Stabilization

I am a counseling intern at a crisis stabilization unit. Our clients have mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders. Every day, I run the mental health group and talk to the clients about different aspects of mental health disorders, specific disorders, dealing with emotions, taking medication, going to appointments, etc.For the most part, these hour-long sessions proceed with a degree of boredom (new drugs) or absolute chaos.

Last week, I had a session in which we were discussing medication compliance and how it would help prevent future visits to our unit. An individual became belligerent, accusing me of not knowing what it was like to be in their position. I made a tough choice, my gut told me that I would make the greatest impact on the group if I was truthful. So, I made the following statement.

“Approximately one year ago, I was a patient in a crisis stabilization unit. No, it wasn’t exactly like this. I have bipolar I disorder, I was diagnosed 10-years-ago. Since that time I have had four episodes. Every day, I take lithium, zoloft, lamictal, wellbutrin, klonipin, and some others that I have forgotten right now. I do this because I know that my medication increases the length of time that I am stable and reduces the severity of my episodes. I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I understand where you are coming. You may be frustrated with being here involuntarily, and I understand that. I am also telling you this because taking your medication and seeking counseling works. I’m telling you from experience that stopping your medication will only make things worse. I’m telling you these things because I don’t ever want you to think that I don’t understand.”

They were quiet for a moment. Then they started asking questions about their own care. I couldn’t answer their questions, but I could refer them to those who could. Each one of those clients left with a treatment plan that they were willing to follow.

My diagnosis is not a secret. It has never been, but that was the first time that I realized the power of the truth.

But, it is is only part of the truth. I didn’t tell them that I understood their suicidal ideation because I faced it almost every day. I didn’t discuss the overwhelming feeling of just living a life some days. I didn’t mention them because those are my struggles and they do nothing to support their recovery. However, those things are real to me.

Stabilization

I am a counseling intern at a crisis stabilization unit. Our clients have mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders. Every day, I run the mental health group and talk to the clients about different aspects of mental health disorders, specific disorders, dealing with emotions, taking medication, going to appointments, etc.For the most part, these hour-long sessions proceed with a degree of boredom (new drugs) or absolute chaos.

Last week, I had a session in which we were discussing medication compliance and how it would help prevent future visits to our unit. An individual became belligerent, accusing me of not knowing what it was like to be in their position. I made a tough choice, my gut told me that I would make the greatest impact on the group if I was truthful. So, I made the following statement.

“Approximately one year ago, I was a patient in a crisis stabilization unit. No, it wasn’t exactly like this. I have bipolar I disorder, I was diagnosed 10-years-ago. Since that time I have had four episodes. Every day, I take lithium, zoloft, lamictal, wellbutrin, klonipin, and some others that I have forgotten right now. I do this because I know that my medication increases the length of time that I am stable and reduces the severity of my episodes. I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I understand where you are coming. You may be frustrated with being here involuntarily, and I understand that. I am also telling you this because taking your medication and seeking counseling works. I’m telling you from experience that stopping your medication will only make things worse. I’m telling you these things because I don’t ever want you to think that I don’t understand.”

They were quiet for a moment. Then they started asking questions about their own care. I couldn’t answer their questions, but I could refer them to those who could. Each one of those clients left with a treatment plan that they were willing to follow.

My diagnosis is not a secret. It has never been, but that was the first time that I realized the power of the truth.

But, it is is only part of the truth. I didn’t tell them that I understood their suicidal ideation because I faced it almost every day. I didn’t discuss the overwhelming feeling of just living a life some days. I didn’t mention them because those are my struggles and they do nothing to support their recovery. However, those things are real to me.

Last Thursday

Last week had been a normal week except for the clumsiness. I attended an appointment with my psychologist, was given a thumbs up on my recent recovery, and some meaningful perspective when observing my daughter. It seems that knowing the diagnostic characteristics makes you hyper aware of them in your children as they grow. A bit like being in medical school and self-diagnosing with every horrible malady that you come across.  I left her office feeling better, centered, and in need of a Route 44 Diet Strawberry Limeade from Sonic.

I drove the 10 minutes to the highway (Warner Robins), and without much thought, I entered I-75 southbound. I listened to my book, thought about possible locations for an internship, and trying to be as careful as possible. Just south of Perry, the highway came to a complete stop, and in my irritation, I wondered why people have to gawk at accidents. As I passed, I noticed how terrible the accident truly was. Several vehicles were involved, and one was on its side. It had been rolled over and over with all of the windows shattered. A sheet was tied to block the view into the vehicle. My stomach dropped, and I just wanted to turn around and head back to my psychologist office.

