Associate Marriage & Family Therapist, Nicole Medina, Southern CA, USA

“I’ve seen so much on the internet lately about how people “should” be handling this pandemic…the politicizing of a virus, the ongoing trauma continually being inflicted on many non-white communities – particularly our black brothers and sisters more than ever…just harmful, toxic things. One thing I want to share as inspiration is this: there will always be people who will tell you what the right way to live is, I think COVID & the recent passing of dear George Floyd are giving people a chance to reflect on what the right way to live is – not just for them, but for all of humanity.” 

Nicole Medina

Nicole Medina is a Filipino American young adult and Southern California native — she expressed the appreciation she had for the opportunity to have grown up surrounded by her Filipino culture in a small city in LA County. Nicole moved on to graduate from UC Irvine and is currently living in Orange County and working toward the 3000-clinical hour requirement she needs to soon be able to sit for the licensing exam as a fully Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT).

Nicole holds down a daytime, “full-time, big girl” job — as she refers to it — with a consulting firm and acquires her clinical hours towards licensure in the evenings. She enjoys working in business during the day and spending time working toward accruing the clinical hours she needs to take her exam.

Eventually, Nicole would like to further her career at her current company so that she can share her expertise on the business side of the corporate world, in addition to having her own private practice as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist on the side (the best of both worlds!). She loves working with couples, children, families, and individuals. “I just love learning and being there for others, so to be able to make a future career out of it is fantastic.” Nicole shares.

Nicole has been separated from her family throughout the pandemic because they’re working on the front lines as health care heroes at various hospitals throughout SoCal. She has chronic asthma, and doesn’t want to put herself or her roommate at risk.

Nicole shares the important message that even though therapists are expected to be a source of strength and guidance, they’re also feeling the emotional challenges of quarantine and facing the conflicts that have arisen out of this global pandemic.

She started an inspirational blog and Instagram, and said that curating meaningful material for herself has given her the opportunity to be intentional about what kind of media she’s consuming. To stay entertained at home she browses local, small women owned businesses and small Filipino small businesses online, is working on perfecting her Filipino cuisine, and going for walks to get her daily dose of seeing dogs.

Read more about Nicole’s COVID Chronicle journey, below:

Graduating Pepperdine

Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration?

“I’ve seen so much on the internet lately about how people “should” be handling this pandemic… the politicizing of a virus, the ongoing trauma continually being inflicted on many non-white communities. The other day I saw a series of posts about how “if you don’t come out of this pandemic with a new skill you never lacked the time, you lacked the discipline” – just harmful, toxic things all around.

I think that’s why the creation of my Instagram (@nmedinatherapy) and personal blog couldn’t have come at a better time… I created it in March of this year right before shelter in place, so cultivating material to post has kept me intentional about what information I choose to consume. I check government reported stats here and there, I give myself 10 minutes a day to mull over the news. But after that I stop. I’m also doing my best to always “look for the helpers” as Mister Rogers would say. 

One thing I want to share as inspiration is this: there will always be people who will tell you the “right way to live” …. I think COVID might be giving people a chance to reflect on what the “right way to live” is for them; including who and what they want to allow back in their lives once “all this is over” (albeit this chance to reflect is not gentle in the slightest, but trying to remain hopeful here!).”

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced during quarantine/the COVID crisis?

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced is experiencing everything I’m going through, while also wanting to be supportive of my family and of my clients who are all experiencing difficult hardships. It’s hard to allow myself room for sadness, while also acknowledging that I am fortunate enough to have some stability while others may be enduring far worse. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough, and sometimes I feel like I can’t do much, anymore.

Like many others, the separation from my loved ones has been hard. Misinformation is also really difficult. Although I’m generally young and healthy, I have chronic asthma so there is some very valid fear in what might happen if I were to contract it.  My family is in healthcare working the front lines at various southern California hospitals, and I live with a roommate; to keep everyone safe, I don’t leave my place much. As much as I am sad to be separated from and worried for my family, I’m also sad to be apart from my clients in their time of need.”

Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your priorities in life?  

“Yes. I think there is this underlying expectation that therapists have their lives “together” and can help others with their own struggles because of it – but we’re also human. We feel deeply, life happens to us too. And life can be hard.  If there is one thing that has both deteriorated and improved during shelter in place is my attention to the passing of time and how I spend it. In March I downloaded this book by Celeste Headlee, “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Under-living.” It was kind of nice timing given everything that was going on in the world…

Decor by one of the women owned businesses Nicole supports, @littlewomangoods. Also check out @typehayley

I lived a fast-paced life before all this: at the office M-F by 7:30 am, work until 4, clinic at 4:30 pm until 9 pm and then repeat most days. While I’m in awe of how long I’ve been able to sustain that, it’s not something I necessarily want to rush back to. The first couple of weeks working from home there was no separation between work and rest, my bed was both my work place and my place of leisure. In April, hours, days, weeks, all morphed into one for me.

Now that I’m slowly recovering from that and being intentional about managing my time, it’s shown me that I have the time to do what truly matters to me. I didn’t realize how much I missed reading for fun! I forgot how much I enjoyed cooking!”

“Yes. I think there is this underlying expectation that therapists have their lives “together” and can help others with their own struggles because of it – but we’re also human. We feel deeply, life happens to us too.

Where are you living right now? Is this where you permanently reside or is it a temporary living situation due to the pandemic? Who have you been quarantining with?

“Right now, I live in one of the beautiful beach cities of Orange County. I’ve lived here for the last two years and have been quarantining with my roommate and our partners. It’s been a nice little community away from all the chaos, and has definitely helped counter the loneliness and isolation a lot of people are experiencing.”

What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission? 

“Neighboring cities have required masks in order to allow access to places like supermarkets and restaurants for take-out. They space out how many people can enter a business at one time. Since I live close to the beach, virtually everything around me is street parking; the city has taken a break from enforcing street sweeping tickets which has been helpful now that everyone is home for the most part. There is a general curfew, and businesses have reduced hours in order to give employees a chance to rest.

Orange County’s response has been really different in comparison to my home county of Los Angeles; so, I think knowing that has made me a little more vigilant about being careful and the meaning made between staying home and staying safe.”

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“I’m trying a lot of Filipino recipes lately, courtesy of my mom! Have also been trying to keep creative with my snack game….thank goodness for Trader Joe’s. When I’m not buying books from Amazon, I browse small women businesses and small Filipino businesses: stickers, tote bags, baked goods, you name it. I’ve been having a lot of virtual game nights with friends and cousins. I take walks around my neighborhood and say hello to as many dogs as I can find.

Daily Walks

Finding dogs on Instagram and sending them to my roommate and cousins also helps a lot. I miss one dog in my family in particular, Annie. I ask my cousin to send lots of photos of her.

I’m deliberate about only reading books for fun, and finding lovely things to include on my Instagram page. Whatever time I have left after the work day: I catch up with family, friends, or read a book that is just for me and my happiness. I enjoy taking photos of beautiful flowers to remind myself it’s still spring in the outside world! Watching a lot of Netflix and re-watching some cartoons from my childhood.”

Nicole and her puppy

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“Unfortunately like many others, it did. This year I was between two board examinations and in a good place with projects at my job. By some miracle, majority of schedules in my family aligned and we were all planning to be in the Philippines from mid-April to early May for a large global family reunion – the first one in decades. In June, I would have been visiting my best friend in Seattle. I miss eating at restaurants, going to concerts, and spending time in museums!”

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