Meaning of Life

Meaning of Life

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I was just trying to read and my mind kept going back to the patients I had this past week so I know I need to write. Writing is so therapeutic for me.

A patient who is still waiting to see how much prison time she is going to serve said if she has to spend more than 10 years in prison, she is going to commit suicide. I asked if she had family and she said her sister is her best friend and she talks to her mom frequently. I said she could still love her family while in prison. I asked why would she want to end her life because I bet it would devastate her family.  She shrugged and said “I’d just be taking up space.” I’m scared she is determined to end her life depending on her sentencing. And you know what’s really sad, I could hear some republicans say: “good for her…we don’t need to be wasting our tax dollars on her.”  I just bought Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and I hope this will help give me some direction on where I can take my next therapy session with this patient.

Another patient I had knows she is going to serve 10 years in prison. She had three children and her parental rights were terminated last year.  She talked about not knowing what to do now in life. We first talked about rather or not her children will come find her once they are 18. I believe most children have a curiosity on who their birth parents are and do go looking for them. This patient said: “Well if they did, what purpose would I have in their life?” I talked about how in our 20s it is all about discovering  the world and she could help guide them and let them learn from her mistakes. She then talked about if she succeeded in making changes to improve her life and became stable, wouldn’t her children be angry with her and ask why she couldn’t do it for them. Of if she stayed on the same path and continued to use drugs, would her children say: “You STILL haven’t changed?!?!?” I said it is important to change and allow your children to know that at any given time, we do have the capability to change.

The last patient I wanted to mention is someone I didn’t sit down and talk to but I was asked to check in with him. He was a 20 year old male and had only spent a couple days in jail and was getting released. I asked what his plan was and he said he didn’t know. He said he would rather stay in jail because he would have a bed to sleep on and food to eat. This just broke my heart to hear…can you imagine being so hopeless you would rather stay in a jail?!?! I asked if he had tried the homeless shelters out and he said no because his goal is to not have to stay in one. I said there is nothing wrong in staying in a homeless shelter and it sounds like that is what you need to do for now. A Deputy said he talked to him earlier and the patient said he never had a mom and his dad was in prison.  As I was leaving, I saw the same Deputy talking to him and I bet you anything the Deputy was giving him some advice. I wish I was a fly on the wall and could have heard that conversation.

When dealt a shitty hand…

When dealt a shitty hand…

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Had a friend on here ask what I have been up to since it has been so long since my last post. It doesn’t take much to get me writing again. =)

I’m loving working as a therapist at the jail. The last few months I’ve been meeting monthly with this 19 year old who has been dealt such a shitty hand in life. He and his sister were adopted probably around the age of 5 or 6. Then their adopted father molests his sister so then I think he and his sister go into foster care.  He ends up at the Division of Youth Corrections for a couple of years as a teenager. And then the only person he knows he can love (his sister) is shot dead when she is a teenager.  So NOW how is he able to believe that there are more good people than bad?? That this world is a good place?? I sure wouldn’t if I was dealt the hand he was dealt. I worry about his depression. At our last session I told him he HAS to BELIEVE that there are good people in this world. And when he runs into the bad people, now he CAN make the choice and move on and not have those bad people in his life any more. Surround himself with good people.  Life isn’t easy and at times discouraging, but when we surround ourselves with good people it makes the difficult times bearable.

I’ve been thinking A LOT about Aaron Hernandez’s suicide. I enjoy the work that I do because just about every patient I have at the jail has someone that cares about him or her. I fear one day one of my patients will lose their life to suicide. I’m working DAMN hard every day to make sure it doesn’t happen. It’s tough to see the signs of suicide at the jail….most people aren’t happy to be in jail….they spend their days sleeping in their cell. Isolating. And how can I find those that are isolating? Thankfully, I work with a GREAT team of Deputies (and many hot ones too, haha). I’m relying on them to communicate to me when they notice someone isolating….But with  Aaron Hernandez, if he was isolating, was that normal for him?  It’s tragic Aaron took someone’s life too soon but also tragic that Aaron was so hopeless.

Depression

Depression

I had a patient the other day that I continue to think about every so often.

He said he was adopted and never felt like he belonged. He tried to find his birth parents but found out they live in two different countries and they do not want to be contacted. He said he received a Bachelors and was a Chef but most recently was doing some other work. He said he has seen many therapists in his life and does not like therapy. He said one of his good friends had just committed suicide at the mental health agency in our town. He briefly touched on him being in jail and said he believes he was going to be released later that day or tomorrow so his charge was not serious. Yet, he said he is on probation for another three years and can’t wait to get out of Colorado and go back home to New Jersey.

And he looked sad…very sad and this is why I think of him now. That old saying how the eyes are the window to the soul I believe is totally true. I can tell by looking in someone’s eyes if I need to worry about them. And I worry about him.

What did I say? I talked about how depression lies; how sometimes people have to create their own family; self love is important; and there is always another option.  BUT see, even with me knowing all of this, I still get depressed. So, if this happens for me WITH all of my support and all of my knowledge; I just can’t imagine how shitty depression can be for some people and why I worry about them.

Our mind can be a brilliant gift or a horrible nightmare and if it’s the latter, life becomes so hard.

I didn’t know how to end this post until today…a friend posted the following quote that I want to share: “Sometimes the only way to let go of the darkness is to express it. Write it out. Paint or draw. Take photos. Do something when you feel the darkness. Make the darkness something that gives light. Real, bright, pure light.” -Teryn O’Brien. I also like the Zacharia quote…owning one’s sadness and then letting go I think is healthy and possible for most anyone.

