Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marvelous March


Today was difficult.

Work involved a mom whose 9 year old was molested by one of her closest family members as she was checking into shelter. She had serious PTSD, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse issues. Luckily, however, after speaking with her on the phone she requested to my boss that she do her intake with me because I made her feel the most comfortable. 


It also involved a 22 year old who had been in and out of foster care her entire life who was crying because her current boyfriend called her a "dumb ass bitch."

She's in this shelter, so she has already been a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault.
After being in foster care her entire life and feeling unwanted by every single person around her, she finally has her life on track. She is going to cosmetology school in 16 days. She was approved for section eight housing. She is finally in a place where a future is in sight and could possibly stand on her own two feet for the first time in her entire life.

Yet she struggles with her relationship. Her current boyfriend isn't happy for her success and doesn't want her to move forward with her life. He keeps calling her names and doesn't see her future. He is another domestic violence, controlling bastard in the works.

All I could do is listen and hold back my own tears.

I was worn out by the end of the day, to say the least.

Usually I look forward to a chat with my loving boyfriend to ease my mind at the end of the day...

Except he got in a rollover accident tonight.

All passengers are okay, but I'm still freaked and anxiously waiting for him to get home.

Day to day life isn't easy, but certain circumstances make us realize just how blessed we are.

Today is the beginning of a new month (and my birthday week!). 
I'm going to make the most of it.
Here's to March and all of the marvelous moments it brings.

While work has been slow, I have taken out a piece of paper and listed everything I am grateful for over the past 6 weeks I have been there. It really does turn my day around and help me refocus my thoughts.

So here are my grateful thoughts for on March 1:

A warm bed
My job
A loving boyfriend
And his safety after a rollover accident
Food in my fridge
Sunshine during cold, gloomy days
My health after an ED
Friends who care
Cousins who are like siblings
Graduation in a year and 8 weeks!
Spring Break
Field Placement and my final year of school approaching
Sleep
Parent's support - always and unconditional
Halfway through this semester!
Have the GPA I need (and then some) to get into my grad school of choice
Cute kids at work and smiles


The list goes on and on. I have so much to be grateful for in my daily life and that is what inspired my Marvelous March. Please feel free to join me (even on your worst days) on my quest for gratitude. Even if you find three minutes of silence during your day to refocus, like I have, it makes a huge difference.

Here's to a new month and a daily awareness of gratitude.

Join me.

Progress.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

S-Word

I received a super tough email the other day from one of my best friends...

"You embarrass me,
and I will not call you a friend.
 You are 27 years old,
yet you act like you are 16.
Grow up Kelsi.
You are not in fucking high school.
This shit is not going to fly.
I bet you can't even go an entire week without posting on Facebook,
 Instagram, or some other social media site.
I want the Kelsi who acts 27.
I want the Kelsi that is compassionate and caring.
I want the Kelsi who thinks of others.
I want the Kelsi who thinks highly of herself
and continues to better herself.
You have to start acting your age Kelsi,
and when you do,
maybe then we can start on being friends again."


Maybe this is a best friend trying to be helpful 
or maybe this is a best friend who is ignorant. 
How can one be sure, best pick the ladder.

Obviously I do not deserve to be friends with someone who I embarrass, right?

I also do not deserve to be friends with someone who doesn't fully understand addiction.
Sure, it's a difficult thing to understand if you haven't been there, but to act like I'm somehow a child is unacceptable.


Sure, I post on social media, but who doesn't?! Mental health or not. I can think of plenty of people who are much worse than I am. I could be called much worse than an "attention seeker."

Maybe I'm happy and proud of it for a change.
So I'm suddenly a bad person?!
 
Can I go a week without posting to social media?
Of course.
I have done so in the past. 

Sorry I have a life that I am finally proud to share.
Sorry I am finally happy.

Actually my boyfriend and I call "sorry" the S-word and it's not allowed.
So maybe I'm not sorry.

Actually, I have learned sorry is one of the worst words
in my vocabulary because I can't back up an apology.
I'm not sorry for being myself.


Progress.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

"It Could Be Worse"


I think I said the wrong thing at work tonight.
It might have been my first official screw up.

I was chatting with one of the residents about something I can't remember and said  
"things could always be worse."

Eeeeeekkkk. That's like nails on a chalkboard for the women at this shelter.

Things really could not be worse for these ladies. They are abused by their husbands, they have kids (this 25 year old had 5), and are unable to support themselves and their families financially. The only way things could be worse is if they were on the streets with their children.

The worst part is it is far from the mother's fault, yet they still end up in shelter.


As I am learning in my sexual violence class and from work, is these women are not at fault. More often than not, they are simply trying to please their pathetic assailants. As an effort to please their significant other, substance abuse or unresolved anger issues (or both) get in the way and keep these women from leaving the dangerous situation. Other factors like finances, fear, sense of belonging, and children might keep an abused women in her difficult situation.

To say "things could be worse" is simply unacceptable. Sure, things could be worse, but to remind these vulnerable women of their current situation in that way isn't a good idea. At all.

