Once a week I prepare to go to a place that most people probably never imagine themselves choosing to go - my local jail. I have been going to the jail once a week for over a decade, and it is so much a part of my normal routine that I often forget how unusual it is - that is, until I see looks of surprise, confusion, and concern from people after hearing me say, "I'm on my way to the jail," or ,"I just got out of the jail."
Whitney Storey Blog
October of 2022 was a huge month for me. It was in this month that I finally earned my certification in Perinatal Mental Health, which was really the culmination of a decade of work in mental health and in my own journey as a mother. Naturally, I have been wanting to celebrate with the folks around me, but I have noticed one important barrier to this - people just aren't quite sure what a perinatal mental health specialist even is! Let's break it down.
Humans are natural story tellers. We have long histories of using stories as a way to explain the unexplainable, to teach and guide our children, and to give our lives a sense of direction and purpose. We have stories about ourselves - like, I'm a good person, I love music, I'm a natural with animals, I'm bad at math... One story I have about myself is I am a good mother. But what if I told you that stories like that, even the positive ones, can get us into trouble?
Most mental health professionals prefer to work with clients individually. Each person has such unique needs, learning histories, beliefs, fears, and goals - and there's so much benefit from being able to focus all of the therapeutic attention to that one person.
Growing up I made a number of assumptions about who I was going to be and what my life would be like in adulthood. I assumed I would go to college, meet a nice man, get married shortly after graduation, and begin my family as a stable and capable professional - a working wife and mother. Of course, things aren't that simple. It has been an incredibly bumpy ride.
I love that as a culture we are embracing the idea that "it's okay to not be okay." It's so accepting and welcoming of folks with all kinds of struggles and has reduced the stigma around seeking help. But, can I be honest with you for a second? Sometimes when I think "it's okay to not be okay," I find myself meaning it only for other people. It's okay for other people to not be okay. Not me. And I have a hunch I might not be the only one.
I have a long history of being involved in the arts and finding benefits from making art by myself and with others. While I had folks who encouraged me in my practice, I also found that many people (mostly my peers) didn't understand my love of art. The stigma I felt about my artistic self lead to feelings of shame. My best friend in undergrad even told me one time, as we were discussing dating, "maybe you shouldn't tell them you're a theatre major" - as if distancing myself from the arts were possible, let alone preferable! Art fills me with life.
If you have spent any time on TikTok lately, odds are you have come across some videos where folks (with a healthy helping of good humor) discuss the specific behaviors that have led them to discover, usually later in life, that they might actually be neurodiverse.
Since I am a mother and one of my specialties is parenting, I have parents reach out to me and ask if I can counsel their children, and they are usually pretty surprised when I say no. How can I be an expert in parenting and say that I love helping families when I won't work with children? The answer to this question is actually pretty simple.
Ten years into marriage, I find it so odd that all of the classic children's stories end in the same way. People find each other, they make a commitment to each other, and curtain. The end they live happily ever after. This grand commitment we are conditioned to seek and, most often, enter into thinking it's all smooth sailing.