Saturday, September 3, 2011

The update of the month - from the perspective of Sophie Cat

Hi world. Sophie Cat here. I decided that it was time this blog had a touch of style and truth added to it. The title claims that I get to help, and yet rarely am I asked to contribute, so here we go, the month of August in review, by, me.

First of all, August seemed to involve A LOT of boxes. While the orange cat seemed to enjoy this, I, did not. Small minds may take delight in jumping in and out of things, but more developed minds know that boxes, in both large and small quantities, always mean that something is changing. I did not approve. Next, the boxes began fillings with all our earthly possessions, once again, I did not approve.

Come the middle of the month the boxes began disappearing, slowly at first and then faster. Finally, one day, the girl locked us in the bathroom with a bowl of water, our beds, and our litter box and what sounded like an army of people started trooping in and out of the apartment. Then, the girl and her old roommate came, dragged us out, and threw us in the back seat of the car. Everyone commented on the orange cat's big eyes and look of fear, but I was all tucked away unseen in my carrier.

The girl pulled into a garage and left us in the car for a while before she brought us in somewhere new. The room smelled all new and different, but yet all our things were there. The orange cat jumped under the bed right away and I stayed in my carrier till every one left me alone before coming out and exploring. The space seemed okay, but I was NOT impressed with all the moving about and I just wanted to go home. Alas though, the girl hoped into the bed, pulled me up, and we slept there that night, and every night since then too.

The moving however was not the worst thing that happened this month. The worst thing that happened, was what I found when I started to further explore. In her new house, the girl is harbouring a human and a feline or unknown origins. That's right, there's another cat, thankfully she comes with her own girl and is not trying to steal mine, but still. I have put her in her place numerous times, and now she runs after I give her a look in the proper way. The orange cat seems slightly interested in her, however the new cat's been hissing at him. The girl informs me that I need to be nice to him, but well, we'll see.

So that's this month. Furniture still keeps moving around, the girl flits in and out and the new cat seems here to stay. Hopefully this month will have FAR less trauma associated with it!

Things I learned this month

So here we are at the beginning of another month. At the end of group on Thursday I got them to write about ten things they learned this month and as is my new habit I did the same. Unfortunately, I lost my list, so I have to try and make it up again so I can share it. So, here it goes, hopefully.

1. If you can't find the crawl space in your new house, look under the sink.
2. Always know the name of your lawyer
3. When you're doing headstands, the pinky fingers don't interlace
4. When you're going from a headstand, through scorpion, to a half wheel, go SLOWLY (actually that applies to most of my yoga and perhaps to most of my life)
5. Some things you've come to accept as normal, are actually harassment
6. Living on the ground floor of a house (well, it's a single story house) means you can no longer just randomly change, you have to think about whether your blinds are open.
7. Living with a roommate means you can't just randomly change, you need to make sure your door is closed.
8. I talk to my cats A LOT and have entire conversations with them. While I knew this was true, I didn't realize how extreme it was till I had the roommate comment on said conversations.
9. You CAN fit a one bedroom apartment inside a 1 ton u-haul (my father didn't believe it could be done).
10. I have awesome friends (but I already knew this)

So there you have it, ten things of August!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Projection aka The Sophie Cat WILL be lonely for me while I'm away

According to wikipedia (such a reliable source I know) Freud says that "projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one 'projects' one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires and feelings onto someone else". In my work, I see projection a lot, however I haven't really been thinking about it a lot in terms of myself, and certainly not in terms of my relationship with Sophie Cat! Today I went to see my counsellor, who I see about once every five weeks or so, just to check in, and she pointed out to me that I seemed to be placing a lot of care and concern on what Sophie Cat might be feeling about life events worry about how they might affect her, without really being able to clearly articulate that I might be having similar feelings.

Monday, I got the keys to my new house. My new roommate and her cat move in on Thursday, and the cats and I move in next Wednesday. Then the last two weeks of September, I am going on a vacation with my dad and leaving my cats with my roommate to look after. Naturally, I expect that Sophie Cat is going to hate this. That she's going to have anxiety, that's she's going to be stressed, that she's going to pine for me. I worry that she'll get sick, or stop eating, or go back to her old evil, angry and hissing self. I worry that she'll hate the new cat and that things won't work out. I worry that she'll miss me terribly. And while these concerns are semi realistic (cats don't like change, especially Sophie Cat, there may also be some projection going on here).

Perhaps, I'm a bit nervous about not liking my roommate, just as I'm worried that Sophie will hate the new cat. Perhaps I'm a lot worried about getting homesick for my house and my cats, just like I'm worried Sophie won't like the new set up. Perhaps I'm worried that with my limited diet I won't be able to find food I can eat. And I'm sure there's some part of me that worries about what it will be like spending two weeks with my father. (I probably won't start hissing any more than I already do though...)

So these week, I plan to spend more time paying attention to projection. Not just what I'm projecting onto the cat, but what I'm projecting on to other people. I think it's an important thing to look at, particularly with clients, but in my personal life as well. It will be interesting to look at, and see if I notice anything. Also, I think I'll pay a little extra attention to my Sophie Cat. For both ours sakes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

on disclosure and/or did I tell you that?

That's a picture of her highness madam Sophie Cat licking out the inside of an empty cat food bag. I always give them the bag to play with, but I've never seen her disappear completely into it until tonight. The picture reminds me of being a counsellor in some ways, because for the most part, we stick a lot of our personal lives away in back corner and we don't talk about them with clients; they only see a little piece of us, like the tail sticking out of the bag. It's not a perfect metaphor, but the picture works for today's topic.

As a counsellor, I try to be quite "real" with clients. I share perhaps slightly more about my personal life than some, but I think for the most part, I really am quite guarded. All of my clients know I like cats, of course, they can't help but know as soon as they set foot in my office. Many of them also know that I have a second job and where it is, and I'm okay with that. For the most part though, that's it. I see know point in giving out information about my personal life unless it's relevant to the client and in their best interests. The point of counselling is certainly not for me to tell MY story. When I do groups I think I tend to share more of myself, simply because I am constantly having to come up with examples. Even then, they mostly revolve around fairly generic things, such as the fact that I have friends, and a family, nothing very specific.

