Sunday, December 18, 2011

You have the freedom to be yourself, here a­­nd now

You have the freedom to dance in your room;

Blast the music, no one is watching.

You have the freedom to sing in the shower;

Belt it out, share the words with the water.

You have the freedom to go for a walk;

Appreciate nature, breathe some fresh air.

You have the freedom to write down your thoughts;

Clear your mind on a napkin or in a journal.

You have the freedom to dream about the future;

Anything you want, the road to make them happen.

You have the freedom to smile at a stranger;

Feel it in your heart, make someone’s day brighter.

You have the freedom believe in what you like;

Maybe in the moon, maybe a higher power.

You have the freedom to learn about anything;

Check out ten books, search it on Google.

You have the freedom to cook your favorite food;

Change up the recipe, pretend there’s nothing better.

You have the freedom to look at your reflection;

Remember who you are, fall in love with yourself.

You have the freedom to unclutter your life;

Practice non-attachment, donate old clothes.

You have the freedom to love your family;

Find at least one positive trait, try each member.

You have the freedom to meditate;

Take a deep breathe, turn your focus inward.

You have the freedom to enjoy each day;

The moment you wake, through each hour

You have the freedom to be yourself;

Here and now. Everyday, forever.

By: Danielle Meyer

Danielle is the Art Therapy Intern at the Awakening Center and a student at The Adler School of Professional Psychology. She runs the Eating Disorder Drop-In Support Group on Tuesday evenings and the Art Therapy Support Group on Thursday evenings.

Monday, December 12, 2011

La belleza de Colombia

(The Beauty of Colombia)

The nature, the people, the dignity, the pride, the food, the hospitality, and the spirit of Colombia are only some of the characteristics that made this trip unforgettable. I arrived to the city of Bogota hesitant of what was to come my way, yet I immediately found myself among some of the most admirable people I have ever met. My group and I spent our days there learning about the hidden realities of the marginalized communities in Colombia. We learned about their losses, their struggles, their memories, and more than anything, we were able to experience their courage to continue living happily and grateful. Never in my life have I seen so much poverty, and been in the presence of so much pain, yet at the same time, never in my life have I seen so much dignity and strong spirits. When we arrived to the poorest neighborhood of Bogota, my group was welcomed with smiles, a warm meal, and an eagerness to show us what beauty lied beneath their dirt roads, their unsustainable houses, their lack of resources, their reality. Their faith and drive to continue to be thankful for being alive and together was more than enough to maintain their happiness. I left Chicago unsure, nervous, and doubtful of whom I would meet and if I would be welcomed. On our way there, someone asked me if I had any role models, and my mind went blank. After leaving Colombia, I have many faces in mind.
By:Diana Hinojosa
Diana is the Bachelor's level intern at the Awakening Center. She assists with the drop-in ED support groups and is a senior at DePaul University with a psychology/journalism double major.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Give Gratitude and Gain Happiness.

November - a month of seasonal change when the leaves turn their brilliant reds and oranges, the colder winds pick up, and the sun-filled days begin to shrink. It also ushers in Thanksgiving, a time when many people pause and step away from their busy lives to spend time with friends and family. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to experience and express gratitude.

As we know, the tradition of Thanksgiving began after the pilgrims spent their first year in America and experienced great hardship. Their first fall harvest, however, was very successful yielding plenty of corn, fruit, and vegetables. In addition they had salt-cured fish and smoked meats, enough to last them through the winter. They celebrated this with their Native American neighbors on a day proclaimed Thanksgiving by their governor. This became an annual custom, and in 1863 President Lincoln appointed a national day of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, then, started as a celebration of gratitude. The pilgrims were clearly grateful for the abundance they found in their crops, for finding peace with the Native Americans, and for successfully beginning to build a life on a new continent. As Thanksgiving approaches this year, I am reminded to identify what I am grateful for. I give gratitude for reconnecting with an old friend, for the chance to spend time with my family, and for the beauty the changing of the seasons brings. What are you grateful for?

