Nothing Fancy…just a view from this side

Image

Maybe this is all there is left?

This won’t be fancy and might not even make sense. (And is going to be conversational in style — you’ve been warned.)

It is Saturday morning, and the storm known as Issac is projected to hit us probably Tuesday morning. My plan is to load up the kids and my pets to leave on Monday morning. We are heading north to my mother’s house. My husband, who is in the military, will have to stay here. He’s stressed by his work, and his obligation to stay here and put “Service before Self”.

I have spent the last two years in graduate school. That sounds so simple and basic that I’m struck by how that really is not adequate to describe what I have been through…what my family has been through. I’ve spent nearly every waking moment that I’m not doing something else, working on my resume and trying to find a job. This has caused me to push to ego-depletion. The abstract for Baumeister’s work says:

Effective self-regulation is an important key to successful functioning in many spheres, and failed self-regulation may be centrally conducive to substance abuse and addiction. The program of research summarized here indicates that self-regulation operates as a limited resource, akin to strength or energy, especially insofar as it becomes depleted after use-leaving the depleted self subsequently vulnerable to impulsive and undercontrolled behaviors (including increased consumption of alcohol). The self’s resources, which are also used for decision-making and active responding, can be replenished by rest and positive emotions.

Ah yes…vulnerable to impulsive and undercontrolled behaviors. Certainly this is true. I’ve felt this in my own life though not with substance abuse. I hear you though, you are saying “But what does this have to do with anything?”

In the coming days and weeks, assuming I make the effort, I plan to post a flurry of blog posts I’ve started and stopped, or just shelved due to being in grad school and what publishing them might mean.  (Which I can only explain by publishing them.) So for now, take the leap of understanding.

Ego depletion + Low self esteem + physical and mental stress + CRUSHING PRESSURE = crisis or collapse.

I might collapse, I’d really like to, but I can’t because I have too much to do and too many people for whom I am responsible. So I’ll buck up like I have always done and get things ready for us to leave. It will be over 9 hours of driving to get where we are going, and we will be crammed into the vehicle in less than first class accommodations for all of us. I will have to pull out of the driveway and leave my husband here to ride out the storm.

If I could paint a picture of how I’m feeling, I suppose it would be the frame of a woman, and inside her chest is a vessel…it should have glitter, flowers and butterflies spilling over the top — but mine doesn’t. Mine looks like something you’d find in an attic maybe. There is some dirt, dust, a few cobwebs and an old paperclip in the bottom. That is ego depletion and that is crisis. Collapse isn’t far behind if I can’t repair, replenish, and nourish.

Oh No They Didn’t! – An Anonymous Hollywood Actress Who is Quitting Adderall — and Speaking Out About The Epidemic

Oh No They Didn’t! – An Anonymous Hollywood Actress Who is Quitting Adderall — and Speaking Out About The Epidemic.

This story hit my Twitter feed this morning, and to avoid doing some work I should be doing, I clicked on it and read the story. I’m not even certain what I want to say about this.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have AD/HD: Combined Type (DSM 314.01) which accounts for my looking for things to distract me when I should be doing something else. I was diagnosed about two years ago when I was being tested for something else. I have logged about two years on the medications for the condition. As I write this, the Adderall I take for my ADHD is hitting my bloodstream and I can feel the “noise” in my head calming down. I have a legitimate prescription for the Adderall and my health is monitored each month by more than one doctor.

I do not know who this “star” is because she does not have the courage to write about her experience openly. I can only guess that she is using the drug illegally for reasons that have nothing to do with what it is supposed to be prescribed to treat. She says, “I found myself losing friends and on the verge of losing work, too. I looked dead-eyed and soulless and raggedy and gaunt and obvious. The sad thing? Everyone around me is still on this awful drug. It’s like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” out here.”

The whole post is bothersome, but I would like to focus on this quote specifically.

1.) She was losing friends: why would this be? Adderall like any other substances can cause personality changes, some of which are more concerning than others. But there is no reason that taking a drug like Adderall should cause a person to lose friends. I’ve met heroin addicts who have friends. This is a bizarre statement for her to make.

2.) Physical changes: I am not gaunt nor dead-eyed. Neither are the people I deal with on a daily basis who are on Adderall. So what is this woman doing?

3.) The drug is awful: the drug is just that…a drug. It’s a compound of chemicals which when left alone just sit in a pile on the counter. It has no “goodness” nor “badness” to it. It simply “IS”. While it may be unpleasant for someone to take it — because we don’t all respond to things equally — her statement that the drug is “awful” undermines her whole post.

