Conducting my first interview

This semester comes with a generous pile of projects/assignments, group and solo. Last night I began working on my first which was my first interview and assessment. We had the option to work with someone from class or a friend/non-relative. I chose to ask my friend, primarily becauseĀ  I knew if I chose a classmate they would be asking me the same questions and I preferred not to be the client in this exercise but focus on the role of clinician, which is what the assignment truly was.

I admit I had a little trouble with the construction of my genogram. It was my first time creating one and her family tree is a bit nontraditional, which I really like because this is a huge learning opportunity for me, so I am going to reach out to my professor to determine how to fill in the gaps.

Overall though I feel good about the interview and assessment. I recognize that this exercise and how I experienced the interview/assessment process is not completely realistic because I have a personal relationship with the person with whom the interview was conducted. My first real interview will probably feel a bit more uncomfortable because it will be with someone with who I am unacquainted. This was a nice first step though. It allowed me to practice without all of the other components playing a role.

After gathering all the information for my assignment my girlfriend and I spent sometime catching up. She is in a transition period in her life and has decided to take this time to do some work on herself. Every time I am with her I witness her growth first hand and without meaning to sound condescending, I am proud of her. Proud in the sense that I know it takes courage to look critically at yourself and admit that there is room for improvement and then to work consciously to achieve that betterment. She seems to be in a really healthy place right now and I am happy for her.

Next week I get to flex this interview/assessment muscle again. My next project is a group assignment with a classmate. It is another interview, this time with less detail, no genogram but it is to be recorded. Eek. This time to purpose is to focus more on our style of interviewing, the words we use, our nonverbal signals etc. By recording the interview we can go back, review and critique ourselves. While I absolutely see the merit in an exercise like this I do find the idea of being recorded a bit rattling. My nerves will subside though and I am sure I will do fine. The plan is for my classmate whom I’ll be working with to come to my house next week and we will take turns playing the roles of client and clinician. This is a new experience for me as well, to have a classmate over that is. I am a bit guarded at school, I have always liked to keep work/school and my personal lives separate. I do not share much with classmates about my personal life, on the rare occasion that a true friendship blossoms I open up a bit more but for the most part I like to focus on school at school and home at home. Keeping these two worlds separate has helped me to keep balance over the years. I am not overly concerned about having a classmate over but I do feel a little trepidation at the thought of allowing someone into my private world.

For now I will focus on completing my genogram and other assignments for the week, I will deal with next week, next week.

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The only boy I’ll dance with

dance

 

We had a great weekend. It was a four day weekend for us which meant we got to have two date nights and a day in the park with Lucy. It was all a welcome distraction after a long week.

Friday we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner and then instead of staying out as we normally do we opted to rent a movie and spend the remainder of the night bundled under blankets.

Saturday was the most unremarkable day of our weekend. It was spent cleaning, running errands and attending to the tedium of everyday life.

Sunday we made dinner together at home. The weekend is the only chance we have to spend time together in the kitchen and I look forward to it each week. We made grilled chicken and vegetables over spaghetti squash with a berry salad. After dinner we went to a movie followed by drinks downtown.

One of my favorite parts of date night is our conversations.When it is just the two of us having drinks or out at dinner we have some of our most philosophical and over all stimulating conversations. Sunday we talkedĀ  about how valuing human rights over what is popular in American society does not make you un-American. We talked about peoples energies and the perils associated with comparing oneself to others. We also talked about the areas we would both like to grow this year.

After drinks, feeling sufficiently warm and fearless inside I asked Todd to take me dancing, and he did! This is out of the box for us for a few reasons. One because this is just not something we have ever done together, two because I do not and never have liked to dance with a partner and three because we are a couple of introverts.

