282: bullying and brain fog

My motivation is severely lacking. I can’t get myself going and motivated to work out. I think I’ll have a schedule set but then it gets blown out the window. I don’t know.

So Boy Child was bullied again. He had an envelope in his hand when he got on the bus. The kid across from him took it out of his hands and ripped it open because, “He just wanted to see what was inside.” BC asked for it back, but then a girl took it and removed some of the contents, gave it back to the boy who looked a little more, then gave it back. The girl gave the boy the removed contents and he kept them.

BC justified the situation by saying he should have put the envelope in his backpack, which is true. However, the kid shouldn’t have taken the envelope, shouldn’t have ripped it open, taken and kept the contents. His Dad does what he always does – lecture. He got upset that BC didn’t stand up for himself, justified the situation and let the kid “get away with it.”

I understand his frustration. Yelling at the kid isn’t going to help anything. After he left, I put on my Socratic Mom hat and went to work. I asked for him to tell me what happened. He would get a little side tracked and say, “Daddy is just blowing it out of proportion.” I kept telling him, don’t worry about Daddy and what Daddy thinks – I want YOU to tell me about what happened.

All I did was ask questions.

It was clear the he didn’t understand that the boy and girl were being mean, so I had to ask the thinking questions: is it okay if I take something that’s not mine? If there’s mail for Kevin or Gamma, can I open it? If there’s mail for you, can I open it? If I take something that’s not mine and don’t give it back, is that nice? Was that boy being nice? etc etc etc.

After a few questions, he began to make the connections…. He said, I don’t think that girl was being very nice either. I said I think you’re right. After that, I put on my Mommy’s Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts hat and went to work. It became really clear really fast that this kid had no idea what to do in these situations. So we practiced what to do if someone is bullying you. We practiced saying, “Hey, stop, that’s my stuff, give it back.” I had him be the bully. He was so funny, “But I’m not supposed to be mean to my Mom.” I said, “That’s correct and I appreciate that. But I’m giving you full permission to be mean to your Mommy right now.” I told him to embrace his inner Russell Crowe and pretend to be a bully…. Which, apparently, translates to being a mean kid from the streets of New York – Newsies style.

It was so hard not to laugh. BUT we did it. He still needs more practice. At least he has a little bit of something to work with for now. Poor kid.

Doods is starting to use her device more, which is cool. It’s interesting too… and not necessarily in a good way… Verbal words she had are almost dissipating. She used to say I want goldfish and cheese, no problem. Now, it’s like she can’t find the words. She will, however, in those cases go to her device and try to find what she wants to say. I realized I need to add more pictures to her device – goldfish is not on there. Devices are meant to be supplemental to what already exists, not a replacement.

I’m having trouble focusing today, which is not great considering what needs to get accomplished. I’ll get it together. I really hope my friends are okay.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

Advertisements

281: heavy hearts

My heart is heavy today. Yesterday we received some sad news regarding the spouses of two of our friends. Knowing bad things come in threes, I’m waiting for the third shoe to drop somewhere. My anxiety, of course, is in overdrive thinking of all the ways that “we’re next.”

Our dear friend passed away Saturday evening. He was such a loving, caring, giving person. Give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and pants too because he could spare ’em. He was one of the most generous, kind-hearted people I have ever known. My heart goes to his wife, one of my best friends. The loss she must feel, I can’t even imagine. The kids, everything. It’s so heartbreaking. Our hope is for patience, understanding and strength.

Another friend of ours, her husband suffered a stroke while driving and is currently hospitalized. That must have been terrifying – to be in the car while that was going on. To watch your spouse have a stroke and be ware of your own safety in that situation, I can’t even imagine. Our hope is for a speedy recovery.

It’s hard to even think about the weekend. We had a really nice weekend and I slept. But it just… anything can happen at any time, guys. Life is so incredibly precious. Our friend was only 48. The other gentleman had just retired, they were coming back home from their brand new vacation home in Florida.

I’m constantly thinking about all of that – what could happen to who, how, and when. I wish I didn’t. I immediately told Kevin (rather, told his body) that he is not allowed to die, do anything resembling death, do anything indicative of death, or anything else other than a cold… or broken bone, if he’s being an idiot. I just don’t know what I would do if something were to happen to him. Let’s just not think about that.

But, of course, I already have. As I was going to sleep – what if he passes while we’re sleeping because of his weird breathing? What if it snows more – people are idiots, what if someone goes too fast or their brakes give out on the expressway and plow in to him? What if the tires lose grip on the road and he slides in to a pole? What if the heat gives out in his building and he catches pneumonia and doesn’t recover? What about the kids? My mom drives like an idiot sometimes and she’s taking BC to school. What if they get stuck on the tracks? What about Doods on the bus? Her driver is amazing, same with the aid – they’re amazing, but what if someone drives in to them? What if it loses control and flips? What if something happens to my babies?

That about sums up my morning. My thoughts will go in to more graphic and horrid detail, but I’ll spare you the extra dose of crazy.

The weekend really was nice though – went to dinner on Friday with some friends, had game night on Saturday with more friends, and a cookie exchange yesterday with even more friends. I’m a little peopled out because of it, but it was worth it.

I have to work out this morning, then start my work. I did a really good job of disconnecting this weekend. I would start to think about something and then just go, “Nope, you’re not working right now. Save it for Monday. You can address it on Monday.” Seemed to work. My body is just so tired from being tired and now that it got rest wants more rest. I slept 11 hours both nights (Friday and Saturday). It was incredible. I’m thinking I’m going to do my cardio T/R/F. T and R are my late days due to visits and Fridays are work if I want to days. It gives me time. I don’t like to feel rushed to get a workout in, shower and such. It puts more pressure and anxiety on it that I don’t need.

