Sunday, December 11, 2016

Being Eaten Alive: What to do when someone you know is facing Depression

When you're living your normal life with confidence and passion and enthusiasm, Depression seems like a distant memory. A silly phase that's long gone. It seems like you've been cured, and so you're more willing to tell the world about it. Conversely, when you're facing the reality of Depression, it is a deep, hidden secret. This is why it's a problem.

Only a few weeks ago, I was living in my special, self-assured little world. I was social, talkative, optimistic, and feeling ready to take on the world! Sadly, the past few days have been much more Hellish inside my brain. I've reverted back to anxiety, seclusion, self-destruction, and obsession. As usual, rather than reaching out to others and requesting their help, I've become a hermit. I only go outside when I absolutely must, I only talk to people when I must, and my sense of self-worth and love is completely depleted.

Some people ask what happened, what "triggered" this, what can I do, they do, we all do? By nature, people are kind (despite what my intensely misanthropic Depressed brain says) and they want to be there for those facing this illness. However, the brain chemicals have no ears. They don't care who listens or hugs or "is there for me". Even if I meditate or chant or spin 3 times while lighting sage on fire, these things won't help. Maybe some people, though. Spin away, if it helps.

So, what can you do, as someone who is watching someone you love suffer? You have to do all you can do- you have to be aware and be patient. These are the two MOST important things you can do. Pushing someone to get out of their slump or making them feel bad about it is of no help to anyone, it may even be dangerous. A little nudge to go out or look at beautiful and happy things, and showing that you're there for them and love them unconditionally, this is all helpful. However, be aware that in the end, only the brain gets to choose.The brain gets to control the mood and thoughts of this individual. It really is like a demon taking over or being put in a hypnotic state. The person you once knew is under a spell of darkness. Until they are released, everyone is at risk. At this time, nothing is about you. What they do and say is probably not personal, their choices and feelings are not your fault, and if you can't "fix" someone, it is because they could not be fixed or did not wish to be. Depression is about the individual, it is so enveloping that anyone outside the individual is hardly present at all.

That is why awareness is extremely important in these cases. There are many types of Depressed people. Everyone expresses it differently and to different degrees. There are those who need to be addressed; who will do everything in the world to be heard and seen and loved. Then there are those who suffer quietly. Both types need help, but doing this boldly isn't always a good idea. Much like helping a stray dog who is nervous around humans, you can't just jump at them and scoop them away. Sometimes you have to ease them out with treats and kiss sounds. Other times, you have to accept that they'll never trust your hands. In this case, you just have to be on the lookout for changes in behaviour. The way they speak or interact with you, or if they interact with you at all! If suddenly this person seems to be in dangerous or harmful situations more often. If they keep "accidentally" getting hurt, or being put in risky situations, or spending more time with risky people, places, and things. If hobbies go ignored, responsibilities and usual habits go untouched. All these changes have the potential to be red flags. If the worst thing you can do is inquire or try to make this person's life a little easier and their worst response is frustration with you, I say it's worth it. If the person seeks seclusion, don't force them out, but do check in on them. If only a text or email or a random care package or letter in the mail.... Until you try, you don't know what will reassure this person or pull the demon out from them.

In this stage, the demon is more like a coma. The Depressed individual seems gone, but they can hear you and feel your presence. With enough persistence and care, it just might work. This may contradict what I said above, about the futility of your attempts to change a person. However, there is a difference. When you're showing you care, this is not an effort to help or save them, it is not insistent and rushed. This kind of expression is gentle and without a motive. You'll likely have a goal or intent, but when offering your hand, this should be empty of any purpose but to express a feeling of love without any strings or expectations attached.

All people experience Depression in different ways, some more obviously than others. But there are signs that a closer look can determine. If you want to make a difference and be the one who "caught them", it is possible. If you suspect someone is facing Depression to an extent that they need help, find a local resource, either a crisis hotline or online chat, or even a website with more information. If not for them, do it for your own understanding of the problem and 'what to do if'. Get informed, that's the best thing you can do before anything else. Knowledge is what will help you get through this difficult time.

Good luck and be well.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Something Beautiful

We talk about love, but we hate one another.
We talk about peace, but we refuse to sacrifice.
We are hypocrites, liars, and cheaters at our best.
But I've seen the beauty staring back at me,
I don't want to ruin or judge it.
I won't let jaded figures break it.

It's here reaching out for you,
all you have to do is let it inhale you.
Surrender and be sold to its will.
Give in to its positive light and indignant empathy.
You are its leader, but you're on its chain.
Let it lead and and be a slave to its movement.
Let yourself be moved. Let us be moved.

With all the negativity and hatred I've seen. With all the death and damage I've witnessed. Much like the rest of the world, I was feeling defeated. It seemed like the world was exhausted and whatever homeostasis we had was faltering and allowing destruction to take over.

However, my faith has been restored. Not only through the pleasure and bliss of my own optimism and initiative, but by the remaining good. It's there, it's everywhere, and I don't want it overlooked, ignored, unseen or forgotten. I am inspired to share this hope because of what happened to me yesterday. Several good things happened, but what stood out amidst it all was a simple kind word.

A client with whom I work at fieldwork reminded me of a love and peace about which I had forgotten. This individual is quite low functioning on the autism spectrum. Speech is difficult, movement is not fluid, comprehension and articulation in objective terms are very impeded. This person is an autistic transgender with physical and mental challenges of a great degree. She has been harassed, hated, unappreciated, and underestimated her entire life.

