Free live master class with Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Psychiatrist

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I just booked my seat for this free live masterclass with Dr Kelly Brogan, Holistic Psychiatrist. It’s happening in a few hours!! Wooooooo!! I’m excited I remembered to book in last minute! Dr Brogan will be exploring “psychiatric pretenders,” physical causes of mental health symptoms.

I really enjoyed her book A Mind of Your Own, which explores lifestyle medicine and the link between food and mood. What I learned was that mental illness isn’t necessarily a brain issue and the low serotonin theory isn’t science based. Her work is a real eye opener and will change the way you look at health. You can sign up here Reserve my seat.

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The rebellious origins of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

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“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,” Shakespeare

If you could capture the essence of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) in one quote, this might be it!  Although CBT was conceived centuries after the era of Shakespeare its creators shared a similar perspective on the human mind; it’s not what what happens to us that determines our emotional wellbeing but rather how we think about what happens. So what is CBT?

The Beck Institute defines CBT as “a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy directed toward solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behaviour.” Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on the past, the unconscious mind and family history, CBT focuses more on the present; patterns of thinking, emotion and behaviour as they are unfolding in the client’s life.

CBT emerged in the 1950s and has since grown to become one of the most popular first line treatments for depression and anxiety today. It has an extensive body of evidence-based research behind it and you’d be hard pressed to find any therapist who isn’t familiar with it. In a nutshell it’s mainstream psychology 101. But does it work?

This question was the topic of much heated debate during CBT’s early years. The approach was slow to gain traction and was often met with hostility and skepticism by conventional psychologists and therapists of the day. It was an unwelcome rebellion against the trusted Freudian and Jungian approaches revered at the time.

One of the key catalysts in the development of CBT, was Dr Aaron Beck, a passionate psychiatrist who was initially quite loyal to psychoanalytic theory in his early career. After conducting research into psychoanalysis, expecting to find strong evidence to support it, he was shocked to discover quite the opposite; his approach wasn’t actually helping his patients feel better!  As such he was driven to innovate and create new processes that would make a greater impact.

Aaron Beck Quote

Another key player in the emergence of CBT was Albert Ellis who developed Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), a precursor to CBT which shared many common elements. A fundamental premise of REBT is that humans do not get emotionally disturbed by circumstances, but by how they construct their views of these circumstances through their language, beliefs, meanings and philosophies about the world, themselves and others. Sound familiar? Hint… Shakespeare… scroll up 🙂

Ellis challenged his patients to evaluate their thoughts and cultivate more rational ways of thinking about themselves and the world at large. He was by no means the first person to use “rational thinking” as a therapeutic tool. Stoics, for example, were doing this back in ancient Greece but Ellis developed a modern user-friendly framework that he was able explore and test through empirical studies.

When Ellis declared “Freud was full of horse shit,” at a psychology conference in 1960s a war between therapeutic approaches was born. One camp loyal to diving deep into the patient’s childhood and the other looking for a quicker solution grounded in the present. Tensions between these ideas continued over the decades, but CBT gradually gained favour appealing to a culture enthused by the idea of a quicker fix.

Albert Ellis2

It’s quite amusing to consider how mainstream CBT is today when it began with just a few rogue thinkers challenging the status quo. Regardless of whether or not they were right, Beck and Ellis shared a truth-seeking spirit and a willingness to admit their own shortcomings as therapists. They created something new because the old way didn’t seem to be working for them.

Now another wave of rebellion is emerging; this time against CBT and back to psychoanalysis! In this fascinating article Oliver Burkeman explores the new research that might see Freud and Jung making a comeback!

In one recent study researches from Norway concluded that CBT’s effect size (a technical measure of its usefulness) has fallen by half since 1977.  If that trend were to continue, CBT could be entirely useless in a few decades! How can this be?