Well, maybe I’ll change my plans. Take today. I have a fair amount of work/prep work to do for a session I am attending tomorrow. I have to get a whole bunch of probes and assessments together. Review the current plan, start the new plan, etc. Use my brain juice.

I need to be ok with being ok. Like, I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need to be the greatest. I just need to be ok with doing the best I can – whatever that is. I guess I just really want my best to be awesome. I don’t want to disappoint myself or others. Its like you do all this study and schooling and everybody is like, “You’re going to be so great! You’re so smart! You’ve got this!” But what if I’m not? Failure is ok so long as you learn from it , but you know Kevin would tell me to shut up right now and tell me I’m an idiot because I am smart and doing the best I can and I’m going to kick ass and I’m amazing. I guess I just need to replace my thinking.

Yesterday, on my way to the cookie exchange, I drove past my old building and some of the group homes associated with it. I started to cry. I miss them – the people. I miss the people. I don’t miss the stress. I don’t miss not eating, not sleeping, feeling constant nausea, headaches, you name it. I don’t miss not being taken seriously, I don’t miss calling EMS. I don’t miss my old job. But I do miss those people. I think about how they’re doing pretty often. I wanted to keep in touch, but it ended up being fairly painful and knew it was best to sever ties. It’s the first time I have been in the area since I had my meltdown.

Just the area. Not even in or near the facility, just the area. That’s how potent the situation was – I can be a mile or so away and it still effected me in a way that I had anxiety and cried.

I hope things continue to grow in a positive way, like they have been. I hope my friends receive serenity and love. I hope you all have a good day.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

278: disconnect

Sleep and I haven’t been the best of friends this past week. It’s not because of Girl Child either, who is typically the culprit of my broken rest. No, this time it’s work.

I am finding it extremely difficult to disconnect from my work. I think I’ve tried every trick in the book, but nothing has really had consistent success. It’s only been a week since I left the bakery but I miss the disconnect.

I worked from the bakery yesterday, actually. It was really nice to see everyone, catch up, and have the welcome distraction of beautiful people. I had two cakes to pick up – one for our psych pineapple party and the other for Game Night on Saturday. As always, they knocked it out of the freaking park! They are so talented, it’s ridiculous.

Comparatively speaking, the bakery is stress free. I can easily leave and not have anything to think or worry about. I came, did my job, and left. Someone wasn’t awesome? It’s cool, leave it at the door. Problems got fixed in relatively short order and it was done.

Now? My brain cannot shut off when I’m off the clock. It’s constantly going. How can I make that better? Did I address all the behaviors? What about the interventions? Is everything operationally defined? Am I within the hours for this particular person? Do I have enough hours? My mind is constantly making a to do list for the next day and it will. not. turn. off. Video games, reading, massages, TV, bangin, you name it – still can’t sleep. Rather, I’ll sleep in spurts until my brain comes up with the next thought.

The pressure of knowing my plan will keep people safe is starting to weigh on me. In my last position, I had a lot of individuals with dual diagnoses (meaning mental illness and intellectual/developmental disability). A lot of them had very intense behaviors – self injurious behaviors, suicidal ideations, physical aggression, elopement, sexual behaviors, etc… People ended up in the hospital. People died (thankfully not as a result of other people’s behaviors, rather natural causes). People ended up with stitches. People got choked. I had bruises, bite marks, scratches – you name it. It’s traumatizing, to an extent.

I know that these plans are developed in order to keep individuals safe – both from themselves and towards others. I’ve seen the damage they can do. If I don’t do a good job, people can get really, really, really hurt. That’s a lot of pressure.

Even if it’s skill acquisition. I feel such a sense of responsibility for the growth of others. I want to do the best job I can. I want everyone to grow and improve. It’s on me, to a certain extent, that they do. I know there are other people involved in this process and it doesn’t solely fall on my shoulders, but it’s a big part of it. It all starts with the plan.

I don’t know, guys. I don’t know that I’ll ever find that happy medium. I don’t know how to turn it off. I can’t compartmentalize any more.

Is that bad? Is that bad that I can’t NOT feel or think about things? How do I get that back? When I was in a previous relationship, that ability to compartmentalize was destroyed. He hated that I could do that. He made it seem like compartmentalizing was a terrible thing and I wasn’t fully emotionally present. Through a lot of manipulation and nonsense, those walls were all broken down. Now it’s like I feel everything all the time from everyone around me.

In a way, that ability is what helps me do what I do. I can easily get that person’s mindset. I can see what they’re doing and why. But I can’t break from it. I mean, I don’t take on their emotions or personality traits or anything like that… but I feel drained. I connect, I understand, I help, I’m drained.

I don’t know. I need some work. I’m gonna finish up this episode of Top Chef, exercise, shower, then do work. I have to drop off Doods at her Dad’s later and we’re going out to dinner tonight. I just need to focus, I guess.

Overall, I’m doing well. It’s hard when people ask, “How are you doing?” It’s such a mixed bag answer. On one hand, I’m doing great – I’m doing awesome. On the other hand, it’s like.. I feel tortured and drained. So, overall, I’m fine. It balances out. Neutrality.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

276: weight loss & worry

Holy nuts, guys, I am out of shape! I worked out for the first time in… ages yesterday and did yoga this morning. I am literally starting at square one and, in a way, I am totally okay with that. Being the good little behavior analyst I am, I made myself a chart with reinforcements.

After having jumped on and off this bus so many times, I know what works for me. I don’t do well with some drawn out elaborate plan to lose weight. Just a simple chart where I can mark off the pounds and see what I’m working for at the end of each section. I know what I need to do, it’s simply a matter of doing it to get the results.

