Navigating Emotions: A Therapist's Journey

As a therapist, my journey is intricately woven into the lives of those who seek guidance, healing, and understanding. Every day, I step into the sacred space of emotions, working with individuals to unravel the complexities of their minds. In this blog, I invite you to explore the rewarding yet challenging world of being a therapist.

Building Connections
As a therapist, my mission is to build connections that go beyond words. From the moment a client walks through the door, I am creating a safe space where they can express their deepest fears and desires. Establishing trust is the cornerstone of my profession. It requires empathy, active listening, and the creation of an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities.

The Art of Active Listening
Active listening is not just a skill; it's a form of art for a therapist. It involves not only hearing words but understanding the emotions that accompany them. My clients often discover their own solutions when they feel truly heard. Through reflective listening, I guide them to explore their thoughts and feelings, fostering greater self-awareness.

Embracing Diversity
One of the wonders of being a therapist is encountering the rich diversity of human experiences. Each individual is unique, and their paths are diverse. Cultural competence is crucial in my work. It involves understanding and respecting the diverse backgrounds, belief systems, and values of my clients. Embracing diversity enriches the therapeutic process and promotes inclusivity.

Navigating Challenges
Therapy doesn't follow a straight line; it's a journey with ups and downs. As a therapist, I navigate challenges alongside my clients. Sometimes, progress is slow, and setbacks are inevitable. Patience and resilience are my guiding lights, ensuring that each obstacle becomes an opportunity for growth.

Self-Care for Therapists
Being a therapist demands a lot emotionally, and the need for self-care is paramount. I set aside time for reflection, supervision, and engage in activities that recharge my emotional reserves. By prioritizing my well-being, I ensure that I can continue to provide the best support to my clients.



A Fresh Start: Nurturing Self-Care and Embracing the Charm of Remote Work in the New Year

 As we step into a brand-new year, let's take a moment to celebrate the one constant factor in our lives—ourselves. Since working from home and being both full time patient navigator and part time psychotherapist, we'll delve into practical ways to elevate your self-care game and infuse a dash of romance into your remote work routine. Because, let's face it, the new year might bring changes, but you remain beautifully unique.

Wrap up each day by jotting down a few things you're grateful for. Cultivating a gratitude journal fosters a positive mindset, encouraging reflection on the silver linings of remote work.

As the calendar flips to a new year, remember that amidst all the changes, the essence of 'you' remains constant. 

Elevate your self-care rituals, embrace the romance of remote work, and make the most of this fresh start. Here's to a year filled with growth, positivity, and the unwavering charm of being yourself in every endeavor.

Wedding Gallery 10/1/2023

My wedding day was both beautiful and inspiring. I did not have a lot to share leading up to it; my husband, David, took care of many details, but the color scheme and the finer points were left to me. I created all the centerpiece floral arrangements and crafted custom cards for each individual seated at the tables. On that day, I learned that all my friends, family, and extended new family had shown up to celebrate our love.

The wedding had its own imperfections, but it did not falter our love and the compassion we have for each other. I realized that I married my partner, my best friend, and haven't been this happy in a relationship for such a long time. It is so easy to love a person who has the same capacity and care to love you back in the ways you've only dreamt about. Here's to the Vatmans.

My Osteosarcoma Story

My name is Deysi, pronounced like Daisy but spelled differently, and my life took an unexpected turn in 1999 when I was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. The realization came shortly after my 8th birthday party, as I noticed something was drastically wrong with my left leg. I was an only child who spent the majority of my time outdoors, reveling in the joy of exploring wildflowers and chasing after little critters. My parents, who were planning to move back to our family's origin in Ecuador, were suddenly faced with the harsh reality of my cancer diagnosis.

The day I learned about my condition through a biopsy is etched in my memory—the looks on my parents' faces and their expressions painted a picture of fear and uncertainty. While my family viewed cancer as a death sentence, I, at my young age, only recognized it as something I had seen on TV that affected people.