Coinciding with that researches from London’s Tavistock clinic published results on the first rigorous NHS study of long-term psychoanalysis as a treatment for chronic depression. They concluded that 18 months of analysis worked far better, and with much longer-lasting effects, than CBT style “treatment as usual.”

These studies are not isolated, there are others beyond the scope of this blog but what I’ve touched on here raises a number of interesting questions about the nature of “evidence-based” medicine and the need for more long-term studies.

I wouldn’t want to dismiss decades of research into CBT, surely there’s some element of truth in it, at the very least as a helpful tool for short-term relief. But my guess is that its strong evidence base is partly due to how quickly results can be seen when applying this method, and this fits in better with society’s 10-minute-medicine model.  Everyone loves a quick fix!

However, as many of us are learning some of the best medicine is slow and perhaps the truth takes longer to uncover. Did Beck lack patience in his earlier psychoanalysis approach? Should he have waited longer before giving up on Freud, or was it about time someone created a faster process, a handy modern tool to add to the therapy tool box? Certainly, looking back at the history of any therapeutic style does provide insight! (Yes irony noted!)

So answering my earlier question, does CBT work? Well my “rational emotive” brain is telling me yes but my unconscious mind is encouraging me to explore a deeper question… could both approaches have a valuable role to play in healing? Only if thinking makes it so!






When the road to wellness is literally a road: interview with Zarah Darling; nomad, vanlifer and magic catalyst!

ZarahDarlingFlowers_2What if you could change your life in 8 days? What if you could go from being almost bedridden with a chronic illness to a life of freedom, vitality and adventure quicker than you ever imagined was possible?

That’s exactly what Zarah Darling did last year when on a whim she decided to become a vanlife nomad! In just 8 days she packed up her 4 bedroom house, bought a van and set off to explore the magic of nature.

After over a decade of struggling with chronic fatigue from toxic mould exposure Zarah discovered her own unique road to wellness: literally living on the road! She says this radically different lifestyle was exactly what her body needed to feel vibrant and truly alive!  Now with a growing reputation as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst Zarah travels across the county whilst mentoring people on how they too can choose and create anything they dream up, and more! I caught up with Zarah yesterday to chat about her “journey” (yes pun intended) and how she’s helping people to unleash their inner magic.


Wow! You live out of a van! What lead you to choose a nomadic lifestyle ? Was there a particular turning point or catalyst? 

When I was growing up, my dad had a few books about hippies living in converted school buses and I loved leafing through them just to relax and daydream. The buses had quirky features like wooden shingles added to the outside of them to make them look like houses. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense why I find this lifestyle so appealing now! Those books planted seeds of possibility in my mind but I didn’t choose the lifestyle until a year and a half ago after being sick for over a decade. Choosing to feel better, and being willing to do whatever it takes, was the turning point. 

ZDVanlife6_quoteI had been changing houses frequently for over 2 years after I discovered I was suffering from effects of toxic mould exposure – extreme fatigue, reduced brain processing function, physical injuries that wouldn’t heal, 24/7 aches and pains lasting for years.  I even moved to the desert where it should be really dry, but mould in houses was a problem there too.

After taking an impromptu road trip for a week to an organic farm (and seeing Cyndi Lauper in concert!), I confirmed there was mould in my latest home and knew I had to get out. I had already planned to drive 11 hours to a workshop. And if I didn’t have to turnaround afterwards to come home I’d be halfway to my best friend’s from 6th grade house. Within 8 days I packed up by 4 bedroom house, got out of my lease, bought a SUV, and and headed for that workshop in Houston. If you ever wonder if you can change your life or choose something different, it can happen very quickly if it’s really time for that choice.

Do you ever feel scared as a single women travelling alone? How do you feel safe and protected? 

I use my intuitive awareness to check in and see if it’s safe when choosing which areas to sleep at, or even which direction to go… I ask a lot of questions to tap into that awareness. For example, I might ask, “Is it safe here for me?” I’ll notice if there are bars on the windows in a neighbourhood, how many cars are parked in certain areas, and pay attention to the number of people walking around. So there are logical things to pay attention to, but I’m most comforted by checking the energy of, “Am I safe here?” If it’s light and expansive, I’m comfortable staying. If it’s heavy and contractive I choose another spot.


