Book review: Detour for Emmy by Marilynn Reynolds

The second book I want to review is by Marilyn Reynolds. She’s a young adult realistic fiction author living in California. She has many discussions with students dealing with all issues in her books as well as appropriate professionals. Her stories are full of complexity and realism with no short cuts or happy endings.

In this story Fifteen year old Emmy is just starting high school. Like many teens in her position she feels independent and free and like she’s going to have a fresh start. She has two other really good friends and feels confident they’ll be together no matter what.

In the beginning of the school year she starts to find her nitch in school. As a good singer she auditions and is accepted into a special singing group at school that goes on tours to other countries/ states and other events. She is chosen by her advisor for a gifted students program which would pay all college expenses. Her dreams for the future include anything from a forest ranger to a singer.

It’s a good thing school is so good because at home there are many struggles. All her life her mother, Barbara who she and her brother refer as “the Barb” because of her sharp emotionally abusive tongue, has been super neglectful of the children. She’s clearly an alcoholic and extremely immature. She works at a bar and often parties and doesn’t get honme til the early hours of the morning. Her brother David has dealt with the lack of security/ boundaries by acting out. And at the beginning of the story is in a detention center.

Emmy it seems is resigned to the situation. She plods along at home. Often longing for her Gramma who was the one person she feels really cared about her. Her friends especiallya friend’s mom really care and understand the situation and she’s had that stability in her life. But deep down it’s not the same as having a mom that cares, or to put it another way, not having a mom that is so irresponsible!

To fill this void in her life, (that’s my insight not Emmy’s) she falls in love with Art. She meets him in the special singing group and he wins her heart right away. He seems protective and truly caring. Something she’s lacked in her life. He’s also very popular and so this wins her status in the social scene.

However the relationship quickly becomes all about the sex. And while most times Art wears protection, and gives Emmy some contraception thing to stick you know where, there’s one time on labor day weekend on the beach where he doesn’t. However he pulls out before he thinks there would be a chance of something happening and is sure this will work. A couple months pass. Emmy continues to do well at school/ deal with home life but starts to have questions about that night. She doesn’t have her period for awhile and feels sick. Everytime she asks Art about that he says no she couldn’t be pregnant, when she pushes saying she could what if he becomes abusive verbally. Saying he’d never stay with someone who was pregnant “fall into the baby trap.” (a phraise he uses often which is truly disgusting!)

So the inevitable happens.Emmy takes a pregnancy test and it’s positive. After passing out in the singing group a nurse gets envolved and they talk about issues surrounding everything. She tells Art who remains in denial for some time. He of course strongly pushes for an abortion. Emmy considers this but after a lot of thought/ soul searching/ feeling her baby move she knows she can’t go through with it.

As expected this enrages Art. Particularly as he comes from a hespanic family with a lot of cultural influence around these issues. As well as family trauma which places Art as a person who must follow a certain path in life because of a tragedy with a sibling.

With more tirades about the baby trap/ it can’t be his he breaks up with her “ maybe until you get an abortion.”

Emmy is devasted but determined to still keep the baby. When she tells her mom, her mom also pushes for an abortion. Emmy is firm. Eventually her mom, while by no means condoning her actions softens a bit realizing that a baby is a baby however it comes into this world. She buys some things for the baby, and even attempts a few classes in birth coaching. But is very nervous about it as is Emmy. Obveously as they have had such an unhealthy relationship with Emmy being more mature than her mother, trying to rely on her and giving her trust is very hard. Being relied on makes Barb more nervous than anything.

She also has to face judgment from school. Her counselor calls it a disgrace that this happened and she has to scale back her gifted program plans, though with a lot of convincing/ promises from Emmy, and after hearing more judgment, is allowed to actually stay in the program. She is however required to join a school for teen moms. With an abbreviated day due to less physical stress on the moms and in addition to school work there are class discussions so there is a community feel to the group. Emmy once she opens up finds the group extremely supportive though is sad to see some of the girls with very supportive boyfriends/ moms.

Time passes. When the time for Emmy’s labor hits sadly Barb is out partying once again. Emmy c calls to find Barb many times but can not. Eventually her one friend that’s still by her side drives her to the hospital, though just barely as she still has her driving permet! She can’t stay and so Emmy has to spend her agonizing labor and delivery completely alone.

When seeing her baby daughter, Rosie her heart melts. She learns quickly, though she always has wanted her baby and has no regrets that caring for her is a huge responsibility physically and mentally exhausting! It’s extremely beyond overwhelming to balance school and the baby. She desperately needs some sort of break or ability to do something for herself. Unfortunately her mom goes back to the position of wanting no responsibility for the baby.

At this point as Rosie grows to be about six months old Emmy contacts Art again. The baby has a mole that art also has, unfortunately on her bottom! But this is the mark that proves beyond any doubt that she is his. Eventually Emmy simply drives over to Art’s house on thanksgiving. This is after repeated requests to get Art to tell his family. She stands up for herself and her baby accusing Art of being ashamed of her and his daughter and wanting so badly to protect his emotionally fragile mother that he’d turn his back on this. Art’s father and grandmother end up being Rosie and Emmy’s biggest allies. They realize that while this wasn’t exactly a good time in their son’s life to have a child, you can’t turn your back on your own family. They give money to Emmy that goes towards the baby’s expenses or to pay back her mom. Emmy is able to go back to the singing group which gives her the emotional/ mental breather she needs to keep going with Rosie.

