As long as I can remember, I’ve been a helper, a healer and a teacher. Those haven’t all been primary in my life at all times, but I’m thrilled to have them all come together now, in my role as a coach.
As a young child I was always aware of others and curious about what they were thinking and feeling, and why they acted as they did. I wondered the same about myself. I learned early on some ways of going through life that were NOT helpful. I took it upon myself for unknown reasons to put others’ needs and feelings before mine and to aim for perfection in everything. I was the ultimate over-achiever, overly conscientious, overly concerned with what others thought of me.
Not only was I often the physical caretaker of my sister, who was four years younger and definitely not thrilled with the arrangement, but I also tried to take care of both parents emotionally. I recall having debilitating nausea at age 12 or 13 when I went to visit my dad, my parents having divorced when I was 10. Fortunately my mom was a good communicator and we discovered that I was distraught because I thought my dad was extremely unhappy. I had my first migraine at age 15, apparently stress-related, and had others occasionally throughout high school.
During my senior year I had a melt down. I signed myself up for every advanced placement class available, as I always had, and was working and playing racquetball whenever possible (thank goodness for that outlet). After the first day I was such a mess my mom encouraged me to talk about it and I said that I was overwhelmed and just wanted to enjoy my last year of school. In the the perfect mom moment, she just said, “So what’s stopping you?” I was so sure that everyone (my family) would be disappointed in me if I didn’t do every little bit that I was capable of. I changed some of my classes, dropped one that wasn’t necessary, and I had a relaxed, enjoyable senior year.
By college, however, I hadn’t learned my lesson fully and found myself experiencing migraines again and taking Tylenol 3 with codeine so I could function in school. I finally went to a counseling session…just one was all it took for me to really see what I was doing to myself by creating so many expectations for my performance. I had my first real “Aha!” moment and from that day on never needed another Tylenol 3.
That counseling session was extremely helpful, and I had taken an intro to Psych class, and then another. I soon changed my art major to psychology and felt right at home in that program. I loved learning why we do what we do and how to make changes in our thoughts and behavior toward the better. I earned my BA in Psychology and immediately enrolled in a Masters program and earned my MA in Counseling Psychology.
As a counselor I loved helping people come to understand the reasons behind situations and behaviors and creating change toward a better life. I loved seeing others’ own “Aha!” moments and watching them progress toward resolution and healthier choices. I acted as coach much of the time with my counseling clients, focusing on letting go of the past, identifying and changing thoughts and creating plans for making changes. I also helped many clients with relaxation training and mindfulness exercises and creating less stressful lifestyles.
Unfortunately, I worked with social services and several components of “the system” and reached a burnout stage after 13 years of counseling. I had made some changes in my caseload in the last couple of years, but by that time my mind and body told me I needed a change, so I listened. I was unsure which direction to pursue until one day while I was receiving massage. I knew when I left that session that I wanted to move on from the mental health arena to that of physical health. I enrolled in massage school and learned how to help people heal their bodies with physical and energetic techniques.
Like counseling, providing therapeutic massage and energy work has been very rewarding. I enjoy helping clients to recognize patterns in their bodies and decreasing their pain level and helping them learn to release physical and energetic tension. Like bartenders, massage therapists often find themselves being the sounding board for many issues that clients rarely share with others. I found myself thinking about how I would work with them if we were counseling, and missing many of the elements of that role as counselor.
Since I began my massage career I’ve found myself receiving the message that I’m supposed to be a teacher. Whether through retreats or workshops, books or spiritual readings, this message repeated itself…I’m supposed to be a healer, and a teacher. So, I came full circle, incorporating my predispositions, my education and my experience to offer my guidance as a life and wellness coach. Of course through coaching I don’t teach from books or a predetermined syllabus answers that I possess, but help clients to learn their own answers that are already within themselves.
I chose coaching rather than returning to the counseling field, because what is most rewarding to me is helping clients move on from the past to create a happy life now, create a healthy lifestyle and create the lives they want to live. I don’t make all decisions perfectly, nor always listen carefully to my intuition, nor live a life free of all judgment and uncertainty, but I do try to make progress on these every day. I pay attention to what doesn’t work for me, and more importantly…what does, and help clients to do the same.