May is mental health awareness month!
Hello, my name is Patricia Lamas Alvarez and I’m a mental health therapist (LCSW) located in Los Angeles California. I am a bilingual speaker and spanish is my first language. I also run the instagram account @Patricialamastherapy, in which I provide mental health tools, centering around mental health and tips for couples. My website is http://www.patricialamastherapy.com for more information.
A little bit about me: I was born in Madrid, Spain, and moved to Brazil when I was 13, and later to Syracuse, NY (USA) with my family to find a better life. However, most of my family remained in Spain and I was left having to assimilate and live within two worlds. The difficulty of being apart from my father, my grandparents, my friends, began my journey as a therapist. I was a sensitive and empathetic kid, full of love and emotions, wanting to make sense of the distance and my parents’ divorce. My mom decided that I should go to therapy in order to work through some of these feelings. Here, I discovered the power of having a fresh sound board, in which you can confide and be fully yourself, as well as express your deeper feelings and fears.
When I began college, I always knew I wanted to be in a helping profession, and I figured blood and medicine were just not for me, so I may as well help others through mental health. I could have never imagined the possibilities and beauty of this field. I am lucky enough to be welcomed into people’s inner worlds, and get a glimpse of different human experiences, closer than you may ever imagine. I think us therapists are lucky and should understand the power of being in a room with a vulnerable client, and the privilege it is to be allowed into someone’s inner world as we are.
Now that you know a little bit about me, lets talk about mental health. The field of psychotherapy is full of possibilities, and with possibilities come many views and theories of the human experience. The theory that in my eyes underlies mental illness and explains what encompassess mental health is the Bio-Psycho-Social model. When we think of for example someone who is struggling with depression, we can understand depression through the following lense: Depression has a basis of biology and genetics. We know a large percentage of depression is correlated to our genes and the Biology we were given. Next, we also know that social dynamics impact depresion: we know that the environment in which we grow up, our family, our friends, our community, SES, our support system, as well as outer stressors and trauma impact our mental health. For example, depression can be triggered by the end of a relationship, a transition in our life, and the loss of a job. And lastly, we know that our psychology, our inner ability to be intrinsically resilient, our inner world and view of ourselves, our self esteem and thought patterns, our attachment also impact our mental health.
Therefore, mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s nothing that you did “ on purpose” or you continue to “ do to others”. Mental illness is created by a combination of different patterns of our biology factors, our community, the family we were born into, our circumstances, and our psychology.
Whats so important about receiving help and accepting help, is that although we do not have control over the cards we were given, we can play the cards in different ways in order to grow and live a more fulfilling life.
We can be so unkind to ourselves and we are given so many stigmas and messages that stop us from allowing and processing the help. A few years ago, I developed panic disorder. I cannot to this day pin point exactly why, but I can understand it was a combination of me moving to California alone (social factor), beginning my first “real” job as a therapist and being an adult (social factor), my perfectionism and pressure I put on myself ( psychology), and my genetics(Biology). Although I went to therapy, I felt an extreme sense of shame as I struggled with being a therapist and suffering myself. How could I, help others, if I couldn’t even help myself?. It wasn’t until I spoke to Steven Hayes, one of the most influential psychotherapists of today, that I understood therapist are humans too. I also understood, that through what at the time I viewed as my “ weakness”,I could further learn about myself, and help my clients grow, as I further understood the pain of an out of control mind.
I tell you this because its’ ok. We are human, we are not perfect, we have our struggles and even through the cultural norms, our family expectations, we should always prioritize our own needs and self care. How can we take care of others and be available to them if we are not allowed to accept help ourselves. Don’t be ashamed. Allow yourself to bloom.