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I don’t believe in signs.

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

I say that I don’t believe in fate,

and that I  don’t believe in signs

because I want the control.

I want to say that through chaos and uncertainty,

I made my choice.

I made my life.

However, when I have certain things on my mind,

certain changes to make while fear is fixed in me,

the signs emerge one by one.

Words said in passing on the bus,

or casually poised questions by a stranger in a leather booth innocently demand answers

to questions I won’t answer when I’m alone.

Still–

The choice is mine.

I can choose to ignore the signs

because I don’t believe in signs,

or I can chose to act

because I don’t believe in signs

and I want to say that through chaos and uncertainty

I made my choice.

I made my life.

What can happen in a year.

September 28, 2013 2 comments

Yesterday marked my one year anniversary at my job. Last fall, I was hired as clinical case manager for a permanent supportive housing facility for formerly homeless adults with co-occurring mental health disorders. The residents I work with cope with an array of challenging mental health conditions, such as substance abuse, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Major Depressive Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While living in supportive housing, residents can stay as long as they need to regain stability in their lives and work towards personal goals for independence. My agency houses 66 residents and I work with 33 of them. At times, 33 clients seems manageable. Not everyone is in crisis all the time, and many of my clients are secure in forging their own path in life–enrolling in educational programs, working full-time and part-time jobs, or enjoying time as a grandparent. However, since many of our residents are coping with poverty, life-threatening illnesses, relapse, loss, and past and present trauma, sometimes 33 clients seems overwhelming and I find myself questioning how well I can do my job. I love our residents. They show me insight, reflection, empathy, intelligence, creativity, and humor. Even those that struggle hold tremendous potential.

In the past week, I’ve been smashed with a handful of relapses, evictions, and loss. In the case of some of these clients, I know I already did everything I could. I was available. I extended resources. I was there. I know that. For a couple of these individuals, though, I feel cheated. I remember when I first met them. They were hostile and condescending. They yelled. I was defensive and avoidant. The night before I was to meet with them, I’d pray they wouldn’t show up. But I am stubborn and hate feeling lazy or scared. So I stepped it up. No more me versus them. We would be a team. So we talked. We decided to be honest. We decided to disagree respectfully. We set our boundaries. We made compromises.  After several months, these few individuals who used to glare at me in the hall or straight up ignore me would wave hello to me from two blocks away. They started peeking their heads in my office to say hi. After receiving an achievement certificate, I went to shake one man’s hand, but he went in for a hug instead. I was floored. I still can’t believe it.

I recognize that these people elected to change. They put in a lot of painful work on their own. Some did extra work with family, support groups, and intensive therapy. I will never take credit for their evolution. As I think about these clients, I am thinking about how they made me change. By engaging me in conflict, they made me face my own insecurity and fear. In other cases, I have clients who used to be unresponsive, self-conscious, and silent in my office. Now we can smile and joke when we talk. These individuals taught me to be patient and comfortable with silence. I didn’t know these changes were possible when I started this job. I didn’t know how much agency a person can have over their own life until I saw these immeasurable steps forward. And for me, I didn’t know that I could put my pride, defensiveness, and need for control aside so I could give other people the space they needed.

Over the next few weeks and months, I have to say goodbye to some clients. Not all of them are leaving on their own terms. Some of them, I might not even get the chance to say goodbye. My supervisor told me to remember that all the good these people embody will go with them after they leave. It’s hard to convince myself that everything will be OK for them in the end, but hope is important. Without hope, there’s no future. And I want to be at my job for another year.

Haikuesday 09.24.13

September 24, 2013 Leave a comment

We worked so hard
to get you to this good place.
Now I let you go.

Fake poem.

September 19, 2013 Leave a comment

I put the Sriracha
On the tip of my tongue.
I let it sit there
And felt alive.

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Categories: poetry Tags: , , , ,

Haikuesday 09.17.13

September 17, 2013 Leave a comment

My muscles tell me

without a whisper of doubt

that I’ve been working.

Lost/found.

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

On Tuesday, I was late to a meeting because I thought I lost my keys. After a full-on melt down which including crying and hyperventilating, I found them in a Christmas stocking.

On Saturday, I missed jiu jitsu because I thought I lost my Transpass. After three hours of feeling complete defeat, I found it in the same exact spot I put it the night before and had looked in 17 times that morning.

Last Sunday, I emptied my hamper of clean laundry and saw I lost one of my new, unnecessarily expensive running socks. After a week, I found it balled up in a pillowcase washed in the same load.

There’s a lesson in here. It’s probably a super deep one. I’ll let you figure it out.

Awkward can be good.

September 11, 2013 3 comments

I am an anxious person. I have never received any kind of diagnosis, but I do go through periods where I get frequent panic attacks. When I first had them seven years ago, I was prescribed Ativan, but I haven’t had any  meds to help with my anxiety since then.  While I’ve had no meds, I have been to therapy. About a year and a half ago, I was experiencing panic attacks three to four times per week. When I finally addressed this with my then-therapist, he focused on breathing and cognitive techniques to help me manage my anxiety and prevent my attacks from escalating. These techniques seemed way too cheesy and hippie for me. Basically, when I could feel my heart racing and I started choking and gagging, I had to practice deep breathing and say to myself, “I feel anxious. This is the way that I feel. My feelings are OK.”

I thought that was dumb. I come from stoic people and acknowledgment of feelings seems awkward and embarrassing. However, I did not want to choke and gag and feel like I was dying three to four times per week. So I tried the deep breathing and affirmations my therapist recommended. I practiced them daily. They worked.

Last night during jiu jitsu, I could feel an attack coming on. I had an overwhelming sense of dread that I could not pinpoint and my heart was out of control. My throat felt like it was closing up. I didn’t want to leave class, as I have in the past since that makes me feel more anxious and also humiliated. At the same time, I did not want to have a complete melt down on the mat. So I took a moment to sit out, breath, and tell myself that I was OK. My heart slowed. I could breath again. I rolled the last set of class.

These mental exercises I practice to manage my anxiety continue to feel awkward and uncomfortable. But they’re good for me. When I think about the conditioning I do for judo and jiu jitsu, a lot of the best exercises are awkward, uncomfortable, and probably look ridiculous to the casual observer. Mountain climbers? Burpees? Squats? They look silly. But they’re great for you.