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What do you choose NOW?

What do you choose NOW?

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Liz grew up with both parents drug addicts. They would spend their nights shooting up while Liz would watch. Hardly ever going to school, Liz talks about how she would be lucky if there was mayo and bread to eat. Liz’s mom gets AIDS and her dad goes to a homeless shelter when Liz is in junior high (Liz is still really not going to school). When 17, Liz realizes “If life could change for the worst, i thought, than maybe life could change for the better…it was possible I could change everything.” Liz went on to graduate from an alternative high school and then was accepted into Harvard and graduated from Harvard.

This is the story I’ve been telling my patients the last few days because this is the book I finished last week. It’s called Breaking Night by Liz Murray and it’s an amazing story.

And then I came across this quote the other day which I immediately saved and will share with patients: “A lot of people feel like they’re victims in life, and they’ll often point to past events, perhaps growing up with an abusive parent or in a dysfunctional family. Most psychologists believe that about 85 percent of families are dysfunctional, so all of a sudden you’re not so unique. My parents were alcoholics. My dad abused me. My mother divorced him when I was six…I mean, that’s almost everybody’s story in some form or not. The real question is, what are you going to do now? What do you choose now? Because you can either keep focusing on that, or you can focus on what you want. And when people start focusing on what they want, what they don’t want falls away, and what they want expands, and the other part disappears.” ― Rhonda Byrne

 

Slowly Seeing More Light

Slowly Seeing More Light

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I’ve been looking at the computer screen lately and wanting to write but not feeling up to writing…I’m going through a funk and I just haven’t felt like myself. I think I’m slowly seeing more light now.

I realize I have no desire to move to Denver so I haven’t been looking at jobs in the Denver area. I’m staying focused on the area I live in…I guess, after 8 or 9 months if I still haven’t found full time work, I’ll start applying for jobs in Denver.

A friend recently wrote this to me: “I am aware that you’ve encountered a variety of hurdles in getting situated in the right work at the right time in the right place, etc. I salute your persistence.” And I’ve been thinking lately why is life so difficult for me?? I’m tired of moving, tired of being fired, tired of being single…So I think these things BUT then I tell myself what I tell my patients at the jail: If I continue to think of all of the things that suck in my life, I’d be miserable. So I have to tell myself STOP thinking about those things and put my mind on something positive (family, friends, my health, etc.) I tell those at the jail this and then I say: “I just met you so I don’t know what will make you feel better, but you gotta put your mind on something else or you are going to drive yourself crazy.”

With therapy, I like to give clients reading material so they don’t feel all alone. At the psych hospital, for those dealing with depression, I gave out over and over again a quote from one of Jenny Lawson’s books. For those who dealt with anxiety, a quote from https://jolenemottern.com/ And now for those at the jail, I give them the following from Damien Echols:

”For those who aren’t familiar with my story, I grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas, and I was sent to death row when I was 18 years old for three counts of capital murder. I spent 18 years and 76 days on death row before we were finally able to do DNA testing that led to my eventual release in 2011.

When I first went to prison, the day that I walked onto death row, there was a man in there who became a priest in the Rinzai Zen tradition of Japanese Buddhism. Before he was executed he told me, “You can either turn your cell into a monastery and learn and grow, or you can sit in here and go stark raving nuts. You can lose your mind.” And that’s what most people did in there. Most people couldn’t hold it together long enough. There’s no momentum in prison. ..You exist in a vacuum. If you want to keep growing, learning, expanding, you have to make yourself do it. And that was what I decided to do…I was trapped in a cell 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The last 10 years I was in prison, I was in solitary confinement. I had no contact with other people. It made it very, very easy to stay focused on the meditation techniques. Even if I reached a point where I was bored, if I thought, “I don’t want to have to do this again,” it was like, “Well, what else are you going to do?”

When it comes to karma, the number one thing I would like to say is that you can go through life being a victor or a victim. You’re going to have to face your karma. You can go through life with a “poor me” attitude—“Why me? Why this?”or you can go through it saying: “I’m going to honor my life. I’m going to honor my karma. I’m going to come through this. I’m going to be stronger, I’m going to be wiser, I’m going to help spread what I learned from this situation to other people.”

So starting today, I’m stopping the “poor me” attitude and going to honor my life.

 

 

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance

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Radical acceptance  is one of several distress tolerance skills. These skills refer to a type of intervention in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) where clients learn to manage distress in a healthy way. These skills are helpful for situations where a client might not be able to control a situation, but they need to manage their own response.

I’ve utilized radical acceptance when clients were molested, raped, a victim of domestic violence, or any other horrific incident you can think of happening. I thought this would be a good one to start with today because of the tragic gun shooting in Orlando.

From therapistaid.com, here is what they say about radical acceptance: “Sometimes you’ll run into a problem that’s simply out of your control. It can be easy to think “This isn’t fair” or “I shouldn’t have this problem”, even though those ways of thinking only make the pain worse. Radical acceptance refers to a healthier way of thinking during these situations. Instead of focusing on how you would like something to be different, you will recognize and accept the problem or situation as it is. Remember, accepting is not the same as liking or condoning something. Learning to accept the problems that are out of your control will lead to less anxiety, anger, and sadness when dealing with them.”

Then, I give the following questions as homework:

Describe a situation that causes suffering:

Describe changes you could make to the situation if possible:

Describe what you can realistically change through problem-solving and/or shifting your thoughts:

Describe what you may need to radically accept:

Describe how your life will be different when you have radically accepted this situation:

Describe how you will acnowledge and celebrate your freedom from suffering: