For the month of December, I’ll be shining light each day on some extraordinary women I know. They represent various fields and backgrounds, and I admire each for their passion and strength. These are bold, beautiful, brave women — artists, businesswomen, union organizers, nurses, writers, teachers, movie makers, designers, reporters, and all-around badasses.
Alyssa Cohen is a clinical psychologist who hails from New York. She now lives in Southern California with her husband and an adorable rescue dog, Yofi! She loves spending time with family and friends, baking, scrapbooking, and reading. She currently works for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
1. What did you want to be “when you grew up?” There are many things I “wanted to be” from environmental lawyer (I like to talk and advocate), a sign language interpreter (I was fascinated by the beauty of the culture and language), a developmental psychologist (I have a great love of working with children), and I was consistently told I should be a teacher (I did marry one). As it turns out I took the common thread of helping others and became a psychologist who teaches and trains others.
2. What makes you the most proud of yourself? I am most proud of what I have accomplished in my career. In the last year and a half alone I have done more than I ever thought possible. Finding a position that embraces my abilities and allows for creativity has also allowed me to do other things I enjoy such as tutoring individuals studying for licensure as psychologists and working with those still in graduate school in the social science field. For many years I have wanted to give back and would donate time or money here and there, but nothing has been more fulfilling than working with a non-profit law center to conduct and write psychological evaluations for children, adolescents, and adults who are asylum seekers. These are families without a voice and I have the opportunity to help tell their story that will assist them or their family member in staying in the U.S.
3. What darkness have you overcome? How did you find strength? My darkness exists as a result of parents who were selfish, cruel, and rage-filled, who did not believe or value family and friends due to their warped view of the world. My one way to cope with the constant stress and anxiety living in that explosive and abusive household was to compulsively overeat. Food became my solace, my way to numb the pain, and the only way to survive. In the middle of graduate school, I was “disowned” for wanting to live and explore my life and unceremoniously kept from my younger brothers (one of whom has multiple disabilities including Autism and was essentially raised by me). Depression was real to the point it hurt to move and getting off the couch was next to impossible. To be honest, I don’t know one particular thing that brought me out of that well of despair, but having my friends (including Gabriana) and chosen family surrounding me made the pain just that much easier to bear. The pain, hurt, shame, anger, emptiness, and utter sadness continues with me today. As my journey of healing progresses (lots and lots of therapy) I continue to numb with food at times, but I have discovered more of myself and my voice. Being vulnerable and allowing others to know of my past and the difficulties I continue to face only makes me stronger.
4. Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.? Saturday mornings you can find me with my husband and dog having breakfast of Challah and coffee talking and relaxing.
5. What makes you smile the most? My smile comes from gratitude for the blessings in my life and of my loved ones, my dog, my job, but most importantly the opportunities I never thought I would have and could never imagine.
Bonus: What advice would you give your younger self? So much to say to my younger self, but I doubt she would listen or believe me… First, it is ok to feel everything. You are unstoppable. And it will get better.
Today’s #OneGoodThing is sharing this extraordinary woman, Alyssa Cohen, with all of you! We are stronger together, so let’s shine a light on our extraordinary sisters! If you’d like to participate or nominate a woman to participate, please send me a note or leave a comment! What was your #OneGoodThing today? Please share in the comments! Kindness is Everything.
1 year ago today: Lemon Swiss buttercream
2 years ago today: Warm beds all night long
3 years ago today: A fun day in Bodega
5 years ago today: Countdown to Ellen