“A Girl Who Speaks Her Mind” - An Introduction to Me, Mental Health, and Church

The title for this blog entry is paraphrasing one of my favorite lines from Mulan, a great movie. I have not always been someone who has spoken my mind. There have been times I have felt silenced or that my voice didn’t matter. After going through some therapy, praying, and having many conversations with myself and with friends I have come to realize that: 1. God can speak through anyone, 2. my voice matters, and 3. I have some things I want to share with people from my heart, mind, and education.

I am a Marriage, Couple, and Family Counselor. I have worked in schools and nonprofits to support and hold hope for people of all ages and their families. I have had the privilege of earning my Masters and learning about mental health, topics relating to grief, negative cognitions, life developmental stages, and trauma (just to name a few areas).

Something I have learned through my schooling and work as a counselor is that counseling and topics related to mental health are just not common knowledge. There is a lot of confusion and different ideas and opinions surrounding the topics already listed as well as many others. My hope with this blog is that I can share the knowledge that I have concerning these topics with others.

One thing to note is that there is a long, complicated history with mental health and church. If you are reading this and have ever heard (or just thought) something along the lines of:

  • “Who really needs mental health support?”

  • “People with mental health issues are lazy, unspiritual, undisciplined, etc.”

  • “This is just the way I am or that you or they are” or

  • “Can’t they, you or I just get over it or pray more?”

...then please, keep reading this blog. I will do my best to address these types of comments and thoughts and get to the heart and impact of them in future posts. One of the first posts I plan to share is a list of mental health terms and their definitions to help us all be on the same page. If there are mental health topics you would like me to write specifically about please send me an email!

Before I get into topics concerning mental health, let me introduce myself. My name is Sarah Sweeney. I was introduced to this blog by Joey, who leads our church in Bend, OR. I am the youngest of three kids, grew up in a small town in southern Oregon, and I grew up Catholic. I danced ballet and jazz from the ages of 8 through undergraduate when I was 22. Before working as a professional counselor, I worked in customer service for years and had career level positions. I started coming to the Portland Church of Christ in 2011, was baptized in 2013, and have been a part of the ICOC in Eugene and now in Bend. I am a cisgender woman, I’m multi-enthic (I am part Japanese, Mexican, German, and English), and I have been married to my partner/husband since August 2018. I love quotes, movies, hiking and cats. I share all these things so you may know a little about me and know that all of these things have affected my worldview and what I will write in this blog. No one can ever not be biased. We are all influenced by how, where, and when we grew up, and by the people around us. However, once we become aware of our biases, we have a choice whether we are going to stick with them or not. As Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

I hope with this blog to grow people’s curiosity: curiosity about their inner selves, about other people’s stories - and with that, empathy. When we are curious, we are not prideful and we don’t assume we know someone else’s story before hearing it. When we are curious, we ask more questions, we are better listeners, and we open ourselves up to new knowledge and insight. I bring up empathy because when we are curious and discover something new, it can be scary and it can bring up other emotions about ourselves or others. We need empathy and grace (with a little “g”) for ourselves and others. When reading the gospels I am always amazed at Jesus’ empathy towards people and how often he asked them questions. He wanted them to think deeply and to question their thoughts. Thoughts and words are powerful. But I will get into that next time.

To contact me about questions and thoughts for the blog please email me at: sarahsweeney761@gmail.com

Photo by Yustinus Subiakto on Unsplash