Hours later, I learned that the fatality of that terrible scene was the father of a childhood friend. I doubt that he will ever read this, but if he does, I want you to know that I prayed for your father and his family long before I knew that it was you. I am still praying for you, I know what it means to lose someone unexpectedly and that it hurts so much that you can’t stand it at times. I love you. You will always be the friend who helped me survive middle school and high school. You are the person who convinced me that bangs were my enemy. You were the person who almost fainted when I got my first tattoo. I love you and I am so sorry for your loss.

You missed the Christ in Christianity

Am I political? Unabashedly so at times. Recently, really during the last 20 years or so, I’ve become increasingly appalled at politicians, PACs, and even the general population using the Bible as a way to exclude, harass, and push their “political” agenda on the rest of the United States. At the same time, they claim that they are being oppressed or mistreated if they are unable to push said agenda on other people.

Please, does anyone remember the “Contract with America,” which was supposed to bring morality back to politics? I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the number of men who were subsequently caught with their pants down in one way of another. Or in the aftermath of the Supreme Courts decision making Same-Sex Marriage legal in all states, the number of people who claimed that they were being oppressed by the decision. Really, is someone coming to keep you from being married? Also, a small fact that people tend to ignore, marriage comes in two forms legal marriage (the paperwork) that is a between the couple and the state, and religious marriage (doesn’t have to be legal, can be legal, but is between you and God). As a result of the 1st Amendment’s Seperation of Church and State there is NO WAY THAT ANY CHURCH CAN BE FORCED TO PERFORM A RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE for anyone that they don’t want. There are still churches that refuse conduct mixed race marriages. I know, it’s 2017 and that is ridiculous but it’s not illegal to be bigots.

The primary reason that this bothers me is that I am a Christian. I am deeply offended that you are claiming to be speaking for me. I am deeply offended that your acts of hatred and oppression are attributed to the religion that I live my life.

If you are a Christian, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to take care of others in society. It isn’t up to you to decide if they are worthy of your help. When did you get to be the judge?

I would like to remind you that the last society that believed that those with less deserved to be treated as less was Nazi Germany. On the gates of Auschwitz and other concentration camps was the saying, Arbeit macht frei, or in English “Work Sets You Free.” I guess that in death that saying was true.

Not exactly what I meant

My husband says that I tend to be rather pithy in my writing and that the nuance of what I am writing is sometimes lost on someone who isn’t sharing my experience. I recognize that my earlier post is a prime example of this. To be clear, I am not suicidal. I do have suicidal thoughts. I don’t listen to them.

These thoughts are a result of my bipolar disorder. I have no control over the thoughts, they are unrelated to my mood, or level of happiness. I do have control over how I deal with the thoughts. First, I remember that these aren’t my thoughts. Second, I remember that Bipolar lies. It tells you things that are utterly untrue and tries to draw you into depression or bounce you into mania.

Please don’t allow my comments that I have suicidal ideation concern you. I know what I need to do if I move from random thoughts in my head to feeling that way. I appreciate your concern and I want you to know that I’m okay.

 

Spiraling

I woke at 4:00 a.m. and my first thought was that I wanted to die. My second thought was that the people in my life would be better off without me to muck things up. My third thought was that I have bipolar disorder and my brain is attempting its quarterly push to kill me. I have to say that of all of the things that suck about having bipolar disorder that the unwanted, out of the blue suicidal ideation wins the prize.  The second suckiest thing is the weight gained from the medication because people don’t know that you are on all of this weight gain inducing medication and they think that you just don’t care about yourself.

My husband has told me that he thinks that I am spiraling into depression. I say that I have had a number of very difficult events that were out of my control. I hate when I have no ability to make even small changes in a situation.

I haven’t written anything in months (?) because I felt like my life was on hold waiting to start back to school, waiting for my internship begin, and waiting for things to be different than the monotony of the previous 7 months. Then school started and my class was absolutely mind-numbingly boring with busy work. Last project to be finished today.

