Challenges

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December 31, 2017

It’s New Year’s Eve. Don’t worry, this won’t be a post about resolutions. I don’t do those.

I have some time to kill while my illicit cinnamon rolls bake. No, I’m not supposed to eat them. But it’s a holiday, so screw it. I’ll eat what I want. No comments from the Peanut Gallery, thankyouverymuch.

Football is on, Randy and the pets are relaxing around me, and I’m relatively at peace. I would be happier if my laptop wasn’t so old and slow, but I can’t afford a new one yet so I’ll have to put up with it.

Oh good. Scout found more paper to shred. What would my living room be without a little confetti? After all, it is New Year’s Eve day.

So, what to write about today?

I’m glad I have tomorrow off, although it makes my schedule tight for the rest of the week at work. I love my job, I really do. But working with so many depressed and anxious people, many of whom are facing their traumas head on for the first time, is exhausting. Like all of us, they want change to magically happen. Just go to rehab, twiddle your thumbs and leave 21-30 days later… cured.

The problem is that’s a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. If you want to change, you’re going to have to work at it.

Some people embrace the work. It’s a distraction at first, and then as the benefits of doing the work are felt, that becomes motivating. But some people don’t really want to be there, or think that if they can change externals to their satisfaction it will resolve all of their internal pain and dissatisfaction, and all will be well. These are the times when I have to get tough and unleash Mean Connie, who isn’t really mean at all but just challenging clients to really look at themselves.

I have a number of these more challenging clients right now, so the two new clients assigned to me this past week were very welcome. Two men who want to get better and have a positive attitude about what they’re doing. They’re such a relief! I’m looking forward to working with them during their time with us. A little balance in my caseload is a welcome change.

We’re about to roll out new programming this week, with groups all afternoon, eliminating much of their free time before dinner. Some clients will like this, others will complain. It’s going to be a challenge helping them adjust. I also have to adjust as I will now have to run a Women’s Relapse Prevention Group every day. It will be the same women every day, so I can’t even do the same activity all week with different people.

No. I have to come up with something new every day.

Ugh.

But it’s an opportunity to work more intensely with some clients, not all of whom are mine, and help them in a more structured way than the current once-a-week RPG I run now. Suggestions for activities are welcome.

Okay, I see cinnamon rolls coming my way so it’s time to sign off and indulge.

Mmmmm…

 

Like Beating A Head Against A Wall

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December 19, 2017

Providing a family session to a couple when one of them has been active in their addiction and mental illness is challenging.

I have to watch my counter-transference, especially when I know that if I were in this woman’s shoes, I would have kicked this guy to the curb so hard and fast his head would still be spinning. BUT….

The man is my client, not the wife. I’m there for him, not her. And while as a woman I can certainly understand wanting to get a little of your own back and punishing, at some point enough needs to be enough. Either follow through on the threat of a divorce, or start working on saving the marriage. Beating up on someone over and over for past mistakes which can’t be changed helps nobody; this was the third session of this behavior. Apologies have been made repeatedly, and actions taken to prove sincerity and commitment to recovery, change, and the relationship. Everything that could be done is being done by this man, and the rest is going to take time. If you truly think it’s over and you can’t trust again, then say goodbye and move on for everyone’s sake. There are children involved. It’s time to heal and move forward, either together or apart.

But you can’t really tell the spouse of a client to shit or get off the pot.

Not in so many words at any rate.

Instead, I suggested that the guest start creating and maintaining healthy boundaries for his continued recovery efforts. Miracle of miracles he has decided that he no longer deserves to be treated like a punching bag, and is on board with boundary-setting and enforcing, for all of their sakes.

Hallelujah.

 

If I Could

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December 17, 2017

I wish I could make people’s lives easier.

I know so many people who are suffering in one way or another. So many animals in need of loving homes or an environment which supports their life. I suspect that if Randy and I won the lottery, most of it would then be donated.

I realize that people have to find their own way in life, and that struggles teach us valuable lessons and help us grow. Still, I wish I could do more. I wish I could wave my magic wand and cure diseases like cancer and addiction, that I could ease the grief of loss, that I could build up when someone or something has been torn down.

All I can do is keep plodding along, making contributions where I can.

Wishing I could do more.