Then it takes even more spidey senses to have awareness when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and there aren’t any houses to get a sense of what happens there. When it’s just open fields, hills, mountains and cliffs that’s really fun to ask the universe, “Will I be safe here?”

I think it’s important to distinguish between fear and awareness and know what’s a legitimate threat verses what’s just noisy chatter in the head that will pull you off course and trip you up. So playing with that and reflecting in hindsight can be really helpful to learn your own energy vocabulary.

I review situations and ask myself, “Was that just fear I experienced or was it a true awareness where I knew something was off before it happened?” This can really help you develop the vocabulary of your intuition. I think those tools apply to all genders.

There are also some practical things I do to stay safe. When I park to sleep I climb through the middle of my seats to the bed in the back rather than getting out of the car to go through the backdoor. I do as little as possible to draw attention to my situation so that passersby won’t realize I’m in there.

I have an air horn and car keys clipped to me at night, so I can make a noise to startle any intruder or slide through to the front to drive away quickly if I have to. If I had to go out of the backdoor to get to the drivers seat that would make me feel more nervous. Also, I have a SUV so it doesn’t look as obvious as a camper van that someone would be sleeping in there and that helps me feel safe.

Can you tell us about your work as a “Magic & Awareness Catalyst”? Do you think the tools you use could be helpful for people suffering mental health challenges? 

Working as a Magic & Awareness Catalyst means I help facilitate people to live a more magical existence and to have the courage to be who they truly are. The tools I use really do help anyone experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues. First off if you’re not depressed about the current state of our world and planet, either you’ve found the magic answer or you’re not paying attention. Right? If you’re anxious it probably means you’re aware of a better reality and are wishing people would hurry up and realize they can help create it!


If you’re experiencing what this reality calls “mental health” issues, I invite you to ask yourself if you’re actually super aware of what’s happening across the planet and what other people are experiencing. What if you could learn to distinguish between what’s yours and what’s someone else’s? If you are drowning yourself along with someone else, that won’t help either of you to survive!

But what if you can untangle yourself? Isn’t that the greatest gift to those around you; being a source of inspiration and showing others how it can be done? Even though I’m still really attuned to other people’s suffering I’ve recognised that it’s their choice as well. What if everything was a choice?

That’s different than the tone deaf suggestion of, “Hey just be happy, just pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” I’m not suggesting that. It’s not always simple and polyanna-like but if everything is a choice, that can mean choosing to find help, choosing to explore another alternative, choosing to have willingness for something different to show up and not even needing to know what that will look like exactly; just choosing a different possibility.

Do you have any tips on healing chronic health issues and what helped you recover? Was it mainly hitting the road that helped or were there other factors?

The key for me to get over chronic illness was to choose to do and be something different than what I had been previously.  I chose something different than being sick from the mould and it wasn’t just choosing to be happy or no longer sick, it was the willingness to do whatever it takes to experience something different.


For me doing whatever it takes meant no longer living in a house and choosing to be out in nature with all the ions that help our bodies to heal and to experience all of the magic that nature provides. I was willing to receive that.. and here’s a funny thing; here’s how this mindset shift can just blow you away, since then my story has completely changed.

I used think OMG I’m so sick I can’t even live in a house. Now I can see how my subconscious mind created the illness to avoid judgement against what I knew I would like to choose. I figured, if I was sick, people wouldn’t judge me for living in a van, driving across country and and sleeping at camp sites.

What if I had just said gosh I would really love to live in a van a travel across the county. I’m just going to choose that and I don’t need to make myself sick to convince other people that there’s any logic to what I’m choosing.