From a selfless space, the expression of gratitude bestows many benefits. If you are ever feeling angry or jealous, or perhaps you are feeling a bit insecure or fearful of a situation, take a moment to find something in this experience to be grateful for. This can be difficult. Imagine that a friend has inadvertently said something that was hurtful to you, and you start to feel anger rising up within. Go ahead and feel this for a moment. Your body may tense up, perhaps your chest tightens, and you may feel a big knot in your stomach. Now think of some qualities that you love about this friend you are imagining has hurt you – perhaps you love their humor, their compassion, or their wit. Quietly express gratitude for these qualities in your friend. Feel this sense of gratitude for a moment. What happens to your body? Do you relax a bit? Does any tension start to fall away? Do you feel a greater sense of calm? If so, it is for good reason. Gratitude helps dissolve negative feelings, and helps to break down any barriers to Love. It also helps to evoke happiness.

Think of the pilgrims who experienced such hardship during their first year in America. They didn’t know if they were going to survive or not. They weren’t sure of much, let alone if their crops for sustenance would be harvested fully. There was much to be fearful of. They persevered, and along the way they must have had such hope in order to keep moving and growing in this unknown. They must have had little moments of gratitude along the way to spark feelings of calm, love and hope to push them forward.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving, when coming together with loved ones, you can express gratitude and notice its power. Notice if any negativity dissipates, and if you experience a deeper sense of calm. Notice if this deeper sense of calm offers you more connection with others. See if this sense of calm, openness, and connection brings you a feeling of peace and happiness. Then you can take this practice of “thanks-giving” with you, and continue to give gratitude and gain happiness.

By Erin S.

Erin Stitzel is an interning therapist at The Awakening Center. She is a Masters student at Northeastern Illinois University and will graduate and gain licensure in August of 2012. She specializes in eating disorders, depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief. She runs the Saturday Eating Disorder Recovery Drop In Support Group at TAC on Saturday mornings from 10-11:30am. For more information please call 773.929.6262 (ext.12).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


People have emotions. Men, women, and people of all races experience a wide array of emotions on a spectrum that ranges from bad to good. Sometimes we hit the rock bottom extreme of “bad”. Sometimes we can fly so high that it seems nothing could bring us down from the utmost extreme of “good”. Normally we are somewhere in the middle of the continuum, fluctuating between good and bad. Sometimes we trickle over into one extreme that is beyond the range of normal, but we usually find our way back to an area of acceptable balance.

Many times we need to withhold our emotions; specifically, the “bad” or unhappy ones. Whether we do this because of the way we were raised, how society teaches us, or a job, we can suppress painful feelings. This can certainly create problems.

Many times I hear people that are clearly upset about something say things such as, “it doesn’t matter”, “I’m apathetic”, or “I don’t care, just forget about it”. While this may serve as a way of protecting one’s dignity or sensitivity, I do believe that severe consequences can follow. By not allowing ourselves to feel intense or bad emotions, we are unable to grow stronger and learn how to properly deal with what life hands us. The sadness, anger, frustration, etc. swirl about in our inner worlds and pervade our experiences and interactions with others. This reminds me of a common situation: when a person who is very upset about something walks into a room full of happy people, everyone can feel it and it dampers the light atmosphere.

The emotions that we don’t allow ourselves to feel will end up beckoning for attention. More than often this can end up in using behaviors as tools to numb ourselves, like shopping for things we don’t need, drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, having promiscuous relationships, or anything else that fills the “void” so that the emotions don’t have a chance to. Sometimes we blame other people or our environment for the things we feel, which are legitimate causes. However, if we do not accept responsibility for our own reactions and deny our feeling, we can rebel against things outside of ourselves. For example, lets say someone’s boss upset them at work, but the person pretended like nothing was the matter. That person starts to rebel by showing up intentionally late, not returning phone calls, or only half-listening when they converse with their boss. Lastly, we use things to distract us from feeling, like watching TV, nail-biting, or eating because we don’t want to pay attention to what is going on inside of us.

To stop the any sort of destructive cycles from forming, we need to allow ourselves to feel. We need to allow ourselves to sit, however painfully, in the negative or intense emotion as soon as possible. Our rebellious, distracting, and numbing parts can be behaviors that we use to stifle our emotions for days, weeks, months, or even years. It can create vicious cycles of destructive behaviors, causing much damage in the long run. Therefore, by allowing ourselves to feel something bad for a couple minutes, hours, or days, we use our most instinctive, natural, and healthy way to cope.

