Living in Limbo

control

Control is such a powerful concept. In behavioral work, one of the tools in a therapist’s pocket is a technique called forced choice. When a client is resisting a specific instruction such as “hold someone’s hand while we cross the busy street”, one can instead present the individual with two unique options, such as “would you like to hold my hand or would you like to hold mom’s hand?” The child is far more likely to comply because he or she feels as though autonomy is being presented, and the ultimate goal is still accomplished. They perceive a sense of self-government over the situation, and it can make all the difference between an easy session and a difficult one.

I think one of the biggest issues I am struggling with right now is the feeling of everything being out of my hands. J and I had an excellent conversation last night that reminded me just how control driven I am. It is a natural trait of a codependent – the need to have a hand in all spheres of life because their success depends solely on us. It goes back to the “magical thinking” I discussed in this post. However, in the case of a loved one’s recovery, the responsibility relies solely on the addict. I must resist the desire to find J meetings, help him formulate his daily schedule, or become too involved in suggesting activities to keep him busy. Otherwise, he will never gain the self-sufficiency he needs to be successful in rehabilitation. He has to be able to stand on his own two feet.

choice

If that wasn’t hard enough, what is really eating away at me is to put aside all talks about our relationship. Personally, I came to the decision to put us on hold, and allow J to focus on his recovery and me to focus on my own mental health. I know in my head that this is the best decision for me, as well as for him, but my heart is far less convinced. By essentially pressing “pause” on our relationship, I am situating myself in a place that I vehemently dislike: LIMBO. I am a resolution seeker – striving to come to clear cut conclusion to every argument even if it means staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I am a patron of the black and white scenario –  we either break up or stay together, and it is imperative we decide right now. I am antipathetic of taking time and space to think things through, either we fix things this instant or we walk away. The more I allow situations of discomfort to sit, the less control I have, and the more likely everything is going to disintegrate into my worst nightmares. Thus, for me to individually come to the decision to put our relationship issues on hold is a gigantic leap of faith on my end, and my heart is extremely afflicted. However, my head is at peace, so I know that this is the right path. 

Another technique I use with my clients who are feeling distressed is something I call “problem squeezing”. When a child is showing signs of anger, anxiety, or frustration, I will have him or her sit in a calming place and visualize what is causing their discomfort as sitting in their flat, open palms. Next, I instruct them to squeeze their hands into a fist as tightly as possible and count to ten on an inhale; then release on an exhale. The beauty of behavioral therapy is that it doesn’t just apply to special needs or just to children. I used this very technique right before I went to visit J at the detox facility today. I sat in the parking l0t, closed my eyes, and pictured a mini version of J in my right hand and a mini me in my left. I clutched them shut as tightly as possible and repeated to myself that sometimes allowing things to happen the way they were meant to is far more beautiful than fabricating everything into being. I inhaled, feeling the tension build to its maximum, filling my lungs to the point of discomfort, and noticed that if I kept trying to hold it all in for too much longer I would burst.

Then I let go.

I let it all go.

And for that moment, I was free.

lettingo

 

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My Cloud 9

sunrise

You know those moments when you just need life to cut you a break, and then suddenly, something, Someone makes it all go your way? Well, that just happened to me. Now, I’m not religious, but I do believe in a Higher Power that is bigger than what I ever could conceptualize, and I have feeling He/She had something to do with all this. But that’s besides the point.

See, yesterday, my little client Lily (whose name has been changed for confidentiality purposes) returned to school from Thanksgiving break, which meant it was time for me to go back to work too.

A little backstory is needed here – Lily, unlike most of my clients, is not on the Autism Spectrum, but instead has tested as exceptionally gifted. She does, however, have a few behavioral issues that have gotten out of hand – such as screaming, biting, kicking, and escaping the classroom – whenever she is triggered by a particular event. Being new to behavior therapy and taking on this case, I knew that I would have an extremely steep learning curve to catch up on asap. Thus, it was a total game of trial and error with her my first week. Of course I’m being guided by a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) who I report to for feedback, but out on the field during the day, I am completely on my own. After my first week with Lily, I felt completely at a loss, stressed and overwhelmed. Particularly on the last day before the break, Lily had a gigantic 10/10 meltdown that left me totally disheartened. While all Lily’s school teachers constantly affirm my work and thank me for my presence, commenting on the improvement Lily has shown since my arrival, I still cannot help but feel inadequate.