By the end of the story things are by no means neat and tidy. Emmy has found a way to go to college while still having care for Rosie. Her mom still is well “the barb” but toned down a lot. David is no longer in prison but by no means emotionally healed. Things are realistically still difficult but there’s more of a sense of family than there ever was.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction that’s realistic and that delves into issues facing teenagers. I’v never experienced being pregnant, (and never will), or the issues Emmy has except for an alcoholic mother, who wasn’t by any means neglectful. But it’s clear that the author took care to paint an accurate picture of what happened to Emmy and her family. I also think perhaps this would be a good book for teens facing teen pregnancy or loved ones to read. It gives hope while in a grounded realistic manner.


Book review: This Child of Mine by Martha Wakenshaw

Hi everyone,

I’m doing a review of a book that I’ve had for a long time and read and reread. It’s called This Child of Mine: A therapist’s Journey. It’s written by Martha Wakenshaw, a child therapist. It was written in 2003. Sadly twelve years from that point the frustrating, and at times honestly quite cruel aspects of the mental health/ social service system probably haven’t changed. They maybe have even gotten worse. However I’m hopefull that to counteract this there are many more professionals as dedicated as Martha who use both their hearts and in depth training as well as intuition to bring some sort ofhope and positive movement to these children’s traumatic lives.

The book covers a lot of ground in Wakenshaw’s life told in sigments that can be taken by themselves but also form a puzzle of her life, work and personal. It starts with her work at Kid’s Place, a center for abused and neglected preschoolers. The fact that such interventions must be put in place at the ages of three or four is deeply heart breaking. Though if you think about it, though I don’t have statistics on this, it’s likely the age when a high amount of abuse/ neglect could start in a family. Working in this setting, Martha witnesses many traumas as well as resilent qualities in the children/ staff around her. From the staff who selfishly fight over a rocking chair, to the vietamise cooks who bring their own brand of healing through the food they serve. To the mother who can’t afford to get her daughter to the dentest, because transportation would mean no money for rent or food. Many cases envolving this setting are in the category of neglect not due to lack of love or malice, but due to extreme poverty, emotional/ developmental issues of parents ETC. How in even the most impoverished conditions somehow some families are hanging on and trying so hard to make it work.

Martha, some years later works at a group home for severely mentally ill teenager’s. The story of their lives is told from one girl’s point of view as well as through Martha’s. How the explosive/ intensity in the setting trigger’s Martha’s own PTSD and the ways she tries to reach the children often feeling like she’s failed.

Throughout the book Martha has flashbacks of her own childhood and sexual abuse by her brother. And her deep struggle with PTSD including overwhelming emotions that arise suddenly in sessions, trouble sleeping ETC. She discusses her own therapy, and her feeling of wanting to hide in her therapist’s office emotionally for fear that she’ll be exposed and hurt. In other words struggling to make therapy work for her.

In spite of this she continues to do important work with her clients. In a school setting she sees many different clients. From a girl who is obsessed with dogs and cats, stealing cat toys from K-mart. Who dreams of a perfect family while in reality she’s facing traumatic abuse. To Martha witnessing several child protection interviews where children are questioned endlessly and often are so lost/ scared that they’re unable to disclose what happened. In which case their lack of ability to respond in a specific detailed way adds to their case being closed with no hope of the abuse ending. She faces similar frustrations when filing some reports to CPS over the phone. The worst is her reporting that a girl has been beaten with a belt, her father carries a gun and threatens suicide, and the worker over the phone asks her what part of all this constitutes abuse!

Eventually Martha shifts to private practice where she can take all the time she and the child need to work through issues to the point that the child is strong and has self-worth/ awareness in spite of horrific life events. Jackson’s story depicts this kind of long term successful therapy.

As the story builds to it’s conclusion Martha’s own issues continue to become more and more overwhelming. Things reach a head when she’s at a community mental health center. She’s asked to do psychological testing on a teenager. And is hit with the shocking and devastating realization that he’s one of the children she cared for at Kid’s place ten years ago. That in ten years she’s gone full circle from this kid being an acting out, disturbed three or four year old to a child being tested for conduct disorder. Which is a very serious mental illness close to the diagnosis of a sociopath.

After this realization she realizes the importance of self-care. And segments that highlight this, especially her doing yoga in the rain and her husband’s loving care of her after a long day’s work are touching and a good ending to the story.

This story may be triggering to suffers of child abuse/ trauma. There are discussions of physical and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse is mentioned but not discussed. The hard hitting constant stories of these children’s lives filled of basic unmet needs and physical trauma can wear the reader down. The progress and shifts in a child’s perceptions/ symptoms of their issues are hopeful and a testament to the hard work of a caring and knowledgable therapist. I think this is an important book for anyone interested in child psychology to read. Especially those wanting to be a therapist. I can imagine it being read and discussed in a seminar class for this purpose. As both the case studies and Martha’s own personal journey would lend themselves to fulfilling discussion.

will you be healed of mental illness?