Although she often talks about her passion for cooking, most people don't believe she is even capable of doing this. Not for a moment do I doubt her. Not her sexuality, not her abilities, not her potential, and I have absolutely no doubt when she tells me she is drop dead gorgeous- because she is drop dead gorgeous. My relationship with this client has grown and blossomed in the year at a rapid rate. She will share things with me that she doesn't share with others, we have congealed into one fantastic being, and I am honoured that she could take me as a confidante and equal. I don't know if I am at her level just yet, but she doesn't let me feel lesser, and I try to comply and be my best.

For someone who has seen the world's darkest pits and experienced rejection her entire life, never have I met such a gentle "beast". Some see her as such and treat her as such. They take advantage of her kindness and desire to give and help and serve others. I'm in no position to get her away from this, but I do my best to offer words of strength and, most of all, help her recognize and take hold of her talents, abilities, and capabilities.

Having attended vocational school for cooking and then being a busboy at NYU, she has the knowledge to create and cook as much as she claims. The naysayers may be surprised by her unstoppable courage, but she is a force to reckoned with. She has a lot to say and offer, and I plan to be a compliant in her activity for as long as I can.

Right now we are working on getting her recipes written down. Once this is done, I hope we can find the funding to print her cookbook. I am not sure if this will just be one copy for her to hold onto and treasure, or enough copies to publish and potentially sell for her profit, but the long term realities are of no importance. Right now we are creating and moving forward on a school bus to victory.

This touching moment, however, it was a simple act. Yet, it placed a pin in my heart that will forever remain. This occurred when she saw a picture of a loved one on my phone. She must have seen the image for a nanosecond, but quickly asked, "Is that your family?"

I should mention that this person, although caring and considerate as could be, she does not typically have interest in the background of others. Certainly not "staff", as she usually considers staff to be different and not the same as the members. However, on this day she was curious about my photo. At which I informed her that the photo was indeed a family member. She asked if I loved her to death. I replied that I did... and even more. She then put her hand on my shoulder and said the words for which I've been waiting to hear. The words that I've needed to hear, and the lack thereof were tearing at my insides and torturing me. She told me, "I am sure she loves you to death, too."

I did not inform her that this family member had passed away. I couldn't tell her, and it was of no importance, anyway. Besides which, I was left speechless, with an aching in my heart that I wanted to frame. I wanted to allow us to sit within the frame and cry and smile and be ourselves forever. Unfortunately, I could not offer this, so I thanked her. So deeply and gratefully, this was possibly the most important "thank you" I've ever shared.

This is that love and peace of which you speak. Don't beg or search for it. Be it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Whole Story

People always say, "If I knew then what I know now...."
Unfortunately, you didn't, and it's impossible to fix that. What's done is done, you can only move forward. What you can change is other peoples' experience. No one else has to go through what you did.
This has been my experience in the mental health field. Don't get me wrong- I still love the knowledge, the clients, and everything I've learned. However, did anyone tell me I'd have to buy a metro card, travel an hour, and work for free for 400 hours while paying for my own analysis (at $100-$150 a session) and ridiculous fees for classes year after year? Sure, I should have known better, but I didn't. I just wanted to get a degree in a field about which I was passionate.
I think psychoanalysis is a dying art. It's dying relatively slowly, and it's doing so in a beautiful and graceful manner. Researchers and others in the field will tell you that talk therapy works. That it has the highest success rates. That is one of the best attempts one can make at successfully feeling better. Downside being that it takes time, patience, uncertainty, and... yep, money! Not that medication and psychiatrists don't, but insurance will do wonders.
Yet, I still believe in analysis, and I want it to thrive. Most of all because if not, I did all this for naught. My colleagues have done all this for naught.  That's a lot of naught. After all, the certificate program at my school is currently at least 10 years. That's about 1/3 of your career, 1/9 of your life, and that's if you make it through quickly.
No one told me that.
Here I am. No job, no money, and no certainty as to where I will be in my next 10 years. Best case scenario, I either do the certificate program and get involved with the referral service, in which case I can make a few bucks, and move onto a private clinic once I, presumably, get my license. Or, if I don't want to sacrifice all that time, I can find a safe job at a clinic or hospital. Not bad.
Worse case scenario, either a client staples my hand to my chin and forces me to watch him eat my goldfish... or I have a mental breakdown and check into a mental ward.
In the meantime, I'm struggling to pay for my required analysis sessions and tuition, I am struggling to stay motivated, and I am struggling to keep my eyes on the prize.
I don't have a solution to this yet, I don't claim to know the answer. As, part of life is surviving and tolerating those frustrating bumps in the road. One more year of school, though. That's my mantra: One More Year.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Let nature take its course

Having been told many times in my life that I have the commitment and vulnerability phobias of a man, I started thinking. It's rare, but I do think sometimes! I started thinking about the reasons "men don't like opening up" and all those other cliche masculine things.

I started by thinking about why I don't like to open up. Maybe part of that is because the people who raised me and with whom I was raised weren't really the touchy-feeling, mushy-talk type. It wasn't the norm, and anything related to feelings, emotions, or vulnerability was seen as stupid and went ignored. Many people see this as unfortunate; as if I was deprived because no one asked me how my inner-self was doing. How about this: get over it.

As someone in the mental health field, this seems contradictory to my practice. My whole education and message is for people to "open up". The difference is, I hope people will open up to ME or another professional or a trusted family member or friend who: A- wants to hear, B- has the strength and time to hear, C- knows what to do once they have heard.