For me, Adderall has been a gift. The noise in my head is turned down to a tolerable level and it allows me to pay attention to clients and my own life. I never knew how much my life was impacted by my ADHD when I was growing up, but looking back especially at school years, I know that it made everything so much harder than it had to be. The damage to my life goes beyond my GPA and is directly tied to my sense of self. (There are numerous recent studies which discuss ADHD and its effects on the lifespan.)

If this woman was knowingly, willingly, and purposefully breaking the law and engaging in drug abuse — and it sounds very much like she is — then the drug can hardly be blamed. Further, and I know this is common in addicts, shoving off the blame for her terrible behavior onto the drug, the “quack”, and her social circle is shifting the responsibility for her decisions to anyone and any thing at hand. If she does not accept and admit her part in the ruination of her life, she may be off the Adderall but she’ll find something else to take its place.

Self-medication does not limit to the one substance of use. Whatever this actress is trying to salve by abusing a medication will still weep and ulcerate. She may shift her abuse to wine, bulimia, religion, exercise or any other “substance” but it will still be abuse.  Jung said, “Every form of addiction is bad no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine, or idealism.” This woman’s problem is her problem. It’s the sickness not the treatment which is worthy of her attention.

However, this woman’s problem, is in many ways, my problem. Because she doesn’t want to diet or desires to be “on something” or whatever her reason is for taking Adderall, her admission that “everyone is on it” adds to the social perception that Adderall is dangerous and should be more tightly controlled, and that anyone taking it is a drug-seeking addict. This is important because the drug has improved my life and by extension, likely also the lives of others taking it. (Though certainly not everyone has the same experience.)

I’m bothered by the idea that because of the lack of self-control and the refusal to deal with personal demons, her abuse of Adderall could cause it to be even more difficult for me to get mine.  I already have to carve several hours out of a day each month to see the psychiatrist who scripts it out for me. I have to submit to urinalysis and can only have one month’s worth on me at a time. These are all “safe guards” to make it harder for people to abuse the drug. While I understand why this is so, I do not appreciate lack of self-control of others causing me to have to submit to rules which presuppose that I am irresponsible and untrustworthy.

People who wish to self-medicate will always find a way to do so. Those people should get the help they need if they wish it. But I do not think it is wise to listen to an anonymous addict about their substance of abuse. She may speak for those who are breaking the law and using something they shouldn’t be taking, but even that is a stretch. She knows only her experience. She does not speak for me and my experience as a user with a legitimate diagnosis and taking the drug as scripted.

New “First Post”

Not that this really matters to anyone other than me, but I’m changing the way this blog looks, and sounds.  Yeah, I can write in very formal ways…but that’s not how I speak.  The reality of who I am will come through this blog if I attend to it enough, so I might as well dispense with the formality I started with because it’s not going to last.

And if I’m honest that’s the reason that I started this blog then didn’t do anything with it.  I began it, then was immediately swallowed by crisis and pressure that I’m still trying to work my way out of (but I’m beginning to think that crisis = life.)  Anyway, I’m going to swear and link to material which may be ill-advised for work or while kids are over your shoulder.  I’ll try to remember to always document when something might not be for wide viewing but I might forget.

Very specifically, and with intention, I am not going to hide who I am from these posts.  I have been concerned about my personal life becoming part of the professional life I hope to cultivate but I detest hidden agendas, and sneaky people.  So…let’s see if this “new” new blog takes off.

These are business mistakes

As I move towards the end of my time as a grad student, I am spending time thinking about life as a business professional.  I’ve always noticed customer service type issues, but now these issues have a new importance.  I’d like to think that I will not make these mistakes as an employee, and certainly not as a business owner.

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Most of us interact with business systems in our lives.  Some systems are experienced from a client-side perspective, and others are as stakeholders.  Some of us are “worker bees” with little power to change the ways things work, and others can make some changes.  I recently had a protracted exchange with a health care system from a client-side perspective, and I was frustrated by several seemingly easy things to change.  When I bumped into a faulty system cog, I mentioned it to the next person I talked to.  None of the people I mentioned these things to had power to change anything and I knew that was going to be the case, but what I found stunning was that no one else mentioned these things and none of the representatives had any idea these problems were there.  Apparently the client-side experience was a complete mystery to the company.  Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents since I’ve encountered them in other venues as well.  So, here’s a list of things stakeholders, especially in the mental health field, should quality check.  Bureaucratic rust should not make finding help more difficult for people who may already be over taxed with life circumstances.  Plus it smacks of a lack of care or ability to handle basic ideas, which could kill a small business.

