This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."
I remember when I first met Tammy at the women’s Bible study at our church. I walked away from our brief conversation with a gut-level awareness that I had found a kindred spirit. We now meet for lunch as often as our busy schedules allow, to talk about writing, life, and our shared desire to see hurting people made well. It is a delight to share some of her story here with you today.
I am a psychotherapist. I have a private practice working with teens and adults.
I absolutely love helping hurting people feel better. I have the honor of witnessing people begin to be free of their pain and being a part of God’s work in people’s minds and hearts.
When we address pain in therapy, I think it models the help and abundant life Jesus offered to us. I believe people can live more “abundantly” as they learn to ‘solve the solvable problems’ or ‘cope ahead’ to deal with an upcoming stressful situation or find comfort in healthy activities instead of in things that bring more pain.
I’ve been learning a lot lately about Internal Family Systems therapy. The theory behind this approach is that we all have an “internal system,” made of different parts, some we like, some we do not like.
For example, there might be a “part” of someone that does not want to get out of bed, that is scared and overwhelmed. But there is also another “part” that wants to get up early to run ten miles, do a crossword puzzle, and change the beds. This part is also scared and using perfectionism to try to feel better.
In therapy, I help people learn about this inner dialogue and conflict, and help them to see, hear from, and be with these various parts of themselves. The goal is to help them start to understand both parts and learn to validate their conflicted internal feelings. In that moment, they can find their “true Self,” the one grounded, centered, and calm in the midst of these “parts.” I believe in this place they can find healing and experience the Holy Spirit pouring into their minds and hands and feet, empowering them to live in abundance.
The Christian community is just beginning to understand and support those who are suffering with mental illness. But, we would all be surprised at the number of people in our churches who are dealing with ‘functional’ anxiety and depression. (Not to mention those struggling with addiction to pornography, to drugs, to alcohol, to control and power.)
They get up, go to work, take care of their kids, and, all the while they are screaming inside. The shame and the stigma keep them from whispering it out loud: “I am a Christian and I am sad. I feel alone. I am afraid.”
We want people to admit they are sinners, but often, as Christians, we do not want to admit we need feel bad and need help. I get it—we all wish we had it all together all the time. But we don’t, and it is silly to pretend otherwise. It is okay to seek help. It is okay to admit we are struggling. I wish Christians knew that healthy, normal people go to therapy. It helps.
Sometimes horrible things happen to people, and sometimes people’s daily lives are torment. Some live with depression, anxiety, terrifying memories, illness, and pain. I, on the other hand, can hardly tolerate having a cold for more than a week. Because of my own faith, I believe there is light and there is love in the midst of all kinds of pain. If I can help people see this and experience it, then I know and am reminded how God is present in my life and theirs.
If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.