In a nutshell, I am rewarding (or reinforcing) myself after every 10 pounds:

-10: Double Date

-20: Kickboxing Class

-30: Cut my hair (gasp)

-40: Orange Theory Class

-50: Big ol’ Lego set

Yes, I am 33 years old and the most motivating thing for me is a Lego set. But like.. a BIG Lego set. Something to add to my Star Wars display or a city piece or something cool like that. So yesterday began my journey, again, with some accountability in place as well.

Yesterday I went and met about half of my case load. I’m excited and anxious about the whole thing. I have a LOT of work to do over this month. I have to overhaul a plan in like, oh, four days? And write 6 more by the start of the year. Woo! Party! Nothin’ like jumpin’ right in….

I had difficulty sleeping last night. I had all these ideas and information running through my head. I just couldn’t shut it off. It was reminiscent of my previous jobs and it makes me nervous. I put a lot of myself in to my work. I’m good at what I do. I can’t shut off my brain. I’m always thinking about these people and how to do better and be better. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think maybe once I get a set schedule, I’ll feel better? Like give myself those hours to work/think and then that’s it. I’m wondering if maybe I need to exercise at night instead of the morning so that I can refocus or something.

But I don’t want to exercise at night because that takes time away from the people I want to spend time with… so that leaves me with the mornings. I guess I need to find something to do in the evenings to change channels.

I am excited though, to start working. To get to know these people/families and help make things better for them. It’s also a lot of pressure. People want to see results; I don’t blame them. It’s on me to make sure that there’s change occurring.

I will say, though, last night we were at a home, speaking with a family, and I was so proud of this Mom for advocating for her child. She was asking very specific, pointed questions that were absolutely valid. I commended her for her advocacy and assured her that she was in the right for doing so. She really wants to know what’s going on – what do the terms mean, what do the graphs mean, what are we looking for, what are we looking at, what does progress look like – it was awesome! I love when people ask questions. Ask ALL the questions. I’ll do my best to assist you.

When I got home, I realized, “God damnit, I know my shit. That whole conversation we had, I *knew* what I was talking about. My boss even said that I was 1000% correct on what I was saying. If I don’t pass this exam, well, fuck that exam, I know what I’m doing. I got this.” I’ve come across quite a few people who have their BCBA and write absolutely terrible plans. It’s the same with doctors, just because you’re certified, doesn’t mean you’re good at it.

Once I finish up this post, I have to take a good look at what needs to be done, write my to do list, prioritize and attack. I’m doing more visits this afternoon and I have to whip up mac and cheese this morning for dinner tonight. I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed… It’s almost too late. The anxiety is real.

It makes me worried that while I know this stuff and I’m good at it…. maybe it’s not good for me.

I don’t know.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

275: catastrophic thoughts continued, CBT vs ACT, & covert behaviors

One thing I love about this blog (other than my alliterative entry titles) is how many people it reaches. I love that it provides a source of comfort and relateability for others. To think back a handful of months when I started, it was just for me. This mostly still is just for me, but I absolutely love that it helps others too. So, thanks for stopping by, commenting, messaging, and reading!

My last post sparked a lot of conversation regarding catastrophic thoughts and I thought this would be a really great time to do a little psychology compare/contrast.

Now, I’m going to preface: I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. My bachelor’s degree is in English with minors in behavioral science and theology. My master’s degree is in special education. I have completed the coursework and sat for the BCBA exam. I have a background in human development and behavioral psychology and am a little crazy. ; ) The information I provide comes from research I have done through various sites, journals, and the big mama jamma itself – the DSM5. Information is available at your fingertips, friends.

With that, I thought it would be really great to post a side-by-side of what’s “normal” versus what constitutes generalized anxiety disorder (also commonly known by the lovely acronym “GAD”). Everybody experiences worry and catastrophic thoughts at one point or another, but experiencing catastrophic thinking differs from what’s considered “normal” worry. Catastrophic thinking is typically defined as ruminating about irrational worst-case scenarios. What does that look like? Well, let me show you…

Normal Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Worrying does not interfere with your job or social life. Worrying significantly interferes with your work or social activities.
You feel that your concerns are controllable and can be dealt with at a later time. You feel that your worrying is out of control.
Your worries cause only mild distress. Your worries are very distressing and pervasive.
A specific cause initiated your worrying. Worrying began for no reason.
Your worries are limited to a specific topic or small number of topics. You worry about a broad range of topics, like job performance, money, personal safety or the safety of others, etc.
Significant worrying lasts only for a brief period. You have experienced excessive worrying for six months or more.
Your worrying is not usually accompanied by physical or other psychological symptoms. Three or more physical or psychological symptoms occur with your worrying (such as sleep problems, irritability, tense muscles, problems concentrating, fatigue or restlessness).

As you can see, “normal” worry is significantly less involved and intrusive than GAD. There will be times when I’m just sitting, not doing much of anything, playing video games or something and I’ll start thinking, “What if I fail at my new job? What if I don’t pass the exam again? Will I get fired for not being good enough? Will people think I’m a fake because I don’t have the credentials? How will I find a different job? Will people hire me without the credentials? Maybe I should research more. Should I research more? Have I researched enough? Is everything going to be ok? Will Kevin still be with me if I lose my job because I’m not good enough? What if he gets tired of supporting my crazy?” on. and on. and on. AND ON. And all that actually comes out of my mouth to Kevin is, “Everything will be ok, right?” Typically his response is, “Yes, baby, everything is going to be great. We’re great. You’re great. Everything is great.” I’m getting better about it. I’ve noticed I’ve been following up less and less with, “Are you sure? Really? It’ll be ok?”