Confession

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December 17, 2017

Sometimes, usually late at night like this, I feel like I don’t have much longer, that my days are almost up. Like I need to make them count. My work allows me to feel like I’m making a contribution, a difference in people’s lives. Sometimes I look at someone and wonder, “Are you the reason I’m still here? And if I help you, does that mean my time is up?”

Which I know is nonsense, of course.

And there are times, usually after I’ve read the latest headline or watched the news, when I wonder if my numbered days are such a bad thing.

But my goal is to love, however imperfectly, and for however long I have.

To love my fellow travelers.

To love life.

To love you.

To love me.

To make the most of the time I have left which, to be honest, will probably be decades as long as the world doesn’t end in the meantime.

Don’t mind me. It’s only a dose of late night maudlin, and a determination to be grateful for every day I’m given with the people I love.

Aravis Anew

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December 16, 2017

It has been almost 3 years since my last entry. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from my Master’s program, went to work in a methadone clinic for about two and a half years until I earned my LPC, and am now working at a well-known and -loved rehab as a clinician.  It wasn’t what I had envisioned for my professional life, as my last post will demonstrate, but it is rewarding and satisfying.

Oh, and I almost died last year of a heart attack.

It seems that the LAD (a.k.a. “Widowmaker”), the artery which feeds the entire left side of the heart, was 90% blocked. It was stented, I completed cardiac rehab and was forced to take 5 weeks off from work, but then I was declared better. Lifestyle changes were ordered and, for the most part, ignored. I had another cardiac catheterization that August, but it was clear. This past June I had another cardiac episode, was cathed again, and they found that it was 70-75% blocked again, this time by scar tissue. My stent was stented, and I had to go back to cardiac rehab. This time I quit my very stressful and increasingly ugly job at the methadone clinic, a position my doctors disapproved of due to the stress and hours, and started the job I have now. Better pay, better hours, more doing the work I want to do rather than “check-ins” that didn’t challenge me or really help my former clients.

My diet continues to be a struggle. My cardiologist doesn’t want me eating any carbs or fat. What’s the point in living, then?? And I suck at exercising. I used to run 6 miles a day, and now my knees hurt when I stand. I need to push myself more. Since Thanksgiving I have improved my diet, but not the exercise. It helps that my office is separate from the main building, so I have to walk across campus to attend meetings or make large copies of the worksheets I like to assign my clients. My office is uphill from the main office, so I get a little exercise every day. That’s good, right?

Anyway, I’ve felt like writing again and the best way to do that is to just write, right? So here I am once more.

Hello again.

Life Today

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March 1, 2015

Did I mention I’m tired all the time?  I’ve thought about writing several times this past week, but just felt too exhausted to drum up the energy.

Part of it is, I think, the amount of trauma work I do.  Almost every one of my clients has some degree of trauma in their history, and a couple have such severe trauma that even I, with my history, marvel at their ability to survive as well as they did.  Which, let’s face it, wasn’t very well considering their current legal troubles.  Drugs and alcohol play a role either directly or indirectly in almost every story I hear.  Talk about keeping it green!  I think that even if I hadn’t been sober for 18 years (as of this past Monday), I might well quit drinking after seeing and hearing all the pain it has caused in the lives of others.  Then there was the the poor man whose fiancee was abducted and gang raped by 3 men when she stopped at a convenience store on her way to visit him last weekend.  Even as he was wracked by guilt over this, she broke up with him because she felt too shamed and dirty by what happened to her.  He’s shattered.  For her.  For him.  It pours off of him.

After all of that, 2 days off just don’t feel like enough time.  Practicing self-care has become an imperative.  But I have books I need to read on my own time in order to better help my clients- interventions and techniques that might enable me to help them move forward; so many are stuck.  I feel like I have too much to do and not enough time to do it all.  In a stroke of blessed serendipity, my Internship II professor chose the same text we used in Internship I, so I don’t have to do the readings for that class.  And the text for my other class is a fascinating and easy read, so that helps.  But on weekends when I should be turning off Aravis the Therapist, I’m focusing on that role even more.