So am feeling pretty overwhelmed today.

For the past couple of weeks I have been very confident, over all that I’ve improved enough in my coping skills/ recovery to be ok at a place not mental health specific like Friedman Place. I now know for example the importance of taking my medication. Can’t even go half a day without it! The importance of having stable caring support people in my life especially professionals that get it. I know about my feelings now and understand that expressing them is important and at least with people I trust I don’t feel bad about expressing my feelings whatever they are. And I have other coping skills than just wanting to SI. Though I admit my biggest reason is often the external consequences of my harm reduction care plan. As in there are tolerable boundaries that if necessary I can scratch without the Dr. being called. However I would have to go to the nurse to have it treated. And talk with a staff about it. Which of course some of the reason I would want to SI is due to not wanting to talk with someone which kinda defeats the purpose. Most annoying for me is that even with a small scratch it’s protocol to have this incident report. Which means for three days after it happens your vitals are taken each shift even in the middle of the night! That gets on my last nerve and is often the kicker for me not going down that road.

Anyway in spite of that last thing, I really thought that I’d do pretty well considering where I was before and how much I’ve grown. And I wanted to be out of this environment so badly. And the place I felt would offer the best amount of independence with daily support was Friedman. It’s why I moved all the way to Chicago after all.

So I’ve been going along really believing though there would be bumps in the road provided the staff had some decent understanding of mental illness, and I had outside supports that were strong and I stuck to all my learned skills I’d do well. I do admit I was leaning on the fact that I thought the staff there did have in general a better understanding of mental illness. As they have an executive director who’s a social worker. An awesome social services director as I believe I’ve mentioned, a supervisor of nursing who’s also a social worker. I thought with all that, other staff would have some training on appropriate responses/ a little at least of the ins and outs of things. I knew for example the social service director could due to his training provide psychotherapy and groups rather than just supportive counseling as was the case in the past. With a supervising social worker heading up the nurses and nursing assistants I thought there would be training in that department as well.

So my plan was simply to try and be a patient girl. While my application the initial form, not even the records, was waiting to be processed I’d see about moving to a less restrictive and most importantly quieter environment with residents who were just a bit more in a shared reality and you know conversational and on my waivelength. Then when my number came up I’d scoot on over there, get outside services and hopefully pick my life back up pretty much where I’d left off of course with a whole lot of self-awareness and support.

Well today I got a huge reality check. A friend who lives at FP happened to be talking to a member of nursing staff last night about my applying to come back. This person is really a good hearted lady. One of the biggest advocates for resident’s needs and always there to talk. Unfortunately on matters of mental health she had her oppinions which were inaccurate. For example she could swear up and down to anyone that if a person just exercises, gets out more, has a hobby, goes back to school they won’t have depression anymore. She questions psych meds to the point of after the psychiatrist writes a prescription she questions you about whether you really want it or not. Plus a lot of statements about how she doesn’t think meds are necessary, do more harm than good ETC.

So yeah had some troubles with her though as I said the most well meaning caring person at the place at the time. So anyway my friend was talking to her last night. And she put this question to him: is she healed? Meaning of my mental illness.

Which brings up an important question. Often the general public, and even professionals think that after a certain point of therapy meds ETC you will no longer have symptoms of your mental illness. That this is just something that’s temporary, brought on by stress ETC. For professionals I think this is encouraged by the managed care companies pushing at most only twelve sessions of therapy at least maybe six. And that therapy of course is cognitive behavioral or solution focused. Meaning it’s condensed to giving the person a set of coping skills on recognizing thought patterns that *could* be causing their issues. I say could because contradicting popular belief I don’t think this is always the case. And I strongly believe good therapy should be individualized. For some people perhaps they are going through a life transition like a divorce. And the whole thing has lowered their self-esteem to the point that they are attacked by negative thoughts about themselves their future ETC. In a case like this perhaps using these tools and getting a different perspective on things would be enough to give them like a life jacket to stay above water until things settle down.

However as I said I feel that many many times this isn’t the case, or not just the case. I feel your thoughts and rationality are one part of what makes up a person and their responses and there’s so much more there that needs to be worked with, brought out, put to rest grown ETC. And this doesn’t happen in six or twelve sessions.

But I digress. The point is these therapists/ insurance companies ETC truly believe that CBT/ solution focused therapy can “heal” depression and anxiety. Or else get it to a point where the person can manage it on their own without therapy. Because remember too those limited sessions are all you get a year. So if you need a refresher sorry you’ll have to wait til next year LOL!

