Written by Alexandra McCarthy, Co-Founder and Psychologist of Wildflower Holistic Services
I recently read a quote in a book attributed to Mark Twain, which stated: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”
For a while now I have known my “why”. To put it simply, it is to create a safe space for you to be authentically you and to shift the way that mental health and disability is viewed and treated. Why? Because YOU matter! Not too big of a “why” - you know?!
Now despite knowing this, I haven’t necessarily shared the story of how I got here, in fear that what I may say would be taken out of context, been too direct or have been frowned upon. To put it fairly, I didn't feel that the world was ready to read my thoughts, or maybe I wasn’t ready for the world to read my thoughts, as what I have written below, I actually wrote back in 2018 and its now the 1st of June 2021.
However, today something shifted within me. I read a line from a book which stated, “modern leaders are guided by those around them as much as they lead them” and fuck that struck a chord. It resonated deep within and brought me back to reading the words that I wrote back in 2018, all of which still ring true today. Why I set out to co-found Wildflowers with Rebecca wasn’t because I wanted to be a business owner (trust me - the last 18months have been a roller coaster), it was because of you! I was consistently witnessing the short falls of many of our current systems, which was leading to a greater decline in mental health as a result of disconnection and a failure to see you as the incredible Wildflower you are. I was simply guided by those around me.
So let me take you back to 2018 and as the Walt Disney saying goes “if you dream it you can do it”, and as cliche as that might sound I have always been a dreamer. A dreamer of big things and possibilities but also simply a dreamer of change within the world.
Throughout my time working within the ‘medical’ model there are many things that I have experienced that have left me questioning “what is the reasoning behind doing this?”. An example is the work of NSW Health. You, as a collective, engage and work with some of society's most vulnerable, including those in domestic violence relationships, or those experiencing paranoia and command hallucinations, so I am baffled as to why you continue to call on a No Caller ID and not leave a message?!? I myself don’t even answer No Caller ID at times, so I am curious as to why one may think that these individuals, after everything they have endured or are continuing to endure, will do so? Then you proceed to call me and say, “I can’t get in contact with your client so I’m closing their case” and then you get a polite earful from my end that maybe you need to try a different approach, send a message before calling to let me know you are calling off a No Caller ID, like hellooooo!!! I feel like that is a simple solution but one that hasn’t yet been implemented.
Or my other favourite is the time that I made a referral for a young person, aged 14 years old, to engage in ICAHMS. For those of you who don’t know ICAHMS is the Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, and one of the criteria for accessing the service is that the young person has to be under the age of 18 and attend school. Given this criteria I am baffled as to why you would then ring the young person during school hours and on No Caller ID, then proceed to call me back and say, “sorry I can’t get a hold of them”, only for me to then ask what time did you call - come on people is that not common sense?!? Now don’t get me wrong, NSW Health are doing an amazing job in a lot of areas, I have some amazing colleagues who work there and I agree that yes, they are underfunded and understaffed at times due to the ever increasing demand, but I feel like the above two issues are only a little common sense and would and could make a world of difference for some very vulnerable people - it’s hard reaching out and asking for help, don’t make it f***ing harder!
So why the backstory? Because we need something different! Look, I can’t deny that yes, we need NSW Health and there are times I am grateful for their engagement with the people that I work with, but things need to change! Our attitudes need to change, the way we interact and engage with people needs to change and the way we view mental health, disability, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and trauma really, really, really needs to change.