The thoughts don’t immediately cease after that, but it helps.

Now, this is just catastrophic thoughts as it pertains to GAD. Catastrophic thoughts are a proponent of other anxiety disorders – PTSD, OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, separation anxiety, phobias, etc etc etc. Our thoughts (or private events, for our ABA friends) should be acknowledged and managed, not dismissed or ignored. There are two main ways to approach GAD/catastrophic thoughts and it really depends on what psychology camp you like to hang out in: CBT or ACT. It’s easy as 1-2-3. Simple as do re me, ACT, sorry. Jackson 5 moment.

Traditional psychology opts for CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) while Applied Behavior Analysis goes for ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). What’s the difference? Let me show you in this handy dandy little chart I made (my god, I love spreadsheets):

CBT ACT
Started with Skinner, honed by Ellis & Beck Based on RFT (relational frame theory), which is said to fill in Skinner’s gaps
Psychosocial intervention; Evidence based Psychosocial intervention; Empirically based
Focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful patterns in cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, attitudes), not just overt behavior Focus on Function; Uses acceptance, mindfulness strategies, commitment and behavior-change strategies to increase psychological flexibility
Short-term Long-term
Very specific problem Combination of behavioral and cognitive therapy
Learn to ID and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior Notice, accept, embrace private events
Goal: teach patients that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment Goal: Creates new lifestyle patterns, make healthier choices, maintain behavior change

Pretty good stuff right there! I realized I keep using the term “private events.” Private events are described as behaviors that are only accessible to the person emitting them (like thinking). The term is synonymous with covert behavior; it’s unobservable by an outsider. We can observe physical manifestations of thoughts, though. When cheeks get flushed, eyes water, fists clench, legs shake – all tell of different thoughts/emotions. So I may not know exactly what you’re thinking, but I generally can have a pretty damn good idea.

And, in case you’re wondering – Yes. Yes, I am reading your behavior all the time.

It’s like a super power. It’s not as cool as being able to fly or leap to the top of the tallest building, but it’s pretty close to mind reading so I’ll take it. ; )

I hope this was all helpful information for you guys.

Thanks for stopping by!

I am glad you exist.

If you’d like to read more, check out some of these articles:

Catastrophic Thoughts/GAD

Catastrophic Thinking: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-face-adversity/201103/catastrophic-thinking

Manage Anxiety by Reducing Catastrophic Thinking: https://drpatrickkeelan.com/anxiety/managing-anxiety-by-reducing-catastrophic-thinking-part-1-overestimating-danger/

ACT

https://contextualscience.org/act

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/two-takes-depression/201102/introduction-acceptance-and-commitment-therapy

CBT

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognitive-behavioral-therapy

https://beckinstitute.org/get-informed/what-is-cognitive-therapy/

Private Stimuli, Covert Responses & Private Events

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2223175/

274: communication, coochies & Christmas trees

Last week as an incredibly rough week, emotionally. It started with my last day at the bakery, Snapchat shenanigans, retaking the BCBA exam, starting my new job, and wrapping it all up with relationship stuff. All the while parenting and getting broken sleep, courtesy of my beautiful & wonderful Girl Child.

After my last post, Kevin & I had a really good talk. I’m really grateful to be with someone who genuinely wants this relationship to work. We had gotten in to an argument, of sorts. I mean, I guess it really wasn’t an argument and it wasn’t a heated discussion… It was… I don’t know what to call it honestly. I said something that unknowingly made him very upset and it escalated in to something much, much bigger… so whatever you would classify that in relationship terms, I suppose – that’s what happened.

Kevin, like a lot of people, bottles things up and doesn’t say anything. Then there will be a little hole in the wall and the dam will break lose, so it’s not just one thing – it becomes about a million things. It’s hard to dissect it and deal with it all at one time. I was overwhelmed. On top of that, he didn’t talk to me for the rest of the evening.

As a person with anxiety and has catastrophic thoughts, those actions are….. completely terrible, to put it lightly.

Maybe it’s my Christian upbringing, but I am firm believer in not going to bed angry. For my bible friends, that’s Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” It’s a solid piece of advice, no matter what faith you practice. Don’t sit and stew on your anger, rather address it. Get it done and over with.

How many times have you carried around your negative feelings towards someone or something? How many times have you physically felt like shit because of it? Your stomach hurts from too much acid. You get headaches. The stress you’re causing your body is real and it’s because we don’t address things. Americans are afraid of confrontation.

Americans are pussies.

Confrontation, by nature, has a negative connotation to it. But, friends, seriously, not all confrontation is bad! Honest! As long as you are approaching the issue or person with respect and love, you’re aces. If you go in it with harm or malice, bad shit happens – every time. If you go in to the discussion with an open heart, open mind, and end goal of resolution (particularly positive resolution), it’s a win-win-WIN.

When someone doesn’t talk to me, I start going through every. single. possible. outcome. My brain does it naturally for every situation. As I’m driving down the street, I’m not just thinking about where I’m going, I’m thinking about what if that car swerves in front of me? What if that semi loses control and plows in to me? What if I get hit and my kid goes through the window and I can’t get to them? What would I do? What would I do first? Who would I call first? What if my phone gets broken and we are lying there, dying, with no help? It goes on and on and on and on and maybe it sounds crazy… because it IS. That’s how catastrophic thinking works. Even crazier? I’m used to it. I accept it. It’s perfectly normal and natural to me.

So bringing it back to the situation a few days ago when my husband wasn’t talking to me, I started going and going and going and going and I knew I needed to get out of my head otherwise bad things were going to happen. Thankfully, I know some amazing people who also happen to be night owls and were there for me to provide perspective and reassurance. Kevin and I were able to talk the next day and resolve the situation in a very positive way.