So I believe therapists/ professionals feded this quick fix approach. The general public, friends/ family/ anyone who doesn’t understand also has this attitude. That the person just needs to (fill in the blank) for what seems like a relatively short length of time and they will no longer have these issues. This is even more true when someone is talking to/ has heard of a person being in therapy for a year or more or on meds long term. That surely with all this intervention the person will soon be free of whatever’s going on. I think that all this coming from whoever is good intentioned. No one likes to see another person suffer with whatever. Seeing a friend or family member crippled by anxiety to the point they can’t enjoy a family gathering, take their kids to school go to the store ETC is heart breaking. Seeing someone unexplainably depressed to the point that even a small daily routine is impossible, to the point that they’re barely hanging on to life is beyond many people’s understanding. People can get their minds around depression due to the death of a loved one, or a break up ETC. True clinical depression goes against many people’s rational logic of what’s going on with a person. And they want things to be better. And it’s a grieving process I think for the person suffering and their family to come to accept that this won’t go away. It won’t go away but I didn’t say it won’t get better. If a person reaches out to all available resources ones that truly understand that this is a long term illness, that needs vigilant and consistent support over time, just as a physical illness would be. I think people can make huge gains in self awareness better self-esteem being willing to enjoy life as much as possible, and still have that understanding that there is no hard and fast permanent cure. This is just my opinion keep in mind. The recovery movement, which has so much amazing things to offer regarding peer support and self advocacy tools, some do believe that if you follow these principles you won’t have any symptoms anymore. Which I say whatever works. If a person believes that and using all those supports does not have symptoms for their whole life I say wonderful. I myself believe it’s more like diabetes or cancer. If you stop taking your meds you’re not gonna be cured you’re gonna end up in the hospital. (this could relate to any support you get around mental illness, but I actually do relate it to psych meds) I just wish others could understand that attitude.

Jonathan my current therapist has a very solid and I think useful perspective around mental illness. He says when he’s working with someone there are three people in the room: him the client and their illness. He’s the first therapist to separate me from my illness. And I think this gives someone a huge shift in perspective. It takes away the shame of feeling like all this is your fault, you’re not good enough for someone to want to be friends/ love you, ETC. It also helps when you have set backs. Now this “my illness” thing isn’t some cop out. That was a reaction I got when telling actually another person with mental illness about it. You have to take responsibility for your part of things, keeping up with medicine, your treatment being honest ETC. But he does acknowledge that there is a point where chemically and otherwise the symptoms take over your whole mind/ actions. And he doesn’t fault a person for that. He does give accountability. For example he wouldn’t blame a person who’s in a paranoid state from hitting him/ staff. He would tell them they’re responsible for not taking their meds three days in a row.

So anyway he takes a team approach to dealing with mental illness. He says when there are set backs we learn what needs to be learned (because according to him everything is a learning experience) and move on. That when a team loses a game to another team the losing team doesn’t go beat up on their team members. (though I don’t know, not a sports fan at all but I’ve heard of some pretty weird extreme things going on there so I wouldn’t doubt it!) But I get the point.

So this statement about wondering if I’m healed/ will be when I come back really hit me hard. Because it implies: that she still has a ton of misunderstandings/ is far from the mark of the ins and outs of mental illness. In spite of administrators in the know, and many residents not just myself currently struggling right under her nose.

It implies that she wouldn’t know how to help me in whatever I’m going through. And that I’d be responsible for every single thing regarding my treatment. I wouldn’t have the staff to lean on. I’d have to, no matter how anxious/ depressed/ wanting to self injure, seek them out. And may not get as supportive a response as I’d want or need.

And that I could get a lot of judgment around everyday aspects of mental illness from well meaning people like this staff person. And that unfortunately, as was the case when I was at Friedman before, worst of all my symptoms could be unnoticed until they got bad enough for a hospitalization. This was the cycle that was so heart breaking for me. And I thought that this at least had changed with the new social work staff. Discussing this further with the friend that had this conversation he’s confirmed quite bluntly in only a way best friend can, that this is all true. The overwhelming expectations I’d be faced with. For example if I were receiving therapy from a social worker there there’s the boundary so I’ve heard that the social worker will never reach out/ check in with me/ whoever, unless another resident reports a problem or you yourself check in. As many know who experience similar issues keeping up all this responsibility is often impossible.

So I’m left with a lot of questions and strong feelings. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever be ok living there. Because as I said before I’ll always have these issues. The environment there no matter how well intentioned, doesn’t seem to be able to support anyone with any kind of mental health issues that’s a day to day part of their lives as mine will always be. So yeah. Thought this would be a good discussion topic and also update you all on my process.

anxious and worn out

Hi everyone,

So I think all this researching and trying to find other living situations is starting to wear on me. Both last night and the night before I woke up in the middle of the night mentally wide awake and thinking about everything that’s been going on.

Last night in particular I got on the computer at three thirty AM was probably up an hour or so at least before then. And kept searching. Wrote two e-mails to two different places before Jess was up at five for her meds. Went back to sleep for a couple hours. Did more e-mail checking and took a nap til eleven in the morning. Went to lunch came back and sent more e-mails or saw responses. Then napped til three. Also am dealing with an upset stomach recently in the last hour or so. I think it’s anxiety related. This happens a lot when I get anxious. It also happened yesterday.

On the research front I discovered.

Appleton at MCLean hospital is like six hundred dollars a day! And I literally had to go through a huge registration process on their website to read that message. I had to set up a password security phraise, three security questions. I was waiting for them to ask my social security number LOL! A little overkill for an e-mail. But yeah. How these people charge these amounts of money and realistically expect anyone to pay for it is beyond me.

