COVID-19 Update

We remain open for all of current clients and welcome incoming clients that would like to schedule an intake appointment. Our appointments are virtual at this time, per the CDC recommendations. We will resume in-office appointments once we are able to, and you are welcome to transition into an in-office visit at that time. If you have insurance questions regarding telehealth, please give us a call, email, or text and we would be happy to look into your benefits; most major insurers are covering telehealth services as the pandemic continues.

Some of our incoming clients are interested in working through anxiety, sadness, and concerns about the personal and global impact of the pandemic. Others are seeking support in dealing with needs that were pre-exisiting. We are here to help support anyone seeking services, regardless of insurance status and needs. We truly believe we are all in this together and want to support the local and national efforts to work as a community. Please reach out if we can be of help and/or connect you to additional resources. We strive to respond to all inquiries as quickly as possible.

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Anybody Like Me

Melissa’s blog, Anybody Like Me, is dedicated to people sharing their stories- in particular, sharing stories of situations and experiences that have led them to ask, “is there anybody out there like me?” In hope of connecting people, Anybody Like Me is here for you to share your story, or read someone else’s. A lot of human experiences are shared in many ways, and Anybody Like Me is a way to connect through other’s anonymous stories. Check out our blog today and find connection.

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melissa: the orchid plant

Have you ever had an orchid plant that bloomed beautifully, and then was done blooming? Then, you noticed it was clearly still growing but not flowering. And so, you kept it in your house, watering it once a week- and just waited- thinking maybe it would blossom again one day.

I’ve had that exact orchid plant situation more than once in my life. I don’t have a green thumb, but I usually hold onto the orchids for a long time- figuring they will eventually bloom again. Maybe years later.

Life is definitely starting to feel like that orchid plant in my sunroom. Except this time, I see the tiny buds forming and I have a feeling it really will bloom again. I don’t know when exactly, but I see the signs of growth and hope around me. Cautiously optimistic, there is change in the morning air.

Personally, none of my orchid plants have ever bloomed more than once, but I keep buying the plants anyway. Those orchids spark joy in me with their beautiful flowers. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll develop a green thumb. Until then, I’ll wait.

Copyright © 2021 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

mindful moment

But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.
You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

-Rumi

melissa: snow and sun

If you find yourself blankly staring at the ceiling or out the window in the early mornings lately, you’re in good company. There’s a lot of snow out there, readers. And a lot of cold.

People have frequently been asking in session if their malaise is normal right now. Let’s have a moment with that. It’s below zero many days, there’s been a ton of snow, and we are rounding out a full year of a global pandemic. Of course a feeling of malaise is normal! The end of January, February and March are almost always tough months for midwesterners at baseline. You have to have some level of sheer grit and resilience to get through long midwest winters, particularly one that is more challenging than our previous winters.

I talked about both/and in my last post, and this week I find myself thinking about that very concept again. It’s both arctic level cold, and so sunny. I actually can’t recall a winter this sunny in recent years. It’s both very snowy (where will it even be plowed if/when there is more!?), and that snow is glittering in the sunshine and under street lamps.

If you, too, have some malaise, welcome it on in. I’m welcoming it in, too. And then, I’m turning my face up to the sunshine and basking in it. I’m watching my daughter stick her face up to the rays of sunshine, and sticking out that tiny mittened hand to catch a falling snowflake. We are learning both words: snow and sun. Both/And.

As always, stay strong, readers. I’ve started to realize that if we can weather this winter, pandemic, malaise, all of it, then I bet we can weather just about anything. “Every winter has its spring,” as H. Tuttle noted, and (in humans,) “No feeling is final,” as Rilke said.

Copyright © 2021 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

mindful moment

I Worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

-Mary Oliver

melissa: both/and

Up, down, right, left. Things have gotten confusing lately. On the one hand, we’ve got amazing medical advances headed our way. On the other hand, we’ve got some challenges to accessing them and some baffling ‘variant’ conversations to top off our COVID musings lately. Forget what day or week it is (also often confusing and disorienting). What life is it?

It’s strange and confusing to be holding so many emotions and thoughts at the same time. If we felt like we had COVID fatigue before…this is both next level COVID fatigue…and then we mixed in hope, gratitude and excitement. The concept of ‘both/and’ has never been more real. This life is both deeply unsettling and very hopeful.

‘Both/and’ is a therapeutic concept that demonstrates a human’s ability to holding two opposing thoughts and feelings at the same time, also known as ‘dialectics.’ This concept was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1990s. Of all the concepts one learns as a therapist, ‘both/and’ has been one of the concepts that struck me as the most relatable and factual. It’s a way to balance out oppositional feelings and emotions to reduce some internal distress.

