Monthly Archives: July 2012

She just wants attention…

These words haunt me, and I find myself saying them in relation to the girls I work with…  One girl had a crisis and it triggered a few of the other girls.  At first I agreed with the staff that said she was doing it for the attention, but I hesitate to keep agreeing. Having been in a congregate care situation myself, I know that even the littlest thing that hits home can spark a tidal wave of emotions that wash over and bring to the surface so much other shit.  So no, I don’t agree anymore that she cried because she wanted attention.  I was not the one to talk to her, so I do not yet know what it was about, but it was not about attention.  Some of the other girls pestering staff, yes, that was for attention. But not the girl that cried.  Something stirred in her. They are not here just for shits and giggles. They are here because they are forced to be; because something has gone horribly awry in their lives and it is no longer safe to be at home with their families.

Why is it that we jump to the conclusion that everything is done for attention? Is it so unfathomable to think that something can just be that wrong?  How is it still acceptable to think, by any professional, that our drastic actions are always to get someone to notice.  We are supposed to work from a trauma-informed foundation – one that ascribes all behaviors to a very real contributing factor… How is it then that we can get away with saying the girls are negative attention seeking when they act out, and attribute it only to that. Is it not more in line with our theories that these actions are in response to a stimuli or trigger?  Triggers are just that: they bring up a reaction that is primal. It’s for survival, especially with trauma survivors.  Whether we think them manipulative or not, they are trying to get what they need. We are trying to get what we need.  We act on instinct to alleviate some immeasurable hurt.  I know why she ran. I know the anxiety she faces; the actions she is forced to take. I can’t say I would do it much differently in terms of doing something I know will ultimately make things worse, but they alleviate shit for the moment. In that instant, that is all that matters.  While I know for myself, in this state of rational thought, I could talk myself out of something stupid. But what if I were suddenly faced with what I saw as a terrible future? I can’t guarantee I would make a rational choice. Yes, I am miles from last year, but if the same triggers came up, with the same intensity and desperation, I cannot be 100% sure I could handle it with more poise then last year…

So again I ask: why do we ascribe it to attention-seeing… Or more accurately, why do we make it such a crime?  What is wrong with looking for attention, for care, when we are in distress?  The methods may be unhealthy, but we are simply trying to ensure survival… Or an escape from that to which we can’t accurately give voice…  It brings me back to thinking about that day last week when I so desperately felt the need to share my trauma in vivid detail… In reality, no words could describe what it was that I went through. I could tell you the events. I could put vague words to the emotions, but nothing could truly describe what it was like… And on many levels I hope no one would ever know that for themselves… But the truth is that it happens to more than just me. It happens. Other things happen. Others know the intense weight of it.  But the one thing we all share is the knowledge that words and actions are not enough to fully convey the experience. Pictures and sound cannot fully evoke the level of violation, terror, hopelessness… I can’t even find the right words to describe everything that is impacted.  Thought patterns change. Reactions change. Your brain changes.  I may not remember every detail in my conscious mind, but it’s there. It’s buried deep down so that I can function on a daily level. I can wake up in the morning and not implode or explode from it.

Another thing I think all trauma survivors have is an ability to dissociate in some way. Be it getting lost in what we do every day, or actual dissociation, we all must leave parts (if not all) of it behind. During the dark times, it’s closer to the surface, but I can’t imagine anyone knowing the full impact of the hurt (whatever it may be) and not dying, literally.  I feel that to know the full impact at all times would lead to destruction.  I think moving on has an element of disconnect. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but a needed thing.  To be able to leave a hurt behind, we have to step back and not sit in whatever it brings up; we have to break from it and move away from it.  Other professionals will not accept it as dissociation, because that is seen as a negative, but that is what it is.  We disconnect from the full impact and start to heal the wound.  We pull out that which caused the hole and encourage ourselves to step away to allow healing to happen.  This is a necessity. Call it what you will, but we all do it…  When we stop doing it, we start to have problems.  When we unlock that closet, we take the risk of being bowled over by the messes we stuffed in there… Packing it away requires distance. Distance requires a disconnect, a dis-association with it. If we don’t dis-associate with it, we are mired in it.  My dissociation is different then yours or your neighbors, but it all accomplishes the same thing.  Ok, so maybe mine is not packed away as effectively as the next person’s, but it’s away.  I can breathe in the mornings. I can sleep at night.  If it comes crashing back again, I will deal with it again. But for now, my closet door is closed (remind me to keep the cat away from the door so she doesn’t accidentally open it on me). I have dis-associated from it to be able to live my life. I deal with it from a safe distance and with those who can help me stuff it back away again.


I’ve been struggling with coming up with something inspirational and deep to write.  I’m at a loss.  I’ve been distracted lately.  I play with my animals in hopes of keeping the crankiness at bay, but it doesn’t work.  I’ve been a bitch lately.  It comes with the territory of being a woman – hormonal roller coaster every month; gotta love it.  I thought walking the dogs would help, but I just caught myself being very short and rough with them.  That is not “me” (at least not the picture I have of myself in my head).  I try not to let my frustrations out on anyone, but I trip up and… well, it makes me angry at myself,  once I get over being angry at whomever or whatever I snap on that is.  I feel like shit and I want to make up for it, but that throws me into feeling like I’m just as bad as all the abusers out there.  Then I’m reminded of my training: everyone’s actions are driven by a past.  Everyone has a history that influences them.  Everyone has a reason for their actions, no matter how awful the action, or the reason…  I’ve been trained to look for the underlying motivation/trigger for the action… It helps me understand the world a little better.  It helps me find compassion for others, but I still have trouble seeing myself in a less-harsh manner.  We are our worst critics and greatest enemies.  But knowing that and realizing that help to motivate for change.  So I’m working to keep that little voice toned down.  It is not easy, but I’m trying…

More balanced

The weekend with the girls passed without incident. It had somewhat renewed my confidence in myself. I still think I should switch fields (or at least focus) as the anxiety can be intense and debilitating, which ultimately hurts not only myself, but also everyone I work with.

