Monthly Archives: January 2014

Friday Nights and Deep Thoughts

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.

Oh, I also wanted to add a pic of the collage I did yesterday after session… I’m still trying to figure it all out myself, but I think I may like it.  wpid-20140131_130957.jpg

It was a nice vacation

It was so nice to get a change of pace.  I was actually able to ignore my phone for the most part.  We enjoyed the company of good friends. L got to see some of the stuff I really enjoyed about the island. It was a nice break. I kinda wish we had done more, but there’s only so much you can do in less than 48 hours… lots of cool pictures happened, and fun times catching up. Next time we focus less on the commercial areas and more on doing fun stuff.  I almost managed to get L to go parasailing, but fear took over.  She said she’d be more open to trying things next time. I’m holding her to that 😉

Yesterday was a day to get back into the groove of being home. I saw De for our usual weekly session, and I left again feeling like I did not say everything I had needed to say. It’s not that she didn’t give me the opportunity, it’s just that my censor was set to high.  There were also things that didn’t fully surface till later. So when we got home,  I decided to try more art. I ruined the re-do of the picture I was going to give her for the display. I will have to try it a third time… I also did a collage-type-thing that I’m sorta ok with. There’s other stuff I have in my head that I want to put down, but I have to figure out how to do it. Maybe that will be today’s project.

Oh, before I forget, the dog is doing better. She is passing the sand slowly, and nothing other than the iv fluids was needed. Huge sigh of relief!

going to an island for 2 days

L and I are so excited!  We are going on our first vacation in years tomorrow. It’s only 2 days, but it is a welcome change.  Not only are we getting out of the daily routing, but we are meeting up with our best couple friend from up north (we have not seen them in over a year).  It has taken someone’s visit to allow us to break free from our rut.  I’m not complaining though.  If it was not for them being down, we would likely have backed out due to lack of funds.  Anyway, that’s my round-about way of saying I probably wont post for a few days.  I hope to not pay too much attention to my phone while there.  We leave at 4am tomorrow, and hope to be down there by 8am.  Cross your fingers that we don’t hit much traffic along the way.  Island life here we come! 🙂

other stressors

One of the dogs decided to ingest a rather large amount of sand the other day.  It has caused at least a partial blockage for her, and she had spent the better part of yesterday at the vet getting fluids.  She is back there today.  We are all hoping that the fluids help her enough to not need any other care as we are way too broke for that.  Yesterday’s estimate landed at $700 just for tests and fluids.  We could only afford the IV (even that was $150 with the office charge).  I’m not sure what we can do if just getting rehydrated does not help her pass the sand.  X-rays to pinpoint the blockage would be $300, and blood work another $300.  Then if they find something that needs to be surgically removed, I’m sure we would be looking at a few thousand. We would not be able to afford even the fluids if it were not for my brother loaning us the use of his credit card.

I remember looking up some places to help with the financial cost of vet care when we found the puppy.  I think I remember seeing some place that had grants to help pay for emergency situations.  I will have to look that up again…  I know the dog is old, but she still has pep in her step.  I hate that tight finances can mean the end of a life.  :/

Aside: I think I know another component to why I can’t seem to listen anymore

Reading through my “reader” (or trying to), I was struck with the thought “I can’t read all this. There’s just too much going on inside my head to allow any of this to sink in!”  So I backed out of the reader.  I want to read other people’s blogs when I can devote enough brain-power to absorb what they are saying… I don’t like skimming just to pick out the main points (what I see as the main points).  I like to know that I can actually devote attention to soaking up all that is contained in the words (and between them).

My head is full and empty at the same time.  I know I have thoughts and ideas bouncing around in there, but they are going at a break-neck speed (or way too slow) and I cannot grasp them.  The more I try to focus on any one thing, the faster it escapes me.  We are going on a mini-vacation in a few days.  My head is working out the details because I want to make sure to show L all my favorite stops there. I know I need to re-do my drawing from the other day.  I have to shower and get ready for the day (I still smell like wood-smoke from the fire pit last night).  I want to listen to music and nap and… yeah.  too much, but at the same time too slow to actually do anything.  Part of me wants to talk to De more but I’m not sure why or about what.  I think it’s just that I had gotten into a groove of seeing her on Fridays.  I saw her yesterday though.