He loves me in a way that I never really thought possible. It took a while to feel worthy of such a love. Even that morning, we started to talk and in my head I’m thinking, “Oh my god, this is over, he is done with me, he said I make him feel bad, why would we want to be with me, etc etc etc” and he’s offering to help me with what I was doing… I couldn’t reconcile the concurrent actions in my head… Like, “wait wait wait wait, but this is over and I make you feel bad, why are you offering to help me right now? Oh, that’s right, it’s because you love me, you fucking idiot.” That last “you” being me, because I’m a fucking idiot.

Not really but that’s what traumatic relationships will do to a person’s psyche. That combined with depression, anxiety, and catastrophic thinking is the trifecta of psychological balance.

Anyway. Long story short (too late), he and I are good now. I really, really, REALLY appreciate everyone who reached out and their support. It meant so much more than I can say.

After we got things resolved, we went out to dinner that night. We had a lovely time and it’s been really nice since. It’s one bump of many in our journey, but as long as we are both in it to win it, everything will work out a-ok.

Now on to fun things. I went to my first Pure Romance party yesterday. I spent far too many dollars. Totally worth it, though. They are gifts that just keep on giving. And giving. And giivviinnggg, yaaaasss. It was lovely to see some friendly faces that I hadn’t seen in a long time and catch up. I have so much love for these ladies, it’s unreal. It’s so wonderful to be around people who have known you for years, have been there through your struggles and to see you come out on the other side – better and stronger and happier.

We also set up our super shiny Christmas tree! I am in love with our tree. It was one of our first purchases together. It’s a ridiculously awesome silver tree with multicolor lights and I’m sitting right next to it while I type away. It just makes me happy. It’s full of ornaments for the kids and all my little trinkets. It was fun to watch the kids put their ornaments on. For whatever reason, they both felt it necessary to put ALL of their ornaments RIGHT in the FRONT CENTER of the tree and NOWHERE else. None. Any where. All in the front.

I watched and laughed and let them go to town, all the while thinking, “Ah, these are all going to get moved.” And they did. But we all had fun decorating the tree. We have a disco ball ornament that’s new to the crew this year…. It’s pretty much in cognito with the tree. It’s amazing. ; )

This week promises a lot of good stuff: I’m doing visits for my caseload, stopping by the bakery to pick up some fun cakes, we are having a Psych Movie Pineapple Party on Thursday, making cookies on Saturday along with a Game Night, and a cookie exchange on Sunday! Hooray! This morning I took Doods to the doctor for a physical and everything checked out. I decided to use the extra time to brain dump a little bit, then start doing research.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

271: relationships & reflection

Relationships are extremely difficult. Even the best of relationships have hard times. Right now, for us, is one of those hard times.

I am my father. I am smart, funny, quick, and talk to anyone in any situation. I also used to have a bad temper and anger problem. Now, I just make really shitty comments and make people feel bad.

I am my mother. I am caring, compassionate, empathetic, and helpful. I also used to get taken advantage of and landed myself in a variety of precarious situations. Now, I get overly guarded and have a dismal outlook for the future.

It’s not really a solid combination, but it’s just… who and how I am. Not saying that I’m the worst person, but I’m certainly not the greatest.

What do you do? What do you do when someone says, “I don’t like a, q, x” but has never told you about a, q, x before? But a, q, x is a major part of who you are and how you operate…. and that makes the other person feel terrible.

I don’t intentionally make people feel bad. I think it’s contrary to my nature. I don’t know if it’s worse to unintentionally make people feel bad or not… I don’t know.

I feel like everything is falling  apart. I feel like I spent time defending a marriage that is already falling apart. It very well could be me over-reacting, but that’s what it feels like.

People don’t just magically change. They can’t change what they don’t know they should change. Sometimes it’s things they can’t really change. Or maybe don’t want to.

I just want to lay on the floor and not do anything. Not talk to anyone. Not do anything. If you don’t do anything, you can’t hurt anyone. However, the logic is flawed. Sins of omission.

Finding balance in a relationship is hard. I think it almost always leans more one way than the other…. especially if you have one that’s carrying the other, so to speak. Maybe it’s easier if both people are independently functioning. Don’t have kids.

I think it’s okay to do some things together and some things a part. I think it’s okay to have separate groups of friends. I think it’s important to engage in some of the things your partner likes, but it doesn’t have to be all the time or every single event. I think it’s okay to not like things or people. I think it’s important to communicate like adults, to not fight in front of kids, to not be shitty to/in front of kids or in general, really, and keep emotions in check. I think every relationship has an element of give and take.

I think, when it comes to partner relationships, I need more than I can give in a lot of aspects. I give a lot to others all the time and don’t have much left at the end of the day. I don’t want to have to continue a mask of any kind. I’m sure I could be nicer at times, but I’m sure he could not be a butthole sometimes. I don’t think I’m an unwarranted asshole, but I’m probably wrong about that too.

I like to think I’ve been very clear about my needs and expectations over the years. I know I need a lot… with the kids and my self, I need a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I give too. All the time. But I can’t give in ways a person needs it if they don’t vocalize it.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

All the while shitty relationship things are happening I’m trying to get his Christmas present together which has caused me nothing but frustration and that doesn’t help anything. It’s like Hey I’m trying to do this really super great awesome thing for you, but you’re over here telling me that I make you feel like shit most of the time – thumbs up!

I get confused. I don’t understand. I would like for things to even out. I would like to stop crying and my face to not hurt. It probably doesn’t help that I got probably two hours of sleep last night. My stomach is upset.

