Meet The Westwind Staff - Valarie Bittner
In this edition of "Meet The Westwind Staff", we are asking five questions of one of Westwind's Directors, Valarie Bittner.
1) WHAT LED YOU TO WESTWIND?
A) A prairie girl at heart, I grew up in Manitoba and was excited to become part of a unique place of healing in my home province after finishing my degrees. I graduated with a masters degree in Counselling and have been practicing as a therapist in the field of eating disorders since 2002. I'm a certified Canadian Counsellor through the PACCP, and a member of the Eating Disorders Association of Canada. After eleven years of experience with Westwind, the opportunity to become owner and director opened up. I feel grateful and honoured to share in the recovery journey of the women I meet and work with every day.
2. WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU ABOUT WORKING IN MENTAL HEALTH?
A) In today's society, people often have a skewed idea of how to live a fulfilling life. Our culture gives us many messages encouraging us to compete for approval, and focus on achieving in order to feel "good enough". I'm inspired to see how our clients work hard to free themselves from these shackles of perfectionism, people pleasing, and the critical self talk that has contributed to feelings of unworthiness and fear of judgement from others. It takes courage to be willing to let go of seeking approval from others, and invest into truly living according to ones values. Seeing this courage in action in our clients is very inspiring to me.
3. WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WORK AT WESTWIND?
A) Our clients come from many places, and despite differences in their experiences with an eating disorder, they offer support and compassion to each other that challenges old self destructive beliefs. It's an amazing thing to see the vulnerability and genuine caring our clients give to each other. I also appreciate the opportunity to work collaboratively with our clients - to see them become empowered by having a hand in developing recovery goals, and feeling proud of their progress and accomplishments. I'm grateful to do this work within our caring and hard working treatment team.
4. IF YOU COULD SAY ONE THING TO SOMEONE SEEKING TREATMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A) Reaching out for help is a significant accomplishment and act of courage - there's often a lot of shame that accompanies an eating disorder, and with it, secrecy that can make reaching out for support a scary thing to do. This shame brings with it lies about themselves that can feel believable and true. An eating disorder is a not a choice, a personal weakness or character flaw. Recovery is possible.
5. WHAT'S ONE THING YOU PRACTICE TO MAINTAIN POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH?
A) I am re-fueled by spending time with the people I love, including my husband and friends. I also practice self care by meeting my need for adventure through exploring new and exciting places in the world. When I get to combine both of these things it's the best day ever!