Business Women of Tomorrow

LinkedIn Live: Wellness Within – Mental Health Awareness Month

Tiffany: Hi everyone my name is Tiffany Schulze, I’m the Marketing Manager of Undergraduate Programs here at Forté. We’re so excited to have you join us today and I’d love to turn over this LinkedIn live session to our amazing host Susie Kroll.

Susie: Good morning everyone. My name is Susie Kroll, I’m a mental health professional here in the state of Washington and I am here to talk to you a little bit today about mental health care. A little bit of background for me, I am, like I mentioned, a licensed mental health professional, at least here in the state of Washington, and I am the therapeutic program manager for the King County Sheriff’s Office, and what that means is that I’m in charge of the program that puts deputies into vehicles with counselors in order to provide the best type of holistic crisis response to the community when individuals call 911. My background is in counseling psychology, I have a master’s degree in that and proceeded to work in a community mental health clinic for the beginning part of my career, and then was given the opportunity to Pilot this new-fangled idea of partnering counselors with police officers to go to calls for service and it ended up changing my entire career it’s something that I never imagined I would be doing and in my wildest dreams didn’t think something like this could ever exist. If I went back and started thinking about going to school and where I thought I’d be from my little brain in elementary school to my high school brain to what I thought expectations were for me in college all the way until even a couple weeks ago the opportunities and things that were put in front of me and the work that I put in really not knowing what the outcomes would be would never have gotten me in my wildest dreams to this position and when Tiffany reached out to talk about mental health awareness I thought well this is an amazing opportunity because so much of what we do hinges around how we feel, what our Journey’s process looks like, how we take care of ourselves, and where we hope to be in the future so I am happy today to talk to you a little bit about mental health awareness self-care and not the typical buzzword that you hear all the time about healthcare and self-care and what that means but the practicalities of what that looks like. So, I’m absolutely excited to talk to you about what that looks like and how we conceptualize the idea of self-care and I can tell you from where I stand or sit that healthcare and self-care to me are words that I am completely burned out by I know that sounds silly coming from a counselor but we hear the words self-care all the time and let me tell you I know what it is.

I know what I need to do, I know all of the things that would keep me well and healthy and resilient and strong and a lot of them are really hard to implement as habits, especially when we talk about the things that are foundational like diet and exercise and work-life balance and maintaining something that keeps you mentally strong, intellectually strong, hobby strong, and interpersonally strong.

