I think I like having J on Friday nights. She is more spontaneous and will joke with us for most of the hour. She seems more relaxed and less therapist-ish. It has its drawbacks (we don’t necessarily accomplish much on the serious side during sessions, but that’s ok for the moment). We laugh a LOT, and time seems to go by faster. We still cover some important topics, but a lot of the heaviness is left off.
Tonight, after starting really late then laughing our butts off for the first 20 minutes, we continued to joke and be inappropriate randomly throughout session. We accomplished some stuff though. L showed J that she had actually made progress on her resume. J gave us some more resume pointers, then we talked about jobs/volunteer positions L and I would like to apply for. We talked about taking personal risks and about some fears. We discussed goals, and came to the conclusion that L and I will be in this state for maybe another year. She will go for the Office Manager job, and it will either be a means to an end, or it will be our ticket back North. We were able to address the fears associated with trying something so drastically different. J even let us in on some of the other jobs she had done in her previous life (prior to becoming a therapist). Turns out, she had done a job similar to what L is hoping to apply for and thinks L will really enjoy it.
Yesterday, the office manager at the clinic had asked L if she and I would like to volunteer. I guess since we have been clients for at least a year (L for longer) and it was ok with both L’s individual therapist and with J, they offered us the opportunity to volunteer. Both L and I really like the organization, so we filled out the apps before we even went into session. Then during session, J talked about other positions opening up within the company and planted the seed for me to apply. We were able to talk through some of my fears about jumping back into the full-time working world and into mental health. I settled on simply volunteering for the time being while leaving the possibility of a paid position open for later exploration. I have no doubt I could eventually kick ass at the job, I’m just not sure I am at a place to step back into full-time. I’m quite a bit gun-shy about any major commitments when I only have a few weeks of stability under my belt. For the past 3 years or so, I seem to be able to hold it together for 6-8 months, then things tend to go south. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with this organization in case we do end up staying here and I do end up needing a full-time job down the line. And like I said, we both really like the organization and the services they provide. J pointed out that they have not only the outpatient office, but also the youth center and senior centers that need both employees and volunteers. She suggested that we start with the centers and see if we can incorporate our art-party ideas there maybe once a month. It would still be on a volunteer basis, but it would give us a chance to try things out and to build up a portfolio. De had also mentioned something along those lines with offering our services to the state with Kids In Distress and their family support programs. It seems once again, J and De are on the same page without necessarily talking to each other (they have releases but neither has had to make use of them. That’s totally weird for me, as my providers up north have always had open and active communications. I find that is not common practice in this state, nor is helping a client hook up with additional services when needed). I think doing more art stuff with “in need” populations could be fun. As much as I try to break out of the helping professions for any length of time, I always find myself drawn back eventually. I know at this time I do not want an 8-hour work day doing direct care. I know that would be too taxing. I would not mind doing some part-time group work or rec therapy. I miss the work I did as a Recreational Therapy Assistant (couldn’t officially call me a Recreational Therapist since I was not certified). I enjoyed making my residents smile and giving them something different to do during the daily grind. I’m sure I could find something like that here. I’m just not sure how secure I am in committing to an actual job.
I read a quote the other day; “If something happens once, it may never happen again, but if something happens a second time, there will also be a third time” I wish I could look at this in terms of the positive, but the negative associations creep in. I had 2 serious bouts of hospitalizations since 2007. Both consisting of over a year of revolving hospital doors. The second time was worse than the first. I crashed again after our move, but it wasn’t as bad (only 2 hospitalizations total). I find myself holding my breath for the next round of hospitalizations. I don’t want it to occur, but I fear it might. Triggers are rampant here. I don;t always know how to handle them. We had a great time on vacation, but I can feel little things seeping back in. I want to cry for no discernible reason. I’m sad more often than I had been in the past 2 months. I want to drink and smoke because I like the feelings they bring when done in moderation. I want to lose myself in my art and my music. That all often means I start shutting out others. I had told De last week that I felt as if I were running from something. This week the feeling is a bit more desperate. The self-harm urges returned with an earnestness yesterday. I journaled to De that I felt like something had been left unsaid in session, but that it was because I was censoring. My problem is that I don;t quite know what I’m censoring. I’m not in touch with the content, just the emotions of feeling unfinished. It makes me want to shatter myself (funny that the drawing I am working so hard on is entitled “Shattered”). I think things are coming out in my art and my music choices before they reach conscious awareness. I find myself collaging things without a real grasp as to why I am choosing those words or images. It tend to all make sense later (like the drawing). I have something in mind going into the piece but then it changes direction and meaning by the time it’s finished. I think my dissatisfaction with my drawing is a measure of dissatisfaction with its ability to accurately convey what I need it to.