By Danielle Meyer

Danielle is the Art Therapy Intern at the Awakening Center and a student at The Adler School of Professional Psychology. She runs the Eating Disorder Drop-In Support Group on Tuesday evenings and the Art Therapy Support Group on Thursday evenings.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Take it to the Trees

This time of year for me always brings with it feelings of nostalgia. I’ve felt it for years and could never quite put a finger on why. Recently however, I made a trip back to the city where I went to college. I took a walk down an old familiar path through the woods near campus. It had that crisp feeling of fall and the colors of the trees were spectacular. That was when I realized, it was the trees. I grew up in the country and have spent a great deal of my life outdoors. As far back as I can remember I have always felt a connection to the trees. It might sound strange to some, especially to those most familiar with the city, but I have never felt as at home as I do in the woods. I began to think about the seasons and the cycle of the trees from budding and growing in the spring, lush and green during the summer months to brilliant colors and slowly falling leaves in the fall, and dormant but silhouetted figures in the winter. It’s a beautiful and intriguing cycle and I think the way my senses interpret these events triggers certain memories or emotions. Am I alone in this? Envision trees in the spring, barely budding, peeking green, almost melting in sun and breathing back to life. What does that bring up for you? The smell of the thawing earth, the birds beginning to flutter from branch to branch in spring feels different to me than the fall. During the fall it’s the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet and the trees almost visibly sigh as the let go of their leaves and succumb to the winter. Their branches become bare but instead of appearing naked and afraid they begin to look stoic, almost wise in knowing that this is all part of the cycle. Even rain sounds and feels different falling on the trees in the spring and the fall. It reminds me of the story “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscalgia which I would recommend to anyone looking for a short story that offers a lot of insight and meaning. As you may have already picked up on, I have spent a lot of time in the company of the trees. For me it has priceless therapeutic value. The idea of “taking it to the trees” has been a sort of theme throughout my life. I think it is important for everyone to have a place they can go to feel connected to something outside of human existence, something that often feels much bigger than ourselves.

Take it to the Trees – By Kaitlyn Gitter

Out in the woods

Just me and the trees

With the lungs of the Earth

I can finally breathe

The wind blows by

Tousles their leaves

They’re waving hello

Welcoming me

I envy their roots

Their stability

I long for their strength

Their community

But when I’m down

Or need to be alone

I know they will always

Share with me their home

When my soul is feeling restless

And needs to be free

I know I can always

Count on the trees

When I’m looking for a piece of me

Or just a slice of serenity

I know a place where I can breathe

I take my secrets to the trees

I can feel the souls of trees

And trees can heal the soul of me

There I can feel safe

And calm

And free.

Kaitlyn is a student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. She is currently a counseling intern at the Awakening Center and co-leads the Eating Disorders Anonymous group on Wednesday evenings from 7:45-9pm. Call (773)929-6262 ext 12 for more details.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Battle Cry

The following narrative describes my relationship with and struggles in ways of relating to my own body, depicting an ongoing journey of reexamination and constant redefinition.

From the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed,

I can’t get my all-consuming thoughts about you out of my head.

Everywhere I look and everything I see,

Reminders of how and who I am supposed to be.

I wage a war with you everyday,

Battling exactly what price I am willing to pay.

My relationship with you has always been rocky,

I am not sure that I have ever loved you, my own body.

Trapped like a prisoner in my own mind,

An escape from this body, is that what I am trying to find?

Catching myself constantly counting and comparing,

To free you from these constraints just seems so daring.

Accepting you and your flaws seems almost impossible to do,

Wouldn’t that require me loving all of you?

Your imperfections have for so long represented failure and shame,

But maybe its time I begin to shift the blame.

I have mistreated you for so long,

Betraying your beauty and viewing you all wrong.

I am angry that I have lost touch with you,

Allowing the shoulds to always somehow get through.

Not allowed for one minute to forget how I am supposed to look,

These impossible standards will soon be shook.

I will no longer allow myself to shrink and take up less space,

But rejoice in being a woman and begin to give up on this endless chase.

No, you are not what should have to change,

From the oppression of the larger social structure you must estrange.

I am choosing to stand up and give you a voice,

My participation in this system is after all a choice.

I want to thank you for your endurance and unconditional love,

These constraints we are now slowly being made free of.

We have a long road ahead of us, You and I,

The possibilities are endless, this poem our battle cry.

Jaclyn Jarvis, M.A.

Jaclyn Jarvis is a third year doctoral student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is an intern therapist at The Awakening Center. She specializes in eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and health psychology. Jaclyn co-leads the Eating Disorder Recovery Drop In Support Group at TAC on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:00 p.m. For more i