Managing a lot of that is a lot of expectation and when I think about expectation and keeping oneself healthy and I think about expectation and where I thought I would be in a career and what that looked like. I can tell you that self-care became something that I didn’t really think about because there were so many other pressures that I had in my head about where I should be and what expectations are and the things that in my perception in that moment I thought were these huge monumental things that require all of my focus. So, I love the quote “The years make sense of the days, the years make sense of the days,” and the reason that I love that quote is because it’s framed so much of my journey now versus what my journey looked like when I was younger and when I had different experiences perceptions and expectations to give you a flavor for that and I know this ties in very very personally for me, so I hope that it resonates with you. When I was in second grade, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I watched a couple Jacques Cousteau documentaries on PBS and thought yes I want to be in the ocean with all the animals and the whales and I was going to do this and from second grade all the way until I got into college that was the goal. Heavy sciences, heavy biology, all of that. Got to my university, took all those classes, still gonna be a marine zoologist absolutely no matter what, and then I hit organic chemistry, in calculus, in genetics, and all of these really high-level science classes and they were really hard. They were so hard and I wasn’t doing well in them which killed me because I had all of these ideas about how this is supposed to be and if I didn’t get good grades in these classes I was going to not be a Marine Zoologist, I was going to be a failure, and I was looking at all my peers around me and they seemed to just get it and it was simple and it was easy and here I’m thinking I’m failing and I’m doing so badly and I’m struggling and I’m putting all this pressure on myself and I had this huge expectation should have must do this to get here it was pretty horrible and pretty stressful and I got what I thought were bad grades at the time and I’ll tell you what they were after and it’ll make a little bit more sense when I talk about perception because self-care ties so much into this. So, I got through the classes and I was doing so poorly and I felt so down thought man I got to take a class or two that’s going to bolster my GPA so I took a couple speech communication classes and it turns out that I really loved that and I did well in it and I was thriving in those classes and it was the first time that I felt like I had some solid confidence, but I looked at those speech communication classes and I looked at my science classes and I looked at them as lesser because they were easy and simple to me and I didn’t see the joy that those things brought and I pushed them aside I added that degree to bolster my GPA from what I thought were terrible terrible grades in my science classes and ended up in the end getting a Zoology degree with a Marine emphasis and a speech communication degree but had always had this idea that my speech communication degree was lesser because it wasn’t this drive and dream of the science degree that I had and as I went through that work I realized that I didn’t want to sit on a boat, and I didn’t want to do research in a microscope, and I didn’t want to be out to sea, and I didn’t want to do the things that I had all of these expectations about from second grade on so we’re talking second grade to almost 22 years old I held on tightly rigidly blindingly so to this idea of science and disregarded the speech communication piece. Somewhere in that journey through college I had a college advisor say to me you should try some of our psychology classes and I laughed at her because I was holding rigidly on to that idea of this Zoology degree and I said no no I’m I won’t do anything with psychology thanks, I do a real science. I said to her I get I’m getting a Zoology degree I’m doing real science not this psychology stuff. Graduated with those two degrees, didn’t get the science jobs that I wanted because I didn’t really want them anymore but I couldn’t reconcile all of this tightly wound investment I had done in Zoology. Fast forward a couple of years and I found myself sitting with a counselor as a client which was so far from the idea I had of of psychology or doing anything like that when I was much younger and that fashioned me into working with domestic violence victims sexual assault victims as an advocate and I realized I couldn’t help individuals with their needs without getting an advanced degree so as I sat with my own counselor working out some of my own life’s journeys and starting to do that work I entered into a masters of counseling psychology I had no psychology in my background I had no knowledge of what this was and here I was willingly entering into a program that was quote in my mind when I was younger not a real science I was a 100,000 gazillion billion times infinitely wrong because that master’s degree in that program was able to open and unlock a door for me that took the joy of speech communication with the joy of digging into psychology and human behavior and self-care and health and wellness and Trauma and personalities and family relationships and dynamics and how we interact how we fail ourselves how we fail each other how we succeed how we stay strong how we build resilience all of these amazing powerful tangible scientific researched evidence-based amazing things so why am I telling you all of this and what does it have to do with self-care go back to the idea of the years make sense of the days each day. I went along with all of these pressures all of these things all these expectations to perform get this science degree do really really well be a real scientist, do real research. I ignored some of these things that gave me joy which made my journey harder and then finally in the end I get to a place where psychology has become my life’s blood my mission my passion my drive, but even if I look at my psychology work and my Master’s Degree, I’m not doing anything with my Master’s Degree now that I thought I’d be doing when I got it, and even as far as a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to be now doing something with that psychology degree that I never ever ever imagined the years make sense of the days and finding the pieces of your world that bring you joy that aren’t maybe tied to the things that you have really deep expectations toward like a degree or getting good grades or family obligations or responsibilities are sometimes the biggest windows and signs and indicators of a path that we should be drawn to because it’s where our talents lie.

So in this entire message, my takeaways for you are self-care isn’t just diet and exercise and sleeping well and managing your physical healthcare, it is so much about how you engage in the world, who you reach out to, what your days are comprised of so that when you look back at those years the picture becomes so much more full circle.

