Real life stories

Getting through a major life crisis

Susan is a former Women’s Center who graciously agreed to be interviewed in 2013 by occupational therapist and oral historian, Claudia Bennett, about her participation in our counseling and job coaching programs.

Ordinarily, given the confidential nature of our Integrated Counseling Services, we don’t give out client names, but Susan has given us permission to use her real first name as well as identifying details. You may meet Susan “in person” by watching this 53-second introduction to her Women’s Center experience.

Amy practices self-care and self-compassion to relieve depression

Amy is a young married professional from Ann Arbor, struggling with depression and anxiety. After the death of her father, Amy found herself suddenly responsible for her mother, who has a disability, and who continues to relate to her in ways that Amy found overwhelming as a child.

As a first generation Asian-American, she is caught between her duty as a Chinese daughter and her desire to set more American-type boundaries around her work, partner-relationships, and responsibility for an aging parent. She is also looking for another job with fewer hours and the ability to work from home, so that she can balance competing priorities.

Over the course of 11 months, Amy benefited from 19 hours of personal counseling and 3 hours of individualized Job Coaching at The Women’s Center.

Amy reports that she is still looking for a job that can better accommodate her caregiving responsibilities and lower the cost of childcare. Her ability to address her depression and anxiety has improved. “My therapist helped me with self-care and to identify and accept my emotions before they spiral out of control.”

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How do we get over heartache?

We talk to friends. We find a therapist. We look for comfort in community.

And we acknowledge that it takes time.

Here’s Carla’s experience of growing stronger by Going Solo.

Carla had lived with verbal intimidation for much of her long marriage. But when berating became battering, she left for safety. During the separation and divorce that followed, Carla used The Women’s Center’s Going Solo group as a source of support for several eight-week sessions. “I felt myself growing stronger by being part of the group and I wanted to continue that feeling,” she recalls.

“The Women’s Center was crucial for me to get through the divorce, especially during the holidays, which were hard,” she says. Despite apprehension when she began, she soon felt heard. “The group leader was so relaxed and comfortable in her own skin, it gave us permission to be ourselves.”

Former intern, Samantha, tells Jackie’s story:

Jackie sat across the room from me beaming. Her four-month-old daughter babbled in her lap and she wore a dress for the occasion. Today was “graduation day” from therapy, and Jackie wanted to honor the work she had done and the progress she had made with the counseling, education, and advocacy provided by The Women’s Center.

Counseling // As a former Women’s Center intern-therapist, I had the privilege of working with Jackie for nearly a year. When Jackie began sliding-fee counseling, she was three months pregnant and in a challenging financial situation. Jackie and her husband had met 10 years earlier when he first came to the United States. They’ve always paid taxes and have been as active in their community as time allows. But the political climate has made the route to naturalization uncertain and created an additional layer of stress for the family.

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Divorced mom pulls herself and her kids through a crisis

“I started receiving counseling three-quarters of the way into my ‘year from hell.’ December 2014, my husband left our family; January 2015 I lost my job; March 2015 foreclosure process began on our home and April 2015, our youngest was facing legal issues. Did I mention I was at a point where I couldn’t get/afford health insurance?)

In social work, Kavitha found a profession that strongly matches her personal values.

Originally from San Diego and with an adventurous spirit to explore the unknown, Kavitha has lived in various parts of the country. She completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University with a double major in psychology and government in 2016. As a curious thinker with a thirst for depth, Kavitha has immersed herself in a variety of endeavors. Once she learned that the full definition of social work was centered around meeting people where they’re at and moving with them through the process of pain and healing, she knew she had found the profession that so strongly matched her personal values.

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Ling's story

“I was afraid to leave the house! I thought that I was protecting my baby from all the germs in the outside world.” Ling is a first-time mom who faced a tough transition after her baby girl was born. She felt overwhelmed by the changes that motherhood brought and was isolated, spending nearly all her time indoors with her infant. There was no family close by to help.

