Interview with Laura Lee: Therapist and Coach at Scapegoats Anonymous
Laura and I connected through Instagram a while ago and she’s definitely made my feed feel educational and enriching. Her posts are full of gems of wisdom and her self-awareness is inspiring. What I didn’t know about her was her “subtle” sense of humour 🙂
Here are Laura’s own words:
Tell us a little about your life journey.
I grew up in Brooklyn in a low-income family with middle-class amenities. The streets of Brooklyn are like the lines on the palm of my hand: imprinted on me, ingrained in my soul, and with so many divergent paths.
I’m the daughter of immigrants, my mother from Italy and my father from Korea. Both my parents are deaf. I’m reluctant to share this fact because people will often misconstrue the story—that my parents were “bad” parents because they are deaf. People make the assumption that deaf people are incapable of parenting and many other things. This is untrue. My parents suffered many injustices and pains for their deafness. All this summative pain was passed down to me in the form of intergenerational trauma. I learned firsthand how oppression can make us meaner, angrier people if we don’t address it within ourselves and the world around us.
I studied psychology as an undergrad and that really sparked my fascination with hearing other people’s stories. I became a social worker and for the last ten years, I’ve worked with all kinds of people from all walks of life. I took an interest in coaching after getting my masters degree and studied it intensely because I love the way it pushes people forward in an empowering and holistic way.
Three words that describe you most accurately.
Genuine, direct, and a BIG-laugher (does it count as one word if I hyphen it?)
What set you off on your journey of transformation and healing/recovery?
For the first seventeen years of my life, my sole purpose was to get into college and leave home. I ended up getting everything I wanted; I was accepted to Columbia with a scholarship and then I found myself crashing swiftly into a deep depression. At the time, it was surprising to me that I would feel so awful after “making it out” and achieving the goal I had set out to accomplish for the last 17 years. Upon reflection now, it makes total sense.
I was finally allowed the physical and mental space to be fully fucked up by my past.
That was just the nascent stages of my healing and then I started the process of therapy for the first time in my life.
Each year brings a new perspective to my healing and it’s never really over. About ten years ago, I made a full commitment to live more healthy, both physically and mentally. It’s funny how one change in your life can create a ripple effect on other areas of your life. When I started to exercise regularly, I also started to eat healthier (even meal prep!), meditate, and most importantly, remember to take my vitamins every morning.
What made you start sharing about yourself and your experiences with others?
Working with others made me realize the importance of telling my story.
When someone shares their story with me, it’s like they are opening a gateway into a very sacred place for me. There’s so much honour in receiving that story, that pathway into someone’s life.
I understand that it’s also extremely risky to allow someone else into that space!
I’m inspired by the clients I have worked with to take the same risk. In the same way that I ask my clients for their story, I think it’s important to ask myself to do this for others.
By telling my story to others, I shed the pain and shame of my story.
I hope that my experiences and my stories will help others feel less alone and more understood. Being understood and being given the words to describe your own story is such an empowering and transformational shift that I hope we all can experience and pass on to others.
Did you have a particular “aha” moment during your journey?
My “aha” moment was when I was asked by my therapist if my then-relationship with my boyfriend at the time reminded me of any other relationships in my life. Total facepalm! My relationship so eerily echoed the many heartaches of my relationship with my parents, I thought it was normal for anyone I came into contact with to treat me poorly. It was a huge revelation for me and it helped me reclaim my power in that relationship. I finally stood up for myself and said no to being mistreated again.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and overcome?
My biggest challenge was deciding I needed to be away from New York for a while. Just like a breakup. When you live your whole life someplace, you develop a relationship with that place; your usual haunts start to haunt you back with all the memories that come with them. I needed space away from New York, from the memories of my cumulative mistakes to become a better person. I ended up moving to Virginia because I fell in love with the Shenandoah Valley. Of course, that led me to be one of possibly two Asian people in a small town in Virginia. It was definitely something that I did not think through, but I’m glad for that experience. It was both a symbolic and literal reminder that I couldn’t hide who I was and who I am.
I was able to carve out space for myself and be unapologetically me for the first time in my life.
Is there something you struggle with on a day-to-day basis?
Undercooked eggs. I would also like to introduce you to my inner critic. My inner critic and I have been engaged in a protracted war spanning a few decades. My perfectionism is the annoying, nagging voice in my head that I have to note and correct regularly because if left unchecked, I become completely unmotivated to try anything new since “I’ll suck at it anyway.”
I have to check these thoughts when they come and tell myself that having fun, being silly, and learning are far richer experiences than having to get it right and perfect the first time.