We had the best time! There is a bar downtown we both like for the indie music they play there and it did not disappoint. I have never liked to dance with someone else, it makes me feel crowded and the truth is I do not dance the way boys downtown want to. Todd danced with me exactly the way I would want to dance with another person though. We danced and played together on the dance floor, it was like I have said before, it felt like when I was a kid and I was being completely myself as you only can be with your most bosom friend. He let me bop around and get lost in the music the way I love to and then would twirled me and sweep me into his arms. It was like no one else existed on that floor but us. I know I will keep it as one of my favorite memories.

Monday we had a day in the park with Lucy. We brought blankets and lunch and books. It was a lovely day to be outside, the weather was fair and we made a picnic in the shade of the trees that surround the lake downtown. Lucy laid in the pine needles and napped while Todd and I read peacefully. We had the occasional interruption from children that would pass by and want to pet Lucy but it was so sweet we could not possibly see it as a bother.

We spent the evening watching documentaries while we folded and put away clothes. By weekends end we were caught up on chores and errands and felt quite at ease and ready to start the week.

A Luxury that should be a Standard

obey

 

I called this morning and made appointments for Todd and I with the dentist in town to get ourselves established as new patients. Admittedly neither of us has had a cleaning since we moved to College Park, this call was a few years overdue. While scheduling I gave the scheduler our dental insurance information and she informed me we have wonderful dental insurance, some of the best they see in fact. Todd works for one of the largest engineering firms in the country so this did not surprise me to hear. I already knew just from treating patients in the healthcare field that worked for his same employer that the medical insurance was good, it was nice to hear they take care of their employees health across the board. The company encourages their employees to have a healthy lifestyle through a program that adds funds to their HSA by logging their activity with pedometers as well. Free money for making healthy choices is something I can get behind.

The Hospital I formerly worked for was one of the largest, if not the largest, in the central FL area and they had a similar health program that gave incentives for making healthy choices. Now personally I thought their healthcare package was lacking, big time. But as a company they took care of their employees in other ways that were no lost on me. I believe they care about the well-being of those they employ. They were a wonderful company to work for, especially if you did not have to use their insurance package.

After I made our appointment I was thinking what a relief it is to not only have good insurance but encouragement to live healthy and make good choices. With that sense of relief also comes a small pang of guilt though. Why isn’t this the standard? How can I, as a socially conscious human being, truly enjoy the access I am granted to doctors and medical treatment knowing that others in more dire need than myself are denied that same access?! I am grateful for it, absolutely, but I cannot feel good about it, truly, in good conscience.

You have heard the adage, Happy wife, happy life? I think that could apply to employees as well. If great healthcare coverage (dental, vision, maternity.. the works!) was a given in all areas of employment doesn’t it stand to reason that you would end up with healthier, more focused, all around happier employees? I am reading The Power of Habit:Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. The most recent section I read talked about how a new CEO took over a failing company and turned it all around by focusing on employee safety. His goal was to have zero incidents reported not just at the factory level but at all levels of the company. This was a lofty goal but by turning the focus back onto the well-being of the employee instead of profits etc he not only met his goal but the company became profitable again. If you take care of people they take notice.

To be clear though, I do not think that healthcare access should be limited exclusively to those who are employed. This should be something that all people, regardless of employment status, income, age, race creed etc should have equal access to.

I am not doing any research here to back any of this up, I am just thinking out loud which means these thoughts are unrefined and maybe even a little oversimplified. But really, I think I have a point. A point that I know others before me have already made. This is not some radical idea I am suggesting. Healthcare, or in our countries case – lack thereof, is a topic that is constantly under heavy debate.

I just don’t think it is right for something like this to be considered a luxury. It is not a designer bad, it is someones health. Health, a decent education, refuge, all of these things should be a given not a rarity.

Yes it was nice to hear that we have good dental coverage I just wish that we lived in a society where that kind of thing was the standard. Then there would never be a reason to point it out to a person because it was true for all.

Owning My Life

gift

 

Todd and I had our annual check up right before we left for Chicago and while we there our doctor pointed something out to me I did not realize. We were finishing up my exam, checking the ears etc and she said So it has been two years since we weened you off the Lexapro, how have you been feeling? I told her I have been great, she was already aware of some of the life style changes I have made in regards to having an exercise routine, healthy eating habits and having a bedtime routine so I did not go into great detail. She said she was glad to hear it and that was that.

