Being mentally ill doesn't mean you can't help others. Just ask this therapist.

It’s no secret that the field of mental healthcare attracts individuals who’ve received mental healthcare themselves. Most of us become therapists because we’ve either needed therapy or benefitted from it. (Or both!)

I’m a child and family therapist. I also happen to have my own mental illness.

While some may argue that my mental illness impacts my work in a negative way, I believe it provides me with additional insight and skill. I’m a therapist with mental illness and, while my work is challenging, I’m better because of it.


The truth is, mental illness runs in most families. But in mine? It sprints. From relatives in prison to alcoholism, I’ve got it all in my lineage.

Jealous? Don’t fret, you probably have it too, even if you’re blissfully unaware.

Current theories state that most of us have a genetic tendency toward mental illness imprinted in our DNA.

But it's our environment and experiences that determine whether or not those tendencies are ever activated.

These “switches” get activated by what we refer to as adverse childhood experiences (or ACES). When we have a high number of ACES, we are more likely to suffer from addiction, maladaptive behavior, and mental illness.

I have a high ACES score. I am reminded of this every time I go to a training on trauma (which is often, since I am, after all, a trauma therapist).

I go through bouts of depression and occasional anxiety and have recovered from an eating disorder, but what’s pervasive for me is my complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PSTD).

How does this manifest?

I have an addictive personality. I am sometimes a control freak. I often want to plan my every waking — and sleeping, to be honest — moment down to the minute. I demand consistency from my loved ones and flip out on them if they fail to meet my standards.

I have sensory processing issues that leave me unable to function at Wal-Mart on a crowded Sunday afternoon (as in, I've left a full cart of items in the middle of the store and ran for the door, tears streaming down my face).

I have mood swings and migraines. I have somatic symptoms, including eczema and fatigue. When engaged in conflict, I tend to cry and shut down, running away from conversations that could help me grow if I just gave myself a chance.

So I’m complicated to love (and even to be around!) much of the time. But you know what else?

I’m compassionate as f*ck to any, all, and every being on this earth.

I feel your pain, your dog’s pain, the pain of the bug under your shoe — I feel all of it. Sometimes I feel pain so you don’t have to.

I can carry and navigate an emotional load bigger than a boulder, all while multitasking personal and professional responsibilities.

This means, as a therapist, my mental illness has provided me the tools to work through feelings with my clients.

While I don’t always allow their emotions to permeate me, I am always comfortable with the uncomfortable in my space.

That means my clients can feel safe feeling even the most difficult of emotions with me, in front of me, alongside me.

I can alter my approach to facilitate regulation and safety when emotions feel out of control and/or I can create a sort of feelings vacuum wherein a client feels safe to venture outside the lines of what they usually tolerate. They can then express the full range of a feeling to experience true processing of their trauma.

Practically speaking, I have self-care and coping skills coming out my ears and am happy to help clients learn to use journaling, yoga, creating a support system, mindfulness, art, and a hundred other skills to start feeling better in their daily life from the moment they walk through my door.

The most valuable thing about being a therapist with mental illness is that I get it.

I know how desperate you feel to change your life while you seem paralyzed and unwilling to do anything different. I understand how intimidating both therapy and emotions can be when you’ve experienced trauma. I know that not all trauma is war-zone, house-burning-down stuff, and I believe clients when they tell me they’ve experienced traumatic things, no matter how small or insignificant they’ve been told those things are.  

And, by tapping into my own experiences, I can help my patients cope with, accept, or overcome their issues — maybe even better than I could without my mental illness.

This story originally appeared on Ravishly and is reprinted here with permission. More from Ravishly:

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WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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