I was going to do some more research today, but I think I need to not. Maybe just not as much as I originally planned.

I thought I was doing a good job. Oh well. I think I’ll make some tea, play some Lego Avengers, take a shower… I’m not a very good napper, so I’m not sure that will be in my future… maybe I’ll do a little research in the afternoon on self injurious behaviors, sexual behaviors and/or reducing consumption of illicit drugs/increasing safe community access skills. We will see. I think my brain is mush right now from lack of sleep and too many emotions – that’s a perfect recipe for a seizure cocktail. Not trying to drink that nonsense.

The day is young and has a lot of time for turn around, so I’m hopeful for a good day despite a not so awesome start and overall week.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

270: research & relocation

The past few days have been full of reading behavior plans, psychological reports, incident reports and all the fun things associated with behavior analysis. I’ve begun to research various strategies for some of the clients and so far – so good!

I’m not going to lie: seeing my caseload and reading through everyone’s laundry list of behaviors – it’s a little overwhelming… in a good way, though. I feel… ready? I feel like I don’t know everything and that’s totally cool. I feel like I have so much to learn and soak up. It almost feels like I’m starting over in my career (although I’ve got a few years and a few degrees that would disagree with that)… I guess it’s starting on a new level, maybe? Yeah, that sounds about right (and I like that idea) – I’m leveling up in my career, Achievement: Unlocked.

Over the past few years I have really learned how to research, how to problem solve, how to sit back, shut the fuck up, watch, and learn. Oftentimes answers present themselves without much additional input. It’s pretty neat.

The science of behavior analysis is pretty brilliant in its simplicity. All you have to do is look at what happens before, during, and after and you can figure out what’s going on. The process of changing that is not always as simple, but it’s very clear and direct. And if it doesn’t work, you try something else. Try, try, again. I like it, a lot. There’s so much room for error and it’s okay.

Maybe that sounds weird… When I say there’s room for error, I don’t mean any one should intentionally err or not do a good job or not try to change a behavior but what I mean is – it’s okay if your first idea doesn’t work (for the most part). Look at all the pieces and try something else. There will always be something that works and maybe something else that works better, who knows? Ask around, phone a friend, eliminate half the answers – you’re bound to come up with something effective. I like feeling comforted by my failures.

That probably also sounds weird… but I do. Failure means at least you’re trying. You may not have gotten right this time, but you’re trying. Learn from it, grow from it, and keep trying. Don’t give up. Eventually, the right thing will pop up and it’ll be so great! All the work, all the failures, all the lessons you have learned along the way will make you better. The sense of pride and accomplishment can be rather extraordinary.

I’m sure that sounds significantly less weird ; ) At least, I hope it does. Sometimes success can make us feel real weird because it’s different and uncomfortable, like a new pair of underwear… but after awhile, it becomes a part of you.

After I completed my research for today (which centered mostly around incontinence/continence training), I decided to do some of my very own personal research. I’m sure that’s not surprising to most people… yes, yes, yes, I am absolutely, 100%, without a doubt that person who goes from getting paid to do research to continuing to read and do more research afterwards. #nerdlife

So, Melinda, what did you choose to research on your down time? Well, friend, I am so very glad you asked. Now, if you’ve been following along in my (mis)adventures, Kevin & I have been working towards purchasing and moving in to his grandparents house. This is still the plan. However, long term, the plan is to be there, fix it up a bit, hang out until Boy Child graduates high school, then GTF outta Dodge.

If you don’t know, we live in Illinois which is one of the worst states to live in for, well, a variety of reasons. Now, don’t get me wrong – Illinois is an amazing state, too. The capital city is stunning, southern Illinois is full of necessary farm land, the western part of the state has beautiful areas for hiking, the northern part of the state is lush and full of beautiful greenery & antique shops & communities with far too many dollars, and, of course, Chicago – with all of it’s museums, culture, and murders. Great city!

Now Illinois is a terrible state IN a terrible state. The deficit is absolutely ridiculous, we get taxed for breathing and if you’re a person with moderate to severe disabilities? Good. Luck. The wait list for receiving services is, literally, decades long. Ain’t nobody got time for that. People die or are homeless before they receive services – true story. Having a child that will need some level of support for the rest of her life, we know we need to move to do what’s best for her – which led me to today’s research.

I generally keep tabs on the state of the states through a variety of sources. If you have any vested interest in disabilities, I highly recommend the following for you:

The State of the States: http://stateofthestates.org/

Disability Benefits Help: https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/top-5/states-to-apply

Disability Scoop: https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2016/10/03/ranking-states-best-services/22825/

UCP The Case for Inclusion: http://cfi.ucp.org/

The great thing about those particular sites is they are going to tell you like it is. They go off of facts and numbers. You can compare states on a variety of levels. Create your own comparison charts and/or tables. It’s amazing the amount of information that is, literally, right at your fingertips.

Now, why was I looking at all of these things? We are going to move out of Illinois when the time comes, but we just don’t know to where. The plan is to take trips to a variety of locations, see what area will work best for us and, simply, move there. The real leg work comes in trying to figure out WHERE that would even be – where to start?

I looked at the past handful of years on a number of levels – how many people live at home, in CILAs (Community Integrated Living Arrangements aka Group Homes), and institutions; how many people receive benefits vs private pay; how many people with IDD (Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities) work; what types of community supports are available; how many people with IDD attend day programs vs work vs a combination of both; cost of living; and a variety of other things. Of course, some states are outstanding in a certain area but severely lack in another. Illinois has consistently been in the bottom 5 of 50 for about a decade running.

