Amy Schillinger, Clinical Director and owner of Balance Stress Management and Therapy in Elgin, IL

I worked (and had since February of this 2011) in a private practice in Silicon Valley. I am from a college/farming community in Illinois and moved out to California for grad school. That said, Silicon Valley continued to be quite the culture shock for me.

My clients were (and still are mostly) children and adolescents. General diagnosis include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic (mood disorders), PTSD, and Developmental Trauma Disorder.

Their parents have high powered jobs, they go to high performing schools. “Keeping up with the Jonses” was an understatement for my client population. But moving back to the Illinois suburbs, I’ve actually realized this is rampant. I have the same population of kids in Kane County that I did in Palo Alto, just slightly less money.

No wonder these kids are stressed out. They can never live up to their social expectations. They are always struggling to be the best, wear the best outfit, have the coolest phone, the best car, the best hair. Nothing is ever good enough.

My own childhood was different. In the ways that I had some sense of “I’ll always love you” from at least 2 caregivers. 

My mother and grandmother always accepted me for who I was, no matter what. I always knew that. I think that my mom said to me once…
“You could be a crack addict, pregnant, and a really bad person and you could still come home” or something close to that.

Sure there were expectations to do well, but I always felt loved and supported. THERE WAS ROOM FOR ERROR. 

They were quiet when I needed room to grow and louder when I needed more guidance. 

There was just this overwhelming sense of belonging, of love, of acceptance on my path to finding my life’s passions and my own way.


If I were to try to try to WAY OVER generalize mental “disorders” into much smaller categories I would argue that they all stem from FEAR and TRAUMA(tic) events.

Trauma confuses people. Traumatic events ride a fine line between two categories “big T, and small t traumas”. Big T are those nasty huge things that significantly change our whole path. Death of loved ones, natural disasters, accidents, rape, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, severe life threatening illnesses of self or loved one, violence etc.

“Small t’s” include times where you felt shamed, embarrassed, you were fired, you lost a big game, etc.

Look at the above list of “diagnosis” in my patient profile outlines.

  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • anxiety
  • panic (mood disorders)
  • PTSD

Tell me that each of those do not probably involve the emotion FEAR or the experience of TRAUMA?

What if the events we can control that are traumatic or fearful (shame, embarrassment, guilt) (and are mostly person to person relationships) were replaced with something we call “unconditional love?”

Human existence is complex and multiple dimensional. Sometimes people suffer from great traumas from situations out of anyone’s control or something that happened TO them.

As a parent I want to work hard for my kids to know that I love them unconditionally, all the time. Scholarly or not, tattooed or not, an athlete or not, a musician or not, heterosexual or not, religious or not, beautiful or not, any shape, any size, any mental state, I will love you. I will fight for you. I will help you in any way I can and you can always come back to me because I am your mother.

“If you become a bird and fly away, I will be the tree that you can come home to”
– the Runaway Bunny

Non- judgement is an act of love. It provides a stable foundation for happy, well-adjusted people. You are good enough just the way that you are.