Another place I wrote. I first wrote the men’s unit of the place. Had no idea about that. Then they f forwarded my e-mail to the women’s unit across the street. The person called instead of e-mailed which threw me totally off as at this point I want to do everything through e-mnail initially, a little anxious about talking with people over the phone. Anyway before I could direct her back to the e-mail for my info she said that the unit is a “secure” (locked) unit. That you’d have to wait 45 days for a half hour pass! I was like no thank you. Now I know where the people go who are violent/ self-injure to the point of not being able to live here go. Or maybe they don’t but it sounds like that kinda place. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. Who would want to basically live on a psych unit forever.

It’s really funny too because the administrator of the men’s unit, who happened to be a woman, was very eager. I had explained my situation of wanting to move out of where I’m living to a possibly smaller quieter environment with a bit higher functioning people. Until a spot at Friedman (I didn’t mention my being blind due to fear of them rejecting me, and just said facility for a disability I have.) Plus I’d like to wait out the huge hold that’s being placed on new clients coming into mental health centers which I’d need outside services to be there successfully. So the woman’s like yeah sure we want to do everything we can to help you with that! She neglected to tell me about the locked unit? I didn’t know secure meant locked. I thought secure just meant you know safe. Because it was used in the middle of a sentence so benignly like: we’re friendly, with certified staff and secure. Why don’t they just say locked. Oh well I’ll know for next time. Plan to write the original person back and ask if they have any unlocked recommendations.

Anyway Jess says I need a break and should save researching for the day time not the middle of the night which I totally agree. Just feel that if I don’t keep at this, well first of all no one else will obviously. And secondly I won’t move any closer to what I want just sitting here doing nothing about it. I’ll be anxious either way. Feeling trapped here or feeling frustrated by the search process. Sigh.

I’m sure I’ll feel better later. Just going through a hard moment with all this.

good solid weekend

Hi everyone,

So have had a very good solid weekend. Still have in the back of my mind that I’m leaving and am looking into many different options.

But it doesn’t take over my head every minute like it has since it first started entering my mind. However it does hit me when confronted with irritating and anxiety provoking parts of being here. Like when everyone’s crowded around the dining room door waiting for it to open and everyone’s all cramed together and doing their usual antics. Makes me want to just run upstairs or start screaming at everyone. But I rationally know that won’t go well towards staff feeling confident about me leaving.

Have hung out all day. Had an upset stomach in the morning I think due to the humid weather. Other than the annoying trips downstairs I’ve had a relaxing kinda day. Have done a lot of twitter following listening to an audio book and writing people on my e-mail list.

I think having sent out e-mails to various organizations is giving me hope that I’ll have some follow ups over the next week. I’m really glad I have this time to explore everything as in don’t have the rushing part of leaving for day program to worry about. I’m sure staff are less happy about me not having a structure for the day. But hey as long as I feel I’m not getting depressed or negatively affected I see no problem with it.

Spent some time with Edith organizing a whole mess of paperwork that’s been shuffled from case worker to case worker but hasn’t been gone through. There was a lot of junk mail and bills that I’m sure Medicaid did pay ETC. But other important stuff too like stuff from my last time at Friedman which will be important in my re-applying. As well as Mass health information which will be good to have if I look into anything in MA I found this very positive.

I have some items that Edith needs Jonathan’s aprooval on before I canofficially have them back. Like my electric razor and DVDS. This is due to issues around me using these things for self harm. I can be very creative with my tools.

Trigger warning for SI

My last incident of SI I took a key ring attached to a water bottle and used my nails as well as a rock to get it free. I pried as much as I could with my fingers and then pushed the metal part in the crevice in the rock to help get it off. So yeah that kinda creativity.

So anyway. Now I’m just hanging out not doing much. I have some posts that I’m thinking of writing. A couple book reviews and things that I’ll do tomorrow.

confusing relationship with my mom

So everyone pretty much knows about how rough it’s been for me the past couple weeks. My caseworker, Jess and online friends have been extremely supportive and have been sounding boards for me. But still everyday I woke up feeling like my skin was too tight and that if I got hit by one more irritating thing about this place I’d explode. I didn’t want to self injure or anything I just felt myself getting more and more mad at everything. I had been talking with my mom off and on about the staff changes and stuff. She’s been in a supportive very good mood lately which makes it very easy to talk to her. She doesn’t understand the depths of my mental illness or really not much about it at all in fact and is completely lost in emotionally supporting me. Her inability to do so is the primary reason for my going through life feeling like I have to shut down my feelings because they weren’t allowed growing up. This has lead to the PTSD symptoms.

Anyway so at this particular moment she was in a good supportive mood the past few days. I wrote her an e-mail Friday morning explaining more stuff that happened over the week. Later she called me having read everything and we just talked for like an hour. And she listened. She might not have understood every detail and to be honest she doesn’t know a lot of things about my illness as it would be too much to handle or make her defensive if she knew how much her actions affected me. But the fact she was able to sit and listen to what was going on and calmly tell me to keep waiting it out and looking at options before running away actually helped a lot. Which is basically what everyone here has been trying to tell me. But coming from her for whatever reason it carried more weight and I could actually accept it.