Anyway, my head is too full of things that spill over to really allow me to pay attention to any one thing at the moment.  I can manage to be still in De’s office.  I think I need to pull that out into the real world again.  I need to be able to be still within myself.  Don;t get me wrong, I’m not racing, but more of just overwhelmed with too much input (what’s the correct term for information coming from within? input doesn;t sound correct in this sense).

#11 – Shattered

So, De has been asking me if I have been thinking more about creating something for Sexual Assault Awareness Month coming up in April.  It’s been tough trying to find something I want to show off (even though my name will not be anywhere on the piece).  I’ve been throwing a few ideas around in my head, and none really “worked” until this one.  The execution of it is a bit off though, so I will be re-doing the piece.  It’s just the “practice” version of the image I will give to her to put up in their little display:

2014 100-Theme challenge #11) Shattered

11) Shattered (preliminary)

I had wanted to do the background in a red chalk, but the one I used was not covering correctly.  I tried to draw over it with the watercolor pencil, but it did not cover correctly over the chalk… There’s also some issues with the faces on both characters, so it’s just going to be a complete re-do.  I really need to work on my coloring technique too.  I wish I could figure it out better on  my own, but I suck at it.  I think my drawing skills are coming back with practice though.  Overall, I’m happy with this piece, it’s just little things that are not working correctly.  I think I will also stick to dry media for the coloring this time.  Any time I use water or something wet, it really warps the drawing.  If I had the correct paper for the watercolors things would look better.

Listening is a lost art

Globally, we have forgotten how to listen. On a smaller scale, my family has forgotten how to listen (did we ever even know?). Tonight was another night spent around the fire pit (with significantly less alcohol however). I watched and tried to listen as everyone attempted to out-compete everyone else (I admit I joined in a few times, desperately trying to find one thing I could be heard on). People were poised at the edge of their seats plotting the half millisecond of pause needed to throw out their next nugget before someone else snagged the spotlight. It went on for a few hours.  The more desperate the attempts to be heard, the louder the decibels. I know where I get my annoying habit of cutting people off.  It’s a culture here (globally and on a more micro scale). We are so bombarded with information and attempts at swaying our opinions (and wallets) that we lose the ability to listen, really listen, to what the other has to say.  We want to be heard (or at last be able to voice our thoughts and opinions) so we spend all our time thinking about what we will say next.  We comprehend only enough of the other’s message to speak a response.  We miss the totality of what they are saying. It’s more pronounced when there’s competition to have the “meatiest” nugget to which everyone clutches.  I know I participate in this more often since moving back in with my family.  My wife reminds me regularly how I keep cutting her off and not letting her finish her thought/story/anecdote. It’s not a bad thing though.  I want to be called out when I do it.  I hate when others do it to me, so I want to be made aware of when I do it to others. I want to remember how to listen. I want to remember how to participate fully in being there for another to hear them. I know I have a lot of issues around being heard. I think that is some of what drives this blog (and what makes therapy so rewarding and vital); I want my story heard.  I want my experience and my burden shared.  While De often says the healing does not come from the details and the telling, I’d like to counter that a huge amount of healing is tied in to being heard, especially if you spent your life being silenced (as most abuse survivors have). The experience of being heard is hugely powerful and affirming.  It reminds us that we are not, in fact, inconsequential. It tells us we are not alone…
Some of the worst days for me are ones in which I feel alone in my pain. I may be surrounded by bodies, but I carry what I do in solitude.  Part of that is learning/conditioning (“you can’t trust anyone else”, “people will always let you down”…) so I make every attempt to hide what’s happening.  But part of it is also the fact that people just don’t care to listen. Why bother wasting the little energy I have in trying to speak when it will only fall on deaf ears, ears that are too busy working-up a retort to really let sink-in the meaning of what I’m saying…
I need to learn how to listen. I used to know how to do that once, but I have since forgotten. Never underestimate the power of truly listening to another person. Stories need to be heard as much as they need to be told.