I established care at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital and received Chemotherapy treatments and surgery. The hospital staff, clinicians, and nurses played a pivotal role in guiding me through this challenging period.Fast forward to today, at the age of 32, I stand proudly in remission for over 24 years.

My life has taken a remarkable trajectory, and I am now a proud graduate with a Master's Degree from the Smith School of Social Work. My passion for helping others led me to work with oncology patients at Mount Sinai Hospital and Susan G Komen.

In 2023, I celebrated another milestone—marrying my best friend. Throughout my journey, I discovered the therapeutic power of art, and it became an integral part of my healing process. I owe my recovery to the incredible clinicians, staff members, nurses, and countless individuals who supported my parents and me through the most challenging times.

My story is not just one of overcoming cancer but a testament to the strength that emerges from the collective support of a community. Today, I continue to thrive, inspired by my experiences, and dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of others facing similar challenges.

Please see the link at MIB Program Osteosarcoma below

Self Care & Working 

I am writing an article regarding self-care a clinician and working alongside in the Oncology field. I wanted to share this excerpt:

 Understanding my own capacity on any given day became crucial and taught me the importance of what I can do in a given day.  Learning that my self care tools vary each day and should not be an extra job on top of our work. Recognizing the limits of what I could give allowed me to be present for my clients and serve as the advocate they needed as well as what I needed from my work in order to keep up the support I provide. 

My work environment was helpful in attaining respect and support from colleagues about our concerns, working within my hours, and utilizing my PTO while encouraging my colleagues to take theirs well. I took a look into understanding compassion fatigue and participated in ongoing training on Mindfulness practices.  I also found words of positive self talk and learning to be kinder to myself and give myself the grace I give to others.  I adopted practices such as limiting work-related discussions at home with my husband, embracing humor through a love for stand up comedy and comedy specials, taking breaks during the workday with my colleagues and engaging in solitary non-social work activities like drawing, photography, museum visits, and hiking. These practices formed the foundation of my belief that self-care is rooted in balance and mindfulness


Autumn In New York City

Over the past month, I've experienced a whirlwind of changes. I've entered the bonds of marriage, embarked on a part-time job journey, and even had the opportunity to contribute my artwork to a charitable cause. Throughout it all, I've come to realize that embracing the simple moments and love in our lives has profoundly enriched my understanding of existence. It's in those small, in-between moments that we find reasons to be grateful.

I'm genuinely delighted to be in a position where I can be intentional with my actions and make more informed decisions in my day-to-day life. Looking ahead, I'm excited about my plans to explore more of Connecticut and New York City in the coming year.


I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   
 or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   
 I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   
 secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
 I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   
 the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   
 and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
 I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   
 I love you directly without problems or pride:
 I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
 except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   
 so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   
 so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII” from The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, edited by Mark Eisner. Copyright © 2004 City Lights Books.

Summer Update

In my pursuit of wisdom, I often contemplate what lies within the fleeting moments I spend creating or immersing myself in meaningful work, whether it is clinical, artistic, and interpersonal relationships. Amidst self-criticism, I find solace in observing others' interpretations of things I create, what I say, and what I do, which offer fresh lenses through which to view myself. . As an artist, an introspective individual, and a future wife and mother, I reflect on the essence of the message I want to share with others. What type of story do I want to tell? What type of story do I want to share with others, through my work, through my artistic endeavors and through my engagement online and offline.

I acknowledge the inherent complexity of life, understanding that true control over global events will never be in my grasp. Nevertheless, the power in our ability to express and react to these events should not be underestimated. In the past 3 and a half years, I created more work than I have in the past decade. I, for one, find solace in expression, and patiently work on sharing beautiful images, narratives, and radiance of colors when I draw my deepest interest such as flowers.  I had the beautiful opportunity to share with others my creativity and also had an opportunity to display this.

My journey of continuous learning and personal growth fuels my desire to discern the precise message I aim to share with the world. It is a path of sincerity, where simplicity and raw truth prevail.

