It’s the unseen illnesses & mental health issues that often get marginalized: blamed, shamed and ignored. We can’t always see what a person is going through daily when someone has lymes disease, chronic fatigue, MS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Many aren’t fully believed.
“Oh it’s not so bad. I’m exhausted too, or my joints ache – just soak in a tub & you’ll be great!”
This attitude and disregard deepens the chasm between being seen and understood. The dismissal can feel like a heavy cloak or a backhanded rebuke and it can internalize a serious shame.
Many also assume depression, or anxiety and panic, psychosis, looks one way – deep, dark and catatonic, crazy, but sometimes, such as depression, it hides and goes through the motions; compartmentalizing and functioning on the outside but inside it’s a thick dark mud. Anxiety and her twin Panic, can disable a person in large crowds or driving. It can be debilitating to explain and yet often chided, ‘just drink some chamomile tea. Breathe. There’s nothing to be anxious about.”
What I offer in counseling, is to go deeper. What does it feel like to have chronic fatigue? Let’s go there together. Please tell me with your eyes how it sounds. What do you hear? Let’s go into the darkness of depression and let’s hear what it is saying.
Each person is different. Each symptom speaks a different story and listening to their words and feels is extremely important. People can’t be pigeon-holed and labeled. When a client comes to me we work as a team. My eyes and theirs unravel and sees into the incredible stories hidden within the symptoms and believed.
Much love & respect, Carolyn
About Carolyn Riker
Carolyn (Riker) Avalani, M.A., LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor, teacher, writer and poet. Over the last five years she has written for numerous online journals and has been in five anthologies. Her first book of poetry and prose, Blue Clouds was published December 2016. This past September, 2017 she co-edited Hidden Lights: A Collection of Truths Not Often Told, which holds 54 writers and their stories, poetry, prose, photography and artwork. Between sips of coffee, navigating life with copious writing and daydreaming, Carolyn offers creative writing and private counseling. To find out more please visit her website.
I have used journal writing, for the last 20+ years, to assist clients between sessions. I either provide writing prompts, to give structure, or encourage the flow to be freeform.
Journal writing is safe, free, and expressive. There are no rules. Our words are tucked between pages of our most intimate feelings and thoughts. We can be more honest with ourselves. At the end of each journal writing entry, I suggest rereading and giving yourself a two or three sentence summary and perhaps an insight. This nugget of inner wisdom is the essence of your words. Often there will be a theme that unfolds from a prior counseling session and/or it will be an opportunity to process in the next session.
Personally, not only do I love to write, I need to. It is a part of me that has found a way to express outrage, to sensitive poetic nuances, or to honor a difficult space. Writing is also an opportunity to pass along particles of teaching; it is a vessel as well as a blanket stitch of creativity. For some people who might be more introverted (like me!!) it’s not easy to quickly verbalize what I’m thinking. Therefore writing provides a safe space to process and contemplate and then to give my point of view(s). Often, I find I have quite a lot to say!!
I hope this Counseling Note is helpful and I look forward to sharing more of these too. ~ Much love & respect, Carolyn
Author + Psychotherapist
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."
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