work

With all of that being said, I was so thankful for Thanksgiving break. It allowed me the chance to regroup and recenter myself. However, on Sunday night, the familiar knot of anxiety crept back into my life. I was dreading work the next day, especially since I had received an email from Lily’s parents just warning me that they expect a rough transition for their little girl the next day.

dragging

So I came to work 100% prepared for the worst – armed with my best known reinforcers – and I walked into the school with a heavy heart. However, as soon as I stepped out onto the play yard, I saw a tiny little figure dressed in purple dashing towards me, and the next thing I knew, I had a little girl wrapped around my legs. I looked down and was so happy to see Lily! We quickly entered into a vibrant discussion about her vacation, and from that moment on, I knew it was going to be a good day. Whether we were able to accomplish specific behavioral goals or not, I knew that a rapport between us had been built base don her excitement to see me, and that alone was a win in my book. But Lily was amazing the whole day! Plus, I discovered a potential reinforcer that kept her engaged whenever she started to spin out of control, helping her refocus on each activity. She even accomplished the projects assigned to her (which has been rare lately), and I could not have been more pleased. Lily’s teacher approached me at the end of the day and said she had never seen this much focus from Lily before and was excited about what the future held. She shook my hand and thanked me over and over, and my heart was ablaze with pride.

It really was as if my Higher Power knew I needed the encouragement and somehow gave my little Lily a sense of peace and calm to help ME transition. Even if it’s just coincidence, or karma, or whatever else, I am still so incredibly thankful. I know I have much to learn about being a Behaviorist, but as of now, I really do believe this is where I belong. I was reminded of my love for working with kiddos and the importance of falling back to that passion whenever I feel discouraged. And that – that feeling of being right where I am supposed to be- above all things is the best opponent for inadequacy that I could ever ask for.

So right now, I’m walking on a cloud! A beautiful, behavioral analyst cloud and I’m going to ride it for as long and as far as I can. Look out behavioral world…here I come!

Cloud Computing

 

Freedom 2.0

Sigh…

Looking for inspiration

I have sat here with the cursor blinking on a blank WordPress page for about 10 minutes now, just thinking of how to begin this post. Over and over I would type a few words, laugh at my lack of creativity, erase everything and delve in complete mental silence all over again. It is the most frustrating feeling to have all of these thoughts pinging around in your head and to have no inspiring opening lines.

So I guess, I’ll just begin.

I quit my job! Ha, I think I should have just started with that news. I’m not quite sure if I mentioned what exactly I did, but it no longer matters. Just know that it was extremely boring, mindless work that was unchallenging in every way. Now, I have found myself in the midst of the opposite field, one that has a steep learning curve but a dynamic and rewarding payoff. Friends, I am now a Registered (almost) Behavior Technician (a.k.a Behaviorist), specifically working with children with special needs. In the span of 2 days, I went from imputing data into a computer to implementing behavior modification techniques both in home and in school environments to the most amazing kiddos. It is such a promising opportunity that has put me on the ground floor of my future career aspirations as a Speech Pathologist.

Blocks

To be honest, it is this job that has motivated me to pick up blogging once again. Confession time: I am a notorious, serial project-abandoner. Ask any one of my family members or close friends…I sincerely struggle with maintaining and/or finishing the random, creative outlets I take on. I have half-knit blankets, partially written songs, and squeaky clean exercise gear lying around the house. Thus, it is unsurprising to me that I have drifted off of the face of the WordPress planet over the past few months. Please understand that I am not justifying my behavior as a positive attribute, but it is simply a part of me that still needs some serious work.

Anyhoo… after my first week at the new job, I honestly felt so emotionally drained. I had a difficult time adjusting and felt both overwhelmed and disheartened all at once. Overall, I knew I needed an outlet for the pent-up emotions that were brewing (and I’m sure will continue to brew). So here I am. I need to write to keep my sanity. I am working with extremely emotional little people, and being extremely emotional myself, I will need a safe space where I can vent and cry and grow and reflect and learn all at once. From my past experience, blogging is just the perfect medium.

Overwhelmed

For those who have been on this journey with me from the beginning, things are going to look a little different around here. I definitely need to get back to Codependency introspection, but for now, that will be interspersed between my everyday vent fest. I am going to focus on growth and learning in general, and should Codependency topics rear their heads in the midst of that, so be it. Altogether, though, I just want to focus on the new path that I am on (mainly because I am so excited about it), and not be too harsh on myself in the realm of change. Instead of forcing it, I’m just going to let it be and love myself through the new process.

So for now…Freedom has a new face!
Love it or Leave it.