Hey there! I’m Michele.
I grew up in Central California, in a working-class community. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I witnessed my community face adversity over and over again, while people I cared about tried to manage it all with medication, drugs, and addiction. The impact of this ran deep. I was grateful for my positive support and social circles, but watching people I cared about really struggle drove me to become hyper-independent at a young age.
I was told repeatedly when I was a teenager and young adult that I wasn’t a ‘people person’ – oh, the irony of now being a therapist, right? - and I was adamant not only about proving people wrong but also to prove to myself I could be successful. I always knew I wanted more, but when I started to achieve at a young age, I realized quickly that I didn’t know how to handle it and had probably grown up just a bit too fast.
I bought my first home when I was 23 while working as an account executive for a large telecommunications company. I had pushed, I had done the grind, and I realized quickly that I had no idea how to handle any of it. I felt completely stuck, like I had to ‘do it’ all right then and there because I was already in it - while also knowing the timing just wasn’t right. I knew I still wanted more, but I also knew I wasn’t okay, and I couldn’t see a path for how I could continue to achieve while still taking care of myself. Things fell apart, and I was fired.
Throughout the process of that job falling apart, I found myself in a bad spot both mentally and emotionally, and I knew I needed help. I sought out a therapist, but I hadn’t ever been to therapy before, so I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping to be able to talk to someone about what I had been going through and felt like I just needed a place to work out the shit I was dealing with, without all the other noise. I’ve always been that way - just needing a place to work it out and find my own path, even if it’s messier.
I found a therapist and went to my first appointment. After talking for about fifteen minutes, I walked out with three prescriptions. I didn’t go back.
In the midst of this job falling apart and having a disastrous first therapy experience, I also found myself in a relationship with a wonderful man who eventually became my husband. He enlisted in the military; we married, and off we went to his first duty station… in North Dakota…
Now, I don’t think I need to really explain what a culture - and weather - shock it was for me to be a native Californian moving to North Dakota. Needless to say, I still wasn’t ok.
I enrolled in college quickly after moving. I knew I wanted to help people, but I was unsure of what path to take. I felt so strongly that people didn’t need to suffer, and they deserved to have someone to sit with them as they worked through grief, trauma, insecurities, or just life - without having a bunch of prescriptions thrown at them.
That ‘Why’ - the thing that has driven me forward ever since - came in the form of deep loss. I lost one of my first North Dakota friends to suicide. I thought I had dealt with chaos, trauma, and grief before, knowing what I grew up around. Experiencing this kind of traumatic loss felt like entering a totally different world. Between school, internships, and the frenetic pace involved in every part of being a college student - and in the midst of still processing the death of my friend - I realized how this event brought up my past unresolved grief and internal struggles of self-doubt.
I finished school and moved with my husband to a new duty station in Texas, where I completed my graduate degree, but never forgot how the grief felt in the midst of the chaos. While in my internship for graduate school, I was assigned to work with two individuals dealing with loss due to suicide. There it was again, the self-doubt, the grief, and the fear of facing my own losses all over again. These experiences have shaped so much of who I am, and my career. I will always be grateful for the experience of loss because it has taught me not to fear what it means to face loss while also holding space for it.
It is one of my biggest joys to help people who help others, because I know you are the ones who always put yourselves last. You deserve to have a place to have the hard conversations, to be comforted while you grieve, and to celebrate with you as you achieve, while being led by someone who understands the responsibilities of working in occupational medicine and the military.