So, where to look? For us, I think I have a top 8 (in no particular order):

Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado

Those seem to be the most conducive for what we are looking for – both for us and Doods. Ideally, I want to be somewhere warmer – my body doesn’t do well with cold and I’m super over these arctic winters. Don’t get me wrong – where we live is pretty nicely situated; we are less than a full day’s drive from a handful of major cities…. but there are a lot of sacrifices living here, too. HENCE the need to go.

If any of you dear readers are from those states and have any helpful input, I gladly welcome it!

There are a couple of states that are high on all of the lists (Kansas & New York, for example) but I can’t see myself living in either of those places without going bonkers. So over the next handful of years, we will travel and explore and find our next landing spot. It’s an exciting prospect, really. And it gives us a reason to travel ; D!

Anywhos, this was a long one today. Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

268: snapchat shenanigans & a super spouse

Where to begin… It’s been an interesting couple of days.

Sunday was my last shift at the bakery. I’ve been kind of repressing how I feel about it. Working at the bakery was absolutely necessary. I needed to be there and, in a way, I feel like it needed me there too. I met some absolutely wonderful people there – very kind, funny, talented, supportive. Not seeing them every day is going to be a big change. The bakery helped to remind me of what I am good at, that not all people are terrible, and I am worth something. It reminded me that I am kind, fun, talented, organized, and well-liked.

Coming off of a traumatic work scenario, I needed all of that. I felt vindicated in so many ways while working there. I believe things are meant to happen – being at the bakery was no exception.

I’m going to miss Feel Good Fridays, taking pictures, walking through and seeing amazing food art come to life… I’m going to miss making people laugh and/or feel better when they’re stressed out. Not to say I can’t do that now, but it’s different when you’re there – live and in person.

I decided to try Snapchat again, as everyone there has Snapchat. I had a terrible experience with Snapchat the first go round about five years ago and deleted it. Within an hour of having Snapchat this time, I again had a terrible experience.

It’s astounding to see what people think is okay. It’s astounding to see manipulative minds at work. I was in two manipulative relationships in my life, neither of them pleasant. Because of that I can recognize things a lot quicker which is sad but I’m grateful.

To me, Snapchat is for cowards. It’s now you see it, now you don’t – there’s no record of anything *unless* you screenshot it. If you screenshot it, it notifies the other person… which, to me, is fine – I have nothing to hide. Don’t do anything you don’t want proof of.

Now, the conversation I was having started off rather innocuous. Seemed like it was just reminiscing – almost like this person needed some type of closure in their life. I get that; I’ve been there, I’ve had those conversations and I definitely think there’s validity to having them. However, the conversation started to take a turn to wrongsville… This person was saying that I married the wrong person, they believed we had a love that was different than the one I have with my husband, that I may be “in love” with him now but may “fall out of love” with him later, that they were my soul mate and that their current partner was prettier than I am.

True story.

This came from someone I least expected. It was out of nowhere. It was one month TO THE DAY after Kevin and I had our wedding, which this person attended. I was really taken off guard by the whole thing. I kept telling the person that I’m very much in love with Kevin – so much so that I married him. It didn’t seem to help. Eventually it came to saying I need you to respect this or I’m going to make some choices. They stopped chatting… for the time being.

Of course I told Kevin about it – he’s my husband, I love him, I was REALLY bothered by the whole thing and he needed to know what was happening. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my testing site bawling my eyes out because you would THINK this kind of thing would stop after you were married, but, no, it doesn’t. I just want to be left alone. I’m happy, I’m married, I’m very much in love – back the fuck off ya’ll.

So Kevin being the giant tube of wonderful that he is said some very loving and supportive things to me. I got my shit together and went to re-take the BCBA exam.

I feel I did solidly OK on the exam. You never really know until you get your score. I mean, I thought I epically failed last time and I missed by 11 points. Who knows? Well, I guess I will in about a month.

I got out of my exam and headed to get my kids when my best friend asked if I had told Kevin about what happened. I initially texted her because I didn’t want to bother Kevin at work. I was going to tell him later on at home. I texted back and said yeah I did, why’s that? She replied because of his post. Of course, at that point, I had to see what she was talking about. He made this really nice, succinct post about respecting women in general. I had to share because (a) he’s a wonderful man and (b) it was well written.

Fast forward to a little later in the day and guess who starts Snapchatting me AGAIN. This person. They were asking if I was mad; saying that I misinterpreted their honesty, that I’m foul, we weren’t going to have these conversations again, and that they support Kevin and I 110%. I just kept saying ok. I’ve been in this situation before and I’m not doing it again.

Basically it’s – it starts out with tame, seemingly meaningless conversation. Then it has some meat to it. Then you say ah, thanks but no thanks. Then they make you to be the asshole because it didn’t go how they wanted. They try to make you feel guilty and be the bad guy…. all the while this is being done on a medium that leaves no record of anything so it’s not like it ever happened anyway. Its all very purposeful.

I remember in one of my previous relationships, he would do this often. And I would take screenshots of the conversations and immediately he would say, “Oh, taking screenshots now?” and then get threatening so I would stop and I would… because he always had knives.

The whole situation just broke my heart and made me really sad. It brought me back to that other relationship and that’s probably a big reason why I broke down in my car. People try to break you down. “Can’t have you for myself? That’s fine, I’ll just make you feel like shit. I’ll break you down so I can be the good guy and build you back up again.” It’s fucking sick, guys. It hurts me as a person.

I’m glad I have a very caring, supportive, and wonderful husband. I wish I could say that this situation doesn’t bother me today but it 100% absolutely does. I had some not great dreams last night because of it. It didn’t help that Doods was up at 3am either. Sigh, child.

