My new home @ The Well
Like most of you, I am totally over working from home. Doing teletherapy in my attic while my kids ran around downstairs like maniacs has not been my idea of a good time. Needless to say, I have been waiting with bated breath for my new office building at 24 Lees Avenue in Collingswood to open. While the owners had hoped to open in June, the pandemic had other plans. But it was worth the wait! I moved in in early October and have been absolutely loving the new space! The Wellness Collective is a beautiful, modern space with over 10 health practitioners under one roof. Please read about it in this great feature from NJ Pen.
Even though most of my sessions remain telehealth, I have found that being in a new space has helped to invigorate my mood and creativity at work. I realize it's a total luxury to have an alternative space right now, and I'm so grateful. My commute is a 5 minute drive so it's still very close to home...but yet it's far enough to make me want to put on pants that actually have zippers and buttons for the first time since March!
Living in the Upside-Down World
f you've ever seen Stranger Things on Netflix, you've heard of the term the "upside-down world." At first glance, it looks so much like the everyday world that the protagonists live in. Look closer though and you'll start to see elements of the paranormal and supernatural. Typical suburban landscapes take on terrifying and surreal dimensions, which make you question everything you know. It is a different kind of horror than the no-holds barred gimmicky images we're used to seeing in movies and tv. And it is far more disturbing.
I experienced the contemporary version of the upside-down world yesterday, while making my biweekly run to the grocery store. Driving down the highway, I first noticed the empty parking lots of big box stores that are typically full around noon on a weekday. As I neared the store, I saw people in masks rushing around, maneuvering their shopping carts with a wide berth so as to avoid making contact with anybody. I sanitized my hands, put on a mask and wiped down my cart with disinfectant. I hurriedly walked into the upside-down world of the grocery store.
During the trip and afterwards, I noticed my heart was racing. I felt fatigued, having to be so vigilant of my surroundings so as not to infringe on other people's space. This mundane task, one I had done hundreds of times in my life, had become something that felt dangerous, and my body responded as if I had been walking a tightrope. Once I got home, I then worked to keep my young children from tearing through the groceries so that I could wipe everything down. I felt angry, exhausted and shocked at the toll that this task took.
The rest of the day, I made sure to do things that helped my body return to a normal state of rest. I connected with clients, talked with friends and family, and practiced mindfulness. I tried not to read too much news and watched an episode of a new, light-hearted show. I was practicing what I preached to clients all day. I had the urge to criticize myself for having such a strong reaction. After all, the grocery store workers have to deal with this all the time and their safety is way more compromised than mine was. But instead of going towards guilt, I reminded myself that in this new upside-down world, all feelings are valid and self-compassion is the only way to survive. I breathed. I let go. And I felt prepared to do it all again the next day.
A Day of Healing
Registration is open for Mother's Day - It's Complicated on April 25, 2020. Join us for a day of healing that will include conversation, meditation, yoga, art and more in a beautiful, natural setting. Engage in some real self-care when you show up, do the hard things, and feel lighter and more connected as a result. Any questions, please email me!
Above and beyond
I received the most amazing email right after Thanksgiving and I had to share it below. I was so touched that a person who I had not spoken to in over 5 years went out of their way to thank me for the lasting impact that therapy had on them. Seriously, I had not heard from this person in FIVE YEARS and they took the time to just show gratitude. It made me feel amazing and proud. It made me think of some of the people who helped me at times in my life when I felt out of control or hopeless. And it makes me wonder...when is the last time you thanked someone, just because?
Edited to protect privacy
I don't know if you remember me, but I was a patient of yours a few years back. One of my supervisors referred me to EAP, and that's how I met you and began going to weekly sessions. I tried talking to someone before, but I didn't really connect with them. I remember feeling uncomfortable about going to see you at first, because I thought going to therapy would mean I was weak. I needed some convincing about how getting counseling would help me. But over time with our weekly sessions, you taught me to develop some coping mechanisms to deal with stress. I wanted to thank you for giving me the support I needed all those years back.
I also wanted to thank you for introducing me to meditation. The first time you led me through a body scan, it produced an enormous feeling of calm within me for those few minutes, which made me realize how anxious I became in trying to meet the demands of [my job]. When I felt much better and left [that job], I stopped practicing. I recently took it up again and am trying to do it more regularly several times a week. I can't tell you how useful it has been in helping me deal with the stresses of work and life in general. There are so many apps and guided meditations available now and I'm always interested in how I can practice more mindfulness. I listen to a podcast about meditation called 10% Happier. When I'm feeling particularly agitated at work because of the actions of one of my colleagues, I take a few minutes during my lunch break to sit in a quiet corner and listen to a guided meditation. I even try to get a 5-10 minute session in if I happen to get to work early.
I finally realized how powerful the mind is, and how much influence your thoughts have on your mood and general outlook on life. I've learned that there are things you don't have control over, but you can always choose to practice gratitude or adopt a different mindset. It's not always easy to do so, but it can make a huge difference. If it weren't for you, I never would have considered giving meditation a try. Now, it's become such a huge component of my well-being that I don't know how I could deal with the stresses of life without it.
