Salty Woman: Megan Rafuse
Co-Founder and Clinical Director of the Shift Collab, Megan Rafuse aims to normalize mental wellness and mental health by making therapy not only more accessible for people, but also actionable to translate to our day-to-day lives.
Do you ever get apprehensive about meeting someone who says they studied psychology or is a therapist, thinking ”oh no, they’re going to psycho-analyze me over whatever I say or do”? That thought immediately vanished when I met Megan Rafuse.
It’s funny because Megan told me one of her professors actually told her she’d never be a therapist because she “upspeaks too much,” whatever that even means. Sure, she’s warm, bubbly, fiery, and young, which are none of the things I’d say about my therapist. But one thing is for sure, she knows how to listen and she knows how to get you to see what‘s going on in your own language so that you can then apply your learnings in a way that seems fit to your lifestyle.
“A piece I love about my work is helping people realize that life is hard sometimes and emotions are big, but they’re not always huge and consistent. And we actually have power over them.”
As a small town East Coast girl born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, her life took a dramatic change toward the end of her time in high school when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and quickly passed away.
“I felt like I had to start running away from that story I felt like would define me. I didn’t want to be that girl whose mom was sick. I didn’t want people to judge me and feel like they had to take care of me and think I was weak when I cried.”
Megan told me from then on she tried to ”reinvent“ herself in university and sure enough, encountered more unfortunate events in her life that she didn’t want people to define her as. When I asked her where this fear of being defined as “that girl who is going through (insert tragic event)” came from, she told me she recently discovered the fear is of not being liked which sprung from being bullied by mean girls as a kid.
One thing Megan wants to see is people to be more comfortable acknowledging pain. Everyone experiences it and it should be normalized. She says right now we are so disconnected that we feel so alone and we are starving for connection. And it starts with open conversation and the freedom to express our feelings about hard things.
“When someone dies, they don’t just fall off the face of the earth. We can still talk about our loved ones that have past. That's how grief works. It stays with you,” explains Megan. “You don’t have to get over it, you just have to live with it and carry it and figure out what to do with that heavy thing that shows up sometimes.”
On the topic of normalizing things, it was refreshing to hear thar Megan doesn’t try to be perfect, nor does she have any shame about being imperfect. She told me about how she also struggled with entrepreneurship when she started her business and there was a moment where she was looking at receipt paper at Staples. Beside the paper were the Wills and she thought she could write a Will, kill herself, and leave the business for someone else who could do the job better, then she wouldn’t be failing anyone anymore. That thought got her running out of Staples (without the stupid receipt paper) and the next thing she did was call for help.
And since then community has saved her life. From reaching out to family and friends, she built a support system around herself and she embodies that idea in her collaborative work with Shift Collab now. It’s so refreshing first off to hear that you’re not alone in how you feel or what you’re going through, but also there’s no shame (and should never have been any shame) about asking for help. And not just alluding to it hoping someone is going to pull it out of you. But saying it outright.
“It takes courage to say what we really need. And that's on us to say it.“
Talking about mental illness is already hard enough, let alone dealing with it, so it could feel nearly impossible to take the next step and jump through hoops looking for a therapist. As someone who experienced difficulty finding help at a time of need, it’s refreshing to hear that Megan aims to make the process easier and less overwhelming with Shift Collab.
“We want to get rid of that boring stereotype of therapy and say we can own our mental wellness and we can work together to challenge the struggle of mental illness,” says Megan. ”We can’t eradicate mental illness, but what we can do is help people who are living with it cope better and feel supported.”
What I love about Shift Collab is not only are they making therapy more accessible by providing help through various mediums, they’re also shifting what type of help they provide by taking the time to listen to their clients and employing people with diverse skill sets to satisfy this need.
“We will never not walk you through the therapy system. We employee care coordinators who are social workers by background and their job is to help our clients navigate the system.”
I am so excited to have Megan join us for our Salty Woman Series 2: The Beauty of Balance on May 14. Not only will you get to meet her and hang out with four other amazing women in the wellness space, we’ll be putting together a very special workshop on boundaries. Get your tickets now!