Because of the above, it surprised me, when a client recently commented not just on me moving into my house, but on me getting a roommate. You see, I very much do NOT remember telling her this, and I'm really not sure why I would have. I might have shared with the group she was in that I was moving (and honestly it was probably in the context of cats, and how they don't like change, and how people don't either), but I have no idea why I would talk about the roommate thing. I didn't tell my family till yesterday. I mentioned the situation to a couple people on my team and the best we can figure is that the client must have over heard me talking to my coworkers at some point, listened, and remembered. Either that or I'm really not paying attention to what I'm saying.

I think, regardless of how the client found out about the details of my life, it's a reminder to watch what I say at work. I need to be more mindful about disclosure and make sure I am keeping the focus on the client, including the small talk we make. It also means that I probably need to watch my volume and watch where I am talking to coworkers, especially remembering that the room we eat lunch in has vents which carry sound quite far. There are definitely some things I share with coworkers, particularly over lunch, that I wouldn't want my clients to know about.

As professionals, there is so much power in what we say, and I think it's good to remind myself o this more often than I do. Words have power, and clients pay attention to what we say. Time to start paying closer attention to my words.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Birthday Number 25

I wanted to do a birthday post, of some sort, a sort of recap of my twenty fifth year on the earth, but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to post, so you get a mix of things.

For starters, you get to read about what I did today, because today was awesome. I decided to make the best of the whole not being allowed to/give the opportunity to not work today (I pouted and cried yesterday, today was for celebration). I was up early anyway, seeing as best friend texted me at 707 to wish me a happy birthday, and the cats were up and meowing. Dad and I met with the lawyer's office to sign all the papers for my house, then hit the Starbucks. I took him to my church's garden (which I'll DEFINITELY have to write about sometime) and we drove past my house. Then I did a flow class at yoga. Came home, ate lunch, watched tv yada yada, then off to my doctor for a quick check up and med refill and it was time for the second Starbucks visit of the day! (It's my birthday, why not). After that it was time for my flow II class at yoga then birthday dinner with my dad and sister at my favourite vegan burger place! They even have dairy free soft serve with gluten free cones, so I can EAT it! And that was my birthday :) A very good day if I do say so myself!

Now, for my reminiscing part. Things that have happened since I turned 24 last year.... hmmm
-Well, there's the obvious ones. My grandmother died, and then my mom died, right close together, so this has been a sad year in many ways.
-I decided to house hunt and bought a house!
-I became senior staff on my team and we had almost a complete staff turn over
-I became president of our union
-I deepened some friendships, let go of some others
-I learned a TON about yoga and how my body works
-I went back to counselling (and still go, on and off)
-I started seeing my naturopath
-I started getting massages
-I cut way back on my inhalers (I also stopped taking them completely for a bit, before the asthma nutrition plan, and couldn't breath deeply enough to do a sun salutation)
-I started playing Ultimate Frisbee (which is aweomse!)
-I went to Ottawa, Washington State, Washington D.C. and Richmond Hill Ontario (and got to do Moksha yoga in Ottawa and Richmond Hill)
-I broke my caffeine addiction but discovered that I still really like coffee
-I taught Sunday School, which I always said I'd never do again, and wound up liking it
-I said no to more things then I've ever said no to before (and the world didn't end)
-I decided to go to Malawi
-I began to enjoy wine only do have it disappear due to the asthma plan
-I learned more about motivational interviewing and am getting better at putting it into practice
-I came more to terms with my ethical and moral beliefs about suicidal clients

And well, I'm sure a lot more! I bet that didn't even touch most of what I did this year or what I learned, but I'm falling asleep as I type, so the list is as good as it gets!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Do you ever feel trapped? Like everything you do is just the WRONG thing to do. Feel like you can't win, no matter what? That the harder you try, the worse things get? That's how I feel today, and I've been busy trying to talk myself out of it. I wish I could elaborate, because it's a complex story and kind of mind boggling really, but it's the kind of thing I really can't put on the internet without risking serious repercussions. Perhaps it is sufficient to say that I'm spending my 25th birthday (tomorrow) away from the office through no choice of my own and I'm rather displeased about it. It was initially a punishment of sorts, disguised as an offer of good will, then became a true offer of good will, however, it's an unnecessary offer, which places me behind on some work that I need to get done. I will say that at NO point was my work with clients affected, and the last time I checked, being stressed about one's upcoming house purchase on one's lunch break wasn't a crime. But, it is what it is. And I can't even sleep in :( have to meet the lawyer at 9 anyway.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

awkward questions/compliments

Something I talk about in the classes I teach on Assertiveness, Self Esteem and Criticism, is that a lot of people have a hard time accepting compliments. So often in life, we are unable to take compliments at face value, and we have a hard time accepting them as positive. Sometimes it is because we are wondering about a hidden motive, what does this person want? Why are they being nice to me? Other times, it is because we don't believe it ourselves, when we feel badly about ourselves, it's hard to imagine that others don't feel similarly. I'm sure the following conversation is fairly normal in your life as well.

"Nice outfit today!"
"Oh, this old thing, I found it in the back of my closet"

"You did a good job on that project!"
"(list of all the things that went wrong on the project)"

Because I am constantly teaching this, I've tried really hard to work on it myself, and I really think I've improved at taking compliments, except about one issue. See, here's the thing, in January, I did a detox at yoga, and after that, my naturopath put me on an asthma nutrition plan which cut out eggs, wheat, dairy, chocolate, wine and beer. So, since January, I've lost more than 40lbs. I am still not even half way to being a "healthy" weight for my height, but it's a big change, and it's quite noticeable now. I have a really hard time with this. Part of the problem is that I was happy with my body the way it was before, and I'm happy with my body the way it is now. I'm enjoying the weight loss because it's been good for my yoga practice, and I'm almost out of plus sizes so the thrift store will have more clothes that fit me... oh, and towels wrap around me better! I am not, however, obsessed with the weight loss. I stick with the eating plan because it has helped my asthma A LOT. I've cut back a huge amount on the inhaled steroids, from two puffs, twice a day to one, once a day, and the only time I have asthma symptoms is when I eat things that aren't on the plan, (like the s'mores last weekend!)