Stories We Tell Ourselves and Others

I think the things I wish I could tell people is that we are holding specific stories within us that if you pry a little bit, you can have someone open up to you so beautifully. I also think that we live in a time when we want to be entertained but no one is listening. How powerful is it to have someone sit with you while you share your story?

I had this profound moment with someone regarding telling my story and remember that it is important that people share certain parts of ourselves because we are owning that narrative and honoring that story of ourselves. I often felt uneasy with people knowing that I am a first generation immigrant, I am a pediatric cancer survivor, and I love to paint and draw. I also struggle with finding a space where I feel like I belong. I have this wonderful family in Ecuador but I hardly get an opportunity to see them. I have a wonderful family here in Stamford, CT, but we are missing so many important people to make it truly whole. I think the most beautiful thing about being human is that we want those connections, we want to be seen, and we want to be heard. We have these wealth of stories, knowledge, and creativity just illuminating within us like fireflies in summer. But we don’t get to see those moments, nor do we see those conversations take place, except perhaps with ourselves.

I am grateful that I will have a chance to really take a step back and be thankful for many things. I am grateful for having the support of family, friends, and my partner to guide me. 

Guardians of the Interstate 

When I visit significant locations that have impacted my life, I often take a car ride through the "what ifs." Recently, I went back to the Westside in Stamford, CT with my fiancé and reflected on how life is often interconnected. I considered how certain paths might have saved me or hurt me, and how owning the narrative of my current path is important.

After watching Guardians of the Galaxy (and I won’t spoil too much for those who haven't seen it), I was struck by how pain can change how we react to things. I remembered being in confined spaces, feeling alone and scared. Despite experiencing an ongoing three-week flare and going to an AMC movie in Port Chester, I cried. I cried over the naivety of life, and the innocence of wanting friendship and connection despite harsh conditions and painful interactions with others. I let myself feel that pain and reminded myself of the harm that can be done and what it looks like to heal. Clutching my partner's hand, I felt that pain burning into my bones, quite figuratively and literally. It was cathartic.

I also visited my childhood home, where I lived from the ages of 3 to 13. There, I saw so many pathways stemming from that basement, branching out into different interstates that could eventually lead to a new city or a dead end. And there I was, with a man with whom I had decided to start a new path, a new interstate, and a new destination. I don't understand why things happen the way they do, and perhaps I am naive to say that this is possibly the best path I can be on.

Sincerely, The girl who is 5’0, depending on which foot.


I think the things I wish I could tell people are that we hold specific stories within us that, if you pry a little bit, someone can open up to you so beautifully. I also think that we live in a time when we want to be entertained, but no one is listening. How powerful is it to have someone sit with you while you share your story?

I had this profound moment with someone regarding telling my story and remembered that it is important that people share certain parts of ourselves because we are owning that narrative and honoring that story of ourselves. I often feel uneasy with people knowing that I am a first-generation immigrant, a pediatric cancer survivor, and love to paint and draw. I also struggle with finding a space where I feel like I belong. I have this wonderful family in Ecuador, but I hardly get an opportunity to see them. I have a wonderful family here in Stamford, CT, but we are missing so many important people to make it truly whole. I think the most beautiful thing about being human is that we want those connections, we want to be seen, and we want to be heard. We have this wealth of stories, knowledge, and creativity illuminating within us like fireflies in summer. But we don’t get to see those moments, nor do we see those conversations take place, except perhaps with ourselves.

I am grateful that I will have a chance to really take a step back and be thankful for many things. I am grateful for having the support of family, friends, and my partner to guide me.

Macaroni Apple 

Love is an incredibly complex and multifaceted emotion that has been the subject of countless poems, songs, and stories throughout human history. It is often said that love is hard to capture in the arts. Despite its ubiquitous presence in our lives, love remains difficult to define or quantify. During the height of the dating app era, certain boundaries existed for those who were unable to connect or who had bad experiences with the dating scene. However, with the advent of dating apps and other digital tools for connecting people, love has taken on new forms and challenges that require unique skills and platforms for it to develop. David has created a unique dating show that explores single NYC folks interested in finding their significant other through a unique way. Macaroni Apple has been a year-long process that has taught me an incredible wealth of information about developing relationships, unique encounters, and raw responses and feelings towards love.