What practices & tools you lean onto to get yourself up and running again?
The mind-body connection is my guide. Whether I feel great or feel down, I push myself to keep moving my body. Exercise keeps me on a routine. It’s a space that I give myself to be fully focused on how my body feels and allows me to enjoy all the things that my body can do. I wrap up every exercise session with a meditation which gives me space to breathe, catch up with my thoughts and maintain a healthy emotional distance from thoughts that aren’t particularly useful. When I’m feeling low, it’s difficult to feel motivated to do anything but I keep a commitment to stick to my routines. The routine of exercise, meditation, and journaling my gratitude is not always exciting but it’s something that keeps me grounded and prevents me from slipping into total chaos. When I’m particularly low, I make sure to treat myself kindly, do things for myself with more care like going to the movies, buying myself something nice, or meeting with friends.
How do you define “healed”?
Heal(ed) is a funny concept because it implies the end of healing.
You’re healed when your skin rash goes away but emotional healing is a lifelong process to enjoy, grow, and discover.
The first step in opening yourself up to healing is having the insight that something—big or small—has stopped working for you. That goes for anyone, not just people who have faced trauma. I don’t think we are ever through with healing because life always finds a way to be interesting and challenging. It’s like wearing an outfit, we have to make sure that life doesn’t wear us, we must wear life.
How does the process of healing look for you?
The process of healing starts with the recognition that you need it. There are so many people I meet who actively avoid acknowledging that they ever suffered and create barriers for talking about it. Creating these barriers is really about creating a wall between themselves and others. If you prevent others from asking you about what you’re thinking and feeling and set up boundaries that are extremely rigid, no one can get in! It’s self-protective but it’s also self-sabotage because you also create a wall in your relationship with yourself.
Healing is breaking those barriers. Letting others into your story. Healing is a journey to gain more insight and taking brave actions to keep pushing the boundaries of what you believe you can do. I don’t believe that everyone needs a therapist, contrary to my profession. There are many ways to break down the walls we create in our lives, but those walls have GOT to come down.
Is there someone you look up to or who lifts you up when you feel down?
I look up to my partner and my friends. They all have their own unique stories of pain and triumph. They are fierce, bold, and they speak their minds. It also helps that we all like to laugh… a lot. And loudly. It’s hard to find the person or persons who can make you laugh even in your toughest moments. When it happens, it’s like striking a match in the dark.
Who do you dedicate your work to?
I dedicate my work to people who have felt unseen, unheard, and unwanted. I want my work to let people know: I see you, I hear you, and you matter.
Is there something you wish you can change about your life circumstances?
Sure, I wish I could have invested in Bitcoin when it boomed! But no, everything that’s happened in my life has shaped who I am. Even when I’m struggling and cursing the gods for giving me the heart of a social worker, the soul of an artist, and the wallet of a dirtbag, I still wouldn’t trade anything. Life is a process and I’m open to the struggle and the rewards.
If you can ask a genie three wishes, what would they be?
The ability to travel through space, time, and multiple dimensions like Dr Strange, Immortality, and of course… world peace.
Where do you see yourself in one year?
Learning cognitive behavioural therapy
Working with more people in therapy/coaching groups and workshops
Sharing an office space with creatives, coaches, and therapists alike where we can brainstorm and create a great atmosphere
Travel to Korea and Sicily
What is the one thing that never fails to put a smile on your face?
Awkward moments. Even if the awkwardness is coming from me and it’s the most cringe-worthy moment, I never fail to find the humour in these moments.
What is the one thing you never make a compromise with?
My integrity. My integrity means everything to me. My integrity has allowed me to trust myself, which is so crucial to building confidence. It disrupts my tendency to be a perfectionist by refocusing my energy on doing the best I can versus doing it perfectly. It’s what keeps me committed to my personal goals, what allows me to be there for others in an honest way, and try my best.
What is your message to others struggling with trauma and/or mental health issues?
When we are victims, we become bitter, raging, isolated, and violent in our love towards ourselves and/or with others. We need to become more than victims. We must grow from this place and not allow our past to define who we are and who we can be.
If you get to write a book what would you title it?
I’m Sorry You Will Never Hear This
Were can others find you/contact you?
Email: [email protected]
I hope you enjoyed today’s interview and that it inspires you to continue healing, growing and sharing your story with the world.
Do you resonate to Laura’s story? Have you faced any of the struggles she’s had? Which part stuck out the most for you?
Reach out to Laura in the comment section below and check out her website. Help spread the healing – share this post!1