In the end, we make our own choices, we deal with our own problems, and we respond accordingly. I don't believe that those who mindlessly offer their feelings to others for the sake of "bonding" are better off. I won't say I haven't tried. Once or twice I gave the old venting and releasing thing a try. It didn't feel good and cathartic, it just felt like I was putting my problems on someone else while also opening a can of worms that no one was prepared to mop up. Most people are not equipped to deal with the people they know, or think they know. Once they see that reality and once you release that reality, there is not usually any turning back. There's no "Oops, that didn't work. Nevermind!"

This gets me back to my original thought. Why do girls typically complain that men won't "open up", or why will my acquaintances make the same complaint? After all, they want to help and they want to trust me and want me to trust them, and well, they want a LOT... a lot that I don't want to offer. Why does telling one's secrets open them up? Especially if it is pulled out of someone? If you are going to pressure someone into removing a bandage, you better be able to heal that wound! If you can't, then that's a selfish pull and that's a harmful pull, and there is no way in heck I can trust you.

Maybe that bandage will remove itself one day. Maybe if you wait 5 months or 10 years or a lifetime, that person will be ready to expose themselves. Or, maybe they have been all along, and you just haven't been listening with the right ears. The secrets and stories might be there all along, they just might not be the ones you want or expect.

Privacy is a beautiful thing. If someone feels comfortable telling me, "I don't want to talk about that," it reveals a lot. It also means that person trusts me! They trust me to respect their privacy, to not push them, and if they leave it open-ended, all the better. There is often an inclusion that they don't want to talk about it yet, which means there is an implied future wherein it will be revealed or the issue will be touched upon again in some way. That is, if they are not pressured. If there is pressure, there is stress added to an already-tender spot.

It can be frustrating when you want to know that deep, dark secret. I know that. However, it is seldom that one expects answers without a selfish greed. I find it difficult to imagine a situation in which someone requesting answers does so for altruistic reasons... though, I'm open to examples. For the most part, however, telling me I'll feel better if I tell you my gossip is a lie. If it's true, it's likely that you got lucky, it's a coincidence.

Not to mention, sharing secrets is definitely a point of vulnerability. Revealing secrets can lead to chaos for some. Yes, it does mean I trust another with this vulnerability, but there are many ways it can backfire, this will only prove the honesty to be a hazard.

Yes, this means I fear vulnerability. Don't we all? As humans, as animals, as living, sentient beings, we avoid actions which will put our safety and comfort at risk. Sometimes it is healthy to overcome those fears, but other times it is of no benefit to us or others. One must weigh those options. Chances are, though, if I don't feel my private thoughts, feelings, or experiences are best shared, I probably have reasons for it. Vomiting my background onto your shoes will possibly make the nausea disappear, but I may still feel sick and you'll have vomit on your shoes. As with most things, pressure and guilt do more harm than good. Let nature take its course.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How the tables have turned

If you had told me a year ago that I would be getting paid to teach someone how to socialize, I would have silently stared at you and turned red. For real.

Being the shy, introverted, quiet, private, silent kid has been my identity since birth. Literally, since birth. I didn't cry much, nor misbehave, nor act out. My grandmother only remembers one tantrum, and I never hit, screamed, bit, or harmed anything or anyone (aside from my brothers, but that was self-defense!) That changed as I got into my teen years, but that's another story. As far as my childhood, I was a golden kid. Not perfect by any means, but pretty close to it.

Into my teen years and young adult years, I was still pretty quiet. People sometimes thought I was being rude or snobby, others thought I was terrified of them. There were always people assuming they knew my personality and feelings based on my shyness. However, the reality was, I was just quiet. I didn't have anything I wanted to say. Besides, when I spoke or was spoken to, I was kind of uncomfortable and nervous. Not that THEY scared me, but my thoughts in response to them scared me. Most people have trouble understanding that.

Of course, each year, the expectations grow. People think you'll outgrow it or that you'll magically change. That you'll become the person they want you to be or expect you to be. It's just much safer, I suppose.

I didn't change, though. Maybe a little bit, but not in leaps and bounds. Thus, people worried and put it down. People made me feel bad about myself, or as though I should be ashamed of my quiet nature. They made me think I had to change my ways or I'd be doomed! For awhile that seemed about right. I had no friends, I was scared to talk to my family, and everyone else I met was pretty much out of the question. They didn't give me a chance and I didn't give them a chance. The difference being, I was so present in my own concerns, I didn't even notice or worry about them. Aside from knowing that I wanted to please others by giving them whatever they wanted, I didn't know how to relate to them or what would interest them. Nothing that came to my mind seemed worth saying. Emotional stuff was touchy, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar. Silly stuff was weird and unprofessional and inappropriate. This left me with nothing to work with.

That is, until I started just... going for it. Well, I guess it helped that people were starting to get curious. Curious about ME! The quiet, private, mysterious chick became a fascinating something or other. Those people who scared me were a little nervous about me, because they figured I had something great inside me that they couldn't understand or capture. They tried. They definitely tried to enter through every crack and turn up the focus on their microscopes, but nothing worked. That was then some of those people decided to be brave and work their way into my world. The more they did this, the more I dug into their worlds. We met in the middle and talk about things that were uncomfortable and touchy and unprofessional. Things we never spoke of before or ever again. Things that weren't important in the big picture! But in those moments, we bonded. After doing this enough times, I realized that we're all kind of throwing words out into a black hole and hoping someone receives them and decides to return some of their own.

