Friday, June 17, 2011

Same threats, same anger, different men

Lo and I are sitting on the porch outside drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and reading. She is reading "possum living" which is about how a girl and her dad lived without working. I would like to try that, but I do not want to raise rabbits to eat in the cellar like she did. Lo has been reading exherpts out of it and they are funny. She dropped out of school in seventh grade so she could learn useful things like how to make moonshine. The girl wrote the book when she was 17. What makes it most interesting to me is she ended up becoming an aerospace engineer. I am reading a Madaline L'Engle book that at the point is a bit depressing so I thought I would put it down for a bit.

Anyway the reason I wanted to get on here is because I had these two experiences yesterday which I wanted to think about. Plus I haven't blogged in a while and it was a great coping mechanism.

Yesterday I spent time with two dads. They are very similar in many ways. They both are very angry, they both make threats, they both could probably take your head off literally. They both know how to use a weapon and even though they mostly just make threats about beating the crap out of someone or going to hunt them down I know they are not always empty threats. One bragged back in the day he could lay his four grand on the kitchen counter even when his house was full of people and no one would touch it because they knew what would happen if they did.

What struck me is that because of his kids one of these men turned his life around without rehab or an AA group. Mostly he did it because of the support of his best friend and the love of his kids.

Most of the families I work with have generations of horrific parenting. For example, when siblings would be fighting over a toy the parenting solution was to lock one door and papaw would stand at the other, put the toy on the couch and make the kids fight it out until they were bloody and whoever won got the toy. Another would be punished with jumper cables. And another was whipped and thrown out in the snow without shoes to learn his lesson. Much different than I was raised for sure. Stories like these from the parents are the norm.

The difference is in how they tell their stories. One focusing on how bad other people are and how they are going to get revenge. The other able to talk about how even when no one else knew they were doing drugs their daughter knew and the thought of that caused them to get off drugs.

What was most interesting to me is how I felt when with these two dads. The second one I sat with for a long time listening to his story. He actually knew his story. He has turned his life around for his kids and I felt that soft hushed feeling inside of me while I listened, which I usually only hear when there is a miracle. It is a miracle he was able to transform. The first one was still in fighting mode and claimed everything was everyone else's fault. He also didn't have a coherent story about his life. What this made me think about was how can have the same threats, the same anger, but in the end what made the two men different is three things: one had a best friend walking the same road, he is funneling his anger and even aggression to keep temptation and drugs out of the house and protect his kids, and somehow he was able to look at his story and write a different ending. Or at least that's what it looks like today.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Someone is throwing these people in up-river!

When I was in graduate school we would talk about how as helping professionals after you (metaphorically) pull people out of the river enough times you start wondering what or who is throwing them in up-stream. This is an analogy that is becoming very vivid in my work these days. I see so many people in this area with similar diagnosis. I keep wondering what is it that gives them these common diagnosis's.

I can't for sure say that there is more sexual abuse and violence here than other parts of the country of course, but there is a lot of it. I knew this would be the case due to the poverty and powerlessness of many in this rural mountainous area. I knew that hurt people hurt people but I am now seeing up close families with three or four generations of sexual abuse, trauma, violence, anger issues.

I work with clients who are from age 4 to 18 years old. Some days I sit in front of a client while he describes blacking out when angry and realizing later he has beat someone's head in, or a client who talks about how she has coped with her multiple rapes from family and non-family with addictions and violence and I think -- How is this person going to find healing? Because their parents and their grandparents and probably their great grandparents had similar issues. Plus there is a culture that you don't talk about these things, even though that is the very thing that needs to happen.

What is throwing these people in up-river? How is it possible that humans can hurt children this bad? Children are innocent. It's all so overwhelming.

Not to wax spiritual or anything but I do sense something evil sometimes has been invited into some of these families. And I know for sure that no amount of training is going to prepare me to ever fix any family. I can give them some tools and copings skills. But, like they say: "No one ever changes, a counselors job is just to help people accept who they are and be the best 'them' they can be." Of course that means seeing oneself and one's family fully including all the pain and gunk and goriness. And that.... that is not easy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Update... One year later!

So pretty soon it will be one year since I last blogged. What a insanely crazy year. I have experienced more change in the last year than in all my live cumulatively before this year.

In the last year I quit my job for a church denomination, married my girlfriend, got a new job, moved across the country to a new state, and switched career's entirely.

And right now the only thing I regret sometimes is my career choice. If you ever think of going into the field of mental health re-think it. I knew it would be hard but it has been 1,000 times harder than I ever thought to get liscensed. If you want to someday be a therapist you have to first go through the hell of getting liscensed and while provisional you can only serve people who are struggling the most. This means you work with the hardest cases. Getting liscensed in North Carolina is so hard I feel like crying often. Today all things changed for me, I was doing therapy and now I am back to doing Q work because I am missing one single class.

So the self care I did after such a bad day.... I reminded myself at least I still have a job, I reminded myself that those liscensure people have a hard job. I went for a walk and it was so pretty out. I got love from my wife. I went out to eat and drank so much I felt tipsy. My wife force me not to think about it. I know it should be this big of deal but being demoted even if it's just for one month sucks. So I should be provisionally liscensed again in about 3 months. Ug. this stuff takes forever!

On the upside my home live is amazing and I feel so loved and supported every day! Plus we are building a house right now and that's fun.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I feel so accepted and edified by some key people in my life right now. A pastor and professor in my denomination just called to tell me they would love to come to my reception. They were so pleased to receive my invitation and so edifying of my worth and my journey.

And then I had the opportunity to tell some of my story to someone today over lunch. That's a pretty rare occurrence. And in the midst of it they said maybe someday I will come back and tell my story in this denomination of mine. I think that is more than I hope for right now. I am in many ways cutting ties to this church of my birth. But it felt really sweet that someone thought that could ever happen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poem: One square of soil

There is only one square of soil left.
It's not big enough for my roots.

Are my life's compost, worms, nutrients transportable?
Am I?

I sprawl in the dirt.
Wholy messy, arms full of it, trying to take it with me
It's too much.

It tumbles down the front of me.
Then the sky cracks and goes dark
I stand suddenly wet, head back, mouth open
arms outstretched, choking, sobbing
I am undone

It is only this act that will heal.

I choose one type of love over another.
I choose one land over another.
I choose to go where I will be planted and tilled.
And where I can plant and till what is sustaining and real.

Good bye Chicago.