“ Your body tells me everything it wants me to know. I care enough to know how to listen.”
Dr. Stephanie J. Rimka
Whenever a consultant or business coach emphasizes the need for me to write my “story” about how I came to do what I do, it usually annoys me. I assume they don’t understand that when people are suffering they don’t need to hear about me. They need me to listen all about THEM. But inevitably people always end up asking about my background, so MAYBE it is helpful to some of you who are deciding if I can help you. If it is not, I will not be offended (or even know!) if you scroll to another section of the website to find what you need.
Over my 24 years in the health field, my clients have given me feedback on what they tell other people I do. They have called me: personal trainer, chiropractic psychologist, neurofeedback therapist, chiropractor, energy worker, pranic healer, functional medicine doctor, kinesiologist, spiritual advisor, brain trainer, and life coach. Almost like my unique and diverse ethnic background which confuses people and makes me very hard to place into one box, I tend to be perceived by people as to whatever they need me to be in that moment for them. I’m good with that. I didn’t feel like the confusion was a problem.
...I tend to be perceived by people as to whatever they need me to be in that moment for them.
I’m fortunate to collaborate with a lot of therapists and psychologists who refer to me. They noticed my unique blend of therapeutic approaches I take in working with my clients before I did. Once, one asked me who in my family struggled with certain issues because this therapist stated, “You must have grown up with it to be able to do what you do so well.” This therapist was referring to the acceptance, patience, and commitment seen in caring for others in my practice. Reflecting upon this question created insight into how my early development created my current clinical style which blends these seemingly unrelated concepts together.
I grew up in Detroit as the youngest of four kids being raised by a single mom. We didn’t have any child support, and we didn’t have a long list of relatives to help us out. My mom is an only child who lost her father as a teenager. Her own mother, my grandmother, had her own long life of confusion and trauma, and she did the best she could. My mother didn’t have her to rely upon for any help. So my mother did it all. You learn a lot about grit, determination, self-reliance, teamwork, hard work, being tough, and even fighting when you come from the midwest, Detroit in particular. Being the youngest and smallest with a single mom without a lot of money to survive despite often working 2-3 jobs, you learn those lessons quickly. And, I am grateful for it. I decided early that I wanted “to be a doctor when I grow up” and gave that answer to any adult who asked. (Well, right after they explained that I could never be a jockey because I was already taller at age 7 than most adult male jockeys. That was devastating, but that’s another story.)
We were not some holistic, granola, natural, hippie family. My mom raised us on basic principles of the “4 Food Groups,” didn’t overload us with sugar, always cooked a hot breakfast, and lined us up for cod liver oil in the morning, but we ate regular food and Flintstone vitamins like everyone else. In fact, I actually ate the worst and had the poorest health of us all growing up. I was the youngest, so most rules didn’t apply to me!
You learn a lot about grit, determination, self-reliance, teamwork, hard work, being tough, and even fighting when you come from the midwest, Detroit in particular.
Trauma is the Silver Lining
In high school, after playing a soccer game in the snow (yes, we do that in Michigan), instead of walking all the way to the gate, I did my usual climb to flip over the 6 foot wire mesh fence. At the top, my back muscles spasmed, and I lost control. Hitting the cold ground hurt. At some point over the next few days, the Tylenol that I was popping like candy wasn’t doing anything. I let my mother take me to the doctor. (I HATED going to any doctor so much that I would lie about how I felt all the time; ironic, I realize.) One B vitamin/muscle relaxer injection and painkiller pill bottle later, we went home to rest. The drugs knocked me out so hard that I slept that night, the entire next day, and that afternoon. The drugs made me feel terrible. I complained about it to my bff Naomi. She said, “Why don’t you go see my brother Keith? He’s a Chiropractor.” I replied, “What’s that?” I have no idea what she actually said, but I told my mom. Since she had seen one before and it helped her, she took me to see him. At 16 years old, I became a Chiropractic patient, and nothing was ever the same again.
Despite the incredible results, I was a pretty crappy patient. I didn’t comply very well, I would come and go depending upon my pain, I didn’t always do my rehab exercises, I used him as a band aid to patch me up after injury. Typical patient and typical teenager. He just kept serving and educating. No judging, only loving. Then, in a college soccer game, I ended up in the ER with a concussion. I don’t remember all the details. But we discovered later that I actually also broke two ribs and my L5 vertebrae while herniating the L5/S1 disc. I spent an entire summer on my back, getting adjusted, doing traction, trying to gain back the feeling in my entire leg, and crying in desperate fear as I often lost all motor control in my leg as well. It was a frightening time to be told I would never play sports again, and if I wasn’t careful during this time, could risk never walking again. And running was done.
Therefore, undergraduate college wasn’t the most fun time in my life. I listened to my doctors and decided team sports was too risky for my ultimate plans in life. I did rehab enough to play co-ed recreational league sports. But, this was still a great loss of joy for me. Add to it, I was plagued with a lot of mysterious illness after that injury. Significant amounts of chronic pain, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and foggy brain. This began a personal journey into figuring out how to heal myself since no one had an answer at the student health clinic. I dove into studying diets, supplements, weight training, and became a personal trainer for dozens of women on campus. It was a time of deep self reflection about my purpose and my true mission. I was deciding if I genuinely wanted to commit to medical school and took a year off to breathe after graduation.
