Every journey begins with a single step and the same is true for this one. Some background about me (because, let’s be real, you are totally wondering who the heck I am and why you would want to keep reading. Right? That is a fair concern, but give me a chance-I think you might like me). I am a therapist. Yes, like a mental health therapist. I work mostly with adolescents but also adults and I deal in general mental health such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and self harm. I also dabble in trauma when it is appropriate (and that is pretty often as humanity can be traumatic). I have been working in this field since 2014 and have worked with both individuals and groups. Previously, I spent 12 years in public education working as a high school teacher (hence the adolescent specialty, right?) I was a really good teacher but not because I was a good instructor. When it came to standing in front of the class explaining something, I was adequate but not exceptional. Somehow, though, students really liked me (For the most part at least….there are definitely some former students of mine that are rolling their eyes right now and telling their friend how much they disliked my class) and it showed in the number of students who enrolled in my elective class year after year. I also spent a significant portion of my teaching career as a coach and had a similar experience in the fact that most of my athletes quite liked me. I loved teaching, but where I really shined was in my relationships with students (which is why most of them liked me so well) and my ability to connect on real issues that spanned beyond the classroom. Therapy was a natural fit and, as it turns out, I am pretty good at explaining things when they are relevant in the moment and help someone to build a life they love to live.
Well, that was my resume in a nutshell and if you are still here, my guess is that you are wondering why I decided to write a blog and what I plan to share with you within the posts to follow. A few years ago, I was visiting a friend out of town for her baby shower. She had some other gals that joined us after a few days that I am friendly with but are not my direct friends (my husband calls them peripheral friends. You know, we definitely like each other but for one reason or another, we only connect when it has something to do with our friend in common), So, we are sitting on the patio and one of them asks me if she can ask me a question, since I am the adolescent “expert.” Of course I oblige and we commence discussing her young son who is nearing puberty and her lack of certainty around how to discuss the topic of sex with him. I remember her saying something like “I don’t want to be the Mom that blindly thinks that her kid is not going to have sex until he is married but I also don’t want to be the Mom who gives her kid condoms. What is the middle there?” I remember sharing with her that it might be appropriate to talk to her son about when it is appropriate to have sex, rather than fruitlessly telling him not to have sex or having a “you are going to do _______ anyway so I would rather you do it at home” kind of attitude. We talked about how approaching it that way neither shames nor supports sex but helps her son begin to understand how to behave around the idea of being physical with a romantic partner. It also opens the door to have conversations about being “ready,” safety and respect for you partner. Most importantly, it keeps the lines of communication open between parent and child so that they have the opportunity to TALK about what is going in their lives. It was one of the first times I thought to myself “dang, Jessica, that was good.” I had never before thought about what the sex talk would be like for parents (I don’t have kids of my own) and the words kind of rolled right off my tongue like I knew exactly what I was talking about. I had just finished patting myself on the back that she said “Jess, you should totally write a book.” I, of course, laughed because it sounded ridiculous, but that was the first step of my journey. I am not sure if she knows that her comment started all of this, but thanks SR. I will give you a proper shout out in the forward of my book if I ever get there. That step is what started the wheels of my mind going. Now, years later, I have watched countless people have realizations about their life and tell me things like “I did exactly what you said and it worked!” They have written down notes in their notebook or put it in their phone. They have taken pictures of things that I have drawn on my trusty office white board. When I was a teacher, I always heard people talk about when students would have these “light builb” moments. You know, where they finally get it. Whatever concept you were trying to teach finally connects and the kid says “oh! That makes sense” and they suddenly can apply it with ease. That seriously never happened to me as a teacher. Not one time did I experience that in the 12 years I spent in education. In therapy, it happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every day I watch someone have a realization or make a connection or answer a question they have had for years. And I have realized that my words have helped them get there (they did the work, I just provide the guidance). It all brings me to the “why” I have decided to put my words out there for the world. First in the form of this blog and one day in the pages of a book. Why, you ask…why?
Because I have valid shit to say.
That is it…nothing more. That is the whole reason. I just think I have a perspective that could help people to build that life they love to live. Not everyone is going to end up in my office and not everything that I think or say is going to match your beliefs and your values but it is here for you to use if you choose to. I plan to write about my personal journey, my thoughts on different mental heath and common issues with life. I don’t plan to comment on pop culture, religion or politics and I will always post with thoughtfulness and the best of intentions. I will also probably use far too many parenthetical comments (at least, that is what my husband told me. Don’t worry, I reminded him that he is not my editor even if he is right. So, sorry in advance for that). If you choose to read on, welcome to my journey and thanks for letting me be a part of yours.