Lived Through This

Thanks to my dad’s profession, the unmentionables were part of regular conversation

Microscopic view of human cancer cells.
Microscopic view of human cancer cells.
Photo: PansLaos/Getty Images

I had to get used to unmentionable subjects as a kid, because body fluids and odd animal injuries were discussed over dinner the way some people talk about weather or distant relatives.

My dad is a country veterinarian and took emergency calls in the kitchen; pretty much everything was on the proverbial table. I have a distinct memory of my dad cutting his steak while assessing a client’s cow’s prolapsed uterus, the long, twisty phone cord draped around two of his children’s chair backs. We kids kept eating, kept up our chatter, but Mom put her fork down in disgust…

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What happens when parents manage their own trauma and focus on themselves

Photo: Dimitri de Vries on Unsplash

I never imagined my first few weeks of graduate school would feel like a sucker punch to the gut. Not because my paper-writing skills are lackluster or my teachers are awful — I’m getting good grades and I think of my instructors as wise, endearing, quirky aunts.

I’m in a Master of Social Work program, and during each class, in some way, it all comes back to trauma. We discuss trauma at length — the ways it shapes how we grow, act, think, and feel as humans. Trauma is the hammer to our nail. Sometimes it hits us just right…

Dreading your next session means you’re probably doing something right

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The COVID-19 crisis has driven many of us to start therapy for the first time. I’m a counselor at an agency that offers free therapy services, and our lines have never been longer. This, I’m told, is the case at every nonprofit and for every therapist, sliding-scale or otherwise, in Chicago. Mental health professionals are overwhelmed with new clientele.

What are the expectations we have of our first steps in this new territory? How do we know we’ve found a good therapist and the therapy is working? How will it actually change our lives?

Therapy is Supposed to Feel Scary

There’s a state park in Iowa…

I endured pain in the arms of someone I loved. This is the new path I’ve chosen going forward.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash
  1. Love doesn’t feel like pain or look like violence.
  2. Love feels like mutual respect. It is demonstrated through shared power.
  3. I am worthy of being loved by someone who loves in a healthy way.
  4. Perfection is not the goal in a human or in a relationship. The goal is kindness that is consistent and reliable.
  5. When someone shows me who they are, it’s in my best interest to believe them the first time.
  6. I’m better off operating in the reality others present for themselves — not the hoped-for reality I have for them.
  7. I don’t need to prevent a crisis…

It’s all about boundaries and protecting my kids

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I pride myself on being an open book. I’ve written about sensitive topics like a partner suddenly dying, a miscarriage, and living in a commune. But there are other subjects to which I only make vague references, or give only the information necessary to get the point across.

Some people find relief pouring out their souls on their personal blog or on Facebook. In a crisis, vulnerably sharing your pain to ask for prayers, support, or financial help can be an opportunity for real healing and growth. Everyone wants a community to stand with them in their toughest times.


Reflections on an Easter like no other

Photo by Courtney Christine, April 4, 2021

I’m not the kind of person who sees symbols in everything, but it was impossible to miss that this morning’s sun on Lake Michigan was a big, red, upside-down exclamation mark. Someone else pointed out that it looked like the “i” on the logo The Incredibles wear. However you looked at it — starting out as a red ball, then turning exclamatory, then becoming so bright you couldn’t look at all— it was worthy of beholding.

For decades, my church has held a simple sunrise service on Easter Sunday. It starts at 5:45 in the morning with a few quiet…

Breaking the habit of giving up power, a few words at a time

Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash

I have an embarrassing problem. A problem that pokes its tiny stupid head above the surface when I least expect it.

Recently I was walking my dog around the block, admiring the snowdrops coming up in my neighbor’s lawn. Suddenly both Ginger and I had to jump and scatter to avoid collision, because a biker barreling down the sidewalk finally looked up, swerved, and just barely missed us.

Stunned, I shouted out the first words that came to me —


In a moment of heart-stopping shock, before righteous anger set in, before I had time to think through a…

Can you trust your gut when it gives you the green light to forgive and move forward?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I once had a friend who oozed sweetness when the two of us were alone. I should have paid attention when she talked at length about herself. She shared her experiences, her family, her dreams for the futures — never asking about mine. I was hooked on her good qualities: her love of foster children, her adventurous spirit, her biting wit.

When we were in the company of other people, she morphed into someone else altogether. Suddenly all her jokes were at my expense. She pointed out my tendency to stumble over my words, which only made me stumble harder…

I’m learning to be more like that

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My grandmother slowed her ’88 Dodge Dynasty to a full stop in the middle of the road. “Listen,” she ordered, motioning for us to roll the windows down.

It was a precarious place to park: the crumbled pavement so narrow only one car could fit. The forest so thick you couldn’t see around the bend. And the hills on both sides just steep enough for an unsuspecting car to gain speed.

Strapped tight in the backseat, we grandkids were too drunk on the promise of a day roaming free at Grandma’s farm to sense danger. …

There’s a lot more going on than how much or how fast you share, and your therapist knows this

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You’d think someone with the gift of gab would have the time of their life in talk therapy. Instead, my first stent in treatment left me feeling painfully self-aware and, ironically, more anxious than when I arrived. The questions raced through my mind as I drove home.

Did I just steamroll that poor woman who could hardly get a word in edgewise?

Was that 37th story I shared even relevant?

Was she bored to tears?

Was that even therapy?

I considered never going back, just to avoid making the same embarrassing mistake.

But I did go back. And each week…

Courtney Christine

Storyteller. Solo parent. Social worker. Published in Forge, Human Parts, and more. Lover of frisbees, ukuleles, and lists of threes. I’m on FB @courtneycwrites

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