I don’t consider myself a very anxious parent--worrying about little bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes or most illnesses. Maybe that’s because I had a lot of personal experience through which I learned what constituted a reason to seek medical help, and what did not. I was also an older sibling and “got” to help out with my younger brothers and sisters. When my children came along, I felt pretty confident about seeking medical help for suspected strep-throat or a baffling case of rash and allergic reaction, but was equally confident that I could help treat a cold or upset stomach and other maladies, not requiring stitches, without a doctor visit.
What I didn’t seem to pick up quite so readily however, was how to take care of my own and my children’s emotional health. It wasn’t something that I was actively monitoring, let alone something for which I was seeking either self or professional care. Was that because there were no personal experiences with concerns to my emotional health? Were there no instances I encountered with the people I love? Definitely not! So why was physical health and healing so much more reachable and understandable than emotional health and healing?
My passion is to help and lift people who are in need of just knowing that there is someone that cares. I was first able to articulate this when I had the amazing opportunity to work as an art teacher at a couple of the elementary schools in the valley. Until then, I knew I enjoyed art and I knew that creating made me happy. I found a new fulfillment in “leveling the playing field” in a not-for-credit elementary art class where those that were less successful in academics or athletics or whatever, would have the chance to excel. I thrived on creating an environment, even if it was for just 1 hour a week, that was a safe place for children, all of equal importance, to express themselves and explore situations that they may be interested in.
Somewhere along the way, I had the opportunity to reach beyond a classroom environment to a population of young men in residential treatment care, who desperately needed to know that there was someone that cared. Initially I was involved with their day-to-day and some art classes/projects to keep them active and involved during the summer school break. Eventually, I also had responsibility in this setting to coordinate with the professionals caring for them, the medical and academic care for these young men. I learned more about healing in that setting than ever before. And while I came in contact with degenerative vision problems, bones that weren’t growing fast enough, broken body parts, and grossly infected wounds that I had never encountered before, it was the emotional healing I witnessed that I learned the most about.
I watched as these young men came through our facility, hurting with things that I could relate to, but to depths that were as foriegn to me as space. They knew they were not their best selves and many had given up on trying to become who they wanted to be. But so many of them were resilient. They wanted to heal. They yearned to feel better. And many took the opportunity of being surrounded by people who cared about them, people who would take time to hear them. They involved themselves in therapy sessions, taking the risk to trust and to follow suggestions and learn skills. As they integrated these suggestions and skills into their day-to-day, they learned that they could control their negative thoughts and reactions to stimuli. They learned to act differently and as they did, they began to heal emotionally.
I now get the opportunity to work at Ora Counseling office in a much different therapeutic setting than residential treatment. I have learned here that, similar to physical maladies, emotional health concerns can be treated long before they become chronic to too heavy to bear. The wonderful thing about counseling is that those of us that have little emotional health know-how or understanding, can consult with professionals. These professions can tutor us in learning how to care for our emotional health, helping us find solutions that continue to work as we continue to use them. We can get check-ups, help with more serious concerns, or simply things we just aren’t seeing the solution for. Insurance companies offer mental health coverage just like doctor visits. And deciding to participate in therapy is not a commitment of years.
We all deserve to be emotionally healthy. Thankfully, we are recognizing that the need to consult experts in this area simply means that we are in need of some expert advice to return to full health. I may be comfortable and knowledgeable about how to treat myself or my child at home for a severe cold. I admit I do not have the same comfort or knowledge base to treat myself or my child at home for trauma, depression, anxiety, etc. I need help. Help is available. Healing is real. Give yourself permission to look after your emotional health. And be aware that just because I got a cold last year, doesn’t exclude me from getting a cold again this year or next. Like physical health, emotional health can come and go. It's ok to ask an expert.