Following Your Heart

Following your heart and healing others are both important aspects of a fulfilling life. When we follow our passions and pursue our true interests, we are more likely to find meaning and purpose in our lives, which can contribute to overall well-being and happiness.

In terms of healing others, it can bring great fulfillment to help others overcome their challenges and improve their health and well-being. This can take many forms, whether it's as a healthcare professional, a caregiver, or simply as a supportive friend or family member. By making a positive impact on others' lives, we can improve our own well-being and create a ripple effect of positivity in the world.

It is important to strike a balance between following your heart and helping others, as both can bring great rewards and satisfaction. By combining the two, we can create a truly fulfilling and meaningful life.


Central Park Walk on March 16, 2023

What happens to a dream deferred?

     Does it dry up
     like a raisin in the sun?
     Or fester like a sore—
     And then run?
     Does it stink like rotten meat?
     Or crust and sugar over—
     like a syrupy sweet?

     Maybe it just sags
     like a heavy load.

     Or does it explode? 

Langston Hughes, "Harlem" from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. 

Spring in New York City

Spring is arriving in NYC, and although it's not yet as beautiful and warm as I would like, I can sense a new beginning. I am learning about myself and understanding the importance of exploring the things that I like, dislike, and need to heal from. These past three years, I have had little to no time for self-reflection, but this year, I am taking the opportunity to really dive into my unconsciousness and learn more about the human psyche and the ways in which it can transcend day-to-day encounters.

 I believe that this year, I have learned how to give myself space to process conversations and interactions with a neutral lens, as well as how to trust my own work. If something feels accurate, I am learning to reinterpret my role as a clinician. Although I have felt the brunt of productivity pressure and crisis interventions on a global scale, I am taking an interest  in developing relationships without taking on things I cannot actually control. I am naming my self-doubt, but I am also noticing small improvements in my daily life. Being a human being is hard, and being a human being that cares for others is even harder. Being a human being in a world of uncertainty is perhaps the hardest of all. But I see you, I hear you, and I want to share with you that you are not alone.


As I think back to my childhood, a whimsical memory fills my mind, of working in a grandiose house in Greenwich, Connecticut. To me, it felt like I was stepping into another world, with its intricate brickwork and meticulously trimmed landscapes. But it was the endless number of bathrooms that really caught my attention. As my mother, a housekeeper, handed me a vacuum and broom to help clean, I couldn't help but wish I was playing with my dolls instead.

Yet, my mother's voice, gentle and kind, spoke to me of something deeper. "I don't want you to work like me," she said. And in that moment, I understood that my life would take a different path than hers.

As I grew older, I pondered the meaning behind her words. Was there something shameful about her work? Why was it presented to me, a five-year-old with a bowl cut and ill-fitting clothes, in a way that made me feel different?

But as I worked alongside my mother, I learned the value of hard work and the importance of taking care of others. I saw that cleaning and maintaining a home was a task that many people did not have the time or resources to manage alone. And through this experience, I began to realize that my mother's words were not about shame, but about hope. Hope that I would find a path in life that allowed me to pursue my passions and interests.

As I look back on that moment in Greenwich, I am grateful for the lessons it taught me about empathy, hard work, and the power of following my own path. I am inspired to continue my journey of self-discovery and growth, learning more about myself and the world around me with each passing day.

2023 Realizations

One day that I believe altered my formative years was marked by a cancer diagnosis. Working in Oncology now, I am often posed with the question, "Do you understand?" Sometimes, I abstain from answering, not wishing for my own story to overshadow others' narratives of healing and pain.  Through my journey, I came to recognize that sickness is a solitary experience, necessitating a team effort to overcome, including friends, family members, loved ones, and the care team. The words of encouragement I received on the topic of cancer typically came from those fortunate enough to never have experienced it themselves. However, when you do have it, you understand that it transforms everything. I've grown and learned through this experience, heightening my perception of life's fragility while also realizing the grief and beauty that can be found in the everyday.