Then in conjunction with that when we look at the pressures and the expectations we put on ourselves on a journey that we have in front of us we want to make sure that we’re not blind to the things that come across our path that may be what we’re looking for even though we don’t know that we need to be looking for it the seeds the mentorships the connections the people it was very fortunate in my master’s degree to meet a lovely mentor who told me this kind of imagery analogy she said you’re where I was five years ago I can see around the corner a little further than you can because I’ve rounded the bend trust the process because she’s the one that said the years make sense of the days and I didn’t know what that meant didn’t understand it still clinging to all these new goals these new ideas these new expectations and I realized in my self-care and my need for it that I was putting a lot of undue pressure on myself and in find finding a mentor somebody in a field that I was going into that I respected that could see around that bend a little bit more for me was the quickest and easiest way that I found my way to what’s brought me the most peace what’s made the most sense of my days in these last couple of years and has given me permission to not put so much pressure on myself that I lose sight of all of the indicators and the signs of the things that give me joy now that I should have or could have seen easier if I didn’t add more pressure to what it was that I was doing so when we think about mental health care awareness we think about careers we think about expectations we think about grades and people and social media and all of the things that burden us today I hope that the idea of connection and mentorship somebody that’s in the field that you love a person who life looks and feels like a goal of yours that you can reach out and build those connections and see where they take you and go on that adventure and trust that process because somebody else is further around the corner than you are and can see maybe where your journey could take you so that your years make sense of the days that you don’t put any undue pressure on yourself and that you take a balanced approach to goals and responsibilities in that we don’t put so much expectation on them that achieving them becomes somewhat of a Blinder to all of the other pieces in our life that we need to enjoy as we go through the process because I can tell you that every last thing when I was in elementary junior high high school and even at the beginning of my master’s program that I had expectations for that I worried about that I cried about that I sat with a counselor about and that I beat myself up about all worked out in the end and there weren’t anything I needed to give that much energy to and I wonder I could be now had I given that energy to something a little bit more powerful and a little bit more peaceful so I would love to take your questions and talk about self-care and mental health and inspiration and what empowers you to be the driver of what you need and stay the healthiest you can while you do it.

Tiffany: Awesome, thank you so much Susie that was amazing! I love the tips just for stress for myself and for all the students here thank you so much. We are still waiting for a few questions for students, but in the meantime can we start with what can I say to someone who is experiencing a mental health issue?

Susie: So, I will offer that a mental health issue is such a broad topic we could talk about mental health issues being somebody that’s feeling suicidal somebody that’s feeling hopeless somebody that’s feeling anxious but we can also look at mental health is got a really big test coming up and I’m losing my mind for it because I have so much concern anxiety pressure worry or it’s a subject I don’t understand and what I will say as far as mental health and connection is exactly that,

We do so much better when we have connection, when we have partnership, when we have interpersonal empathy, and we have a light at the end of the tunnel, a mentor a support system, a resiliency plan in place.

