Sara Carlisle is a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Therapist at Southeast Intervention Group. She has two children, Brylee (9) and Elijah (7).
WP: How long have you been a mental health therapist? What made you want to enter this field?
SC: Five years. I graduated with my Bachelors in Social Work in 2017 and my Masters in Social Work in 2018, both from Troy University. I entered this field because of my passion to help other people and change lives. There is a tremendous stigma surrounding mental illness, and I am dedicated to doing my part to help stop the stigma surrounding both mental illness and substance use disorders.
WP: You work as a therapist at Southeast Intervention Group. Tell me a little about the program and your role.
SC: Southeast Intervention Group is a transitional living facility. We offer 10 beds for women through Herring Houses and 20 beds for men through Step by Step recovery. We offer a wide array of services to our clients such as therapy, case management, peer support, groups, meetings, and sponsorship. My personal role is to provide both group and individual therapy sessions to the clients on my caseload.
WP: What type of impact do you think your work in this field has had on your family, especially your kids?
SC: Throughout my career, I believe that my work in this field has had a significantly positive impact on my children. Brylee and Elijah have been privy to viewing humanity through a different lens by becoming more aware that people struggling with mental illness or substance use disorders are sick people on a journey to becoming well. I have taught my kids that people need to be shown grace, kindness, and forgiveness because no one truly knows what burdens another person carries.
WP: What are some mental health habits you hope to pass down to your kids?
SC: I hope that I can pass down to Brylee and Elijah the importance of mental health and making it a top priority. So far, Brylee and Elijah practice breathing techniques during times of stress or frustration as well as understanding the importance of alone time to “refill their cups.” We practice positive affirmations every morning together to reinforce how special and unique they both are.
WP: Do you have a personal struggle with mental health?
I personally have always struggled with anxiety which became exacerbated after becoming a mother. There was a period that my anxiety became debilitating, and I personally had to embark on my own journey of coping and mental wellbeing. I had to learn that seeking help did not make me “weak” but instead made me strong for realizing I needed help in navigating my personal struggles with anxiety.
WP: Self-care is a big part of mental health. How do you ensure you’re at your best? What does self-care look like for you?
SC: Self-care will look different for each person. For me, alone time is an important part of self-care. Bubble baths, skin care, reading, listening to music, and dancing are activities that bring me joy daily. Sometimes binge watching a new series on Netflix is self-care, and that is okay! Over time, I also had to learn the importance of saying “no.” Recovering people pleaser over here! Committing to any and everything asked of you can become extremely draining. Saying “no” is important in creating boundaries, maintaining your mental health, and allowing time to pour back into your own cup. I also ensure that I keep my monthly appointments with my personal therapist. Just like routine visits to a doctor for a person’s physical health, I firmly believe every person needs a therapist for mental health maintenance.
WP: What would you say to a mom (or dad) who is struggling with their mental health?
SC: Truly the hardest part is the first step- asking for help. Do not be ashamed of struggling with your mental health. A few tips: talk to a friend or a loved one about how you are feeling, schedule an appointment with your PCP to receive a referral for a therapist, and last but certainly not least- show yourself grace during times of struggle. Try to take at least 30 minutes to yourself daily to do something you enjoy and decompress. Personally, during times of struggle, I follow the rule of not going to bed until I do something that makes me smile. Watch a funny show, vent to someone you trust, send funny memes to a friend, or whatever will put a smile on your face at the end of a hard day.
WP: The countdown to summer is on! Does your family have any plans?
SC: We love to travel! We have a few new travel spots on our agenda for the summer. Instead of birthday parties, I do birthday “vacations” for the kiddos. So, in May for Elijah’s birthday we will travel to the destination of his choice to celebrate his birthday! When we are not traveling, the kids will be attending Wiregrass Museum of Arts summer camps which they greatly enjoy.
WP: Do you have a favorite summer memory?
SC: Summer time is a top favorite for me, so it is hard to pin it down to one memory. However, in the summer of 2020 I was working from home and the kids and I traveled all throughout the summer. Many beach trips, visiting family we had not seen in years, experiencing new sights and places, and spending quality time together. It was a fun few months of back-to-back travel and it is probably a summer we will always remember.
WP: This month, we’re celebrating mothers. What’s something your mother taught you that you’ve carried into adulthood?
SC: The importance of meals together. At the end of a long day of school and sports I remember sitting down at the table together as a family and talking about the day while laughing and enjoying time together. I try to do this as often as possible with our busy schedule to take time to end each day either around the table at dinner time or intentional time together before bed time.
WP: What’s something you hope your children are learning from you, even if it’s not a direct lesson?
SC: I hope that my children learn through me acts of service towards others and kindness. Also, including others and being a friend to all. I have always told Elijah and Brylee that we can work through struggling grades, but it is a high expectation of mine for them to always be kind, not only to friends at school but also their teachers. I hope that they continue to live this lesson into adulthood.
WP: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
SC: Stop caring so much about what other people think! Over the years, I have learned that no matter what you are doing, someone will have something negative to say. Why not do what brings you joy and just be happy! I spent many years seeking the approval of others which is a hard mindset to navigate out of. I have learned with age if Brylee, Elijah, and myself are happy, healthy, kind to others, and enjoying life, that is truly all that matters.
WP: Any advice or words of wisdom for new moms?
SC: I think my biggest words of wisdom for new mamas is to make sure you take care of yourself. It can be so easy to get caught up in your new role as a mama that you forget about your own needs. Don’t forget that your needs and happiness are important as well, and you must pour into your cup before you can do so for anyone else. Time to yourself doing things that you enjoy is so important as a new mama! Don’t forget to ask for help from someone you trust to make yourself a priority too!