It was still scary, and I still blush often. I think and re-think and overthink everything I do and say, but... people still stick around! Not everyone. Many people leave. Sometimes I have to leave. But, the ones with whom I stick and stick with me... they're kinda cool.

So, I've gone through a metamorphosis. I've learned a lot in my cocoon. Now I'm willing and ready to share it all with the world. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but in the end, I'm still the same ol' me, and that's gotta count for something! That seems to be good enough for the right people.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Learn to be Alone!

Every time someone posts on social media or whines that they spent the holidays alone or celebrated a birthday alone, the world freaks out. All heck breaks loose! Everyone and their mother wants to send gifts and money and hugs and firefighters.... Because if you're alone, the assumption is that society has rejected you. That you are unwanted, and that's a trend that will follow you for life. Being alone is a sign of your place in the hierarchy, and let's just say, you're not doing well at all.

Who are we when we are alone? We are entirely, completely, and truly ourselves. We are creative and innovative and weird and wild. If we boo and hiss each time a kid is left to entertain themselves or deal with isolation, we are killing all these magical alone moments. That child or teenagers will never know or appreciate time alone; it will be shameful and boring, instead.

Typically, I meet two kinds of people: the lone wolves who are always told they NEED more contact with people, and the socialites who cannot go a moment on their own. The latter is the type who goes into a deep depression if they are rejected, or have no one to invite to an event. They live off the carbon dioxide others exhale. The former can be just as bad or dangerous, I won't deny that. However, we all know too much isolation is bad. We know that spending 90% of your life in a basement or bedroom or alone in a cubicle will harm your well-being. You can read some pretty freaky and scary ideas on extreme isolation here:

Science Magazine even quotes that: 
The most socially isolated subjects had a 26% greater risk of dying

Which means, if you keep the company of others at all times, you may become immortal.
That sounds good to me!

In the end, though, they do point out that maybe isolation isn't the worst thing in the world. It's good to have people to count on in case things go badly, but... hey, maybe enjoying your own company is a good thing.

On the other hand, when it comes to being alone, most articles and research suggest that this is unbearable for a huge part of the population. Nearly every article offered steps one can take to become aware of one's own inability to be alone. They also offered tips and advice on how to slowly accustom oneself to it. Though, none seem to report on the effects of every jerk around you telling you not to be alone, and how to make THAT stop.

After all, if you get used to being alone, you'll be an outcast, which means you're less likely to buy into trends and bad habits, and, you know, all that good stuff that makes other people money!

Of course, no parent wants to see their child sitting alone day after day. No kid should experience rejection from all other kids. Not if they want to socialize, that is. But what about learning to embrace it when it does inevitably occur? If we constantly throw that option out, then when that child turns 40, and realizes he/she won't always be surrounded by adoring fans, that's when that individual will truly suffer.

When it comes to those "weird" kids who like to be alone, I think they should be considered lucky! That kid will learn to create and imagine and think. Not as a group or a part of a cult, but as an individual. Those types of children will know how to take nothing and make new things and find skills and hobbies to entertain themselves. They won't have to face the agony and torture of finding a date for every event and a friend to bring them to the bathroom or stress over where they will go each and every weekend.

Once upon a time, when you had a Sunday off work and nothing to do, it was highly recommended that you take that day to just rest and relax, and be alone (or exclusively with your family....) Nowadays, staying in on a weekend is deplorable. It's a waste of your life, and it makes you boring or sad. Having no Friday night plans is for nerds and people who work too much. If you don't go out, you're old and will miss everything. After all, if you don't go out, your friend is less likely to go out, and if your friend doesn't go out, he/she will be ALONE; with his/her self and his/her thoughts and his/her reality and flaws and fears. Nothing but pen, paper, musical instruments, pets, healthy eating and drinking options, books.... All those things we like to say we enjoy, but do we really? Or, should I say, do we make use of them as much as we claim? Do we take advantage of the fact that we are lucky enough to have things other than people to calm our nerves and soothe our souls? Not enough, I say. Not enough.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Anxiety, Anshmyety!

Anxiety. Freakin', deakin', gosh dang ANXIETY!  It's real and very present and super overwhelming.

When is anxiety just laziness? When is laziness just anxiety?

Let me start by saying, I have anxiety. I have always had anxiety. It's a hard thing to explain. I've tried, but unless you have it, you won't get it. Even if you do "get" it, what good is that? Does that really help, or does it just feel good for you to sympathize? A bit.

Thus, I'm not going to try yet again to share that experience and those feelings. Besides, they're my feelings, I don't want you to start delving into them and taking away something that I uniquely get. They're mine!

What might be fun to explore is the differentiation between anxiety and laziness. I've felt both. Sometimes I don't want to do something and I don't have to do something, so in order to defend my fragile ego from the outside world, I tell myself that I can't do it because of anxiety. This is not often the case, but every now and then... yeah. Which in itself is interesting since most people don't care what I do. The only reason I need to defend my actions is because I assume others will think poorly of me for quitting something, which really means that I will think poorly of myself for quitting something! That's another story for another time, though.

I want to share the fact that I've quit many things due to anxiety. The times I can't just "get over it" or "ignore it" or "bite the bullet".... I've quit jobs and schools and teams and friendships because I felt my entire world and everything in it would collapse if I continued doing this thing.