Twice this week I came close to “coming out” as a survivor of sexual assault in a more blatant way. I can speak about the concept with De, however I have not admitted it outright to anyone else in so many words. L knows and mom has a vague idea, but none of my friends or other family have any clue. It had taken me over a decade to admit the impact of DuckBoy to myself, let alone admit to friends that it ever happened. There are still some friends that will never know. It’s not something I necessarily want to shout from the rooftops. I do want to be able to share my experiences though. I want to be able to help or inspire or at least make someone else feel less alone. This blog is helping a lot, but I think there’s something to be said for a more personal connection. Being assaulted is a deeply personal event. It can make you feel alienated and alone. It can make you question the events. Acquaintance rape can find you defending the person (They didn’t mean it, not any of the times. He just can’t control himself. I must want this. It isn’t really sexual, just my imagination. I should be flattered. I should like this… He can’t be that bad because he’s my [boy]friend). It can have you questioning yourself. It can trap you (abuse has a way of doing that, especially if there’s already a history). I don;t want to remain trapped in any of this. I want to break free. I want to know my life will be different and better. I wat to make it better. And I want to help others make theirs better also. So I toy with the idea of “coming out” to those around me. I think they would do a double-take if they found out. I think they would question my “defenses” of offenders. I am famous for pointing out that offenders need compassion and help, not necessarily punishment. One thing I have learned not only from having been assaulted, but from working in mental health: everyone has a reason for their actions or behaviors. Many offenders were also abused as kids. They have incredible baggage they carry around with them. People who end up killing or harming someone else likely was taught, either directly or indirectly, that power and safety comes from domination. When I see a story about a child molester, I wonder if that adult also has a history of being molested. Abuse is generally performed in cyclic, generational patterns. An abuser was likely abused as a child. We need to provide treatment and support to help break the cycle. Yes, punishment is also a factor, but if their head is anything like mine, they are punished enough internally.
When I first started college, I was introduced via a family friend to a psychologist who worked exclusively with sex offenders. At the time, I couldn’t picture working with that population (I probably couldn’t do it even now, but I have a better understanding of where they are coming from). I was amazed that this man was able to work with these boys and young men day in and day out. I wasn’t able to talk long enough to find out why he did what he did, but I think 18 years later I can hazard a guess. Many damaged people damage others. It’s not that they necessarily mean to, it’s just that it is all that they know. There are some exceptions, but they are rare. Even the most hardened criminal has a small, terrified child hiding somewhere underneath. Violence and anger are fear turned outward. An animal will strike out in fear and defense. People will do the same. If you don’t know that what you are doing is wrong (not by societal standards, but by your own moral compass), you see no problem with your actions. An offender who came to a clinic at which I worked turned out to be jus a really hurt little boy inside. He had experienced some horrific abuse growing up, and he perpetuated that to a lesser degree. He wasn’t a violent offender, but he did enough to be labeled and mandated to treatment. Only the intern was willing to see him. Once his story was known, every other clinician’s opinion of working with him changed. They suddenly saw the human being behind the disordered behaviors. Even the cops started treating him differently (repeat offender). I only heard short updates in team meetings, but I know he got off to a start on his healing. The instincts motivating his actions were finally understood by those in his life trying to help. I hope he eventually made it through that dark time… but I digress.
I think we all need to look at others with a different lens. We need to look at ourselves with a different lens… Understanding and love is the key to improving both society and ourselves. I wish I could remember this at times when I perpetuate the negatives I internalized growing up. I seem to have nearly unending patience and compassion for most others but I cannot seem to muster it for myself.