Check your policies.  — If a diagnostic code must be supplied on paperwork so that someone can get services under a program, the code they need should not only be able to come from a provider in that program.  This seems absurd but it’s easy to generate when several highly specialized treatment protocols come under the auspices of a single program.  In this case, a program covering treatment for autism requires a diagnosis given only by developmental psychology — which is covered only under that program.  This came to be by way of other childhood issues which are diagnosed by pediatricians, but presents a problem for autism because it isn’t something that can be seen in the way that other developmental issues can be.  Add a big dose of “I don’t want to be responsible for this!” to the equation and people who need help have a big problem trying to get that help when the form won’t be signed by the pediatrician.  This may not be applicable to all businesses, but all businesses have policies…make sure yours don’t create a circular frustration.

Don’t use voice mail! – I can’t think of a more common irritant in the world of business.  Phones which roll immediately to voice mail are very off putting.  Yes, I know.  People are busy.  I have grudgingly accepted that voice mail is here to stay but that doesn’t change the fact that it screams “I don’t care about your issue.  Don’t bother me!”  If you simply must use voice mail yourself or for employees, do make sure that it is functional.  Quality check your messages by asking others to call in and tell you what they heard.  Here are some common voice mail mistakes:

  • Using a long and/or complicated message which imparts information the caller needs which can not be understood or used. Don’t mumble!  If you are going to give other phone numbers to call, websites to visit for forms or contact, or any other information be certain that most callers can hear the message, understand it, and follow the directions.  Make sure the recording quality is very high.  Too often messages sound like they were recorded on a busy subway when the mailbox owner has a cold.  Make sure you speak slowly and clearly, repeating important information such as phone numbers and web addresses.
  • Using a multilayer system which gives invalid options.  Don’t instruct the caller they may “Press 0 at anytime during the message to speak to a customer service representative” when in fact, pressing 0 at any time results in, “I’m sorry that is an invalid option.”  Further…just don’t use these systems.  No one likes them.
  • Failing to check the messages of employees — just because you think they have set their phones up properly, doesn’t mean that is true.

If you must use one phone for business/personal use, default to using your business message! — I can’t believe this isn’t immediately obvious but apparently people don’t realize what they are doing…if you have a phone number which is available to the public through a website or referral, don’t allow that number to roll to a phone which is answered with a simple “Hello.”  I was given a list of eleven service provider phone numbers in a name/number (Smith, Jane 234-456-9720) format from the administrator of a program.  I had no idea who I was calling, and was at a disadvantage when the owner of the phone number answered with no identifier.  I’m still baffled by this.  Why would anyone do that?  Of the 11 calls I made, 2 were the wrong number or were disconnected.  The other 9 were all answered “Hello?”  and were very obviously cell phones.  The owners of the phones were answering their personal cell phones as though these were personal calls.  They were not.  Not only is this unprofessional, leaving their ability to function as providers seriously in question, but it served to generate a very uncomfortable exchange during which I had to ask them if they were providers of this service and left me only able to sound groveling or very aggressive.  The first contact a client has with a company should not be this random for a host of reasons.

Have a dress code and be sure it is followed. — I’m not a prude and I’m not advocating some dress code from the 50′s, but there are times when I am aghast at the clothing worn by some employees I encounter.  There isn’t one outfit which would always fit the client-population but there are some things which at the very least send an unfortunate business message:

  • perfume overload — I am not a person who is bothered by perfumes and scents, so when I am so bothered by the perfume on a person it must be bad.  Perfume is meant to be a subtle hint, not a sledge-hammer to the face.  Apply your perfume, don’t marinate in it.
  • animal print — a little of this goes a long way.  One item, not a costume.
  • too tight — if you need a large wear a large…not a medium.
  • too little — midriff bearing clothing isn’t business wear for most businesses.
  • ideological messages — political ads, religious dogma, charity pleas, or any other message which doesn’t relate to the business.
  • tattoos — I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t have a tattoo policy, but I’ve seen many business professionals with tattoos which were visible and in conspicuous spots in the last five years.  Much of what we conceptualize as appropriate or inappropriate is more a matter of socialization but in some settings, some tattoo art would be better covered than shown.

There are enough troubles in life and business without adding to the burden by either committing or condoning these types of business mistakes.  If these mistakes aren’t just bad for business, they may prove very bad for the mental health of people who encounter them when they are stressed and are trying to get help.   Again, “worker bees” may not be able to change the over-all policy of a company, but they can still mind their own performance and be sure they aren’t doing the same things.