It's crazy. My mind decides a random situation is fight or flight, so it freaks out and tells me to ditch because I may have a breakdown if not. No matter how brave or confident or aware I am, there is a sense of grave danger. How ridiculous is that? What kind of cruel brain would permit such a thing? A slightly disordered and unwell one, I suppose.

Geez, though, the lies I've told to protect my shame. I felt weak and vulnerable and downright silly for letting these things control my life. Not to mention, the complete loss of privacy. If I had to miss a day of class or slow down my work schedule, I wasn't going to start telling my life story and explain how awful it is to start hyperventilating in public to my boss or co-worker. Not even my friends should have to hear about these things. I thought I was too independent and strong-willed for that. So, instead, I lied and the lies build and feel gross. It helped me escape an uncomfortable conversation, but it didn't feel good.

Now, I'm not a complete failure.... I've also won some of those battles. Sometimes I do fight. I've traveled the world alone. I've finished one college degree and am working on finishing another. I've done some incredible and brave things. I've also done mundane things: gone to work, made phone calls, gone to social events... despite, and in spite of vicious, terrifying, anxious thoughts.

It's certainly not impossible to win. However, it does depend on many factors. Where is my confidence and self-esteem? How is my energy, health, and my outside support? And, heck, is it worth the effort? Fighting anxiety is exhausting! It's not just a little voice telling you, "Nope. Stop. Naw. Don't do it."
It's actually a tank rolling towards you with a grenade launcher pointing at you that's ready to shoot. Someone pops their head up and says, "One more step and we might blast you."

You're looking right into the barrel of the launcher and you have to decide: is it worth it? Can I handle this? Maybe they're bluffing... maybe I'll survive...or... maybe not.

If you sit on the ground, you're not lazy. Still, you may never forgive yourself.

There's no way of knowing how others view me when my anxiety takes over. I have found a community of people who seem to understand and care, so whether they get it or not, they have my back. Understanding does exist, and the sooner you find those people, and your own way of coping and surviving the hour, the day, the week, the year, the better life will become. Until then, though, it's not easy. Even after then, it's a difficult and scary existence. So it is your job and my job and everyone's job to listen to people and respect people. That's all we can do, and it happens to be the best thing we can do!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Love me do

Why do people keep telling me to stop approaching the guy I'm interested in and instead, to go for the guy who is interested in me?

Yeah, he's nice. Yeah, he's sweet and compliments me and is there for me. But, he's not the person to whom I'm romantically attracted. I want to woo and wow the guy I'm interested in! He's also nice and sweet and funny and we get along really well, he just needs some coaxing.

This mostly bothers me because all the guys I know are always being told to fight for the woman they love. That they should not give up. However, I have to give up on my dream guy and settle for the one who wants me! Naw aw, honey, I'm not waiting around to be picked from the chicken coop. I'm not ignoring my desires because it takes some work. I'm not letting go of someone I care about because it might not go my way. I'm tougher and braver than that.

If I were a feminist, I might point out that women have been trained to let men pick them and decide for them. I know that in the past, the guys I've seen the most are the one who were interested in me and pursued me and *convinced* me (or tried) that they are the best and worth my time.

Well, I'm SO not into being selected and convinced. I want what I want, not what society thinks will be best for me or what the lonely dude thinks is best for me. This conditioning that has taught me to choose the guy who picked me is sick! It's been ingrained into my thinking my entire life. Progressively, maybe there are more movies about women choosing the man they want and fighting for him... maybe! Typically, though, the dude changes the girls mind while the woman gives up on the guy who is a "jerk" simply because he's not into her. He's not a jerk, and she's not stupid for continuing to pursue him.

Of course, at some point it might make sense to just let it go if a guy really is uninterested, but I can choose when that time comes. No one else has to tell me and decide that it's better that I give up and force myself to like the guy the other dude. He may very well be "good" for me, but that's because he moulded himself into someone "good" for me, and I convinced myself that he is just that. It would be funny if it weren't such a real and stupid problem.

I do not believe in being chosen, I do not believe in settling, and I do not believe in giving up. If my instinct and gut tell me someone is right for me, no more will I follow the advice of others. Others who tell me to forget him if he's not immediately interested. I'm the fighter, I'm the lion.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Politican'ts do that.

Let's talk about the presidential election a little, shall we? I don't want to do it, believe me, but someone's gotta slow things down and be real for a moment. And, sigh, I know I am the only person for the job. Mostly because I hate all politicians. Do and say and pay and give what you want- I'm not buying it. They're all shlubs.

Do I think all voters are nutty morons? Idealistic, anti-semitic, racist, homophobic, socialist, hippy-dippy, fools? I don't. I think Trump voters, Sanders voters, and Clinton voters all have something in common: they want a better life for themselves, their families, and future generations.

America isn't great. It's greater than many other countries, but we have many flaws, and it's about time someone admitted it. America doesn't have to be the richest and most powerful country to prove anything, it simply has to thrive and do everything in its power to help its citizens thrive and be happy enough and safe enough and free enough. The more, the merrier!

No one, I repeat NO ONE knows the perfect path to take in order to achieve this. We all have ideas and theories. We all know bits and pieces of what WE want and what WE need, but one thing leads to another, which causes another, which does another thing. There is know way of knowing the entire chain reaction that will occur once choices and laws and changes are made. However, those ideas and theories can grow and be fixed if the right people work towards making it better. Unfortunately, the people who make these big decisions are politicians!