When I was leaving the office I was thinking about the last two years, has it really been that long? Yeah, I guess so. I was diagnosed and prescribed the Lexapro by a doctor that was not directly involved in my counseling at the time, it was about a 5 minute visit. I saw my counselor a few days later and he said that while the Lexapro will help short term he did not feel I would need it long term and continuing to work on myself would be what ultimately makes things better. He was right.

In the last 4 years, since first being diagnosed with anxiety and depression I have made a lot of important changes. The exercising and eating definitely play a role in my over all well being. When I first started counseling I was absolutely someone who would numb my emotions with food. I did not realize at first and once I did it was very intimidating because that is how I had been dealing with things for so long I did not even know where to begin my work on that area. It was gradual, we started (I say we because this change impacted Todd as well) by eating better. This made me feel better physically. I felt less tired and lethargic after eating, which really helped with my initial motivation to work out, I actually started to enjoy it. Once I was more active and eating less processed food I felt so good the need/want to emotional eat really wasn’t there. To really drive the new routine home and help prevent any back sliding we stopped keeping the food in the house that I would go to for comfort. Now it is not even something I crave. That was a huge hurdle to overcome, that alone would be enough to be proud of but I didn’t stop there.

Taking more time for myself, time to be quiet and reflective, time to write down my thoughts and feelings.. This has all be a integral part of my growth as well. Before, during my dark time I was very reactionary. I think part of that was because I was hurting so much at the time that everything was spilling over but I also think it is because I was not paying attention to what was really going on in side of me. It is not that I don’t still experience frustration and anger and other negative emotions occasionally, I just do not immediately react. I take time to reflect, figure out why I am feeling this way, what exactly is causing me to feel the way I do. Since being diagnosed and being in counseling I have not had a single episode where I allowed my negative emotions to get the best of me. No hysterical crying, no fury driven lashing out. I have been completely collected and calm in situations that would have previously sent me into a tailspin.

On that same note Todd and I have been together going on four years, he has been with me through the entire growth process, sometimes involved and actively cheering me on but more often watching proudly from the side lines. In that time we have never fought. For a while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because inevitably, in every other relationship I had been in it would. I finally realized I was different, this was different and I was doing things right this time which meant that other shoe was never going to drop. It is not that we never disagree. We are both fiercely independent people, who believe in autonomy and have our own outlook on life. It helps that our values are in line but nevertheless we do not always see eye to eye. That has never been a problem though. we discuss our differences, we discuss ways in which we can improve, nothing in our relationship has ever been taboo. We do not ignore issues that arise, we do not leave anything unsaid. And if a discussion begins to feel tense or emotional we take a break and shelf it for a while. It has worked every time. It allows us time to cool off and it also allows time to really reflect on what the other person was saying. Sometimes in a discussion you get so stuck on your own point you aren’t really allowing the other side in. We have a pretty great communication style if I do say so myself.

One of the biggest healthy changes I have made is learning how to say No. It goes back to what I was talking about yesterday with boundaries. I think flimsy boundaries may have had a lot to do with why I would experience anxiety earlier on in life. In other relationships, at work, in social situations.. I think I had boundary issues which can absolutely be a huge source of anxiety. I always had my values, what I didn’t always have was conviction. Saying No isn’t easy. It was something I had to learn how to do, it also helped that I cut ties with some of the people that continually tested my boundaries. I think first and foremost it is important to have healthy relationships with people who also believe in healthy boundaries therefore yours are rarely being tested. In cases where that is not possible, like with family who maybe don’t have good boundaries you just have to learn how to protect your own. Having boundaries does not mean always saying No either, I like to be able to say Yes as well. For me it is knowing that I have the right to say No and if I choose to say Yes I have the right to define my Yes. Someone asks me for a favor I am not comfortable granting? I have the right to say No, if I would like to help though I have the right to define what kind of help I am comfortable giving.

