Going back to school!

I am rather excited to say this, I am going back to college! In a way, it’s about time, but in another way I’m looking forward to going back to school and getting my Masters in Social Work. Apart from getting a MSW, my goal is to get the credentials to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC) as I want to provide counsel and therapy to people in addition to working in the behavioral health field.

Now why a MSW and a license to professionally counsel others you might ask? Because I believe that where I am at currently in my field is the ceiling given my experience and my educational background. Don’t get me wrong, I am still going to do what I do whole-heartedly and not half-assedly, but I realize this truth about me; I was meant to do more within my field, and I won’t be truly satisfied with my work-life until I get those necessary 8×10 sheets of paper.

At the last job I was at I worked under a woman who balanced out this very well, and while it isn’t my intention to copy or educationally or vocationally, but she certainly is an inspiration to me. And then there’s my beloved roomie Brian who [is single and available ladies and] has encouraged me to start the process, and he put it well, there’s no better time than now! And given our circumstances in life at this time, I concur with him wholeheartedly.

Onward and upward,

The stigma inside, the stigma outside; how mental health affects everyone

As someone who has worked in the field of behavioral health for nearly 5 years I realize something that is disconcerting; there is a lot of stigma about mental health, both those affected by it and the public.

I kind of was aware of this before getting into the field, the media has a cruel trend of making issues of mental illness and those who have it heinous monsters. It appears to me that it is little more than sensationalism much of the time. This stigma brought about by the media it is ill-informed and doesn’t do more than sell newspapers.

But the truth of the matter is that there isn’t just stigma on the outside, there is a lot of stigma on the inside. Since I have a perspective of one who works with those who have different mental illnesses, social-emotional disorders, etc. I feel a responsibility to rectify the stigmas where I can. I know that my words won’t shift the public perception completely, but to you the reader I hope you learn something from what I’ve gleaned in my time invested in this field.

People have mental illnesses, they are NOT their mental illness:
All too often people who have mental illnesses are classified by what they have as if they were the proverbial “poster child” of bipolar, schizophrenia, schizophreniform, borderline personality disorder, etc. Even the people who have this will say (whether intentional or not) that I am bipolar, I am schizophrenic, and so on. Some people I have met who have mental illnesses have used this as a way to self-identify, others have used it as a cop-out for their behavior (usually in light of something negative).

No person no matter how debilitating their mental illness is in fact their mental illness. I can sympathize with those who do feel this way, but I usually steer them into a mindset of what I’ve just made known, that people have mental illnesses but are not in fact their mental illness incarnate. My apologizes in perhaps beating the proverbial dead horse, but I want this point to be made perfectly clear.

It is better to listen than to talk and give out unsolicited advice:
As obvious as this might seem, it is still worth pointing out. To those in the fields of psychology, sociology, and any other field that requires interaction with people who have mental illnesses, take time to develop active listening skills as well as a good bedside manner, it will make all the difference in the world. Certainly take in what you hear with a grain of salt (at the very least) but you’d be surprised at perspectives that might not be “by the textbook”.

If I hadn’t taken the time to listen to one of my former residents, I would never have gotten an in-depth perspective of what life is like when you have auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations. This and other perspectives I have gleaned over the years have caused me to think and re-think what I personally know, and by far I have insight that I once didn’t have simply because I chose to listen and not impose what I think.

Sometimes you are the only “family” a person with mental illness has:
I have seen a lot of this and it still bothers me, family members not showing up or having little to do with their mother, father, son, daughter, brother, daughter because of their mental illness. Unfortunately I am whomever is working with that person is left to handle the damage control and whatever fall out that might ensue because of that family member’s failure to show up. In these instances I take time to listen, take time to BE with that individual, and sympathize with them and what he or she might be feeling.

Now I understand that “life happens” all the time, but for some individuals I have worked with the failure to show up on their family’s part was all too common. It’s heartbreaking for me to bear witness to someone who has been overlooked by their family. Please, for the love of the person, do NOT do this please.

Treating mental illness calls for a holistic approach:
The thing is that we’re treating a human being who has a mental illness, NOT a mental illness that has a human being. With that being said I find that a holistic treatment plan should be in place for that person. Why, you might ask? Well the thing is, medicine (provided the person is taking them) is NOT enough, and as I have told those I worked with in the past as well as in the present a holistic treatment plan I perceive a holistic treatment plan to look a little something like this.
– take your meds when you have to
– meet with your doctors and therapists when you need to
– get out in the community (provided this is an available option to the person)
– talk to staff in general, but also talk to them when you are having difficulties
– be honest with yourself about what you’re going through in life. do not sweep it under the carpet, do not stuff it down and repress it.
I have communicated this to my residents because I’ve worked with individuals who have thought they’d be “cured” of their mental illness by medicine alone. I do explain that mental illnesses cannot be cured, but managed well provided the individual puts in the effort to getting help and allowing themselves to being helped where needed.

