Week in Review

I am going to get right to the good part, I co-facilitated my first group today and IT. WAS. AWESOME!

Our clients are not always super jazzed about group, they may or may not participate and often those who do are pretty unenthusiastic about it. Now I should qualify this by saying the activity we did with them we turned into a competition and there was a reward on the line. So yeah, I recognize this could have looked way different if they had not given clear incentive, either way I take it as a win though. The topic was boundaries which is really important because of things that have been happening at the facility and I am glad that they took time to be mindful and put effort into the activity. I just hope some of it sunk in.

I also met with one of my client’s today and it was another good session. I definitely feel like I am finding my groove. I feel challenged and fulfilled all at once.

This weekend will be a busy one between a paper I have to write, family birthdays, and errands/chores. With that in mind I am carving out time. Time for me, and time for me and hubs.

Tonight I am thinking about painting.. I am kind of womped though so I might put that off until either tomorrow morning or Sunday evening. I have an inspiration I have wanted to get out for a while. Tomorrow we are going to an art festival near our home, I have been looking forward to it all week. My sweet Moo (my niece) and I have been doing a lot of art and story writing together recently.. I talked with her for a few minutes by phone this evening and she has already given me all her inspiration for what we will draw/paint and write about tomorrow evening. She wants to make fairies with moss hats and a village. Last week we drew Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper and she wrote a story about both.

It is a busy time but it is good, I am grateful.

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“Lists of How NOT to Treat Me” – A Self-Care Project – Part One

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A perk of my current placement – no early mornings. Well, I still wake up at 7 every morning but I am not expected at internship until late morning/early afternoon so I have hours to myself in the morning and it is everything!

Sometimes I wake up and watch the news and have a dark cherry greek yogurt smoothie. Sometimes I hit snooze and cuddle with my family longer. Sometimes I wake up make green tea and do yoga to crystal bowls in the living room. Sometimes I take a little time to check in with friends. And sometimes I write.

This morning was a decaf coffee, cold veggie pizza left-overs, watching the news, checking in with my soul friend and writing kind of morning.

While on social media this morning I found a list (this post is all about lists) of local coffee shops that are well rated. I sent the list to my soul friend and suggested that we have girlfriend dates at some of them – this started a bigger conversation.

One of the reasons I love this particular soul friend is because she is a creative soul like me. She is a poet (my favorite, I call her the poetry queen), she paints with me (she is one of the first people I ever painted with because it has always felt so vulnerable to me), and she gets the deep emotional stuff. We have conversations that most people would never go near because as a society we like to numb not feel.

While talking I invited her to this art show going on next week because *Breaking News*: I am thinking about submitting a piece at this show next year. That is a whole other post though.

This in turn led us to talk about her art as well (poetry) and open mic nights. She is interested in going to more and I am certainly interested in supporting her in that. She was sharing with me a new inspiration she had about poetry in list form. She was at an open mic recently and one of the poets apparently read something like this and my friend was inspired. She shared with me her latest piece, a list poem, which was amazing, and then she said something I was so inspired by I nearly jumped out of bed. (Yes, I was totally eating cold veggie pizza and drinking decaf in bed while chatting with her – don’t judge me).

Our conversation went like this:

Soul Friend: I wonder what it would be like if people wrote lists of “how not to treat me” as a self-care project.. It could be from a parenting, romantic, friendship, or work life perspective.

Jillian: Yes!!!!! Sorry friend, I am stealing this as my next blog post! I will give you credit!

SF: Please do it! Even better if you or someone else is able to write something from it. I really like it for emotions that can be strong and scary to delve into like fear, hurt, grieving, anger – all things that take over but need to be addressed.

J: Right, it gives a bit of detachment like you said.

SF: Like a grocery list or to-do list for emotional preservation. I knew you would get it!

J: I more than get it, I love it! I am inspired!

Here is the thing, a list like this is not be rushed. I was struck by her stunning emotional brilliance a half hour ago, I certainly do not have my list formed yet. So this post is just setting the stage for the greatness that will come next. I hope everyone reading will take sometime through out the day, or week, or any length of time needed to consider this proposal…

What would your list look like? Who would you give it to? How would you hold others accountable for respecting your list? How would you hold yourself accountable? These are all the things I will be mindful of as I go deep and think/feel about my list(s). Remember you do not have to create just one list for everyone in your life, you occupy many roles, you may have multiple lists for your different identities.