So I will continue to be humbled at work.



I had a four-year-old teach me the "nae nae" dance today.
She learned my name and came to office to say goodnight to Kelsi.
I can't wait to see her again in a few days when I work.
These are the moments I work for.

Even though I said the wrong thing today, I am learning. I will learn from this screw-up and never, ever say that again to these women. However, I am finding strengths and learning that I can do this.

This job is scary at times. But perhaps, if I simply show my genuine, empathetic self then I will be just fine. I cried to my boyfriend the other night that I don't fit in with these women, but maybe that's okay.

Maybe simply being Kelsi is enough.
Maybe it has taken me years to realize this.
But maybe that's okay, too.

Life can always be worse.

Progress.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Underground Railroad


I started a new job this week at the Underground Railroad which is a shelter for sexually abused women and their children. The city this facility is located in is primarily made up of African Americans and other minorities. It's in a rough part of town, to say the least. This city has the third highest rate of domestic violence per capita in the country.

Upon accepting the job I was thrilled to gain experience in the social work field with such a vulnerable demographic. However, I didn't realize how serious this job was at first. I didn't realize many of my coworkers were also a part of that lower demographic and could easily relate to the residents. I didn't realize "rich" white girls and nicer outfits (me) were looked down upon as an employee. In a way, I feel like I need to dress down and lower my standards in order to maintain this job.

Don't get me wrong, I feel absolutely terrible for the women and families in the shelter.
Their situations are beyond unimaginable.
I have serious empathy.
But that doesn't mean I can relate.
At all.

I've heard my social work professors say we don't need to have the exact same experiences as our clients in order to work with them; but as a beginner, I'm having a difficult time believing that. Maybe this situation is so extreme and I will never relate to it, but I don't know if that is okay or not. Sure, I have empathy (maybe to an extreme) for them, but I'll never be able to relate and that frightens me.

I have experience with residential treatment facilities, eating disorders, mental health, and substance abuse, but never homelessness or sexual assault. I feel incompetent. This is another level of social work that is simply beyond me. Maybe one day I will feel comfortable with my daily tasks on the job, but I don't think I will ever be comfortable with the level of devastation these women face on a daily basis. 

I think my life is "hard."
I have no room to talk.
I am humbled.

Progress.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Crawl

I had an assignment due for MLK day that was not only perfect for the class, but also for my life and this blog...


“If you can't fly then run,
if you can't run then walk,
if you can't walk then crawl,
but whatever you do
you have to keep moving forward.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.



            When I first read this quote, I knew it was perfect for this assignment as it deeply resonated with me. My life up to this point has not been easy; at all. My late teens and early twenties were spent caught up in a life threatening battle with anorexia. I was lost. Luckily, I had parents who were brave enough to intervene and help me find the treatment I needed to save my life. It has been a long, tedious process.

            I couldn’t fly or run. I couldn’t run or walk. I could barely crawl when I entered treatment, but somehow, I learned how to keep moving. Slowly, I began the recovery process. I learned how to take the baby steps needed to rebuild my life. At first crawling didn’t seem like an option. Life was too difficult. I had fallen too far behind and was ashamed of my illness. As I grew stronger and healthier, however, I slowly learned to "crawl" again.

            During the process of gaining nutrition (not weight), I also gained confidence in myself. I was slowly able to move on my own and "crawl" again. It took time, but as I learned to crawl, I also learned to feel good about myself. I felt a sense of independence that slowly led to standing on my own two feet and bravely walking toward my recovery. As I gained momentum, there were very few things holding me back. 

            Crawling turned into walking.
            Walking turned into running.
            Running is still in the process of becoming flying, but I know it will happen.

            The road ahead is long, but well worth it. The learning process is never ending, but just what I need to pursue my degree in social work. I might not be able to run or fly right away, but that's okay. With time, I know I will do well and continue to learn what I need to in order to be a successful social worker.

Life starts out at a crawl.
Recovery has been a crawl.
School starts out at a crawl. 
Being an adult is a long, difficult process that begins with a crawl.


However, as we gain momentum, walking and even running becomes a little easier with each day and each experience we take in.
One day at a time.
We crawl.

Progress. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Embracing Uncertainty


"If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next,
don’t be.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Allow it to lead you places.
Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart
and your mind as you create your own path toward happiness;
don’t waste time with regret.
Spin wildly into your next action.
Enjoy the present,
each moment,
as it comes,
because you’ll never get another one quite like it.
And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost,
simply take a breath and start over.
Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart...
where your hope lives.
You’ll find your way again."


For the past six weeks or so, I've been struggling because I can't stop thinking about the future. I don't like the uncertainty. I don't like the fact that my future is about to change drastically. The amount of regret I feel is so overwhelming at times that it distracts me from living in the moment. Simply writing and thinking about this is causing extreme amounts of anxiety. I can feel my shoulders tensing and my mind racing.