I've become attuned to the seconds, minutes, and hours, living ten lifetimes in a decade. I try things I'm unsure of, not because I expect to excel, but because I refuse to be haunted by regret. I realize now that I've never explored Europe, laid eyes on the Mona Lisa, or revisited the Pacific. I want to learn how to drive, climb higher peaks, have my artwork showcased in a museum, write a novel, scream into the wind atop Catskill Mountain, pay off my parents' mortgage, have children, and foster kittens.

I want to be able to tell myself that I've truly lived.

I want to witness another shooting star with the man I love. I want to gaze upon the moon up close and see fireworks in China, take a boat ride in Venice, try street food in Thailand, help a random stranger, create artwork until the ink stains my hand, and continue creating more.

I want people to understand that they're not alone, and that there are others who relate to their experiences. We all share a common thread of human experience, but it's easy to forget this about one another. It's messy, it's beautiful, and it's quintessentially human.

Grief is not a sign of weakness, but the price of love


Oftentimes, I have dreaded the loss of my beloved pet Harry. He was our family dog since I was 15, and I lost him when I was dealing with my own health issues in 2022. At first, I didn't know who to reach out to regarding the loss of a pet. It felt a bit trivial to speak to people about it, but then I realized that the grieving process was difficult for me. I mourned my dog immensely and had to take a trip with my family to separate ourselves from our home and the inconceivable loss of Harry.

I still miss Harry, and even though he passed away over a year ago, I still catch myself looking for him when I visit my parents in Stamford. Understanding grief is so important, and that includes the grief we feel when we lose our beloved pets. Some things I wish I had known when I lost my dog were how to deal with the anticipation of the sudden news for both myself and other family members. I learned that grief comes in waves, and often simply having someone there to listen was helpful. I had to compartmentalize my feelings and take care of practical matters, such as arranging for burial and cremation. I also heard stories of how difficult it can be to take care of other pets during this time. I often realized that grief is different for everyone, and it is important to respect each individual's grieving process.

Losing my pet helped me to normalize the grief that comes with pet loss, and also helped me to understand that healing can take time. Through my own experience, I learned ways to help loved ones, friends, or family members cope during this difficult time. Understanding how to navigate someone through their grief is crucial

The Celebration of Irrationality 

Why is it important to celebrate irrationality? I think it comes down to letting go of the need to control everything and allowing ourselves to be spontaneous, playful, and a little bit silly. In today’s world of the age of information and the internet, I notice the tendency to fall under the pressure to be productive, efficient, and goal oriented. There is this unexpected rule to appear to have everything under control and honoring rationality.

Oftentimes, rationality is rewarded and for a good reason. However, after a while, celebrating the moments of irrationality can help snap out of the life that can be exhausting and disconnected from our emotions and creativity. Celebrating this spark, irrationality, and rational source of creativity  is a way to connect with our inner child and rediscover the joy and wonder of life. I hope this is a friendly reminder that sometimes, it is okay to be silly, spontaneous, and let go of our need to control everything. By letting go, we are opening ourselves to new possibilities and experiences.

Celebrating irrationality can be as simple as dancing in the rain, watching a funny movie, or trying something new and exciting. It's about letting go of our inhibitions and embracing our playful side.

Dance like nobody's watching

Sing at the top of your lungs

Indulge in your favorite guilty pleasure 

Try a new hobby or activity

Take a spontaneous road trip with no guided plans

Dress up in a costume for no reason

Make a silly video or take goofy photos

Get lost in the a new city

Watch a foreign film

The possibilities are endless. 


As a therapist and clinician on-site, it's important to practice self-care to ensure that we  are able to provide the best possible care for our clients. Here are some tips for self-care that clinicians may find helpful.