With that I wish you all joy and abundance and I look forward to writing more on this as it forms for me.

Soul Work

When I first started at my internship a small concern I had was with the kind of counseling we provide to our clients. We primarily do pscyhoeducational which is surface level, educational information (as you could probably guess from the title), and does not typically address deeper issues such as trauma etc. The reason for this, at our agency, is because there is high turn over with our clients. We are residential but very short term for the most part and essentially the thought is that we don’t want to tap into some deep emotional wound in a session and the client leave the next day with this wound ripped open and no follow up support in place. We do make aftercare referrals for counseling and other services but it is ultimately up to the client to follow up on those services so there is no guarntee they will get the help they may need. The bottom line is we want to help without re-traumitizing the client.

I understand and respect why we use the approach we use, and I am grateful for any opportunity to practice clinical work. I know the work I want to do long term is the deep work though. It is what my life has prepared me for, much of my professional experiences have led me down this path as well. I want to help people heal at the source, not put a band aid on the wound.

My concern with this internship was that I would not have an opportunity to practice the kind of therapy I am interested in and that it might be hard for me to have the boundary of staying on the surface with a client when I know the issues hey present with run deeper. I am happy to share it had not been an issue. My boundaries have kept me in line with our mission and I have even gotten the opportunity to practice some of my deeper work in a way that is appropriate for my setting and the therapeutic goals we strive for with clients.

I have my own case load now, which I am loving, and I am self-advocating for the opportunity to run a group. I presented a topic for group, with an associated exercise, to my supervisor and she loved it so I am hoping she will give me a chance. We were told at the beginning of internship that we probably would not be running a group unless we really wanted to at some point, and I do! I want the full experience and this internship allows for that. I will have the opportunity to family counseling in addition to the individual counseling services I am already providing so I would love to try running a group as well. I have some experience co-facilitating a group but I would love to try my hand at it solo.

The opportunity I mentioned about getting to practice “deeper” work has showed up in the form of reframing things for my clients and working with them to identify internalized negative messages the outside world has given them that are now causing them to have low self-worth etc. It is still on the surface but they are important topics and I get so excited when I see them make the connection.


 

I started this post this morning before internship and then was pulled away by a phone call. I did not have an opportunity to wrap it up before I left the house so I left it as a draft to finish when I got home..

An update to the original post is that I was asked to run group tomorrow!! I am over the moon!! I created a visual to go along with group that will be used as a sample/example and I will have the opportunity to work creatively with our clients while they create their own version of my template. My heart is so full. Not only do I get to run a group on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, I get to essentially do expressive art therapy with the clients which is also something that holds deep meaning for me. This is what whole hearted, authentic therapy looks like to me.. Being able to share yourself in an authentic, therapeutic way with your clients.

I cannot wait to report back and share how my first group session goes.

In the interim, today was another great day. I got a lot accomplished, I got to work creatively with another intern (we had a blast), I met with one of my clients and had what I consider a productive session. I also felt I made deeper connections with some of my colleagues.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be doing well at this placement. It feels good to succeed, it feels GREAT to succeed at something you were afraid to do in the first place. Everyday I feel my confidence and my resolve to do therapeutic work growing. I am so so eternally grateful. My words are not big enough to hold the gratitude in my heart and soul.

My cup runneth over.

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Preparing for Soul Camp

In a few short weeks I will be leaving for a weekend retreat at the beach and as the time grows nearer I am feeling all kinds of emotions bubble to the surface.

Soul Camp is a weekend therapeutic retreat led by my therapist and a co-facilitator where I will be involved in group therapy surrounding topics related to trauma, self-love, healing, family, women issues, and whatever else happens to pop up for us while we are there.

Yesterday I attended a meeting related to Soul Camp where I met all the other women who will be attending. We had a chance to talk and work out some of the jitters because we are essentially all being thrusted into each other’s work and that is kind of a big deal. I knew most of the women present as we have been attending workshops together over the course of the last year, that was reassuring. I also met someone new and this someone new will be my roommate while at Soul Camp. I am really excited about that.