This is the moment, when the anxiety begins, that I need to learn to step back and breathe. I need to think about the quote above. Rather than allowing the uncertainty to consume my thoughts, I can use it to fuel my next move. Yes, I have made some mistakes in the past but that doesn't mean I can't redirect my future. The uncertainty provides me with an opportunity to be brave and take each challenge as it comes.

I'm not a bad person. In fact, sometimes I think I'm a really good person... Who makes mistakes. Unfortunately, I have been dealt different cards than most but that doesn't need to ruin my entire life. We all go through life at different speeds, and that's okay.

So for today my only goal is to remain present in the moment. I can't control the future, but I can embrace the uncertainty to fuel my next move rather than allowing it to cripple me.

Progress.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Day Without Complaining


When I woke up this morning the temperature felt like -4 with the windchill. After a mild start to this Michigan winter, the subzero temperatures are finally here. All I wanted to do was stay in bed, watch Netflix, and complain about the weather. 

Until I saw this...


With a great deal of hesitation, I drug myself out of bed and started a hot shower to ease the post warm, cozy bed chills. I thought of the no complaining for 24 hours sign and was able to instantly shift my thoughts away from the bitter cold, and into gratitude for a steamy shower. 

After going through my morning routine, it was time to bundle up and layer every piece of clothing I owned before making the trek across campus to the library. I felt myself beginning to think about how much I hated winter and seeing my breath the moment I stepped outside; but then I thought of the no complaining sign. Again my thoughts shifted. The first snow of the year is actually quite beautiful and I have plenty of hats, gloves, scarves, boots, and long underwear to keep me warm on my ten minute walk. Walking across campus might not be so bad after all.

Next, I found myself at the library filling out an extensive job application for an on-campus writing center mentor. I was getting frustrated because I had to submit 5 of my past pieces of writing, write a three page introduction to my portfolio explaining my writing style, complete a four page, essay style application, and then finally a resume and cover letter. It felt silly and unnecessary. Before I knew it this application felt overwhelming and I almost gave up, but then I remembered that no complaining sign. I'm lucky enough to have plenty of past college papers and my own personal writing samples. I'm lucky enough to enjoy writing. I'm lucky enough be on a college campus getting my education.

Several other instances popped up today where I felt like crawling back into bed and complaining about everything wrong in my life. But once I was able to shift my thinking, I realized how irrelevant my complaints are. Sure, it takes some serious effort and commitment to go a day without complaining, but I think it's worth it.

I don't think I'll be able to do this everyday for the rest of my life, but I do think if I can learn to implement it on a regular basis my thinking will be much clearer. With a little practice this "no complaining for 24 hours" thing could be my new favorite coping skill.

Progress.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Further Treatment? Not A Horrible Thing, After All

I know I already posted once today, but I am having a serious epiphany that needs to be shared.

When I first left treatment, I often wondered how anyone could ever go back to an eating disorder treatment facility for a second, third, fourth, or how ever many times it took before they were "well." At the same time; however, I had many friends who went back to a different treatment facility for other, comorbid, reasons and never thought they were weak or questioned their need for further help.

Upon entering treatment I was still on probation for a "super drunk" DUI arrest. However, I was unwilling to admit that I had a drinking problem. I had worked at two different wineries for two years prior to my arrest and was miserablely hovering between 80 and 90lbs. In addition to my eating disorder, I drank. I drank to ease my anxieties and restricted to feel good about myself.

In order to help my 22 year old best friend understand, I sent her this message...

"Think of it this way, I restricted calories to feel good about myself and drank to ease my anxieties. I've never really dealt with my anxiety, which happens on a daily basis. The anxiety has eased up a bit now that my brain is getting proper nutrition, but it hasn't fully healed. I take things to another level; think of your anxieties about growing up and being an adult and then multiply it by 30. I'm still 26, almost 27, and needing help. Far from "being on track." So it raises my anxiety that much more, even though I know it will be okay... Someday."


It's hard. It's really hard. It's hard for anyone to understand.


I have a best friend who has seen me through thick and thin (literally), but still doesn't quite get it. Maybe her misunderstanding proves I'm not so ignorant for not understanding why most people need multiple treatments before gaining a full sense of recovery.

I have a loving boyfriend, a loving family who supports me more than they should, friends who are amazing, and a recovery team who will always be there, but I still struggle. I still make bad decisions. I still drink. I still get extreme anxiety.

I'm not looking for pity. This is just the way it is.

Maybe this is where an untreated anxiety disorder and a normal person are different.

Maybe this is where healthy coping skills need to become a part of daily life.
Maybe this is why my best friend says she gets anxiety but doesn't drink or have an eating disorder as a result.
Maybe this is a true disease.

Maybe I need to take this much more seriously.
Maybe this is why people go back to treatment so many times.
Maybe they don't symptom swap and just can't shake the eating disorder.
Maybe I need further treatment after two years of eating disorder treatment discharge.
Maybe this is hard to admit.

Maybe I'm not alone in this struggle.
Maybe I need to ease up on myself and those destructive thoughts.
Maybe realizing this is a big deal.

Progress.