We talked about other stuff family issues with ill relatives, my Dad’s new job, what my sister is doing on college summer break. I got to talk with my cat, hear him meow for food which always warms my heart! I miss Lucky soo much!

Anyway I got off the phone feeling a million times better. Which was awesome because it somehow hit something in my brain to where I feel much calmer about everything. I’m still looking in all directions for options but it doesn’t feel so much like I’m desperate to get out as it did the last couple weeks. I can do normal things now like just listen to an audio book, follow people on twitter read facebook and generally zone out. Without feeling all the pressure that living here can bring on. Even my caseworker who saw me today commented that it’s great I’m getting back to normal activities.

So this would be all wonderful except you have to remember my family history. My mom is a no longer drinking alcoholic. Much of my teenage years and through college was filled with her off and on drinking, huge domestic violence towards my father, and emotional abuse towards my sister. Like all abuse it had the typical pattern of building up and exploding and then things leveling out. I never knew from one hour/ day/ minute how things would be. Another lovely PTSD resulting symptom.

So she has these patterns of one minute being very caught up in her own moods/ whatever she’s experiencing and not realizing how it affects other people. She’ll disagree. She’s gone to several therapists back when I pushed family therapy crying and saying she gets it. And things are fine for weeks/ months and then not again. She’s all over the place with her emotional intensity and I think that affects her behavior with others going from unpredictable emotionally hurtful to reasonable, to genuinely nice caring supportive person. And it’s all soo confusing.

I’d take breaks as in months long spans where I didn’t talk with her. I just needed a break from the ups and downs and the latest down situation would be the sign for me to step back and do my own thing. A lot of this for example revolved around my last semester at college where I was furiously planning how to leave home. She really had no knowledge of what I was up to. Then she and my dad came for a therapy session and I told them everything. And she ended up taking it very well. And since knowing was very supportive of my move. Again while not totally getting it at least on the surface of things being supportive. Especially with things like money clothes packages ETC. She gets lost and thrown off I think when things get emotionally intense for me. I don’t think she has a clue what to do because this sets off that she has similar issues. Then she becomes critical or hurtful in her responses or shuts down. And then can bounce back to the other side again.

So all this with her is very very confusing and overwhelming. I know all family relationships are filled with conflicts. I think it’s especially so when one has contact with family that was unhealthy/ abusive towards them. After this experience I talked to my e-mail list friends about it. Many gave similar stories about having positive as well as negative interactions with their hurtful family members. Times when they’ve gotten genuine support. The getting genuine support for me is emotionally really tricky. Because it brings back the parts of my mom I really do love and at one point were more present in her personality before things became really hard. And I feel that old connection. But in the back of my mind is everything that’s happened that’s in part shapped my illness, and certainly how I relate to others and within myself. My mom once said that I remember more of the bad than the good of my life at home. I don’t think that’s true. I remember both. There was a lot of good times and a lot of bad times and it’s hard to integrate really hard when you stop and think about it. And there’s a part of me in all this that feels kind of guilty and weird about having these positive interactions with my mom, of leaning on her for support, when all this time I’ve been tellin people and know for myself that there are so many things I don’t trust her on. And ways she’s totally not supportive. Because I think sometimes too someone who hasn’t been through this would think well this is what it’s like with all parents. There are ups and downs. But here and in other relationships I’ve heard about from friends it’s more extreme. When the downs are things like witnessing domestic violence, or someone being constantly called names manipulated and put down. And the ups are coming home from college to home cooking all the good treats, having your clothes washed lovingly ETC it’s a complete rollercoaster. Jonathan says when I talk about it to just get on the ride when she’s on the up swing and jump off when things start to go downhill. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Or I don’t think it does. But I guess that’s what I’ve been doing since I first started therapy on my own in college. Setting boundaries about not wanting to really be personally communicating with her when she’s unstable and can’t cope with her own issues never mind mine. And then when she’s turned around again to being supportive taking advantage of that. I got a good response when throwing this out there to the friends on my e-mail group. Am really interested to hear others thoughts.

national PTSD day

Hi everyone,

I saw on my trauma/ Dissociation groups that today is PTSD day! I’m really happy that they have specific awareness days for different diseases/ disorders ETC. Because many people may never have heard of such issues. Or if they have they have a lot of misconceptions. It also brings those affected much closer together in knowing we’re not alone.

Instead of writing my whole story of how I developed PTSD at this point, I’m going to post a video I did. A group of like minded youtubers did a PTSD tag where the same questions were responded to. This gives an awesome overview of PTSD symptoms triggers and how I deal with them. Also will post a link to signs of emotional abuse. As this was the type of abuse in my family. I feel many professionals, the general public, and maybe even some other abuse survivors discount the power of emotional abuse if it’s the only abuse a person has suffered. I at times struggle with it too as I talk with others who have been through horrific abuse of all kinds. However even they say abuse is abuse and support me as much as I support them.

Here’s the video.

And the signs of emotional abuse link.