How does this relate to compliments? Well, I've started getting a lot of "compliments" on my weight loss. And I'm really having a hard time with it. I've been trying to get to the root of why, but I'm having a difficult time analyzing it. Part of it, I think, is that it seems too personal, but my body is something the world sees everyday, of course my coworkers and friends will notice the change in size. If I get a new hair cut, or new makeup, they notice, why wouldn't they notice this. Then there is a part of me that feels that I don't deserve the compliment, that I haven't done this to lose weight, that I'm not cutting calories that much (I eat a lot of tortilla chips and jelly bellies). The simple fact is, that with cutting out eggs, wheat and dairy, and continuing with my yoga classes, I must be eating less than I put out. I've had to eliminate frozen pizza and ice cream and lean cusine frozen dinners from my daily eating, and it makes a big difference. I also had to stop eating most desserts and snack food. So, I feel like I'm not putting nearly as much effort into this, in a direct way, as all the times I did try and lose weight and failed.

So really, I think the issues comes down to the weight. I don't like that the focus is on weight. I don't like that it's something we compliment people on, and yet in some ways, I think we should? I have a lot of thoughts about it, and I'm having a hard time getting them out. On the no side, as in no, we shouldn't compliment people about their weight loss, my thoughts are as follows.
- Self Esteem and Self Worth should not come from physical image or outside things. Giving compliments about this does not promote internal factors.
- My sister has an eating disorder, as do many, many others, and this is a huge trigger thing.
Then there's my thoughts on the we should compliment people side of things.
- Science has shown us over and over that obesity is rampant, and a huge cause of health programs, should we not applaud people's efforts to be healthy?
- (This goes with the one above, I suppose) if someone were to quit smoking, we would applaud it, if they were to quit drinking, we'd compliment them, why wouldn't we do the same to weight loss?

I think what it comes down to, is who the compliments come from, and how their phrased, at least in my book. For example, when my supervisor compliments me, she says things like "you've really changed a lot of your habits" and she encourages me in my healthy eating. When her supervisor compliments me, she says things like "you're a lot smaller, have you lost weight?" I find the questions harder than the compliments, I suppose. People telling me I look good, I don't seem to mind nearly as much as people telling me I look good I because I've lost weight, or that the weight loss looks good. I have a really hard time with those, and I question, did I look that bad before? I was okay how I looked then to! (I also really hate it when anyone calls me a skinny minny, or really, when anyone uses the word "skinny".

I suppose, this has no conclusion. I haven't answered any of my questions. I still don't know whether it's good or bad to compliment someone on their weight loss (thankfully I'm so oblivious I never notice when someone loses or gains weight, so that part of things is not an issue for me), and I still don't know why it bothers me so much when people compliment me on my weight loss. Thoughts for another day, I suppose.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things I've Learned

Today I got the clients to do an exercise for the last day of group in which they had to think of ten things they'd learned. Either things about employment, or coping skills, or job searching, or themselves, and so I figured that while they were working on it, I'd try and come up with ten things I'd learned in the past four weeks as well. I came up with 14 and thought I'd share them.

1. I am an adult... for real (I think I learn this one at least once a month though)
2. B12 shots rock my world
3. I don't want fixing, I want support (again, I learn this one a lot)
4. Half moon pose needs to be done from my finger tips
5. How to do a proper headstand the "yoga way"
6. How to stake peas and beans
7. It might not happen even when it feels right
8. Don't drink drinks made by a certain friend
9. How to be a better "mark" in ultimate frisbee
10. Gluten free buns are kind of gross (but they're buns I can eat so I eat them anyway)
11. Your SIN card no longer counts as ID for criminal record checks
12. Republic of Doyle is a great Canadian show
13. Cats at the office are good, transporting said cats to/from the office is not
14. Sophie Cat is a good judge of character (or at least dislikes the same people I do).

Grumpy Sophie Cat

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Melancholy: a deep, pensive, and long lasting sadness.

I think that melancholy might be a good word to describe how I'm feeling right now. It's hard to explain really. When my naturopath asked me today, the best I could come up with was "contemplative" and that didn't quite do it, so I thought about it some more, and melancholy really seems to fit, especially the part about being pensive. I'm not sure quite what I'm thinking about, and some of it's definitely good, but I'm definitely thinking, and pondering, and just generally, pensive.

The number one thing on my mind these days is "growing up". Now, I don't mean that in the way of now I'm not a kid anymore, I've just noticed lately, that I'm more grown up and more comfortable in my roles than I used to be. I've been working with a few people at the shelter lately who've been younger than me (which is a nice change, to be honest) and it's started to really strike me just how much I've grown and changed since I started working there more than three years ago, and for the most part, in a good way. When I started working there, everything was new and exciting, and I had story after story after story to tell. I was enthusiastic, wanting to learn, and always looking for something to do. I see that a lot in our new staff, especially some of the younger ones. Now, it's not that I'm not enthusiastic, and I don't do extra stuff, and I still LOVE learning and hearing people's stories, that stuff is still all true, I guess it's just that I've settled into my role. It doesn't need to be exciting anymore though, I'm okay with quiet shifts; if there's nothing to do, I'm okay with sitting back and observing. Situations that I might have found exciting, or scary, or challenging in the past are no longer quite so extreme. I don't think I've hardened or become bitter, I just think I've adapted, gained experience and gained confidence. I've also gotten a lot more experienced in how things work in terms of policies, staff dynamics, and client dynamics, which helps A LOT when working in social services. New staff ask me questions, and now lots of times the answer is "I've stopped asking" (I haven't decided if that's good or not, one gave me a great ethical dilemma that I'm still mulling over).

And then there's my full time job. I've been working as a social worker/counsellor for more than two years now and I am now the most senior person on my team. Some days I feel like I'm really comfortable in my role, that I'm a good counsellor, other days, I feel like I'm just playing at my job and not really doing anything. I realize that's normal and I may never get over it, I've just been thinking about it a lot more lately. Counselling is such a hard thing to evaluate though, in other professions I might be able to have objective measures of how things are going, but I find it very hard to figure out this. I mean, most clients thank me and make another appointment and are hopefully moving towards there goals, but there are also a huge chunk of clients who drop off the face of the earth, or who don't move towards the program goal (employment) and I have to close their file whether they like it or not. (Someday I will work in a program that does not have a specific end result and where success is not measured by only one outcome, and my job security does not depend on the percentage of clients who meet that goal).