While firefighters fight fires for a living and McDonald's servers give children obesity, and everyone else has their professions and their wages and their dreams, politicians have one goal: to become bigger politicians. To control more of their city, country, or the world! What about that makes you think that these "leaders" are truly in it to give the people what they want? Making claims is one thing, that's the nice and easy part. Tell the people what they want to hear, and they have limited ways of rebuking your sentiments and statements. In this way, even the most trusted and wonderful people can turn bad in the name of being given more power and influence. It's their job. This is how they make a living. The weak and the kind will not survive. If a politician told us their real intentions and plans, the world would revolt; there would be utter chaos. Lies and deceit are tools for control and keeping some level of peace. Can you just imagine what the truth would unleash?

Aside from this, there is a certain level of uncertainty. Desperation changes people, as well. Even those decisions that come from a positive place can go awry. One slip and everything that previously seemed right and good for the people may have to change. There's no predicting world affairs.

Fight for your beliefs and vote and rally together to make the change you believe in. However, don't let the dirty politicians divide us and turn everyone's same goal of love and peace into a war zone. Politicians have enough power, don't give them this, too!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fieldwork Experience Post #1

     RH is a wonderful psychosocial club set in a 5-story building in Brooklyn. The clientele are primarily transgender individuals who have been diagnosed with one or several qualifying mental disorders. Most of the members are between the ages of 25 and 50, and live in homes provided by government services. 

     I have now been going to RH every Thursday from 1.30 to 5.30 PM for nearly 3 months. Thursdays at RH usually consist of lots of socialization time in the community room, sometimes a speaker who comes in to speak to the members, and usually there is a LGBTQ-relevant (or otherwise politically-inspired) film being turned on just as I am preparing to leave. 

     In the short period of time I have been going to RH to observe the members and activities, I have met many wonderful people who have a lot to offer and teach me. In return, I believe I have offered them an outlet and an ally to whom they can express their thoughts, feelings, and intimate concerns. 

     Being there has also given me the opportunity to utilize several of the tools with which my training at The Center has provided me. Just a few of these include: transference, countertransference, contact function, and object-oriented questioning. Each of these has given me order to my clinical attempts, as well as guided my actions and words in order to be the most effective in my interactions with RH's members. 

     Although I have been fortunate enough to meet and talk with quite a few RH members, the two with whom I have bonded most closely are D and H. Both of these individuals made contact with me from day one and continue to teach me about themselves and their lives each week. I feel both of these members have shared the most and made me experience countertransference to a surprising and very informative point.

     When I first met D, she was seated in the corner of the community room. She was quietly reading, and did not seem interested in talking to me or anyone. However, when another member commented that she could not make D laugh, I became interested. Since my greatest interest in the mental health field is using humour to talk and heal, I became intrigued by D’s resistance to the primitive and pleasurable act of laughing. Although I had no plan, nor desire to initiate contact D first, I did make the bold choice to sit at the table at which she was seated. At first, this made no difference, and she continued to ignore my presence. Finally, she put her book down and began to ask me about my studies. This is when my relationship with D began to take off. 

     Following this first interaction, D became increasingly interested in talking to me and sharing her thoughts on politics, psychology, and the world. What she would tell me about her past was limited, but she did let me know that she had a fairly happy childhood in Trinidad. Her father was abusive towards her mother, but for the most part, everyone had what they wanted and needed. It was not until she chose to leave and come to America that she felt traumatized and possessed. As her diagnosis of schizophrenia became more of a part of her life, she delved further into her studies on mental health and various psychological theorists. She also attended college to study these ideas further. She claims that she is still studying, but has stated several times that she has been removed from the class or chose to leave. She has strong feelings about her professors, classmates, and schooling as a whole. When she talks about these topics, I feel an anger, as well as a fear. There seems to be a fear that this academic setting will eat her alive. The professors and her peers, as she describes them, sound judgmental, intrusive, and dangerous. D says they try to use her as a patient to study, so she must fight back by scaring them away and letting them know that they may not do this to her, as she did not sign anything to permit this experimentation on her. Her only safety net is what she calls the ISIP. The ISIP is the group that is trying to remove her from this dangerous setting. They speak to her psychically in her mind and through her eye cameras from various countries around the world. When she talks about the ISIP, I hope she has found someone or something that helps her escape her fears; that she has an escape from these scary thoughts and experiences. 

     D has made it clear that she both enjoys company, but certainly does not need it. She expressed this the other day before I left the club. Although we had not determined a precise time to meet, we had touched upon the idea of meeting at 3 PM when I was there and talking. When I did not approach her at 3 PM, she did not express any concern or interest. By the time I was heading out, she then let me know that she did not want to become emotional about the issue, but she expressed annoyance that I did not approach her. She asked if I was afraid to approach her. I responded by asking if there was any reason I should be afraid to approach her. She did not feel that there was, and therefore, she requested that in the future I come to her to talk. She then said something about the day I die, how my grave will say I was always cleaning. I thought this was interesting because she had only seen me cleaning the room twice before, and it was for a fairly short period of time. Still, this gave me an excuse for my absence at 3 PM. I feel she may have been protecting me and herself from feeling hurt or upset when I did not come talk to her. When I apologized, her affect became calmer, she smiled and forgave me. 

     Also before I left, she mentioned that she wanted to talk so she could get into my head. However, she could not because my defenses are so strong. I responded by thanking her, and she smiled. I asked if hers were also strong, and she said they were. I told her we will have to see who will get into the other’s head first. She laughed and nodded.