Then there are my concerns over my future post-graduation.  I was initially told that the DOC hires licensure candidates and gives us 3 years to get our license.  But, as it turns out, that only applies to CSWs (Clinical Social Workers), not LPCs (Licensed Professional Counselors), so I can’t get hired when I graduate after all.  I have to spend the next 3 years somewhere else until I’m licensed before I can apply to work in a prison.  It seems they only started hiring LPCs over the past few years, and nobody in the union (it’s a union job) has ever advocated for the same rights for LPCs that are offered to CSWs.  So I’m screwed.  I have email notifications set for LPC job openings around the state to see what’s available, and the answer is: not much.  So I’m worried about finding a job.  I have massive student loan debt looming over me, and need to start acquiring my clinical hours so I can become licensed as quickly as possible.  I’m sure I’ll find something and land on my feet, but I’ve never been fond of uncertainty, and that’s what I’m left with right now.

On the bright side… dogs.  They drive me nuts but make me smile, and even laugh.  If nothing else, they distract me when I’m down, like all good dogs will.

chauncey

Katie

Allow Me To (Re)Introduce Myself

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February 22, 2015

It’s been too damn long, and you might not remember me.  Then again, I’ve changed a bit:

  • I’m on my final semester in grad school.  I’ve almost achieved my MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • I’m interning at a minimum security men’s prison.  Believe it or not, it was a dream of mine.  I’m loving it.
  • I have two dogs now in addition to our cats, Patches and Wheezy.  They’re Chauncey (a 6 yr. old Australian Shepherd) and Katie (a 10 yr. old shepherd mix).  You’re sure to hear a lot about them.  They try to dominate my life.  They’re pretty successful at that, too.
  • I don’t get to read for pleasure nearly as much as I used to do.  I’ve missed that, and am hoping that someday that might change.  But I’m enjoying some of the books I have to read for school and professional development.  That helps.
  • I’ve gone from complete couch potato to being able to run 6 miles, thanks to C25K and 10K.  I wanted to try for a half marathon, but my knees had other ideas.  I enjoy running, other than that.
  • I’m tired all the time, but it’s usually a good tired.
  • I’ve managed to complete some home improvement projects, most notably my living room, although that still needs a couple of decorative touches.  I have plans for the rest.

I think that’s enough to get on with.  I’m always on Facebook and rarely on Twitter these days.  I’ve recently added Instagram.  These things have been more convenient than blogging.  I came so very close to letting my domain name and website go this time around, as I’ve considered in the past.  In fact, it came down to the final days when, at the last moment, I decided to renew.  I’ve had versions of this blog since 2001, and I just couldn’t let go.  Lately I’ve also felt some stirrings of the old desire to write more deeply than FB or the other venues allow.  Besides, I don’t feel like I can share some things in other venues the way I can here, due to some of my followers.

So here I am again.  For those of you who still follow: thank-you.

 

Enjoying Some Freedom

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May 3, 2014

After having to make some adjustments, the Latuda is working extremely well.  My mother says it’s like having me back; I’ve been withdrawn for so long.  Now my adventurous spirit is returning, and I’m far more outgoing.  In fact, I’m sitting here bored out of my mind with the day yawning endlessly ahead of me.  How to fill it?  Because just sitting around doing nothing isn’t as appealing as it used to be.

Next Saturday will be a different story.  I’m going canopy zip lining with a friend from school.  Located further up in the Berkshires, there’s something like 9 zip lines, 3 rappels, and a couple of suspension bridges over the course of a 3 hour canopy tour.  Not to be confused with a certain infamous 3 hour tour that landed Gilligan and his companions on a (really not quite so) deserted island.  I can’t wait!  I’m working my way up to perhaps trying hand gliding or sky diving.  Zip lines first, though!  It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time.

Okay, I’m off to find something to do today other than ramble at you.  Actually, I’m on vacation from school for a couple of weeks, so perhaps I should try to find lots of things to do.  Have a splendiferous day!

Getting – And Staying – On Track

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March 9, 2014

I saw my APRN and am working through things.  I was on a low dose of Latuda, and it simply may not have been therapeutic levels for me.  We’ve increased the dosage, and two days later it seems to be helping.  I’m also taking it with dinner instead of my bedtime snack.  It’s supposed to be taken with food in order to be better absorbed by the body.  I may not have been eating enough with the medication for it to be properly absorbed.  Here’s hoping the combination of increased dosage and food intake will lead to resolution!  I’m still feeling a bit scattered, but am better able to focus.  I’m also not acting as impulsively, and am stopping myself from buying just to buy.  I’ve still purchased a few things, but they’re school-related and serve a purpose; I was planning these purchases for some time.