In other news, today is my first day on the job as a Behavior Analyst. I meet with my new boss at 1pm to get my caseload, get brought up to speed, and visit a few sites. She’s very excited to have me on board and that makes me feel good. I hope I do a good job. I feel semi-confident. I know I’m going to work hard and do the best I can. I know I still have lots to learn and I look forward to that.

I still hate leaving the bakery.

Kevin has been very supportive and reassuring. He keeps saying I’m meant to help people and this is the best way for me to use my knowledge and talents and I’ll help the most people this way. He’s right. He usually is (but don’t tell him that ; D kidding). I’m excited to get mentored and supported; to attend more conferences and learn; to really make positive change. I’m excited, kind of, to work from home and make my own hours. I’m excited to exercise again and work on this whole body reduction plan. It’s just getting out of control and I need to get my shit together. I’m excited to do actual self care and save/prep for the new house. It’s getting closer and closer! Each step counts!

I’ve actually been handling everything OK. It helps to have some really great supports. It also helps to be sure to share how I’m feeling and to allow myself to feel what I’m feeling. So I’m gonna go finish up my laundry, play some Lego Avengers (gotta prep for the new game, you know), then be on my merry way.

Thanks for stopping by.

I am glad you exist.

263: hangman & happiness

Today we played Hangman.

“Well, that’s nice Melinda. I used to play Hangman all the time in like, what, 3rd grade? OK, good for you.”

That’s RIGHT, good for me because tonight – *we* played Hangman – AS A FAMILY.

Having a child with moderate-severe Autism that is also non-verbal presents quite a few challenges when it comes to playing games – turn taking, understanding rules, not losing her shit and ruining the game for everyone, etc etc etc. So typically, when we play games it’s me, Kevin, and Boy Child with a sometimes special guest appearance by Gamma. Girl Child? Well, most of the time she’s in the vicinity but not involved.

It makes me sad most of the time. Growing up, and even now, I absolutely LOVE playing board games… or any kind of game, for that matter. I can be absolutely terrible at it, but at least I get to be around people I enjoy and have a great time doing it. I’m a fantastic sport at losing… except for Mario Kart.

Anyway.

I *love* games. I love that playing games equates to quality time. We don’t get to do very many things as an entire family unit because of each of the kid’s needs. We usually will take one or the other to various events and activities but trying to find activities that BOTH kids will actively participate in and/or won’t force us to leave after an hour are difficult.

So what does that have to do with games? Well, majority of the time – we are home. We’re in the same house, but not doing many things together and games are a great way to do that. We were teasing BC about something fun we have planned for him.  I decided it would be fun to play Hangman for him to figure out what we were going to do.

I asked him to go get our big white board and markers so we could play. I drew it out; Kevin, Gamma, BC and I started to play. Doods came up at one point and pointed to a blank spot. I told her to guess a letter. She didn’t quite understand my instruction. My mom whispered a letter in her ear and we gave her a high five after I wrote it on the board.

I didn’t know if this was her typical – I’m just gonna go ahead and do this one time and go back to my own world – thing or if she was legitimately interested in what we were doing.

Turned out it was the latter. She kept coming over and wanting to participate so, of course, we did! I grabbed her tablet and opened her speech output app to the keyboard page. She would go play with her castle, then come over when it was her turn, look at the puzzle, and pick a letter. It was really cool to watch. Then she clearly wanted to be the person who was writing the puzzle.

I wrote out a phrase that I knew she was familiar with – “I like VeggieTales in the city.” I drew out the blanks on the board, set her device to the conversation page which had Yes/No on it and we did it. She needed a little bit of assistance in figuring out which letter went in each blank BUT after a few turns she totally had the hang of it. I was so impressed! As I was standing with her, I took a second and soaked it in – Oh my god, we are actually ALL playing a game! We’re playing a game! Together! As a unit!

Then of course, BC figured out the puzzle and we were trying to let Doods play out the puzzle but noooooo somebody just HAS to win EVERY time so that caused a meltdown on his end (for which he apologized later) but Doods happily carried on playing our nice little game of Hangman.

Ya’ll, we played Hangman. And it was the best and most meaningful game of Hangman I have ever played – even if the first puzzle was “Cayden smells like Wookie farts.” ; )

I hope this Thanksgiving that you take advantage of the time you have with your family. Play a game. Play MANY games. Play silly games, serious games, strategic gams, sleepy nap time games. Just enjoy being and interacting with one another because really – that’s what matters.

You know, funny story (well, kind of) – I was at the bakery today and just doing what I do, going around telling people they’re wonderful and beautiful and one person responded immediately with, “Thanks! What do you want?” Later on I was joking with her about how funny I thought that was and she said well whenever somebody says those kinds of things, they want something. I told her she was right – I said I want her to be happy and feel confident and wonderful. THAT is what I want. Those other people are wrong and terrible. So, with that, tell people how great they are. Genuinely. Without any expectation. People deserve to know how great they are, how talented they are, how gracious, funny, caring, talented, *fill in the blank* they are.

It’s only happenstance that it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow. I do this kind of stuff all the time (which I know my co-workers can attest to). I don’t need a special reason to tell you you’re great. I don’t need anything from you to say hey, you’re fucking awesome and are incredibly talented. You don’t either! Isn’t it so great that you can just go up to someone without wanting or needing anything and say, “Hey, you’re pretty awesome – I’m glad I know you”? I think so.

And you know? I don’t know most of you or maybe I do, but I don’t know that you read this and that’s totally cool – but I can say with 99.999999% certainty that you are fucking great and are doing a great job at life. I mean, you’re here, right? That totally counts.

Thanks for stopping by, you cool cat, you.

I am glad you exist.