Finally there's me as a person. I've had a few different people lately compliment me on how friendly and how nice I am. I have a hard time with this. Not because I don't believe that I'm friendly and nice, because I am, but because I feel like I haven't been putting any effort into being friendly and nice and there is so much more I could be doing. I almost feel like I've been avoiding being friendly and nice, and yet, here I am, getting these compliments. This both confuses me and gives me hope. I'm glad that I am coming across that way, because it's the person I want to be, but I wish I could see it in myself. I guess I'll just have to watch harder!

Friday, July 29, 2011

quick update

I got Sophie Cat shaved for the summer. She was NOT impressed. Not impressed at all. I think she secretly likes it though, SO much less fur for her to have to worry about. This lack of fur makes her a lot cooler and I worry less about her spending her summer in my top floor apartment.

Speaking of apartments. I bought a house. 17 more days until I get possession! I'm super excited, and super nervous. And there is of course the part where I HATE moving. It is just not my idea of a good time in any way, shape, or form. I fully intend on staying in my new little house until I have a really good reason to leave (and for the record, getting too much stuff, not a good reason to leave, that's just a good reason to get ride of stuff).

I'm still working both my jobs, but I have to say, working in an employment agency just has so much less excitement to it compared with working in the shelter overnight. I mean, it's a good job and all, just not as exciting. I really do like getting to use more of my social work skills and less of my babysitting skills though.

Also, I'm going to Africa in May. With my church, on a mission trip, not just randomly going or anything, but I'm quite nervous about it. I've never been off the continent and never even considered going to Africa until this year. We'll see how it goes. I know God will be with me, but it scares me like crazy.

and... that's all?! I apparently have nothing all that interesting to say tonight.

goodnight all :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Defining Normal

I was thinking today about what makes something "normal". What makes a behaviour normal, what pushes it over the line into abnormal? What makes a state of mind normal, and when does it become a problem? Who gets to decide what normal is?

A little background, this issue came to mind as I was thinking about my reactions to some current stresses in my life with moving, home ownership, friends, and work. I'm perhaps particularly sensitive towards my reactions in light of the negative reaction of the insurance company towards my anxiety. Either way, as I stood in my shower crying, I asked myself, "is this normal?" I decided that it was, and that I am indeed having a healthy reaction towards stressful events in my life, but it got me thinking about how often I "make" that decision for other people as well.

Working as a counsellor, I have a many, many clients who worry that they are not "normal", or in fact, label themselves as "crazy" and/or "nut jobs". As a general rule I am quick to reassure people that are "normal" and are not in fact "crazy", and I'm not sure I've ever really thought about what a enormous power that is. I tend not even to think about it, my instant reaction when someone tells me they're "crazy" is to defend them to themselves. I'm not proud of this reaction. I think perhaps a more helpful response and one I already do to some extent use, but should probably use more, is to explore what is going on for the person at that moment. What has led them to wonder if they are crazy, how might they describe similar behaviours/thoughts in someone else etc... Because really, do I know what normal is? I have a fairly good understanding that somethings are "not normal". For example, spending hours starring at a flag pole waiting to see if you can catch a glimpse of the wind is not generally considered mentally healthy, especially when the police have to remove you from said flagpole for your own safety. Spending more of your day in tears than out of tears is also not generally considered normal or healthy. The same goes for hearing voices, running through the streets naked, binge eating and then purging or a whole host of other behaviours.

The behaviours I just talked about definitely fall more on the "not normal" side of things. But what about things like being anxious about a job interview? Perfectly normal, right? But what about when that anxiety makes it impossible for you to attend the interview and leaves you shaking in your bed? Not so normal anymore, right? Crying every day for two weeks might be considered a sign of depression, or a perfectly normal response to the death of a close friend or relative.

I wonder if perhaps a better way to address the question of whether a person is "normal" or not, is to explore the issue further with them, and then to provide information. I think I do this, and maybe could do more of this. So for the person who asks me if crying every day for two weeks is normal, we would explore what had started this, what had happened before hand, what was triggering it etc... I can provide information about the symptoms of depression, or reactions to grief etc... This then could be normalizing, without coming out and using my power as the counsellor to declare someone normal or not normal. Because regardless of my intention and effort to label as a behaviour, there would always be the risk that this was taken as a judge of the whole person.

I still have SO much more to say about this, but for tonight, this is all my eyes can stay open for. Stay tuned for next time when I look at whether "we" even want to be normal!

Friday, July 1, 2011

stigma of mental illness

I really want to start blogging again. I keep trying, but it never seems to last for long. I'm going to give it a go again though.

I've been thinking about the stigma of mental illness the past couple of days. It's something we talk to our clients about when do data collection and statistics (do you feel stigmatized in the community) but I've never really though of it in my own context. Up until yesterday, I had never felt stigmatized, or at least never identified any feelings as being feelings of stigma. However, the reason I have never felt stigmatized is because I don't exactly talk about my mental illness on a regular basis. My anxiety has always been a fairly private thing for me. Although people I am close to know that it is something I deal with and that I take medications for it and have gone to counselling, it's not something I talk about as being currently present in my life on a regular basis. Although, for the most part, it's under control, so maybe that is a part of it. In any case, it's not something I talk about with my coworkers or acquaintances, thus, no stigma.

That brings me to now. And why I've suddenly become more awakened to the realities of stigma and mental illness. I recently bought a house (it's all mine in only 45 days!!!) When I signed my mortgage at the bank, I applied for mortgage insurance - life, health crisis, and disability. Two different companies underwrite the policies and I had to have a very in-depth phone interview with each of them. They asked me about each and every little thing that could possibly be wrong with me, plus about my family history of things. Now, because I have asthma and have a family history of cancer and heart disease I figured I would not qualify, oh, and I'm overweight. However, it never even occurred to me that I would get a letter stating you do not qualify for our insurance because of your history of anxiety.

