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"Meditative, Grateful Belonging" (Amanda Retzer)

Updated: Mar 18

Throughout this series, we talk a lot about the intersectionality of our identities. What is intersectionality? Sue Cardenas-Soto of the Trevor Project writes that intersectionality may be defined as "the way in which individuals are empowered and oppressed by the intricate ways in which parts of their identities connect."

Amanda Retzer (she/her), who holds a BAS in Health and Physical Education/Fitness, joins the conversation today. Amanda is a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Plainfield North High School and a former NAMI KDK Intern. Amanda is pursuing a Master of Social Work in the Substance Use/Addictions concentration and will soon start an internship at the Gateway Foundation. Spiritual and deeply committed to the greater good, Amanda was raised nominally Lutheran. Amanda brings her lived experience with anxiety and panic attacks as well as passionate mental health advocacy in the community, to our conversation.

While Amanda enjoys teaching, she finds herself with less of an ability to advocate than she would like, as she refers many students to social workers. In social work, she seeks advocacy to take a more important place in her professional life.

Her mother raised her to call herself Lutheran, but she did not attend church services or confirmation. Amanda says she never "got into, found, or understood religion." So, Amanda self-describes as spiritual and not religious. This spirituality, for Amanda, includes practicing gratitude and doing her best to help people feel they "have a sense of belonging" wherever they are. She is spiritual in another sense in her liking and use of mindfulness and yoga practices. Here, she finds meditation as developing not an understanding of religion but an "understanding of the inner me."

In the spiritual practice of meditation, Amanda develops an "understanding of the inner me."

Her journey with the symptoms of a mental health condition began with a frightening panic attack aboard a plane, which she described in a blog post. Amanda says the recent loss of her father and being unable to get medical help for body palpitations she was unknowingly experiencing due to anxiety mid-air contributed to a sense of being helplessly unable to escape and control her symptoms.

In time, Amanda began taking medication for her panic attacks, though she went through periods of taking and not taking the medication. She says this relates to her coming to terms with the need to cope and not focus on "why did this happen to me?" Amanda takes a lot of comfort from a supportive family, including her husband, who is a nurse.