I hope you all find this helpful and I’ll continue to post about my own experiences with PTSD in the future.

May be tourring Edens supportive living

Hi everyone,

As staff continue to leave Albany (found out about another possibly two staff leaving last night) I continue to look for alternative living arrangements that will still offer the support I need.

There are other supportive living facilities in Chicago besides Friedman Place. Many are for seniors. This one place Edens is for people with all disabilitys under sixty five. I heard of it while at Friedman. Robert and I were looking to tour it just to see how different it was from there just for the experience of seeing different facilities.

We heard mixed things about it. Some people said staff weren’t very friendly and there weren’t very good services. Other people worried that almost all disabilities there are physical in nature so that there would be a toon of wheelchairs and walkers which would be impossible to navigate around for a blind person.

At this point it’s there and I’m just looking into everything I can.

I wrote to them yesterday explaining my situation. The marketing director Julie wrote back right away. We talked for a few minutes on the phone and she seemed extremely nice. She said they do have some blind people there and some dealing with depression and anxiety. One thing that did worry me is she said the psychiatrist that comes in only takes medicare. This surprised me only because the under sixty five population I don’t believe can really get medicare unless on SSDI or some other situation. Anyway she said others have been sent to a psychiatrist through c4 and thresholds. Which unfortunately doesn’t seem very promising as all mental health centers in the area are extremely full if not with their intake closed to new clients. So yeah. It’ll be out of the question if I can’t get set up with a psychiatrist right away as my meds are critical for managing my mental illness.

So that may be the thing that keeps me here, that outside mental health services are so inaccessible right now due to budget cuts and at least here we have psychiatrists that come in to see us, case management ETC. I just hope they don’t start cutting case managers. One is leaving and I’m hoping they’ll find a new one as soon as possible. They just replaced one who left last month a week or so ago. It’s really horrible all these staff changes. I don’t know how anyone can feel secure in such an environment. I guess many of the residents are too caught up in their own issues to really care what’s going on around them. And maybe to them one staff member is the same as another. To me it isn’t at all. And to have almost all the people who were here and have helped me for the year and a half I’ve been here leave puts me in such a hard place.

I am excited by the thought of going to tour Edens as soon as I have the $6 for paratransit. Jess and I will go visit and get a good impression of the place. It looks good from the website. I’ll put the site link below. Please if anyone lives there now or has in the past I’d love oppinions positive or negative about how you felt about it. This would really help me. Particularly anyone who’s lived there and has had mental illness or has been blind as I realize I’ll be in the minority.


Please let me know your thoughts.

update on staff leaving albany care

Hi again,

One last update I forgot!

So where I left off on the staff issue six CNAS were leaving and as far as I knew none were being replaced. Will make that seven. Just found out last night that Yolanda is leaving. She’s an evening shift CAN mostly works on our floor. She’s extremely good. Knows how to keep people in line and prevent chaos on the floor and in the dining room. She knows how to get most people even many antimed people to take their meds. Most importantly she’s extremely caring and will go out of her way for probably anyone. She says she loves her residents which is so touching!

She’s worked here about three years. I guess it’s a long drive from her home to here and she’s done with that. Plus I think she got a new job. Again I’m pretty crushed by this loss of a caring helpful CAN. They’re rare especially ones that have taken to me no questions asked around my needs as a blind person and just in general. Yes Jess helps me while she’s here and stable. But technically the staff is supposed to assist with whatever I need. If Jess leaves, becomes unstable or is hospitalized they need to help. There are many CNAS and many who are unhelpful generally or hard to get along with/ motivate to help beyond the minimum. They’re often forgetful around helping. So I have my top three CNAS. Yolanda is one as was Charity. Ms. Billy the most amazing one is my first choice. She’s dedicated her whole life it seems to this work working in many different mental illness facilities. She is however in her seventies and as far as I can imagine due to health reasons or just genuinely needing to retire she could leave at any time. At best she doesn’t have a lot longer with us.

Secondly another case worker is leaving. She’s the one hand picked to be fluent in ASL due to three deaf residents here. She’s been here I think a few months maybe a bit more. She’s moving back to the state she’s originally from for a new job. I didn’t personally like her but am a strong advocate for the deaf residents having as many people who know how to sign as possible! Though currently one would rather write to those who can’t sign because she’s mad at the signing case worker. So maybe she’ll be glad when this woman leaves. I just hope they get someone else who can sign. The clinical director, who knows ASL, I’m sure will advocate for this.

Still in the big skeme of things that’s one less case manager. They just last week replaced another case manager who left about a month/ three weeks ago. This staff turn over is driving me to more anxiety/ frustration by the minute!

Oh and you know the evening nurse that left a month ago? Not sure if I wrote about this at the time. This nurse had been here for years and brought stability to the floor. He had to leave last month due to having to be closer to family. They still haven’t found a permanent replacement. So we get a different nurse every evening shift. The good thing in this is that at least it’s not agency nurses who know nothing about our facility. It’s been other floor nurses working doubles or some as needed nurses that have had a little training here. But still. Again an area of uncertainty here. Maybe all facilities are going through these cuts. But I believe Friedman Place hasn’t had such problems which again makes me want to go there. Will keep people up to date on all these changes.

leaving new foundation center

Hi everyone,

I didn’t add this to my series of posts on getting out of Albany. Because it’s connected but separate.

