise, sunlight, and the clinically studied usefulness of so-called alternative therapies such as Chinese medicine, herbs, homeopathy, and energy therapies like Healing Touch and yoga.
And while psych medications can be very helpful, the medical profession itself acknowledges that these drugs are vastly overprescribed (15% of Americans over age ten are taking one or more of them).
Please, if you’ve been experiencing emotional pain, if your psychic get-up-and-go seems to be circling the drain, schedule a visit.
We’re all here to help.
Christine M. Savas, M.Ed, LPC
Clinical Mental Health Counseling