An Aha Moment
I was working with women diagnosed with schizophrenia and had just completed a week of special training at a large Michigan mental hospital. I was angry and frustrated at the cases in front of me when I read the files. I didn’t see anyone getting well. I saw more and more adverse reactions to the medications. I saw all these women institutionalized and then brutalized by staff. I was horrified and wondered if I should invest 4-8 years of medical school to be a part of this system that was already making me so frustrated. So I said to Keith after an adjustment, “Here’s the thing, I know I come in typically because something is hurting now, but I’ve noticed that when I look back at the periods in my life when I am getting adjusted regularly, I can tell a real difference in my mood. I’m just a better person. I’m thinking it can’t just be from a reduction in pain. It feels like something else is going on. Is it connected?” His answer proceeded to BLOW MY MIND. Let me honor him here: Keith was adjusting about 200 people per day. He had to be fast, and the waiting room was full. But he closed the door, pulled out a marker, and he went to town on the dry erase board. His wife Laura, who still runs their office, came in to tell us that he needs to move it along. He was so fired up and inspired, he knew this was THE moment, and he just said, “This is too important, they can wait.” And time stood still as he explained the nervous system and psychology in a way I finally heard and exclaimed, “So they all need to get adjusted?!” In that moment, I decided I didn’t need the status of becoming a “real” doctor. I wanted to adjust those patients in the mental hospital, those fighting to conquer drug addiction, and everyone in prison so when they were released they would be clear in their mind and hearts. I wanted to save lives with a drug-free approach. Six months later, I moved to Atlanta and started chiropractic college. Curing back pain or headaches was the furthest thing on my mind. I cared about how the nervous system controlled mental illness, and that was how I attacked my education.
Yes, I said attack. Because I’m from Detroit, and that’s just what we do. Focused, almost obsessively, studying and training to grasp the complexities of physiology, detoxification, neurotransmitters, how to alter brain chemistry via adjustments, diet, supplementation, lab testing, functional medicine, orthomolecular psychiatry. I never wanted to not know how to help anyone ever again. I was driven, and it was personal. Truth is, too many members of my family are or have been in prison. Many struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction. Mental illness and personality disorders litter my lineage. And I have experienced first hand what this can do to a family. I know how destructive dyslexia can be to a child’s self esteem and ability to succeed in life. I see what biochemical imbalances can do to ravage someone with so much depression they feel unable to do anything but hurt themselves or someone else. And I wanted to learn to stop that suffering somehow.
I wanted to save lives with a drug-free approach. Six months later, I moved to Atlanta and started chiropractic college. Curing back pain or headaches was the furthest thing on my mind. I cared about how the nervous system controlled mental illness, and that was how I attacked my education.
While I was earning my doctorate at Life University, my sister’s son was displaying increasing signs of developmental delays. Her trust in me to help figure out what was going on and to help my nephew Kyle started me on another journey diving deeper into understanding functional medicine related to detoxification, brain injury, and genetics. My nephew is autistic. His many functional medicine physicians and therapists were not only open to my involvement, but many of them specifically helped coach, guide, and train me to understand what they were doing and why. In addition, they wanted him adjusted and to hear my input into diet and supplementation. Because of the profound effect neurofeedback had on my nephew, I decided to learn that as well. It’s a longer story, but that’s ultimately why I ended up as a Board Certified Neurofeedback therapist.
Providence Moves Too
I actively sought out mentors to teach me to listen to Spirit. To connect myself deeper to the divine source of all knowing...
All this time, Spirit had a path in mind for me that sometimes didn’t coincide with my plans. And if you don't listen to Spirit, it just knocks on you even harder. After a few painful lessons of additional serious injuries to my discs causing more temporary paralysis and more traction, multiple autoimmune disease diagnoses, a toxic mold apartment, a broken heart, and severe depression, I actively sought out mentors to teach me to listen to Spirit. To connect myself deeper to the divine source of all knowing, I dove into personal growth courses, spiritual retreats, meditation, mentors, gurus, healers, fasted, prayed, traveled, did mission trips, and eventually ended up working one on one in a private mentorship for three years with a local therapist and empath. She taught me the art of using my unique gifts that I didn’t even know were unique or gifts to listen in a way that I could hear all the information I needed to help someone. I went on a journey to become an instructor for a global organization teaching group courses focused on empowerment and transformation. It was a magical time of my life. I opened my first practice right after graduating in 2000. It was a highly spiritual, Chinese meridian based, energetic healing focused practice strongly centered around artists, broken hearts, and drug addiction. I was almost 100% referred to by therapists. I grew into two locations and taught monthly courses with this organization for awhile. Then, I had the joy of having a son in 2005, so I took a few years off to enjoy my time with him. I opened a new practice with a new focus on more science and more technology including neurofeedback in 2010. I have been enjoying every moment since.
That’s why I ended up studying psychology, functional medicine, neurofeedback, energy medicine, ancient spiritual healing practices, meditation, parenting, and diet/nutrition so much before, during, and after earning my doctorate. And this is why some of my clients say things about me like, “I’m not sure what is exactly working, but she should have been a therapist. I mean, she is really good at that part.” Some of them come in and say, “I don’t want the typical adjustment, I want you to do that thing you do with all the energy, emotional, and chakra stuff. You should do more of that.” Or my favorite, “Are you a psychic?” Um, no. I’m not. Make no mistake, I am a chiropractor. I just love the psyche. My vitalistic mission and my desire to serve have just forced me to keep adding whatever I can find to help.
Your body tells me everything it wants me to know. I care enough to know how to listen.