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: 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

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.

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.

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

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

melissa: life thus far during a pandemic

I’ve been wanting to post on the blog since hearing the word “pandemic” for the first time, but I have struggled to know where to begin. As we settle into this new normal, I thought it might be useful to point out some of the questions I am commonly hearing these days. This is one of the rare times many people are coming to therapy and discussing a lot of the truly exact same concerns.

1) I’m sorry, I know you are probably really busy, but are you still able to see me even if I haven’t seen you in a while?

Of course! Yes, always yes. Everyone in the office will honor all requests to the best of our ability, myself included.  I find many clients are worried about us, as clinicians, and how we are doing. Clinicians/therapists are trained to take care of others, and we truly want to do so. That’s why we do our jobs. It has been my distinct privilege to be on a journey with many of my clients during various times throughout their lives. While this is an unprecedented time, we are trained to assist and support people through crises. Please do not apologize for seeking support right now; this is what we do and it is our honor to be on the frontline.

2) Is everyone else having a hard time?

I have yet to come across a single person in my life, personal or professional, who isn’t having a hard time on some, if not all, days. In the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, things went from, “Oh, it’s just a bad version of the flu,” to “Oh no, this is really bad. Scary bad.”

Now, I’m finding many of us are growing weary. Weary and wondering: where did my structure go? When will this end? Why is it so draining to even leave the house? Did I sanitize enough when I got back from the grocery store? What is going to happen to the global economy? I feel so helpless, what can I do to help? How long can I wear the same pair of pajamas before I look like I’ve given up hope? This list could go on forever. In short, everyone is having a hard time, though for a variety of different reasons.

3) I see a lot of articles about self care and working on my efficiency at this time. It makes me feel badly; should I be doing more right now?

Ah, the good old “shoulds” and social media. Surviving is what needs to be done right now. Whatever your form of “self care” is, you take care of yourself right now. I wish I could give everyone a list of what would help them to feel “normal” again and bring back their old life. I don’t believe such a list exists. Although, if you have one, please send it my way! Otherwise, I think it’s really a good option to give yourself permission to take care of yourself however you want to: that might not involve cleaning out another drawer or worrying about how much time your children watched tv today. Your self care might involve sitting in silence and drinking coffee, even if you only can for five minutes. I believe this may be a time during which we focus on surviving not “thriving.”

4) Is it hard for other people to get out of bed right now?

Yes. It sure is. If you have seen the movie Groundhog Day, I think life feels like that for a lot of people right now. It’s really more of the same day to day. It is hard to get up some days when all you see is bad news. (I do recommending limiting news, by the way.) That being said, what a joy it is to see so many humans coming together and taking care of their neighbors. Some days, it may be hard to get up, and yet, we do.  That doesn’t mean we have to look for the silver lining, but rather making it through each day and taking it one day at a time versus looking down a tunnel and not yet seeing a light. In the meantime, as many of my clients have heard me say before: we make the best out of the worst, sometimes. Humans are far more resilient than we all give ourselves credit for. Be kind to yourself and others. This too shall pass.

5) Any tips for coping?

I would say this is a rare situation in which we don’t really have a lot of inherent coping and cognitive skills built in. So, we are all getting creative. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all for coping with this pandemic. I’ve asked my clients to create a loose list (either written or in their minds) of their top concerns, and then we work through them together to decide on what some of their specific coping skills might be.

If you want resources, let us know. We will find something that works specifically for you. In the more general sense, here are some of my favorite readings thus far: 

https://www.thecut.com/2020/04/i-dont-think-i-can-handle-18-months-of-isolation.html

https://medium.com/@amillheiser/how-to-survive-quarantine-676d4058f637

And, lastly, one of my favorite quotes that seems to fit with a variety of life situations over the course of the years:

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

Rainer Marie Rilke