Trained in classical ballet from the time she was 4 years old, Christina’s story begins as a runaway bride in her native Denmark. While she knew that particular marriage wasn’t for her, Christina did have a passion for travel and literally followed the sun from piazza to piazza after boarding a Kenya Airlines plane to Rome with only the clothes on her back. Her luggage was mistakenly sent on to Nairobi but the unpredictable adventure didn’t stop her from creating a new chapter in her life.
Years earlier, Christina studied at Boston Conservatory receiving a full scholarship from the Danish government. Working her way through college as an au pair, she also modeled and choreographed runway fashion shows putting her dance expertise to good use while earning extra money to pay for her living expenses in the states.
On what would have been her honeymoon journey, Christina met another man who would someday become her husband. Still tender from the un-wedding experience in Denmark, Christina was dubious when her new friend sent her a ticket to visit him in New York. She decided to take him up on his offer and also applied to New York University where she began an undergraduate degree in Art History and French – again funded by the Danish government. They gave her a full scholarship but reviewed her candidacy each semester putting the pressure on Christina to over achieve.
The boyfriend proposed and became Christina’s husband and soon after came daughter, Josephina. The infant accompanied Christina to class and the Fine Arts Library at NYU. Christina remembers hiding her young daughter underneath her sweatshirt so as not to disturb the other students and cause unwanted attention to her little bundle of joy.
The young family of three went to France for a stint because Christina’s husband had a fellowship in Paris. Christina continued her studies (now in French!) and put the baby in a Danish Church daycare while she was in class.
While living and studying in France was exciting and challenging, it was great for Christina and her family to return to New York where she began working at Christie’s Auction House and the Guggenheim Museum. Sadly, she earned less than the babysitter so the jobs were not economically feasible or fulfilling for a long term career opportunity.
When in doubt – go back to school and so Christina did earning a Master’s degree, this time in Education and French. She taught French at the famed LaGuardia High School in Manhattan and gave birth to her second daughter, Sophia. With two kids, Christina later taught in an after-school program in her home which worked out well as she raised her children.
Fighting for Your Life
While Christina’s life is anything but predictable, she never expected to be rushed to the ER several years later from what she thought was routine indigestion. Her doctor initially prescribed Maalox for the pain and nausea but the ER visit diagnosed an abdominal aortic aneurysm – a balloon like bulge formed in the main artery coming out of her heart.
Doctors replaced the weakened section of her aorta with an artificial aortic graft and she spent over a week in recovery and is lucky to be alive. This statuesque dancer now sports an 8 inch scar down her abdomen but has recovered so fully that she runs half marathons for charity events.
The brush with death gave Christina something to self-reflect about and she started to pursue her own analysis – seeing a therapist 5 times a week. The journey to bring her life back to normalcy inspired her to pursue the study of psychoanalysis.
Finding Your Passion
Embracing this new found intellectual passion for helping others, Christina full immersed herself in her studies. Working at the Center for Modern Analytic Studies she found the work wonderfully stimulating and became comfortable with the unconscious. Christina describes her work like that of an investigator figuring out the why part of a person’s conflict.
Christina pursued an internship studying schizophrenia and was eager to help others find solutions while she also learned to accept her own limitations. She enhanced her knowledge further within her field by pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work at New York University. She participated in a pilot program with the American Cancer Society working with cancer patients experiencing multi-layered problems that included drug use and poverty in addition to battling with their cancer diseases.
Far from her native Denmark, Christina talks about how being a foreigner has empowered her to build trust and rapport with her patients. That level of openness and respect is something you must earn with each new patient. Christina works with individuals suffering from many realities including anxiety, depression and bi-polar disorder so her work is challenging to say the least.
Brevity of Life
Surviving her near fatal aneurysm has given Christina a new lease on life – even many years after her surgery. She is clear that nothing will get her down and she has learned by working with others in need that she too has to accept her own limitations.
Now, a licensed Master Social Worker in the state of New York, Christina has her own practice at 23 West 10th Street in Manhattan. She practices interpersonal psychotherapy focused on problem solving in the here and now by incorporating cognitive, or thought changing therapy. Christina works with her patients to help change their thoughts about their circumstances to enable them to move forward fruitfully with a new and changed perspective.
A member of National Association of Social Work (NASW) and The Association of Oncology Social Work, Christina enjoys going to conferences to meet with other colleagues in the field and to learn how to develop her private practice. She enjoys the freedom and flexibility of setting her own hours and being available for her youngest daughter when she gets home from school.
Right now she is happy to develop new clients with happy referrals. Starting out as an entrepreneur is slow but sure. Most of her revenue goes towards renting her office space but she knows that financial solvency will come in time. Christina is patient and ready to take it one step at a time, knowing that she will build her practice and earn her reputation as a sought after Psychotherapist.
Christina now lives alone with her 12 year old daughter and 5 dogs. Her 20 year old comes home from college at NYU when she’s hungry. Continuing the legacy of going to NYU, she will most likely experience some of the same professors Christina had when she was a student there.
This former dancer, model, choreographer, Art Historian, French teacher turned Master Social Worker, and now Psychoanalyst knows that every moment is precious and life is worth living one breath at a time.
Christina’s Action Steps:
- Be patient – take one step at a time.
- Sleep on every decision for a couple of days – never make an impulsive decision.
- Be careful what you wish for – it just may happen.
- Build a good professional reputation because the world is large but the network is small.
- Take one breath at a time.
“We cannot change our history, but we can manage it better.” Christina Winholt Racuuia
23 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10011