I went in yesterday to NFC. I was extremely disappointed in the attitude/ actions of the intake coordinator. When in a crisis last week I was desperate for help in leaving. She seemed genuinely concerned and said she’d discuss my getting a caseworker at the manager’s meeting that day.

I assumed then intake would be this week. When I asked I was told no she needed to talk at the manager’s meeting! I was like wait wasn’t that last week? She’s like well our agenda took up the whole time. I understand about a big agenda I do. However considering she had a client in a bit of a crisis and had spoken to her five minutes before the meeting promising help I would have thought this would have been talked about in some way maybe not in the formal meeting but perhaps before or after to the right person. So I’m like ok then so if the meeting’s this Wednesday will I do intake Thursday or Friday. She’s like no not til next week Thursday or Friday or the week after. I was so frustrated and angry I hope it showed on my face. Just stood there hopefully looking every bit how I felt but she had no reaction so I walked out.

While sitting in a CBT group and listening to therapist Britany’s animated lecture I got to thinking. Both last week and just today she had said they were full. In terms of all case managers being full. If the place was full why was I given the chance to come in? I remember when Edith contacted them in april she was told there wouldn’t be an opening til June first. If they didn’t have an available caseworker they should have not said I could come. I thought it was pretty bad I hadn’t had intake for three weeks and now with a goal I was very much wanting/ needing to work on I still wasn’t getting help.

The whole thing seemed very disorganized. I walked back to her office and announced I was leaving. That I didn’t apriciate being left to just continue coming to groups I wasn’t technically signed up for with no caseworker or treatment plan. I didn’t know of any other organizations that had such a disorganized approach to this process. Intake is usually the first order of business before you get any services. A As much as the process of intake annoys the hell out of me it’s that way for a reason. So she says something then about how I have a case manager at Albany so it’s not a big deal. I’m like did you not hear the part about how I want to leave Albany? My caseworker thankfully is excellent at her job and extremely supportive. (one of the reasons that it’s actually gonna be okish having to stick around here) But I sure need an outside perspective and help on all this no matter what goes on.

So then she talks about this trial thing. At this place you’re allowed a trial day or week to see if you like the program. Considering I went there for a month in 2012 and then had a trial day Feb of this year I really did not need a trial week. She brought up for what felt like the sixth time that I hadn’t liked the program in the past/ hadn’t stayed. I was like well in 2012 it was due to a few weeks of realizing how far it was from the northside of the city to the suburb of northfield. In February it was due to knowing after the trial day that the place was pretty much the same as it was before sadly. They don’t seem like a place to provide new groups or therapies which is kind of a downer. So I thought I’d try turning point which I did and got a lot out of within their limits.

So I’m like I don’t need all this trial stuff. She’s like well a person’s trial can last for as long as they want. Basically she wants people to keep coming in (I’ve seen other interested people having trials while there over the past few weeks) while at the same not having a case manager or really room for them. Why I don’t know. So I said I’m done. If they can’t help me with the big goal I now have of leaving/ exploring other options then they can’t help me. All other mental health issues seem to be doing well. And no judgment here but I don’t feel at this moment like going to groups with others with severe mental illness at this point. Many are on a good level of functioning. I’m just at the moment hypersensitive to those that aren’t and there are those at new foundation and it bugs me. Plus some of the groups don’t seem to be run well. Like having WRAP and WMR (which are set structured groups) run continuously when people have been there for years being made to do the same thing. Some come there when they have no groups at all and just sit there all day which is soo weird.

Oh and the funniest thing she said. They have only three case managers, but they haven’t hired the third one yet! Does she think I couldn’t figure out that statement? They only have two case managers. Which makes no sense because she had told that to Edith and since I’vesubtly surveyed clients. There are about nine staff. And I think all the clients I’ve talked to probably have all the different staff as their workers. I mean combined. It’s certainly not just two. She did say one was dawn which I don’t like. Which hey she does get points for respecting that.

But everything else? Just not what I want right now!

Oh the last funny thing. So the staff seem as I might have pointed out to disappear everyday after the groups they run are all done. Basically all therapist lead groups finish at noon and then it’s free time the rest of the day. Then we leave at twelve all clients go home,on Thursdays so they can have time for staff meetings. Other clients whohave sneaked upstairs during the afternoons have seen them just having social time which doesn’t surprise me. But in spite of all this, every month they dedicate one day to “paperwork day.” If they spent their afternoons productively they probably wouldn’t need that!

So yeah I’m a total day program drop out I admit it! I’ve tried as I said turning point Norwegian IOP and now here. I guess I’m just very particular and when I don’t like something I don’t see any use for it in my life. Especially when I’m focused on other stuff.

There are groups here I can go to. One on anxiety is small with okish people in it. Plus it makes it easier that Jess is home so I’m not by myself all day. As I’ve said in all other posts this morning in spite of all this news and information I’m in a very good hopeful mood that something will come up.