We need a holistic approach, which many have been harping on about for a couple of years and I felt like things were really shifting (maybe I was dreaming) because one day I got a big slap in the face. A client of mine came in and proceeded to drink a large red bull, (the 500ml kind). Anyways, at the end of our session they said “oh I just have to take my medication” - wait, hold up?!? “Umm what medication?” “Just my medication for my heart palpitations” (fuck, I hope my face didn’t show what I was really thinking). I then proceeded to say, “You just drank a whole red bull. You don’t feel like that has anything to do with it?” “Nope I always get heart palpitations”. “You also articulated that you felt highly anxious today and it was quite stressful making it to our appointment. Do you think that might have anything to do with it?”, “Nope it’s just something I always experience.” “Okay if you feel it’s necessary you can proceed to take the medication off premises” and off they went. Now this client is a dear client and knowledgeable in a number of areas but when it came to a holistic understanding of health, I felt like there were a number of bigger systems who may have “failed” her in this area. For example, her GP - please ask more questions before prescribing medication, her school – where is the mental health education, healthy lifestyle education, drug and alcohol education? And I could even put myself in that category until our next session when we had a huge conversation about all the factors that can contribute to our overall mental wellbeing.
So again, why the backstory? Well things really need to change, like really, really, really need to change. It’s like the teenager who grunts at me and tells me they’re tired… “Mate why do you think you're tired?”, “I dunno”, “What time were you up till last night?” “1am this morning”. “Do you think that has anything to do with it?” “Nah I was talking to chicks” (again I almost fell off the chair as the nanna who loves to be in bed by 8:30pm). “Budd you know you can talk to chicks at a reasonable hour”. Now this opens up more questions, like was it really a chick or an online predator? Why was this other ‘chick’ also up at such an unreasonable hour? Where is education about sleep hygiene and online safety? Not to mention are you aware of the stats about online porn use in our younger generation - it’s very alarming and there is nothing to say that this young man wasn’t accessing that as well, leading to impacts on their brain.
Now am I saying that I have all the answers? No, definitely not, but do I look at things from a different lens, definitely! Do I feel like there needs to be a different approach? WHOLEHEARTEDLY! So here is where I am stepping up in the world, making a change and embodying something different because some of these systems are a little outdated. People are not broken, and people definitely don’t need to be fixed. People need someone to believe in them, to say yeah things are fucking hard and I can see and hear why you don’t want to do xyz but let’s not use them as an excuse because I believe in you! Let’s meet people where they are at in their journey and let’s try and see things from their perspective.
Like the year 6 student I’m working with who hasn’t been at school for 6 months (I know right - the school, Department of Education and the legal system are onto me and even me the “nerd” in the back that always asked for more work is thinking - what the hell!?), but for this young person, it’s hard and I get it for all the reasons they have expressed. Now once I asked this young person if you could create anything in the world what would it be - you know what they said, a de-polutenater (a machine that sucked up the air and recycled it into clean air - now any snazzy engineers out there don’t take credit for this idea get in contact with this young genius). So, I don’t know about you, but this idea doesn’t say to me “hey you haven’t been at school for 6 months”, it says “wow - what a brilliant idea!”. So maybe we need a different schooling system for some of these kids - I dunno, again I don’t have all the solutions, but we need to look at things differently.
So, this is the final piece to my backstory, like I’ve said we don’t have all the answers at Wildflower Holistic Services, but we guarantee we are passionate about exploring all the options to make conditions right for your growth and expansion. We totally understand how individual this process can be, and it will never be a one size fits all approach. We unconditionally believe that whatever approach is taken in treating mental health, disability, trauma, cognitive and sensory issues, etc, there must be a marrying of allied and holistic approaches and most importantly for us, the empowerment of the individual to love themselves and believe in themselves enough to embrace the life that they want! We do not believe we are the answer for anyone, we believe it is our purpose to be a piece of your journey to help you recognise the brilliance we see. I mean, how could you not see the brilliance in a 6th grader with a mind that special!
Wildflower Holistic Services has been designed with this intention, to do things a little differently, and to see things a little differently. As the quote by Johann Wolfgang goes, which has been one of my guiding principles within my work and continues to be, “If you treat a person as they are, they will remain as they are, if you treat them as if they ought to be and could be, they will become what they ought to be and could be”. So, let’s keep it real people! We are all Wildflowers, despite some of the barren and dry conditions we are faced with, we are all beautiful and unique and can grow as well as bloom through adversity.
The psychologist, yes, a psychologist who doesn’t wear shoes in her therapy space because let’s face it, who likes wearing shoes!