I’ve also noticed that other people who have mould sensitivity share a common outlook on life. They share similar stories about how they were brought up and how they don’t trust anyone else in a very deep sense. It might look like it on the surface but deep underneath we don’t trust anyone else and feel like we have to do everything ourselves, on our own.


We’ve got that whole martyr outlook that we have to suffer, work really hard, nothing can come easily and we’re really concerned with what other people think about us (even though we’d never admit it). So all those points of view really set me up to be the perfect victim to fall prey to mould and that’s part of my old story.

Now because my outlook changed I can create my life with far more ease. Before it was like I had to almost literally kill myself in order to create things in this world. Now I live in my own reality where I don’t make any appointments before 2pm, I work outside in parks and beaches and run 98% of my business from my iPhone.

What if you could create things without sacrificing your health, your piece of mind, or the enjoyment of living? To get out of a chronic illness situation, the first thing I invite people to do is practice choosing something different. Like if you have a usual route that you drive or walk to some location, choose a different direction or a different route. Or if you go to a restaurant and always order the same thing, chose something else next time.

And here’s the important part, choose it just because. Don’t try to come up with any logical reasoning about why you are choosing it.

What if you even opened up a menu and the first thing your finger landed on you ordered? How exciting would that be and what if the experience of that could be part of your daily life and how you do all things. If you’re thinking “OMG this feels out of control” what if you recognize how strong you are as you withstand a chronic illness? If you can withstand that you can definitely cope with making some changes and doing things differently .

Some of our readers are struggling with major depression. As a Magic & Awareness Catalyst what do you think might help them feel more joy? Any tips on how they can let their true magic shine? 

The antidote to depression is to believe in possibilities and the first step to that is to release the point of view that there’s something wrong with you. What if you first let yourself off the hook for everything? What if there was no wrongness of you and you started entertaining the idea that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s choices, and no longer have to align and agree with your own choices from the past? And note, this outlook of possibilities can partner with current support and treatment – just letting go of any stigma or wrongness may allow other therapies to make more of an intended impact. What if right now you can just choose from the magic that you are; that quiet voice that’s been struggling for you to hear it.

For whatever reason maybe you haven’t been paying attention to the quiet voice and maybe it had to get louder and louder and the only way it knew how to get loud was to become sharp pains or chronic illness or some other health issue.

Zarah Darling Vanlife Selfie

You are here with a special gift that this planet needs and even if you’ve been labeled different and wrong so much that you’ve started to believe it, what if that’s only because you are here to actually change the world? After all, if you fit in perfectly there would be nothing to change.

Instead of feeling that sensation of depression what if instead you label it as awareness and then eliminate the part where there’s any wrongness.

If you’re in allowance of who you are, then how much joy could you have then? And how much of you could you share with the world? Maybe that means finding the right people that are able to see who you are, but what if you get to show them how to see who you are by seeing yourself and allowing yourself to be all of yourself? That unique thing that you have to offer this world isn’t going to show up in anyone else and it’s not going to be set free into the world unless you choose to do that…. and we’re waiting… we want to see it!

For more info or to book a magic session visit:
A free download “Morning Mantra Mixtape”
is available at:


How to like yourself

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Do me a favour. Grab a notepad and pen (or open your virtual notebook) and jot down 10 things about you that you’re grateful for. It can be anything from the basic fact that you’re alive and your heart continues to beat to some talent or skill that you possess. If you’re struggling to find things, go basic, and focus on simple fundamental aspects like the parts of your body that are healthy or your ability to be a kind friend to someone. This is my list for today:

I’m grateful for:

  1. the gift of my body and all of its function and capacity
  2. the fact that I can see, hear, walk, breath, taste, touch and think
  3. my ability to type fast
  4. a sense of caring for others
  5. a sense of caring for the earth
  6. my curiosity
  7. my desire to learn and expand
  8. my hopeful attitude
  9. my ability to sing and create
  10. how I don’t give up

Have you done your list? Do it now… go on!! …..