Having strong boundaries and a partner who supports them as well I think has made the biggest difference. I feel strong, healthy and unafraid. I really could not say any of those things a few years ago. I am owning my life and my decisions, I need no validation now from the outside world. I know I am actively and mindfully living my life and I have never felt so good.

A New Year of Growth

better

 

I do not do new years resolutions per se, however, I do take time at the end of the year/beginning of the year to think about what I want the new year to look like. For example, last year I wanted to start volunteering with Hospice, I wanted to start the Social Work program and I wanted to work on improving some of my relationships. There are a few things that carry over from year to year as well. Each year I challenge myself to live healthier than the year prior, emotionally, mentally and physically. I also strive to be kinder and more patient each year (this falls in with living a more emotionally healthy life each year).

To call any of these goals new years resolutions though just doesn’t work for me. I recognize that is essentially what they are but I find that when I label things so the likelihood of any progress continuing past January decreases greatly. Instead I choose to see them in a different light and find the follow through easier.

Along with my big goals for each year come little aspirations for the year as well, here are a few from this years list..

The first I can already check off. For years I have wanted to cut my hair short, like Rosemary’s baby short, but I did not have the courage. I would see girls with pixie haircuts and always think they looked so bold and feminine. I finally made up my mind I was going to do it a few years ago but no sooner than I decided, Todd and I got engaged. At the time I had recently cut my hair into an angled bob and decided not to go shorter as I knew I wanted to wear my hair up for our wedding.With this I started growing my hair out but I told Todd that as soon as we were married I was going to carry out my wish to cut my hair short. That is exactly what I did.

As soon as we returned from our honeymoon I went to the stylist and chopped it all off. The poor stylist was very apprehensive about my request. My hair was past my shoulders when I walked in and I think she was concerned I was going to regret making such a drastic change, at one point she even asked, your not very attached to your hair are you?. I laughed and explained that my beauty and self-worth are not at all wrapped up in my hair. I am happy to share that I did not regret the change in the least! This is unquestionably my favorite hair cut and style to date. The cut is delicate and edgy all at the same time, I love it. Todd was a bit shocked when he came home the first night as I did not tell him what I was doing that day. After the shock wore off he admitted that it suits me well, to which I wholly agree.

new hair

Another idea I have been mulling over for quite a while is learning how to sew. Up to this point I have never made time to learn. I think this will be the year I get around to it. I already have my first project in mind. I have wanted a basic mid-length circle skirt for sometime and have never seemed to find just the right one. I think a circle skirt would be the perfect first attempt. When I was younger from time to time my mother would sew me dresses and tops. I always enjoyed going to the fabric store with her to pick out the pattern and materials. I would like to have this skill set in case I ever have a daughter. If our cards do not play out that way it is still a skill I would like to posses for myself. Not to mention I think this will be a fun mother/daughter activity for my mother and myself.

Another small self improvement I have decided to take on was inspired by something Todd and I read recently. We were in a store searching for the perfect gift for his mother over the holiday break and stumbled upon a book that was loaded with advice intended to be passed down from father to son. We agreed, after leafing through a few pages together, that for the most part the book was filled with solid advice. One piece that stuck with me was “Figure out what your most used word or expression is and eliminate it”. What good advice. A lot of people have expressions they use with such frequency they no longer recognize it but others surely do. For me it is You know what I mean. When I am telling a story or explaining something I might use this expression at the end of almost every sentence. No one has ever complained about my over use of this phrase, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone but when I started thinking about it I realized it is equivalent to a person that says like or um and inordinate amount of times while speaking. Maybe everyone is just being polite and not showing their annoyance, either way I do not want to be someone that uses filler words and phrases. I want to speak concisely and with purpose. So that is a goal for this year, eliminate thoughtless language from my everyday vernacular.

