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Archive for the ‘Therapy-Related Musings’ Category

Although I’d written in some format for at least 18 years, I never thought about making it a full time venture until recently.  I knew I was always very well-rounded in many aspects of writing – whether it was academic-based, poetry, creative writing – you name it, I could draft a writing piece quite quickly and quite proficiently.  I was also very good at working with people.  I remember getting the “Dear Abby” award at camp one year for my advice-giving skills and the fact that I had an approachable personality.  You can have all the great advice in the world, but if you can’t get the person to talk, it’s really quite useless.

So, I guess you could say I had two talents, writing and helping people, and I chose to expend my time and energy (and let’s not forget money) getting a degree in the latter.  It was still money well spent, as I really enjoyed, and still do, helping others figure out how to solve problems.

The last several years of my life have been working at a residential facility with female adolescents.  Not the easiest job, I must say, for several reasons.  First, adolescents aren’t always the most insightful individuals, as life usually revolves around them in their minds and connecting actions to consequences is often a foreign concept.  In addition, you take a teenager who did not make a conscious choice to be sitting in my office (some were escorted to the facility via strangers in the middle of the night) and you definitely have your work cut out for you.

I will take a moment to pat myself on the back, however, at the success that I had with these kids.  First and foremost, a relationship had to be built.  I could not come at them telling them what their problems were.  There would be no way to break through the anger and hurt they felt from being ripped away from family and friends.  So, I honed my skills even more in the relationship-building department. 

But in the last six months or so when “life” got in the way and working as a therapist no longer fit into my plans, I put full-time effort into my other talent – writing.  I say full-time because I had never put it on the back burner necessarily.  It was more on that smaller burner right next to the big one up front.

Although, as a writer, my office is at home and I don’t sit trying to help solve life problems for teenage girls all day (just my 11 year old daughter), one connection I have made between the two occupations is the #1 need to build relationships.  Albeit, it’s sometimes more difficult over a computer, and I have to hone these skills in different ways, I wouldn’t have the client base that I do had I not had this foundation in place.

I feel I have made a successful transition from one career choice to another, and I look back with no regrets.  I’ve been asked if I regret going to school to become a therapist, as to the onlooker the large student loans I accumulated would probably make many question the same thing.  The answer is no.  Each skill I learned, each paper I wrote, all added to my repertoire of aspects I put into my everyday writing.  I have not lost the therapist in me as a writer no more than I lost the writer in me as a therapist.  They are both what makes me, well, me.

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What is Dissociative Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)? There are vast amounts of differing opinions on what exactly Dissociative Disorder is. Psychology Today views the disorder as the deficiency of connected “thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or identity.” One recurring theme in all the research is the prevalence of extreme, traumatic sexual and/or physical abuse experienced by the individual from an early age in life; the majority of cases share this unique quality. Individuals often are not even aware of the abuse that had been inflicted upon them, and many deny the incidents even when presented with mounting evidence such as police and child protective service reports. Many children are very good at daydreaming, and pretending they are someone different. It would make sense that if enough of these facades occurred prior to the child figuring out his or her own personality, internal confusion may take form in one way or another. This becomes a very useful coping method while in childhood (when one cannot get away from the abuse), but loses its effectiveness in the adult years, often leading to problematic and dysfunctional behaviors that lead to the loss of jobs and relationships. Studies say that eighty to ninety percent of those with Dissociative Disorder are not even aware that they suffer from the disorder. Does this mean that these individuals are not affected by their afflictions? Their actions, along with the observations of those they interact with, clue them in that something is not right about them; however, they unfortunately do not understand the reasons why their life is like a puzzle.

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My concern for social problems is great. I am constantly aware of the oppression and difficulties experienced by others, and I am always looking for ways to help just in my current surroundings. I believe I have a well-rounded view of many of the issues concerning people in the world, and this open-mindedness will ensure a helping relationship with those I serve.
Regarding people who are different, I have my own philosophy. I have found that once I attempt to get to know them and their situations, I am able to identify the relatedness, rather than the differences. I enjoy learning about their strengths and the resiliency that is found in all people. It is a challenge to find ways to empower them, but it is one that I readily accept. People are people, no matter how “different” they may seem.
Rather than shy away from those that are different than I am, I choose to learn about them. Whether this is through personal conversations with particular people, or through research and reading, this has enhanced my knowledge. Although I am not an expert on every difference, one of my greatest strengths is my open-mindedness. My willingness to learn has not only helped me in my education and life, it has shown others that I am enthusiastic to gain knowledge about them. Because I never feel like I know enough, I am constantly seeking further knowledge in a variety of areas concerning people and what makes them unique. I feel this will facilitate a helping relationship in which I can show empathy and respect to those I am serving.
I believe that everyone has the skills within them to cope with whatever situation comes their way. Many people do not recognize these skills, and therefore need someone like myself to empower them. Through the partnership we develop, I hope to instill in them the belief that they are adequate to help themselves long after the helping relationship is over.

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Imagine always believing that if you let someone get emotionally close to you, they would leave you. And no matter how much someone tried to convince you that this wouldn’t happen, you couldn’t find a way to believe it. Can you imagine how lonely that would make you feel?Imagine that all of your relationships were built around only two extremes: putting the other person upon a pedestal, only to rip that very pedestal right out from underneath them. Can you imagine how confusing this might be?

Imagine waking up one day feeling like you are the best…the best looking, the best personality, the best everything. Then, waking up the next day feeling like the worst person ever to have been born on this planet. Now imagine these extremes occurring five, twenty, even a hundred times a day. Can you imagine how exhausting this may make you feel?

Imagine spending your whole allowance or paycheck immediately after getting it. Or eating a pint of ice cream, three burritos, a box of cereal, and a bag of chips, all in one sitting. How about spending an entire weekend using drugs and alcohol and having sex with a random guy(s). Can you imagine how frightening this may be?

Imagine feeling like you want to kill yourself much of time. Imagine making threats to those who love you, and in, worst case scenarios, mutilating yourself enough that you end up in the hospital. Can you imagine how embarrassed you would feel?

These are just a few of the things your daughter is likely feeling…lonely, confused, exhausted, frightened, and embarrassed.

Though your daughter is intensely struggling with the emotions that this disorder causes her to feel, this does not discount those feelings likely to arise in those who are closely intertwined in her life. Equally confusing is the wonderment of not know which person your child will see you as. Will you be the blessed parent on the pedestal or the evil parent brought quickly to the ground with a few angry, spiteful words? And even more confusing and frustrating is the apparent amnesia she seems to have to the fact that, just a few hours ago, she saw you in a completely opposite way.

So what hope can be found in a seemingly hopeless situation? Thankfully, individual therapy can speak volumes in helping your daughter learn how to deal with stressors, both real and imagined, that she deals with on a daily basis. By working with a therapist, she can trudge through her stormy interpersonal relationships, learning how to bridge the large gap between her extremes of good and bad, finally resting at a middle point that will allow her the sanctity of healthy human connections. She can learn to use thought-stopping, breathing techniques, and reality therapy to become less emotionally reactive to situations she encounters. If need be, she can utilize the wide range of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety agents, and mood stabilizers to help her get to the point where she feels willing and able to deal with the issues at hand.

Being one of the people closely intertwined in her life, the road ahead may be long and daunting. However, by providing support and boundaries, you will be able to build a relationship that is healthier than the one you’re currently engaged in. There is hope. She needs you to hold on to it when she loses her own.

This piece was written for parents of girls at the facility I’m a therapist at who are dealing with BPD. For more information on Borderline Personality Disorder, I recommend the following books:

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