I’m not depressed and I’m not hypo-manic (I don’t think), so that’s a good start.

In other news, I have an interview for a practicum position!  It’s not with the prisons.  They are really dragging their feet, and the deadline is fast approaching.  If I don’t have a placement by the time classes start, I would have to drop the class, switch to part-time status, and wait until Fall to take Practicum.  I’d lose a semester.  Don’t want that!  This interview is at the community college I used to attend prior to transferring to Saint Joe’s to complete my undergrad.  My therapist told me that she has a colleague who works at a local community college just over the border in MA.  That therapist sees all sorts of people, including many veterans with PTSD, or people who went to prison, who are trying to rebuild their lives.  It then occurred to me that people who go to community colleges tend to be different than those attending regular 4-year liberal arts schools.  Many are starting over in some way after major life changes or crises, or are in the midst of those events.  I also enjoy helping people discover what they want to be when they grow up, and then figuring out how to get there.  I’ll be able to do that working at the community college counseling center.  A position there isn’t certain, but my contact graduated from my same program at Saint Joe’s in ’06 and is really excited to meet with me, so it’s promising!

Here is the current plan: if nothing changes between now and Wednesday when we meet, I’ll accept a practicum placement there if offered.  I can always continue to try to get an internship in one of the prisons, but since Internship I isn’t until the Fall semester, that buys me more time to work with them.  This way I have an interesting placement and can stay on schedule and on track to graduate next year.

That is important!

Hanging In There

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February 26, 2014

I have been up, down, and all around since the last time I wrote.   At the moment I’m falling on the depressed end.  My therapist has been sharing space with another one.  The other lady, Laura, has a sweet little dog named Soleil.  Soleil has been a highlight of my visits.  She doesn’t come into my sessions with me, but greets me before and after.  I love that little cutie!  But my therapist needs to move offices, and I won’t be seeing Soleil anymore; today was the last day.  I felt a little teary as she licked my cheek for the last time.  Doesn’t that just suck?

Speaking of sucking, school hasn’t been so great.  I’m doing well academically, don’t get me wrong.  But I’m bored most of the time, and am clashing with one of my professors.  We got into it last Thursday, and I’ve been seething on and off all week.  I’m going to try to treat tomorrow’s class as a new day, a fresh start.  I’ll chalk last week up to a bad day; hopefully that’s all it was.  Otherwise Jesse and I will need to talk.  I felt dismissed and ignored.  To top it off, two older classmates with whom I only just get along rolled their eyes and started writing notes about me at the end of the class while I was discussing a point I disagreed with.  I know they did this because they sit right next to me; I could hardly miss it.

To say I was pissed off by the end of the class is an understatement.  I came home and indulged in some retail therapy.  That night I bought a new Kindle Fire HD.  Since then I’ve also bought a new iPod Nano, and Google Chromecast for the TV.  No, wait, that’s not true.  I was going to buy those, but when Randy realized it he bought them for me instead, so technically I didn’t buy them.  Still qualifies as retail therapy.

The problem is that shopping is a sign of hypo-mania, one end of the bipolar spectrum.  Now I’m depressed.  I’m realizing that being on Latuda is like not being on anything, except that the symptoms are blunted.  In other words, neither end of the spectrum is resolved, as is the case with most medications.  Latuda targets both ends, and so wipes out neither.  I’m cycling through the spectrum, but the symptoms aren’t as severe as they would be if I weren’t on anything.  Still, I feel a loss of control that I used to have.  I want to see if I can train myself to regain control because, with the exception of acting out on symptoms, I’m a lot happier and more social than I’ve been in years.  But if I can’t control my impulsive behavior, I’m going to need to change back to Lamictal, I think.  I’m meeting with my APRN next week, and hopefully she and I can arrive at some solutions.

In the meantime, as you were I guess.

P.S.  There is good news: I celebrated 17 years sober on Sunday.  There are positive things going on too, see? 🙂