When her daughter was eight weeks old, Ling discovered the MomShare group at The Women’s Center. “I was unsure about joining a group of other mothers,” Ling shared. “I was afraid of judgment and how I would compare to other moms. I thought I was the only mother in the world who felt incapable and inadequate.”

Millie’s Swing Into Spring! Fundraiser Speech, given May 12th, 2017

Many years ago when I was a college student in my early 20’s, I was walking through campus on a day much like the one we are having today. It was spring and I was heading home from class. From a distance, I saw one of my professors walking through campus enjoying the lunch hour with his spouse. I noticed right away, they were so happy together. I realized, that somehow, that picture of true joy and peace had become foreign to me. And it was also the moment I knew that something in my life had to change.

A few years before that day, when I was 18 years old, I got involved with the wrong person and didn’t know how to get out. I was abused in every way imaginable for 6 years; abused or raped, almost every day during those years. And so many times I’ve lost count. I became so accustomed to pain, emotionally and physically. I prayed so hard, countless nights, and usually for almost 3 hours straight. Prayer was the ONLY thing that kept me alive and gave me strength to live another day.

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Rose's story

Rose is an intern-therapist at The Women’s Center, as well as a tutor. She has worked with at-risk youth—and especially LGBT* populations—for the past decade. Rose was herself an at-risk youth and knows firsthand the difference a good social worker can make. She has turned her own transgender and human journey into a fertile soil of service; she plans to continue working as a gender therapist and community activist until they drag her away.

Life is full of transitions, some more obvious than others.
But the process is the same—in a series of adjustments great and small, we painstakingly blossom into who we are. We are best guesses, closest approximations of our better selves, and each transition, hopefully, moves us one step closer to our genuine self.

When I first came to The Women’s Center, I was in the midst of several transitions. I was becoming the woman I’d always been, but I was also becoming the woman I’d always been—which is to say, a fairly disempowered one. I struggled with self-esteem, body issues, panic attacks—as my therapist told me, “Welcome to womanhood!”

I wondered, especially, if I was an authentic enough woman to work at The Women’s Center.

Everyone has an American dream. But what is the story of those not having this dream, who are finding themselves here searching after love?

Ten years ago, I was a new graduate, who went to a university through my own means, in a country which was both conservative and secular, caught in the middle of Europe and Asia. I made a brave choice, considering the situation in Turkey, and planned an academic career for my life, where I started to climb the steps to professorship one by one.

My sexual orientation was confidential during this process, until I met Sarah with the Fullbright program from America, who was assigned as a lecturer to the university where I was working. Sarah was one of the most hardworking persons I had ever known, and she won over everyone around the university, especially me.

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Shil’s Story

(1) Please provide a brief summary of your background before entering into the MSW program. Why did you choose this profession?

Before entering the MSW [Master’s in Social Work] program at Wayne State, I was a Global Studies Adjunct Professor in Northeastern University’s International Studies Program teaching classes on ethics. While I enjoyed teaching and connecting with young students, I realized that I would enjoy even more the kind of long-lasting and meaningful work (impacting others’ lives) that can occur with clinical social work.

(2) Why did you choose to intern at The Women’s Center?

Several of my close friends had already volunteered at the Woman’s Center and recommended the supervision offered by excellent clinicians. My friends also spoke highly of the Woman’s Center environment, which is warm, collegial, and supportive.

Andrea’s Story

A native of Idaho, Andrea relocated to Michigan as a newlywed in 1998 after graduating from Brigham Young University with a degree in Asian Studies and Japanese. After completing masters degrees in Southeast Asian Studies and History at the University of Michigan, she turned her attention to raising her four children. She became a client at The Women’s Center in 2013, where she found the information and support she needed to file for divorce and leave a troubled marriage. As a Women’s Center front desk volunteer from 2016-2017, Andrea developed the confidence to apply for graduate school one more time. With the support of Women’s Center staff, she was admitted to Michigan State University’s clinical social work program and awarded a scholarship for leadership potential. In September she began working as a intern-therapist at her favorite agency on earth, The Women’s Center, where she provided weekly therapy sessions to uninsured community members and co-facilitated the same divorce support group that had once supported her.

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