The roommate situation made me a bit nervous because we will all be bringing different emotional baggage to soul camp as well as different energies around what our stuff is. I was concerned about being impacted by someone else’s energy because when in close quarters for extended periods of time it can get harder to keep up an emotional boundary. I don’t want to absorb someone else’s stuff and get distracted from what I am bringing that I need to work on.

When I first encountered this person yesterday at the meeting I did not feel overwhelmed by her energy, which was a good sign. She felt open and vulnerable which is what I try to bring as well, I think it will be a good match.

I will spend the next few weeks collecting items around my home that I want to bring with me, maybe a photo from childhood, or some other little thing that feels connected to the work I am doing. This space that is being created for us at Soul Camp feels like it might amplify the work we are already doing so I am trying to emotionally and mentally prepare myself for that.

I am looking forward to it though. I am trying to lean back a bit and not control it, I am trying not to think about it to much or create expectations for what it might be.I am going to pack a bag, leave on a Friday, and let it be whatever it is meant to be.

soul-camp

I am _________ .

i-am

Last year, early on in my therapy, my therapist asked me to finish that sentence.. I am _______.

I couldn’t do it. My eyes started to well. It was so simple but I had nothing to give. No kind word, no little comfort.. I had no words. I am nothing. That is probably how I would have finished that sentence in that moment.

As I have grown deeper into my center this simple sentence has become much easier to finish. One word I have struggled with though in terms of finishing that sentence though is artist. There is a lot of opinions out there about art, is good?, is it bad?.. I knew I was not good enough. I did not deserve the title. I was afraid that if I said out loud “I am an artist!” the art police would show up at my front door and hall me away for being an absolute phony!

You know what the worst part of that is, I think back over the years about some of the labels I allowed to be placed upon me (either by myself or others) that I willingly accepted.. Slut, Liar, Bitch, Sinner, Unworthy, Unlovable, Ugly, Stupid, Not-Good-Enough. It was so easy for me to accept these labels as part of my I am ________, but I would not allow myself to have this. Which is really amazing when you consider I have been creating art since I was old enough to hold a paint brush.

So I create in private where it is safe and no one can see and judge. I may talk about the fact that I like to paint with people but that does not mean I will ever share my creations with them.

My soul friend asked me for an original piece. She collects art and has a stunning gallery wall in her home. Normally I would be reluctant, intimidated.. In the past when this kind of request has been made of me it was with a specific subject in mind.. “paint me a picture of this..”. I can’t do that. I can only create what I personally feel inspired by. I know my friend understands that because she is an artist as well, an artist with words. I would never expect her to create something real on command because I know that is not how it works.

So she left it open to me, anything I want to make, and the result is my very favorite piece I have ever made. I am calling it Balance.

balance-jb-originalbalance-jb-original-1

Color in balance with absence of color, the male energy of the triangle balanced by the female energy of the orchids, order and chaos all in balance in one space because everything is able to exist at the same time. Balance.

I have created a lot of art in my  life and I have a different relationship with each piece but this one is special. This one is my validation. I looked at it once complete and said out loud in my living room for Todd, and Lucy, and the whole Universe to hear and bear witness – I AM AN ARTIST!

I hope it means as much to my friend as it does to me. This piece came out exactly like I wanted it to. That is a really amazing feeling for me because there was a time where my brain and my hands did not communicate that well. I had all these exciting ideas that I wanted to create but I was not able to express what was in my head the way I wanted to with my hands.. This is exactly how I envisioned this piece. I did it.

I am an artist for me and me alone, I always have been. I am grateful to be secure enough in myself to be able to say now without vulnerability, I am an artist.

Death, Art, and Something Sacred

As mentioned in my previous post this week was rocky. The expectations for this week were one thing, the reality another and sometimes that is life.

The week recovered though, with astonishing ease in fact. I did not become a puddle. I did not allow this moment of darkness to grow into a storm that enveloped all other aspects of my life and week. It was what it was and it stayed there. I did that.

Here is what else I did..

I had a major break through with a client who I have met with multiple times and have had difficulty getting more than a shoulder shrug out of while in session. This was big. I felt like super social worker, my first big break through!

I got to be creative and brainstorm on a art project of sorts with a fellow intern.. This thing we are crating together will be displayed in our agency, we are excited about it, the ideas are flowing and it so fun.

I carved out me time which included reading, writing, getting my calendar organized, running errands related to Todd’s upcoming birthday, and watching the old Star Wars movies.

