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Come Into the Light: Counselors Offer Hope at Peninsula Lighthouse

Posted on April 7, 2021 in Patient Stories

Some people wistfully wish they could revisit childhood. Elaina* isn’t one of them. For Elaina, childhood was a time of darkness that followed her into adulthood. As she looks back through the lens of time, she can see things more clearly than she could when she was in the midst of her suffering. “I had severe depression and anxiety as a child,” Elaina says. “I knew I was different but I didn’t  know why.”

A Guiding Light

Pinpointing the source of the emotional pain that followed her for so many years has been important in her healing. True to its name, Peninsula Lighthouse has helped light the way for her to come out of that darkness toward a brighter future. “I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused as a child,” Elaina says. “In 2005, I tried  to take my own life.” While her suicide attempt failed, it resulted in a hospital stay that gave her some time to think. Her discharge was a turning point. “I decided to take charge of my life and my happiness,” Elaina says. “After I left the hospital I went straight to
Peninsula Light- house for treatment. It is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”

therapist talking to patient
April is Counseling Awareness Month. Peninsula applauds its counselors who are changing
lives with the care and resources they provide.

Elaina is one of the many people who have come through the doors of Peninsula Lighthouse
seeking help and hope. Peninsula has a wide range of services for people struggling with anxiety and depression. Ashley Tindell is a Peninsula Lighthouse clinical therapist intensively trained to change lives for the better. As a clinical therapist she is licensed to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral
and emotional disorders. “We offer medication management with a psychiatrist or advanced psychiatric nurse practitioner,” Tindell says. “We also offer individual therapy, group therapy, intensive outpatient therapy, peer support groups and the Recovery Education Center.”

For Tindell, it’s a calling years in the making. “I wanted to work in the mental health field since I was middle school-age,” she says. “It was always of interest to me and I knew that I wanted to help others.” She and her patients at Peninsula have faced unexpected challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Peninsula began offering telehealth services so patients always had access to the help they needed most. “It is always rewarding to hear someone say, ‘You have helped me so much’ or ‘I don’t know what I would have done if I  hadn’t come to therapy.’”

Making the Connection

As Elaina began to meet regularly with Tindell, a transformation started to take place in a
woman who was once in despair. “Peninsula offered me counseling, which I was eager to have,” she
says. “Ashley Tindell is genuinely a caring, comforting person – exactly what I needed.” Peninsula’s therapists are healthcare professionals who offer nonjudgmental support, feedback and encouragement. They can also offer skills, tools, new ideas and resources to help people who are struggling mentally and emotionally. Elaina was connected with a women’s group where she could freely share her struggles and  victories with women who have similar issues. The dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) class at  Peninsula Lighthouse has also helped. “It teaches coping skills, problem solving, distress tolerance, mindfulness and emotion  regulation,” Elaina says. “I see a psychiatrist at Peninsula, too. She helps me with medication  management and general maintenance of my treatment. She is kind and compassionate.” There was a time when Elaina didn’t have the will to live. Today she sees herself as a work in progress with plenty of potential. “I am still working the program at Peninsula and I probably will for years to come,” says Elaina, “but I am happy and blessed!” The little girl who suffered in emotional darkness has grown into a woman who is facing a
brighter future with help from Peninsula Lighthouse.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

What to Do

If you are struggling with depression, follow these tips from Peninsula Lighthouse clinical
therapist Ashley Tindell, LCSW, to lift your spirits:

  • Stay connected to positive people in your life who can offer support.
  • Practice deep-breathing and mindfulness exercises. (Great examples can be found online.)
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy – even if you don’t feel like it at the moment.
  • Get fresh air, plenty of sleep and make healthy food choices.

If you don’t sense any improvement after two weeks, see your doctor or call Peninsula at (865) 970-9800.

When You Can’t “Snap Out of It”

Sadness is part of the human experience. From the first tears of a newborn baby to an adult mourning loss of a loved one, depression takes its toll on each of us. Typical seasons of sadness end after a while, but clinical depression hangs on. Those who have this type of depression are sometimes told to “snap out of it” – but they can’t.

Ashley Tindell, LCSW, a clinical therapist at Peninsula Lighthouse, says when depression takes over and won’t let go, it can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life. Tindell explains that clinical depression is much more than feeling a little sad. “Clinical depression is longer-term, lasting at least two weeks and is more severe.

Symptoms can include a depressed mood most of the day, little-to-no interest in activities and
weight loss or weight gain.”

Problems with sleep can plague people who have clinical depression, too. Tindell says some
other symptoms are lack of energy or motivation, feelings of worthlessness, poor concentration
and thoughts of suicide or dying. “The symptoms typically cause disruption in functioning at school, work, relationships and home,” Tindell says.

Far-reaching Effects

Tindall says clinical depression can make simple, everyday tasks feel like monumental challenges.
“Some signs that let one know that they may need to seek professional help include disruption in doing daily activities like brushing teeth, showering or going to work,” she says.

Clinical depression can also have an impact on a person’s relationships. A loved one who has
been a lifeline in the past may suddenly become the source of anger and frustration.
“They might experience more frequent relationship conflicts,” Tindell says. The good news is that the level of help available is greater than ever before. Mental health  services like the ones offered at Peninsula Lighthouse have a high success rate.

Peninsula’s therapists and medication staff use evidence-based practices, and the diagnosis of
clinical depression is made using the criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders. Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, has helped thousands of people recover from disorders and dependencies to lead healthy, positive and productive lives. To learn more, call (865) 970-9800 or visit PeninsulaBehavioralHealth.org.