This is a really simple exercise but how often do you take a moment to really appreciate that gift your body? The gift of living? I find those basic truths like “I’m so glad my heart is beating and I get to live in this life,” really uplifting to reflect on. Often our brains jump to what is wrong with us and so we need to put some energy into what’s right from time to time. Otherwise we get the habit of distorted thinking and miss the opportunity to enjoy a balanced perspective.

Weirdly, as I’m writing this in a cafe I notice an infomercial segment the TV for a fat burning vibrational belt, lol… Wow! If I wear a special belt my abs can look perfect, tanned and toned like the women in the ad! And I don’t even have to eat sensibly or exercise. *facepalm.* Sadly these products sell because we are forever reaching for a beauty ideal is unattainable; we never achieve the unrealistic TV-induced cosmetic standards. We end up fundamentally rejecting ourselves as we are and so the urge to buy continues.

I find practicing basic self-gratitude provides a good foundation for other self-appreciating thoughts to live and thrive. It’s an excellent vaccination against the virus of unrealistic cultural beauty ideals.


The difference between medical minimalism and anti-medicine

Yesterday I read a smear piece on a holistic doctor who is “anti-medicine” according to the journalist because she is critical of conventional approaches to mental illness.  I’m not even going to share the piece as I think it’s a classic example of tabloid style click bait not even worthy of linking to in a blog post. In my opinion many holistic or integrative doctors are actually more like medical minimalists rather than anti-medicine practitioners, and I think there’s an important difference.

What is medical minimalism? It’s a cautious, critical and big picture approach to the use of pharmaceutical medicines. Medical minimalists use drugs only when they believe they are truly needed or helpful. When they do use medicines they use the lowest dose possible to get the desired result because they acknowledge the risks involved. They openly embrace lifestyle interventions as valid, and sometimes preferable to drugs and continuously apply a big picture cost benefit mentality to all their recommendations.

Medical minimalists are not against the use of drugs across the board but they use sparingly, or not at all depending on the illness or patient in question. They don’t believe drugs are necessarily bad but that the use of them can be destructive if better options are ignored. Just like minimalists believe less is more, medical minimalist believe less medicine can sometimes mean greater health. Since there isn’t research into the effects of prescribing a cocktail of different meds at once medical minimalists tend to avoid cocktail scenarios. They prescribe one thing at a time or give their patients a pep talk about lifestyle and diet.

Here’s an example of a very honest psychiatrist I came across on youtube who discusses the limitations of his prescriptions. Whilst he still prescribes at times when he believes it’s needed (always at the lowest dose possible) his aim is to get people off medications eventually and offer talk therapy and other strategies that he believe are more effective at helping people thrive for the long haul rather than just “getting through.”

I’ve really enjoyed watching some of his other videos on mental health too which are very helpful and refreshing. Also check out The forgiveness diet and How to let go of victimhood. Enjoy!



To find health …

to find health

The above quote is a variation of Andrew Taylor Still’s quote “To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease.” (I replaced disease with illness because I think this idea is true for mental illness also.. which is not a disease as such).

Beyond coping, managing and dealing lies a holy grail called HEALTH. What small step towards true health can you take today?



The problem with emotional bypassing

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Recently I came across the term “spiritual bypassing,” which is a tendency to bypass negative feelings or life problems by focusing on only positive and uplifting spiritual ideas. For example a person with cancer might focus on getting better, faith healing, going to church and praying with friends rather than contemplating or responding to their illness. The problem with this of course is that they may miss real and practical ways to deal with their problems or else suppress their fears which may resurface in future with greater intensity.

Spirituality aside I think this concept can apply to emotions generally (even for atheists) and for the sake of this post I’ll call this “emotional bypassing”. This is a tendency to bypass negative feelings in attempt to feel better, more positive and rational about life. It’s the habit of “thinking your way out of feeling bad”, to a a degree which might be counter productive.