     The other individual who made contact with me my first day at RH was H. H is on the younger end of the spectrum of members, even though she is likely in her late 20s or early 30s. Although born male and given a male name, H prefers to be referred to in her female form and title. Most days she wears more male-centric clothing, however. She explains that this is what her housing expects, and prevents discomfort when walking around outside. She likes that she can wear pantyhose under her pants, and likes changing and wearing women’s clothing at RH when she can. 

     On my first day, H would come talk to me, repeat herself a lot, and then walk away. If not walking away, she would make bird noises (“Caw!”) to interrupt conversation and offer her an escape. At first I took this to be a tic, but she explained soon after that these noises reminded her of her deceased mother. Her mother did not approve of her lifestyle, but she did cook well, and taught H how to cook Spanish food. Spanish food is very important to H, and she is very focused on cooking with RH members. She cannot bear the idea of not being allowed to cook with heart and soul with members who love and accept her, whether she is a son or daughter. 
H very quickly experienced narcissistic transference with me, and I began to experience countertransference, as well. Although we are very different and come from very different backgrounds, we connect on an emotional level. H seems to hope that I will become her, or the biologically female version of her. She gave me a list of clothing I should purchase, all items that would be “drop dead gorgeous”, but all in her size, rather than in mine. 
There are many times where H will be anxious to have my attention and show me all the things relating to her love for House music and cooking that she plans to buy. Once she has shown me and I’ve “approved” of what she does and wants, she will seem satisfied and no longer mention these things. She also has shared that she likes when people, including me, repeat her “caw” noises. When I do this, she laughs or smiles, and I feel a great sense of relief and joy along with her. 

     I found out this week that other staff at RH refer to H by her male name and call her “him”. She does not comment or seem bothered by this. However, when I accidentally called H “him” in weeks past, she corrected me and requested that I never make the mistake again. It is important to her that I recognize her femininity. Fortunately, this comes with the benefit of her trusting me, and she will tell me things in private that she says she would not tell the rest of the staff. My opinion means a lot to H, and she feels she can safely express herself with me, even when she is upset; an emotion she feels I “do not want to see.” Rather than sharing what this “upset” emotion looks like, she consistently lets me know that I do not want to see her upset. What is important to her is "heart and soul", as well as knowing that I take her seriously and am concerned about her. When I ask if she is concerned about herself, she seems hesitant to express this. She prefers to be reassured that I am concerned about her and her situations. When these feelings present themselves, I do feel a genuine concern for the both of us. As someone who is equally terrified of my own negative emotions, and does whatever necessary to deny such feelings, I can relate to this concern. My understanding would be that any sign of anger or distress could harm us… or those about whom we care. 

     It is much too early in my interventions with D and H to really understand or know where our session will take our relationships. However, as of now, the tools that The Center has provided me appear to be beneficial and useful. Understanding certain defenses and feelings has allowed for self-care and protection, as well as better interpretations of what is going on around me. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Abuse me

I remember when people were kind and considerate. At least, I thought they were. When I was a kid, home seemed rough. School seemed impossible. However, aside from some minor incidents, when I went out in the world, people were generally pretty nice to me. My grandmother's friends were nice enough, strangers were patient and kind to me, and the world seemed to be a pretty swell and safe place.

When did people turn so cruel? Or, when did I become so aware of it?

Now, let me clarify, although I did grow up in a fairly sheltered world, I still faced the troubles most quirky, quiet kids faced. I got bullied and abused, I was mocked and ridiculed, everything about me was put-down, hated, and cruelly diminished.

Somehow, though, I didn't take this to mean everyone was cruel. I didn't assume everyone was out to get me. My optimism and kind personality stuck with me through the physical and verbal abuse. It definitely wasn't me who became cold and lost compassion, that's for sure. At some point, though, I noticed a pattern. Friends stabbed backs, strangers betrayed and threatened you, family let you down, and the world was just a complete, chaotic mess.

Yet, still, I wasn't hardened by this reality. I didn't want to be like them, so I didn't allow myself to become like them. Sure, once in awhile I'll give a glare or make a comment that I regret, but generally, I look kindly upon humanity. As much as I want to lose faith, I don't have it in me. Honestly, it takes a lot of energy to put up that much of a shield. No one may hurt you, but you can't touch the lives of others, either. When that light dims and that armour goes up, you lose a connection. The only connection we have in life is with each other. Other animals and plants and worldly things are great in their own way, but there's something about humans that is irresistible. They're disgusting and mean and conniving, and generally just have so many awful traits, but their OURS. As kind as you and I are, as wonderful and intelligent and open-minded and tolerant and not annoying as we think we "ARE", we are human, and we are just as capable of being the very same. There may be someone out there who views you that way.

We don't have the ability to change the things we don't like, but we can change ourselves. Right? Remember that little tidbit of wisdom we've all heard? You're stuck with humans. You don't have to completely immerse yourself in their culture (i.e. television, social media, magazines...) but just remember that we're all confused and slightly crazy patients to each other. We learn from others and have to accept all, even those we don't like, because they aren't going anywhere.

Since I mentioned it, those who really want to detach from other humans, whether temporarily or for life, step away from all those commercials! The movies and fake news is just selling you thoughts and feelings. While being present and aware is great, it's swallowing each and every one of us. That phone in your pocket is constantly gnawing at you, eating away at your pocket, trying to get to you. Delete all your junk, sign out of all your garbage, and breathe. Admire the sky or the person or pet you love. Read that book or learn Spanish and ballroom dancing..... Do everything and anything you can. Because one day you'll wonder why life is so short, and I'll be there chuckling. It wasn't short, you just kept wondering when the next Friday would be or when the next show would come out on Netflix or why the guy you like is commenting on another person's photos, or how come your legs don't look like his legs or her hair or their cool outfits which you need more money for, but your job is stupid. Even though you go in everyday and grumble and make fun of the worker who is smiling all day. That person probably is feeling the same or is using every ounce of their energy to not feel that way. You don't have to be that person, but why not be that person?