The last possible plan for self improvement this year has not materialized into an ambition quite yet. I am still working out how I feel about it and where I stand. Some of the smaller things I worked on last year had to do with maintaining better boundaries in relationships (social, professional – which in my case means school, and with family and close loved ones), being honest with myself and others about what I want and with that I also worked on having difficult conversations in a loving, supportive, constructive manner. At years end I looked back at my progress and felt good, like warm and tingly proud-of-myself good. I definitely had some difficult conversations last year that resulted in better communication, understanding and respect in those relationships. I was honest with my feelings and did not hold back when I felt that doing so would hurt me. The area of boundaries is where I felt the most pride. I was balanced and stood up for myself, kindly and with respect, when my boundaries were tested.

My mother mentioned on numerous occasions last year how proud she feels to have raised such a strong independent woman. Those are deeply meaningful words to me and make me feel that much more resolute about the direction I am taking towards self-awareness and growth. Still there is this nagging feeling inside that causes me concern. For example, in one case of a difficult conversation last year about boundaries and where I stand on something the conversation was not successful. It was unsuccessful in that when I began to explain my position on a request that was made the other party completely shut down and shut me out. All they heard was me saying No, they had no interest in my reason for doing so. I know that my No was hurtful to that person, even though they shut down and did not want to talk about it further, and their reaction was hurtful to me.

The most regrettable part of the whole ordeal is what this did to the relationship. The thing is my boundaries had always been there, they were just invisible because they were never tested. I do not regret my decision, I just wish this person was open to a dialogue. I know they were hurt by my decision and I can handle them telling me so, I believe they probably feel let down and although I hate to think I would ever cause someone else disappointment I can still handle being told so. Our relationship is still sound but it is not thriving the way it had been years prior.

So what I am struggling with after having more success than not last year in this area is how to continue to improve. For starters I would like to get this relationship back on track. I realize this relationship might look different going forward than it did before but I still feel we can do better than we are now and that is important to me, I do not like to ignore that kind of thing.

The next thought I have is about how to continue being honest about my feelings and maintaining boundaries without causing damage to any other relationships. A piece of me feels like if a relationship is so easily damaged in this way than maybe it was never that strong to begin with. Although, another piece of me thinks maybe some people are just more fragile than others and it is my responsibility to be true to myself and my way of life while taking others feelings into account.

Vacation Recap

matthiessen

 

Todd and I returned home this morning from our final vacation of the year, or our first of the year depending on how you look at it. Getting home was more of an ordeal than we expected but all that matters is that we made it and it feels good to be home.

We were both cranky when we finally got home, after about a half hour of grumbling and bad moods we decided to hug it out, hit the reset button and get on with our day. I think it was just a mixture of sleep deprivation and exhaustion from too much time out in the world without any quiet. After we calmed down a bit and started some laundry we both went to separate corners of the house to recharge. A few hours later I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and to get some hugs and found Todd sleeping with Lucy on the love seat in the sun room, I decided my hugs could wait. Todd never takes naps so I know he must be worn out.

Chicago was amazing and completely draining. I forgot that my brother-in-law, who recently moved back into my in-laws house after finishing nursing school, has a cat. I am very allergic to cats. I can handle outdoor cats fine, I can even pet a cat from time to time so long as I immediately wash my hands after and do not allow it to rub all over my clothes.. But living with a cat does not work. We arrived at Todd’s parent’s house and within a half hour I was coughing uncontrollably and gasping for air. I took some Benadryl and we left for a while to give the medicine time to work, that night when we got back I had another wheezing attack which we combated with more Benadryl. So the first day and a half consisted if me being awake long enough to start wheezing, take more Benadryl and then promptly pass out again until the Benadryl wore off. Finally on day two and a half (Christmas Eve) we figured out which non-drowsy antihistamine worked to relieve my symptoms, we had to try a few different options until discovering Allegra was the winner, good to know for the future. The rest of the trip was better, I still had some allergy symptoms, itchy eyes, runny nose etc, but I was able to breathe. The next step would have been going to an urgent care clinic and probably having to get injections or an inhaler but that really wasn’t how we wanted to spend Christmas so I am glad it worked out.Christmas and Christmas Eve were spent with family. On Christmas Eve we stayed up until 4 am playing games, that is 5am Florida time. Needless to say we were pretty worn out by night fall on Christmas.

