You have dreams. Maybe a college degree, a career, a family, lifelong friends.

Mental Health challenges or Physical or Learning Disabilities don’t need to take that away.

As a person with Spina Bifida, a congenital disability, and who has also experienced Depression and Anxiety at times,  throughout my life, like most people I have had goals that are put on hold by surgeries, treatments, and illnesses and recovery.

I remember spending many summers or breaks as a kid with casts or other signs of recovering from surgery. I also have experience with frequent infections and treatments with side effects that stalled my progress towards goals.

As a more recent example, I have been experiencing infections that have either landed me into the hospital or on antibiotics that have side effects that keep me close to home.

As a professional counselor I had both disappointment of not being able to build my practice, and as a therapist, concern I was letting my clients down and lots of imposter syndrome!

When we have setbacks due to a disability, mental health condition or chronic illness acting up, it can get discouraging.  You may question your abilities at times especially when you are stopped by a flare up of your condition, often at the worst times.

Just as you are about to stretch yourself, your anxiety or other mental health condition, contributes to your flare up.  It can make concentration with a Learning Disability or ADHD more difficult.  Unrelenting stress can lead to tightening of muscles and bones that cause increased inflammation and pain.

My disability related problems seem to hit me at times when I’m not ready. (not that one is ever ready for it!)  Lately, business in my practice was going well and I had several clients doing good work in therapy and making good progress.  I was building a practice I was proud of.

Then one morning I woke up with that familiar feeling that I was starting to feel an infection.  I felt anxious but my denial kicked in and so instead of going to the doctor, I took some over the counter pain reliever and it seemed to take away my symptoms for a few days.  Then I started to feel a headache and body aches and said I was probably fine, took some Tylenol, look no fever!

I kept plugging along.  Then one night I started to feel the shakes and chills.  Took my temp again—this time it was over 100 degrees so realized I needed to go to the doctor. Still thinking it wasn’t that bad, figured the doctor would just give me an antibiotic and send me on my way.  No, not this time.

I was told I needed to be hospitalized and put-on IV’s.  All of a sudden, it hit me.  I was about to be sucked out of my normal life where I had control and put in the hospital where what I wanted to do, didn’t matter, it was out of my control.  (or at least if I wanted to feel better and perform at my peak it was).

For several days, all I could do was, what needed to be done to get rid of my infection, which at this point stood between me and getting back to my career I worked so hard for.


“Would my clients understand, or would they move on?”

I wouldn’t have blamed them for getting help when I wasn’t available.


“Will I be back at square one in my career?” The uncertainty plagued my thoughts.

Could I fight back one more time?  I wasn’t sure.


Even as I write this, I question what the future will hold.

I’m not writing this as a pity party.  I just know that you, the clients that I serve often have to experience breaks in the road to achieve goals.  I can say I understand, but this and other similar experiences really help me appreciate, when I work with a college student who has to stop out for the semester and maybe the next wondering if they ever will complete their degree.


I feel for the new employee, who is afraid to tell his/her boss that they sometimes have anxiety attacks at work for fear of losing the job.  Or the person with a chronic illness whose migraines are worse when it’s raining and needs to go home due to double vision and nausea. I know that these factors make you wonder how you are being seen.  You have questions about how you will be talked about while you’re gone.  Imposter  may have even set in.


If this is the case, let me reassure you, the worst you’re thinking probably isn’t the truth.  In my experience, people are more understanding than we are to ourselves.  Of course, there’s always a few petty ones. But they don’t matter as much as the ones who really know the real you.  The one that works your butt off when at work because you feel you have to be twice as good to just be accepted.


The Emerging Adult years (18-29)  are never easy. You are trying many new things in school, work, and relationships.   Depression, Anxiety, and other mental health conditions often are also onset during the late teen and early adult years, often referred to as Emerging Adulthood.


The many transitions during this time of your life can be stressful.  You are ending high school and moving to your adult responsibilities of work on top of higher education. (college, or other training program).  You are choosing a career that you will focus on during much of your working years. It may seem like this is a lifelong decision that will affect your entire future.  Spoiler Alert: You can and probably will make changes in the future. But that’s a topic for a future blog.


I (Sue Smith, MA, LMFT) understand and can help emerging adults get past the tough times the setbacks and on to reaching their future goals and dreams. If your goals and dreams have been put on hold, or if you need help finding out what your strengths and abilities are, I can help you explore that.

Together, we can get you back on the road to your goals. I will never laugh at your ambitions or tell you to be “more realistic”.  Instead, I’ll help you discover your future and plan to get there.  If you are a young adult 18-30, Emerging Adult Counseling will support you in achieving your goals and dreams.

And when and if you find yourself dealing with obstacles such as onset of mental health symptoms, trouble with building relationships or difficulties with family or significant relationships, I am here to help you sort things out.

Achieving life goals and dreams isn’t something you can do in a sprint. In fact, it’s more like a marathon. There will be hills and valleys and you’ll need to work at both. There may be setbacks. It’s those times you’ll find out what you are made of. During those setbacks you may need to take a break to rest. Just like any marathoner, you may need to go in the “rest tent” to lean on others, get some sustenance and encouragement to get back out there again.

Counseling  can help you recover, build strength, and move on your marathon of life. Through counseling you will explore what you need to keep going and achieve your dreams. Get ready for the marathon called life! Get ready to achieve your goals!

In these days of Covid, there have been  so many more unknowns for college students.  It can be hard to plan. This week they tell you that you’ll start college in person on schedule, the next you know it they’ve decided that you’ll start online. Who knows how it will end up.

You are called to be flexible and deal with the latest changes. Through counseling I can help you look at all the possibilities and make tentative plans for the various options.  This way, you are ready to deal with whatever is finally decided and however it turns out.  Together we can deal with any disappointment you may be feeling or let down from how you wanted things to be.  Believe it or not, this experience will make you stronger in the long term, by helping you learn contingency planning that will be a skill you will use your entire life.

Learning online may be a challenge you never wanted, but here it is.  As you get more accustomed to online learning it likely will get easier. This forced online learning will help you in the long run as you learn new ways to learn and work.

If you are feeling anxious, frustrated, or overwhelmed by all the changes, reach out for support.  Talking with others who are going through it with you can help. If you think you need more, counseling with Emerging Adult Counseling.

If you are experiencing some of life’s challenges, and your goals are being sidelined, counseling can help. If you would like, you can schedule a time with me, by visiting the scheduling portal of Minnesota Online Counseling at  read my profile and if it’s a good fit, select Sue Smith from the pull-down menu and schedule during an open timeslot.  For even more information on me and the benefits of counseling with me, Visit the Emerging Adult Counseling website at:

And Discover the  range of services to support emerging adults with disabilities or mental health conditions in the Twin Cities.

Reach your goals by reaching out today!