Now, I would like to talk about my internship or lack of internship. I have worked for Middle Flint Behavioral HealthCare (notice, I’m using their name) for over a year. During that time, I was forced to take a leave of absence and they were forced to hold a position due to the Americans with Disabilities Act. That does not mean that they have to hold your position or a similar position. That is part of this story. The main problems with Middle Flint started at the very beginning of my first internship. Despite my best efforts to establish my boundaries and to require that they fulfill the contract that they signed with my university, things didn’t work out that way. My “supervisor” would not meet in person for individual meetings, she insisted that I count group supervision towards those hours and my favorite thing, I was required to have 50 clinical hours and ended up with 87 hours. Why? Because the concept of an intern, someone still learning, didn’t seem to sink in with these people. I had one day a month that I saw individuals with schizoaffective disorder from 8:00 – 6:00.

So, we come to this summer. In FEBRUARY, I submitted to them the release form from my doctor. Two weeks before my internship was supposed to begin they stated that it was incorrectly worded (vocational v. work). I had to make an appointment with my doctor to get a new copy of the letter. This was during the first week of what should have been my internship. I e-mailed, called, and showed up at the HR office to no avail. A week later, I received notification that the letter was still not clear enough. I contacted the doctor’s office, he rewrote it including the information that they said they wanted. No-go on that letter either. Finally, he wrote a 4TH letter, which he was very unhappy about writing, and they deemed it acceptable.

Now we are four weeks into the semester. I begin my internship working with kids with behavioral health issues. Did I choose this? No, wait that should have been HELL NO. I like children, one-on-one. I was dumped into a position with no guidance and a supervisor who kept telling me that she was overwhelmed. And, the kids, I really can’t forget about the kids. In one room, with no behavioral plans because they are forbidden by the state and punitive measures are not allowed also, there were kids with ADHD (okay, I can handle this), Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder (this is often the precursor to Antisocial Personality Disorder, which includes sociopathic and psychopathic behaviors – though we don’t call it that anymore), and wide range of disorders that I wouldn’t even begin to diagnose. After one week trying to do psychoeducational groups, I was an absolute wreck. After Monday of the second week, I was having panic attacks. My university made the decision that it was not a safe, healthy, or ethical position.

I want to say one more thing about Middle Flint, they do the best that they can for their clients but they treat their employees terribly. I know one counselor who has worked at Middle Flint for more than two years. In their mind it is a 24-7 job, I once received a call at 11:15 from my supervisor. She was angry that I didn’t answer, but I said, “I have a 1.5-year-old and her staying asleep is important to me.”

Now, I am back to no internship, and questions about what the future holds for me. I will say this, tomorrow I will call my doctor and express concern about my thoughts.

Mothers and Daughters

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite books. It is a book that explores the complex dynamics between mother and daughter, mother and stepdaughter, and daughter and daughter. It is difficult and painful at times, but joyous and uplifting. While a 19th-century novel is only slightly reminiscent of the world today, the story is still relevant. Mothers, stepmothers, and daughters still play very much the same cultural roles.

I think about this because I have to think of my relationship with my mother, my daughter, and my stepdaughters. It will not surprise those who know us that my mother and I have a contentious relationship. I have rarely made the choices that she would have chosen for me, but then again, she rarely makes choices that I approve of either (She voted for Trump).  However, she taught me important lessons about people when I was growing up, lessons that I implement today, and hope to teach my children. Love isn’t something that is said, it is something that is shown. It is our responsibility to love and help others in our world.  My mother was a darn good Sunday school teacher, and I will never forget the importance of “but for the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) It was her words and actions on the Crisp County School Board, as a mentor in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a member of the Arts Alliance, and other things that have lead to my most important decisions. A year and a half ago, I accepted a clinical mental health internship with Middle Flint Behavioral HealthCare. I could have taken an internship in the Atlanta Area where we were living. But, as I pleaded my case to my husband, I kept coming back to the idea that I felt that this was the right the to do, and the loving thing to do. I have not regretted that decision, though there are days that I have wanted to put my head down and cry. You can’t just say you love someone or that you support someone. You have to take action.

My stepdaughters and I have varied relationships. After many years, the oldest and I have reached a level of friendship. I enjoy her monthly calls where she updates me on her life. I have to say that I truly miss her, wish that she could drive, or that I got to Atlanta more frequently. My second-oldest is 18-years-old and we have no real relationship. I will never be the person that she wanted for her father and I will continue to see through her ploys. My youngest stepdaughter is 16-years old, and I love her like I gave birth to her. Their brother, 12-years-old, is 12-years-old. I don’t remember the last time that he hugged me, but I received a Minecraft play by play last week. That’s affection.

