In the early 2000s I worked as a school social worker and there was a problem in the school that my principal and I spent hours talking about. The kids were changing, the families were changing, and our staff was not. We went from 10-15% of students who were considered to be in the low income population to over 40%… and we watched teachers spin their wheels as techniques that had been tried and true failed. Fortunately, we had staff that were in it for the kids and I am confident that the school is still one of the best as the teachers learned to embrace new ways.
What’s happening now is similar all over the place. It’s happening at work, as we learn employees are happier and work harder with flexibility in schedules and locations, without so many mandatory meetings. It’s happening with students who are becoming more demanding of quality learning over grades. It’s happening with gender and sexuality as we all state our pronouns and experience new public bathroom protocols.
It’s also happening with mental health. The New York Times article ‘It’s Life or Death’: The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens was frightening and oh so real. The “what’s the point” and pain is “too much” has become not just a fleeting thought but a core feeling kids can’t outrun. Mental Health facilities are too full to take those in crisis and therapists can’t work enough hours to meet needs.
I learned that what was true for me pre-2020 is not true anymore. My solo practice and determination to never expand was forced to waiver and fall to the demand for services. The calls and emails from those in desperate need led me to a discussion with my husband, while we sat in our garage, a propane heat lamp keeping us warm as we talked about the heavy burden I felt. I remember telling him it’s time. It’s time to start interviewing and time to expand to meet the needs. I wanted to always offer availability and an opening to those calling for appointments.
I found three amazing associates and when they got full, I found two more. I still feel as involved as ever, and each call I get I honestly and genuinely search for the right fit for that person. It has been beyond relieving and fulfilling to offer openings and choices to each and every new person who reaches out.
Ellen, David, Rebecca, Erin and Jennifer have been my family, my community and my comfort and I am so grateful for them. I just took over the lease on our office in Northfield (not my old Northfield location, but my post 3/20 location) and there are openings and availability to match your needs: Availability for kids? Check! EMDR for trauma? Check! Accountability and help for addiction (or support for non-adducted partners)? Check! Art Therapy? Eating Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Panic, Executive Function, Neurotypical Behaviors, Personality Disorders… check check CHECK!
I talk to my associates frequently, and some of them daily. We are always consulting, learning, and brainstorming strategies. We got you.
Some of the themes I have seen lately in my work, and also in leading the high school group for NAMI, is just so much pain, so much unresolved trauma, and the helplessness that COVID brought to all of us is resonating on such personal levels. Finding your strength is really hard to do on your own. Sometimes your loved ones or a therapist have better ways of leading you to where it was all along. “The worst thing you can do for a lonely person is try to help them without asking for help in return (eg advice)… we need to help them have a new sense of worth…and belonging”
ALSO the NAMI group will be ongoing, and still FREE and in person! Register HERE and share with any high schooler who might benefit
My colleague Michael Clatch wrote about supporting loved ones with a mental health diagnosis and to quote him, “social support is an aspect that can play a large role in encouraging a loved one to get mental health help, and in helping them through their treatment process”. Continue to provide this support, as it “is critical for the individual and in enhancing their treatment progress and future outcome”. Don’t underestimate how important you are to those you care about.
Some Spring Time Tips, and Tricks, and Resources, and…
Because I am always looking for cool ideas even if they are also tried and true, here are a few I found in the past couple months:
Not sure how to support and connect with others? This article lists “9 things you should say that will drastically improve your life”
Being fairly happy at work goes a long way in terms of performance and research shows that creating workplaces with optimism and values employee well-being leads to more productivity and quality work. No need to be ecstatic, but are you fairly happy at work? Read more here.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”. Stop and pause more often, specifically for 10 seconds multiple times a day. Stop and think about what you are about to do. Heading out of the car to enter the house? Stop for 10 seconds and think about who is there and how you want to greet them. About to make a phone call? Stop for 10 seconds and gather the thoughts about what you want to communicate. Going to walk the dog? Think for 10 minutes about why this can be an enjoyable walk. This is along the ideas of mindfulness, but maybe for the more practical-minded.
You can’t open a news publication without reading about the rise of drinking alcohol during the pandemic. The rise in deaths has been staggering, and the numbers are not going down. You read about Pandemic Hangovers, Wine Moms, and simply the availability of drinking when routines and connections were disrupted and isolation was perhaps unbearable. Are you concerned about your own drinking habits? My associate Ellen Lazar, a LCSW but also a CADC, has lots of ways to clinically assess the answers to this, and said this online survey is possibly the most basic of reliable ones out there https://nbminnesota.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/drinking-problem-test.pdf
It’s in the eyes. We have all been there. Someone says something to us like “sure no problem” but what you hear and what you see lets you know it sure is a problem. Maybe your spouse greets you after work with kind words, but you know by their eyes something’s up. Or when your child says “I don’t need to study- I understand it already” and you reply “OK” but your child knows they better hit the books because of your eyes. Even dogs, who we think love our smiles so much really did not seem concerned about masks because they see our eyes and know if we are friend or foe. When you are on the receiving end of someone’s eyes saying more than their words, ask for clarity, name the feeling, and define the meaning.
The title of this article (The Key to a Good Parent-Child Relationship? Low Expectations) had me ready to dismiss it until I read it. It resonated with a lot of how you feel and work through yourselves. Do your values align with your children’s (no matter what their age) values?
I found a new app that I have been recommending. It is free, and it is called PTSD Coach. Whether you feel the diagnosis applies to you or not, there is education, quotes, ideas and all sorts of tools that the app is worth exploring for many.
Speaking about PTSD, I have been supporting a lot of clients lately who have C-PTSD and now just read about a new study that child abuse and dysfunctional upbringings have a 3.5 times greater risk of high cholesterol than those that reported no abuse. Another reason to manage our stress so it is not angry, and if it is, let’s change that.
If you like podcasts, maybe have a listen to Jessica when she and I talked about Toxic People. You can find it here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-z5d6q-120dea6?utm_campaign=i_share_ep&utm_medium=dlink&utm_source=i_share
Last, I just read this and I liked it. The full poem is here https://www.facebook.com/jeff.foster.184/posts/10156694203346047
Here is the ending:
Once, I ran from difficult feelings.
Now, they are my advisors, confidants, friends,
and they all have a home in me,
and they all belong and have dignity.
I am sensitive, soft, fragile,
my arms wrapped around all my inner children.
And in my sensitivity, power.
In my fragility, an unshakeable Presence.
In the depths of my wounds,
in what I had named “darkness”,
I found a blazing Light
that guides me now in battle.
I became a warrior
when I turned towards myself.
And started listening.
Thank you for reading- Take care of yourself as you take care of everyone else, and we are here, if you need more.