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment and non-judgmentally observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. I recommend any imagery guided meditations that can be found on Spotify or Youtube.

Set boundaries: It's important to set boundaries between our personal and professional life. This may involve setting specific work hours, taking regular breaks throughout the day, and avoiding checking work emails or messages outside of work hours. Remember no is a full sentence. Prioritizing physical health: Taking care of our physical health can help us feel more energized and focused. This may involve getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks throughout the day to stretch or move around. I found taking vitamin supplements and decreasing my caffeine intake has improved my mood and sleep. Engage in hobbies or activities: Engaging in hobbies or activities can reduce stress and increase our overall sense of well-being. This may involve reading, practicing a musical instrument, gardening, or spending time with friends and family.

Practice self-compassion: I believe this is so important in our work to talk to ourselves with kindness and compassion, everyday. By the end of the day, I share one thing that I am grateful for and take the time to come home and rest and recharge. 

Remember, self-care is an ongoing process and may look differently for everyone. I just wanted to share some tools that have helped me this far in my clinical career and hope that this can help others during their journey as well. 

Starfish Story

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.” The Starfish Story by Loren Eisley

I received this copy of this story in my first week at Smith College. I realized the importance of understanding my role as a clinician is to make a difference for the individuals who request help. I believe this was so profound for my future as a clinician, as the theme of the story is the power of individual action and the impact, no matter how small it is. In my clinical experience, I understand that my role is to make an impact in the lives of my clients, even though the issues many individuals face are overwhelming and insurmountable. I believe I love this story so much because it helps me understand the  importance of perseverance and determination, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and emphasizes the importance of encouraging individuals to continue working towards their goals, even when faced with obstacles or setbacks. This story encourages me to take action and make an positive impact in the world, even if the task at hand seems small or insignificant. It made me more mindful with time when addressing the narration of  "I can't make a difference, I am just one person". I try to think "I can make a difference for this person, this situation, this time". This story helps me address my mindset and helps approach the actions I take at the clinic and my personal life.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Growing up as an only child to immigrant parents, I have felt a constant sense of displacement and isolation. The longing for adventure and the unknown, coupled with the complex nature of my existence, made me feel like a foreigner in my own skin. It wasn't until I visited Ecuador for the first time, to reunite with my family, that I truly began to understand the depth of my displacement. My mother, overcome with emotion, expressed how everything had changed since she left her homeland in 1989. The places that were once familiar to her and my father had either disappeared or transformed drastically, and the culture had evolved in ways they couldn't have anticipated.

Despite the challenges of the language barrier, I found solace in capturing moments with my camera and engaging in intergenerational conversations with my extended family. However, it wasn't until I visited Parque Calderón, where my parents got married, that I began to delve into my family's past. My obsession with piecing together my ancestry revealed a painful history of trauma, financial hardship, violence, and mental illness. Though my extended family was hesitant to share their experiences, I eventually spoke with my uncle, who had experienced a psychotic break while studying medicine in Ecuador.

In our conversation, my uncle shared his passion for medicine and opened up about the childhood traumas that shaped his parents' relationship and ultimately influenced my parents' decision to stay in the United States. His vulnerability and honesty shed light on the complexity of mental illness, and inspired me to study psychology. Through my family's struggles, I learned the importance of putting family first and protecting those closest to us.

Despite the challenges of displacement and the complexity of our family history, I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. My uncle's resilience and determination have given me hope for the future, and I am reminded that the beauty of life lies in the ability to grow and learn from our experiences.

Parque Calderon is a beautiful little park in the center of Cuenca, Ecuador. It is a place filled with natural beauty, where visitors can see old Spanish-colonial buildings, and  taking in the charming atmosphere of the city. The park offers a  peaceful ambiance, as you watch people come and go, enjoying the fresh air and local scenery. (Photo taken in 2015) 

Hartford Courant-December 2000 (Reflection) 

Creating art for a cancer research fundraiser is a noble and impactful endeavor that I proudly participated in at the age of 8. While undergoing treatment at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, I discovered the Tommy Fund and was grateful for the opportunity to create art that could potentially raise funds for cancer research. The experience filled me with happiness, knowing that my art could bring hope and positivity to others.