This pandemic is both extremely taxing in a variety of ways, and also has illustrated the importance of connection and not taking for granted basic freedoms that we have been afforded over time. I’m both saddened to not hug family members, and grateful that I can call them via FaceTime for virtual hugs. I’m both exhausted from constantly taking in a lot of news and media, and also thankful I live in a time when I can easily access this information. I both miss my old pre-COVID life, and also am grateful that I don’t spend very much time in my car these days (driving is not, in fact, my favorite). I’m both not enjoying being indoors so much during a Chicago winter, and also laughing that I met my family outdoors in the middle of January to have milkshakes. The ‘both/and’ list is endless, more so than ever before in life.

If COVID has taught us anything (and I suspect it has taught us a lot), it’s that we live in complicated times with complex emotions, and that we can hold of all of these feelings and thoughts at once. Things are rarely all one way. We are doing about the best we can, and that’s enough. We are both suffering and feeling hopeful. ‘Both/and’ brings some sense of peace, I think, simply because it allows us to feel all the feelings, freely, knowing that we remain in a shared experience.

“Be full of sorrow, that you may become hill of joy; weep, that you may break into laughter.” -Rumi

Here and here are some additional readings if you’d like to read more about the concept of ‘both/and.’

Copyright © 2021 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

mindful moment

Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.

-Rumi

melissa: time

Somehow, we are two weeks into this year…but it feels as though it’s been a full year within a year. I find myself saying Happy New Year, but thinking, “Wasn’t that months ago?” Alas, it was not. While 2020 was the year of the unknowns (among many other things), I think 2021 may be the year of waiting. If you find yourself unaware of the day, time, and month some days, you’re in good company. And certainly if you find yourself vacillating between hope and despair, you’re in good company as well.

I find myself often thinking of the phrase by Art Buchwald, “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.” This is, indeed, the time we have. It seems we are all trying to “make the best of the worst.” Practicing “boring self care” seems more important than ever. So, we go outside, even if it’s cold. We remember to breathe, because slowing down our breathing helps us remain calm. We take showers, put on our clean ‘daytime pajamas,’ and practice boring and delightful self care.

Take care of you, reader. And if you want to listen to an interesting concept of how Twitter can loosely predict how the general public is doing, you can have a listen here. I certainly laughed out loud quite a bit, and found myself comforted in knowing, “yep, we are all here together in this strange space and time.”

We are living history as it unfolds.

 

Copyright © 2021 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

 

mindful moment

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent,
As a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

all of us: with gratitude

As we close out a very strange, difficult, and long year, our office is reflecting on our year of telehealth. We want to thank all of our clients, many of whom we haven’t yet met in person, for sharing in the year with us.

One day in March, we temporarily closed our physical office doors, and opened up our computers to connect with our clients. While we can’t wait to open those physical office doors again, we have loved the opportunity to continue to work virtually and meet so many of you. What a delight it is to see your pets, children, spouses, homes, porches, patios, balconies, and/or the interior of your car. We’ve hung out in our home offices while you’ve taken walks, gone for drives, and gotten your much needed coffee. We’ve had debates over which coffee is best when you “literally can’t” and aren’t sure how much coffee it will take to get going on a given day (I’m still team Starbucks, by the way).

We’ve shared a lot of laughs over the year, in spite of all of the challenges, grief and sorrow. The growing number of La Croix cans and coffee mugs on our desks is usually a source of a good laugh, as well as what you’ve deemed as your work wear for those of you who work from home (team joggers). 

And of course, between the light hearted moments of connection, we’ve hung out in some really tough emotional places together. Many of our clients often ask how we are faring, these days. We are happy to report that while everyone has tough days, even us, working as therapists during a global crisis is a true source of purpose, meaning, and honor. Work, for all of us, is a wonderful anchor, and we don’t take it lightly nor for granted that we have been able to continue to do our work in a very real way, despite the technology changes. We are filled to the brim with gratitude for each and every one of our clients who has been on the journey with us.

Cheers to 2021: may it be filled with laughs, hope, and light, in the midst of the dark. Even though we don’t know exactly what the year will bring, consider us fully ready to embrace it and keep journeying on down the road with all of you.

With gratitude,

all of us at the (virtual) office

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW.  All rights reserved.

mindful moment

Hold on a While

When all the sky is very black
And all the earth is blue,
And all the fiends are on your track
And howling after you;

When courage falls and hope decays
And fair ambition dies,
And all your dreamland is ablaze
Beneath the ebon skies;

When you would fain renounce the goal,
Nor plod another mile,
Oh, straighten up your drooping soul,
And—just—hold on—a while!