Everyone thinks their way out of feeling bad at some stage or other. This is a fairly normal response to unwanted experiences. You’ve heard it before, your friend says his job is dull and boring but “it pays the bills and puts food on the table.” However it can be problematic when it is overly relied upon at the expense of just feeling what you feel.

Emotions are there for a reason. They are a guidance system, a message, a signal to reflect or do something differently. Maybe it’s time your mate looked for a new position or is in need of a holiday. Maybe he needs to explore dullness and boredom through mindfulness and learn to accept those feeling as part of the diverse contrast of their day to day lives.

Something I’ve found with myself is that thinking my way out of feeling bad can be superficial and fail to address core beliefs. These core beliefs can be subconscious or hidden and sometimes those beliefs just want the opportunity to be heard and validated before anything can be done about them. I also find emotional bypassing a good excuse to avoid taking action towards my goals. In other words if you ignore your emotions you can remain stuck.

We live in a culture that values a positive attitude. I often see this reflected in employment adds, “looking for positive vibrant sales person with a can-do attitude.”  We make an assumption that being positive is actually a superior way to be. Yet allowing our fears, being careful, cautious and at times negative are some of the qualities that have made civilisations thrive. Take for example farmers preparing for the worst case scenario of a crop failure. Storing up reserves and salting foods for long term preservation. We can see many examples of ancient civilizations who carked it because they got to cocky.

Having said that being cocky has it’s place. The saying fake it till you make it exists for a reason. But it’s all about balance and finding the right middle ground for you.

Also you don’t have to be anything. You can be a chronically miserable person if you want to be. There’s comedian called Doug Stanhope who has some hilarious comedy skits built on his self professed depressive state. “I’m Doug Stanhope, and that’s why I drink” he says, whilst holding a beer and smoking on stage.

There’s no right way to be. It’s just the diversity of life and what you aspire to that matters. Allowance and authenticity are powerful forces for change. It’s ironic how they work.

I would challenge employers to consider different ads. “Looking for an anxious hyper vigilant person to write occupational health and safety policy. Must have the ability to notice potential hazards that could result in workplace accidents.”


I’m back and the blog title is the same (for now)

Hello lovely people. I’m back in wordpress land and I have kept the blog title the same (for now). Last month I went through a blogging slump where I felt a bit frustrated with the topic of mental health and I thought about morphing this site into something different. But in reality I think I just needed a break to do some personal contemplation, reading, walking, mediation and refocusing. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent less time on the internet and more time reading real books. There’s something refreshing about good old print… but I’m back now surfing the interwebs with renewed interest.

The frustration I felt in relation to the mental health arena will probably come up again no doubt. It extends to my frustration with the entire medical model, which I believe has been corrupted by a profit driven pharmaceutical industry, that ironically doesn’t always have people’s health as it’s top priority. Okay so maybe I sound like a conspiracy theorist or scientology driven anti-psychiatry campaigner but I promise you I’m neither.  No, I don’t belong to any obscure religious groups and there’s no cult agenda behind this blog.

What drives this blog is a quest for truth in the spirit of activism; to explore the inconvenient facts that your physician might not have told you such as:

  • There is a serious lack of research on the long-term outcomes of people taking psychiatric drugs. The few available studies suggest that all the major classes of psychiatric drugs add little additional long-term benefit, and for some patients they may lead to significantly worse long-term outcomes. EEEK!!!
  • The concept of a chemical imbalance in the brain is a theory not scientific fact… it’s never actually been proven… double EEK!!

The quest for mental health is broad, epic, complex and controversial. Brains live in bodies and bodies inhabit the planet. Environmental scientists tell us our planet is sick, and our behaviour unsustainable. It’s not surprising then that much of this is reflected in our individual pathology. But conventional practice keeps selling the dream of a simplistic problem (broken brains) and magic pill solution. And I keep bumping up against people who have this view… and sometimes I get OVER IT!!