Reflecting on that moment, I now realize that being both a cancer survivor and an artist has had a tremendous impact on my personal growth and development throughout my adolescence and young adulthood. Advocating for and raising awareness of cancer research is of utmost importance, as I witnessed so many families at Yale affected by cancer in one way or another. The art we created inspired people to purchase cards and contribute to the cause.

In my opinion, art should be engaging, inspiring, and serve as a catalyst for positive change in the community. It should be used as a powerful tool to support worthy causes and make a meaningful difference in the world.

Healing and Resilience for 2023 

Life is a journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, and I find myself grateful for every moment of it. The uncertainty that accompanies this journey has allowed me to grow and transform in countless ways over the past year. It has given me the chance to explore myself, my surroundings, and my passions, and to consider how I want to interact with the world around me.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned is the value of listening. By truly listening to those around me, I have been able to forge meaningful connections and gain insights into my own past experiences. Through this process, I have found healing and growth, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue on this path.

As we move forward into the next year, I am excited to apply the lessons that I have learned to new challenges and opportunities. By reflecting on the past and looking towards the future with renewed enthusiasm, we can all embrace the uncertainty of life and find joy and fulfillment along the way.

love in times of covid

Institutions around the world answered the call for help during the COVID-19 pandemic, aligning themselves towards healing communities impacted by the virus, bridging gaps in healthcare, and opening themselves to change. However, where does the healing truly begin?

For me, I found my own space and time to focus on my artwork and creative endeavors during the pandemic. I found it to be a healing energy, allowing me to take collective and personal tragedies and traumas and express them on paper. How can one convey weariness or the proper color for anger or sadness?

I delved into watercolor, acrylic, and even created a TV dating show to explore the dualities of endings and beginnings. I began to focus on expressing these complex feelings through my art, realizing that sometimes words are not enough to capture the depth of the human experience. The famous Paleolithic cave called Lascaux in France showed me that creating art is innately human and serves a purpose. Despite being over 10,000 years old, it still stands as a place of wonder for me.

Through COVID-19, the threat of global warming, economic, racial, and health inequality, I attempt to channel these moments and feelings onto something outside myself. I believe that the healing truly begins when artists, writers, and content creators harness the power, capability, and healing of their crafts to extend beyond this year and into a new era of growth, equity, prosperity, and healing. By doing so, we can all play a part in the larger movement towards collective healing and progress.

Midnight Thoughts

In 1999, when I was a child receiving treatment at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, I had a mischievous nature and a childlike demeanor that made it difficult to ignore me. I even went by my middle name, Veronica, and took delight in not revealing my true name to my oncologist, Dr. Jack Van Hoff. But despite my playful nature, it was hard to explain to an eight-year-old girl what cancer meant. My understanding of the word was limited to its astrological significance, having grown up watching telenovelas with my parents and the late Walter Mercado.

Years later, as a young adult, I still carry with me the innate fear that I felt as a child facing surgery. Will I wake up? Will I be able to breathe on my own? Will I ever see my parents again? These are the questions that haunted me then, and that still creep up on me now.

But watching a recent lecture by John Green as part of the William Belden Noble Lecture Series on YouTube has had a profound impact on me. It reminded me that even when monsters cannot be seen, our fear is real and can be debilitating. Yet, we have an innate hope for humanity, a belief in our capacity to heal and help others. It also taught me that my life, and the lives of others, are fragile, and that I cannot let fear dictate how I live.

This year, my greatest lesson has been learning how to accept love and understand that my deep-rooted fear is a work in progress. I celebrate the small victories of navigating difficult conversations, emotions, and stressors as little milestones on my path towards healing my mind and body.

Learning myself and learning how to help others


As I read through T.S. Eliot's question, "Do I dare disturb the universe?" it resonates deeply with me. To dare to disturb the universe is to take a chance, to step out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves to do something that we never thought possible. For me, this meant pursuing my dreams of going to graduate school.