My allergy issues gave way to some fun excursions out of the house as a way to give my system a reprieve and allow me to breathe poison-free air for a while. We went to two different state parks that were just a few miles from the house. One we had been to before, Starved Rock. The last time Todd took me to Starved Rock it had been snowing so it was quite cold and the ground was covered in snow and in addition most of the creeks and water falls were frozen. This time it was a mild 50 degrees outside so the whole area seemed much more alive. We saw deer and green trees and the water fall was active. It was neat to see everything from this new perspective. A few days later we went to Matthiessen State Park which is just a few mile s further down the road.’

Two days after Christmas Todd’s mother held a post-wedding reception for us as a way to visit with everyone from IL that was unable to attend the wedding. I met a lot of new family and even a few friends of his from college I had not met yet. His friend suggested Matthiessen to us during the reception, he said it was one of the best nature trails to hike in the area. He was not lying! The scenery first of all was breath taking. We hiked through the dells which just means we were hiking through a big canyon following a creek. It was really magnificent. The creek was frozen in most places and at this particular state park there were no man made hiking trails so we were pretty much on our own in untouched nature, I loved that aspect of it. Although, at times it was a little intimidating. We had to cross the creek a few times to get to the waterfalls and caves at the end and since there were no man made bridges etc this left us hopping on rocks and shimming across downed logs. This could have ended badly for me given my clumsy nature, plus I have a history of ending up in the drink. Miraculously though I succeeded in making it through the day without falling into ice water.

The two days spent out in the woods and nature were the highlight of the trip for me. One, because I could breathe deeply without coughing up a lung and two, because it was just Todd and I in the peace and quiet of the forest. That part was so nice. I guess these parks are not heavily attended in the winter months so more often than not it was just the two of us with no sign of civilization for miles, I really appreciated and enjoyed that. We wander through caves and sat on rocks watching the sun create rainbows in waterfalls.. We watched water drip from icles and threw rocks at the icy parts of the creek to see if the ice would crack, it never did. I felt like a little kid on an adventure with my best friend. Do you remember how fun it was when we were kids building forts out of nothing and playing outside until the sun went down, it was like that. Sometimes we would walk together in silence just taking it all in only breaking the silence long enough to point out some interesting detail so the other one wouldn’t miss out. It was some of the best days I have ever spent with him in IL.

anthro

We also made it into the city for a date night. He took me to the Anthropologie in the city, I love going to Anthros in other cities to see how they are decorated on the inside and what kind of window display they have. Anthropologie is known for its artistic displays. The one we went to in the city had a lovely window display, a tree covered in blue jays. This is one store he does not hate to walk around in with me because it is chocked full of so many interesting things. So after spending sometime there we visited a highly recommended book store, which we ended up spending close to two hours in. The bookstore was a good one, I think we purchased 3 or 4 books, I cannot even remember. What is nice about these independent bookstore is the staff is typically well read and well informed and can give insight into which books are worth reading and which are less so. At this particular store I discovered an author who seems to be in line with me on a few topics regarding the media and creating a sense of community based on things other than theism. I don’t have time for new books right now so I held off but I am hoping by the summer I will be ready for something new.

After the bookstore and the bean we went to dinner at Sepia near Union Station. It was definitely on par with the restaurants from our honeymoon.

I am glad to be home, I am thankful for the quiet and the clean air free of poison cat toxins. We are glad to be back in the house with Lucy, we started to miss her a week in. The twins have been home with my brother and sister-in-law since a few days before Christmas so we have new babies to hold and love on. It is a new year and it is starting off wonderfully. I am not sure how we could top last year but I am excited for what the year may hold for us.