Thank you again for all of your help. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday.
Text HOME to 741471 for immediate help
I am so thankful to the folks behind Crisis Text Line, a free service that has amazing resources for people in crisis. They define crisis in a broad sense that moves beyond the typical definition. Here's what they have to say: "You’re in crisis. That doesn’t just mean suicide: it’s any painful emotion for which you need support." They have trained volunteers who typically respond to a text within 5 minutes or less. They also have a kick-ass website with tons of great info and coping skills.
I tested it out today and had a lovely conversation with River, a volunteer who responded to my inquiry in about 2 minutes. Clients often reach out to me via text when they are in distress - the problem is that there are many times I am unable to respond immediately because I do not have access to my phone. When I do respond, they usually tell me the feeling has passed. I wish I could be there to help them through it myself, but it gives me soooo much comfort knowing that I can share this resource with clients ahead of time, before the moment of crisis hits.
Check out the website for more info: https://www.crisistextline.org/
Say hello to my little friends!
These Inside Out figurines arrived a few days ago, and I am so happy to have them in my office as I work with clients on accessing their core emotions, rather than getting stuck in anxiety, shame, and guilt.
What are core emotions, you ask? Just like in Pixar's Inside Out, core emotions are the ones we are wired with for survival. Sadness, anger, joy, fear, and disgust are depicted in the movie (and in my office!). Two more that were left out: excitement and sexual excitement.
"So, wait a second, Kelly. You're saying that anxiety, shame and guilt are NOT core emotions?" Yep, that's right! They are inhibitory emotions. They suck up all our energy and time so we don’t ever fully feel our core stuff, and therefore, don’t get a chance to fully heal. Instead, we just feel caught up in a hamster wheel of despair that goes nowhere.
So, if you’ve been spending all your energy and time in anxiety, shame, and guilt, contact me so we can get you unstuck and on the path to wellness! It's hard work, but like the movie reminds us, totally worth the journey.
When the news hurts
This is such a hard news week for so many survivors of sexual assault. It is difficult to not feel constantly triggered or dismissed by everyone's opinions. Please take good care of yourselves and find control where you can. This list of tips provides a few positive and easy ways to start.
MWMM is back
I started hating Mother's Day when I was 14 years old. It wasn't simply an act of adolescent rebellion - it was the age that my mother died of cancer.
From that point on, Mother's Day often arrived in a storm of tears, nausea, dread and jealousy. I wanted to be the one making cards and buying gifts. I wanted to serve burnt waffles with too-cold butter to my mom in bed. I wanted all the warm feelings and melodramatic sweeping music that was portrayed on the Mother's Day specials on my favorite sitcoms.
Every year, the dread would start in March, grow throughout April, and then capsize in May. By actual Mother's Day, I was depleted from all the anticipatory anxiety I had been building up and just felt depressed. I hate to say it, but it stayed this way for many years.
At one point, I decided that enough was enough. I would reclaim Mother's Day by making it a celebration of my father, since he had to be both father and mother on a daily basis. SeveraI years later, I expanded it to include my aunts and grandmother. Once I became a mother, I realized that I wanted to find a way to make peace with my grief so that I could enjoy the day with my own family.
So, it's been a work in progress. I do not love Mother's Day by any means, but I no longer dread it. In fact, I often forget about it until someone mentions it to me. I now use it as a way to pause and honor my mother as well as honor all of the other amazing women in my life. I use it as an excuse to kiss my sweet girls' faces and take in their scent during a tight hug. And this year, I'm doing something new. I am offering other women in my community a chance to start their own healing process and reclaim the day. I expect it to include a lot of tears, a lot of laughs and who knows - maybe I'll even bring in some burnt waffles.
Happy Mother's Day, y'all.
Valentine's Day can be sticky for a lot of people (and not just because of all the candy). While the general focus of the day should be on letting the people in your life know how much you love them, our culture tends to put the emphasis on today being about romantic love over everything else.
If you are not single by choice, if you have lost a partner to death, divorce or a relationship ending before you were ready, or if you are unable to physically be near your lover, you probably dread this day and want it to be over with as soon as possible. I hear you. I see you. I feel your pain.
I want this Valentine's Day to serve as a reminder that you do not need to have romantic love in order to love yourself. Yes, this might mean you miss out on chocolates, bubble baths, and prix fixe dinners, though those are all nice, of course. What it does mean is that you spend the day focusing on your whole self, not just on the perceived flaws. It means talking to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend and not your worst enemy. It means taking responsibility for things in your life which you can control and practicing acceptance over things you cannot. And most importantly, it means you understand that in order to receive love from others, you need to start off with the conviction that you are deserving of love and kindness.
So with that, I wish everyone a happy Valentine's day! This article lists 20 authentic ways to love yourself today. I challenge you to practice at least one.
Kelly is a licensed clinical social worker in South Jersey.
24 Lees Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108