If somebody were to come to me and say that they were struggling with something the first thing that I would do is meet them as a human being and I would validate the heck out of that say yes that’s scary that’s stressful that’s anxiety producing frustrating whatever it is and just be present with that person so that they don’t have to feel like that journey is something they have to handle alone and then depending on what the mental health issue concern fear anxiety is that’s when you out and you find the experts you find support systems you find people that have walked that journey and can help you build those connections whether they’re professional mental health clinicians social workers they’re a support group they’re a resiliency advocacy group they’re just a group of people that have come together and have a similar experience or it’s a yoga class you take or a painting class or an archery event or some other piece that keeps that connectedness but that can help alleviate some of the pressure if it’s not necessarily something clinical in nature if it’s clinical in nature then by all means absolutely reach out to any expert that you can find if you can’t find one, I am on LinkedIn you are more than welcome to message me and I can point you in a direction or at least give you the right words so that you can advocate for yourself when you do reach out to resources in your area because half the time the biggest struggle is actually navigating the system and knowing what to ask for we’re really good at talking about potentially what our issues are and what we’re struggling with but framing them so that the places that we go asking for help understand them the way we need them to sometimes the words are hard and if we can formulate how we do that then getting the resources and the connections is much easier it’s a great note thank you for sharing we have another question what question should tying into that what questions should ask a a therapist or a counselor when looking for one the critical consuming of therapeutic resources is so important and I love that question I spend a lot of time talking to First Responders about how to ask for counselors because we all have an idea of what a counselor looks like I can tell you when I sat down with my counselor the first time and I didn’t know squat about psychology or therapy I wasn’t in a master’s program it’s absolutely clueless but I needed help and I didn’t know how to say it or ask for it or what I was even looking at things to ask good quality ethical counselors will give you a 10 to 15 maybe 20 minute session in the beginning to see if it’s a good fit and ask what you’re what you’re needing help with and and how they operate they should be able to provide you with a disclosure statement that talks about their services their therapeutic approach, their education logistics record, like all of the really needy things how you make payments, what weight fees are like all of the logistical things but you want to find a counselor that meshes with your personal style you want to ask if they have a knowledge or ability in the topic you’re looking for like if you have anxiety you want to find counselor that says that they have worked with people with anxiety the right age group if you are a neurodivergent individual you want to make sure that the counselor that seeing has experienced doing therapy with neurodivergent populations in your age group with test anxiety or depression or whatever those symptoms are so looking for a counselor isn’t just as simple as Googling and then going yes, I like to compare it actually to trying to find the right pair of shoes or a prom dress or the right tuxedo probably have to try a couple on to make sure that you’re getting the right fit and it is a good option and if you do go to see a counselor and it doesn’t work out don’t give up not all counselors are alike there’s tons of different therapeutic processes types education certifications types of therapy approaches so read the read their websites read about what they do if there are words on there that you don’t understand Google that therapeutic process and most of all be a competent consumer of therapeutic services by making sure your person is credentialed they’re insured they have the right education and they have the right experience to be able to to support the needs that you’re seeking out help for. If I had to tie all of this together here’s what I will tell you because I promised I would do this before the grades that I got in that class I got B’s in really hard science classes and my own mental perception of those B’s were that they were D’s and Fs and that I was failing that’s an incredible perspective for me and it’s mind-blowing I look back on that I’m like I had a be average at the university level in a hard science program and I was mad at myself the years make sense of the days those days I thought I was a failure these days. I look back at that and I laugh at myself a little bit because it was such a ridiculous feeling but in that moment it was so incredibly real that I felt like a failure and if somebody were to tell me back then that myself now would say all this stuff you’re worrying about don’t worry about it it doesn’t matter. I have laughed in my own face are you kidding me it absolutely mattered so why am I saying that please please please this is not some cliche statement this isn’t oh it’s easy for you to say because it all worked out for you it’s not me um being a typical therapist that has a a very positive overly positive view of things the years do make sense of the days and the perspective and the things that gutted me broke my heart beat me down made me feel like a failure made me question why I was doing anything that I was doing and made me feel lost and hopeless and down with so much pressure none of it mattered to the degree that I was making it pressure myself because it did all work out in the end all that worrying taught me is how to worry and how to make myself feel terrible and feel sick it did get me a slight benefit it made me pretty stubborn and that I wasn’t going to actually give up even though I didn’t know what to do or how to do it or where I was going to go or what my future looked like it helped me trust a process but it was such a hard load to carry and I can’t imagine what that would have been like had I not placed such undue pressure on myself trusted the process found mental in the fields or the classes or the focuses or the groups that I was interested in and had a sense of community through that process instead of trying to go at it alone with so much pressure that now when I look back on it makes me just want to go back in time and hug this poor little girl that was so bent out of shape and tell me it was going to be okay and probably beat me over the head with a stick saying I know you don’t believe me but I promise you it’s going to be okay taking that forward find your group find your people find your mentors find programs and hobbies and things that you love look at the things that bring you joy and come to you with ease foster that talent foster that drive see where it takes you and do the hard stuff too but don’t make the hard stuff even harder by being too hard on yourself to start with.

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