BY KAYLEE DUFF
In order to become the best versions of ourselves that we can be, we need to reflect on our emotional and mental health in addition to our physical health.
John Wheeler is currently on his way to become a mental health counselor. Following his own unique path, he found his calling in being support for people of all communities. He actively promotes himself as an LGBTQ+ affirming counselor who will openly discuss any topic with his clients — from managing same-sex relationships, coming out to themselves and family, leaving as their affirmed identity and, most importantly, empowering his clients to live as their best selves.
True Q’s editor talked to John about the importance of counseling, balancing our mental and emotional healths, and more:
Kaylee: How did you get become interested in this field?
John: My interest began about four years ago, when I graduated with my Bachelor’s in high school education. Upon graduating, I was hired into a high school program that served underprivileged and challenging youth in science. During that year of teaching, I was miserable and could have been clinically diagnosed with depression. I came home every day crying. I didn’t feel I fit into the staff, the job was far from exceptional, I lived alone and apart from my partner, I traveled an hour back and forth every day. Overall, I knew that something had to be different and I would have to choose something different if I was ever going to create a successful career that I enjoyed.
After several months of research and hours of self-reflection, I realized that my frustration with this job stemmed from my inability to reach these children in the way that was required for them to succeed. I had to go to work every day and try to teach them science while they were more concerned with belonging, safety and family, and attempting to find some joy in their youth. It was in that position that I decided I’d attend University of Dayton and complete my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Tell me about your experience with your spiritual side of your work. What is that like?
Prior to beginning studying mental health counseling, I completed a Spiritual Empowerment Coaching program to become a certified life coach. My spiritual practices are important to me and play a huge role in how I treat my clients. I work to empower my clients. I never want my client to feel that the need me or they must see me in order to live their life. I want them to desire to see me to create a shared experience in which they feel heard, respected and empowered to create change in their daily lives outside of the counseling session.
I do not believe in judging people for anything they choose or believe, because I know they have chosen what works for them to survive and find a little pleasure in their life. The best advice I was given from my department chair and professor, Dr. Alan Demmitt, is that “people do the best they can with what they are given.” People just want to be themselves and live their lives in world that, in their opinion, is hard to live in.
Why is it so important for people to be more in tune with their mental and emotional health?
When I look at the importance of being “in tune” with your mental and emotional health, I usually look at myself. Throughout my life, I was always the strong person that listened to everyone’s problems. I’ve always considered myself to be genuinely happy person with no mental or emotional problems. However, when I started the counseling program where we are constantly asked to reflect on our own experience of living, I was able to pinpoint several times where I ignored how I truly felt in order to get by or maintain an image.
We are trained in our culture to be strong, to be courageous and to roll with the proverbial punches. The reality is that everyone at some point in their lives can name a time where they needed another person. Where they needed someone to tell them that they weren’t wrong or crazy or horrible. We do not tend to value our mental and emotional health because we see it as a weakness, but in reality we have evolutionarily developed to become more social and empathetic as a species. Some of the most recent research is beginning to connect the mind-body-spirit aspects of a holistic health model, because we’ve begun to realize that treating the parts that are broken do not treat the sum of the whole person.
Your mental state affects how you feel, how you feel affects how you behave, how you behave affects how you feel, and of course, how you feel affects how you think. Being present with yourself and being aware of your mental-emotional health can alter every area of your life.
If you could give people one piece of advice, what would it be?
If I could give one piece of advice from my entire lived experience and all aspects of my current life it would be: “Stop judging you!”
Judging yourself is one of the most unkind things you can do to yourself, and it keeps you from being all of who you can be. If you judged everything about you or compared yourself to what people expect of you, I know that, without a doubt, you will never reach your full potential. Every person has a unique ability, gift or talent they can offer to everyone (or just your friends if you want something less scary). What if every day, you woke up with a slightly less judgment of yourself… How different would your life look then?
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