I was angry. Very angry. I have NEVER let my anxiety get in the way of me doing what I need to do. Never missed a day of work, never missed a day of school, I've never been hospitalized, or been to the hospital because of my anxiety. But there it was, in black letters telling me that I didn't qualify for something because I was mentally ill. I'd never put that in the context of my self before. Never let the anxiety stop me from something. I'm having to integrate this into my understanding of self, that because of the anxiety, there are some things that I simply cannot have. And I don't like it.

Having this experience though, I hope, will help me grow. I happened to see my counsellor yesterday and she reminded me that TONS of people go on disability for stress related illness and so it kind of made sense that a history of anxiety would disqualify me from disability insurance (I still haven't got the results back on the life insurance). I am reminded, that for my clients, who have mental illness which affects their ability to work, there may often be much more of a stigma. It reminds me to, that I really do need to pay more attention to opportunities to fight stigma and be involved in more public education both on a small and a large level. I also need to decide if I want to appeal this decision, or make a bigger issue out of it, or just be passive, accept the decision and move on from here.

Sophie Cat - cool as a cucumber

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

one of those days...

Today I am bored.
Today I am just not interested in doing my job.

Yesterday our office was closed for Easter Monday. We didn't want to have to cancel or group, especially since it was cancelled on Good Friday as well, so 3 of us came in for the day. I got SO much paperwork done. It was wonderful. However, I kind of feel like I've hit a wall now. I somehow had no clients this morning, and being at my desk is just killing me. None of my clients have even phoned. Thank goodness i'm doing group this afternoon or I'd go completely crazy.

So, other social workers, how do you deal with the paperwork mountain, or days when things are quieter?
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Monday, April 18, 2011

days of non appearances

Today I had one of those days where no one wants to see or talk to their counsellor. My intake didn't show up, my appointment after that cancelled. World's quickest phone calls with a couple other clients. I used the time to attempt to clean my desk and run over to the pest control place with our latest trapped beg bug, but still, it would be nice to see clients once in a while...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

a less whiny post about bachelorette parties

So, I've had a lot more time to calm down and think seriously about this whole Bachelorette party thing from both a personal and more general perspective and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

For starters, my friend's bachelorette party is not going to be totally crazy or horribly sexual or anything like that. Some wine, appetizers, and conversation, perhaps with a few games at one of the bridesmaid's places, and then off to the bar for some dancing. Now personally, I hate the bar, I've locked up a few too many drunk people in my day (working in the drunk tank) to enjoy being around a whole bunch of drunk people, however, it's her day, so I suppose I will go.

In theory, I like the idea of a bachelorette party. It's a nice way for the girls to get together and celebrate the bride and mark the change that is about to occur in her life. You get to play fun games, maybe be a little bit "kinky" and let loose a bit. I'm all about that. I see absolutely nothing wrong with drinking a bit, eating a bit, and laughing a lot. I think it's great. For me, where it becomes a problem is when it becomes more than that, when it turns into something degrading, cruel and dangerous.

First of all, there's the degradation of both males and females. The male part is easy, we put up plastic penises (and by we, I simply mean females), we scour the bars looking for them in order to exploit them for drinks and/or money and we mock them. One might say that a bachelorette party is a way of expressing ones feminism and celebrate being female, however, I tend to disagree. I read about one game in which the bride to be has lifesavers pinned all over her shirt and men pay her in order to suck on her shirt, degrading to both parties if you ask me. The same goes for getting points for getting a man to buy you a drink, let you sit on his lap, or let you kiss him. Degrading for both parties. The entire idea of a bachelorette "gone wild" shows women to be drunk sex objects, rather than human beings.

Then there's the sex thing. These type of parties turn sex into a commodity, human sexuality into something to be bought and sold, won and lost, a subject to be joked about, trivialized and made into a show. And here's the thing, if you ask me, sex isn't those things. Sex is something precious and personal that happens between two (or I suppose more) people. Our culture says that sex is nothing, that it's just something that happens, that it's casual, that it's "no big deal", but I really don't agree with that. I think sex is something much deeper, much more meaningful, and leaves a deeper impression on people than our society would like us to believe.

Old fashioned as this idea may be, I believe that anything that happens at a bachelorette should be something that the groom to be would not be hurt, disappointed, or disgusted to find out about. That's not to say that there shouldn't be girly sharing, laughing, and giggling, and that some things should never leave the room, just as a general principle, if you wouldn't do it around your husband, you probably shouldn't be doing it at your party.

So, for any of you reading this who may at some point plan be a bachelorette party, take note. I don't want to go to a bar, I don't want there to be giant plastic penises everywhere, and I don't want to go trolling for men. What I want, is to spend some quality time with my girlfriends, have a lot of laughs, eat some food (cheesecake anyone?) and drink some wine.

(maybe some day I'll get around to talking about bachelor parties, although really, I have pretty much the same views on them too).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Things I am

In a follow up to my last post about things I am not, I thought I should probably make a more positive post, and so, for therapeutic value, and your reading pleasure, a list of things I AM.

- Awake and dreaming
- a little bit Bossy
- a total and Complete Cat person (oh, and I'm a Counsellor)
- awake and Dreaming
- Excellent yet not egotistical
- Friendly
- loves to play board Games
- a bit of a Homebody
- Intelligent
- Joyful
- Kind, caring and compassionate
- Loving, learning, listening and leading
- becoming Mindful
- getting better with Nutrition
- Opinionated
- takes Pride in the things she's done
- not Quite a Quiet person
- Reader
- Shy Social worker
- Tenacious
- Usually on time
- Very Vocal
- able to Withstand a great deal
- i <3 Yoga
- a to Z of me. I feel as though I could go on forever.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Things I am not

Things I am not:
- A good housekeeper
- Entirely organized
- Good at sports
- All the creative

I am just not. I love my friend who is getting married, I love her dearly, and I am SO blessed to be in her wedding party. It is an honour to stand with her as she professes her love for her husband to be. However, I am NOT a party planner. The wedding shower was easy, because her aunts took care of it, although to be honest, I feel like I could have pulled that one off. The bachelorette party however, wow. It turns out none of the bridesmaids are good party planners. And my poor friend is upset, because she is worried that we're going to plan her some lame party. And in a way, so am I, but I also know that it's not the planning that's going to make the party, it's the people, and the time that's had. And I know if she goes into it thinking it's going to be lame, it probably is going to be lame. If she'll give it a chance though, I'm sure it'll turn out just fine.