As I go back to college very soon (more on this for my next post) I plan on continuing on in the field of behavioral health, and it is my intention to be more of an advocate and ally of people who have mental illnesses.


Presently I have a hard time being present; being here and now when I am mentally else where

2 nights ago I spent 5 of my 7 hours of sleep contemplating and analyzing and thinking- subconsciously. You see, as of late I have been really REALLY restless when it comes to BEing present, I am mentally elsewhere when I am with friends as well as family. Why? Well as I was subconsciously exploring this in my sleep (if I were indeed sleeping) I realize this truth about myself: I am a 5th wheel, I am a single guy at the age of 31.

And it’s not entirely a bad thing to be single, I am aware of this fully, but there are some things that it takes being a “we”, a couple that cannot be addressed when you’re single. Some of it I take in stride, some of it I dismiss, and some of it I am hurt by being single and lacking that connection with another human being. As a full fledged heterosexual male, I miss being a “we”, having a girlfriend I can call up to see how she’s doing, making plans for the weekend, making cards (yes, I make ’em by hand with all my love), doing normal and sometimes banal things, the …I miss it all.

Being with couples as a single guy has contributed to me not being present, being here, being here in the now, and so on. It’s not the only item to my distraction but I realize it has played a big part. With that being said, I am working to overcome my distractedness and BE present to what’s happening around me and who I am with.
I might still be single, but I am intentionally working on myself and my lot in life and what have instead of what I have not. I admit it’s an uphill boulder-pushing endeavor, but I know it will be worth it in the end. Presence and BEing is what I seek at this time, but if more good things come my way I will seek to be present and BE with it to the best of my abilities.

Onward and upward,

Boats aren’t made for mooring; a metaphorical journey into the nature and heart of faith


Disclaimer: I don’t know exactly why I am using boat language to describe faith, so if I lose you along the way just let me know…

On the sea / In this life, there are many different types of boats / people; big boats, small boats, rowboats, sailboats, ocean liners, oil tankers, etc. All were designed / created for purposes, and their purposes vary boat to boat / person to person.

But the nature of boats / people and their purposes take them away from the docks / from comfort zones. Certainly they come to land / return to familiar places, but for a season because boats / people weren’t meant to be moored / contained for very long.
No boat / person serves out its life attached to the docks / tied to same thought process, the best years are served at sea / out in life and yet so often the waves and storms / problems of this life come in. Yes, seeking land / security is usually the knee-jerk go-to action. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, but it is just a smatter of the stuff character and identity is made of.

The thing is, waves / hardships have the capacity to show us what we’re made of and what we need to do to improve our situations on the sea / in this life. If we confine ourselves to the dock / our comfort zone what does that do to us? Well for starters, it gives us a warped sense of what life is about; we might think that things are primarily black and white, we might think our way is the only way and we might solidify our thoughts and concepts about anything and everything without weighing out that we might indeed be wrong.
The waves / hardships are inevitable, but it’s up to us to stick to our destinations through it all, because it’s only after going through them we’re able to assess what is worth salvaging and what’s worth discarding.

And when it comes to matters of faith and belief (human examples only in this scenario) I am a byproduct of all my experiences, all my encounters with the Divine, all my encounters with humanity. I very much have a “eat the meat, spit out the bones” mentality when it comes to matters of faith and belief.

When it comes to matters of faith and belief, I am evolving, and where I am at isn’t where I was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or even 20 years ago! And that’s the clincher; faith must develop, be weathered, be strained, be smacked about, be the shit and be the fan in order for it to grow!
A faith that doesn’t allow room for doubt, for challenging, for questioning, for microscoping and telescoping isn’t much of a faith at all. It becomes a locked down, dogmatic, black-and-white-no-room-for-grey kind of belief system. And that is something I rather abhor when it comes down to it.

So when the problems of life come your way, don’t be quick to make your way back to where you started off from. Take the time needed to be “lost at sea”, to reacquaint yourself with yourself and certainly your faith and your beliefs. Because in doing so you might be surprised as to where you end up, and I’m willing to venture you will never be the same after having gone through it all.