Hold on a while! the darkest night
May bring the fairest day.
Hold on a while! the good, the right,
Will always find a way.

Hold on! for still some strength remains,
Nor yield you till you must;
A newer life may flood your veins;
Born of a larger trust.

And when your fondest hopes are dead
And fate has ceased to smile.
‘Tis then it pays to lift your head
And—just—hold on a-while.

-Amos Russel Wells

melissa: art in the time of covid

Like many people, I surround myself with a lot of forms of art lately. Music, literature, poetry, art work, and other forms of art enable us to connect to significant collective experiences, such as a pandemic, despite our literal distance. There are some great articles discussing why art means so much to us right now; you will find links to some of those articles below, as well as how to get connected to art virtually.

You’ll find the Mindful Moment posts of 2020 have gotten a bit longer, as poems seem to often reflect our current experience a bit more accurately than quotes, lately. And of course, you can find me, listening to Folklore on repeat these days…

Virtual art museum tour lists:

Travel and Leisure link of virtual museum tours

TimeOut link of virtual museum tours

How we connect through art during difficult times:

Why We Needs Art in Times of Crisis

Even During COVID, Art Brings Us Closer Together

Art in the Time of Crisis

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -Thomas Merton

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

mindful moment

Joy and Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was often times filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Khalil Gibran

melissa: exhaustion and hope

Well, here we are again. Another day in paradise, as I like to say, as many of you know from our sessions.

As we face another suggestion of “sheltering in place,” life is again changing for some of us. For others, life is barely changing at all. No matter where you fall in the trajectory of change- whether your life is changing a lot or very little- the common theme this week is exhaustion.

I see you. I know you are exhausted, and weary. You are tired of picking out meals, take out, or what to get from the fridge. Things seem as mundane as ever as you take your garbage and recycling bins to the curb, marking the passing of another week. You’re wondering how many times you’ve run the dishwasher lately (why is it always full?). You wake up, still tired, even though you slept. Never not tired, as my friend and I often laugh about when checking in with one another via text and phone.

There’s some hope on this horizon, though, readers. As news starts to trickle in about vaccinations, we are beginning to see a light. No one knows how far down the tunnel it is, but I see that hopeful light, and I bet you do too. The mixture of exhaustion and hope is new. We start to pour ourselves a glass of optimism, and sip it slowly, savoring the promise of a new dawn and new day.

You’ve got this. We’ve got this. As always, stay strong. I’m sheltering with you, just as you are with me. We’ve weathered nine months already; let yourself be both exhausted and hopeful. At the very least, that’s shiny and new.

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Melissa A. Frey, LCSW. All rights reserved.

mindful moment

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door”

J.R.R. Tolkien

melissa: a time for everything

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot abut time, and the passing of time. Whether it’s the best of times, or the worst of times (as it can feel lately), it is the only time we have. As the pandemic continues on, so does our emotional marathon of resilience. We try and balance looking ahead (where is that light at the end of the tunnel?!), while also being mindful of the present moment (the sun is shining in this very moment and it’s lovely). It’s a rollercoaster right now, to be sure, and this poem reminds us that there is a time for everything. Stay strong.

“There is a time for being ahead,

a time for being behind;

a time for being in motion,

a time for being at rest;

a time for being vigorous,

a time for being exhausted;

a time for being safe,

a time for being in danger.

The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them. She lets them go their own way, and resides at the center of the circle.”

– Lao Tzu

mindful moment

All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world.

That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.

-Fred Rogers

melissa: monotonous

I wouldn’t use the word boredom. I would use the word monotonous.

While we do remain curious, there is a drying up of the well of wonders. It’s not as though we are no longer curious. In fact, I think we find ourselves quite curious. Curious about the fate of the world in general, among so many other small thoughts lingering in the corners of our minds. We remain curious, but the well of rarities we can actually touch is drying up a bit.

Looking down into that well, there isn’t much to look at, even way down there. There are likely a few drops that haven’t yet fully caught the rays of sunshine that slowly radiate on down the well walls. So, we cannot quite see those droplets. I think we all assume they are there. They probably are. And we all know, believe, hope, that the well will one day fill up to the brim again and we will again be able to quench our thirst for fresh, new rarities in our lives.