Then there's the other part, the sex part. It's not that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of sex, because I'm not, and I think that there will obviously have to be some dirty, kinky, content, reading the party ideas online makes me sick. They seem to be all about women throwing themselves all over men, and I guarantee I am not sitting on any strange dude's lap to win a prize or trying to get random guys to buy me drinks, it's just not happening. Oh, and the alcohol part. The idea of any game which involves people doing lots of shots scares me as well, for a few reasons, not the least of which being the money. But then there's the whole I hate being around drunk people thing, and the, I think it's stupid thing, and the whole, oh yeah, I THINK IT'S STUPID. I have spent too many years working in the drunk tank to have any desire to get drunk, particularly in a large group of people, and I have even less desire to be around a group of drunk people. I got paid to do that last night for 8 hours, I don't necessarily need to do that for free.

On the other hand, I very much realize that this is NOT about me. This is so not about me at all, it's about my friend, and what she wants, and what will make her happy, and more than anything else in this situation, I want to make her happy.

edited to add: I can't believe how demeaning to men this entire thing seems to be. It's just horrible and awful and sickening.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The frustrations of a time limited program

I work in a program which is supposed to be a one year employment program for adults with mental health concerns. It's a great program and I have a great job. The one thing that frustrates me is that because of the way we're funded, it's only supposed to be a year.

In one sense, the limited nature of the funding means that we are constantly pushing ourselves to work hard as our contract gets renewed at the end of each year based on the fact that a certain percentage of our clients find employment. Unfortunately, our funding is not based on a percentage of our clients maintaining employment or finding the job that works for them.

Our program starts with four weeks of preemployment workshops/groups/classes, whatever you want to call them. They're half day and are supposed to help people get back in the routine of working. They're quite structured and we take attendance and have small homework expectations, mostly reflections. We cover things like stress management, assertiveness, problem solving, cover letters, interviews etc... It's great. The problem is though, that sometimes after the workshops there's a big let down and/or clients discover they aren't quite ready to commit to looking for work. They need more TIME.

Then there's the mental illness factor. I don't know about most people, but at least with my anxiety, while there are some patterns to it, there are also times I really don't see it coming. The same is true for my clients, and often what is needed is more TIME to stabilize. Unfortunately, the lack of stability often sees us discharging clients when perhaps the routine and support of our program is what they need the most.

And finally, for today at least. There's the employment support factor. We provide people with an employment support counsellor to help them keep their jobs. But lots of times issues don't surface in the first three or six months of a job, they come a bit later. Or people lose one job, get another, and don't have much time to work with employment support to plan how to not lose their current job.

This isn't the world's most coherent post, but I really wanted to get back to posting about social work, and this is a start!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 3 of Homeopathy - Why it sucks when you're the "expert"

So, two different subjects, one post, because it all ties together. Subject one, suicide, subject two, Ignatia Amara. Let's begin with subject two.

So the homeopathic remedy my naturopath has me on is called Ignatia, and it's for grief and balancing emotions and stuff. It can make things worse before it makes things better. It's definitely made things worse, or at least psychosomatically so, I'm not sure. Nausea. Ick. Bleck. Nausea. And lack of appetite, but the nausea feels better when I eat. random. Lack of interest. Yup, I've got that. It goes along with the "lump" in my throat. Exhaustion, oh yeah. I've slept eight and a half hours two nights in a row and still been tired, despite my b12 shot on Monday. Hopefully things get better soon!

Subject 1, suicide. Without going into too much detail, there's this girl I know, younger than me, but still over 18, and she's quite depressed. I've been a non-professional support for her for four or five years now, and I know her quite well (far better then she knows me). Here's the thing though, right now she's quite suicidal from what I can ascertain and really not doing well. We both think she needs to go to hospital, but she is scared of going and keeps putting up barriers. I offered to take her tonight, but no go, barriers put up. So we're at a stand still.

Now here's the thing, if she was a client, instead of a friend, I could leave this at work. I could leave this in the client's hands, provide them with resources, write a safety plan, and I could go home. But as a friend, she has my cell phone number, and that's how we've been talking, text messages. It's harder for me to set aside, because I care about her a lot (not that I don't care about my clients and worry about them as well, but it's a different kind of relationship). But I'm stuck. She's not actively suicidal, or if she is, she's not telling me, so I really can't call the police. I've had to call the police for people before, and it's not fun, even when they're standing in front of you telling you that they're going to walk out the door and hang themselves, and they've got the rope already. The police would not be interested in this. I also don't have enough "evidence" to go to the magistrate and try and get a "form" so that she's forced to be assessed in hospital. I have given her all the crisis resources, I have been through safety planning with her, I've done all the "right" things, and now it's time to let go.

Here's how this all ties together though. Among other people who are friends with this person, I am "the expert". I'm not an expert in this at all, but I'm the one they all turn to when things aren't going well for this friend. There is no one else for me to call, they could call me, but that's where it stops. This friend has a counsellor, but I'm not in contact with them, because I'm not a professional in this case as I've told her many times. I'm not at my best right now, I'm really not. But there's no one to pass this responsibility off on. I just don't seem to have it in me to tell my suicidal friend with very little support, yeah, I'm feeling "off" today, can you feel like dieing another day? I have of course set some limits and boundaries, and I definitely took some me time for self care today where I completely ignored the phone, but it's still hard. I guess it's never going to be "easy" though, when a friend is feeling suicidal, no matter how good a place I'm in. I guess I'll see what tomorrow brings!

My Naturopath

It's been a while since I blogged and I wanted to share something that I've done that seems to be making a really big difference in my life and encompasses a lot of things that I try and incorporate in my social work practice.

I started seeing a Naturopath after my massage therapist referred me to one. He thought they might be able to help with my body's seeming inability to maintain healthy iron levels. Well so far it hasn't helped with that, but it's helped with a lot of other stuff!

