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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melissa: awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness month! Mental health awareness, at all times, but particularly during a pandemic, is for everyone. The overall prevalence rates of anxiety, mood changes (including depression), and substance abuse have gone up to a roughly 40% prevalence in the US population. Many researchers note that this is likely a very conservative estimation. We have yet to encounter a single person in any of our lives who hasn’t identified challenges with mood, motivation, anxiety, stress, drinking, and/or overall sense of wellness over the course of the past year.

More broadly than ‘disorders’ or ‘clinical need,’ mental health has appropriately taken on a new definition over the past few years. We now consider our mental health in the same way we consider our physical health, which, frankly, seems about time to those of us working in the field. Each and every human being has mental health considerations just by nature of being alive. In the exact same way we look at physical health, we now understand that mental health is just as important to assess and attend to regularly. Everyone has stress, struggles, challenges, and emotional needs.

Therapy, among with many other care strategies (exercise, meditation, connection, hobbies, etc) allows us to look at people as whole humans. If you are in our practice, you know how we feel about the importance of caring for the whole person and, often times, removing labels and looking at people simply as they are and where they want to go. If you are new to therapy, welcome- it’s a deeply rewarding way to learn about yourself, the world around you, and improve you overall sense of wellness.

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month to all. May you take this month to focus on your sense of wellbeing and identify ongoing ways to take care of you.

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

mindful moment

dive for dreams

or a slogan may topple you

(trees are their roots

and wind is wind)

 

trust your heart

if the seas catch fire

(and live by love

though the stars walk backward)

 

honour the past

but welcome the future..

-ee cummings

melissa: languishing

I think the term many of us have been looking for lately to describe our emotional state is languishing. According to Merriam Webster, to languish is “to become dispirited.” The original quarantine thoughts of baking our own bread, or picking up knitting with “all of our free time” have fallen to the wayside. Thriving is definitely a construct left behind in 2019. Where does that leave us in 2021? While there is so much hope and joy in vaccines and small things re-entering into our lives, there’s also a lot of “re-entry” anxiety mixed with a lot of confusion about the long haul mentality required to exist in an ongoing pandemic.

People seem to be beyond a status of “tired” and entering into a state of “languishing.” Languishing is best explained in the articles linked below, but in short, languishing is neither hopeless nor hopeful. Neither sad nor happy. Neither depressed nor content. It’s an in between state, and that seems to describe a lot of our shared experience right now.

And where does that leave us? Naming our emotional state is, in fact, an extremely helpful cognitive tool. Knowing that many of us are languishing together is another powerful means of building resilience. Lastly, getting into a “flow” state is another powerful anecdote, as described in the first article link below. Want to know more about flow? Watch Disney Pixar’s Soul, or read ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to start learning more.

No matter what you choose to read or do about your languishing, or whether you do nothing at all, know that you are not alone in your fatigue and languishing. While we have many different circumstances, there are also many similarities that unite us as well. Inevitably, sunny days are ahead regardless of the pace at which we arrive at them-languished and all. Eventually, we will be revived and renewed.

You can read more about the concept of languishing here, here, and here.

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

mindful moment

If you are seeking, seek us with joy
For we live in the kingdom of joy.
Do not give your heart to anything else
But to the love of those who are clear joy,
Do not stray into the neighborhood of despair.
For there are hopes: they are real, they exist –
Do not go in the direction of darkness –
I tell you: suns exist–

-Rumi

melissa: waiting

This year, it seems the month of March is in like a lion…and out like a lion. Which is vaguely reminiscent of March in 2020, and now March in 2021. So, here we are again. Waiting. If there was a word of the year, I think thus far it would potentially be ‘waiting.’ Of course, it’s only March, so there’s a lot of room for the development of a new word. We have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks discussing with clients thoughts of hope, challenges in decision making, and confusion around guidelines. More than anything, perhaps, we find ourselves discussing the process of what it feels like to be seemingly, endlessly waiting.

Perhaps you are waiting to see loved ones, or hug a distant friend. Perhaps you are waiting to meet a life partner, or are questioning whether it’s time to say goodbye to a partner. Perhaps you are waiting for your children to return to school, or find yourself anxious that your children are in a classroom again. Perhaps you are waiting to walk anywhere freely with a mask left at home, or perhaps you are double masking and wondering if Target is a safe space for simple browsing again. Perhaps you are experiencing many of these quandaries all at once.

Hold onto hope, dear readers. While there are so many ups and downs in life, and certainly in a pandemic life, we hold onto hope and wait. Perhaps the old English proverb of “Good things come to those who wait” was written for this very moment in time. The approximately 200 year old proverb certainly fits well in this moment, all these years later. That’s the thing about life, most things come full circle in the end. So, for now, we wait and good things will certainly come.

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

melissa: the yellow cardinal

My friend recently sent me an article about the sighting of a rare bird: a yellow cardinal. Apparently, it’s a one in a million chance you’ll see a yellow cardinal. Neither of us knew that yellow cardinals even existed.

I noted to her that seeing a “regular” red cardinal is one of my favorite bird sightings, actually. I always interpret seeing a cardinal as good luck or a good omen. Whenever I’m lucky enough to see two in a day, I’ll tell my husband about it over dinner. It’s a pandemic, so this is pretty noteworthy on any given day. Though if I’m being honest, I would have brought this up over dinner in the past too. Cardinals are serious business. If we are all out walking, I show them to my daughter. She yells, “bird!” which is basically headline news for her- along with seeing a bus or a truck.

Apparently, lots of other people take note of cardinals too, even in pre-pandemic times. A quick Google search reveals lots of information and sentiments about cardinal sightings, along with a rich history of the etiology of such beliefs.

Whether or not you have aviary interests, I love the idea of knowing there’s a literal rare bird out there in our own big backyard. It may be a one in a million chance, but I know I’ll keep looking for the elusive yellow cardinal. In the meantime, I’ve stopped and paused at every cardinal sighting in the past year- an omen of good things to come. There’s change in the air. 

If you want to read more about the yellow cardinal, you can find information here. 

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

 

mindful moment

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

-Emily Dickinson

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.

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.

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

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: 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.

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