It’s funny how little things that used to not phase me can suddenly bring my confidence to a grinding halt… I think it’s time for a change in my life; I just have to suck it up and take the plunge… Doors don’t open on their own, you have to turn the handle (or at least unlock the door if it’s got a motion sensor)…

Past Tense

I used to be good at what I do. My instincts were dead on a lot of the time. I used to know what I was talking about. I used to go with my gut.

These days, I second guess myself and find myself shying away. I don’t want to be the one they look to for direction (not to mention they don’t pay me for that). I don’t want to make all my stupid mistakes and see the consequences.  I should have called on-call last night like my gut told me to, but then I worried about bothering her for something stupid. Turns out it would have saved a lot of headache today. 
The past comes back to me a lot these days. It freezes me and makes me hide away.  I think I just need to decide once and for all that this is no longer the right line of work for me. I need to find something else and walk away from this… I need a new career path. I once was good at this, but that was then, and this is now… I’m no longer good at this.

Triggers that aren’t… Or shouldn’t be.

Work got a little tense tonight. One of the girls got upset and slammed several doors very hard. I froze. I know I should have confronted her, but my heart leapt 20 miles into the sky and imploded from the fear triggered by the sudden outburst of anger.  There were 2 other staff on, so I let them handle it and I sat with the other girls in the living room… I shouldn’t be reacting this way. I’m paid to handle things like this… but no one told the scared little kid in me that this was the deal. He froze and hid away (She? He? My inner child is sometimes genderless)… I’m still shaking inside, even though I’m out of work and away from the situation, separated from it by hours… But it struck something in me that just won’t give up.  That gut reaction was triggered, and I’m left shaking as if it had been my dad doing the same thing (he had, on many occasions, done the same thing).  I wish I could shake the feeling. Maybe sleep will help.  Sometimes the past comes up fresh and raw when you least expect it.  It can suck.

Striking a balance and sticking to putting yourself first.

These last few years, I have learned the hard way that I need to keep my work and play balanced.  I’ve found I have a tendency to over-work myself. It probably comes from that survival skill of trying to please everyone all the time. The truth is, just like that sarcastic office sign, you can’t please everyone every time… I have to keep reminding myself of this.  That meme that’s been going around the internet has be my mantra of late: when you say yes to someone else, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.  I’m constantly reciting that in my head. I have to; it goes so much against everything I did as a kid (and young adult) to survive the chaos… Its like re-learning to walk… I recite the words over and over again to drown out the gut reaction to help out.  I’m not saying it always works, but I keep reminding myself of it.  Listening to the thought is the harder part. While I can do well with considering myself first on most days, there are some days that it just feels selfish and wrong. Earlier today I committed to working at another job 4 days next month. At least I will go right from one job to the next. I managed to get that far: not taking away one of my weekend days every week in August. This weekend I am faced with the prospect of having to potentially come in for 3 extra shifts because we are understaffed and I am the one on-call for the week. While I toy with the idea of offering to switch with a first shift staff and come in for 2 doubles on friday and saturday, I review my mantra in my head. My responsibility as an on-call staff is to help cover the shifts that are out of ratio… Fortunately, they are all my regular shifts, so I am already on duty at the time. Potentially, they have to call in a temp agency to fill the holes, or I swap with someone on another shift, and I do doubles… Luckily my boss is someone I know for many years, and she has my back to a degree: she doesn’t want to burn me out and lose me. She knows what happened when I crashed, and she was a supportive friend through that time and beyond. I know though, that she still has a responsibility to make sure the house can operate safely… That makes me want to offer my help up, bending over backwards because I care about her and respect her… At times more then I do myself… I just have to keep remembering and believing that I do come first sometimes…

remembering to play

Today was the start of my weekend. I enjoyed the day. I kept it light. It’s important to keep days light when there’s so much shit in the world. The last 2 days were spent on a roller coaster of emotion ignited by the craziness in Colorado. I don’t normally cry for things not directly related to me, but this struck a chord. I cried for the people who died, and their friends and family… then I started thinking about the shooter. I began wondering what had happened to him in his life to make this seem like a reasonable and viable option? Was he abused? Did he get traumatized in some way? Or did he just snap? What led up to this? Do we all have this dormant deadly streak in us? Is it something that we can escape? Or is it something that was different in him? It brought me back to the trauma question… if it is trauma, does that mean i might snap at some point?

All these questions made me a bit unsettled. I had to remind myself to play. So today was it. I woke up late and lounged around. There were things to be done around the house, but i ignored them… I spent a wonderful day being blissfully ignorant of things that needed to happen.  We went to dinner for sushi.  And now I’m indulging in tv.  Ignorance may be bliss, but play is way better.