Are we learning the right things?

I have been thinking about this for a while but when I read the final blog post by Ray McKinnis this morning I was moved to put my thoughts in print.  My thanks to Ray for publishing his thoughts over this last year.  His posts never failed to prompt me to think and challenge what I believe and that is something that is invaluable.  I will miss his voice.

Ray said, “Much of what I learned in my MA in community counseling major, the courses that CACREP require, a majority of the questions on the CEE, and much research in counseling has been irrelevant to my ability as a counselor.” I believe this to be true of my education as well.  A good chunk of my classwork has to be viewed in a socio-historical perspective to remove the offensive edge.  It must be reframed to be at all useful.  And if that’s the case, why is it not relegated to undergraduate course work and Intro to Psych at the graduate level as a refresher?  If CACREP is a “new” thing, which is meant to standardize and quality check the content of our education, why is so much of that education course work still largely removed from our current time and place?

For example, one of my courses was an exercise in how to start up a non-profit agency, and while that might be useful to someone somewhere, it did not speak to me, nor to the area in which I live.  Yes, we need better access to services for people who cannot afford them, but anyone here should not spend time trying to start a non-profit in this economy.  If the will exists to do this work, a provider would be better off to partner with one of the staggering numbers of 501c3 agencies which already do work here.  It’s likely the same story in other places in North America and Europe.  That course is better suited to an MBA program.  My time could have been spent doing or learning something else.  That is not to say that business courses aren’t sorely needed — but they need a different focus.

There are a startling number of people with advanced degrees who are having trouble managing the business part of their lives.  Veterinarians, lawyers, doctors, and mental health professionals hang out their shingles but how many of those know how to manage payroll, advertising, or assets?  Many don’t know the basics of the business sphere but forge ahead which often leads to turmoil in their lives.  Yet I know of no program which gives any instruction in those areas.  Why not?

Ray would, “require courses that taught me how to ‘read’ another person to gather that information that would be helpful in bringing about change” and he’s right again.  I have a background in animal training, and because animals don’t use the spoken word, I had to learn how to read them.  I need to continue to work on my skills in non-verbals in humans but I know that I pay attention to body language more than my cohort does and that’s distressing.  We have to learn how much of communication is non-verbal but our programs do not teach the skill.  Why not?

The need for actual skill training is important.  I do understand that the history and foundation theories are important to know, and I’m not saying we should not learn them.  I believe that we are coming out of our programs not knowing the necessary skills to be effective and that’s a problem.  The time to learn these important skills is not after graduation, it’s before.  How many of us can say we know (or knew before our graduation) the terms: Othello Error or Brokaw Hazard?  Not enough of us.  Perhaps we should have a discussion about what is being taught and why; there should be a shift in the learning template to more accurately reflect the skills we need to be effective counselors.

Self-study and on the job experience can and do generate effective counselors but the learning curve doesn’t have to be so steep.  Ray’s blog post addresses other issues which he felt he had to divest to be effective.  Those are worth considering in any review of standards as well.  I hope that as we as counselors and counselors-in-training are enjoined to check our biases and triggers, that those people who maintain control over this career field’s educational standards do so with the template.  Let this be seen not as a complaint, but as a soft-confrontation which shines the light on the difference between what is taught and what is needed.

Welcome to entropy…

I spend a lot of time thinking.  I can’t help it really.  Just this year I was diagnosed with Adult ADD when I was seeing a Psychologist for something else entirely.  I never knew I had this but it explains a lot.  This cognitive hyperactivity I call — The Committee.  The committee is always in session, even when I’m trying to sleep.  They argue, raise points of order, and are always adding new items to the agenda.  Because my mind works this way, I’m distracted by some thoughts and hyper-focused on others.  The committee has been a liability at many times in my life, but at others a blessing.  Now that I am aware of this, I try to harness it to my advantage as often as I can.

Before entering graduate school I used to read and write for pleasure.  Sadly I’ve lost the time and much of my will to do either but as I slide into the final stretch of my schooling I’m trying to add both back to my life.  Since I spend most of my time reading about psychology, and writing about psychology, I thought perhaps I’d take a run at a blog about this part of my life.  I hope it will reflect the rich tapestry of humanity.  We are a composite of everything we are, what we have experienced, and the stories we believe about ourselves.  I may post links, comment on things I’ve read, or write about life as a counselor-in-training.  But, as I mentioned before, the Committee is given to adding things to my agenda without notice, so I anticipate this blog to occasionally wander off the path.  Welcome to the entropy of my life.