Observations by a Mental Health Professional in the Community

So much of the life coach and psychotherapist experience is about confidentiality and what we observe gets held in our hearts and kept there for safety. But some experiences I'm sure you have all had. It's just that some of us (who have dedicated our lives to the human condition) see and hear things on an additional level and get impacted in sometimes unusual ways. You can probably relate!

In this month's saga of "Being a mental health professional out in the community"....

I've experienced two moments to share. One at the hair salon and one at the doctor's office. Simple every day moments. Places most of us experience.

To the hair dresser and her client near me who was getting her hair cut...

I could hug you both! The client - who appeared to be in her early 20's - shared a brave moment expressing anxiety that limits her ability to enjoy life and make certain decisions. Even decisions like getting her hair cut.

The hair dresser - who appeared in her late 20's - responded with, "Well sure. I know how that goes."

And they proceeded to share conversation about anxiety, mental health, self care, life choices and every day moments.

So here I am...holding back all the emotions of pride that I feel for two young women I know nothing about.

Many of us in the field dedicate our life to normalizing the human condition and finding ways to develop community for everyone...with a simple vision to make topics ok to discuss and share and learn from. So here today, I witnessed it roll off their tongues no different than if they were talking about any topic.

To those of you that do it every day, this moment is "no big deal". To those of us that know that (depending on when you were born or where you were born or other factors) those conversations would have never taken place and surely not in public and surely not without heavy weight.

There was no weight. There was just conversation between two self aware people who could hold space for many different realities and perspectives.

Those simple moments of witnessing mental health - that I know from my work not to take for granted - are gold.

Second scene:

On another note, I experienced a conversation with a medical professional who was conducting a routine medical intake before my physical exam (yes clinicians...walk the walk of self care).

She did her job by asking the questions the computer told her to ask but a great moment was missed. One of those questions was "I'm sorry I have to ask. I have to ask everyone. Do you have depression." 

That was the only mental health question or symptom question on the subject asked by the form on the computer.

Here's my issue with this and the information I shared:

While I greatly appreciate that routine medical procedures are now a place to address certain whole-person well-being issues, this was not the way to go about doing it in my opinion. 

First of all, there should be more training provided to normalize all mental health questions. There is no shame in asking these questions unless you feel the shame when you ask it. If you are comfortable asking about bowel movements then, as part of routine health, you can ask...

1. Are you eating more or less than usual?

2. Are you sleeping more or less than usual?

3. Do you find yourself crying more or being more irritable than usual?

Etc, etc.

Most of us don't know what depression or any mental health disorder is...much less what symptoms to look out for. Ask about the symptoms in lay person/regular person/non-professional terms that we can all answer. And while you're at it, check for other safety issues like domestic violence. Hand out resources to read on our own time even if we are not comfortable discussing with you right then and there.

The more aware we become of the golden opportunities, the more we can grab them and make the most of them for everyone's sake.

Humans are complex. And most of us try really hard every day. I walk through life observing and learning. And adjusting my practice to realities of real life interactions like these.

Gratitude to everyone that tries.

Rebuilding the Relationship with Yourself

Clients come to see me for many reasons but more often than not it boils down to the damage they have done to their most important relationship. That relationship is the one with themselves.

I don't say that to them until a few sessions have passed and I have enough evidence to show that the relationship is damaged. It's a little abstract and silly to some and so it's not one of my first questions but it will come. 

"How is your relationship with you?"

In my current practice, I work with adults only. At this stage in life, they have developed a part of them that parents (guides, protects, motivates and reprimands their inner child).

If you've rolled your eyes at the words "inner child" then you can call it by a different name such as "ego, mind, soul, spirit, subconscious, character, individuality, self, spirituality, essential nature, inner self, true being."

Often they see that inner child as the problem. The part of them that is out of control and needs to be suppressed. In fact it often has. And it often got a lot of negative consequences for being so true and free. Living a life where the inner child or the protective parent run the entire show can lead to a lack of well being. As in anything I promote, balance is the name of the game. 

If you just do what you feel or if you never do what you feel; If you speak your truth without thought to future implications or if you hold back your truth completely in hopes to avoid pain; If you are all about yourself or you are all about others. You see where I am going....neither extreme seems to be healthy for adults, couples, families, or communities. 

Honoring the different parts of us as EQUALLY important - as equally relevant, as equally CRUCIAL - can be the first step to cherry picking the best qualities of our "inner child" and the best qualities of our "inner protector" and having them work together, compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses, and make you the best you possible.

Exercise: take a moment, take a deeeeeep breath, close your eyes, take another deep breath. Ask, "what do you need?". Be silent. Observe the first answer that floated to the surface effortlessly. 

By giving that "truth" space - honoring it instead of dismissing it or minimizing it - you take a step toward that balance. If you have ignored or bullied your inner child for years, it's learned to hide. But it's still there. Show it by actions - not words - that you value it, that you will listen to it and that at the end of the day you will make the healthiest life moves for it even if it feels like it has to hear a "no" right now for bigger gains later. Slowly, that "inner spirit" will get louder and more accurate again (as it was when you were a very young child and before life got to you).

Be brave and try.