My biological child is 32-months-old. She is intelligent beyond development standards. Her vocabulary is amazing. She is fierce and determined. At night, she holds my face and kisses me and tells me that she loves me. Then she hits me with her Kindle and demands Paw Patrol.

People say that they love all of their children the same, and that is a lie. My level of love for each of my children is equal, but I like them more or less depending on the day. My feeling of love dampens. I think that it is time for all parents and grandparents to fess up to this truth.

I’ll finish this off by saying, Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers that do it all. Happy Mother’s Day to the mother’s who are barely holding it together (I’m in your club). Happy Mother’s Day to the women trying to reunite their families. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women that I have forgotten.

New patient

There are few things in life more embarrassing than going through the new patient workup required when changing doctors. First, you sit and sit and sit for your 9:45 appointment to begin at 10:45. Then they finally call you back and do all of the preliminaries. Weight (same as on the scale at home – you didn’t really think that I would tell you), blood pressure  (172/115, we might should worry about that), and finger prickly  (yay, no diabetes). And the real fun, peeing in a cup and listing all of my medications. Seriously, all of my medications and I am glad that I had the prescience to bring those.

The thing I hate the most about new patient visits is that feeling that the doctor thinks you are there for nefarious purpose. Like my constant joint pain and other issues are things that I am making up. Or, that my digestive ailments are merely a figment of my imagination. I always particularly feel like this because even among medical professionals Bipolar Disorder is misunderstood.

More than anything they leave you sitting for hours in small yellow rooms in what used to be your childhood doctor’s office.

Lent

For 20 years, I have observed Lent. The purpose of Lent is to sacrifice something that is difficult for you to give up as a way to prepare for Easter. For 20 years, I have made the promise to give up soft drinks, sugar, alcohol, etc. Some of those were more difficult than others. Alcohol was particularly difficult to give up when I was teaching (university and middle school equally). However, I haven’t been able to drink alcohol for a couple of years now due to migraines, so that isn’t an option. Giving up soft drinks has also proven to be painful to me as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max flow through my veins. But, soft drinks started making me feel unwell a few months ago and it seems like cheating to give those up.

I had been struggling with Lent this year until I attended my church’s Ash Wednesday service. Then, I heard my priest’s sermon and I understood that I had been missing the point of Lent for the last 20 years. Lent is about sacrifice, but it is also about making changes within yourself that prepare you for Jesus’s sacrifice. The sacrifice I make shouldn’t just be something that causes me discomfort; it should be helping someone else.

So, what am I giving up for Lent this year? Well, I’m doing something for my health and giving up soft drinks and refined sugar. More importantly, I’m giving up some bad habits that I’ve acquired over the years. I am giving up bitterness and resentment. I am giving up self-pity. I am giving up feelings of unworthiness. Finally, I am giving up negativity. I may have to avoid social media to accomplish the last one.  I am a realist, though, and I reserve the right to point out problems that I see.

I’m also going to do something for me and for the Queen, I’m going to take her out as much as possible for runs in her stroller. We did buy the running stroller anyway.

Will I be successful in my Lenten sacrifice? I can’t make any promises, but I will try my hardest.

I can’t move my fingers

It may surprise many of you that I am in fact quite handy. I can change a tire, battery, and change out headlamps. I can rewire a lamp, put in a ceiling fan, and put in a dimmer switch (among other things). But, I cannot paint. It becomes a big spotty miss on ceiling and floor. Which leads me to the delusion that I had that I could refinish the floor in our bedroom with20170228_140431out disaster.

Wow, I just realized that I can’t add a picture without disaster. Hmm. This all started with the disaster that my husband created. He insisted on staining the floor, after stripping it with 50 grit sandpaper, and not closing it with 100 or 200 grit sandpaper. It was terra cotta, maybe more reddish – Texas orange. Regardless, it had to be fixed and we did sand the floor. I told him that I would polyurethane the floor. Which I did, except that I forgot one small, small thing. You should wear gloves when you put down polyurethane.  By the time I was done, I literally couldn’t move my fingers on my right hand. Did it wash off? No. Would it scrub off? No. Would the Magic Eraser erase it? Ha-ha-ha. So, off to Home Depot I went. The nice woman in the paint department led me to this amazing air freshener that released my fingers.  I wish that I had a picture of the product because it is awesome, and evidently will take the stickers off of items, remove oil based paint, and other wonders.