“I’m Katie and I live in Chicago, Illinois in the USA.
I believe aspects of our environment shape our mental health from childhood to now: Our relationships, where we live, resources we have access to or don’t, the activities and pace of life. My childhood was beautiful and challenging. I developed patterns of not talking, not trusting, not feeling and the isolating perspective that these equate to weakness. I developed shame and secrecy to portray an image of being in control, achieving, doing, working – and fluctuated between high responsibility and self-destructive exploration from a young age.
I lost my younger brother to suicide senior year of high school and it rocked everything I thought I knew about life. What I formerly saw as idea didn’t matter – I wanted to do something meaningful with my time on this earth versus a job I would have urge to retire from. I dove into “self help” books and an intellectualizing journey to personal development, attempting to pay attention in class that fall freshman year of undergrad while daydreaming about what I wanted to do.
I spent my early 20s fluctuating from survival mode “flight” responses of diving into work and using substances to continue the grind, then crashing into a heaviness when energy ran out. I had many friends and acquaintances yet felt best isolated and on my own, believing extreme “introversion” was responsible for it. While I wholly enjoy being alone, looking back I can see it was a protective maladaptive mistrust that kept me pushing away others – avoiding intimacy I believed led to abandonment and rejection. Yet the space led me to explore and change careers to pediatric occupational therapy, again and again pieces of life guiding me that way.
I began to have physical health issues and persistent depression and anxiety yet wasn’t aware enough of it at the time to seek help. All triggered shame – if I had only “controlled myself” better, eaten differently, not worked out as much I would be okay. If I were better, this wouldn’t have happened. These faulty thoughts and ego attempts to protect, self-judgmental narratives – narratives that were oh so wrong.
The health challenges became a call for my attention, a push to shift, to get back to myself – to unravel old traumas I didn’t previously consider significant. Deeply embedded protection began to loosen as I finally found others who listened compassionately instead of offering suggestions to “fix” the problem: a therapist and a few humans who accepted these emotions as is, helped me feel safe enough to see my shadow side and embrace it, welcome it, and gradually get back to all of me.
It was these people that opened my attachment system and enabled me to trust, igniting the life-giving energy within us all. Physical symptoms eased dramatically not with a controlled diet or modified exercise, while I see both big pieces of the puzzle. It was this emotional healing – connection to others – that allowed me to feel safe enough to listen to myself and connect with the core wants and needs I had abandoned long ago in order to be “good” or hustle for worth: Physical, emotional, spiritual wounds I had disconnected from in an attempt to protect against traumatic experiences. I learned how inextricably linked physical and mental health are, truly inseparable from the other.
I went on medication which gave me the energy to complete the Autoimmune Protocol and get back to light movement. I started trauma-informed therapy, shifted relationships, found rest in acupuncture and chinese medicine, alternative chiropractic and EMDR. I began vagus nerve stimulation practices such as rhythmic dance, shaking like an animal almost daily, singing and chanting practices that welcomed stillness for meditation and breathwork. I continue to engage in a weekly DBT skills group and am very involved in a 12-step recovery program in my area which has transformed my capacity to be part of a group, to give back via service and sharing, to learn the immense power of human presence.
If you are feeling alone, I hope you know how worthy you are no matter what. Our emotions and related body sensations can be incredibly painful and human and make sense based on what you have gone through whether you’re aware of it or not. I hope you find bits of compassion to shift unhelpful “self talk” – critical judgment from others or society internalized along the way – and create your own, different narratives to guide the protective body sensations as you travel through life.
Today, while self doubt and pangs of separateness still come up often, I engage in relationships at a level of intimacy and energizing vulnerability I thought may not be possible for me. I can say yes to environments or people that are for me and be present to those versus try to be everything to everyone and suffer the health effects of that. I’m still working on trusting myself, others. I still wake up and end the day with thoughts of fear, shame, insecurity at times – yet the voice that responds is more compassionate, daily nurturing for that child within:
“These feelings make sense. It is safe to feel.”
“You developed these coping mechanisms to protect. You don’t need them anymore.”
“I love you no matter how unworthy you feel.”
“I will never leave you, I am with you.”
“You are worthy to take up space, to be down, to be messy.”
Peeling the layers of programming, conditioning, and beautiful protective responses learned along the way is a complex courageous process and I am grateful to grow along each one of you. If you want to stay connected find me on instagram or www.thrivinglittles.com. I have a membership program coming up focused on developing ourselves while caring for actual kids or the inner kids within, and I would love to see you there.”
We are so excited for our segment called Meet Mental Health Professionals , where you’ll hear about their journey and how they got to where they are now.
As well as this, we will have an Instagram Stories Takeover in the week of when their story goes up, with each professional where you will be able to ASK your mental health questions and get answers from professionals and generally, find out more about them, what they do and tips/advice they have for maintaining good mental health.
Katie is doing an Instagram Story Takeover on the 7th of May on our Instagram account, so make sure to tune into our stories that day – and if you miss it, you will be able to catch up with it in our Highlights on Instagram.