In the meantime, we are all hanging out by that well. Thirsty, tired, restless, and weary. It’s the same view every day- day in and day out. Another day, starring you, and….well, you. Staring out the window, down the well, out into your yard, thinking of all the splendor you had before, right at your fingertips. You could grasp those marvels and reach for them all day, every day. You could drink from that well until you were so full and content, you were exhausted from all of your new experiences and the wonders around you.

These days, we look for the wonders that are now dulled out, but used to be shiny. We grab some polish, and attempt to make them new and glisten once more. Our wells are dry, but there remain wonders around us. Every day, it’s too easy, to reach for the old list of monotonous tasks. So, instead, we challenge ourselves to glitter up the old tasks, a few times per day, in search of a treasure…a curiosity of sorts.

This evening, my daughter and I were running around the same four walls we usually hang out in before we begin the bedtime routine. Suddenly, she stopped moving and I saw her hand reach out into the air. She had found a ray of sunshine, beaming through the window, shining onto her tiny hand. She was intrigued, and deeply curious. I reached my hand up into the air, and we both shared in that ray of light together. I would have missed the tiny ray of light, if not for her own curiosity slowing us down for a moment. Promptly after this treasure of a moment, she reached for my cell phone, which I tried to, not so smoothly, sneak back into my pocket. A meltdown ensued, of course, because we always want those shiny things we can’t quite have in this moment.

Even though the well has all but dried up, I actually see her well is quite full. And thus, the monotonous became slightly shiny again, for a few lovely moments.

This is what we do now.

Stay thirsty out there. That well has a few drops left. And it will one day be full again. We will delight and smile at all the wonders we had been longing for in our monotony. In the meantime, shine up everything you can find that has a layer of dust on it.

mindful moment

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it’s time to go
So come the storms of winter and then
The birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?

-Sandy Denny

melissa: 1994, aka ongoing life during a pandemic

Lately, I find myself hanging out a lot in 1994.

“You’re really on a Counting Crows kick lately, huh?” my husband asked in the car, as we drove to Target to get our drive up order. You know, the family outing du jour of 2020.

“What?” I asked, humming absent mindedly to Round Here (Track 1, August and Everything After), as we pull into pick up parking spot 2. “Oh? Yes, yeah. I am. 1994 was a better time,” I said in response. 

“Better?” he questioned. 

Hmm. “No. Not better. Easier. And now, familiar,” I said. 

He nodded.

When I’m not pulling into the Target Drive Up while humming along to my music, sometimes I dabble in 2005. How many times can one person watch The Office? Unclear. I’ll report back when I know. Prison Mike reminds me that the Dementors made jail really scary, and that Dwight is still running his beet farm bed and breakfast. “5/5 stars, that bed and breakfast,” I think. “Would definitely recommend.”

When I want to feel extra cozy, I hang out in 1987. I read the same boards to my daughter that my parents read to me when I was younger. Peter Rabbit is still hanging out in the neighbor’s garden, apparently still eating his carrots. Winnie the Pooh is still with his nearest and dearest in the Hundred Acre Woods. “Good for them,” I think. “I bet it’s a lovely day hanging out on that bridge with Christopher Robin and a perfect time for a ‘smackeral of hunny.’ ”

My husband has joined into my memory musings recently, and pulled out his Magic of Walt Disney World book from 1992. We showed our daughter pictures of this magical place that used to be open every day of the year to millions of loving fans. There’s a picture of Mickey Mouse and all his friends, hugging his guests at the happiest place on Earth. There’s Figment and his wonderful imagination (with that catchy song I can still sing on command). As I look at the photos, I think, “What ride will I go on first when we can return? Haunted Mansion? Or will my family see a miraculously short line at Peter Pan in Fantasyland?” I continue to ponder. “I just won the Super Bowl, I’m going to Disneyland.” I smile and laugh, as the retro commercial suggested to us many moons ago.

While I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly nostalgic person, I find myself in a loop of familiarity lately. The cozy cocoon of the past wraps around me. Predictable and comforting. I know exactly what to expect when track 1 begins playing. I know where Piglet is, and what Eeyore will say. I know “It’s a Small World After All” is an ‘ear worm,’ as my dad says, that you never want to forget (and, honestly, you couldn’t even if you tried). I give myself the freedom to sit in the familiar as often as I want to these days. I like knowing what Michael Scott is going to say next, and that I will laugh as hard this time as the first time I heard it. I’m not dwelling in the past, but rather reveling in the known, in the present moment. What a joy, I think, that the past can now anchor us to the present. Uncertainty of quarantine be damned, I’m going to put on Mr. Jones and sing with my whole heart. I know each and every word, since 1994, folks. I’ll sing, and I might even be wearing Mickey ears at the same time.