The real icing on the cake though was a visit from one of my soul friends..

It is like she sensed that I needed her this week. Our time together was enriching and authentic and everything I needed and I was grateful.

She arrived at my home right as I was getting home from internship. As she approached she had a gift in her hand and told me it was for me. I was surprised. It is not my birthday.. what is this about? When she handed it to me I knew instantly that it was art, I thought maybe she painted me something (she has done that before). When I got it open it was a painting of a boxer (which is what Lucy is) on a vibrant yellow background.

boxer-female

I was touched. I was even more touched when she told me the back story..

Apparently this piece was painted by a local artist, an older woman, who recently died. From what my friend said she had years worth of paintings she created, a lifetimes worth I would be willing to guess, and when she passed her family wanted them to go to good home which is how my friend came upon this piece. I am not quite clear on all the details but I know my friend was able to get a few pieces for herself and then saw this piece and got it for me.

My heart swelled as she told me the story. I am SO honored to be part of this woman’s legacy. I am honored to own one of her pieces and have it displayed in my home. Creating art is a labor of love. I have a special attachment to every single piece I make and I would want the exact same thing when I am dead and gone one day, give my creations to good homes. Let them live on walls and be loved by fellow artists. It is so special. I was deeply deeply moved that my friend thought of me and that I get to provide this piece with a home.

I immediately framed it and made a home for it over the fire place next to my very favorite piece in my home. This is part of this woman’s legacy.. it is such a beautiful thing.

Outside of being almost moved to tears by my friend’s gesture the rest of our time together was wonderful as well. I feel so myself when I am with her. I do not have to put on airs, I do not have to be happy if I am not, she accepts me in all of it, as I do her. I am really grateful for her and to have had time with her on such a rocky week.

Today I get to welcome my sweet husband home, I cannot wait to see his beautiful face. In the mean time I will enjoy every ounce of my alone time and the quiet within it.

 

 

When Love Does Not Show Up

all-of-love-that-showed-up

Have you ever been in a situation where the expectation was love and then love didn’t happen? For example, you are in a blossoming new-ish relationship and you get to that point, everyone knows what I am talking about, the point where you feel it, you feel ready to put your heart on the line and say it, I Love You. It is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. It is this super electric moment when you are waiting, hoping, praying that the other person feels the same way, that they will say it back! I love you too.

Sometimes they don’t though right? Sometimes you are the only love that shows up. Then you are left with the fall out. The feelings of rejection, the not-good-enoughs, embarrassment.. All of it.

I was thinking about that this week as I had to show up for myself in a moment like this.

I love my mother AND sometimes she makes me feel small and unloved. That is my painful truth. Todd was out of town this week so my parents and I decided to spend a little extra time together. It was great at first.. My mom and I had fun girl talk, my dad and I talked about social work and politics. It was all going so well until it wasn’t anymore.

The end result of the “until it wasn’t anymore” was my mother leaving me with my I Love You hanging in the air by itself as she left my house.

It is one thing to feel that kind of rejection from a possible romantic partner, it is a whole other thing when it is your mother not saying it back, and really not acknowledging your existence in general. We, as a society, and then me personally, have ideas about how mothers are supposed to be right? I think of mothers and I think of unconditional love first and foremost and the truth is, my mother, and all mothers, are human beings. Unconditional love is an ideal but it is not always what you get, or what you feel anyway.

So there I was left in the wake of this emotional destruction. I was the only Love that showed up and I had to sit with that. I had to pick up all my little shattered pieces, who felt rejected and not-good-enough, and hold them in my lap and love them.

I think when people talk about self-love they think about not needing validation from society or other people.. I can tell you that when I first started down this path I did not understand that sometimes I was going to have to show up and love myself because my mother forgot to, or couldn’t, or worse.. didn’t want to.

I did it though. She left, my I Love You still hanging lonely in the air unnoticed, and I showed up for myself in that moment and told each one of those hurty pieces I loved them and that they were deserving of love.

This maybe one of the greatest lessons of my life. It is a not an easy one and it does not always feel good though. If I am having to show up for myself in a moment it is usually because something is not going right and I have the potential to be hurt, that is never a nice place to be in. That is life though, it is painful, and  joy, and scary, and beautiful, and I show up for myself in all of those places.

love-me