As the Clinical Director of your organization, you work with young patients with troubled souls. When did you realize that you had the insight to help children with their mental health issues?
I became aware of my ability and desire to help children when in high school. I have always been empathetic in nature, but it was around this time that I noticed the difference I could make in children’s lives. My first job was teaching younger children ballet. I was able to instruct my students in a firm, positive, and fun way. As a result, the children gravitated to me. The parents of my students often commented on my teaching style and how their child loved my class. I also spent a lot of time with my younger cousins, being silly and playing with them allowed me to retain qualities which help me to relate to children. In high school, I often found myself in the role of being “the ear” when a friend needed to talk. I think my experiences and intrinsic ability guided me to my profession.
You mentioned in your bio that as a child you had challenges and had no one to speak with, how did you overcome these challenges?
Looking back, I think it was my resilient constitution that helped me to find the resources within myself and in my environment to overcome the challenges I faced. My relationship with God at the time, the support of family members, and having the performing arts as an outlet and means of self-expression were crucial during my childhood. I do not subscribe to one religion now, but I consider myself to be a spiritual and conscious person. I was fortunate to have strong female role models. Women that coped with events in life head on while still remaining supportive and present. In my family, no one went through a hardship or illness alone, having and witnessing that degree of family cohesion was invaluable.
We read and listen to the news about young adults with depression going out and harming others. Later we learn that the adult as a child suffered from mental illness, how can parents see the warning signs and prevent these incidents from happening or can they?
That is a huge question and to be honest I could dedicate an entire article to the topic. With the limited amount of space that I have here to address the question what I can say is that parents need to be attentive and active in their children’s lives. Listen to what your child says and observe what they do. Do not dismiss any behaviors, “they were just being kids” and pay attention to the feedback you receive from their teachers. Early intervention is usually the most effective. I do not believe that this is something that parents and mental health professionals can take full responsibility for. Reform is needed on a societal level to deal with the prejudices that individuals with mental health issues face. As well as the broken managed care system that places a greater emphasis on physical health while often times undervaluing the importance of individual’s mental health and treatment.
Do parents have their heads buried so deep in the sand? How can they be educated in helping their child live with mental illness?
I think that varies. If a parent can recognize that their child is suffering from a mental health issue, then they are already on their way to understanding what their child is experiencing and how to help them. If a parent refuses to acknowledge that something may be going on with their child, then options will be limited due to their inability to accept their child and the circumstance they are in. Parents that have accepted that their child has a mental illness should seek outside professional support and guidance. The mental health professional you work with should be able to help you understand your child’s diagnosis and to the degree appropriate, involve the parents in the treatment being rendered. Being the caretaker of a child with mental health issues can be extremely draining, due to this it is often necessary for parents to attend support service whether it’s a support group or individual therapy. By partaking in such groups or services, parents can continue to educate themselves on how to help their children.
Working with children with mental issues must be challenging and stressful, what is it you do to de-stress?
It’s true; my work can be difficult to leave at the office. I develop a rapport with every one of my clients so, I often find myself thinking about them and their families during off hours. I have always found having a physical outlet beneficial when dealing with stress. Due to this, I practice yoga. When I practice yoga, everything melts away and I am able to concentrate on just my practice. I find that I can be completely present in the moment without thinking about what happened earlier that day or what could happen after class. Through my yoga practice, I have learned that meditation can have beneficial effects as well. Therefore, I try to incorporate it into my daily routine. Sometimes, it’s just for 10 to 20 minutes but I find it helpful with finding a sense of calm. I make a point to set aside time to spend with my friends and family. This is time where I am not in any role other than being me, having fun and I think it’s important to connect with one’s lighthearted side. I also find being creative relieves stress. Whether it’s painting, sewing, or making greeting cards, it’s therapeutic for me to bring an idea I have in my mind to fruition.
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
I am very fortunate to have a close relationship with my parents. They have always been a source of support and love. When it comes to business or fiscal matters I generally go to my father. He is an entrepreneur himself and a great resource to have. While growing up, I saw that to be successful required hard work and dedication. I value and respect his opinions even if I do not do everything he suggests. I turn to my mother when I need advice on my thoughts, feelings, or people in my life. My mother and I have a very honest relationship and she is one of the most giving and compassionate people that I know. In addition, I have been blessed to make a few close friends who are also in the mental health field. They are always available to offer an ear and give some guidance. Their recommendations are usually a mix of friendly advice and professional opinion.
What is your fitness routine and how do you challenge yourself.
I practice yoga daily and I attend hot yoga class 3 to 5 times a week. Surrounding myself with other members of the yoga community exposes me to some incredibly talented people. These people motivate me to grow and deepen my practice. I am constantly surprised by the postures that my body is able to achieve which, motivates me to continue to see what I can accomplish. Over the last year, I have also started to practice acroyoga. Acroyoga is a mix of acrobatics and yoga, done with a partner. I have found my experiences with acroyoga to be very challenging and fulfilling. While the postures and movements are demanding physically, there is also a large mental component to the practice. My acroyoga practice challenged me to let go, trust my partner and myself, to preserve when a movement did not come easily, and to constantly try to better my individual yoga practice to benefit the partnership.
As you know, TSP is about keeping fit, health and wellness. Do you maintain a healthy lifestyle of organic, vegan, or vegetarian or are you junk food junkie.
I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle without being fanatical about it. While I was growing up my parents made the decision to switch to an organic diet so, it’s a lifestyle I have been following for a number of years. Most of the time I eat organic fruits and vegetables, however, I do eat poultry and fish. Before making any purchase I ensure that the chickens are cage free and the fish is wild caught. I abstain from eating red meat and pork. When possible I buy locally grown produce. Not only does this give me a better sense of where my food is coming from, but I’m supporting the local community at the same time. I am lucky that I have always been inclined towards healthy food, but I do indulge and I never make any food off limits.
With a profession as yours, what is it you do and who do you have to balance your life?
To be honest, I think I am still working on finding equilibrium in my life and I believe that maintaining balance is a lifelong effort. At 30 years old, I do not have everything figured out. I have always been very career driven, focused on my studies and professional goals. Due to this, social aspects have usually taken a backseat. Over the past year my professional aspirations have been the priority with starting my own business. Having my own business definitely comes with its own challenges, one of the notable being the isolation. Therefore, I have had to make an effort to find time to interact with other professionals in my field and to meet new people. Since my time is limited, I am selective with whom I expend my time and energy on. For now, it is my friends, family, dog and yoga that provide me with a sense of balance.
As an extremely confident woman who helps others, do you have any doubts or fears?
Yes, of course I have doubts and fears. They are basic emotions inherent with being a human being. Gender is not a factor; thousands of years of evolution hard wired those feelings and emotions into our species. Each and every one of us experiences doubt and fear at one point in time or another. I believe what is more important is what one does with their fears and doubts. Personally, I try to avoid making decisions out of doubt or fear and I attempt to confront it on a daily basis in some fashion. Sometimes it’s in small ways, when I’m in yoga class practicing a posture, or in larger ways like starting my own business. Fear can be very limiting. As long as I choose to believe in the infinite possibilities available to me, anything and everything is achievable.