But I’m going to keep my chin up and keep asking questions because that’s me. I’m a curious soul with a sensitive BS meter. So what else is possible? How do we go beyond the corporate slogans and cultivate real, authentic, genuine and lasting mental health? How do we thrive in an insane world?

Calm body clear mind: free online course!

I just noticed Dr Kelly Brogan is offering a free online mental health course where you can learn to how to treat anxiety and depression and leverage your mindset for transformation. Register here.

Dr Brogan is a New York Times bestselling author and psychiatrist who treats mental health with the greater whole body context in mind. She’s known for myth busting and spreading awareness about mental illness.


From clinical depression to breaking dawns: How this Reverend regained her reverence for life


Adirondack Mountains, upstate New York

Rev. Pam Peterson always knew she wanted to be a minster… but life took her on treacherous journey through an abusive marriage and clinical depression before the opportunity was ripe. It wasn’t until the age of 47 that she was officially ordained to become a spiritual teacher and mentor.

Yesterday I interviewed Rev. Peterson about her experience healing from depression and becoming an “optimist with a capital O”. The picturesque Adirondack Mountains, where she now resides, provide a perfect metaphor for the peaks and troughs of her challenging life path.


Rev. Pam Peterson

“The earth is my church and nature my religion”, she says as she talks about her favorite prayer and meditation spot in the nearby landscape… and with those views in reach, it’s no surprise that her sense of spirituality extends beyond the chapel walls.

When did you decide to become a minister? Was there a particular catalyst or spiritual experience that called you in that direction?

I knew from the time I was confirmed in the Lutheran church in 1979, at the age of 17, that I was called to be a pastor. Life circumstances, though, took me on a different journey so I did not go into the seminary until 2008 at the age of 47!

There was no one “day” or moment where I experienced an “I am supposed to do this” … rather it was many years of confirming my call to ordained ministry. That in itself is a book worth writing, with new chapters to be added every Sunday! Because of my relationship with my ex-husband during my 19 year marriage, I chose not to purse ordained ministry.

After my divorce in 1999 I searched for almost 10 years to find the right denomination that was a fit for me theologically, spiritually, emotionally and in worship and fellowship. The Spirit, through the voice of my then 3 year old grandson Brady, led me to the United Church of Christ, and I could not be happier! Not only am I an ordained minister but I am also a Provisionally Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains (one more paper to write and I become fully board certified.)

I served for 3 years as the Trauma Chaplain for a large trauma hospital on the east coast and am now serving as the Interim Minister for a Presbyterian Church in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate NY. I chose to leave hospital chaplaincy for now so that I could develop a healing ministry for first responders and medical personnel whose focus is trauma – doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, etc.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience of depression; what was it like and how you overcame it? Did you find your spiritual faith helped you get through those difficult times or was your faith tested? What other tools were helpful?

I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression in August of 1998. It seemed to be a sudden onset of depression- like symptoms and it was at the very beginning of the newest claims to cures using anti-depressants. While I do agree that my lifestyle was the main cause of the mental anguish that I was living in (my ex is psychologically abusive) I never understood why I got so sick so fast.

I suffered from extreme anxiety, waking in the morning with rapid heart beat, sweating, racing thoughts and nausea. I would walk for 5 miles just to calm myself down. Then the wringing hands, loss of appetite, and a morphed perception of my physical body all set in. I lost 25 pounds in 2 months, suffered from memory loss, suicidal ideation and would go between sleeping 12 hours a day to sleeping 2 hours a night. I would get on crying jags that would last for hours.

The doctor (psychiatrist) put me on Paxil, I got a divorce and found true freedom for the first time in my life, and the depression symptoms stopped within a month of my separation. I stopped walking because the symptoms stopped. I had to learn how to feed myself (my ex controlled my food) I gained 80 pounds in a year. I stayed on the Paxil for 6 years because the doctor said to, and whenever I tried to stop taking it the crying jags and suicidal ideation would kick in.