I remember the anticipation and anxiety that I felt while waiting for my acceptance letter from Smith College. Despite my hard work in undergrad, I was unsure if I would be able to make it into graduate school. And when my mother opened the letter and told me that I didn't get in, I felt a wave of disappointment wash over me. However, I didn't give up. I knew that I had put in the effort, and I wasn't going to let a denial letter hold me back.

Despite the naysayers who doubted my abilities, I was determined to make a difference in the world. COVID-19 was a challenging time for all of us, but it taught me that I am a lover of humanity. I wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives, and still do. I may not be the next president or a famous artist, but I want to help the world in my own way.

My experiences have shaped me into the person that I am today. I have witnessed firsthand the hardships and challenges that people face, and this has fueled my desire to help others. I believe that good questions have more merit than answers, and I am constantly curious and seeking knowledge. My time in graduate school was both tough and rewarding. It opened up a whole new world to me and taught me so much about myself.

As I near the end of my journey to becoming an independently licensed therapist, I am filled with a sense of purpose and the desire to take risks. I know that life is unpredictable and chaotic, but I believe in healing and growth. I am determined to use my knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on people's lives, and I am excited to see where this journey takes me.

So, to answer T.S. Eliot's question: Yes, I dare to disturb the universe. I dare to challenge myself, to take risks, and to make a positive impact on the world.

Art is healing and healing is not linear

Healing, I learned, comes in many forms. It is a non-linear journey that demands patience, solitude, and self-compassion. Growing up, I was taught to hide my emotions, to be strong and resilient in the face of adversity. My family has a long lineage of individuals who defied the odds and triumphed over hardship. This ingrained resilience has undoubtedly helped me navigate life's challenges, but it has also hindered my ability to connect with my emotions.

There have been times where I've found myself unable to truly express my feelings, even in safe spaces like my friend groups, educational settings, and professional environments. As a mental health advocate and clinician, it can be difficult to admit that I too struggle with overwhelming emotions at times. However, I've found solace in my art. Creating has given me an outlet to process my emotions and has empowered me to engage in difficult conversations with loved ones about my inner turmoil.

I've come to realize that sadness often overlaps with other emotions, like anger and jealousy. As a first-generation Ecuadorian-American, I've also grappled with the weight of others' expectations of me. But with time, I've learned to sit with my feelings, to grieve, and to relinquish unrealistic expectations of the future. In doing so, I've come to understand that our first love should always be ourselves. It is through treating ourselves with kindness, compassion, and grace that we can pave the way for true healing and growth. Learning to slow down and say no can be challenging, but it is a necessary lesson in cultivating our authentic selves. As a clinician, I believe that this journey of self-discovery is integral to providing effective care for others. Ultimately, I've learned that healing is not a one-size-fits-all process, and it demands an unwavering commitment to ourselves and our growth.

Learning in the Times of Uncertainty 

Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping

New York City has always been a pulsating hub of activity, an ever-flowing stream of individuals, each dancing to their own unique rhythm. It's been hailed as the epicenter of the world, a breeding ground for creativity and innovation, where artists, entrepreneurs, and dreamers alike come to make their mark on the world. Yet, with the arrival of COVID-19, it felt as though the city had been plunged into an eerie silence. The once-bustling streets now lay empty, the city that never sleeps coming to an unexpected halt.

It was a surreal moment, as if time itself had stopped in its tracks. The unspoken ebb and flow of millions of people had been replaced with an eerie stillness, a sense of abandonment. The city, once so full of life and energy, had been rendered silent.

However, even in the midst of this chaos, a sense of resilience could be felt in the air. As the city slowly began to reopen, New Yorkers refused to let their spirits be dampened by the circumstances. The birthplace of innovators and artists was once again alive with creativity, as individuals came together to rebuild and reinvent their city.

New York City will always be a symbol of strength and perseverance, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow.

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