My naturopath is great. Costly, but great. She works as part of a group of naturopaths practicing family medicine in my city. Our first meeting was almost entirely talking, for an hour and a half. She really took the time to listen to me and get a very thorough medical history from me, plus a brief physical exam. She ran some blood tests as well, gave me a b12 shot, and started me on some higher quality vitamins then what I was already on.

Since I started seeing her, I've lost 22 pounds my body was carrying around, and really, I just feel quite a bit better (except of course for this depression type thing). She discovered I had a bit of a sluggish thyroid, not low enough for my doctor to have noticed I guess, but she put me on some herbs for it, and it really helped perk me up a bit. We're also doing an asthma diet, so I'm not eating eggs, wheat or dairy (not as bad as it sounds).

The really good thing about her though is that she listens, and she remembers. So if I tell her about something, three weeks later she'll be able to ask me about it and check in with me about how it's going. Although I'm still not 100% certain she "gets" me, I did somehow find it in me to open up a bit about how numb I've been feeling. She had lots of ideas of things to put me on (she's always full of ideas), but we're starting with a homeopathic remedy for grief and emotional balancing. And more accupuncture.

Another thing I like about my naturopath is that she is continually doing research and finding out about new things to try. She often has textbooks out when I come in, and she'll say things like "I've been reading about this... that we can try". For me that shows that while she sees me for 45 minutes every few weeks, she is still thinking about and working on my issues while I'm not there.

Final cool thing for this post, and I think the thing that connects it with my practice as a social worker. I went to my Naturopath for a very physical thing, my anemia. That was really my only goal. I'm still stuck on 3 iron pills a day to maintain my iron levels, BUT I have more energy, I've lost weight, my body/stomach are happier with me, and I'm starting work on this emotion business of mine. It reminds me of how my clients come to our program for help finding and keeping a job, but often we work on SO much more then that. People are integrated, they're not just one issue, work is just a piece of the puzzle. A big important piece perhaps, but just a piece none the less.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I wish I still had bad coping skills?

So here's the thing. I'm house hunting, and the market where I live is completely a sellers market. I was out bid on a house 2 weeks ago, that went for 20000 over the asking price, and then yesterday I lost a house I REALLY wanted because it went for 30000 over the asking price.

To say I was upset, would be an understatement. I don't know if it was the new homeopathy, the massage I got that day, being depressed, or something, but man I lost it. I cried for like 2 hours straight, just couldn't stop. I sat on the floor of my shower with hot, hot water pounding down on me and just sobbed. This was arguably a good experience for me, as it helped me release some of the pent up emotion inside me, that was sort of the goal of this whole journaling and opening up thing after all!

The amusing (now) part of this all was the conversation I was having with myself while sitting on the floor of the shower. Basically, one part of my mind was thinking of every unhealthy coping skill it could and the other half of my brain was shooting it down. One part of my brain was being incredibly black and white, and the other half was adding shades of grey. And let me tell you, I feel like in the moment it would have been SO much easier to be in the black and white negative side. Why? Perhaps a few examples.

1. A: You should cut yourself, cutting yourself would help you feel better. B: Yeah, but then I'd have scars and I'd be mad at myself, and even though it would feel good in the moment, it would hurt later. A: Well, you need to shave your legs anyway, and if the razor just, slipped... B: So, not shaving my legs tonight then, razor gets nowhere near me. A: then how are we going to make the feelings stop? B: I don't know...

2. A: Well, why don't we have a drink. I know you have some Kahlua kicking around. B: Yeah, that sounds good, wait, no, not only do I not want to do something stupid while intoxicated, knowing my luck, I'll find up sick and/or hungover.

3. A: Well, you're never going to get a house at this rate. You can't afford one, you might as well give up, it's impossible. B: I've only seen SIX houses and offered on two. I know the market sucks, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. A: Yeah, but you're never going to find another house that's just right for you. B: That's what I thought after the first house two, and then I saw the second house...

And so things went on from there, and the font on this blog entry decided it didn't want to be straight forward either. In anycase, I just so badly wanted to be able to yell and scream and do something destructive or give up, or quite, or something, anything, to make it all go away. But, the rational, self aware part of my brain that teaches CBT skills just wouldn't let me. Which is good to know, but is SO FRUSTRATING in the moment.

I don't know if this entry makes any sense. I'm getting sleepy, but I really wanted to try and get some of this out there.

To sum up, although my life is SO much better with all the coping skills I've learned, it also makes things more complicated, and at times I really do miss some of those negative options.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Look at me, writing an entry

My naturopath seems to think I should start writing again. She's probably right. Now granted, she meant journaling, but I think this is actually more therapeutic for me, and it's certainly "easier". Slightly less deep then what journaling could turn into.

Experiencing multiple loses in a short period of time, as well as having an emotionally intense job, a busy schedule, and friends who are having difficulties of there own, has in my case, led to a bit of emotional numbness. I get to try some homeopathy, which could make me worse before it helps, and I'm supposed to journal every day. We'll see.

In truth, except for my flat affect, life is pretty good. I've been looking at houses, which shoudl be more exciting than it is. I put an offer on one, didn't get it, and am putting an offer on another one tomorrow. I really like the one I'm offering on tomorrow and am praying very hard that I get it. Then of course comes packing, and moving...

Still president of our union local at work. Went to a good workshop on bargaining as we're renegotiating our collective agreement in April. I'm not quite sure when I'm going to find the time for bargaining, but here's hoping it doesn't take long. It's hard, because much as I stand in solidarity with my coworkers, I want to make sure I don't leave my clients at the wayside as they're the reason all of us got into this in the first place.

Perhaps that's enough writing for today. I'll be back tomorrow! Hopefully with more social work excitement as opposed to my dysthimic ramblings.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Detox Day 12

Today is Day 12 of my detox. That means only three days left after today! Starting Tuesday morning I get to slowly start adding foods back in and readjusting my body to a wide range of foods. 4 more yoga classes and I'm taking a day off from going to the studio. I will likely do something at home, but definitely not heading to the hot room. It's wonderful and lovely, but it'll be nice to have a break.