I finally stopped taking it in 2004 because I lost access to health insurance and I didn’t like the side affects of the tics and electrical brain impulses “brain farts” as I called them. I tapered off over a 2 month period, was living in Boulder CO where I got a lot of fresh air and exercise, was active in a great church that recognized my gifts for ministry, and all has been well since!

Faith… that’s a great question. I lived in a constant state of prayer… I still do. I pray all of the time. Everything from “Thank you God for this glorious day!” to “WHAT THE HECK, GOD???” I believe that our faith is tested every hour of every day. I had a great, and I mean REALLY GREAT support team. My 3 sisters, brother, mom, in-laws, out-laws, friends…you name it…they all rallied behind me 100%. Especially my sisters, and they still do.

My sons were teenagers at the time and we stuck it out together through the thick and thin of it. My older son is my rock, but I am still his mom so I am careful of taking care of my own needs rather than putting any expectation on him for that. He’ll have his hands full with me when the time comes for nursing home care in 30 years…I’ll be the one that’s always escaping and getting caught in the most precarious places!!

It took many years, but I finally found therapists/counselors and pastors that I could work with. Most of my depression and anxiety “symptoms” were a result of a lifetime of co-dependency and it took a fantastic therapist to help me get to the root of that. I also stay active in playing music (I’m a flutist), journaling, reading…and I’m an extrovert who is a 7 on the eneagram wheel so I know that I need to be around people! I’m also an Optimist…yes, with a big “O” and have belonged to the Optimist International organization where I learned how to always look on the sunny side of life.

Can you tell me a bit about your more recent experience with anxiety, what were the circumstances and how did you overcome it?

When I left the work of trauma chaplaincy in a huge city (3 years of 40-60 hours a week with at least one 24 hour shift/ 3-7 deaths a day, rarely a day that I did not witness CPR or an infant death) I moved to a rural mountain town in Upstate NY in January. No family, no friends, one acquaintance and my cat. Within 3 months I had finally caught up on my sleep, watched all of the reruns for my favorite shows, read 10 books by my favorite author and adopted my dog, Buddy B.

I also gained 25 pounds. Out of the blue I started waking up at 5 am with anxiety-like symptoms. Rapid heart beat, short of breath, weakness in my legs. The doctor wanted to put me on Welbutrin and I said, “Hell no.” I figured out on my own that my body was still pumping the adrenaline for the trauma work into a brain that was, well, on vacation! Within a week of figuring that out my son recommended I listen to the Joe Rogan show with Dr. Kelly Brogan and now here I am!

Changing my eating patterns and selections has been a tremendous help. I’ve lost all of the weight, meditate to relieve the anxiety symptoms and I am back on track. No pharmaceuticals either! I still wake up many days with the rapid heart beat and I’m trying to figure that out. It lets up with meditation, especially the Kundalini anxiety and adrenal healing meditations, so I’m thinking it’s still my body and brain trying to figure each other out.

I should also mention that I do have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and take levothyroxin. I’m pretty sure that my next blood tests will show that I need to cut way back on the meds as I am healing!

As a minister do you find yourself self called to help others recover from mental health challenges? What have you found helps people recover?

As a minister and a chaplain I am always dealing with what is perceived as mental health challenges for people. Now that I am learning about the VMR program and learning about Dr. Brogan’s theories and research, it’s a whole new ballgame in counseling for me. People are calling me out of the blue to talk to me. People are having prophetic dreams about me. I’m “popping” into people’s thoughts and they are calling me to thank me for who I am. There’s a lot of weirdness going on in my life right now and I am just taking it all in and laughing with the Spirit as we figure it all out.

One thing that I do know is that so far, some people don’t want to hear about how to get better without pills! They would rather medicate and eat whatever they want, rather than eat what their body needs and do the work of healing. Healing is A LOT OF WORK!