Is this just another overly-positive pep talk that doesn't apply to 40% of the depressed population? Yes. You don't want to hear this. Why? Because being sad or angry or any negative emotion kind of feels good sometimes. Now, don't over-do it, but I hear ya. It's so satisfying to hate things and hear sympathy and find all the reasons to dislike stuff in life. That's why most of us do it in big chunks. Some people hate everything a little bit over a long period of time. That sounds more exhausting and then you have to deal with annoying people asking you about it. Sometimes it's just easiest to take a month or two or three or six to hate yourself and your life and the world and your job and your sneakers and your eyelashes and your wrists and your depression. Hate it. It's not good. No one gets to tell you not to hate it. They will, but that's stupid. Bad things are bad. No reason to pretend you love it ALL the time. Just, go in and do what you have to, if you want to do that, and then go home and cry into a pillow. Or make a major life change or see a therapist or... find something to do and move on. Maybe moving on from the familiar and comfortable (even the miserable, uncomfortable) is the hardest part. Be okay with not being okay and not being happy AND be okay with the pleasure you get from being unhappy. It sounds twisted and unappreciative, but you have to deal with stuff, and you are the one not enjoying it, and that's a bummer. A huge bummer. Have emotions and own them!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Letting Go of Superman

     As children, we all select our heroes and role models. Sometimes they're the characters who look and act cool, sometimes they're the singers who dress up and sing songs that make us smile or cry. Other times, they're the people who matter to us because they seem big and powerful, and make our young eyes widen in awe. These people can be aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, siblings, or even the super chill dude who comes over to fix the toilet. Whoever this person may be, they change our views on the world. They mould us into teenagers and young adults with goals based on their opinions of the world. Sometimes they just teach us how to dress like an adult or what movies to watch, but other times these role models shape our entire lives and self-opinions.
    However, as we get older, we become more aware of the world and those around us. We begin to see just who these role models are, and what the role they are modeling is, exactly. This is when things can get a little sticky. Upon adulthood, we can recognize people's flaws. Everyone has them, but when it comes to the people who made us who we are today, it can be a little shocking when you discover for what you were aiming.
     We all know it is a dangerous endeavour to go out and meet those singers, actors, lecturers, and artists whom we have come to worship and "understand" like a close friend. Why is this? What is so potentially hazardous? Yeah, the person can turn into a stone cold jerk and kill all your fantasies, but what's so bad about that? Well, think about it.... This is the person whom you framed your life around. You were exerting your every energy in an attempt to be this person! Now, to get this far, only to find out that they're nothing like what you had lusted over for all those years? What now? You're alone in the world and you know at least part of your being consists of Jerky McDoogle. The person or people who you decided would make your life better, nay, make YOU better, are people who can give you incorrect and skewed views on the world. It's like, maybe Britney Spears can wear pigtails as an adult, but not everyone can pull off that look. Seriously, guys, NOT everyone can pull it off. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
     Cameras and lights only give us a smidgen of the picture, the flawless bits. Just as childhood will do. You may know your Uncle Hooha is the only guy in the family who talks to you and treats you like an adult and lets you drive his car and helped you move into your first dorm, but what if you find out he's also a meth-addict who steals from elderly people? You know it's wrong and bad, and not at all who you want to be, but it can be hard to turn off that burning desire to be him. The desire won't just vanish after 18, 25, 42... years of your hard work.
     The reality is, you still are anxious to hang out with him because he has crazy stories and lots of weird friends. When you discover who these weird friends are who you've been hanging out with since you were 2 years old, you're a bit turned off, but you're likely in denial. Chances are, you're coming up with reasons that it's okay to hang out with meth addicts and dealers. You think next time will be different. Uncle Hooha is still a good guy! Albeit, misguided, but still hero-worthy.

     This is a habit I think an adult must muster up the strength to release. There's a time in life when one must become aware of what's unsafe and unhealthy for their well-being. All preconceived notions of heroism must be altered. Adoration must be put on hold or completely eradicated.

Easier said than done.

    Not to mention, people do change. Someone who truly was worth your admiration when you were a kid may turn into a selfish, judgmental snob. He/she may not be objectively a bad person, but he/she could be bad for you in other ways. This person may now criticize you or make you feel insignificant. You may no longer be of great importance in their life, therefore, be cast aside. Thus, leaving you brokenhearted and confused. Confused because it is not normal for a personality to suddenly change completely. Nor for a person to change priorities and views and interests drastically over time or all of a sudden. Learning this and accepting this new reality takes time, like slamming the brakes and having to wait a moment or two before the car actually stops. Spending time with this person may no longer work for you, and that's okay. You've changed, as well. You need different things and thoughts and people. Don't be afraid of letting go because you feel you will never have another person to fill that role. There will be more role models! Maybe they come from books or movies, from classes or jobs, maybe even people you used to look down upon will surprise you with a comeback. Whatever the case, the first step is untying yourself from the weak fish before you both drown. Today's Superman can be tomorrow's Doctor Octopus. You'll be okay without Doc Ock, now he's just holding you down.