Yesterday was a not great day. I've been really tired throughout this and yesterday just seemed like a very grumpy day. I was not in the mood to head to the yoga studio, but off I went. I was somewhat dreading my flow class, but felt like once I was in the room I would feel better, and I did, and then our teacher started talking about Agni Namaskar - a salute to the Hindu fire God, 108 prostrations (push-ups) in one yoga class. And so that's what we did. I've done it before, and I'll probably do it again at some point, but wow, that's a lot of push-ups, and it didn't exactly help my bad mood.

I looked back though, and I realized that this is the point in the 30 day challenge I did during which I started to have a really hard time and get really emotional. If experience is my guide, then I know that once I get through the next couple of days, things will be better. We'll see how it goes though, right now I'm feeling pretty much totally exhausted.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Detox Day Nine

I am more than halfway done my detox, thank goodness. The first week was rough, and at times I REALLY felt like quiting. It's never good when I start falling asleep during counselling sessions. I feel horrible because I actually cut one short simply because I could not keep my eyes open and I thought it would be better if we had a short session rather than me fall asleep. I don't know if it was from caffeine withdrawal, lack of gluten, or just overall exhaustion from all the yoga, but it was pretty rough. This week I started with a B12 shot at the naturopath though, so hopefully that makes a difference as well.

Looking at this week, things seem to be going pretty well. I did a good grocery shop (complete with a grocery list!) on Saturday, so that I had the food I would need for the week. On Sunday afternoon I sat down and cut up a whole bunch of vegetables so it would be easy to put them into things - I also boiled some beets so they would be ready to eat. After yoga Sunday night I cooked a big pot of lemon/chili soup with lentils, brown rice and a whole bunch of vegetables. Despite the fact that lentils are NOT my favourite food, it's actually pretty good.

In terms of yoga, I did a restorative practice on Sunday, and yesterday's flow class felt AMAZING. I really feel as though I do have more energy and that my body has gotten stronger, which I find pretty wonderful. When I did my 30 day challenge I was having to modify a lot because my ankle was still quite injured and my elbow was bothering me. This time my body seems fairly free of aches and pains. In fact, I find myself pushing myself fairly hard in yoga and not having the sore muscles the next day I might have in the past. Now this could be because I'm in better shape, or, as I suspect, it might have something to do with the difference in my eating. It will be interesting to see as I add foods back in what kind of a difference things make.

Speaking on adding foods back in, Tuesday I get to add my first food back in and I have yet to decide what it will be. Most people expect me to pick coffee as number one, but I'm not sure. While I really like coffee and I miss it, it might be good to be coffee free for a while. It's certainly cheaper and it makes life easier not having to think about fitting coffee into my life. Gluten will be nice to add back in as well, but finding gluten that doesn't contain eggs, milk etc... will make it harder. I'll add dairy back in as well, but I know you have to do that slowly or it can really upset your stomach. SO, I'm thinking the first thing I add back will be tomatoes!!! I really, really, miss tomatoes. I can't wait to have tomato sauce, tomatoes, salsa etc...

Friday, January 14, 2011

The trauma of buying a bridesmaid dress

So, I am in the wedding of one of my very good friends and favourite yoga buddy. This of course means wearing a dress. Now to give my friend credit, she picked very wonderful dresses, in fact, I really like my dress! It's even my favourite colour. That does not however lessen the trauma of buying said dress.

See, the thing is, this whole experience could have been very NON traumatic. The attitude of the sales staff resulted in that not being the case. I'm a larger person, I know I'm larger, and for the most part, I'm okay with that! I'm fully aware that I'm not a size 6 or something like that. So when I tried on the sample dress, in a plus size, I was most definitely not offended when she suggested that I go up a size. I figure, hey, I want the dress to fit, does it matter what the number says? I certainly don't want to look like a sausage at the wedding. Anyway, when I had on the sample dress she got all whispery and made it seem like it would be horribly awful if I got the bigger size even though it would fit better. She kept stressing how it was my decision, but did I want to ask my mom, or my sisters, or get more opinions or whatever. She did this to all of us. Not impressed.

So, even though I went in there with healthy self esteem and body image, I left feeling kind of dirty and gross about myself. For the bridesmaids who went in with a not so good body image, well, it left one of them almost in tears. And so, once again, I reiterate, people, it's JUST a number. Focus on being healthy and happy not on what size your dress is!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yoga Detox Challenge

Monday, I began a new challenge. I thought it would be a fairly simple challenge. 15 days of being a vegan, 15 days of hot yoga; at the same time of course. However, it turns out to be a full naturopathic liver detox. That looks basically like this...

I CAN eat Beans of all types. I CAN'T eat meat, eggs, fish, soy

I CAN eat Brown Rice, Brown Rice Pasta, Quinoa etc... I CAN'T eat Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, Spelt, Kamut, White or Whole Wheat Flour

I CAN eat Most Vegetables. I CAN'T eat tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, corn, mushrooms

I CAN eat Most Fruits. I CAN'T eat oranges, bananas, melons, dried fruit, fruit juices

I CAN eat Most Nuts and Nut butters. I CAN'T eat peanuts, corn oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, butter, margarine

I CAN eat Rice milk, Almond Milk, Herbal Tea, Green and White and Red tea, seat salt, herbs and spices. I CAN'T eat Alcohol, Coffee, Sugar, Vinegar, Dairy, MSG, Preservatives, Sulphates

In other words, it's crazy intense. So far the hardest thing has been that I can't have gluten. Well, and the intense caffeine withdrawal. More then one person in chemical withdrawal has told me that coming off coffee is harder than coming off cocaine. It definitely was not easy, especially because unlike someone in a detox unit, I went to work and couldn't sleep through the pain. My head hurt, I was sweating, confused, and just plain unable to concentrate. Yoga felt kind of like death. I spent the last 30 minutes just lying on the ground feeling like I was going to pass out.

Another thing about this detox is that I have to actually cook. They don't make processed foods without all that stuff in them. This created a lot of anxiety for me, not so much around the actual cooking, but around finding the time to actually cook. That and some of the money I had to spend on buying better food. I'm sure it'll all pay off, it's just slightly frustrating in the here and now.

Oh, and there's the emotions. It seems to kind of be creating an emotional out pouring which I'm not so used to. I'm sure it's good, but it's hard.

So detox, so far, so good?